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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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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Peace Vigil for late Grace Ushang

In London working. If you are in Nigeria and Lagos in particular, please go to this….

Dear All,

In the spirit of solidarity and support for the family of late Grace Ushang -(the Youth Corper raped and killed while properly dressed in her NYSC uniform in Maiduguri, Borno State) the Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF) is organising a peace vigil and a march to speak up and speak out against violence against women and the indecent dressing bill.

I urge you all to attend this event to show your support for the cause and your belief in the fact that NO INDIVIDUAL HAS THE EXCUSE TO RAPE A WOMAN ON ACCOUNT OF HER DRESSING.

Venue: Agindingbi Senior Grammar, Agindingbi off Lateef Jakande Road, Ikeja Lagos

Time: 2pm prompt
Date: Friday, 4th December, 2009

Dress Code: Black
Also come along with a candle stick
Bring family, friends and loved ones

I thank you all and look forward to marching with my sisters and brothers in solidarity.

Amy Oyekunle
Executive Director, KIND
Thursday, October 15, 2009

On District 9 (long, maybe too long but na jeje we siddon ke!)

I finally saw District 9 in London recently, I was a little curious about the Sci-Fi film from South Africa but when Nigeria banned it, I knew l had to see it.
Maybe I was a bit sluggish from a combination of the cold and a monster sized dinner or I would have jumped out of that cinema afterwards laughing or did l actually jump out laughing? Can’t remember, the wine was excellent.
Please allow me to laugh now. He he he he ha ha ha ha ka ka ka ka!! That movie is a joke and the joke is on its makers.
The critics, mostly patronizing non-Africans have fallen over themselves to praise it as an alternate surprise Sci-Fi stunner of this summer. They are right as technically, it has all the toys and gadgets and in a world of over slick, over stylized action movies, it stands out with its realism and grit. What they also praise are the metaphors around apartheid and segregation as well as a culture mix, which they are not as qualified to understand, much less correctly translate. Africa will always deliver grit and substance anywhere and any angle you turn your camera. Much the same way the celebrities come here for the babies and charity photo ops, so does the Pulitzer hunting journalist for the bleed that leads. The writers come for the golden sunsets and the rest of the pirates and philanderers for natural resources, conniving dictators and young sweet flesh. They don’t always mean harm. They see, opine and write only from their own perspective, which, often incomplete, gets the highest airtime because they have the advantage of power. They are often aided and abetted by Africa’s own self-loathing children.
It is the way it is.

So what the fuck was that with District 9? Yes l used the f word, which is about 70% of the lines that pass for dialogue in lead character Wikus’ (Sharlto Copley) lines. I have no aversion to the effective use of the f word, as one of my favorite West End plays was Jerry Springer the opera with a whole music score around just that word. Priceless!

The film could have be a nice retro Sci-Fi if only the plot was plausible or if in the absence of that, the dialogue was sharp and witty, deep and evocative or downright irreverent. It does have good points for effort and buyable technical quality but fails woefully in nuanced story development, script writing and casting. Don’t even get me started on the acting; the scene between Wikus and his wife on phone was pure Nollywood wannabe (note that Nollywood does not fool herself with pseudo Hollywood aspirations).

The so-called subtext of apartheid, segregation and otherness falls flat and only the African in denial, the non-African or the non-other will fail to see this.

Finally, what was that about the Nigerian mafia with its leader called Obesandjo (nice touch that), if it is a parody of Nigerians, should it not be convincingly so? Why not at least find actors who can speak and act like Nigerians especially in a film with 17 Nigerian characters. How about also developing the characters properly so we see the point of being Nigerians as those could have been a rag tag group of bandits from any part of Africa. Even as a metaphor, it would require that sort of authenticity or real comic lines and timing. Instead it looks suspiciously like what my people call bad belle, or worse, the ignorant cheat’s way of hanging our continent’s go to bad dog for ratings. Either way it is exploitative and unintelligent.

I have no problems with a parody of Nigerians but why not apply some creative genius and fun to go? Surely that does not cost much more than talent.

