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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, October 30, 2007

THE GOOD SOCIETY 2 (pretty long, cranial incontinence, you might want to download then read)

In my mind, the in sustainability of personal good model without a foundation in collective good is self evident, back to the equal fingers theory as against the clear progress that can be derived from setting a common yardstick i.e. the lowest common denominator below which non is allowed to sink as a nation, a community of humans. Once done, all able bodied will compete so that the extraordinary can thus emerge.

In examining the issue of collective good, a wise mentor of mine defined the five great malaise that must be eliminated and how. The man and a few others like that, men and women should be president of Nigeria.

Why the collective good? Because it is the foundation upon which you can build the platform that allows competition on the human (not necessarily humane) level, which promotes prosperity. Is it bleeding heart charity, hell no! It is the foundation of democracy, freeish (no complete free speech anywhere expect at the speakers corner in Hyde park with distracted pigeons in the audience) speech and the various form of capitalism. It varies in degrees of grey from the purer more socialist leaning light grey of some of Europe's democracies to the dark grey of American capitalism. There are even interesting grey blacks of the emerging 3rd way of China.

At the heart of it all is a sense of value as a people, the recognition of value of all individuals in the collective, the willingness to get beyond frustration knowing that true solutions come not from without of self but within which will presuppose that one knows what one's self is. This is tough for the African because much of whom we are is either not fully understood or accepted by us or has been misinterpreted and misrepresented to us and consequently demonised and abused by us. To unravel that l leave you to the likes of Wale Ajadi.

If we cannot learn and unlearn the finer points of the admittedly convoluted issues l raised in the preceding paragraph, l suggest that like the Singaporean experience we might need to be dragged willy nilly to that point of enlightenment by those who get it although l am loathe to trust in the concept of who should lead seeing as we have a system that throws up our worst. I am more sympathetic to the idea of how they should lead. However, the chicken and egg situation is, if we do not get the exception by accident who will begin the process of ensuring the collective good platform that will eliminate the 5 great malaise which will then foster prosperity, how is progress to be made?

The other point about true humility is recognising that you must do your part but you are not the answer, only a part of it. Taking that rather convenient cop out, l shall therefore continue my thesis.

This mentor of mine who revolutionized a sector of the Nigerian economy at a time discussed the 5 great malaises with me. My question to him was, have you always known this or is this a latter day realization because either way, l wish you can perfect that system by teaching your apostles, many of whom have added Constantine like connotations to your model the principle of collective good and the industry's very central role in the elimination of the five great malaise such that they can be even bigger and richer. Quick slogan, "don't do it for them do it for you, because when they matter, you matter even more". I like it. Okay l am travelling in my head again. So the mentor identifies the five malaise which l then define thus

1. Want: That which separates man from beast and which at the base level must be given space for achievable pursuit.
2. Ignorance: Often confused with lack of formal education. Ignorance
is lack of enlightenment about the right and wrong of structure and processes in a quest to prosper the society. Education should ensure this if it was holistic, universal, accessible and equitable at the basic level.
3. Disease: is the evil that can afflict the physical and mental casing which brings prosperity
4. Idleness: An aberration for man was made to work in harmony with the inbuilt nature of man to want.
5. Squalor: Man is the only being made or evolved (whatever you choose to believe) without a physical protection from the elements. He must have an abode that protects him from the elements and ensure enough comfort for him to function above base animal level.

To eliminate these we must recognised and engage the three levels of the society. The young, the able bodied and the aged. The young, below 16, male and female must compulsorily be educated in a way that is enlightening, enlightenment seeking, easy to access and maintain, engaging all senses and abilities and giving allowance to play and self expression. They must be fed, protected from and treated for disease. They should also be protected by enforceable law from harm and abuse. It is important to educate their mothers for no educated mother in our culture denies her child education. To get all to embrace such an education it must respect the rules of engagement i.e. respectful but not be limited by the culture of others and proximal to those to be educated as well as transparently tied to the fulfillment of human want and pursuit of happiness. The aged must be fed, accommodated appropriately, enabled to engage in social and recreational activities that gives a sense of worth as well as provided with health care for a token or free.

