Monday, April 28, 2008

The V Monologues- The Cast

I'd been wanting to write this for a while for the sake of posterity mostly and as an accurate record of cast members and their contribution to the Nigerian version of the monologues. I had an interesting part to play in the project, being responsible for the choice of the writers (4 females apart from my very male-self) who wrote for the Nigerian audience and also the selection of actors.

They were chosen for varying reasons.

Omonor Imobhio, because I had known her since her early days as a capable thespian (circa 2001) and for many of my plays, she had been part of the cast that acted the premieres- The Other Side, Gbanja Roulette, Piper Piper, The Inheritors, Audu's Way and a couple of others. Even then she made it look easy, this University of Lagos graduate with a second class-upper division degree in Bio-Chemistry. Omonor, a couple of years ago was given best actor-stage, movie, everything by 'The Future Awards' for those under 30. She works at her craft. Even with the Abuja and Lagos performances of the V Monologues, she showed her commitment and professionalism. The crowds loved her as she did her thing.

Kate Henshaw Nuttall- One of Nigeria's most competent actors. I first worked with Kate in 2005 when I invited her to be a part of my play, 'The Other Side'. She was very busy with the tv soap, "Doctors' Quarters" at the time, but she managed her time and stunned the audience and those that might have expected less than a powerful stage performance. Equally as comfortable before live audiences as much as before tv and film cameras, she was chosen for her abilities as well as her professionalism. Kate did the first 4 performances (2 at the Muson Centre in Lagos and the 2 Abuja shows), unable to be a part of the National Arts Theatre and Terra Kulture shows)because of prior commitments.

Bimbo Akintola- Like Kate, as comfortable before live audiences as before cameras. The University of Ibadan Theatre Arts Graduate performed the pieces submitted by the blogger, Overwhelmed, and had the audience crying with her. Bimbo, able to sing as well as act, often shared tips with other cast members. She delivered a rendition of Nelly Uchendu's classic, (Never you marry a waka-about) that had even the director, gasping for air. Her strength as well as Kate's is the ability to be natural, to think fast on her feet. Both great mimes, they made us laugh all the time (and absconded a couple of times from the hotel/camps we were in, I must add)

Jennifer Osammor- Pound for pound, the most experienced theatre artiste in the cast with more stage shows under her belt than any two of the other cast members combined. Jennifer had performed more than 25 shows at the Muson Centre before the weekly Theatre at Terra at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, which started about 9 months ago, and which she is a consistent part of. She performed the hilarious piece, "Esau's Pottage" as well as the more solemn "Baby's Baby". The University of Lagos Creative Arts graduate is a soldily dependable actor, able to deliver once the directions are clear.

Kemi 'lala' Akindoju- lala was the youngest member of the cast by a wide margin, turning 21 only after four of the six V Monologues shows slated for March had been performed. Rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the most competent actors in the country, 'lala' was 'discovered' at the auditions for laspapi's "A Season Of Soyinka" in April of 2007. She had been part of several plays by other producers before then but has now gained a fierce resume at Theatre@Terra on which stage she has performed almost weekly for 9 months. The Second Class Upper Division graduate of Insurance from the University of Lagos played some of the most complicated monologues at the shows, 'I still have questions', 'Daddy's Little Girl', 'A Culture Of Silence' and then took over Kate Henshaw's 'The Black Widow' when Kate was unavailable. Of all the artistes, she carried the highest workload. And she carried it lightly.

Tunde Aladese- an elfin highly gifted writer was 'discovered' by laspapi during the writers' workshop for the V Monologues, which she was a part of. Tunde who had never been on stage before, spoke as she wrote, easily, fluently and laspapi turned to her one day and laughingly said she had to be a part of the Monologues performances. About a month later, she called to ask if the offer was still good and became a part of the acting team as well, performing some of the pieces she wrote- 'Revulva' and 'Family Meeting', the latter being a clear favourite of all audiences. Tunde writes for the magazine, True Love and until recently, was an associate producer on 'Moments with Mo'

Ashionye Ugboh- 'We never know who's watching us'. I changed TV stations one day, a couple of years ago, and saw the singer and radio presenter, Ashionye, acting on the soap, "Doctors' Quarters". It was a bit-performance but it stuck in my mind and as I scouted for artistes to be a part of the V Monologues this year, I remembered her. It proved to be an inspired choice and her performance of "Maintenance Culture", an old woman discovering her sexuality, had crowd after crowd in stitches. Stage performances came to her naturally once she got into the swing of things.

Yinka Davies- One of Nigeria's best known jazz singers has a voice in a class of its own. She performed the war crimes piece, "Officers' Mess" and led the team in with songs in the Abuja performances. Yinka, who was a well known stage actor in the Lagos circuit in the 90s performed well in the Monologues but didn't reach her full potential because of work commitments.

Funmi Iyanda- host of the tv prog, "New Dawn" took part in only one out of the 6 scheduled shows. Highly passionate about women's issues, she performed "The Woman Died", a piece about women who keep quiet in the face of tyranny.

Pictures from top- Funmi Iyanda, Omonor Imobhio, Tunde Aladese, Yinka Davies, Ashionye Ugboh, Bimbo Akintola, Jennifer Osammor, Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, Kemi Akindoju. (All pictures by Amaize Ojeikere except Funmi Iyanda's, courtesy her blog)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Girl Whisperer

as published by

the Sunday Guardian of April 27

Puppy Love

We’ve all gone through those moments when we know, we just know that life as we know it will come to an end because we will be unable to see a loved one again. It doesn’t matter how old you are, (I first experienced this when I was only sixteen). The girl that made my life complete was moving to another city with her parents and the thought of not being able to steal a glance at her as I strolled past her house daily was heart-wrenching. Things would never be the same again, I knew, and the pain stayed for a long while but then it reduced to a dull throb and after a while wasn’t so noticeable, but it stayed for a long while. Knowledgeable adults call this ‘puppy love’