The scene with the female witch doctor is simply bad research and startling ignorance. A Nigerian mafia don goes to consult a female witch doctor! Tufiakwa! We are too blatantly sexist! There is a reason they are called babalawo and not mamalawo. Who ever heard of a female head of a shrine! Which self-respecting Nigerian politician, crook or idiot would go and swear or drink blood from a female witch doctor!!! If District 9 has a female Sharman, the Nigerian alpha male crime lord will not go to her, if the Neil Blomkamp wanted to milk a piece of fun out of that then the delivery should infer it. l suspect that scene came purely from watching and misreading themes from Nollywood movies (hehehe, they watch it too) which as l have told you have no aspirations towards such vexatious technical details of research and representation.
The film sadly betrays its makers as lazy or too contemptuous of Nigeria to do their homework. The problem with hatred is it betrays the hater’s weakness and Discript 9 shows up its makers as ignorant.

Now that I have that off my chest, what is the correlation between District 9 and Chimamanda’s danger of a single story TED talk?
Let’s talk about it soon.

In the meantime I recommend that you watch Woody Allen’s WHATEVER WORKS, Quentin Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and Todd Phillips’ HANGOVER which are the movies I’ve most enjoyed recently. I’ll do anything to have been part of the script/story development meetings for Hangover.

A gay, monochrome-cruise-wear-loving Chinese mafia don in high-heeled boots and gold bracelets? Mike Tyson singing? The tiger, the baby, the prostitute, the shrew and the boys, fabulous! My favorite lines? “You want to fuck on me?” threatens the naked Chinese mafia don as he leapt out of the booth of a car and holds off three clueless men with a monkey wrench. Now that is character development.
Thursday, October 08, 2009

The danger of a single story

This requires no lengthy explanations. Just watch and comment but let's talk about aspects of it tomorrow.
Monday, October 05, 2009

Grace Ushang’s Death And the indecent dressing Bill

By Asma’u Joda & Iheoma Obibi

Grace Ushang was a young Nigerian woman who had every right to expect a bright future. Now she is dead merely because she was female. On the day that Nigeria celebrated its 49th Independence Anniversary on 1 October 2009, NEXT Newspaper reported that Ms. Ushang from Obudu in Cross River State, a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) serving in Maiduguri, Borno State, was raped to death by some men still at large, who, according to the story, “took offence because she was wearing her Khaki trousers – the official uniform of the youth corpers.”
The cavalier brutality of this morbid tale of criminal vigilante action is compounded by the official response to it. The Director-General of the NYSC reportedly travelled to Maiduguri ostensibly to discuss this crime with the State’s law enforcement authorities. Rather than denounce this for the crime that it is and reassure our young graduates on national service that their wellbeing preoccupies the highest levels of decision making, the Director-General merely advised Youth Corpers to “take their personal security seriously because whatever we provided is not enough. They must learn to be security-conscious.” Pray, how?

The compounded crimes that killed Grace Ushang painfully return our attention to the pervasiveness of violence against women in Nigeria and the growing resort to vigilante action to police vague notions of feminine propriety and decency.
In 2008, the Chairperson of the Nigerian Senate’s Committee on Women, Senator Ufot Ekaette introduced a bill in the Senate to prohibit so called “indecent dressing”. At the public hearing on the Bill in July 2008, there was a consensus that its provisions portended great danger for the safety and security of Nigerian women. The Bill proposes to grant intolerably dangerous powers of arrest and invasion of the most intimate privacies of the woman’s body imaginable to both police officers and ordinary citizens to undertake vigilante action against women they merely perceive to be “indecently dressed”.

Senator Ekaette’s Bill covers any female above 14 years wearing a dress that exposes “her breast, laps, belly and waist… and any part of her body from two inches below her shoulders downwards to the knee” (such as the much-admired Fulani milk maid). Also liable to become a criminal if this Bill were to become law is any person dressed in “transparent” fabric (such as Lace) as well as men who expose any part of their bodies between the waist and the knee (such as men relieving themselves by the roadside). All these people and more would presumably attract arrest from zealous policemen. If this Bill becomes law, there will not be enough prisons or mortuaries in Nigeria for its victims. It will licence vigilante violence against women, leading to fatalities like the fate that befell Grace Ushang.

