Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Sunday Guardian

of Nov 23


The Whisperer is in the process of directing Wole Soyinka’s timeless stage comedy, ‘The Lion and The Jewel’, and he remains perpetually in awe of the mastery of Soyinka over the craft of playwriting. But the thrust of this piece is the wiliness of the old fox in the play, the acclaimed ‘Panther of the trees’ and ‘Fox of the undergrowth’; the man known as Baroka, who entraps a young village belle, Sidi, who on her part is famed for having more than her fair share of vanity than anything else.

The sixty-two year old Baroka has a rival in the beginning for Sidi’s affections in Lakunle the school teacher , who in his naive way seeks Sidi’s love in a very genteel way. In the end, age wins the prize and Sidi becomes another adornment on Baroka’s mantelpiece.

The Whisperer, in moments when he is not pondering the genius that propelled such a gifted play wonders about the relationships between the world’s many Barokas and Sidis. The legendary Paul McCartney, who made his name (and an incredible fortune) as a member of the Beatles, met a woman decades younger than him and ended up marrying her. That turned out badly in the end, the marriage ending up in the divorce court and the lady in question seeking half his fortune among other things. Then there’s Hugh Hefner, Lord of the Playboy mansion and playboy bunnies he’s three decades and more, older than; a true Western Baroka , if ever there was one.

Let’s lay the premise right in this matter. What is it about men that makes them ‘change to newer models’ of women, the older they get? This trait has disgusted women from the beginning of time, and many find it incomprehensible that many men approaching dotage suddenly find ‘love’ and satisfaction in women thirty and forty years younger, abandoning their wives and partners of many years and seeking warmth and body heat in younger bodies. If I recall aright, there was a story somewhere that the sage, Mahatma Ghandi, when he was alive, would lie next to pretty young girls through the night in his old age, as a test (or proof) of his ability to overcome lust and temptation. I don’t need to lie next to anyone to tell them what the outcome of that would be.

There are many who say that young women who find much older men attractive are gold-diggers and are only interested in monetary returns. That may be true, but people are usually after one thing or the other in relationships. Still with reference to ‘The Lion and The Jewel’, Baroka was no ordinary man. He was highly intelligent, possessed a kind of rusty charm and was as cunning as men come. He laid a systematic plan to beguile Sidi and it worked brilliantly.

We cannot doubt that a lot of older men or ‘powerful sexy grey’ as I once saw it nicely put in an article, have a lot of appeal for young females. For one, they are usually not given to ‘drama’ or uncontrollable emotions. They will not threaten to hang themselves by the neck or take sleeping pills over-doses because the girl is threatening to leave. Often, they are more self-assured and financially comfortable and life’s experiences have mellowed them the same way it adds zing to fine wine. They are more patient, often much kinder and seem to take everything in their stride.

The younger girl is often mesmerized by this man who is able to relate with them on all fronts (apart from maybe, the night club scene). Oddly enough, many older men can actually relate with younger girls on just about every topic under the earth. The girl is often taken in by the sense of self-worth and the ability of the older man to meet her financial needs is a great advantage.

The Whisperer’s point? It is not every relationship between the old and the young that must have an angle or one of the parties seeking an advantage. Sometimes it’s just plain love. Please note that the Whisperer is not encouraging men who trade-in ‘older’ models for newer ones. I am particular about instances when both parties are free of all encumbrances and genuinely decide they want to be with each other.

As an aside, I was listening to a radio station as I drove through the streets of Lagos the other day and heard someone phone in to a programme on the station to complain about an altercation he had with an Indian as they both drove on the streets of Lagos. The show presenter on some community programme mimicked an Indian accent as the caller vented his annoyance and both went on and on about ‘people abusing me in my country’ and other such gibberish. Our politicians and governments abuse us so much and in so many ways, we should be deadened to external abuse now. Driving down the Mile2 road to the Lagos State University at night, one of the most dangerous roads in the country because of the menace of bandits at any time whether day or night, is enough abuse by any government. Politicians who loot the treasury and are treated as heroes show another form of abuse. The crux of the matter was that the caller and the called were so xenophobic, it made my stomach turn. Nigerians are known as a very accommodating lot, and so a presenter on a public station sowing seeds of hate was appalling.

