Monday, July 09, 2007

The King and I...

I lay on my bed Saturday morning, half-asleep, thinking of the fool-hardiness that had made me embark on the Soyinka Season, 5 plays, different directors and cast members for each play, a venture the Nobel Peace Prize winner himself had called ambitious and no mean feat even for a country that had the required infrastructure, not to talk of Nigeria....

But it had started, it was in full swing and I was in denial about its financial commitments so I drowsed...

Griinnnngggggg.....My phone rang and I jerked awake. A shrill female voice at the other end.

"Emi ni lati Abuja" (Its me from Abuja!)

"Prophet(sic) Mojinatulai Anuoluwa Ashake... (sometin' sometin')" . I couldn't make out the rest of her name. She was shrieking at a high pitch, non-stop.

"Oko mi ni Nwankwo". (My husband is Nwankwo)

"Baba mi Alhaji Gani ni Oshodi Oke ni Lagos". (My father is Alhaji Gani residing around Oshodi Oke in Lagos)

According to her, she had been trying to reach Soyinka since February last year but his personal assistant wouldn't let her talk to him. I wonder why. She had spent N365,000 calling since then (N1000 a day?)

I couldn't figure it out at first. Where did she get my number from?

I picked up a pen and notebook and swung my feet to the ground knowing this was going to be a good one.

"What was the message" I asked?

(Still screaming) "Ki Yoruba ma ku!" (That the Yoruba race might not die)

"Oluwa ti so won di Daddy Africa" (God has made him {Soyinka} the Daddy of Africa)

This woman continued screaming in the possession of some kind of dementia...

"Emi ni Moses of Nigeria" (I am the Moses of Nigeria)

"Soyinka ni Aaaron" (Soyinka is Aaron)

She would whisper as an aside as if to people standing near her "God bless you. Amen."

"Jagun jagun, awon lo ma ja"- (He is a warrior. He will be the one to fight)

"Jesus is Lord" and she signed off abruptly. I thought to myself, one of the most surreal events in a life and I'm alone here? But my head ached a bit from some previous altercation so I lay down.

Griinnnngggggg...I picked up the phone again, pen ready.

"Hello, can I speak to Professor Soyinka?' (A male voice)

"Who are you?", I asked?

"My name is Prince Awoditan Agbede of the school of journalism in Jos"

"What do you want"

The gentleman said, "We want him to give us the literary figurative expression that we're contradicting of"

I signed off this time. A few more calls from perfect strangers. "Would Soyinka be at the play? If so, which one?", "Did we have his permission?", "What were the aims and objectives?" When I finally made it out of bed, I discovered my strongest financial supporters for the Season, Legacy Realties had that day, published a 3/4 page colour advert of the Season's flier, in one of Nigeria's best read dailies, the Punch newspaper. It bore a picture of Soyinka, the plays and my phone numbers.

Wole Soyinka has had to live 7 decades with this strangeness. Little wonder he muses when he looks at people.


♥♫♪nyemoni♫♪♥ said...

Hahahaha! very funny! I hope to be there this Sunday! How did yesterdays' go? Do tell! meanwhile, I need a favour.... please mail me on and don't worry, it's not a free ticket! ;-)

Nuggets of Gold said...

Yoruba just has a peculiar richness to its expressions. "Oluwa to so won di Daddy ni Africa". You cannot read that and not smile or 'laugh out loud'(lol). Even on a monday morning.

♥♫♪nyemoni♫♪♥ said...

I meantplease mail me on so I can have your emial addy to mail you back!

Chimezie Umeh said...

Yesterday's performance was great! I tell you, Wole, that greater things are on the way. Kudos to all on the crew and all who made it possible especially to Legacy Realities...Nigerian Companies should really rethink on events they sponsor. Events that really will add values to our lives. They should think of events that will celebrate 'we' the people of this nation. We should think of our past, our history, and our future! Let our 'Ultimate Search' be for our roots, and our 'Big Brother' be in search of our identity as people of Nigeria.

Congratulations once again. Will be there for all the plays.

Uzo said...

Ahhhhhhhhhh....LOL....Well i mean you are a big shot director/producer/promoter now...It comes with the territory

Noni Moss said...

Lolll - poor you. I hate people waking me up during the weekend - especially to hear that kind of nonsense! But it makes for interesting reading to be sure.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Dupe on that Yoruba quote. The whole late night calling is priceless. Did you ever find out how they got your number?