Grace Ushang’s story demonstrates the fallacy of the justifications for laws like the Senator Ekaette’s Indecent Dressing Bill. Those who wish to commit crimes of sexual violence need no excuse. They must be treated like the predators they are. If a woman, like Grace Ushang, dressed in regulation clothing prescribed by the Federal Republic of Nigeria is considered to be so indecently dressed as to be put to death by the most vile acts of violence imaginable, how do we guarantee the safety and security of Nigerian women in the uniformed services, such as the Armed Forces, Police, Prisons Service, and Immigration?

The killing of Grace Ushang is part of a pattern of violence against women that deserves urgent attention across borders in this year of the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In some countries of Sahelian and East Africa and the Middle East, women who survive rape get put to death for allegedly bringing dis-honour to their families. Or are charged with zina (adultery) as they “have made love”; as any form of sexual intercourse consensual or non consensual, can be translated to mean “love making”.
Only recently in Sudan, Lubna Hussein, a former employee of the United Nations, along with 12 other Sudanese women, were charged with the offence of dressing indecently for wearing trousers. Sudanese law prohibits ‘dressing indecently’ in public. Absurd? Yes, certainly, by Nigerian standards, where no person bats an eyelid at the sight of women in jeans, or in offices, clad in trouser suits – or so we thought until Grace Ushang was raped to death. Sudan’s laws, however, criminalise a woman’s dressing, prescribing lashing and an unlimited fine for any woman ‘in public’ dressed like a ‘man’.

Lubna resigned her employment at the UN, which would have granted her immunity from trial, to compel the courts to take a stand on an issue she feels (quite rightly) should be a matter of public concern, because they impact directly on her human dignity, freedom of choice and privacy. By her action, Lubna placed Sudanese ‘justice’ in the global spotlight and should, hopefully, trigger change in policy and law in that country.

We may not yet have a law that determines what a woman (or man) can wear but there can be no tolerance of the growing tendency towards vigilante enforcement of notions of indecency. Sudan and Nigeria have similar lawmakers it seems. Surely, someone sat down and determined for Sudan, in his opinion, what is permissible as a woman’s choice of dress, and garnered Parliamentary support for his personal belief that wearing trousers was an abomination that should be penalized. In the same manner, some persons in the Nigerian Senate are unilaterally and arbitrarily attempting to decide for Nigerians what should be the acceptable form or mode of ‘dressing’ for women. No account has been taken of the diversity and the culture in both countries, or even of the fact that in African rural settings, women routinely expose much more, without giving a thought to it being ‘indecent’. Nor has there been any reckoning of the effect that this will have on the safety of women.
As Sudan struggles with the implications of its indecent dressing laws, and its courts struggle to find ways around it, Nigeria’s own lawmakers appear bent on imposing these retrograde and potentially explosive laws over here. While they are looking for ways to move forward, our legislators seem determined to throw us back into the past.

Our lawmakers should focus on passing measures that promote human dignity, preclude discrimination, and guarantee human wellbeing. Instead of a law on indecent dressing, they can accord priority to enacting a law to protect all Nigerian women from the wanton violence and ensure that all perpetrators of such violence are brought to justice. As a first step, the Senate should vote down the Indecent Dressing Bill and firmly close any further arguments on it. In its place, and in memory of Grace Ushang, we need a federal law on violence against women. That would be an appropriate way to commemorate the tragedy of her senseless killing.

Asma’u Joda & Iheoma Obibi are on the Steering Committee of the Nigerian Feminist Forum (NFF)
Thursday, October 01, 2009

Inevitability of Hope

I wrote the piece below two months ago as part of a series I am working on. Seeing the mood of most on a day like this i thought it may be appropriate to share it.....

I could tell you many stories but maybe just the one will do. Three months ago I started filming a conversation series around Nigeria, I was sick and tired of the deafening noise of the voiceless in my head and was determined to give them voice. When we arrived at this forgotten community, area boys descended on us and threatened to beat us, kidnap the foreign crew, destroy our equipments or worse. I was less fearful than dejected and in my anger I confronted them completely taken aback that they did not seem to care that it was I, the aunty Funmi of the youth, the people’s champion, I believe my own bull, you see. We eventually calmed them down and I asked to use their toilet. As I walked through the narrow passage of the face me I face you shack, l had no premonition of what I was to be confronted with now and all day. The toilet was an exact replica of the slum dog millionaire shit scene without the beautiful colouring and diffusion of rough edges of that film. I peed mater of factly and lead my crew through the maze of homes lying as it were on a refuse dump sort of like a strange rotting carcass. We climbed the stilts and descend into the canoe that took us into the community of these people who live exclusively on water.