As one grows older, one can sometimes plan against these separations, and at other times, we merely shrug and continue with life. Other loves will come, we think. Maybe. However, this is the point we must avoid in all relationships, that point where we think life will go on without the other (even if it will). The beauty of relationships in one’s younger years is that the other person can be seen in all that surrounds us, in the stars that shine at night, in the non-scorching warmth of the morning sun, heard in the strains of soft romantic music that filters through on quiet Sunday mornings. As we get older (but not necessarily wiser), we become immune to all that matters in relationships. We grow deadened to life’s natural sweetness. It’s the same way we lose the natural instinct to sense danger. As adults, we’re looking for an angle- ‘who are her parents?’, ‘does she hold a passport that will qualify me to live in the developed world?’, ‘how can I benefit from her?’. As the old song goes, “Boy, nothing in life is free, that’s why I’m asking you, what can you do for me? I’ve got responsibility, so I’m looking for a man who’s got some money in his hands...You’ve got to have something if you want to be with me...Ain’t nothing going on but the rent... No romance without finance.”

The person who turns a complete blind eye to the prospects of a partner might be living dangerously but still the choice (and sometimes disposal) of a partner should not be a totally clinical operation. Business is business and is love. In an ideal world, the two shouldn’t mix even though they have since the beginning of time. I had a girlfriend in university and once when I visited her at home, her father asked me what my name was. When I told him, he asked “what does your father do?”

After secondary school, a friend of mine (they were quite laid back in his family) said he wasn’t going to the university immediately. In retrospect, that was probably because his results were poor. He was going to work, he said, and he did for a while until he met this first year student of medicine who agreed to be his girlfriend. The day he visited the girl’s home (he went with another friend of his); her father met him and sent the girl on a fool’s errand to go find something. Father turned to my friend. “So what do you do?” My friend, confident in his ability to speak English well, told him. The Father looked at my friend closely then pointed around his own living room and asked, “Is your father’s living room like this? You see that daughter of mine? You will never be like her. Get out of my house!” Soji, my friend, said he stumbled out of the house, his companion climbing the railings of the veranda because their confusion didn’t let him see the door.

He told me this story a few months before our call to the Nigerian bar as lawyers. We laughed about it and how far he had come but that disgrace showed a brutal aspect of life and forced him back to school. Soji lives in England now but will probably, someday, guard his own daughter that same way.

Puppy love, it’s the beauty of all relationships and should be guarded jealously. When we view love as if we are scientists studying some bacteria under a microscope, it’s not the same thing anymore. Now , the relationships I’m talking about here are not the run of the mill relationships. I’m talking about those ones that make our hearts pound, which make us smile to ourselves when we remember the other person. I’m not talking of unrequited love, I’m talking of the kind that’s a two-way street, pure magic.

Puppy love is what we should all seek to have. The kind that makes us want to do anything for the other person, climb every mountain, dedicate every song... Life’s principles remain the same, we get wiser but find that the lessons taught us by our parents and grandparents still hold true. Same as with love, nothing ever changes except that we become jaded and lose the ability to recognize Peter Pan when we see him.

Let’s keep love simple, it’s the only way it should be.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Tunde Fagbenle wrote in SUNDAY TRIBUNE, 20th April, 2008

Yinka Craig: Hope for a friend

This, for me, is not an easy column to write and one
I have struggled to keep myself from writing for about
a year now. Yes, a whole year, even longer, is how
long my friend, that Nigerian ace broadcaster and
personable humorist, Yinka Craig, has been battling to
stay alive – fighting not to give the dreaded C the
last laugh over his self.

I’ve kept off writing about Yinka’s affliction and his
struggle partly because he may frown at making public
his private fight, and partly because I kept hoping
that the frustrating on-and-off manner of the illness
would have been overcome for good by now. It has not
been so and Yinka’s need for help appears even more
desperate now than ever!

Yinka Craig has spent the better part of his 60 years
of life in radio and television broadcasting, running
oft-innovative programmes – from sports to weekend
newsline, to morning magazine programmes – and warming
our hearts with his inimitable style of presentation,
genteel humour and a characteristic toothy smile. His
40 years in broadcasting, from the days of the old
WNBS, is almost as old as the history of broadcasting
in independent Nigeria, and certainly synonymous with

I am not familiar with the equivalent of Yinka Craig
in American television, but in England you would be
thinking of a cross between that grand old embodiment
of British humour and conviviality, Bruce Forsythe,
and Michael Parkinson! They don’t make them like these
any more.

Respected and invited by leaders of government,
industry, monarchs, and topmost foreign diplomats to
their private and official functions, many simply
proud to flaunt their association with him.
Not for nothing. Yinka is a man of many parts,
multi-talented, quick-witted, and incredibly
knowledgeable about most things, from astronomy and
space-technology to computer science, from sports to
politics, from entertainment to oil exploration! A
master of rib-cracking anecdotes, Yinka Craig is an
entertainer extraordinaire and instrumentalist, at
ease playing the guitar as he is on the piano or the
sax. He is also an addict of the game of intellect; he
could spend all day behind his desk navigating the
seas or the sky on his high-tech simulation toy, or
routinely demolishing books and books of hard cryptic
crossword or logic-challenging sudoku!

It was one morning, some 18 or so months ago, when I
got a call from Kenny (Yinka’s wife, Dr. Kehinde
Craig) informing me that Yinka was in an hospital bed,
a top private hospital on Victoria Island, Lagos. He
had been there for almost a month, but I was not in
the country and my calls to him had eerily not been
answered or returned.

I rushed to the clinic and found my friend, hitherto
of irrepressible enthusiasm and cheer, in a limp and
emaciated form. He struggled to put up a smile for me,
a smile of “see what I’m reduced to”. I couldn’t
believe my eyes. What ails you, Yinka? My mind raced
through all sorts of possibilities and I kept shooting
them at him and his wife. Nope, nope, nope, came the
answer to my impatient flurry of questions.
Cancer! Lymphoma!! Late diagnosed, as the doctors and
everyone had been testing for everything I’d touched
upon, leaving the real thing. I was shown digital
pictures of the various stages the damn thing had
manifested itself on Yinka over the many weeks he’d
been unwell. Terrible pictures, of paleness and
disfigurement. So, actually, what I was seeing was a
back-to-life Yinka, I was told.