Unknown said...

Oh my goodness...are these people for real - Jagun jagun, awon lo ma ja - which ogun...war against what or who? Like you I am wondering what other funny idiosyncrazies Prof Soyinka has had to endure. laspapi - No chance you can convince him to start a 'tell-all' blog to narrate his ordeals at the hands at these sorts of people.

Chude! said...

oh wole this is priceless! priceless! priceless! I laughed SO hard! Thank you for remembering on point! I remember one or two calls like this when I was still with ND. It is SO funny! I am saving it!LOL

Oh btw, no matter how foolhardkly this project was, your name is already inscribed in gold. This is one of the most thought out projects ever, and I hope WS appreciates it no matter how cynical he might have been.

How apt that the company sponsoring is named Legacy. Laspapi, yours is being cast in stone.

uknaija said...

Great post and great idea. Hope the season goes well

Anonymous said...

very funny!i would have seriously hung up on them

Anonymous said...

laspapi,I have been unwell. not been able to make it to your office or any of the plays yet. feel sad that I have missed a lot... these whole phone calls stuff is a prove that many peops dont know about the soyinka seasons yet. I know its expensive but for the magnitude and significance of this beautiful idea, there's need for more paper ads inclusive of TV and radio.

laspapi you can! find a way to do this, there's still about three more shows left.

More grace to your beautiful mind.

Eyin'ju Oluwa said...

Heheheehehe Alhaja Ashake, iyawo Nwankwo is a trip?LOL they were messing with Lmao@Prince Awoditan, lawl. Oga. Laspapiscosco, dont stress too much, take it easy.

Mimi said...


'owun ni aaron emi ni moses......'



well done laspapi :)

and as per ur comment on my blog, did u mean - ur waiting for the part about the 'woman' ? cos i am already writing on the MAN... hhmm or were u being sarcastic? its hard to tell ...

...toyintomato said...

..oh gee, wished i was back home, i wouldn't have missed that play for anythin,am so obsessed with al his works.
i am still searchin high and wide for "the telephone conversation"..i kno i will find it someday..haha

....only in Lagos..lmao,N365,000 on phone calls, Moses of Nigeria, Soyinka ni Aaaron...that is one hilarious phone call,

laspapi said...

@ nyemoni- yesterday's went very well, 'moni. Thanks.

@ dupe- It made me smile too, dupe. Thank you for stopping by.

@ chimezie- Thank you for the very kind words. I agree that corporate Nigeria should do a great deal more. Looking forward to meeting you on Sunday.

@ uzo- some things are heavy territorial markers. Aren't you going to come for any show?

@ thanks, noni. The absurdity of the conversation hit me within seconds.

@ akin- hi. My sponsors put my numbers on the newspaper ad.

@ jola- get him to write on matters like this? That would be the end of the world. Still, his book, "You must set forth at dawn" has many anecdotes.

@ chude- I have friends like you who've always supported me. I believe the Prof appreciates it all- It's why he gave permission.
Hopefully, in the future, there'll be some chap who thinks I'm worthy of a season.

@ uknaija- Thank you for the good wishes. I'm believing it'll turn out right.

@ pink satin- I finally got round to hanging up. How are you, Satin?

@ ifeanyi- thanks for the suggestions, I'll make a note. Hope you're much better now.

@ omosewa- thank you. I'm trying to take things easy now.

@ ~mimi~ - no sarcasm intended, honest.

@ toyin tomato- If I get the "telephone conversation", I'll e-mail it to you.

Anonymous said...

LMAO!! Ok, the prophetess that called was hands down hilarious!!!

Anonymous said...

Did I not say it? The adventures of Wolzie continues.first na "skrulling" and "now Moses" real wah...when woman become Moses now? Thank goodness say incoming calls free for Naija else dem for don burn all ya credit for celtel.

If Internet access were available to the masses, I would have advised you to only have your email in your flyers. But we know we're a long way from that dream. Be long as you don't have your address on display.

I understand that voicemail services are available but most haven't seem taken advantage of this with GSM service provider. I have a friend who does....and screen calls should help as well. If I don't know the number, I don't pick up, as you now know "awon Were Oni GSM" abound in circulation.

It comes with the brace yourself . Remember your words "fame, fame, fame at last". I hope all your masterpieces will be on VCD so we can all get copies of it. If they aren't, think about it.

(A not so anonymous noni :-) )

PS. Toyin u go....This was one and still is one of my favorite poems. It's racism described as most of us experience it off shore. Enjoy.

