Friday, May 04, 2007

In a post on his personal blog, Dare Obasanjo, scion of Nigeria's "ruling" family, withdrew his description of a member of his father's domestic staff as "servant". According to him, "This photo and caption caused a bunch of outrage on certain Nigerian blogs leading to posts like A Presidential Servant and OBJ's Cribs as well as an angry comment on Flickr condemning me for calling the person in the picture "a servant".

Read more here.

Dare, on his very unpresidential sounding blog, Dare Obasanjo aka CARNAGE FOR LIFE, went to great lengths to control the damage done by bad press.
Well, if one thinks deeply, Carnage for Life, might be a reflection of the "shock trooper" tactics of the ruling political party in Nigeria, the PDP, led by Dare's father, which would make the young man an astute politician-in-training.

Despite Dare's withdrawal of the offensive statement, it still doesn't explain away the language used in his vitriolic attacks on bloggers who addressed the issue. See comments on imnakoya's blog.
I also suspect Dare returned to imnakoya's blog and deleted his own comments. I stand to be corrected. The gist of his deluge can be seen in the responses of other bloggers.

Another image pasted online by our President's son was one of this cockroach. Dare's words under his image- "A dead Cockroach. It was huge". I assure you, HRH Dare, that I never saw a more befitting description of Nigeria's ruling class.


Anonymous said...

Even my spam catcher revolted and "chop his comments", I think I have retrieved them all and other comments I did even know existed.

laspapi said...

Good one, imnakoya. Well done, hi-tech is for us all, not just Nigeria's "Born to Rule" family

Wordsbody said...

It was thanks to you I found out of this... and I've left the following on Imnakoya & Dare Obasanjo's blog:

I have only just seen all of this furore and I am shocked. I went to see the Flikr pics and here’s a young man displaying all the members of his extremely priviledged household in their finery (
there is an underlying bufoonery lurking under the surface all through, with all the talk of “my half-sister” this and that. I mean, where is subtlety and refinement? My half-sister may not be too happy to see me being the one reiterating the biological percentages publicly at every opportunity - but I digress) - then he shows this poor man and his mattress on the floor. Jesus! And he thought we’d be okay with this? Is he removed from reality or what?

You can tell I have not been a regular visitor to Dare’s blog, as I didn’t know until now that one of OBJ’s many sons blogs. Hell, I didn’t presume everyone with an ‘Obasanjo’ surname would be related to the President.

Anyway, I’ve left the following (now edited somewhat, as I typed furiously before) on his blog by way of response.

Calling the young man ’servant’, regrettably, betrayed your own perception of the ‘help’ in the first place. I have to ask you: why did you take the poor man’s picture? This image does not empower the young man (who is seen in a ‘defeated’ position in a corner, apparently wishing to disappear into the wall, probably wishing he didn’t have to suffer yet another indignity - a trophy picture for the internet). The image only reinforces the huge social gap between yourself and him. Did you ask for his permission? Did you privilege him as a human being? In fact, did he have a choice in the matter? It doesn’t look like he did.

Personally, I’d be embarrassed to post a picture like this for the world to see, as the situation of a member of my household, even if it is the help. This is the domestic staff in the house of a President, and look at the man’s lowly circumstances. His mattress is on the floor! Wealthy people should be ashamed to keep their domestic staff like this. And then to display it?

I have an Uncle in Lagos who insists that no one calls his workers ‘houseboy/girl’. He says they are his “domestic staff”. He’d have a seizure if you called one of them “servant”. You’d expect presidential people to be more urbane.

The best thing you could do, is remove the poor man’s picture from Flikr. You can redeem yourself better that way, because the poor man did not sign up for this kind of “servitude exhibition”. People who use the net must recognise the fine line between showing life, and exploitation. Blogger be responsible.


Wordsbody said...

--Another image pasted online by our President's son was one of this cockroach. Dare's words under his image- "A dead Cockroach. It was huge". I assure you, HRH Dare, that I never saw a more befitting description of Nigeria's ruling class.--

Laspapi dearest, you're on fire! "A dead Cockroach. It was huge." - It's enough to make one's brain keel over innit? I'm like, Duh?!