Now let me tell you about the water, it is the blackest, dankest, oiliest, smelliest water I ever felt in my life, yes felt, as it was so wrong it had a fetid life of its own which envelops you. There were large and small pieces of faeces, other wastes and the ubiquitous pure water bags flowing calming by as Dami my canoe man paddle sliced through it all. It was like some witch’s broth from a Dickensian tale, only worse because here you can smell it and once in a while you might taste it as bits fall off the paddle unto your skin. We spent the entire day filming, all sense revolting then numbed. This place has no electricity, no water, no hospitals, no toilets, nothing but the people had found a way to live a normal life of sorts. They trade on the water, run barbers shops, an alternative health clinic and salons with little generators all on the water, the only way of getting around is by canoe and there is no soil. The drinking water is piped through a hole dug into the shallow end of the water through pipes that are sometimes broken letting in the brackish water. The highest source of death is cholera and malaria.

In all of these you wonder how can this be, how can we have done this to our people and how do they remain human? However, slowly through the day as I interviewed them and collected their stories of triumphs and failures, fears and measured success, I saw their strength and our human commonality. There were many outstanding stories and many, far too many sad ones. But there is one really amazing one. A one-story building houses the four classrooms that serves the whole community, it was built by some “oyinbo” volunteers I was told. There are no seats, no tables, no books, and no teachers for the 130 children who are ferried there free by the community daily. No teachers but for two young boys, secondary school leavers who can barely speak English themselves. They volunteer everyday to teach the children who speak only Egun; they are unpaid, their own future uncertain. I even suspect they moonlight as area boys some times but the other thing I have noticed is how all the area boys have slowly shed their aggression on seeing our good intention. I saw these aggressors transform into the confused and sidelined youth they really are and I saw them, as they could have been if we did not have all those decades of ruinous leaders, how they maybe still could be.

Most importantly I was humbled by those two boys who everyday teach the children without pay, they are almost children themselves and will probably not live to be 40 but in the midst of all the lack, they stood up to be counted. It is because of people like these that I keep going. I recognise my destiny to tell these stories and give the people voice as I recognize that the beauty of Nigeria is you always turn that dark corner and find something unexpectedly special. Perhaps it is foolhardiness or even a desperate attempt at finding hope but I somehow somewhere deep inside think or should I say hope that Nigeria will herself turn around this dark corner one day and find blinding light.

Post note
Change A Life is currently working with the appropriate government agencies to do reward these young teachers and do something about the school itself. Send me an email if you’d like to be part of it.
Monday, July 06, 2009

Rule of the unschooled

Read this yesterday and have been livid since. which gods did we offend to be so lumbered? ASUU is on strike o, the universities are dump sites o. primary school children have learnt to bribe teachers to get into class o and the legislators say we have nothing to spend the education budget on? There really is fire on the mountain and nobody seem to be on the run.

The thing around your neck

Reading Chimamanda's new book the thing around your neck. What can I say? Chimamanda not only has the story telling gift from the gods but she has a rare insight into the human essence. I read these short stories and I am gently but insistently nudged to examine issues that colour our Nigerian reality. This is one of the times I wish I was still doing NEW DAWN so I can have the sort of deep insightful conversations that can be had with a mind as unique as hers. However not to worry, I have big plans for her and you too;-).

Be sure not to miss the reading this weekend.

I'll roger that

So were you one of those queer creatures who wanted Roddick to win just because you are tired of seeing Federer win? The "under dogers"? Lesson to all: once in a while the good Lord presents us with some of his finest works, our job is to be in appreciation and awe. Federer is a gifted player such as we have not seen in a while perhaps such as we have ever seen. The serve, the foot work, the pace, the butt... shall I go on:-).

Even Anna Wintour is a groupie. All hail the king!
Friday, June 26, 2009

Ha Micheal!

Woke up to the news of Michael Jackson’s death and I am devasted, it almost feels personal which is of course because he not only had exceptional talent but the charisma and magnetism of a true star. I grew up to his music and spent many sad, happy or confused days of youth consoled, uplifted or ignited by his music. Its a sad loss especially in the cusp of a potentially career relighting comeback.