Lymphoma? What’s that? I quickly went on the Internet
to find out more about it. What I read, mostly from
“lymphoma-net. org” website, gave me some hope as I
discovered that there is a good chance of survival for
many years, if treated promptly and adequately.
It describes lymphoma as “cancers of the lymphatic
system” and the lymphatic system as a network of
tubes, glands and organs that is part of the body's
defense against infection – the immune system.
There are different types of lymphoma. Some lymphomas
are called Hodgkin lymphoma (HL), formerly known as
“Hodgkin’s disease”, while others are Non-Hodgkin
lymphomas (NHL). Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are more
problematic and that’s what Yinka is diagnosed as
having. It is more common in those aged over 60,
although it can occur at any age. It affects slightly
more men than women.

“As in many cancers, lymphoma is most likely to be
cured if it is diagnosed early and treated promptly.”
That, precisely, is the trouble. Yinka’s lymphoma was
diagnosed late, no thanks to the poor state of our
medical facilities that meant the specimen for
everything being tested for had to be flown outside
Nigeria, this time to South Africa! What a shame.
Cut a long story short, Yinka had to be flown out to
the UK a few days after I saw him. And that is the
beginning of the story. Millions of naira has gone
down to give him some of the best treatment possible
in the UK. Yinka has been back twice to Nigeria, each
time as it appears the demon had been wrested, or
resources had run out, or both, only for the damn
thing to rear its ugly head again! It’s called
“remission” and “recurrence”, a syndrome apparently of
common occurrence in Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Four days ago, the day after I arrived Nigeria again
this time, Kenny called intimating me of developments.
An aggressive relapse had occurred and Yinka had been
back to the private hospital in Victoria Island (V.I)
where he started a year and a half ago. That was two
weeks ago. “We have to leave for Abuja now,” Kenny
said in a low, sad, tone. “The doctors here believe he
needs to be taken to a hospital with an Intensive Care
unit. So we’re going to try the National Hospital,
Abuja. If you have to see him before we leave then
you’d better come now.”

I hurried down to V.I where I found my friend looking
awful. He couldn’t even manage that self-deprecating
smile anymore. I think he was getting tired and pissed
off with the whole thing. The battle is getting too
long drawn and the fighter is weary. He rolled over on
one side, to look into my eyes.
I tried to avoid his weak eyes and gave him our
traditional call, “baba mi.” I heard him mutter the
response, “we(y) ti mo baba re,” and rolled back away.
The rest of it he left unsaid, “o to goloto goloto bi
ye e, we(y) mo baba re!” Well, it’s good enough he
responded at all anyway.

I’m now told Yinka urgently needs to go back abroad,
this time preferably to the States where he would have
to undergo a transplant treatment. The process may
take up to two months hospitalization and the overall
cost would come to about $300,000 (US dollars). I did
a quick calculation, that’s about N38 million. Not
bad, I thought, then I remembered the kind of country
we live in and held back my optimism.

The Craigs have expended virtually all their resources
on the illness so far. Yinka’s pride wouldn’t let him
make his situation public. He knows all the big men in
the country, and I mean that literally, and most of
them on first name basis and with their private
numbers. And they all know him. Very few have come to
his aid so far. The real big ones for whom this sort
of money he’s looking for means nothing have been all
promises and promises. And Yinka would not call them
again. I understand. It’s not ego, but decency. Why
would he have to go begging and crawling to people who
would before not have a party without including him on
their guest list, now need for him to demean himself
before they would keep their promise to help?

What’s even a million dollars to save a man like Yinka
Craig, a national asset if there was one, and daily we
hear of billions of naira, nay, dollars, being
cornered here, there, and everywhere? It’s a national
call, Nigeria must not let Yinka die without giving
him the best chance to survive.

While at it, I must mention one particular giver who
surprised us all at the very first time Yinka had to
go abroad. The surprise was that this was someone who
did not count amongst Yinka’s personal friends but
merely know him from the distance just as most
Nigerians do. Somehow it got to his ears that Yinka
needed to go abroad for treatment and he called him
and asked for him to send someone down in the morning.
Yinka did and was N5 million up. To be honest, we were
expecting no more than N500,000. Thanks, Dr. Erastus
Akingbola, CEO of Intercontinental Bank Plc.
course, there have been a few others chipping in
little sums here and there that helped to get him so

A little on the transplant treatment, again, I went on
the Internet to find out:
“Transplantation may be used in patients whose
non-Hodgkin' s lymphoma has relapsed as an aggressive
form of the disease or in patients with aggressive
non-Hodgkin' s lymphoma that does not respond to
ordinary chemotherapy. The transplant can be from
another person or, more often, from the patient
themselves, with the cells needed for the transplant
collected before the high-dose chemotherapy.”

The irrepressible TV presenter and producer in Yinka
is undaunted by it all. He tells me he will survive
this, no matter what. Indeed, his mind is already
working on another baby, a new TV program that he says
will break the box. This poor turn of his health is a
mere “irritant” that will go away, he says. He can’t
wait to get started again.
Yinka needs to go for the transplant in the States
immediately. Those with a large heart may call Yinka’s
wife, Dr. Kehinde Craig on 08030780129 or 08058466857.
You may also email: yinkacraig@gmail. com.

Yinka may not be President Yar’Adua who can be flown
to Germany for regular medical attention, but he has
lived his life bringing us exciting television
programmes and giving us all hearty laugh. Some silly
lymphoma is threatening to rid us of that laugh.
Nigeria and Nigerians must deny it that pleasure.

Monday, April 21, 2008


"My colleague, Baptacads..."

I attended the Lagos Baptist Academy (LBA). Also known as Baptacads.

As did my father, both my older brothers, at least 3 uncles (2 from my father's side), at least 3 cousins. We knew that school, the school knew us.

