Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Yahoo-Yahoo! Fraud via the internet.

There’s a new way of defrauding the gullible in the Western world and it originated (again) from this end.
Formerly, the sore point for the Police Forces of the advanced countries was “419”. Named so after Section 419 of the Criminal Code of Nigeria which stipulates that it is an offence to obtain property or money by false pretences.

In this scam, the fraudster would send multiple (thousands) e-mail to businesses and individuals all over Europe and America (I entered a business centre once in Lagos and saw a large directory of business names being used as a guide).

There were many variances to the trick. Some might say they were accountants of some Government organ in Nigeria, e.g. the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and that there was money, (often hundreds of millions in pounds sterling or dollars) forgotten in some account. The writer would claim that he (or she) knew how to get the sum in issue out and all that was needed were the account details of the unsuspecting foreigner so the money could be removed from the country and deposited there.

They would offer the foreigner a smaller cut of the sum if the transfer was successful. Now, 10% of fantastic sums like $255 Million would be attractive to many people.
Then the sting would start. The fraudster would state that there was a small hitch in the transfer, some blockage by a minor official, that could be sorted by the payment of a paltry sum of , say, $16,500, by the foreigner. The fraudster would ask of it as a loan, repayable from his share of the money once transferred.
The foreigner already caught like a fly in a honey-trap would willingly and quickly oblige.
And then a new demand would be made- say, another $35, 000 dollars or so, needed to overcome another “minor” obstacle and to ensure the smooth and immediate transfer of the principal sum.

In for a penny, in for a pound- The victim would beg, borrow or steal this sum to hasten things, and then once more, a demand , say for the sum of $40, 000 being “the last and final payment” the victim would have to make before becoming a millionaire.
This would go on and on until realization would hit the victim someday and he would either go quietly into the night, nursing his wounds, or shout out for redress. For individuals caught in this web of deceit, they would have borrowed vast sums from friends and family in the belief that they would be able to pay back many times over with the arrival of the windfall.

In cases where even larger sums were in issue and had been promised the target, arrangements would be made to fly him to Nigeria. He would be met at the airport by police outriders (This is difficult in the current dispensation) and would be taken to the best hotels. If he desired to see the place where the money was, e.g. The Central Bank, arrangements would be made to take him in and meet with an “official” of the bank in an imposing office on the premises. Sometimes it could be arranged to take the target to a luxurious home in the country where he would see men and women sitting before banks of computers, counting foreign exchange (These things happened. Even I, marvel at their daring, as I write)

The Metropolitan Police tried to be politically correct about it and called it the “West African Advance Fee Fraud Scheme” on its website whereas we all know the architects of this scam mostly came from our great country. They were made up of all sorts- the educated, the illiterate but streetwise... There was a common denominator though-They were all persuasive.
The scams continue even today and it is true, apparently, that a sucker is born every minute. A fool and his money are soon invited places.

It should be noted, that under the government in place now, it is highly difficult to perfect the vast majority of these schemes. But still, some sail through.
The government is determined to rid the country of the image of corruption and is waging a virtual internecine battle with the fraudsters through its Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). A number of fraudsters have been arrested and some have moved operations to places on the West Coast of Africa like Ivory Coast. The Met Police prophecy came true in the end.
Personally, I think the fraudster and the victim should both be imprisoned.
Greed is the bait and often, the victim is lured by dangling obscenely large and supposedly stolen sums before his eyes. If the scenarios painted to the target were true, he would be stealing money from Nigeria. They have no qualms about that, apparently.

Now to the new scam. Its called Yahoo!-Yahoo! And it’s simple to the point of silliness.

Male Nigerians go on the web and engage Male Caucasians in conversations in chat rooms. The Nigerian pretends to be female and sometimes enlists the help of a female friend who allows him to use her picture as the girl in question. After a while, “the girl” asks for money to help pay for medical bills for her dying father, or asks for money to buy a plane ticket so “she” can come visit. Always, the money is converted to other uses.

The spoilsports, EFCC, have again waded into this and seem to have an agreement with Western Union and Money Gram to compile names of those who come repeatedly to receive money from abroad from different unverifiable sources. Many have been arrested here but it hasn’t stopped yet. I think this might be because male pride doesn’t allow you to tell (and warn) other men that you’ve been having cyber s-x with another man.

