Friday, August 22, 2008

Twin Zone

Laspapi’s a producer and writer on Mo Abudu’s talk show, ‘Moments with Mo’. A few days ago, the show looked at the matter of twins in Nigeria.

Research states that Nigeria has more twins than anywhere else in the world. And a sleepy farming community in its South West is our twin capital.

At the recording of the show, twins from different parts of the country turned out like it was a festival.

In the photo, from left- laspapi, the Campbell twins and my Associate Producer, T-Faj.

This crumbling building is visible as you drive down the Marina. Some incredible law of gravity holds the rubble up. It's been like this for years and successive governments look on. People go to work daily, just metres away from it.

One day, it will come down...

The Girl Whisperer

as published by

The Sunday Guardian of Aug 17

The Mark Of Cain

The Whisperer is going the way of the scribes of old with this piece. In the days of old, long before the earth consisted of more than a handful of people, there lived a man named Cain who committed an unmentionable act. He killed his brother when he thought there was no one looking. But as is the way of secrets, he was seen and he paid a heavy price for his sin.

There are many people living with heavy secrets, secrets as weighty as Cain’s, bearing things by themselves they would never tell their partners even on the pain of death. It’s amazing what the psyche of some people can carry. There are those who would break out in rashes if they lied about taking someone else’s drink from the fridges at their places of work but there are those who ‘forget’ to tell partners that they had a baby before they met the partner six years before. There are husbands who ‘omit’ to tell their wives they have twenty-one year old children out in town somewhere.

The issue for debate- Should a partner be told everything? Should one’s true love be informed matter-of-factly that there is a history of schizophrenia in the family and there is likelihood that the children will inherit it? Does a partner need to know that the woman he loves with his heart and soul is incapable of bearing children? How important is it that he be informed that some youthful escapade took away his true love’s chances of ever becoming a mother?

The world is a delicate place, a lovely, wonderful place that has many beautiful moments and many other moments that can tear the heart to pieces.

As I drove from Igbo Ora, Nigeria’s land of twins, after a television shoot several nights ago, I placed my head against the coolness of the glass window of the production bus I was in, thought of the tranquillity we had seen in that town and how free of worry it had appeared and wondered if even in places like that, there are those who bear the mark of Cain.

Life is what we make it, some sages say, and they go on to say where we are today is as a result of the decisions we made yesterday. Unfortunately for mankind, there are some decisions made yesterday that refuse to go away. How many people have ever sowed wild oats on Saturday and prayed for crop failure on Sunday?

Back to the mark of Cain. Should one tell of the invisible mark on one’s forehead? Should one reveal the consequences of actions that one has repented of, but of which one can never shake off the results?

Some people will say what you don’t know can’t hurt you, and that ignorance is bliss. Maybe so, yet on the other hand, if you have to be crafty, lie, steal and cheat to keep who loves you, isn’t your happiness tainted in some way? It’s not the same kind of high if you cheat in an exam hall to graduate from university as we all know (If it makes little difference to you how you succeed, I’m not writing this for your benefit). There is a confidence that arises from knowing you’re on the right side of the ‘law’, that you’ve gotten it right this time. When we have to keep secrets from those we love, something dies in us each time they smile at us, each time they hold us trustingly and tell everyone else they would trust their lives into our hands without a second thought.

There are those who say everyone’s got a secret (or two) and so why rock the boat, why disturb the equilibrium? My point is that if you have to hold on to the person you love by weaving a fantastic tale held together by gossamer threads, there’s a problem.

I have had many fantastic tales woven for my benefit in my life-time; I have seen many relationships that appeared solid, crash because one partner didn’t come clean about some past incident for many, many years, until it was too late to correct the situation.

The Whisperer says come clean. Those who will love us will love us. Often, our relationships do not need as much shoring up as we imagine they do and they can bear the ‘storms of truth’. It is better to come clean about a ‘mark’ you bear even if it appears invisible to all around. You might be pleasantly surprised to find your partner will help in the total erasure of your pain, blowing away your troubles like a child might decide to let a kite go, cutting the string that holds it to earth. All things are possible.

If on the other hand, you are willing to die a little each time your loved one holds you close, then you must tread the path you have chosen. As I quietly contemplate humanity from behind rolled-up car windows, I wonder to myself often, how many people are walking past, with secrets they dare not share.

If you have met the partner of your dreams, the real thing and not a semblance of what might be real, think again whether what you are keeping to yourself goes to the fundamentals of the relationship. If it does, you have to disclose the facts like the insurance companies insist. If you choose not to, you bear the risk alone and the consequences if there ever are any. There are many things partners need never know, but none of it is like the mark of Cain.

Chance Encounters of the Policing Kind

I was driving to the island when I saw this psychotic vagrant (a.k.a. one who needs help)by the road. He was in police uniform. That said a lot.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Return Of Laspapi

Laspapi disappeared off the face of the earth, (well off the virtual world) for a while. To those who expressed concern via yahoo!, blogville and facebook, I say thank you.