I was nicknamed HuckleBerry Finn (after the character in Mark Twain's 'Tom Sawyer'). That nickname was given to me by my English Language/Literature Teacher, Mrs. Apara. (Don't ask me why. Ok, I was 10 and a scruffy little twerp).

I was the best student of my class in English Language/Literature from Form 1 through to A-Levels. If your brother, friend, uncle etc tells you he was classmates with me and he was ever first in those subjects, he lies.

Baptacads had curious spots-

There was Maracana (named after the famous stadium in Brazil), a dusty patch of earth where equally dusty children played football during the break hour.

There was paper mountain, a heap of cardboard and paper of different colours, twice the height of any kid in school by the fence bordering Pedro. It was heaped there (over the wall) by a printing press in pedro and students scavenged for paper to make ^&%*? I dunno. We just loved the colours and filled our bags with 'em.

There was the open laundry space, behind the dining hall where we ate the world famous moin-pie. Moin-Moin made with palm oil, stuffed into bread. Students would unwrap the moin-moin from the leaves on the stone slabs delicately and place it in half a loaf. It was a delicacy made in heaven and there is no student of my era (and before) in Baptacads who will still not crave this from time to time. After break-time, there would be thousands of leaves used to wrap the stuff, littered everywhere. Till date, I cannot eat moin-moin not made with palm oil.

There was the other space where we played parrallo, a curious derivation of football invented by students of Baptacads. It was played only at a specific spot in school, right in front of the first-year block.

There was the Art Room just above the assembly hall. It was a quiet place smelling of art paint and crayons. The Art Master kept his domain well and it was a real sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the school.

There was the principal's office, the first building (a bungalow)you'd meet walking down the road from the gate. It was a place of fear and dread. I never met the principal, called Rev. Adegbite because he retired before my time, but I met Rev. Adenugba whom we nicknamed 'Barry White'. He was round, not tall, portly, wore a crew-cut, pince-nez glasses and spotless white suits with a cleric's collar all the time and carried a horsewhip. Barry White didn't mess around with kids. He believed in corporal punishment. We believed he believed. He would encourage us to read, saying, 'if you don't understand what you're reading, cram it'. (T'o ba mo, gba s'ori). It worked. Who wanted to understand additional mathematics? His sons, one a classmate of my brother's and another, a classmate of mine, are called 'Barry White' till today even though they live abroad. After 'Barry' came Adigun, then a fellow named Mr. Adekunle. Not so impressive. He didn't like me either.

In my first form, a few days after resumption and while I was still getting to know the school, a short fellow about my age walked up to me with purpose and asked me to kneel down. I was bewildered as he gave no reason, and I knelt for a few seconds, unsure but then sprang up suddenly and fled. A couple of days later, when I was assigned to Form 1b, I saw the same fellow sitted at the back of the class. The S.O.B. was my classmate, a boarder, not a day-student like me. We called the imp, 'Indorgens', his real name- Ganiyu Lawal. In retrospect, I think that must have come from 'Indulgence'.

Other people in class were named Matamba (after a slave-driver character in Kola Onadipe's 'The Slave Boy'), Akins Omo-Olusco (real name, Akin Olusanya, this son of a University Of Lagos Professor, my best friend in the early years, highly-skilled in the Fine Arts gave himself this bus conductor-like nickname. If his parents had known, they'd have cringed, but we were all kids and every nickname had fantastic meaning), Et e'n Garcon (Tokunbo Odukoya) etc. Some of my other form mates in that first year were Joseph Ikunna, Obioha Otuokere who would write G.H.M. 'God Help Me' at the top of his answer scripts after finishing exams, Anthony Ananti, Wole Adojutelegan etc. Other great friends I will never forget- Francis Uwaje, Tosin Banjo a.k.a. Sky-lolo (named after the midget wrestler); his cousin, Shina a.k.a. Early Man (he looked like the missing link, apparently, and was always the first to chant 'Fight, Fight'), Kunle and Bisi Agunsoye, The still-fresh from England and its wild school wars- Taiwo and Kehinde Adoti and their cousin whose name I can't recall; Chukwuma Igbokwe who is now a surgeon on London's Harley Street, 'Fedeco' a.k.a. Fidelis Oyedele (very few knew his real name and this saved him from punishment many times), Samson Okosaga (who became a scrabble champion) and his older brother-Reginald, Andrew Akhigbe, Damola Olumegbon, Bode Ladenegan, Cornleth Etoh, Philip Oyewo, Dupe Quadri, Lateef Dosunmu, Segun Legunsen, Laitan Adeniji (who's now a famous saxophonist), Abayomi Osifala (Oshi Bobo), Kanyin Bobo (his real name)- older than the class average, whose uniform was always spotless but refused to tuck his shirt in even when asked by teachers; Gabriel Okon (became an American-based Sprinter) and almost single-handedly changed my life in the Academics. He said, when I was having trouble in 3rd form, 'read your other subjects like you do your literature', and that was it. Epiphany. There was my great, great friend, the dusty-footed, parralo-loving Paschal Nwaezeapu who is now a Reverend Father and became the presiding cleric at the catholic church at Falomo-Ikoyi (Church of the Assumption?) and is now Administrator of the Holy Cross Cathedral, and my 'twins' even though we were three- Harry Moradeyo (a.k.a. pepeiye) and Toyin Zollner (a.k.a. german camel).

There were the teachers- Mr Juba (History), Pa Adeleke (Christian religious Knowledge, Baba Okonkwo (who taught my father Physics, Chemistry & Biology) and taught me General Science), Mrs Mbom (C.R.K.), The bespectacled Miss Oduwole (My 3rd form English Teacher-I had a crush on her), Mr Kpornu (Geography), Mr Toure (French), a sadist and pychotic called Mr Abayomi (Agric Science) and his friend, another psycho simply known as 'Reverend', Mr Subuloye (Maths), Oduleye (a.k.a. Alagbon a.k.a. 'lagbon, named after the police station because he fancied himself a sleuth), Mr Haruna (English- who would ask, 'why are you lavving?'), Mrs Farapojo (Social Studies) who was pregnant every year till I left school, Mrs. Odumosu, Ms. Philips (Chemistry), Mr. Ibitoye (History).