I would hate to be in a country where their radio show hosts mimicked African accents and treated outsiders as unwelcome. It showed a distinct lack of sensitivity by these parties. It is also quite possible that the Indian in issue is Nigerian by birth or naturalization. We’ve come that far in the world now. If that kind of conversation took place in the ‘developed’ world, there’d probably be a sacking except it was on a station owned by the British Nationalist Party or the Ku Klux Klan. The singular fact that there was no outcry shows we’re still a long way off from where we should be in some things that matter.

So back to my point. The next time you see a Lion in pursuit of a Jewel, remember you might be witnessing genuine love, each side giving to the other, something they cannot find elsewhere. Sometimes motives are pure and it is a meeting of two philosophies- ‘If age could; if youth knew’.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

WANTED - Governor Raji Fashola for causing Grievous Bodily Harm, Attempted Murder etc

Was driving to Victoria Island on the morning of the 2nd of November when I saw this. The driver of the van had run off the road into a large ditch 'created' by the government's construction workers. The problem is not in the 'cutting' of Lagos roads as former Governor Tinubu's billboards used to creatively describe the act; it is in the lack of warning signs and street lights at night in Lagos.

Lagos drivers move at night with full beams on and add any extras they can find because the death traps that masquerade as roads are ill-lit (while of course blinding other road users in the process). I have driven down an Ikorodu Road that was a black as soot, done the same on the 3rd Mainland Bridge, while praying, hoping...

A few days ago, an officer of the Federal Road Safety Corp stopped laspapi and said it was an offence to have fog lights on your car (a jeep in this case) because the car's lights were already powerful enough etc etc I didn't get the ticket because I told him (with a staight face) that I didn't drive the car at night and I had no idea about the law which bans car lights that can save your life.

Fashola is one of my favourite all-time governors but he's responsible for situations like this.

By the way, Lagos had trams way back in 1906 and we still haven't been able to duplicate it in 2008. Time for us to get a move on, Guv...

The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Sunday Guardian

of November 9, 2008

Yes, We can!

It’s 5am now and I am watching what has delayed the writing of this article, play out before my very eyes. I am half-seated, half lying, watching the television screen, watching one of the greatest things I will ever see, unfold. An African-American has become President-elect of the United States. In the primaries, I was in support of Hilary Clinton, primarily because she was wife to the ultimate come-back kid, Bill, and I wondered if the smooth-talking, charismatic Obama could lead the Democrats to the Promised Land.

There were many things that appeared to be disadvantageous to Barack Obama. The most obvious was that he wasn’t white. Another was that he had a Kenyan father (and family scattered around hinterland Kenya). His Kenyan grand-mother looked just like any regular African grandmother (Africans will get that) and he wasn’t very experienced at the foreign policy level. I seriously doubted if mainstream America would take him for what he was. His defeat of Hilary Clinton made me sit up. America truly is a strange land and we all have a lot to learn from the people of that country. In my state of origin, Oyo, a half-Ghanaian would have a hard time convincing people he should be governor.

Back on the television, I can see the Rev. Jesse Jackson crying silently, he who marched alongside Martin Luther King and ran for the position of President of the United States himself. He weeps for joy and for the fact that his fellow Americans have done the impossible. I can see the talk-show host, Oprah Winfrey, crying softly too and I am listening to the Senator John McCain who fought a long, hard and bitter fight, accept his defeat in a manner so graceful, I cannot believe it is the same man who was once Obama’s opponent. I know this is a moment that will be with me forever. McCain’s most striking words, ‘America has decided.’