The able bodied must provide these needs of the 2 above. To do this they must be healthy and given opportunities to pursue wealth and wellbeing. They must also be taxed effectively for their privileges as well as their excesses. The rich in particular must be strategically and effectively taxed. For the able bodied to do these therefore he and she must not be allowed to be idle, even if it means that they will dig up holes in the morning and cover them at night. Going from manual labour, it means creating work (not jobs) such that you can pay them and then tax them. They are given a way to satisfy the human pursuit of happiness i.e. meeting your wants and the society is enriched by their enterprise.

Then the nay sayers will say, but we cannot afford jobs, then l say, but l have not asked you to give them jobs sebi you see how they sleep in the civil service offices. I have asked that you pay for work. If we asked that Lagos be physically swept clean do you know how many people will be required to do that and how long they will have to keep at it given the generation of dirt? If the banks know that these people WILL be paid at the end of the month they will make appropriate credit available to them which they can use to pursue the human want of coke and suya to impress on a date with a sisi which will ensure that the café owner re-evaluates his model to serve what the majority wants and distribute to the largest numbers. The banks will then be willing to extend credit to such an enterprise which will lead to higher demand for nama (meat) which some others will then preserve better and produce more of and the transporters realizing that demand is higher will need bigger trucks and alternative modes of transportation, the construction companies will see the need and the way to raise higher equity for infrastructure and so on and so on. It sounds simplistic but then ask Steve Jobs or Bill gate if their first desire was not a simple one to build certain types of computer. Lee Kwan Yu 50 years ago also just wanted to give paying work to his people so they can feed themselves whilst they began to educate a whole new generation to support emerging realities and industries.

Our problems are not intractable; in fact, they are remarkable in their simplicity.

Our greatest asset is our people if we effectively engage them. If you fix the people, you have fixed the nation. Enough of the plenty confused and confusing grammar, our challenge is not agriculture; it is farmers, not education but teachers, not security but policemen. How do we create an environment to produce the most enlightened, progressive, respected and rewarded farmer/teachers/policemen etc? Our elitist posturing and cosmetic solutions would be sad if it were not so laughable as here all fingers are equal, we are in a collective mess which is evident in our quality of life no matter how many gadgets we have or how far we try to run away from the old cities and villages. To clean it up has to be a collective mission that requires seeing our poor majority (otherwise known as our close relatives) as viable and equal humans. Whether in governance or private business and life, we can't keep serving the needs, real or imagined of a small bloated minority, such a model is medieval and went out with horse drawn transportation. It is also not sustainable, does not protect us at our weakest and breeds big egos with little pricks (male and female) that mess us all up. It is also an embarrassment in the comity of nations. We must adapt and evolve applying these base principles. Now simple as that may sound it requires bravery, as it demands a lowering of the ego, temporary discomfiture and the death of the big man.

Most likely you know all of these already, l just thought to mention them again as l quickly return to my day job of talking on television.


I will be visiting the juvenile centre on Friday at noon, who will like to go with me? Also for those who are out side Nigeria, the following are the account details for the bloggers for Juvenile centre funds.
First City Monument Bank (F.C.M.B)
Acct name: Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND)
Acct no: 001208013394001 (US Dollars)
Acct no: 001208013394002 (Euros)
For those of us in Nigeria there are two accounts

FCMB Acct no: 001206013394001 (Naira).
BANK PHB 014610200631
receipt and send a mail to me for every donation you make to the
account. You may do so anonymously if you desire.
C'mon lets do this and thanks for caring.
Monday, October 29, 2007

THE GOOD SOCIETY (be warned that it is a thesis so read the links and come to class early for top marks)

Last week I read this piece from Ebuka (big brother Nigeria heartthrob, lawyer, TV anchor and columnist), a few days later I received this link from the enigmatic thinker Wale Ajadi. He then commented. In response Tunji Lardner, who is an exceptional being added.