There was the Head-Boy, O'Yaga whom, I heard, joined the army, tall and big (well, he looked tall to this shrimp then), the school footballers- Fryo, Franklin Howard, 9-9, Muyiwa Motajo, Segun Olusesan, even Henry Nwosu very briefly. They were great days, they were heady days.

There are many, many others I haven't mentioned, many people and incidents that will be a part of me forever. The werepe, 'devil beans', that grew on the school farms and itched like crazy and which I would carry around in my bag for reasons I am yet to figure. If you touched my books with anything but your open palms, you would itch like a lice-ridden tramp, and I watched with great fear once as our class teacher scratched and scratched while going through our assignments. My class-mates, devils all, sniggered as they watched her but she was never able to figure what was happening.

Once I saw a goat give birth on maracana. It was fearful to watch, the kid coming out in a sac, breaking free, tottering, falling and rising as it learnt to walk immediately. Hundreds of students stood silent and watched this miracle but Baptacads was like that, a place of lessons, with its tall palm trees and gentle breezes.

"Say what you say, we are the great Baptacads"
The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Sunday Guardian

April 20


There are many who consider the phrase, ‘a one-woman man’, a contradiction in terms. They say there is no such thing and it is a waste of time trying to find a specie that went extinctb along with the dinosaurs. They say the very fact that a person is of the male gender automatically makes him prone to skirt-chasing, to sowing wild oats, playing the field and all those other things men are infamous for. Even society expects it of him. There are females who would be disturbed if their men did not chase other women. They sigh, almost with pride and say, ‘Well, as long as he respects me and does not bring his strays home, he can do what he likes. After all, he is a man’.

I sat watching American comedians last night on a DVD and this particular fellow introduced as ‘Capone’ wandered onto the set in an over-sized suit and a fedora. He said, ‘if you want to keep your man to yourself, surprise him one day as he returns from work. Dress up in a ninja suit and snarl at him and no matter what he says, don’t reply like you normally would. Be a ninja, be intimate in a different way and do that from time to time in your relationship’. He seemed sure that if there were pleasant surprises at the home front, there would be little appeal for whatever was being offered outside. It reminded me of what a friend advised once-, ‘if you want to eat rice daily, you must learn to garnish it in different ways’. And that is what it is. Staying with the same person for the rest of your life is eating rice every day and for your own good as well as the good of the relationship, you have to continue to reinvent yourself, to be new every morning.

Sometimes, it is complacency on the part of one partner that makes the man (or the woman) go out in search of adventure. There are many times when one or both partners can’t be bothered to make the effort to look good for the other, to smell nice, to dress well. They look dowdy, weather-beaten, unkempt and it is a strong man or woman who wakes up to see a bad-breathed Godzilla or Queen Kong next to himself or herself daily for years, and does not have a sinking feeling in the pit of his or her stomach.

The person who wants a partner to be faithful must be ready to go through the ‘ordeal’ of trying to remain attractive. There is no man who is not attracted to lovely, well kept females. It does not necessarily have to be an attraction based on lust but nevertheless, it remains an attraction.

What does the Whisperer think? Is it possible that like the natural-born criminal that is often the subject of discourse in criminology, there are men (and women) who will chase after other people because there is some kind of pre-programming in them that forces them to pursue even if they would rather stay still? Is there some instinct in some men or women that compels them to stray, much the same way wanderlust forces some to travel around the world, unable to place roots anywhere?
The human mind is a wonderful thing and the excuse that ‘men cannot help being themselves’ is the oldest trick in the book. People are capable of helping themselves. If you condition your body to do push-ups, sit-ups and crunches, it comes easier to you than it would to most people. Much the same way, if a person trains his mind and his body to remain harnessed in one position and with one person, that’s the way it will be. Often, however, we have no real desire to remain with one person, we want to taste all the pleasures of the world, sip nectar in Italy, eat dates in Egypyt, drink sake in Japan.

We have no desire to be tied for the rest of our lives, so we play the field, often finding no real pleasure but continuing all the same because it is the way our minds and bodies are trained.

The banker that does not steal wasn’t born that way, he is probably self-indoctrinated, knows stealing is wrong and seeks to reinforce these leanings.
If you teach the body to wake up every morning and cycle three miles, it gets used to it. What is essential is the will, the determination not to be the way everyone else is. The Whisperer advices that when you find someone you would rather not hurt, whom you want to spend the rest of your life with, sit and ponder and make a decision to stay still, to be a one-woman man.
Staying on your side of the field has many pleasures.

Friday, April 18, 2008

There comes a point in your life
when you realize who matters,
who never did, who won't anymore
and who always will.
So, don't worry about people from your past,
there's a reason they didn't make it to your future.

Culled from the blog- In my own words

Monday, April 14, 2008


Wed Apr 2- Farafina's press briefing for biyi bandele's book, Burma Boy. Venue- Yellow Chilli, Victoria Island

Sat Apr 5- Go cycling in the morning around Surulere with the dancer/actor Kenneth Uphopho. Thigh muscles ache.
Burma Boy reading at the British Council, Ikoyi. Laspapi is compere.

Sun Apr 6- Sizwe Bansi is dead is produced by laspapi at Theatre@Terra. It is directed by Sunkanmi Adebayo.

Mon Apr 7- Meeting with Sola Salako in Ikeja, the P.R. guru. Laspapi's Renegade Theatre gets commissioned to produce a play on one of Nigeria's leading icons.

Fri Apr 11- Meeting with a leading telecomms company on Victoria Island. Renegade Theatre is commissioned to produce an Industrial Theatre project. Weekly Night Football at Astro Turf

Sat Apr 12- Cycle from Surulere home to office at Yaba in a bid to avoid sedentary living. Ride lasts for more than one hour. Thigh muscles still ache. Meeting with Jade, an associate Producer of the serialized cable and tv programme, Moments with Mo (Abudu). It is a pre-briefing in respect of laspapi's invitation to the show. She is thorough and very professional and should work for the FBI. The background details she needed on laspapi could have opened a dossier.