I can see Barack Obama walking to the podium to give his acceptance speech, his wife and two daughters beside him, and now I truly believe the phrase, ‘Yes, we can!’
I hear him give the example of a 106-year old woman who endured the elements to stand in line for hours so as to cast her vote in Atlanta, a woman who was born just after the days of slavery and who has seen America evolve into what it has become now. And I hear Obama ask, ‘what will our children think of how far we have come in another one-hundred years?’ Not many people will have the answer to that, but one thing is certain; the process has started. Americans, despite their diversity, the medley of races and tribes have shown why they are known as the United States.

They have come together to choose a candidate, confirming that democracy still works and it is a thing of great beauty. The choice is clear and unequivocal. It is loud and resonant and it is one name that sounds over and over again, the name of Barack Obama.

Today, I am lifted above the mundane, taken to a level that shows me the entire world through new eyes and I have learnt a very major lesson with the minimum amount of fuss; the majority of people will do what is right when it matters the most, if you let them.

This moment in history for me is not just about African-Americans over-coming hardship and prejudices, for white men also marched alongside Martin Luther King and fought for the abolition of second-class citizenship on behalf of the African-Americans. The old, the young, new voters, liberals, Hispanics, formerly apathetic African-Americans, whites, blacks, all rose to accept and elect him; it is a victory for the world, for humanity, a victory that shows us we have come a long way from the back-waters we once nestled in. There are many countries in the world where such a feat would have appeared impossible a few days ago. Not so anymore. With this victory, the world’s peoples are lifted higher and nothing seems unattainable now.
It is a victory that makes me feel proud to be human, that lifts my spirits high and shores up my belief that there are truly no limits to what one can do, if you believe. This is about the American people becoming one entity and showing the world the way to go. It shows we have the innate ability to rise above pettiness and prejudices and be all we are meant to be.

What we can take from this? There is a core of greatness, of elevation above meanness, in all of us that we can latch onto; a core that can take us above prejudices and lead us to a point where we can become better people.

There are things that are more important than colour, creed and tribal differences. There are life-changing choices we will be faced with, that should not be hinged on mundane factors but on all that is decent and just. Today, in accepting his election, Obama reached out even to those who did not support him and asked to be their President too. The world became a very different place today, and it is a truly obtuse person who will see this election outcome on a superficial level or refuse to see that we have reached a point we should never again return from.

Obama bears the torch for a future of promise, for a world that is moving on to a level much higher than where it once was, and I am glad I am alive to see this moment.

Yes we can!

Traded in my Suzuki 400cc bike for a 750cc. Talk about living life on the edge. The speedometer's capable of 240km and its 10 times lesser in size than a car which shows I'm sitting on a lightning bolt. Good thing I don't do speed. Max I've done is a 100km and that was on a very free road (the 3rd mainland bridge on a Sunday morning)

Showing part of my kit just before moving from yaba. The shoes are crocs, not quite bike wear but... I was in a hurry.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Sunday Guardian

of November 2


I love to stand outside my house and watch people go by, wondering about their history, their lives, their joys and pains. I look at children, and inspect adults, wondering, and in some way vicariously living their lives, even as I watch them go by. It’s one of the reasons life is interesting, this trait from childhood, to imagine Aladdin and his flying carpet, Sinbad and Gulliver’s travels in everyone I see.

I am told there really is an ‘Igbo Irumale’ (a forest of a thousand daemons) somewhere on the way to Ondo and someday I intend to take a drive there. Foreigners come to this land, (particularly those young ones on exchange programs) and thoroughly enjoy themselves, taking in all we have, all over the country but not us. Sit and think. When was the last time you took a holiday, a proper one? When was the last time you paused to watch a bus conductor perform his routine? And you don’t have to be a non-car owner to watch bus-conductors. They abound everywhere.

I love to sit and watch people go past, I love to watch the rain fall, I love to hear the call of Muslims to prayers early in the morning, and that is not the Whisperer’s faith. It is a keening call and it has poetry in it for those who care to listen.

