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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Do I look cute in this?

As I read about the Etteh wahala last week, I found the picture above of three first ladies amusing. Perhaps l should share this admittedly irritatingly (age and hindsight) strident article I wrote in 1999 for Tempo magazine.

Why black man dey carry shit? (Title clearly plagiarized)

I dislike chain mails(this has been around a while) and l doubt if this letter truly changed hands between so called Dee Lee and the receiver but are some of the issues raised valid to black nations (especially Nigeria) and communities everywhere or is it all ranting of a deluded mind?

What do you think?
Monday, August 27, 2007

Whilst you were away

It was supposed to be a quick, 'blink and you miss it' business trip. There was no reason l should have missed you on this page, and it all seem like it would work as planned. Arrived Johannesburg Sunday morning, went on a drive around the country side with my friend Dele, Monday to site see in preparation for my meetings and Tuesday, short successful meeting, Wednesday gastronomic and nature exploration and Thursday back in Lagos by 3pm. Right? Wrong! Now l must tell you a bit about my friend Dele. He is the very definition of that Yoruba term omoluabi (child born of the god of values), one of those hard to find, fine human beings l like to collect. A lovable, slightly nerdy, thinking human, Dele is one of the most non egoistic, non-chauvinistic, unselfish, giving and effective people l know. I arrived jbourg burnt out and apprehensive (our creativity and expression stifling space, the insecurity, the police dress drama and a death threat) and was ready to leave renewed in hope and vigour to keep plugging away at my part of the equation. You see Dele is a fellow "perplexed at our crase situation but determined to not just deconstruct the Nigerian space but to construct his part of the space and encourage others to do so" spirit. We spent our time looking at what works in SA and why it works and how we can apply base principles to make something work in Nigeria or at least develop something Nigerian in roots but global in perspective.

We devoured our books and videos (Steve jobs in Stanford, Chris Abani, Ayittey and Ngozi Iwealla Ted talks as well as back dorm boys and other innovation driven phenomenon) as well as rubbed minds on what we need to do and the order of how to do them fully aware that it is a journey, one that we might not see to the end in our lifetime but one which is crucial. I know Dele's humane and ethical values not only in his work but in his personal life because l have seen them tested in the extreme and by some of the most unbelievable "respected" members of the Nigerian society. We did not forget to laugh and have fun too; the only area we differ fiercely is on food. Watch ratatouille, lets just say that l deeply understand what the grim eater food critic Anton Ego meant about not swallowing unless it is of certain quality. I like my food fresh, rich, colourful and flavoursome with all the goodness and nutrient sealed in and l don't care what corner of the world it comes from once it meets those standards. Dele likes his food Nigerian and cooked period! Aside the superb egusi soup at commendable Nigerian restaurant homebaze in rosebank, l did not see him eat anything with fruit, vegetables or water in 6 days! Only the good lord knows how he digests it all.

The short of this rather cheesy monologue is that after spending time with Dele l was ready to return home to fight the good fight and focus on highlighting and supporting the Nigerian people, brands, products and services that are doing well. That is until Virgin Nigeria slapped me in the face. Now note that l am still of that mindset and l tell this story and take whatever action l choose against Virgin Nigeria from a place that was hurt badly by what is becoming of them but also one that seeks to jolt them out of complacency into action. We need as many super brands out of Africa as we can build and Virgin Nigeria, which l used to champion is loosing the plot.

The curious incident of the never-ending wait for Virgin Nigeria

I usually just write aje (witch) and the date and location of purchase on every book l buy. The above is what l wrote in the book Dayo Foresters’ Reading the ceiling l bought from exclusive books at the OR Thambo international airport in jbourg, a place l know now like the curve of my friend Bose's cheek. It's a very apt description and it all happened like this. Thursday, August 23rd l leave early to check in (avoid the 9ja flight luggage battle, what the heck do we always find to buy?) and to get a good seat with legroom. 7.30 am and there is a crowd already, l take my place quietly on the queue and l hear people whispering, it grew louder and l eventually heard that the 10am flight had been delayed till 10.30pm! There were many wild reasons given, l looked for a Virgin N staff and got a confirmation of the delay but was advised to check in. After an hour l checked in and was told to clear security and get a day food voucher worth 75 rands ($11) from News café, me a certified foodie!