There were many things responsible- An illness out of the blue that had me stretched out flat (laspapi rarely falls ill), a cruel schedule for drama rehearsals for Things Fall Apart at Terra Kulture, an equally fierce schedule (as a Producer for the TV talk show- Moments with Mo...)I was in the land of twins- Igbo Ora, Oyo State on Monday, flew into Benin for an appointment at the palace of the Oba on Tuesday) and am contemplating Abuja and Adamawa in a couple of days.

I'm hale and hearty now, and hoping I can take my brother's advice and rest more.
The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Sunday Guardian

of August 10

A Perfect World

In a perfect world, the beautiful memories of childhood would be carried into adulthood. The joys that were so strong then and the satisfaction derived from simple things would remain. There would still be pleasure at seeing a sunset, at smelling the freshly cut green, green grass on a summer holiday. The smile that would come to the face on seeing close friends would be genuine, and the admiration of certain members of the opposite sex (or the dislike of them) would be pure, totally lacking guile.

In a perfect world, there would be no two-timing; one partner being enough for everyone. The partner in issue would be the perfect partner, able to meet every need; a bit like some romance flick at the cinemas. You meet your perfect partner and you are always happy- a perfect world.

There is a problem with not being able to dream this way, with losing the ability to be like Peter Pan; what happens when you stop dreaming is that life loses a lot of its pleasures. You walk through the world with hooded eyes, contemplating, calculating and looking for the angle, the opportunity to take advantage. The loss of childhood and its influences is not a sign of maturity; it is some form of death. The ability to laugh from the heart is a thing of wonder and should be preserved even if you get to be as old as Methuselah.

‘Jamming Jay’, I called out to a friend one day, his name through the heady days of university (I went to a real university-Great Ife). He had become an influential banker, an important man. He answered back with a shout across the open, public space we were in. Another ‘friend’ of ours from those days looked on in disapproval and asked, ‘You still call each other those names?’ Jamming Jay (real name-Jaiye) and I turned to contemplate him with interest. We recognized without words being exchanged that this was an unhappy man and that he would make his children unhappy. ‘Don’t laugh’, ‘don’t run’, ‘don’t smile’, ‘don’t jump’. My favourite uncle is in his seventies. It fascinates me to hear his friends call him his nickname- ‘boy’.

It would be a perfect world if your partner didn’t leave you for someone younger, richer, better educated, more articulate. A perfect world would be one where loved ones weren’t taken away by sickness, where they didn’t fall into debt and have their banks foreclose on their property. A perfect world would be where you could hold your partner’s hand in public, ten years after you first met, and be totally engrossed with and in each other.

Sometimes, my heart is heavy because I recognise there are many people around me who have stopped dreaming, who have stopped believing, who have allowed life to dictate the pace they must move at. There is beauty in the world, a lot of it and we can make it as rich as possible by holding on to the things that we found pleasure in as we walked through childhood and thereafter became adults.

I met my friend, Shadow, many years ago, I was sixteen, my A-level days. He was 9 days younger than me and we clicked from first sight, genuinely liking each other. It was a friendship even our parents liked and encouraged. We found the same things funny, ‘hated’ the same people, ended up in the same fights, grinned at the same group of girls, and ended up studying the same course at university. (He was more of an influence on me in the university matter, much more than anyone else I knew). Shadow’s somewhere in Asia now, practising law and doing very well for himself, but the memories of those days keep me company sometimes when I am by myself. It strikes me as odd when people say they are bored. How can life be boring? Search through your mind, your memory banks, relive moments of joy, plan for the future, jettison the pain of the past but don’t tell anyone you’re bored.

In a perfect world, my childhood friend, Rasheed Thanni, would be alive. We would sit together over a cool drink and remember when we ran around the Shell Club area in shorts looking for adventures like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. We would recall when as twelve year olds, we would go to the beach (without permission) and swim till our eyes were red from the salt water and sand was caked in every orifice. And then the trip home where we would pray our parents hadn’t realised we’d been out all day. Rasheed would pluck an eye-lash and place it on the hair of his head. Apparently, it made those you were in trouble with, forget. In a perfect world, my friend Rasheed would be with his two daughters in Britain, and sometimes on the phone, we would recall how we used to chase after fire trucks in Surulere and swim in the murky swampy waters of what later became the Iponri Housing Estate.

We must preserve as many of our memories as made us smile, as made us better people. Life has too many reality checks already, better for us to sometimes travel in our minds, to a time when it was a perfect world.

Bernie's Exit

I heard news that saddened me. Bernie Mac died aged 51.

I never met him but he brought immense sunshine into my life with his ways on his TV show, in Russel Simmon's Def Comedy Jams, as Pastor Clever in Ice Cube's Friday Movie Trilogy and in many other films.

And I will always remember his catch-phrase before his comedy routines- 'I ain't afraid o' you, m%^&^%$£"*^s.

Thank you, Mr.Mac.

I salute a man who left beautiful memories behind.