As read, I called up everything I had been sent or downloaded on China (buy yourself a MAC mate) and found this piece from Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealla sent to me a year ago by Hafsat Abiola Costello. So 5am I am sitting in front of my computer thinking about it all and recalling two extraordinary conversations I had during the week as well as what I hope are the system perfecting intrigues in the Nigerian political scene.

Over the weekend I had attended the opening of another posh VI based café knowing it will soon go the moribund way of many before it, just as I knew before hand that my friends lovely but upscale and unsustainable exhibition on same day was going to get a lukewarm reception. The only event that had a product with the likelihood of success was a movie premier and an album launch. This knowledge did not give me joy, on the contrary it quietens my spirit mainly because I know that the solution is a simple but collective mindset shift, such that can ensure progressive competition on a lager scale which may translate into success stories such as the Chinese. Why will those ventures and have many more before failed? They aimed to service those who have money forgetting that majority of Nigerians cannot afford a 500-naira coca cola habit. It seem to me that the question of how to get those with money paying exorbitant fees for my goods and services is counterproductive in our context because there is only so far you can milk the one cow when there are millions of lean cows in the field waiting to be fattened and milked. The question to me should be how do I get money into the hands of the poor so that I can take it back from them. Hang on I no dey crase; I'm making a point.

I have never felt rich; in my culture one rich man amongst the multitude poor is himself a poor man (olowo kan laarin awon otosi, otosi ni ohun na). There is no denying that we are a poor nation, the rich wants to bury his mother, we all get dressed in our aso ebí, risk life and limb travelling on bad roads to dirt poor villages where he has recently supplied water and electricity for the purpose of the party. As the carnival train moves through the village, take a good look at the gawking villagers in their rags. Those are the nearest relatives of the "rich" man. This is true for all of us. Where and how does my father, my grandmother, my aged uncle and my "poor" cousins live? How many people are of necessity dependent on me and naturally unable to tell me the truth or be human equals with me as a result of such dependency. In fact where do I live? Wealth is not in the possessions you have but the quality of life that sets you higher each day from an animal. By this yardstick we are all poor. Admitting that to ourselves is liberty because next time we see that school in our neighbourhood where the children move to a corner every time it rains, we would feel a sense of shame and perhaps be galvanized into action by the thought of "see how OUR children school, not see how those children school".

Once that is settled, we have learnt the greatest lesson in development and greatness. It is the backbone of true humility when one truly deeply believes that the needs, opinions and interests of everybody else is as important as his or her own. Everybody counts, there are no messiahs, no special ones, just different people with similar needs which when met on a base collective level can provide the platform for productive competition on a human level. This no post modern Miss I's pseudo marxist/socialist/thinly disguised communist theory. It is the underlining basis of development for all functioning communities and nations of the world. Our mentality of personal good over collective good is the biggest impediment to development whether we choose the Chinese model or find the unique Nigerian model. Our continuous failures as a nation whether in terms of wellbeing of the people, or growing competitive brands and services which serve majority and therefore is paid by majority is a clear sign that the personal good model is unsustainable, medieval and an embarrassment.

What then is collective good?
Shall we continue this lecture tomorrow?

Class assignment? It is right there in front of you.

Class dismissed ☺!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Yes I'm back

Yes I'm back, no I cant function, too much pressure, everything aches so I shall take the day off and proceed to the beach to sleep and think. But before l go, quick update and a gift.


So sorry it took forever but l wanted to do due diligence to ensure transparency and protect all concerned. We are going to work closely with KIND to make one significant change at the juvenile centre. The account number to send donations to is 014610200631 (bank PHB) it will be administered by KIND and executed by myself, Amy Oyekunle, Wole Oguntokun and Pamela Braide. The decision as to what exactly the monies sent should be used for will be taken by vote, you choose from a shopping list of needs, we execute, record and document ba chikena ba! Now don't start me off on this path and then abandon me o☺, lets raise enough monies to do something sustainable and significant.