Since my ancestors never sleep l went to the domestic wing (if you are ever stuck at that airport the food and restaurant choice is much better on the domestic wing) and had a nice warming (its spring in SA) breakfast then decided it doesn't make sense to wait at an airport eating greasy food for 13 hours so l caught a cab ($50) to sandton City to window shop, eat nice food and take a nap in the cinema. 6pm, Dele gets off work, picks me up and drives me back to the airport. There is no sign of an impending flight so we began a fruitless search for any Virgin N staff, we found their office on the 3rd floor and it was empty and firmly shut. Eventually an airport staff informs us that the airline had unloaded our bags at the arrival baggage claim and cancelled the flight! At the baggage claim there was confusion as passengers with tired kids milled around looking for their bags. I found mine and the lock had been broken. In all of this l did not hear a word of apology, in fact when an older distraught lady complained that she had no money and accommodation for the night, the Afrikaan (didn't catch his name) Virgin N ground staff snapped at her to use her credit card! They provided no accommodation or allowance for the passengers and were rude to booth, insolently handing out this truly insulting letter to all.

Dele drove me back and l only caught 4 hours of sleep before a quick shower and a return to my now grubby airport clothes. We arrive the airport at 6.30am to passenger info (no virgin N staff around) that the flight has been delayed till 7pm. I tried to get on another airline even if l had to buy a new ticket but all were fully booked. I was told to wait for a certain LUCY to endorse my flight to SAA if l prefer. Getting the endorsement off the surly LUCY (got her name) was like talking a Victorian maiden into taking off her damned chastity belt before a swim in the ocean! I was wait listed on SAA and spent $25 storing my bags. I walked over to domestic and had a good breakfast (never skip brekkie) during which time Dele and my office in Lagos had confirmed that the aircraft had finally left Lagos. I didn't want to risk a waitlist situation so l went back to the eyeball rolling LUCY who gave my ticket back to me. I checked in and passed passport control where l joined other passengers in this exhausting wait during which my priced 8g, life time music collection nano and powerful sennheiser ear phones where stolen. I did eat one meal at news café and it cost 150rands 86 rands more than the proffered voucher. I also ate two more meals and a few snacks in between. The plane did eventually take off at 9.30pm by which time I'd caught flu. I swallowed a sleeping pill and slept through the flight but l was alert for take off and landing and not once during these did the pilot or anyone else apologize to us. I had lost a job scheduled for Friday night, a visa appointment for tomorrow's trip to moderate a conference in Oslo, 6 months of work and my reputation at stake. My box was broken, my nano stolen and health broken but my story is nothing compared to those of some of the others on the plane.