Dumb and Dumber territory.

laspapi said...

wordsbody, the ways of the world continue to baffle me. I'd never been on Dare Obasanjo's blog before now.

ps. A member of my family who looked out for me through childhood asked for a comment he placed to be removed. There was a misinterpretation of a previous post but that's been cleared.

laspapi said...

Maybe we should call Dare, "Le Carfard", French for "The Cockroach"?

Your words below tell all. This image does not empower the young man (who is seen in a ‘defeated’ position in a corner, apparently wishing to disappear into the wall, probably wishing he didn’t have to suffer yet another indignity - a trophy picture for the internet)"

Wordsbody said...


O se jare, olufe. Mo geeti imeeli re, maa si fun e l'esi.


Le Carfard... yup, that's more like it. There's a lot of names I'd like to call the young man right now, to be honest.

Omodudu said...

To me all of this is outrage just for the sake of outrage. Don't we use this word in Nigeria on a day to day basis. House boy, Servant, and boys quarters. Abeg jare.

Anonymous said...

Hi Oluwole, thanks for the call and for the clarification of a previous article of yours. For the misunderstanding, I am genuinely sorry. However, I have to re-stress here the issue of servants and cockroaches. As a result I am pasting the relevant extract from previous comment:

"Going back to the issue of Dare - in Nigeria domestic workers are genrally called 'servants' or 'houseboys'. So what! The servant whose picture you have in your blog at least has a room, good floor, spacious, and even a king-sized mattress. Compare that with the HOUSEGIRLS at Number 15 whose room is a windowless, mosquito-ridden and rat-infested 'STORE'. By Nigerian standard he was well-catered for. There are people in Nigeria who have their whole populated family in such a room (even smaller) and in an incomparably worse condition.

Cockroaches are everywhere in Nigeria. Big deal!"

With all due respect, I think many persons are hypocritical, untrue about themselves and in denial. I wonder how they treat their office messengers or even drivers or even blood relatives who need 'help' who would come to them with stories such as "EsKiss Sir", "EsKiss Ma" or "Madam" - "your 'son' has started secondary school".

i am a man of great sympathy. However, I am an African Realist. Don't be blinded by the so-called Western World that think they know better and can set moral, political, spriritual and sexual-inclination standards. They now require churches to attend special training on how they should treat childern in the church (but not other religions). They are even consulting to make the law so that every Pastor or Church Leader would have to pass a criminal records check. The irony is many of those involved in this satanic exercises regard themselves as aetheists or secularists. It is discriminatory to refuse to employ a confessed-homosexual to be your church curator because 'he is enttled to his sexual preference'. This is also the European standard.

We can never be like them.

A houseboy may with good character become a member of the family after a reasonable length of loyalty (e.g. Broda (Brother) Mathew).

In England, the Queen's household staff are all servants, even the most senior military chief.

Do not feel sorry for pretender in that picture. Blelive you me, you cannot predict a person's next move.

A servant, domestic servant, or houseboy is on an implied contract as such. These adjectives are not derogatory. When these workers prove themselves they'll earn the title - son or daughter of the family. Before that, simply treat them humanely by providing a mat (or mattress), food, shelter, and a rest (in space and time) for them.

Waffarian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Waffarian said...

@ Olushola, the African realist, you are not getting the point, the issue is not about houseboys or servants, look at the pictures, in the midst of so much wealth, is that normal? If YOU had so much wealth, is that how YOU would treat your fellow human being? I find it extremely saddening that you can not feel any EMPATHY at all with the man in the picture. You talk about "God", the day you stand before your maker, would you dare to make the same comments about housegirls? It is wrong for people to be treated like second class citizens, be it at the mosquito infested quarters of number 15, or be it at the presidential palace. What is wrong is wrong. Why should they "prove" themselves in order to move up in the ranks of the household? Is that the African way? I implore you to look at the situation as a human being, from your post, I see you believe yourself to be a christian, then, I will say as Jesus said: "Love your neighbour as yourself" or even better, "do unto others as you want to be done unto you". As a human being, as a christian, if one has so much wealth, one should be able to share a little, I am not asking for much, just one of those dresses in the picture would have furnished that room.