My favourite Nigerian artistes are Yinka Davies and Asha. Both are original, immensely talented and sultry. The other thing they have in common is the difficulty of finding their work. The controversy around Asha's album is unclear to me and Yinka's seeming inability to turn out a follow up to the poorly distributed Eko ille album is a source of constant pain for me. They are both also an interviewer's delight wey dey" crase" well well in that fabulous way of the supremely talented. Recently my friend Jide found these gems from Asha online which we have downloaded and added to the others we got off her.

'See' you on Monday.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Whilst Funmi is away

Funmi is away, busy as a bee she is..But the "blog must go on!!!"
We found this funny video on youtube and wanted to share it with you.

What's the Wacko jacko craze and when will it end?

Enjoy the video... I hope.

Funmi will be back on Friday.
Friday, October 19, 2007

Picture this

On the radio in Abuja
Recently I have had cause to look at our archive of pictures and shows and I’m amazed at how much work we have done. I am also saddened by how much work we have lost. The first few years of the show were live and the off air taping were not preserved. Ditto earlier work with MITV and Good Morning Nigeria and so on. We however still have an incredible archive of work done over the last 6 years which will be the back bone of a project which we will be announcing soon. Whilst sorting out our huge picture files, Mutiu came across these behind the scene pictures from the last two years which we thought to share with you.

Have a brilliant weekend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Of Great Men

Location is one of those decaying pseudo elitist colonial leisure establishment that feeds the ego of the strangely wealthy but unaccomplished who gather periodically to fan the embers of nepotism and cronyism which guarantees their continued existence in the club of the rich and stupid. We have come to pitch an idea to a man so stupendously wealthy it is unreal. I know it is will not fly as the man probably hasn't got the foggiest idea what we are talking about and would feign indifference to hide his ignorance. He had asked for the meeting only because of my friend. Hers is a double FF cup and she is mixed race and based in London. Read top totty. As we waited for a response, some other such deep pocketed, distended stomach and dissipated bodies came in to much back slapping and lascivious "chop knuckles". The men had come in with a cache of the young, beautiful and lost; one was a Liberian "model".

Somehow the conversation turned to how highly desirable Nigerian men have become across the continent with the men thumping their chests Popeye like. Our "host" was wearing a $300,000 limited edition something or the other watch and boasting about his new home in Dubai. The others hailed him and started talking about their latest toys and sexual escapades. They then soundly condemned men from the rest of Africa calling them slackers and laggers. I felt it was my natural duty to point out that the reason Nigerian men were so popular is not because of their prowess but because they were notorious apa akotile danu (the mindless spendthrift who squanders the wealth of the family). Any fool with loose money can be happily dispossessed of such by anyone but look at what the men from some of those African countries with meagre resources are doing with their country. Look at Ghana, Botswana, South Africa, Cameroon and Egypt. When are we going to take the concept of greatness from the loins and muscles to the brain and heart? We did not get the job.

I am always alarmed to hear the way in which many men both old and young gloat about sexual prowess as a measure of greatness. As a male friend of mine said once, they talk about it with the same gleam in the eye and sense of accomplishment as he saw in a man who challenged the elements to cycle across Africa. I have observed even the lowliest of creatures and I see the way in which the male has sex with its females without much fuss or acclaim. Sex is good but sex does not a nation build, didn't one study show that Nigerian (read Nigerian men) have the most sex of all nations of the world. Stop grinning jo, are we not also top 3 in most corrupt, worse place to do business and live and other such dubious honours? If I were male (tufiakwa!) and I were of this sort of environment where the possession of a particular set of genitalia automatically qualifies me as a leader of all and master of universe, I would be terribly ashamed at the sort of nation I have built and certainly not go about draped in and defined by the toys made by thinking men of other climes or thump my chest based on ability to give pittance to young people whose options I have limited to have unbridled sex with my fat hairy arsed self!