Stories From the Never ending wait

We filed out of the plane and l watched us from a distance. There is the odd businessman and visiting families, the church group, the traders, and the football team. I don't know why but people tend to tell me stories thus in the long wait at the airport l knew quite a bit about some of the passengers, maybe too much for my peace of mind. As we filed out l could identify who belongs in what group by their hang luggage. I had my ever-present Mac book, a novel and a bag of exotic African spices and dips (I know food again). The footballers wore a lot of diamante bling, colourful hairstyles and had bought a lot of electronic gear which l teased their coach about. The traders had huge Ghana must go bags bulging with god knows what "wosiwosi" (bits and bobs), the families had confectionaries and business men had duty free perfumes and alcohol. One lady stood out with a truly humongous Gucci carrier bag concealing no doubt the latest oversized IT bag. Had spoken with her earlier, pretty face, lovely smile, bubbly personality, related to a recently indicted (for corruption) public official. There is the young lady who had a leg problem from an okada accident; the long wait and flight had caused her leg to swell to scary proportion. I saw her go by too, obviously ill but courageously smiling, her face ashen and gaunt from the disease that ails her. She had told me earlier of how she was thankful that she carried an antiseptic lotion with which she wipes the leaks from her breast every 30 minutes whilst the long wait persists. She was worried about not getting home a second day as she had run out of her medication, l suspect she has cancer but l am too humbled by her little revelation (the other in her party didn't know what ailed her) and too Nigerian in my sensibilities towards taboo subjects to probe further, suffice the bit she revealed without prodding. I know she is with the church group and l silently prayed that god answers her. She more than any should sue the airline. I also saw her. Her revelation had rocked me to my bones not only in its content but the matter of factness of delivery. Valium popping since 16, sexually abused by male neighbours since childhood, father also started sexually abusing her and her mother (resentful of not being allowed to work by her husband despite high qualification) who on discovering choose to maintain" her perfect family façade by ignoring the abuse and starving the young girl. The abuse continued with her younger sister and god knows who else, the man, a well-respected pillar of the society. Then I watched us pick our bags and the Abuja passengers depart, strangely l missed them we had spent two days together in a strange human union. The rest of us retired to the bar at arrivals to wait for daylight, the plane landed at 3.30 am and no one in their right minds would leave at that time and run the risk of violent armed robbery. So l watched us at the bar, the attendant is lethargic, the food was dead even before it was cooked, and the place smelt curiously of condensed urine and fried food. The TV is on but he picture is faced black and white playing African music video back to back. I watched as the passengers slumped on the stools, their luggage and the floor. The traders buy beer, the families; biscuits. Soon the traders are chirpy and nodding to Olu maintains yahooze. l walked into the toilet and l recoil in horror and quickly resume my perch on my bag. After a while the gloom and doom of the plane gets to me so l tell my driver to let's leave, I'd rather face the robbers. This was 4.30am.

Fortunately, the car pack attendants tried to extort money off the driver and the ensuing arguments lasted 30 mins, enough time to reduce the risk of certain death from armed robbers. 5.10am we headed home and l watched Lagos awaken. It is yet another day in the city of god.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Conversation with Lagos police commissioner

Funmi is away for a few days. Here is her interview with the Lagos State Police Commissioner, Muhammed Abubakar.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tough week

This week, ended with the interview of the police commissioner yesterday, my post and video on that will be ready by Monday or Tuesday. Since l work like a donkey, l decided to party like a rock star. To test the denials of all concerned in the dress arrest "crase", l don an Emmy Collin short shorts, my fav bad attitude tee also by Emmy with the inscription, "fashion rules are for fools" and stepped into my four inch congealed blood maroon platforms, wrapped a long multi coloured knit scarf by Ebun Olatoye around my neck which drops all the way to the floor in a noughties hippie style. l joined Collin Khumalo of Multi choice and designers Remi Lagos and Emmy at Picolo Mondo in celebration of Enzo, Zizi Cardow's partner's birthday. It was an unlagos like, unpretentious, fun party with a hip mix of happy party people and fabulous DJ. I can happily report that l didn’t get questioned or arrested at the many police checkpoints (beefed up security) we passed. Now l don’t know if that was because of Collins' obvious officious expart 4 wheel (oh the carbon trail shame!) or the fact that l didn’t leave the island but there was no incidence. As l prepare to leave for SA, let me leave you with these two admittedly cheesy but funny jokes sent to me by my talented, crazy funny newspaper editor brother Mighty whose usual retort when I whine about stressful situations is "thats why god created stout". Have a great weekend.

Heres a push

There was this very rich Ibo man in Nnewi who had only one daughter. When the daughter was of marriage age, the father sent news around town, that all the eligible young men should come out on a particular day to compete in a test which would determine who was fit to marry his daughter.