Anonymous said...

>I also suspect Dare returned to imnakoya's blog and deleted his own comments. I stand to be corrected.

You are now telling lies on top of the pointless bad belle you are spreading on the WWW.

Ah ah!

My papa owe you money? Why your bad belle and lie lie just the blow like this?

Wordsbody said...

Olusola of London,

As it happens, I live in London too, so I have perspectives on all the scenarios you've set out above. I think the regulations the Church is issuing regarding children has been made necessary because of a recent scandal on paedophile priests. I don't really see that the position of the Church of England vis-a-vis Children or homosexuals - has any bearing on the issue at hand, which is the condition of a 'servant' in the president's household & the president's son's gaffe on the internet.

Neither can you compare the British Royal Family household, where staff proudly call themselves 'Royal Servants' and live in 'grace and favour' houses in lavish style for free while they earn a pittance. That is the royal family, a 'different country' and reality from even most Britons. The aristocracy live differently. Why is it that Prince William recently dumped Kate because (shock horror) her mother/family 'earn' their money? It is a world of snobbery we cannot even begin to understand. It adds nothing to the debate here, because it's all about context.

I have lived long periods in Nigeria and I go back home regularly enough. I honestly don't know anyone who calls the househelp 'servants' (whether it is implied by contract/position or not). If a person does it, you can read their haughtiness, arrogance and general thoughtlessness straightaway. Don't Yorubas have a proverb: "Ti a ba ka eru, inu eru a baje" (if we count the slaves, the slaves will be saddened)? Here is an old proverb which urges one to understand that even if someone is your slave, it does not gladden the person's heart to be so labelled?

India is one of the few places these days where it appears socially unproblematic to call people who work for you "servants" in the open and to their faces. I maintain it is not common in Nigeria.

Let us remember that words acquire new meanings depending on their millieu. I read Dare's defence about how 'houseboy' has been hijacked by the gay community, which was news to me. I followed the link he provided only to find it was a gay escort service in the West somewhere with images of young white men - now how can he honestly claim that the word has been 'hijacked' in the context of Nigeria? It's all about Locale dude, I wanted to tell him.

Fact is, 'houseboy/girl' is derivative of the term 'omo odo (mi)' - the youngster with me - which was originally not intended to be a derogation at all - and is still a lot better than 'servant'.
As time goes by, it is right that people question their assumptions. The problem here is that Dare did not question his. As someone commented on Dare's blog, he could have given the guy's name (here is 'Wale', a member of my father's household staff) thereby acknowledging the photo subject as a human being. He didn't.

Laspapi regularly features people on the margins of life on this blog, but this is always sensitively done. There is a recognition of the person's sameness, the common humanity; personality shines through; there is a social dialogue between the photographer and the subject; things are questioned. No such questioning/dialogue with Dare. The picture is of an alienated individual who is kept very much in the box of his circumstances. He never transcends it. Wole is right, it is an incredibly sad image. If Dare missed all of these things, then he has lived too long in a gilded cage.

I read what you said about the conditions of the young man in the photo - you say it is better than in a lot of families. Well, does that make it right? Living condition is relative, remember. Relative to the household this person works in, his conditions are to be condemned. Everything I read into his posture disturbs me, and that's an "African reality" too.

As for that Cockroach, we are not saying there can be no Cockroach in Aso Rock or whereever the pic was taken. What I think Wole was remarking upon, is the banality of Dare's particular point of view - the pointlessness of his caption. The young man has a picture of a "Secret Service Agent" working for OBJ, and I thought: not so secret anymore. You'd think he'd know that it's actually a security risk to publicly identify a secret service agent, right? This is the kind of banality we are commenting on here.


Anonymous said...