I don’t know if impersonating the female gender is an offence (See Ru-Paul) but EFCC considers it so. I suppose I’d have issues too if I’d been mandated to clean up a country’s badly battered image and new scams were being devised daily.

So, for anyone who’s out there and thinks he has a Nigerian girlfriend, ask for her Mobile Phone number. Believe me, every Nigerian babe has a phone. Call her at odd times. You’ll know after a couple of calls if it’s the real thing.

What if the fraudster is female? Its possible but unlikely. Sitting for hours on end in some uncomfortable cyber cafĂ© trying to attract other men or even females, is essentially a male thing. Trust me. But better still, “Don’t trust nobody but your Mama, and even then, cut the deck”.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Clan goes on a long journey, desperate for security and safety. One day, it sees a tree and all stop under its shade to rest. But the people never leave and instead decide to make their settlement there. The tree is the Aruwewe (Ah-roo-wer-wer) and this settlement/town becomes known as Aawe (ah-wer) a couple of kilometres from Oyo, Nigeria. My father was born in this town. The people of the town claim it is the same tree, hundreds of years old. Doesn't look it, does it? Posted by Picasa
Nurses at their Hospital's Halloween party in the United States label their ward, a cell block. Maybe this was the inspiration for me to write "Prison Chronicles". One of them's my friend. Any guesses? Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cast and Crew of the stage play, Audu's Way, on Herbert Macaulay Way, Sabo, Lagos, as we prepared to move down to the Lagos State House of Assembly where we were billed to perform. I wrote and directed this play which had the Speaker of the House as the Guest of Honour and the other members of the House in attendance. The production was commissioned by the Society for Family Health (SFH) and it was geared primarily towards sensitizing lawmakers in the different States of the country on the need to legislate on HIV-AIDS issues.
The Speaker has since been impeached, removed and relegated to the political backwaters. "Tide and Market come and go..." Posted by Picasa
This young lady strolled up to make my acquaintance as I started the engine to prepare to drive out of the Refugee camp in Oru-Ijebu, Nigeria. Proably born on the camp without regular meals, running water or electricity (the Nigerian government didn't pay bills so the camp got disconnected), this is the only life she knows. The refugees are mostly Liberians but there's a sprinkling of Congolese, Rwandans, Sierra-Leonians, Malians, Sudanese and a few other African countries.
If the wars don't stop, Africa is lost. Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 24, 2006

My entry for the NLNG contest for Dramatic Literature in 2006 is a stage play I wrote in 2002, titled The Other Side. In the picture from the premiere, the illegal immigrant from the United Kingdom (Anthony Edet Offiong, centre) meets with two street wise Lagos ruffians (Kenneth Uphopho, left) and (Osagie Okedigun, right).
The prize is 20, 000. That's USD, not Liberian dollars or Naira.
"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in defeat." Posted by Picasa
From left, Dr. Reuben Abati (Chairman-Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspapers), Odia Ofeimun (Poet and Essayist) and Professor Biodun Jeyifo at Jazzhole, Ikoyi, Lagos, to celebrate the Professor's 60th birthday. Dr. Abati, one of the most unrelenting critics of the excesses of the Government and Politicians in Nigeria, celebrated his 40th birthday soon after. Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 20, 2006

Found these 3 kittens by the road-side in Akoka, Lagos, about 11 days ago. Two of them had been thrown into a tied sack that had somehow gotten undone. The last had in some way, entered a gutter and was black from nose-tip to tiny claws. They lay there, struggling to stay alive, scarcely more than a day old. I believe the ones in the sack had been thrown in, next to their dead mother. I couldn't walk away from them and although they stank to high heaven, I placed them in a cardboard box and they've been with me ever since. They've become loveable nuisances now and its difficult to even remember how close they were to death once.

Because they are all survivors, I named the one in the gutter, "Rambo", and the other two, Mr. & Mrs. Smith after the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie movie. A vet later told me they were all- female, still I've kept the names.

In the picture, "Mr. Smith" does a balancing act on my foot. Posted by Picasa
My Kitten, Mrs. Smith (named after Angelina Jolie's character in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith"). Here, she takes a long pull from the bottle on a hot day.  Posted by Picasa
Went to the Vagina Monologues interactive "Talk Back" yesterday at Joke Silva's ikoyi residence. Here, people who went to see any of the presentations got to relate with the producers (Hafsat Abiola-Costello's "K.I.N.D." and Joke Silva), and many of the actors. The actors I recollect in attendance, were Iyabo Amoke, Najite Dede (also the director), Omonor Imobhio, Bimbo Akintola, Sha-Sha, Elvina Ibru and Bosede Afolabi.