On that set day, all the able-bodied young men came out. Some came with paper and biro and others with cutlasses and swords. The rich man took them to his swimming pool and addressed the men: "any of you who can swim from one end of this swimming pool to the other would marry my daughter. In addition, I'll give him 50 million naira, a car and a house so they can start of life well. I shall be waiting to meet my son-in-law at the other side. Good luck!" As the young men, all very excited at the prospect of winning, started taking off their shirts, a helicopter came over the pool and dropped snakes and crocodiles into the pool. Immediately all the men turned back and started wearing their shirts again.
Disappointed, some of them said "make de man go marry im pikin joo!". All of a sudden, they heard a splash in the pool. Everybody watched in amazement as one gentleman struggled his way across, avoiding the snakes and crocodiles.
Finally, he made it to the other side as the would-be in-law, panting. The rich man could not believe it. He asked the man to name anything he wanted. The man was still breathless, panting uncontrollably. Finally, he got himself together and made his request, saying, "...show me the pesin wey push me inside di swimming pool"
Moral of the story: "You don't know what you are capable of doing until you are pushed.

Cover your ass
One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.
Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.
As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.
Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
>Free your heart from hatred - Forgive.
>Free your mind from worries - Most never happen.
>Live simply and appreciate what you have.
>Give more. Expect less NOW ...........

Enough of that crap . . . The donkey later came back, and bit the farmer who had tried to bury him. The gash from the bite got infected and the farmer eventually died in agony from septic shock.
MORAL FROM TODAY'S LESSON: When you do something wrong, and try to cover your ass, it always comes back to bite you.
Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thinking out loud (not a very good idea)

As you know I am often engaged in deep internal battles which I occasionally spew forth as sometimes clear but more often jumbled narratives with which l bore you to death on this page. As l prepare to fly to Johannesburg tomorrow for some meetings l was once again engaged in a never ending conversation with my prospective host Dele on the African question i.e. why are we so fucked up? It may also be rephrased as why are they so fucked up that they cannot see that we are not fucked up. As l descend into internal disunity, l invite you to download this talk by Chris Abani at the last TED conference in Aruba if you have not heard it before. Funny and incisive, actually I don’t invite you, l beg you to download it, sit back to listen to it with the speakers turned up high. Afterwards, tell me what you think, not only about the talk, but the issues raised and finally answer this question, did you know about Abani prior to this and how much do we know of ourselves and about ourselves?

Thanks Natasha for the link.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Police press release on the 'indecent dressing' arrest in Lagos

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Glimpses of Sanity

l had read the ThisDay editorial on covenant university's pregnancy and HIV testing with dismay although Funke Aboyade's law pages did calm my nerves last Tuesday. This excellent article in the ThisDay finally restored my peace of mind. This is why it is important that the rational speak up. Thanks Dayo for the link.

Whilst at it the minister of education has also waded bearing sanity at hand.
Monday, August 13, 2007

UP and On

Monday morning and in typical bipolar Lagos fashion, l have been raised from the lows of depression to near ecstatic highs of hope. I do believe it is these addictive extremes of beastly realities in quick edit flows with utterly beautiful possibilities that keep us going here.

A little story.
Walked into Emmy Collins shop on Awolowo road on Saturday to talk about his upcoming show and possible charity initiative. He detests the sight of children on the street and has an idea of what he can do to help. My first ever TV show was about street kids and l spent a couple of years picking them off the street before volunteering and raising awareness for orphanages so l guess l know the subject and in an hour we had streamlined Emmy's delightfully zany ideas (true to his nature) to something achievable in the immediate future with timelines for expansion. I had noticed the two young men who were with him before l came in. You couldn't ignore them, they were good looking, dressed in hip crisp white shirts and low slung non-brief revealing jeans. Their hair was in clean short locks and they had a polite air about them. Turns out one is a 20 year old aspiring designer, 3rd runner up at Ade Bakare's design competition and the other a 22 year old aspiring model. What stuck me was that given their powerful presence and good looks, they both seem so unsure and retiring.