Sun Apr 13- Presentation of laspapi's play, Prison Chronicles. Race from Theatre as play ends at Terra Kulture and drive like a member of a Nigerian Governor's convoy to the bus park at Jibowu, one cast member in tow. Agreement was that we had to get him back to his station in Kogi state before 9am today.

Thigh muscles still ache. Rehearsed daily except Sundays from the 7th. Still managed to see Vantage Point, No Country For Old Men, 10,000 BC and Game Plan at the Galleria. I recommend the first 2 movies. They're very good.

Pic courtesy of Tolu Ogunlesi- laspapi and Ijeoma at the British Council for the Burma Boy reading.
The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Sunday Guardian

of April 13

The previous week's column- 'Shallow Waters' went missing in action with my laptop's hard drive which had to be reformatted. I can't lay hold of the yahoo! backup I usually keep of these things but it'll be published here in a few days. 1st Pet, take note.
The Serial Monogamist

Till the very end of time, many women will be amazed by the ability of some men to justify the changing of partners time after time without notice or any good reason that they (the women) can see. To the uninitiated, the habits of these men are utterly unfathomable, heartless and despicable beyond words. The relationship appears to be on a high; laughter, a bonding of souls and spirits, and then from nowhere, a crash. The woman looks around and sees she's seated alone amidst the debris of what was once a beautiful relationship.

Women sit in groups and small clusters and curse this manner of man and all who might be related to him and if the world was a fair place as far as these women are concerned, this man would be condemned to a living hell, a life of penury and worthlessness and all the other things people wish unto those that hurt them.

The serial monogamist is the rarest of creatures, able to justify to himself without any qualms and time after time why he should walk away from one relationship, then the next and then the next, ad infintum. To the man in this equation, he has done no wrong and cannot figure what the ruckus that follows his 'escapes' are about. This piece is to analyze the mind of this type of man for the unknowing female.

Firstly, to this kind of man, there is no real difference between one relationship and the other. True, he recognizes the fact that the females are different, have separate attributes and he might care greatly for them in different ways, but most importantly, what the women must realize is that even if the girls are different, to him, it's still one long relationship. It's an issue of having one long affair with faces changing, much like a television soap where the characters come and go, but still you know you're watching "East Enders". The producer 'kills' off characters, introduces new ones but it's still the same show, the same credits rolling on the screen.

The cause of this is usually and primarily a deficiency on the part of the serial monogamist; a desire for fulfillment that can never be quietened by one female no matter how loving and adoring the female is. Some females think they can love a serial monogamist out of his ways but find after a while, it's a mission-impossible. It goes to the very make-up and psyche of this man and even though he knows a he leaves a trail of hurt behind, he cannot help himself. He does not do multiple relationships, he just changes partners time after time.

How does the Whisperer know so much about this type of man? Has he been a serial monogamist in a previous life? He pleads the right to silence. However the cure to this syndrome will never be found in different partners as the serial monogamist might think. No matter how sweet a partner is, the answer to the problem can only be found in the 'monogamist' himself. He must recognize like the poet Rudyard Kipling wrote in that famous piece about women that "the more you have had of the ladies, the less you will settle to one".

A man who has perfected the art of entering and leaving relationships time after will find it almost impossible to stay in any one relationship except he seeks therapy, whether self-applied or professionally. Now, I am not asking any one, male or female, to stay in a relationship that is obviously counter-productive to his or her well-being. There are relationships you are not meant to stay in and being afraid others might term you as flaky does not mean you should settle for less than your worth.

What the Whisperer advises is patience, and a lot of it. Count one to a hundred, and then count back again, figuratively, before you start a relationship. Many people do not take kindly to being heart broken no matter how sweet they are, and if you are unfortunate to fall into the hands of psycho jane (or psycho jack as the case may be) and then say you really didn't know she (or he) was really not the person you wanted, be prepared for a hellish ride. They will come after you in real life and in your dreams, seek out your friends and work colleagues and generally seek the end of you (I bet we've all heard of someone like this). I've been the subject of 'crazy mary' attacks more than once and even though I easily weathered the storms, I learnt a very major lesson- I should have been patient. Why start something you can't finish? You hurt a lot of good people (the psychopaths don't count) and the pain is not worth the thrill of the hunt or whatever is the misguided determining factor in the initial pursuit.

We must sit and ask before we start any relationship, where we are going, and what the objective is. Do not listen to any girl that tells you 'we'll take it one day at a time' and 'where ever the wind blows, we'll go'. After a short while, if the partner is worth anything, many will want much more. The nesting instinct in a lot of women is a strong one and after some time, they tend to get tired of being buffetted by the wind and want to lay anchor. Look into the eyes, don't listen to her words in this matter. The eyes never lie.

A meaningful relationship should be exactly that, meaningful. So watch for the serial monogamist, he's a sweet appealing man, with a high turn-over of girlfriends and partners and every woman who has deluded herself that she'd be the one to 'cure' him has paid a very heavy price in heartache. Good things come to those who wait is what they say and patience can save all parties from heartache.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever, the famous poet said. There are few things in the world that can match the beauty of a sunrise or that of a lasting, fulfilling relationship, these things of wonder that will come to you, if you can only be patient.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


One of the greatest movies I've ever seen is the Shawshank Redemption starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. It's a story of hope, a story of the triumph of the human spirit, of the triumph of goodness and all that is true. Located inside a prison, it follows the life of Andy Dufreyne, a former financial adviser, wrongfully jailed for life for the offence of killing his wife.

A short while back, I came across another movie like that; the more modern 16 Blocks starring the musician, Mos Def and Bruce Willis. Mos Def, with an annoying nasal twang but with heart-breaking vulnerability, acts the part of a con who must travel 16 blocks from his holding cell to a law court to give evidence against corrupt cops. His sole protection is a fading cop (Bruce Willis) who is permanently drunk.