I love to sit in almost empty cinema halls and share the beauty of what is being shown with perfect strangers, all cocooned and sitting separately but still sharing humanity in some indescribable way.

I did my youth service in Akwa Ibom state, a land of very clean people, and I remember that place with a smile each time. I was in the town known as Abak and one of the people I remember with the most fondness is the man who was in charge of the security of the premises, Mr. J.L. Udoh also known as ‘Bright Photos’ (apparently he picked up photography at one time).He and I would go to the ‘water-side’ and spend time talking of the country, the civil war, the past and the future of our country. He was a good man with a kind heart and I wonder where he is now, years after, and hope that I will be able to get in touch with him again someday.

I believe in the slogan of that commercial product that says ‘Just do it. I have done a lot of things, I have made a movie, produced too many stage plays to recall, I have produced my own television programmes, I have driven across the country on my own because I was in love, (Lagos to Abuja), I own a bicycle, I own a power-bike, I have written books on drama and poetry, I have thrown punches, I have taken punches, I have taken academic degrees because I could, I have loved and lost, I have cried and I’m still laughing.

I think life has many simple pleasures, pleasures that can greatly enrich your existence but for some reason we miss them because they are not shrouded in designer clothes or wearing expensive wristwatches. Someday, pause to ask the security guard at your office or the woman cleaning the office floors what his or her story is, and you will never be the same again. Everyone has a story, everyone. And all stories are unique. You will feel your universe expand as you listen to them, and you will understand what it means to lead a rich a life.

The Whisperer enjoys his life, does the things he can and tries not to dwell on things that are not beneficial. Life is beautiful. Sometimes it has very sad moments but on the whole we should try to live lives without regrets. When we get it wrong, we should try to set it right and then move on.

The Whisperer’s ideal partner is one that can laugh at herself, that understands that life is what you make it; that you must play with the cards you’re dealt in this game; someone that knows you cannot spend time raging at the sun because the hand you’ve been dealt isn’t fair. At one time or the other, we all must tell ourselves, ‘Shut up and play ball!’. As I watch the American elections unfold, I think of how many of us will never be able to expose our lives to the intense scrutiny that follows the candidates of both parties. Every action, decision since they became adults has been raised to the light, turned round and round, picked up, dropped, and picked up again for further scrutiny. In this regard you regret you were not a nerd growing up, concentrating on all things that were ‘right’. But then you think, 'who wants to be President of America and live under pressure so intense your every waking moment is scrutinized?' Ask George W. Bush what he thinks of his ratings now.

But life has many pleasures, and since all of us cannot become Presidents of America, we wish the few who can well, and we concentrate on the many other beautiful moments life has to offer and we take advantage of them. We were born to live life, not go through it with guilt complexes and burdens we should have thrown aside a long time ago. Time flies when you’re having fun; make a decision to smile hello at a complete stranger today, without any strings attached. You bless a life and everyone’s the richer for it.

Kachifo Limited, publishers of the Farafina imprint is pleased to announce that one of its writers, Nnedi Okorafor – Mbachu was on Sunday, November 2, 2008 awarded the prestigious Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. Nnedi's award winning book, Zahrah the Windseeker, was published by Farafina in July 2008. The award ceremony took place at The Ballroom - Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos and the Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, presented the award in person. The prize money which is $20,000, is administered by the Lumina Foundation.

Also present was one of the other finalists, Wale Okediran, author of The Weaving Looms. Uzodinma Iweala, the third finalist and author of Beasts of No Nation, was unavailable.

Nnedi has several short stories which have been published in anthologies and magazines. Zahrah the Windseeker is her first novel. It is a tale of adventure, friendship and courage. Nicely illustrated and beautifully told, Zahrah the Windseeker makes a good read for both adults and children.

The recommended retail price is N1000 and it is available in all major bookstores in Nigeria. It can also be purchased online at or at Kachifo Limited, 8th Floor, SIO Towers, 25 Boyle Street Onikan, Lagos.