Suddenly Emmy pips up, tell her yourself, Funmi is down to earth and will tell you as it is. So the 20 year old turns to me and without looking me in the eye whispers that he'll like to make me some clothes. Why l asked. Still looking anywhere but at me he says well, l know you can wear my designs well and will help me get it known. Ok l said but do you have capacity to produce the stock you will need to show once your work is known? No he said. Now a little background, this young man's work had been my favourite during the competition (l was a judge) but perhaps his creativity was a little too avant garde for our sensibilities. Earlier he had been talking about how he had started studying medicine but is now thinking of leaving Nigeria to study computer technology. I looked into his design book and his unschooled sketches where superb in the detail and creativity. I looked him in the eye and said, let me tell you this, from all l have seen and heard from you and perceived of you l can tell you are no medical doctor, computer technology is not rocket science and can be acquired as you go along. Unless you want to be a programmer or work with the science of it, l don't see why you want to go study that. Computers are tools not a destination. Now you whom l see here is bloody talented, gifted and creative imagine how much so if you let you mind loose and learn your talent. You need to go and study the art, science and business of design and fashion. You need to acquire the knowledge, skill and network for your obvious area of core strength and natural flow. Don't just make a few clothes and get publicity without deep content or knowledge in our usual Lagos e dey happen way o. Also, don't worry about people not getting you yet, they will eventually and remember Nigeria is your root but she is not your only or final destination. Be so bloody good that no one, whatever colour, creed or nationality can deny your abilities whatever else they may have a problem with. I saw him light up from within and look me in the eye for the first time. I then gave his aspiring model friend the number of a trust worthy model scout and they both left armed with information and a little more confident, a little more assured. I looked at Emmy and said, I am reminded of why I am here, we can't leave these young ones to the ignorant, superstitious, bigoted and undiagnosed demented.

Through out the weekend I talk as I tend to do with mothers and their children at cinemas and malls, taxi drivers, hawkers in traffic and young people hanging around and l am struck by the innate goodness of our people even as l can see the general limitations placed by poverty, ignorance as well as misinterpreted culture and religion. It is important that the few voices of reason keep at it, stay in the trenches and smoke out the enemy, the reward is immense, it is a more knowledgeable, freer, prosperous self-perfecting human society for our children and theirs.

Update on the dress and arrest brouhaha

Must thank all for the emails and petitions, please keep them coming, I know that civil society is also mobilizing on this as l have got many calls, l will join them and if need be invite those of you based in Nigeria to do so too.. We are compiling the emails and will send them round media houses. Over the weekend l spoke with Mr. Frank Mba of the Nigerian Police PR who swears that there was no such order from the Nigerian police and that the initial arrest of prostitutes (conversation for another day) was misreported by some uninformed reporter. I have insisted that the police come out on as many media platforms (including mine) as possible with strongly worded statements of deterrence and disclaim. My friend Stella Din of MBI has also spoken to the commissioner of police who she says also decries it; l will speak with him this week. We are also working on getting Gov. Fashola of Lagos to issue a public statement on this. I do not believe that it just genetically mutated into existence, someone gave a go ahead.

I know this will not go away soon as the root cause of such intolerance and ignorance remains unexplored but what l say is that it is an illegal distraction and complete madness. If we must have future conversations on dress the it must be on what is appropriate dressing not indecent dressing because once dressed you cannot be indecent. Even that is subjective, open to abuse and unimportant in light of our real national issues. If you flash or expose complete private parts (unless mentally disturbed) then you might be guilty of indecent exposure, which is a completely different ball game and something unheard off in Nigeria. What l perhaps see is that many are genuinely unaware of what sort of clothes to wear to where, what fits and flatters what body type and how to wear tricky fashion. For example many women l see at exercise in gyms and at the national stadium do not wear sports bra, when l raise the point, l find that they do not know that they should so we can start to educate each other on how to make the best of our bodies both men and women but as regard those whose intolerance is driven by perversion, fear, ignorance or religious fundamentalism, I'm afraid l am not much inclined to give heed.

Here is some more interesting education on the subject from the lovely Pamela.