The purpose: The way forward with the production which is aimed at stopping violence against women and celebrating womanhood. There were constructive suggestions from many quarters.

Here's hoping these laudable aspirations will come to pass.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Vagina Monologues

Went to the Muson Centre at Onikan, Lagos on Wednesday the 15th of March to see the heavily publicized Vagina Monologues written by Eve Ensler and directed by Najite Dede. With an all-star, all-female ensemble, this stage play with a controversial title promised to be a show unlike any seen around this country in a long while. The actual performance itself was not far off the mark.

This one production was sponsored by more groups and organizations than have sponsored all stage performances combined at the same venue over the past couple of years. Sponsors included KIND (Kudirat Initiative for Democracy), The British Council, The Lagos State Government, Virgin Nigeria, and The National Centre for Women Development, amongst a host of others. It might be safe to write that the calibre of those who were involved as producers, actors and sponsors, encouraged many of those not naturally of literary leanings, to jump on the sponsorship wagon.

Featuring tested thespians such as Joke Silva who also doubled as producer, Iretiola Doyle, Najite Dede, Bimbo Akintola, Iyabo Amoke, Funlola Aofiyebi and Omonor Imobhio, the drama also had stage neophytes like the television talk show presenter-Funmi Iyanda, the gynaecologist-Bosede Afolabi, Marie Ekpere and Elvina Ibru. All-in-all, it was a cast made up of “insiders” and “outsiders”

For many who had heard of the drama, it was assumed that the thrust of the performance was to speak against violence to and on women. Even the programme printed and distributed for the event stated that it was to “celebrate women and raise awareness for a world without violence.” For those of us who had expected to see a tame performance expounding on the harmful effects of women-battering alone, we were mistaken.

Firstly, an oddity observed by this male writer was that the audience mostly consisted of women. Close to 90% of those seated were of the female gender, and one could sense that they had come to participate in a “female thing”, something akin to a rite of passage that women know they must go through. It is the same way Nigerian women watch the American TV show, “Sex and the City” and feel pity for men who have no idea what can be so fascinating about Sarah Jessica Parker contorting herself into amorous positions.

Secondly, there were more non-black people there than had been in any drama at the most popular venue for drama in the country. I can authoritatively state this, having attended close to 40 productions at the Muson Centre since 2002. Everywhere I turned, there were Americans, Britons, Germans, Indians, Italians, Pakistani, and a host of others, representatives of many nations from around the world.

With a stage bare of all superfluous props but those necessary for the performance, the production had an almost scientific feel, with a flat-toned holographic talking head (Najite Dede) eerily issuing statements from a console. The lighting effects were simple but adequate for the performance and the sound effects served their purpose; the sound of a car revving away, the steady dripping of water and the only man allowed on stage, (David Akubeze), a workman who said nothing but stood on a scaffold and kept chipping away at a bar, producing a rhythm that the women moved to, two steps forward, one step back. I sought the meaning to this movement, certain that it must symbolise an issue; the progress of women through the centuries?

The play ranged across many issues, from the “natural” observance of women as mere sexual objects by men, to the ever-recurring matter of female circumcision or as opponents of the practice call it, female genital mutilation, and on to acid-bathing (the disfigurement of women by men through the use of the flesh-eating substance), and lesbianism.

One thing that was notable was the attention to graphic detail paid by the director and the entire cast. Hidden and often unmentionable parts of the female anatomy were described with clarity and pride, said details causing me (and probably all other men in the audience to cringe repeatedly). Words not often accepted in “civilized” gatherings were freely bandied but not used frivolously. It was a performance designed to set the teeth on edge, like lemon. The plan worked. The hypocrisy of society in laying parameters of free speech particularly in issues concerning the feminine gender were laid bare.

There was a very vivid display of the birth process, and a detailed description of the orifice through which children come into being was painful to hear but wondrous. The actors ridiculed the small-mindedness of many men, but even in this, were gracious enough to poke fun at themselves. Many of those who sat in the audience will never take women for granted again.