Even my 8 year old feels a sense of loss. However the greatest lesson for me is that what will endure and triumph is the quality of ones work done passionately, dedicatedly and professionally. That is the true legacy, his wonderful catalogue of music and the power of that to move billions across boundaries of colour, geography, age and orientation. He was the "baddest", the best.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Homing Song

Back in Naija and loving it. My relieved and delighted shrimp, the okra soup with eba and fresh fish, the noise of the generator, the smells, texture and tone of home.

Talking about being back in Naija, the Man Magnet drew my attention to the facebook face-off between Abati and Generation Next over the interpretations of the socio-cultural shift that a new generation is championing, especially as expressed with 9ja hip-hop.

Now my first reaction was abeg leave them alone, but the more I read, the more compelled I felt to comment.

To start with, one of my core Aspen conversations was on the role of new media in a new world order and like all else, I was fascinated by the role of twitter in the Iranian protests. The thing that struck me in Aspen was not just the real attempt at understanding new media but the very psyche of the generation that powers it.

Unfortunately, as it seems to happen with many things, Nigeria is not having an honest, informed conversation about the post-IBB communication convergence and liberalization generation and her unique social and economic construct.

Dr Abati’s article is a typical knee jerk reaction by a generation that takes the seismic shift that is occurring amongst the Nigeria youth too literarily and dare I say, feels a little left out.

I can understand the young people’s frustration with Dr Abati as too often, no one has taken stock of how the dark post-second republic era and the complete breakdown of the physical, social and economic fabric of Nigeria resulted in the conditioning of the generation born and reared of those times. The seething resentment against the so called generation that did nothing, reared its head, as it is wont to at such times, whereas in fairness the generation before fared no better.  The Tiananmen Square or not argument though, must be left to another day.

Now, now doc, abbreviating the name of a country, place or person is a way of owning it. It is a term of endearment amongst the young. So the abbreviation of Nigeria into Naija or the even funkier and frankly twitter generation-friendly 9ja is not a crisis of identity, but the very first and tentative move by any Nigerian generation towards cultural confidence.

To castigate the use of pseudonyms or stage names by Naija (yes Naija) artists is frankly puzzling to me as this is an age-old productive/ creative exercise. Madonna, Sting, Anikulapo, KSA, KWAM 1. Should I go on? To the uninitiated, a stage name is a useful tool for artists to separate the self from the persona and often salvage one's sanity. Even those artists who use their given names alter it slightly, not just for commercial purposes but for creative or identity protection purposes. 9ice is called that because he is the nicest soul you can encounter plus he writes a song every 9th day. He is still Abolore to his family and can thus be Abolore at home and 9ice at work. Asa, so nicknamed by her mother because she is swift as an eagle. Ditto most of the others including the very cool Banky W and the very intelligent Naeto C.

Finally that vexatious argument about the meaning of the songs and so-called lewd, or (horror) immoral nature of the lyrics, irks me. Whilst there may be a few censor-worthy lyrics, the majority of the music is actually great and a real innovation in the way they are creating a new form of music unique to regions of Nigeria but with universal appeal. The deeper meaning of some of the lyrics, which comes from Nigeria’s peculiar street culture and realities, is actually beguiling. For example “Ori o foka sibe” is not sexual unless you want to interpret it so. It is really street talk for bringing your brain cells to the issue. Literarily you scattered your brains on that issue o.

I was educated in Ajegunle whilst filming TWF as to the origin and structure of dance forms such as Galala, Konto and Swo which are an amalgam of Yoruba, Ijaw, and Igbo dances with a touch of Ajegunle madness. These dance forms have interestingly made their way from Ajegunle to dance halls around Africa and certain parts of the world.

I can also understand and identify with the oft self-affirming words of Naija music. This is a generation that was completely disempowered, redefining and psyching herself to greatness. To begrudge them that is to be insensitive. They are also telling stories of Nigeria as she is. Note the haunting but strangely empowered telling of the Odi massacre by Timaya. We cannot wish a gentle Victorian nature on people reared of such realities. Our job is to unearth, understand and grow a better vision of self and nation.