And on armed robbery

Just so that we shake the feeling of the helpless sitting duck, here is some advice being circulated by private security experts. In addition l suggest we all mobilize into citizen pressure groups and start to insist on a non fraudulent (note that the last 2 IGs did get lifelines which ended up in private bank accounts) total overhaul and reform of the police as well as the possibility of a decentralization of the police.
Its going to be a great week!
Friday, August 10, 2007

Angry black female

l beg no vex my people. l have spent the week in contemplative silence, first about my own future and the real possibilities of ever fulfiling my real potentials in this country. l did not want to blog and come across as the "angry black female"although my sister Chimamanda assures me that if the anger is justified then the label is not to be feared. What is there to be angry about? Not much really except that three of the hottest bars, hotels and clubs on Ozumba were robbed last Saturday with the open rape and abduction of a well dressed, corporate type woman in front of her weeping fiance. This is not hearsay, the lady who told the story still had scars on her legs and was shaken as she recalled how an entire bar was headed into a toilet with people trampling on each other and injuring the weaker and less fleet footed. In 10 days they have robbed two so called 5 star hotels, a major supermarket chain as well as 5 bars and clubs. None was reported in the papers as the places concerned had bought media silence to protect their business. The victims didnt report to the police in our usual culture of silence. They dont trust the police, dont believe they will get justice and want to avoid futher ridicule and shame. The robbries on the road and in traffic is of course norm now. To combact it all the police continues to arrest women in jeans because they are prostitutes, the rationale is that robbers lead immoral lives and follow prostitutes so if you catch the prostitues you catch the robbers. Of course all women who wear trousers, jeans or thin strapped blouses, form fitting long dress or above the calf dress and skirts are prostitues whether they are on the road or in their cars or busses and okadas. So are women out on the road post 9pm.

Why get angy at that when the largest most attended church in Nigeria the Redeemed Christian church has given tacit support to such by banning trouser wearing women from all their churches. There was this story of the new convert who came to a certain big church wearing earings and how he was mercilessly beaten by the church's morality police, a jouranlist friend was following the story until it was killed because the boy was threatened by the church, some church whose bus killed a child harrased the family into silence without so much as a condolence visit from the church overseer. All this before the convenant university began the compulsory, non consentual pregnancy and HIV testing on all graduating students. Why be angry when you see peity being used to disguise open and flagrant crime, corruption and depravity, after all our problems were caused and will be solved once we brow beat women (the original sin bringer) into barely seen, heard or considered existence.

Did many of the governors and government officials who lead services and contribute generously to church cofers in many of these churches not produce multiple children outside of wedlock in the past 8 years? Were those by immaculate conception? l cant tell you how many so called top pastors have hit on born again and sometimes married friends of mine in the past. l,m afraid l may be getting incoherent as l cant shake the deep sense of despair and worry about where it is this nation is heading. Its friday so perhaps l should lift the blues by going out to dance bata at a dance club...shoot! l cant, l may get robbed, raped or arrested for being female and daring to be happy.
Monday, August 06, 2007

We don crase patapata

Its Friday night, l leave the gym at 10pm, l didn't get there till 7.30pm because of traffic, l don't head off after 10pm because there will still be traffic on the 3rd mainland bridge and people get robbed in traffic. So myself, my friend Bose who is a consultant gynaecologist, a lecturer and a research scientist with LUTH join her husband Jide a lawyer with his own thriving 12-year-old practice and famous fashion designer Remi Lagos. We went next door to Cactus to have dinner, we would have gone to News café but it was robbed recently as has been many busy Lagos hot spots. Afterwards we went to Piccolo Mondo to unwind and left around 1a.m. when hopefully the robbers will be off the road (at least you can out speed them if they are not) or now robbing people within their homes. Jide is a teetotal; the rest of us can only handle the occasional half glass of wine. We dropped Remi at her Ikoyi home and headed for our mainland homes.
At the barracks bridge (so called because of the adjacent notorious area C police station and barracks) just after the stadium in Surulere we were stopped by the police. Now the rule with police checkpoints is that unless it is one you are familiar with or any one under a bridge after 10pm, you duck and speed through them because they are either robbers or off duty policemen, which in 9ja speak is same difference. This checkpoint is unusual at this spot but it looked real so we stop. Jide who was driving was ordered to open the booth by one policeman whilst another came around and ordered us to come out. I force my sleepy eyes awake and step out. The next set of questions and answer is so surreal my bleary eyes went into instant sharp auto focus.

