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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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Friday, June 12, 2009

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.


'Layo said...

It is nice to see a new post from you.

I have been having a lot of the same kind of thoughts lately. I have recently graduated from school in the US, and live by the motto of "Do no harm". I do want to see things change, but I feel like a lot of the problems in Nigeria are too far-reaching for any one person to turn around. It's something of a collective coma, I think, where nothing would get done until they find something in themselves that would sustain them for the longterm struggle, so that they would not be bribed by temporary pleasures in preparation for the bounty that would come with fulfilling our possibilities as a people.

On America, the Afri-Americans especially had it eas(ier) because their enemy didn't look like them. We look around-- indeed, look in the mirror-- and see the faces of people who have contributed in their own small way to our stagnation. Also on America, reading the history of the nation and all that, it is worth remembering that most developed nations now are where they are due to exploitation of Latin America and/or Africa. We as Africans are less lucky. We have no one to exploit but ourselves. And see where that has led us.

I do hope that one day the best and brightest among us outnumber the others, but in the words of Gani Fawehinmi, "It is illegal to be lawful in a lawless society." We need to resist the bribe and keep our eyes focused on the prize. I don't know how, though. That bribe fills pockets, mouths, bellies. Even if temporarily so.

Funmi said...

Good to see you've updated. I can definitely identify with that feeling of hopelessness about Nigeria... I believe it's something all Nigerians have felt at one point or the other. Looking forward to reading more of your stuff. You are truly inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Its Soooo good to hear from you again...i have missed you terribly.

I am still hiding here in Srilanka, raising my kids and refusing to let the haunting task of being Nigerian distrupt my serenity.

Ignoring the "Go back to Nigeria" thoughts...at least here there is constant electricity and internet access! And the 25yr old war is finally over.