Finally, the thing about even the innuendos and all, is that this is a generation which can laugh at herself and her own excesses. They know better than to buy it on surface value. So dancing Yahooze or Big Boy does not make you a 419ner or a glorifier of it, as dancing to Booty Call does not make you a streetwalker. This is adult music and parents are responsible for what they allow their children listen to as are broadcast regulators for what is put on the family belt. It is creative subversion that appeals to all but is clearly understood as that by a thinking, informed generation. It was irritating to read the brouhaha about Powell dancing Yahozee and thus glorifying Nigerian 419 by western media when they give awards to music, shows and films which use subversion as art form -- Pulp Fiction any one? So they can laugh at themselves and we cannot abi?

The girls who shake their backsides to Bumper to Bumper are as likely to be investment bankers or lawyers as hardworking traders. They are comfortable enough in their post-feminist skin to be sensual and smart or as someone aptly put it, “may just be that my skirt is short and my IQ is high."

If the young people begin to apply the same principles that has seen the emergence of this vibrant, evolving and eventually to be deepened music industry to other aspects of life, we will begin to head towards a new Nigeria.

The challenge of Generation Next actually is how to bring that to bear, otherwise in a decade or two, they too will be accused of being the generation that did nothing.

Now shall I retreat with the words of one of my favorite 9ice’s songs, “ohun t’o ba wun eni bodi l’o le f’enu won so. Omo o’ ran yan, omo j’o mo lo, omo mati jagbo lo, e fi won si le e’je kan ma so lo, orin yin ni o, e ma ko lo"… Remember not to take it all too literarily o. Peace.

Thing Around Your Neck

Last week, was at Chimamanda’s book reading to coincide with her new book going on sale nationally in America. Ran into a few bloggers and Teju Cole then went to dinner with Chimamanda and her peeps including the beautiful Zadie Smith and Lola Ogunnaike of CNN

Teju and I

Chimamanda signs the books

me, Zadie Smith

IV, Chimamanda

me, Ezinne and friend

Hlonipha, Chimamanda, me and Lola

What is she thinking?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Connected, Gear Engaged. Ignited

It’s amazing how different yet how similar we are. The Aspen Global Leaders Network reunion ACT II ended on Saturday with 160 people from 44 countries dancing classic country and pop music from the fifties. No it was not a pretty sight, a happy one yes, but not pretty. The South Africans of course stole the show with their synchronized line dancing; the waters of that land must be fortified with rhythm. The Central Americans were and always are the life and soul of the party, nah they are the party.

This was of course a fitting end to a program, which sought to and did connect engage and inspire the fellows from around the globe.

The one thing that was clear to me at the end of our readings, conversations, engagements and interactions is not only that all we are all unified in the eternal quest for the definition and attainment of the good life for the largest numbers in our different parts of the world nor how similar the most common human challenges are but how inevitable it is that each must solve her own problems and that, it is the aggregation of such solutions that will evolve a better balanced world order which may preserve us.

One of the boys: Nuhu Ribadu, Maduka Emelife,Me,Nasir El Rufai And Foluso Phillips

It’s not going to be top down but bottom up, the real challenge being the evolution of a gifted new cadre of thinkers, leaders and doers in several parts of the world.
For the first time in such of a forum, I felt a little more confident to say that Nigeria had a good example in the person of Fashola of Lagos. There was of course the inevitable questioning around the situation around Nuhu Ribadu (more later) who was a powerful and compelling presence through out but there was the sense that Nigeria is at the cusp of something infinitely powerful which even or especially our present difficulties will catalyze.

Dele Olojede and Nasir El Rufai

Perhaps the email I sent to a friend of mine (reproduced below and adapted for you all) on arrival in Aspen is a more eloquent text of my feelings seeing as I am too exhausted from two days of slummy it as airports trying to get to New York to think. There were flight cancellation and delays, denial of responsibility by airlines, near fraudulent hotel reservation rule bending and the many other signposts to the flaws of the American system and a testament to the commonality of our search for a better life.

The very lovely very pregnant abby; deputy director leadership initiatives

I shall now go and wash and change out of my 24-hour clothes so I can go find decent food in the only city I truly like in America. Why? New York is honest to God rude, aggressive, nasty and dishevelled but she wraps you in her energy, sexiness and fun spitting expletives at all irrespective of colour, race and nationality whilst offering you anonymity and user friendliness, a feature sadly missing in many other cities of a gifted but insular nation.