Policeman: where are you coming from?
FI: work, we just dropped off a friend and are going home.
Policeman: So why you dress like this?
Bose and FI: like how?
Policeman: (shouting and waving a copy of PM News) una no hear wetin Fashola (gov of Lagos) talk abi? Una no hear?
FI: (keeping tight rein of rising bile and anger) hear wetin?
Policeman: (jabbing his finger at us and spitting the words out with disgust) na so una suppose dress, why you dress like this?
FI: what do you mean? This woman here is a doctor, a mother and wife, this is her husband.
Policeman: If na married woman why she no dey her house, all these useless women!
By now Jide is asking what is going on and the others are coming around. Suddenly one with a guttural Warri accent scream that he will deal with us and that in fact they should take us all to the station. Jide is annoyed and shouting, Bose and l are shaking in anger whilst l think of whom to call to stop the madness.
Suddenly one of the plain clothed one recognised me and says ha this is aunty Funmi ke! Aunty Funmi New Dawn isn't it? Yes l said. Don't be annoyed he said in rapid Yoruba, please you can go. Jide and Bose are still arguing with the other two as we get back into the car.

As we drove off we hear him shouting defiantly, What if you be barrister and she be doctor, na only una read book? Warn your wife and all these asewo women, we go deal with them for Lagos.

As we drove away in silence, l felt a deep sense of anger and degradation. I looked at Bose. My bespectacled friend was wearing jeans and tee shirt with a scarf wrapped around her neck. Her shoes are flat; her hair is streaked with specks of grey, permed and combed back. She wears no make up. I am wearing a free flowing A-line above the knee black dress with a huge brown scarf wrapped around me all evening because of the cold. (note phone camera pic of me eating at cactus and the other taken at home after the drama) I am wearing flat ballet pumps no make up and my hair is in thick braids. I didn't sleep that night nursing my injured dignity and wondering if l wasn't doing my daughter injustice by raising her in a society that so denigrate women. One where a policeman is resentful of the educated and hateful towards women.

For years, l have told the morality brigade that the average uneducated person who is resentful of his poverty and blames all above him does not know the fine line. Therefore, the subject of indecent dressing is so subjective and potentially prone to abuse it should not be trifled with. Indecent exposure (flashing your privates) yes but indecent dressing? By what standards, religious, ethnic, class? Are these not seeds of discord and disintegration? There was a TV show recently where the respondents, older semi literate women were asking that women should not be allowed to wear trousers. In fact the number of people of all religious and socio economic persuasion shouting themselves hoarse in support of this move is alarmingly worrisome, eerily similar to the clamour in pre Taliban Afghanistan. What right does anyone have to impose his or her moral (often hypocritical) standards on others? For a lot of these the universal uniform of the 21st century of men and women i.e. jeans and tee shirt is immoral and any dress which is not floor sweeping and Mormon like is unacceptable which in their little minds makes 80% of women (including my dear female pastor friends in their knee ("sinful") length skirt suits, red lipstick and weave extended hair) prostitutes. The result is the demonization of women which then makes it easier to exploit and abuse them. The first public official who started this assault on young men and women a few years ago is well known to me. He is a political jobber with a pea-sized brain and penis (l suspect) who is a serial adulterer, sexual predator and abuser whose long suffering wife is almost out of her mind and whose children hate him. A former top female official who also spearheaded the campaign is married to a pastor who was hitting on a young born again woman close to me whose universal uniform is huge bell bottomed jeans and long sleeved proper buttoned up shirt. The hypocrites and liars demonizing young people to either hide their own frustrations (the women) or perversions (the men).
The recent situation is so weird; they are picking up young men with dreadlocks, tattoos and earrings. They also pick up women with more than two earring piecing.