Months later I am at a similar but spanking clean and well maintained establishment in a land far away, the men and women sitting around can buy my continent many times over. Most run companies, which produce the toys we so love but wore classic Seiko watches and actually listened as we talked. I asked an agile 55-year-old (thought he was 10 years younger) international media mogul what his hobbies are, oh I go rock climbing and surfing with my 25-year-old son he says. My friend's brilliant idea is now being implemented in another African country where the men do not exploit the young openly and strangulate the bright and gifted although sadly they are not quite as popular with women around the continent.
Monday, October 15, 2007

Equal Fingers

What a long weekend. Decided to rest, a concept alien to me as a true Lagosian, never mind all those jaye jaye omo onile (children of the land) all of us na settlers for Lagos bo. I took my daughter, her best friend Yanrinbo and my best male friend, husband to my best female friend and we visited my best man, a certain 68 year old resident of a community near Badagry called Mr. Iyanda.

It had rained a little so we swam to his house and back, the bleakness of the entire place reminded me of the story in the papers of the young man who had slit his father's throat in this neighbourhood a few weeks earlier. Heck I wanted to slit the wrist of whoever is responsible for such degradation until I remembered the pearl of wisdom from of a taxi driver friend of mine. He said, they say fingers are not equal but in Nigeria all fingers are equal o because whether you be rich man or poor man, whether you live for Amukoko or VI, na all of us dey swim enter house, na all of us no get light, na all of us no get water. I am therefore thinking about all the wrists that needs slitting as I read the stories of James Ibori's trial am, no trial am brouhaha. I am liking the stance of Yar’Adua on this and sundry issues more and more.

Back to Badagry, after the love, food and gifts from Mr. and Mrs. Iyanda and the eye candy, we left. Now Yanrinbo is a special child, a fact-seeking missile, lets just say she knows a lot of stuff and if I were ever unsure of any detail, I'd ask Yanrinbo before most adults. Yes she's only seven.

My mind is on the mindless traffic we must endure to get back (yes even on Sundays and holidays) as we leave but Yanrinbo pips up, Baba (to her dad, the best friend) sebi it is in Badagry they have the slave museum and the oldest story building. Can we go there? I groaned but it does seem unfair to deny a child whose idea of a treat is not candy but museums.

So we headed through an unchanged Badagry town. Same roads, same potholes, only slightly deeper in the past 15 years I have been visiting on and off. There are no signposts so we keep asking for directions until we arrive at the stretch of road that houses the "museums", slave port and first story building. As we slowed to a crawl near the gaudy "garden" built around the slave port, we were accosted by a young man who flags us in then demanded that we pay a 200 naira per head fee to park (we could have done so by the road and walked in). He then insisted on taking us round the 150m long stretch mouthing inane information. As we walked Mr. best male friend took pictures and then it happened. Mr. tour guide snapped, ”why are you taking pictures" we looked at each other and slowly mouthed "because it is a tourist site".

My mind is on the news report of some foreigners who are currently on trial for taken pictures in "security areas" "Abeg I no like as you dey take pictures o and why you dey snap the place wey the plank don chop?" This was on the pier that leads into the water, which marks the spot of slave departure, the wooden pier is decayed and looks like it might collapse. The whole place is so dismal that we decided to leave, then Yanrinbo squeals but we have not seen the museum! So we drove round the corner to where the "museum" was padlocked and shut, on Sunday! Soon another "guide" appeared and we cough out another set of fees per head, l refused to go in, as the place resembled a poorly appointed public toilet. The kids came out crestfallen, declaring that it was not nice and there was nothing to see.

As we drove away from the slave port, we noticed that there was a prison on the lot right beside the post office, which had a poster announcing double visa lotteries to America and Canada.

BTW, will tell the last swimmer story by end of week and give update on margerate and the missing juvenile centre. Have a great week.