Two of the greatest movies ever made, I think.

Walking through the side streets of Yaba three weeks ago, I saw a Stephen King collection of short stories thrown on the dirt-floor alongside other books for sale. The first story in it was titled Rita Hayworth & The Shawshank Redemption. I had no idea that was the original title. In the book, Andy is not a tall man, he is raped in prison and the convict who could have gotten him out with the truth, is not killed as in the movie but transferred to another prison. Red (Morgan Freeman's part) is not a black man either.

Andy is afraid to break out even after completing the tunnel but in the end, he makes one of the greatest escapes in the history of books or in moviedom. I love the book too. It was brilliantly written.

So the human spirit will march on as long as there are stories like this. Thank you, Mr King, thank you, Mos Def and Bruce Wilis. My life has been further enriched by these tales and the goodness of the human heart shown in them.


By Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema

Title: Burma Boy (Novel)

Author: Biyi Bandele

Publishers: Jonathan Cape (Britain) 2007

Farafina (Nigeria) 2007

Number of pages: 216

Price: (In Nigeria) N1, 200 (One Thousand Two Hundred Naira)

The first half of the rather long-winded title for this piece was inspired by a story narrated by the novel’s protagonist, Ali Banana (p.42) and the book’s short and somewhat brutal epilogue. Like a record stuck in the groove those lines: “That is all. Off with the rat’s head” continues to reverberate in my head long after my heart was pierced by the closing scene where another significant character, Bloken, encounters the death-maddened Banana.

Maybe I am more personally involved in this novel than some readers. As a professional historian who teaches the subject (where there are students) and allied subjects like Government and Social Studies to a generation who see the world through Western especially American spectacles, talking about the brave Africans who bore the British Empire on their shoulders between 1939 – 1945 when Hitler, Hirohito and Mussolini kidnapped the cosmos sounds antediluvian. Cold history, even when permeated by the warmth of real-life relics, does not cut any ice for people caught up in a jet-flying world of Microsoft, Tantalizers, Dow Jones, and hip hop. Do not blame the youngsters; are we, so-called adults, any better?

For far too long the story of Nigerians who gave their today for the Union Jack’s tomorrow during World War Two has been astonishingly ignored, defaced, even put in the worst human condition-oblivion. It is not as if these heroes are unknown. Historical records abound. Some of them are still alive, enfeebled but unbroken. Literature, mostly penned by foreigners, recognizes them in passing.

It took a son of one of these heroes in the person of Biyi Bandele to up the ante. Bandele performed the ultimate literary magic: painting a wide portrait of amazingly human and thus believable characters performing in one of the most disorientating theatres of humanity: the battlefield. All of them are heroes, from the one-eared Sergeant Damisa to the hairless Bloken to the seemingly crazy Japanese who think nothing of throwing themselves through mined perimeters. But Bandele’s brand of heroism is unique because it gets under the skin and souls of the heroes. These are no gun-toting jungle experts performing Arnold Schwarzneggar feats or an African cast for a remake of Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.” These are real, “blaady maadafucking” (to paraphrase Bloken) human beings who are not above wetting their trousers at the crack of a rifle, despite months of rigorous training.

The novel is a subtle quest for human identity, a seeking for one’s essence of life, even in the valley of bones and sea of blood. Bandele never tells us but I strongly believe that the eccentric, Atabrine-addicted Major Orde Charles Wingate realized his life’s mission when his fecund, fevered brain gave birth to the unorthodox, deep penetrating, long-range military unit called the Chindits. Call Ali Banana’s hunger for Burma action sheer youthful exuberance, if you like. But though the looming spectre of combat subdued his heart, it was in the heat of war’s hellish savagery that he found his manhood when he shot his beloved and incapacitated Damisa (pp.198 – 203). But at what price? Do not answer till you have read the novel.

Most of the characters reflect a tragedy that haunts Africa till date: warring for causes about which we know little or nothing. Over sixty years have gone by since the guns of World War Two fell silent, but in my opinion, it is still new style, old dance for succeeding generations of Ali Bananas, Guntus, Godiwillin, etc across Africa. How many of the callow lads who slaughtered each other during the Nigerian civil war know why they did it? How many of the cocaine crazed children combatants of Liberia and Sierra Leone understood the issues at stake, if any? What of the Rwandaese? Of course, there are different situations. e.g. the liberation struggles in South Africa, but by and large, the truth is that the clash of claims and counterclaims really meant little to many baby soldiers it spawned on the face of Africa. The wind blew them into what they knew not, and when it ended, the survivors discovered that both the falcon and falconer had gone deaf and dumb.

Holy Joes may criticize “Burma Boy” for its seeming homage to vulgarity (see the exchange between the Nigerians and the Japanese-one of my favourite portions of the novel-pp. 164 – 166; and Danja’s vow to initiate Banana into the sweet-sour world of sex. pp 188- 190). But that is what makes Bandele’s novel a cracking yarn: telling it as it is. Fighting troopers worldwide demand the rude relief of the battlefield, and vulgarity is at times refreshingly expressive of the heart’s true pulse. What transpired in pp. 164 – 166 is not unusual in the madhouse of war. Ever heard that, at the height of the Nigerian civil war, Nigerian and Biafran troops, fagged out by the senselessness of the whole thing, occasionally got together for football matches and the type of parties where booze and breasts were generously supplied?

Though “Burma Boy” is no “Beasts of No Nation”, Bandele’s skill at ‘crippling’ turenchi (English language) with rich Hausa flavour is impressive. Given the novelist’s deep rootedness in Hausa language and culture, though a Yoruba by birth, this is not surprising. But his code mixing and code switching is so accessible that it gives “Burma Boy” an identity peculiar to it. Thus you need not employ a Hausa translator to know that “Samanja” is Sergeant, “Farabiti” is private, “Janar” general etc. The humour leavens the tale with flashes that help us take the awful bullets and disease without choking on our pain and puke.