Two weeks ago they picked up my assistant Bill for holding on to two phones whilst in my car and according to the policeman, on account of how he was dressed. We just left he studio and Bill was wearing slacks and a proper shirt! Imagine if it had been two nameless women in that car Friday night. What do l mean imagine, they are going around picking up women for various reasons of dress and jailing, molesting and/or extorting money off them. As l write my petition to the IG, l wondered whether l should start spending the night at any reputable boutique hotel (cost an arm and a leg) on the island after work to avoid robbers and police, oh hang on they are robbing those too now and if the police catch me in one then l am definitely a prostitute.

My question, are the youth and people of Nigeria so brow beaten and/or brain washed that they will accept this? Where are the voices of reason?

Now Hear This
Whilst we are at it, listen to this with your speaker turned on loud and tell me what we are doing about 419ners such as this as well as the robbers, rapists, murderers, embezellers, death trap roads and hospitals and infrastructure. How far back are we going to keep moving that wall?
Friday, August 03, 2007

Watching Tunde die

Its only a little story but l wrestled with telling it at all. In the end it told itself. His name is Tunde and last Thursday l stood watching him in the sunlight, he drawls his words through mouth slackened and crooked by the accident. Spittle dribbled through his yellowed teeth as the words gurgled out of his mouth. His body is completely emancipated in the manner of the famine survivor stumbling through the gates of a refugee camp. His skeletal finger makes slight jabbing movements seemingly to lend power to his feeble speech. His death mask face is immobile but shockingly his eyes are bright and clear, his manner weak but matter of fact. Those around us stare in confusion, l suspect less at the sight of Tunde but at our manner for we carried on as though in contemplation of the lairy weather. I can smell his ailment even as l leaned closer to him; my face remains expressionless, experience has taught me not to display ineffective sympathy, pity, fear or anger. I focus on the facts even as my core weeps.

Tunde came to me 3 years ago, as a budding freelance sports reporter, he had been in a ghastly accident that broke his ribs and punctured his lungs. When he came he had already been mauled by our ailing health care system and his family impoverished by his travails. He was not so thin then and his mouth was still in front of his face, he is one of the many who come. We turn back the most hopeless cases, harass, beg, and solicit support for the bad cases. The fair cases we solve ourselves, we don’t accept money directly. Tunde’s was hopeless but he is a friend to two boys whom l mentored and who are successful full-fledged sports journalists now so he is like aburo (younger brother) to me. You don’t give up on an aburo.

After 2 years and some operations we were told he only requires a last corrective operation in Luth so we got support for him from Lagos State government who part paid directly for the operation, case closed or so l thought.

Many of the people who are assisted never come back to me, they don’t need to, the knowledge that they are on their feet again suffices so l assume Tunde was back doing what boys do until last Thursday when this shell with Tunde’s soul visited me.
Apparently the operation was half done, the other half had been delayed because he was waiting for equipment which LUTH had taken delivery of, but not started using.
I know the story of those equipment. Perhaps you read about it in the papers too, the last president commissioned some multi billion-naira overhaul of the teaching hospital. As happens here, the equipment arrived and sat in containers until such a time when the president can make time in his schedule to commission them. They waited almost two years. Post commissioning in the last days of Obasanjo, it was discovered that some had become faulty and some were substandard. There are whispers that the exorbitant kickbacks demanded occasioned the need to subcontract. That of course might be a lie. Now in all of this someone forgot to train the staff so another year of training is in the offing. The maintenance contract is for 5 years so add the 2 lost years to the 1 (conservative) training year and you get the picture. In all of this drama Tunde is dying, many more Tundes have died, much more will die.

So as we both stood casually considering his options, we did it with the unemotional matter of fact ness of the lost. Our sanity is dependent on it.