There was no vulgarity in the drama as might have been expected from such a title, but many spectators were forced to grow up and re-align their way of thinking to that demanded by the production. There is little doubt that sensibilities would have been offended by the forthrightness of the play. Often as humans, we resist change, and the change in thinking patterns demanded by the performance would certainly have caused circuitry overloads in some members of the audience.

Vagina Monologues stretched boundaries of socially accepted discussions, and managed to make some taboos, sexual and societal, appear unfounded.
It caused this writer to muse on why it is so difficult for men to discuss female sexuality except in smoke-filled bars exchanging lewd jokes over glasses of alcohol. After watching the performance, I know the reason is simple. Many men know next to nothing about the female psyche or about female sexuality. Our definition of it is through our own eyes, men’s own guidelines, and it is humbling to know our lack of knowledge is often tolerated because women have little choice in a male-dominated society.

The issues touched by the drama were international in nature and common to women all over, but one could see that a great deal of effort had been taken to localise the discussion.
An international issue elaborated on however, was that of “Comfort Women”, women whom the Japanese government had forcefully compelled to gratify the sexual needs of its soldiers during the Second World War (1939-1945). Those women came from China, Malaysia, Korea and Indonesia and many other places. Japan has refused to apologise for the terror visited upon the women that was part of its government policy, up until date, not to talk of compensation for the imposition of sexual slavery. The women on stage all asked to hear “sorry” from Japan. For a while in the theatre, I felt like a Japanese government official and just wanted to shout out “sorry” and pray the matter would be forgotten quickly.

This production, apparently, was not presented only to stop female battering but also to make all women as comfortable with their sexuality as men are, and maybe even more so.
There were times in the production that I felt I was in a witches’ coven with age-old secrets being revealed, from dark and dusty recesses. The female mind was laid bare and we were taken on a guided tour. I felt many times during the performance that I was being forced to look closely into a mirror and what I saw did not make me feel comfortable. It is apparent, when one allows introspection, that women are often pigeon-holed and compartmentalized. Often, for men, they are the subjects of pleasure and not much else.

To hear so many women (there were 13 of them) apart from the Professor character (Funmi Eko) and the talking head (Dede), talk forthrightly about all the parts of their anatomy, their thoughts on the shallowness of their men, their own desires and goals, made the mind swirl and often appeared to be a bombardment on the fortresses that all men and some women have built to protect our stereo-typing of women.

In a performance that was brutally frank, some of the cast members, likened the scents from hidden parts of the female body as akin to that of fish, sour milk or garlic, with a wild one even suggesting locust beans (or “iru” in Yoruba). I gritted my teeth through a great part of the performance, but therein was the greatness of the play. It was not designed to make one comfortable, it was presented as a wake-up call, the pouring of ice-cold water on an unsuspecting other, a slap on the face for all those who have denied the sexuality and personality of woman, who have refused to reckon with female mind and have not given them “a place to stand”.

Joke Silva had an audience filled with corporate types of all races, all smartly dressed with expensive fragrances, chanting a four-letter “taboo” word along with her.
The point? I believe it was to rid oneself off restrictive inhibitions, face issues that are never discussed because norms do not permit such talk, and call a spade a spade. It was, for many, a liberating occurrence, and like Jericho, walls came down that night
The performance by Joke Silva brought to my mind the reason she is regarded as one of one of this country’s greatest actors. However, there were no mean men (I beg your pardon, women) in the cast. All lent strength to make it a splendid performance.
Still, for a couple of actors, there were lapses in diction and such lapses stood out because the rest of the cast was very good. For those who paid attention, there were also moments of hesitancy by one or two members of the cast, a lack of certainty in a room full of assured women.

Apart from Ms. Silva, Omonor Imobhio, Iyabo Amoke and Funlola Aofiyebi tore up the stage time after time, giving compelling performances.
Marie Ekpere, lent power to the stage, with her grey hairs and dignified mien, and her frank talk on sexuality by someone her age was part of what forced soul-searching for many in the audience. Elvina Ibru, even though new on stage, is a natural. It is a pity only “great” events like this, will bring this breed into the theatre.
As for Iretiola Doyle, a coughing fit she had on stage at a time when silence was needed in the theatre, was not enough to take the glint off the platinum performance she put up. She was extra-ordinary and for me on the night, along with those mentioned above, the epitome of womanhood. But then, what do I know? I am a man, after all.