You've spoken like a true son of your father. Only you would relegate life so low and be damn proud of it.
A man, be he the son of a pauper or the son of an old man who looks like he got visited by the claws of king lion is a man (OBJoke) .

Should we call your father a servant? By all accounts, he is a public servant as he claims to serve his people.

Go boy, hope you "casted" your own vote?

laspapi said...

@ omodudu- I think the point is missed here. Its not about the word, 'servant', alone. It's about the lack of sensitivity of this young man, Dare, and the degradation of another human. Yes, I believe the word 'servant' was used in a derogatory manner and we should be careful, the things we allow to appear 'normal' to us.

@ Olusola of London- thank you for the manner in which the previous issue was resolved.
In relation to the word,'servant' being acceptable, I have to state some points.
When we lived part of our lives at No. 15, I recall a neighbour who would sit alone at the back of her car and squeeze two "servants" in the front set on her way to trade. It made us all, you inclusive, cringe at the time. What kind of treatment for fellow humans was that, we thought? I have seen you protest at the ill-treatment of animals. Classifying this member of obj's domestic staff as a "pretender" therefore catches me off-balance.
In relation to No. 15, you have spoken of the HOUSEGIRLS whose room is a windowless, mosquito-ridden and rat-infested 'STORE'"
I would like you to pause and reflect. Those maids put their luggage in that store but slept (and still sleep) in the main house and you as well as any of the "famous 5" can attest that as we grew up, ALL maids were fed better than we were. Those maids also dictated when and if we ate. I'm not sure that the 'servants' at No 15 are the locus classicus for maltreated maids.
Maids at No 15 have been sacked (one as recently as last year) for dashing 10s of thousands of naira to their lovers. Maids at Number 15 refuse to return to their home-towns when asked to do so. No, helpers at Number 15 do not qualify as being ill-treated in any way.
As for rats and mosquitoes etc, they run rampant in Surulere, and are nuisances, irrespective of whether you're a "Lord" or a "servant". As an adult, I live in a separate part of Surulere and can assure you that Surulere rats are still functioning as a pressure group.
As a 6 year old, I would watch my real mother (not the Number 15 crew) make the help eat separately in the kitchen on a stool (a real "apoti"). I tell you the truth today. It made me die inside a little each time I saw that. I do not ask for domestic staff to share bedrooms and toothbrushes, but you can give dignity to another human being and add value to other lives. You and I saw the maltreatment of a "girl- servant" by another relative of ours, maltreatment that bordered on criminality. We protested, why is it strange to do so now?
This Dare Obasanjo has displayed an utter lack of sensitivity but what am I saying, why do I think an accident of "royal" birth should bestow intelligence?

@ waffy and WB-thank you for shedding light

@ Dare Obasanjo- You appear to be regressing into infantile idiocy

laspapi said...

@ anon- I don't know what's the matter with the man.

He asked me- "My papa owe you money? Why your bad belle and lie lie just the blow like this?"

Does this moron now translate Nigeria's money into his father's? How is this one different from Abacha's children?

Anonymous said...

Seriously Papi,
His apparrent delusional views irks the life of me.

Who's Dare by the way? Can someone tell me something new other than him being Obasanjo's son. OBJ should be filled with such mortification for Dare's utter insensitivity.

Dare's tenets are obviously misaligned!

Anonymous said...

Interesting subject, need to check local headline to public reaction...

Anonymous said...

Dare [laspapi, please allow me] have just shown us that the apple does not fall far from the tree, you would have probably come away from this with a little bit of dignity if you had just remained SILENT...but of course, as the true son of your father, you had to engage in baseless trading of words with people who have every right to be ashamed of you and people like you. In case, they did not slice your head and drop in some knowledge while you were in your schools abroad which your dad sent you to with the money that he looted from Nigeria. Let me present you with the facts-
You unnecessarily placed a photo of another human being on the internet and labelled it with a derogatory noun. This is a human being who has parents and whose parents gave him a name. What irks me is that you have shown the world that (a) you are too conceited to even acknowledge that he is a human being (b) you probably by the looks of all the back and forth that you have the indecency to engage do not even know the gentleman's name. Shame on yourself and the world a favor please. ZIP IT

Chude! said...