Don't know if you have seen this but you have to.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The swimmers against the tide (story two)

Once there was a man, wiry, bright eyed, great smile and a voracious appetite for stories, he was a lecturer at the University of Jos, Once there was a girl, tall, slim, wild haired, bright eyed, earnest but mischievous, she was a TV reporter and producer. They met on the campus of the university, she restless and questing, he, calm and giving. It was suppose to be a pre interview but the stories were so compelling, she began to roll the tape immediately. I was she, altered in some ways, same in others, he is dead. So is the hero of my story, there was only one witness, she too may be dead but l hope she isn't, like me she may be altered but she is alive only because of HENRY TIESSER TIOHR.

It was his final year and he needed to prepare for the forthcoming exams so he travelled home in Benue to visit his mother and get some money. It happened on the way back on that long winding Jos Akwanga road which curls through a landscape of such grand beauty your senses are lulled into peace. A 22-seater bus, an impatient driver and a long trailer standing in the path of higher profit. It's a narrow road and the driver could not see beyond the tail of the trailer but he figures he can risk it once out of a particular deep curve on the road. The driver tailgates the trailer and overtakes him, there is an oncoming vehicle, he swerves off the road and the vehicle skids out of control, exploding in a ball of fire ignited by the ever-present jerry can of petrol in the bus. A week later, a middle aged woman wails at the male out patient ward of the teaching hospital in Jos, she is joined by relatives and passers-by who mourn the loss of her son with her. Suddenly a young woman from the female ward breaks through the crowd to ask who had died, she was told it was Henry who had been in a car accident a week earlier and suffered 3rd degree burns. The young woman begins to cry solemnly and she it was who told the story below which was then told to me by the story man of Unijos.

She told of how it was that Henry had been sitting in the drivers' cabin as a passenger and thus got out of the burning bus unscathed. She was trapped at the back of the bus and crying in agony for help. No one dared come near the bus as the other passengers were dead anyway.We would never know why he did it but Henry went back into the inferno and brought her out of the bus, they were both burnt and passed out by the road. They were taken to the hospital and she had hoped to get well enough to come over to the male ward to thank him only to hear this.

The story man told of how he and others had visited Henry on his sick bed and how he had told them about the first part of the story. Only he never mentioned the fact that he had come out safe only to return to save a complete stranger.Even after all these years I can still hear the perplexion in the story man's voice as he pondered on that riddle, why did he not tell anyone? Why did he not boast about his bravery, his manliness, and his feat?

As he rounded up his story, the story man sighed and said; "but it is just like Henry, he would not have thought it special, believing that it is the only normal human thing to do. Try to save another even at the risk of your own life".

The story man died young and the wild haired girl documented the story. When it ran on NTA Jos, the young lady did get in touch, she had got married, won a visa lottery and was headed for America. I would like to meet her again; perhaps in the fabric of her life I will find answer to why Henry had to die so she may live.

Today l write from memory, I am not even sure who has the master to the HEROES series l did on TV between 1995 and 1997 but l never forgot Henry Tiesser Tiohr and of the over one hundred extraordinary Nigerians I unearthed during that series he stands tall, forever young and beautiful in my memory.

Thanks everyone for the concern during my time out, I am burdened with a mind mightier than my physicality thus this bouts of illness but as my yeye brother Mighty says "àjé no go die unless tό bá darúgbó" (hint, KWAM 1), no clue? Where is your street cred? Ok, try this; "winch no die winch no rotten☺"
Monday, October 08, 2007

Time Out!

Funmi is unwell. But don’t worry, she will be back on Wednesday.
This video (In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex) might be of interest.


In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex
Friday, October 05, 2007

The swimmers against the tide (story one)

Once during the years I volunteered with the Strong Tower Mission, I visited the centre with Rev Dele George, founder of little saints orphanage to pick up an abandoned baby. She warned me about the deplorable condition of the place but nothing could have prepared me for the sight my eyes beheld.