Najite Dede’s direction of the drama should be commended. She succeeded, armed with a powerful script and a strong cast, in helping many women present in the audience, find themselves again, and in forcing men to re-assess their views and prejudices.

For me, I shall never be able to look at women the same way, and therein lies the strength of The Vagina Monologues.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Wole Oguntokun's Prison Chronicles- The premiere of the stage drama was presented on Sunday the 12th of March. On stage seated from left in "Cell block B" are Anjola (Paul Alumona), Kamal (Seun Kentebe), Kalis (Leke Oyeyinka) and Kamoru (Kenneth Uphopho). Standing and preparing to feed them, is the Warder's wife, otherwise known as "The First Lady" (Jennifer Osammor).

Present in the audience on Sunday were the actress, Chief Ibidun Allison ("Amebo" of Village Headmaster fame), Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi- the economist and playwright, Fred Agbeyegbe-the lawyer/playwright, Gloria Ibru, Jahman Anikulapo (Editor of the Sunday Guardian), Toyin Akinosho-General Secretary of the Committee for Relevant Art (C.O.R.A.), Ayo Arigbabu, Ropo Ewenla, Adora Ikwemesi and Akeem Lasisi-the performance poet. Posted by Picasa
The Warder (Oladele Akinseye) kneeling, displays his marksman skills to the inmates- Prison Chronicles-The Muson Centre, Lagos. Sunday March 12. Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 10, 2006

This lone but imposing Ose tree stands around the town centre at Aawe, Oyo State. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 09, 2006

On Sunday, February the 26th, RedSTRAT presented The Future 2006 at the City Mall, Onikan, Lagos. Dubbed an authentic celebration of Youth and Achievement, recognition and awards were given to deserving young people under the age of 30- Female Pilots, Writers, Scientists, Artistes and many other categories. I saw quite a number of "known" faces, under and above the age limit- The actress, Jadesola Ekeinde who was shortlisted for an award herself, Stand-Up Comedians Tee A, Princess and Basket Mouth, Agatha Amata as well as the female talking drummer, Ara.

This picture shows Dare Art Alade, scion of the legendary musician Art Alade (Bar Beach Show), and now a musical phenomenon in his own right, performing at the event. Posted by Picasa
Adesua Onyenokwe, one of Nigeria's best known TV producers and presenter of the Interview Programme, One-on-One on the NTA Network, was at the RedSTRAT event. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Kid and the Cockerel- This might serve as an alternative to the statue outside the United Nations Office. Neighbours living together in peace and harmony. My feathered friend wasn't interested in my wit though. He sailed past in a blur. Might have been off to warn friends about the bird flu. Posted by Picasa
Olosemeji-(pronounced Oh-lo-say-may-ji) Twin Trees near my ancestral home which child seekers believe can answer their prayers. Posted by Picasa
The "Talking-Drum"- Musicians from the South Western part of Nigeria sing praise songs with an instrument that literally speaks. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A disused hut in Aawe, Oyo State. A few goats hang out on a grave early in the morning. Posted by Picasa
Entrance to the River Sogidi. Not sure if the image is a true likeness. Posted by Picasa
The River Sogidi. Located in Aawe (pronounced "Ah-Were" or so), Oyo State, Nigeria. Legend says that the fish in Sogidi are never eaten. Some say no amount of boiling will ever cook the fish, and a few wild stories tell of how the fish become whole again even after being gutted.
According to the people of Aawe, the river, (more like a pond, really), has no source. It just appeared.

According to locals, the "spirit" that once made the river a home is gone because they stopped worshipping it, but a few hopefuls insist she'll be back if the faithful return.

The people of the town drink from this water without fear. It's the eating of the fish that causes problems. Used the name of the river as that of the lead character in my stage play, "Rage of the Pentecost", (now renamed "The Return of Sogidi") written in 2002 Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 03, 2006

Professor Femi Osofisan's adaptation of Professor Wole Soyinka's Isara presented in honour of Professor Biodun Jeyifo. Venue- The Arts Theatre of the University of Ibadan. The best minds are in the Arts.
 Posted by Picasa
Debbie again.
 Posted by Picasa

Debbie and I have been great friends since we met a long while back in Nigeria. Now resident in England for many years , Deb retains her interest in African Arts and Culture. I wrote one of my favourite poems, "The Lone Traveller" as I rode in a train to her home in London on Christmas day, 2000.
I think she's lovely. You? Posted by Picasa