Actually, we are being very unfair to this Dare guy is what I think. Very, very unfair.

There was nothing malicious or arrogant about it. It was just a young man telling his friends something about his home. The same cluelessness that I find in that post, i find in that of MANY naija bloggers who either live abroad or come from priviledged backgrounds.

Wole is a writer, an artist, and the sensititivity that comes in his comments on people like the help in Dare's picture comes from this inborn talent as a writer and a social observer witbh depth. It is not a gift everyone has. Molara has it, Idemmili has it, laspapi has it. Its a gift - the gift to see life in deeper perspectives. Dare doesnt. Not by any fault of his. The majority of the world doesnt too!

Even better: what better way to accpet he was wrong than for Dare to remove the offending word and explain how he made the mistake?!?! Wghat is that if not an acceptance of error? Or do we just want him to say 'Sorry, I'm kneeling down, I'm prostratibng to say sorry' so that we can have the satisfaction of seeing that the 'son of a miughty man' has fallen under rthe weight of 'vox populi'?

And then, people have used TERRIBLE words to insult him, his family, his father, everyone because of this mistake, it is unfair to expect that he would not do same. He is a young man, not the dalai lama. The fact that he is OBJ's son doesnt imbue him wioth superhuman qualities - thankfully, in all of his exchanges, he has reiterated this fact.

This is a battle Dare will continue to lose sadly. This is a referendum on his father. It's not about Dare. We all know this. Lets give this young man just trying to live life the way he knows it a break, and save the venom for the real mccoy.

Kiibaati said...

I thinks it's rather unfair that Dare's is being judged in the shadows of his father. If his father was not the ceo of naija, will his statements really cause any uproar? For instance, if his dad was just one Owu chief with many wives and servants? Big deal.That is normal in Nigeria. Even many certainly not so rich families have servants or 'omo odo's. Let's keep it real.

Funny thing was, when laspapi posted a picture of a deaf and dumb guy, I actaully felt it was unfair (even though I thought the guy was not really deaf and dumb). Afterall, it seems only poor nigerians are shown in a "dehumanising" manner. They never showed Uncle Tafa on "Crime Fighters". Imagine, therefore the way i felt when subsequently it was revealed that THE GUY WAS DEAF. Or is it because Laspapi is not yet related to OBJ?

Waffarian said...

@Kiibaati, Laspapi wrote under the picture :"He's my brother, my countryman. Time and Chance happen to us all". That was why that picture was taken. Please do not compare this picture taken by Laspapi to that taken by Dare. Do not make a beautiful thing ugly.

laspapi said...

@ anon- I think we mistake Obj's family for a Prince Charles/Prince William crown prince thing.

As you asked, "who is Dare?" One of many fathered by our President. His relevance at this point is by accident of birth not through extraordinary achievement.

laspapi said...

Thank you for seeing, Waffy.

laspapi said...

@ chude- maybe you're right, chude. Transferred aggression. He appeared clueless. I think I'll stop beating him about the head and look to the real McCoy here

@ kiibaati- your perspective was interesting. Everyone who comes here is a study for me in some way.

This blog also dwells on "Society". A story was taken off this blog last Sunday and published in the Guardian. It was about the rampant robberies on Lagos roads. Should I have waited for the permission of the robbers to write? I dwelt on the mute whose photo I took on the road- but for me, it wasn't just a mute I saw. It was the system that had degraded him and hadn't given him a chance. It was for the structure that had conscripted him into "the legion of the damned" without the choice of saying "no".

I'll leave you with molara wood's words-"Laspapi regularly features people on the margins of life on this blog, but this is always sensitively done. There is a recognition of the person's sameness, the common humanity; personality shines through; there is a social dialogue between the photographer and the subject; things are questioned."
I couldn't have put it better.

Noni Moss said...

Hmm. I take it you're not a fan of Dare Obasanjo then ...

laspapi said...

Who's he, noni?