A saddened colonial structure, standing dirty, sullen and quiet just a short turn off the chaotic Mushin end of the Abeokuta Express road. There on the left is a cell like structure with iron bars and a gaggle of miserable children huddled together. Children from a few months old to pre teens. Some crying, mucus running down the nose, some staring dejectedly whilst some watched an ancient black and white TV suspended high up the cage.

The place stank to the heavens, recent and aging urine and defecation mixed with unwashed bodies and the rancid smell of fear to produce a sickening olfactory assault.

As the officer in charge showed us the abandoned new born we had come to collect, I noticed a crying child, a toddler quieten and wipe the mucus with the back of his hand, then stretch out same hand to receive a plastic plate on which sat a ball of mashed up beans from an attendant.

As we left, I asked Mrs. George in alarm, are we going to leave them like that? We have to pick our battles Funmi she says, the officer in charge is a decent woman but there is very little she can do without resources. It is important we maintain a good relationship with the police so they cooperate with us in finding the children, bringing them and doing the paperwork for care and adoption. In any case they will never allow you bring a camera in here. We both agreed to send more materials to the centre and I silently resolved to get a reporter in there to tell the story in print. This was in 1997, the Abacha years; any criticism of governance was an act of treason.

For years the children of Alakara Juvenile Centre have haunted me. They come in all shapes, sizes and circumstance. Desperate, ill or demented parents abandoned some. Some are lost or missing, others are runaway children mostly from abuse. The centre should ideally be a half way home cum social welfare centre to rehabilitate abused or abandoned kids and return them to their families and in some cases to organized and recognized orphanages or even foster homes. The situation of the kids is sometimes so extreme that they require special care.
I monitored the centre for a number of years then simply forgot about it until recently when I heard about Margaret Ekpe. Tall, regal Margaret is the police officer in charge of the centre now. A former athlete and mother of three, she it was who got noticed by Stella Obasanjo (rewarded with a handshake and few wads of naira) on the chaotic Oshodi oke as the no nonsense traffic police officer who temporarily brought order to that hub of madness.

Margaret was transferred to the juvenile centre a couple of years ago and refused to be lulled into resigned complacency. The stories l have heard come from different sources of how she physically cleaned the place up spending her own salary, how she would go to the local market asking the women for food for her children and how she would fuel her own car and go in search of the families of the children until her car broke down and she started going by public transport by which l mean molue and danfos to unearth parents in places as far away as Ekiti oft armed with nothing but a sketchy address from a disoriented child. She removed the cage and separated the children and is trying to teach the attendants not to ignore, beat or harass the children. Children who include the 7 year old girl who was brutally raped by area boys , whose extended family does not want and whose irresponsible parents are separated and remarried to other people and therefore unwilling to be reminded of her existence. When the police commissioner noticed her diligence, he donated a generator and recommended her for a promotion, which would have taken her out of the centre, but she and others who know the story protested pleading that she be left to continue her swim against the tide.

The place is far from good, it is still a mess, but it is a mess that one woman is valiantly trying to clean up. It requires proper dormitories, food and clothing and supplies for the children, a vehicle, functioning telephone, volunteer doctors, child psychologists, nurses (who can all work from their bases as the children can be brought to them) and a committed citizens body or NGO who will monitor the activities at the centre.

Margaret, a poorly paid Nigerian policewoman, mother and wife is swimming hard and alone.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A year gone

I clutch my survival basket (meals, drinks, books, ipod, mobile toilet) in one hand and my bag, shoes and phone in the other as I ran barefoot into the lemon, deftly dropping the basket on the floor to free one hand and fasten the clasp of my impractically high platforms. I swing the car out unto the devastated Ikorodu road to a deafening protest from the horn of the oncoming molue and join the inevitable traffic. Faintly l heard the sickening, familiar music and steel myself for what is to come. As traffic moves along in the fits and jerks of a convulsing snake, the music gets louder, a dirge every commuter in Lagos is familiar with. It's a charismas carol played year round by a group of people who stand to formation in the middle of the road straddling a cancer patient with an advanced, often decaying growth on the scrotum, breast, mouth, eye, head or any other part of his or her dying body. The music somehow has changed character from a merry melody to a snarl from the open mouth of hell to which the commuters respond in disdain, denial, disinterest and the occasional resigned outstretched hand into the droopy bags of the chief mourners in this pre funereal procession. I saw two of these within the hour.