The striking off of the rat’s head might have ended Banana’s story but the epilogue of ‘Burma Boy’ only marks the beginning of a vicarious journey with these miserably human heroes whose account reverberates in our consciousness in many ways, either as a simple war adventure novel or something deeper.


Henry Chukuwuemeka Onyema (also spelt Onyeama) is

a teacher and award-winning writer.

He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

Henry’s postal address: P. O. Box 3799

Mushin Post Office,

Lagos State,



Thursday, April 03, 2008

Attended a Press briefing/Dinner at Yellow Chilli last night with the farafina publishing house crew. The occasion was the presentation of the London-based Biyi Bandele, and his novel, Burma Boy , published by farafina in Nigeria. It is a story based on a 14 year old Northern Nigerian, Ali Banana, who fought in the 2nd World War. Biyi is the writer of many plays and novels including the critically-acclaimed stage adaptation of "Things Fall Apart".

In attendance were Muhtar Bakare, C.E.O. of Farafina, Jide Bello the lawyer and almost unequalled arts enthusiast, Makin Soyinka, Tunde Aladese and laspapi amongst several others. Biyi Bandele, modest and soft-spoken, discussed his book and the Nigerian literary situation with all present.

The book tour is in collaboration with the British Council.

Tour dates:

Lagos - Saturday the 5th of April at 5pm.
British Council- 20 Thompson Ave, Ikoyi

Kano - Tuesday the 8th of April at 6pm
British Council- 10 Emir's Palace Rd, Kano

Abuja - Wednesday the 9th of April at 6pm
British Council - Plot 3645, IBB Way, Maitama

Port Harcourt - Friday the 11th of April at 6pm
British Council Information Centre - Plot 127 Olu Obasanjo Way

laspapi will be the compere for the Lagos reading

RSVP- Nkemjika Ojiji- 0803 409 7613

Theatre@Terra continues in the month of April with plays from Athol Fugard and Wole Oguntokun.

Sunday April 6
Sizwe Bansi is Dead
Written by Athol Fugard
Directed by Sunkanmi Adebayo

Sunday April 13
Prison Chronicles
Written & Directed by Wole Oguntokun

Sunday April 20
The Sound & The Fury
Written by Wole Oguntokun
Directed by Kenneth Uphopho

Sunday April 27
Who's Afraid Of Wole Soyinka?
Written by Wole Oguntokun
Performed by Renegade Theatre

Show Times: 3pm and 6pm
Venue: Terra Kulture, Tiamiyu Savage St
(By Multi Choice/DSTV), Victoria Island

Gate: N2000/ Students with I.D. N1500

Theatre@Terra is produced by Wole Oguntokun

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Girl Whisperer

as published by

The Sunday Guardian of March 30

Chasing Chimamanda

I was sending e-mail back and forth to Jahman Anikulapo, the editor of the Guardian on Sunday, in pursuit of information about various matters, when I asked him about a certain fellow who had contacted me on some pressing issue. Jahman gave a striking description of the person in one sentence. He said, "He says he wants to marry Chimamanda".

Now, for many people, including the person described, that aspiration is highly delusional. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of Nigeria's most celebrated writers, known world-wide after only a couple of major books, but once she catches your attention, you stay caught. The reasons are simple, she appears very, very intelligent, she is hugely successful and she also has striking good looks. What more could any man want, you might ask? One of the men I respect most in the world of literature, (he who lives in the Arts Villa) and whom I know would hack any suspect work of art to ribbons and then scatter the remains to the winds, walks gently around Chimamanda. She can do no wrong where he is concerned. In all fairness, she is yet to put a foot wrong (or her typing fingers, in this case) since she started writing. "Everybody loves chimamanda" should be the name of a new series on television.

Now what is the Chimamanda factor, and why does it make grown men become blushing kids whenever she breezes into a room? She's a very attractive woman but there are many attractive women in this country, and for the frequent fliers, outside our shores as well. She's also hugely successful, but walk into any Nigerian bank or major oil company now and ask any attractive female how much she earns yearly and you'll come to an instant understanding that success has become a Nigerian. The mix for the young chimamanda has to be the simplicity around her. All genius borders on complexity but for this young woman, the face she chooses to present to the world is a very gentle, smiling one. It's unlined by the meanness that follows the loan-sharks masquerading as bankers in Nigeria or the predatory etchings on the brow of the average successful person.

The Whisperer has met with Chimamanda several times; once, about 3 years ago, at an Association of Nigerian Authors gathering, where even the Whisperer made no significant impact on her despite his best posturings because three-fourths of the place was doing the same; again, last year in the studios of the television show host, Funmi Iyanda, where a more meaningful conversation about dramatic literature took place; and shortly after, at the drama-fest titled 'A Season Of Soyinka' which the Whisperer produced. One thing struck me time after time about her - she really is a very sweet girl and the attention generated by her works has not turned her into a virago.

So why does the whole world want Chimamanda, the young woman who, along with a few others from this country, has defied logic and made a major success of herself in a world of literature controlled by a western world that usually only fetes J.K.Rowling and her ilk?

It must be that everyman instinctively feels the need to protect her, to keep her sweetness untainted by the vagaries of life. It must mean that even with all her success, Chimamanda appears to be a little girl lost and the sense of chivalry in the average man will make him lay down his life in the defence of her virtue.

For the lack of a better phrase, there is a factor called the 'Chimamanda factor' which draws men. The Whisperer has in times past referred to women who possess this as "Thoroughbreds" or "The Girl Next Door" types. It's a sure-fire way of generating attention whether you want it or not, if you are of either of these two categories. Here's to many more women like these who add gentility to life and keep the essence of their womanhood.

Sometime, somewhere, and with great indignation, someone will read this and say, "You don't even know chimamanda. She's absolutely the opposite of what you wrote". I do not care what she is to others, but for the Whisperer who watches all and appreciates true beauty, and for all the men who are in hot pursuit of her in their minds and in real life, (no matter how deluded they are about their chances), I urge, dream on. Our dreams can be a source of joy in a bleak world. And to Chimamanda, and all women like her, I say, remain true to yourselves. It's a better world because you're in it