Wole Soyinka
"Telephone Conversation"

The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. "Madam," I warned,
"I hate a wasted journey--I am African."
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was foully.
"HOW DARK?" . . . I had not misheard . . . "ARE YOU LIGHT
OR VERY DARK?" Button B, Button A.* Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis--
"ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?" Revelation came.
"You mean--like plain or milk chocolate?"
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,
I chose. "West African sepia"--and as afterthought,
"Down in my passport." Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. "WHAT'S THAT?" conceding
"DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS." "Like brunette."
"THAT'S DARK, ISN'T IT?" "Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but, madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blond. Friction, caused--
Foolishly, madam--by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black--One moment, madam!"--sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears--"Madam," I pleaded, "wouldn't you rather
See for yourself?"


laspapi said...

uche, I was stunned too.

@ anon- Ah, noni, brilliant. You got the poem. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, we lack the desired infrastructure, not as many as we'd like, do the e-mail thing. And screening calls here doesn't work as well because the next big deal/commission might be trying to reach you on a number you don't know.
I wonder about the ability of those in England (my brothers inclusive) who can afford to switch off their phones. We can't here o! Particularly if you work for yourself.

Uzo said...

The past 2 weekends have been packed with stuff including being bridesmaid at a friends wedding. A few bloggers and i are definitely going to make it to at least 1 show. Maybe the one after this weekend....

laspapi said...

Good one, uzo. Looking forward to seeing you. Maybe you guys should come to the one on the 29th which I'm directing so you can cheer me on.

Anonymous said...

lol that was totally weird! my first instinct would be to hang up... but then it's sort of like a train wreck.. somehow you find you can't turn away... but dang that truly was weird!

...toyintomato said...

.hurrah. i cant believe you found the poem.thanks so much anon...
oya i shld just marry you anon,(my fingers are crossed sha), in fact this is my marriage proposal
do you anon take me toyintomato-peperempe, sugar -sugar, the crown jewel of my family, the prized possession of Lagos state, the only first daughter of the family-- to be your cyber wedded wife
in no internet connection and all forms of virus.
till comment moderation and deletion do us

Unsigned said...

I just stumbled across this blog and the first thing i see is soyinka season...i must have died and gone to super heaven! I am currently reading 'You must set forth at dawn' but I know I'm not in heaven though because if I were I would be first row and center at all the plays.

laspapi said...

@ Storm- Actually, I can jump off anything including silly phone conversations. It was the side of me that enjpys ludicrous conversations. She called once after, said I should send the Professor's e-mail. And then sent another text to my phone saying nobody could stop her and him.

@ toyin-t, I suspect anon's female which might cause a few problems for you. If you insist however, as captain of this ship, I'll be conducting the ceremony.

laspapi said...

unsigned- I live for moments like this. Your kind of enthusiasm makes this struggle seem all worth it. I bet you've read his "Ake" too. I have an autographed copy of "you must set forth at dawn". Priceless.

laspapi said...

I was reading "telephone conversation" again just now. It's beautiful. 1962? True Art will live for ever.
I spoke with him yesterday as he sat on a train to Rome. I feel proud to know him and to see so many intelligent people appreciate him.

Anonymous said...

Papi...u're wrong on this one. This anon isn't female. I bet you meet many noni's you don't remember.

For the love of me said...

each sunday i plan to see the show,something comes up.but will definitely see one before the season ends. Kudos,it is a great thing you are doing.

BiMbyLaDs** said...

lol.. i enjoyed that!

Idemili said...

I would tear my fucking hair out if that happened to me. Jeez.

How are you doing, Papi?

laspapi said...

@ anon- I could have sworn...usually, its the females that write so well. Ok, I guess I'll have no problems with Nigerian legislation in conducting the wedding.

@ for the love of me- Thank you, thank you very much.

@ bimby lads- lol!

@ idemili- I'm fine, Ide. Swamped by 'play'. Others might call it work.

Anonymous said...

In case I don't get to come back on your blog 2morrow, I'd like to wish you a happy birthday (Just a few hours away).

May this year be the one of fulfillment in every area of your life. Enjoy, relax and be merry. It's the secret to keeping those grey hairs away.

You've got so many moments of glory to bask in. Here's to man, the lawyer, the playwright, the whisperer....d one n only... LasPapi of Lasgidi


laspapi said...

Noni, that was beautiful. Thank you so much.