Walter Isaacson, President/CEO of Aspen Institute, his daughter Betsy, myself, Okey and Ngozi

Nasir and Zoe

The Nigerian Mafia + 1: Nuhu, me, Roland Akosa, Ngozi, Phillips, Okey Enelamah, Dele, Nurudeen Lemu and Nasir

Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs Ajekigbe and I

Ndidi Nwuneli and Nasir

Peter Hirshberg Technorati chairman and I

Myself, Fmr. Deputy President of South Africa Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Ndidi Edozien

Ngozi Edozien and I

Beth Galante of Global Green, Queen Amina (Oyagbola) and the inimitable Keith Berwick

Barclay Snr. Executive Heather Sonn contemplates

United Nations: Mothomang, me, Mark, Heather, Zeona, Zoe and Hugo

Email to the best and brightest amongst us

Darling sister (brother) and friend,

How are you?

After 4 weeks of traveling round 5 states in Nigeria and penetrating all sort of communities to talk with people and finding myself swinging from abject despair to desperate hopefulness, I foolishly get on the plane and 17 flying hours later I am in serene Aspen feeling a little rootless and strangely fearful.

Then I put on the TV and a panel is seriously and intelligently discussing your book under an AWF reads series and slowly the tears drop. Of pain and frustration at my country, of my sense of entrapment in her continuous drama, the unspoken fear that I may be a bit stunted as a result mixed with the eternal hope which daughters and sons of that land such as your brilliant self represent.

Thanks my beautiful friend for always providing me inspiration and fuel to go on.
Big hug
Friday, June 12, 2009

TWF diaries

I have always raised a “don’t mess with my head” brow when I get told I have a compelling story and must write it. Everybody says it, I ignore them all, secretly holding the belief beautifully articulated by Chimamanda in half of yellow sun, in describing mounting scales of horror as some things are so bad, they make other bad things ok. In other words kini big deal?

However as I sit this morning in my apartment in the ethereal Aspen meadow resort watching the clouds flow over the snow topped mountains (what horrible cliché) I had an epiphany. You see, much the same way as I sit and watch those clouds in one of the most prosperous places in the world, I had a month ago sat on a canoe in one of the poorest places paddled slowly by the hauntingly intense Dami through the dankest, blackest waters I had ever seen or smelt watching human faeces in various stages of decomposition flow by.

The power of my experiences is less about my person but about the stories, the people, the event that effortlessly weave through it.
Life does tend to happen to me and perhaps I will one day sit down and write my story.

At no time have I experienced life close up more than in the past six months.
After a turbulent 2008 (wait for the book), I hit 2009 running hard and what I will do over the next month or so is write a reverse diary. Reverse because I feel better telling stories once I step outside of them. Now, I promise you nothing as I shall digress from time to time in my moody, crabby way but then isn’t that just the way of life? The Bitch never promises you anything but she can give you so much if you want to ride with her.

So I will write what I shall call the TWF diaries. I don’t know how many I will write or in what order, if any, I will write them before I recoil into myself again but l promise not to bore you as I will not be so buried in the past as not to madden you with my unsolicited often rubbish opinion on all and sundry in the present. E ku ile o.

What the world need now

I left Lagos bloody minded; I had spent 4 weeks travelling from state to state filming on a frankly insane 10-hour daily schedule. We wrapped up on the Sunday, I get on the plane Monday morning. It virgin upper class (no, one does not require a sugar daddy, one requires a lot of air miles to get an upgrade) so I expected a pleasurable flight experience. It was good, better than most but I can see the cracks occasioned by the crunch, the bar extras are not as copious and the gushing love and extra pecks not as obvious besides I think the dainty cubes of eba and fabulous okra with beef or chicken stew on Arik’s first class is unbeatable. All in all it was a good flight and the British immigration if not friendly are not hostile and it takes only 25 minutes from plane to taxi.