Top of the hour and at a certain point the traffic just melts away like a phantom. As l drove up the Eko bridge, my eyes note the decapitated human limb to my right, plumb with air and glowing darkly in the sun, no sign of the rest of the body, my mind does not process. I finish my meetings early and hot pedal the lemon off Ikoyi before the madness begins, l get unto the 3rd mainland at its best when the waters are calm, the skies clear and beautiful, the air warm with possibilities, l turn off the air conditioning, shut off the caramelised fake American accents on radio and connect my ipod to the low tech converter in the lemon. The pure sounds of Asa's ojumo ti mo fills the car and the throbs with the air swirling around as I sped down the bridge, my heart filled with the irrational hope that this land so cursed but yet so beautiful, so tragic but yet spawning random acts of heroism can be helped and perchance it might even happen in my time and most significantly that my own efforts do count. I have to hang on to that fragile thread of hope or l might just as well step hard on the pedal and drive off that bridge into that sun filtered waters below.

I started this blog exactly a year ago today to tell the stories of Lagos and Nigeria without the censorship of television and the politics of print. It was mainly a way of exorcising my soul because in this as in all else that I do, I just seek my own truth and leave others to make what they will of it. This is sometimes painful but ultimately rewarding and fuels the daily battle that maintaining this blog is. Didn't even realize that this blog was started on the 3rd of October, yet another sign of my destiny being tied to my Nigerian identity.
Happy Birthday Nigeria.

Everyday For is For The Thief

This book I hear started as a blog, it must be the best blog I never read. The author Teju Cole has an incredible gift of observation,description and eventual expression without judgement or pretension.

In story after story he deftly lifts you up and slams you down in an unwaveringly accurate mutation of the realities of our existence. Not since Frank McCourts' first timer Pulitzer winning book Angela's Ashes have I read stories whose esu odaraic (Yoruba deity) character makes you want to laugh and cry simultaneously written in simple, powerful discerningly honest prose. I read everyday without pausing for breath and emerged satiated that someone has written a book that accurately reflects the tragedy and triumphs of Lagos, a mean task if you know how complex this city is. As Cole noted, the paradox of Lagos is that in her unusual realities, she is a deep dense forest of creative resource for the writer or any other art form but the brutality of her being robs the creative of the energy to tap into this huge mainly virgin forest. Teju Cole's ability to stand in the midst of it, absorb it, process it and regurgitate it is truly admirable and a must read.

Lagos always reminds me of that cheesy collaboration between the late Pavarotti and Celine Dion. My favourite lines are "I try to run away from you but if l were to leave you l would die". There is a certain futility in trying to completely remove one's Nigerian soul wherever one may live, those who have most succeeded that l have seen always have a zomboid nothingness to them. The other line is the chorus, "I love you then I hate you then I love you then I hate you then I love you more".

This Teju Cole succinctly expresses at the end of the story on the national museum and the muson centre both at Onikan. "Each time l am sure that in returning to Lagos I have inadvertently wandered into a region of hell, something else emerges to give me hope. A reader, an orchestra, the friendship of some powerful swimmers against the tide". One of my stabilizing factors is the fact that l make it my business to know, befriend and document some of those swimmers against the tide and so for the next three days l will tell you stories of some of them. In the mean time, buy, steal, beg or borrow and read EVERYDAY IS FOR THE THIEF. Ask Jeremy and Bibi (naijablog) how to get it.


Talking about creative spirits wandering about this crazy town haunting you. Ebun Olatoye is one such spirit. Journalist, writer,designer and architect? She constructed this unusual skirt and this deceptively simple dress which I have worn to death and more of which l have spent 2 years harassing her for. Ebun has started a design blog, here's the link.