Next day, I arrive bright and early at the airport to buy a business class upgrade for my United Airlines flight to Denver, it’s always cheaper to buy a last minute upgrade at the airport instead of buying a full fare business or first class ticket. I’ll be damned if I fly economy 9 hours to Denver in a United plane. I am a frequently flier mostly for work and thus I am scrupulously Ijebu with my air miles, flier club memberships and hotel discounts. God will not let me pay for what I have earned free or discounted, eewo! I am also travel savvy enough to know that most American Airlines are just glorified Ekene Dili Chukwu in comparison to their European or indeed, new Asian counterparts. I however was still dismayed by the jankara quality of the business class cabin of the United flight to Denver, the poor in flight entertainment, the shrew like air hostesses and the colon murdering food on offer. I grabbed the Sting autobiography I brought along to read, my nano and zoned out to naija hip hop for a truly miserable 9 hour flight beside a sizeable American business man who apparently had a gas emission issue.
By the way, why do they always ask you if you know you are at the premier counter when you want to check in? “Se won o ri oyinbo ri ni”? Can’t translate, meaning will be lost in translation.

Foolishly, as we have all fallen so hopelessly in love with the Obamas, I imagined the first couple’s charisma would translate to the American immigration. Hell no! You still get treated like a criminal when you attempt to enter America or indeed fly within America. Understandable perhaps but no less irritating. Aside the rudely barked questions and the dog sniffing for food imports (I wanted to kick the stupid mutt or mentally transport her into a pepper soup pot in Akwa Ibom), they take you aside for a second search and rescan through your claimed checked in luggage. I mean, gimme a break, I am a lot healthier than that red faced fart machine that flew with me and most of the people I saw on board, our most lethal disease is malaria, they are the ones creating all sorts of shit diseases by messing with nature. In addition, why profile Nigerians, we may do a bit of 419 here and there but we sure as hell are no bomb throwers being too cowardly and life loving for such arrant nonsense.

More nastiness at the Denver airport and a short bumpy flight into the truly splendid Aspen, a drive past Lance Armstrong’s home with the tantalizing possibility of seeing him walking with his new born as I was gleefully I informed he does by a resident and was nettled in my room. The calm cold air and the beauty of the mountains soothe yet infuriate me. I am angry at the memory of some of the things I had seen whilst travelling in Nigeria. I am jealous that the forefathers of these people had started something that got them where they are today, flawed as it may be but infinitely better than many nations of the world including mine. I am angry with our past leaders and a lot of the present ones, I am frustrated at us all as followers and secretly worried that my very heritage may have stunted me as a human. Even as I think these thoughts and flip through the truly pointless and mindless TV shows, I come across an intelligent panel discussion on Chimamanda's half of a yellow sun and I start crying. Its tears of exhaustion, fears and hope. I send her a quick message and I slowly settle down in my room. It is gorgeous here but I am homesick, I yearn to return to my own home, my own life, my own country and keep working and living in the hope that one day, the best and brightest amongst us will out number the others.

I am here as a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative of the Aspen institute, a network of leaders from all works of life from all corners of the planet. One of the most anticipated issues we will be looking at is what the world needs now. I am consumed about what Nigerian needs now and look forward to seeing the likes of Nuhu Ribadu tomorrow that will join us in that roundtable.
Monday, April 06, 2009

Another reason to love Chimamanda

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Faces At Change A Life Foundation Launch

Ali Baba & Sola Salako

Ali Baba

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu & Mrs. Remi Tinubu

Bisi Olatilo & Mrs. Omotayo Omotoso

Funmi Iyanda & Alhaji Lateef Adegbite

Funmi Iyanda with some Change-A-Life Beneficiaries

Funmi Iyanda, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu & Mrs. Remi Tinubu

Gbemi Shasore(Representative of the Lagos State First Lady), Funmi Iyanda, Deputy Governor Sarah Sosan, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu & Mrs. Remi Tinubu with Favour

Ireti Doyle, Sola Salako & Patrick Doyle

Jeremiah Gyang

May7, Bayo Haastrup & Funmi Iyanda

Patrick Doyle & Sunmi Smart-Cole

Reni Folawiyo & Bolanle Austen-Peters

Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi & Dele Alake

Seyi Law

Sunmi Smart Cole, Remi Osholake (Remi Lagos)

Susan Eyo-Honesty, Mrs. Remi Tinubu, Ireti Doyle & Sola Salako

Timi Dakolo & Ade Bakare

Tunde Kelani & Guest

Yemi Sax

A Cross-Section of Guests at the Event

For more information about Change A Life Foundation, please visit www.changealifenigeria.org