Monday, December 14, 2009
FARAFINA TRUST EDITORS’ WORKSHOP
Farafina Trust will be holding a three day editors’ workshop in Lagos, Nigeria, from March 15th till 17th 2010. Funded by TrustAfrica, Dakar, Senegal. The workshop will be facilitated by the former Senior Editor, Jonathan Cape, Random House Group, UK, Ellah Allfrey . Ellah is now a deputy editor at Granta. And one of the judges of Caine Prize.
Titles edited by Ellah Allfrey while at Random House include, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, Gods behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, and After Daybreak by Ben Shephard. She also edited Segun Afolabi’s A Life Elsewhere, Patrick Wilmot’s Seeing Double, Biyi Bamdele’s Burma Boy and a host of others.
Participation is limited to editors currently working in publishing houses in Nigeria Kenya and Uganda, who apply and are accepted.
To apply, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Your e-mail subject should read “Editors’ Workshop Application”
The body of the e-mail should contain the following:
1. Your personal CV
2. Information on your organization and the work you do
3. A brief paragraph about what you expect from the course
All material must be pasted or written in the body of the e-mail. Please do not include any attachments in your e-mail.
Applications with attachments will be automatically disqualified.
Deadline for submission is February 8, 2010. Only those accepted to the workshop will be notified by March 1, 2010.
Okey Adichie (07034981099)
Thursday, December 03, 2009
The Girl Whisperer
as published by
The Sunday Guardian
The Whisperer is back in town after a holiday that allowed him look at the world again with fresh perspective. He did not go to a perfect place; just one in which, well, things happened differently. On my first day back in my country, I went to that place of starry-eyed internet providers with a branch office on Bode Thomas street, Surulere, to renew my subscription. I met with service so appalling from three different members of staff of the place, I knew the only reason they survived was because there is so little competition in their area of business. I had just returned to this service providers who make me pay monthly, ten times what those in the place I had just visited pay, and that other place has ten times the speed of access. I do not exaggerate. The only people who were showed courtesy as I sought to pay this exploitative sum for primordial services were the uniformed security guards and the very pregnant female who handled customer enquiries. Apparently no one else felt they needed to be polite to customers. Still, with that kind of service, the time will come when the mortal blow they have dealt their relationship with their clients will show how hard an effect it has taken. Yes, the Whisperer is still talking about relationships, even if it is between telephone companies and the paying public that sustains them.
So off I went, getting used to driving again after several weeks of clambering on trains and buses. My next stop was Victoria Island, to pay the cable company and then have my car washed at the end of the street close to Kuramo Beach. As I watched the fellow washing a 4 by 4 with one and half buckets of water and a plastic cup meant for drinking, I knew I was back in the land of drama. I was not disappointed when about four feet from me I watched a scenario so surreal, it could not have happened elsewhere apart from my land. A drunken cook, who the day before apparently “borrowed” his “master’s” mobile phone, came to drink the liquid fire they call alcohol sold at the beach, met up with a fellow he claimed to be his “brother” and then consorted with a prostitute introduced to him by this “brother”. By the time the liaison was over, the prostitute was richer not only by the money paid her, but also by the phone she had lifted off the cook. Now let me describe this cook to you- He was about five feet and three inches tall, very fair in complexion in a way that pays no compliments to very fair people, had a white t-shirt on that had a faint spattering of blood and had no shoes on. His “brother” was a fellow about six feet tall, dark as the sun in total eclipse and they called him “Osaz”. Osaz who was as drunk as a skunk as was the cook on the flammable stuff that passes for drink in that area, was screaming at his “brother”, the cook claiming he knew nothing of the missing phone. The interrogator was a quiet-looking well-dressed man; too well dressed for the area where we stood and who insisted the phone had to re-materialize. Osaz continued to express his defiance only a few feet from me, everyone else yelling as well, and from nowhere, the well-dressed man produced a pistol. Yes, that kind that perforates people if you stand in the general direction it is pointing. By this time, there were about twenty people gathered who were some of the most-evil looking people I had seen in a long while. The villains in the movies, “City of God” and the banned “District 9” had nothing on these ones. These scarred people with dead eyes watched the unfolding scenario calmly, and when the gun was produced, I noticed I was the only one who flinched amongst those gathered. All in a day’s work for these gentlemen. The fellow performing a miracle by washing my car with air instead of water didn’t even look to see what was happening though he could have touched the main actors with his sponge if he had stretched. Osaz stepped aside to save his teeth from turning to rubble when the phone-seeking gun producer tried to swipe him across the mouth with the butt of the pistol. For some reason, the main parties turned to me and began to report themselves. I tried to be calm as I listened. According to the gun man (who apparently was a sergeant in the Nigerian Police attached to the owner of the stolen phone), the owner of the phone had sent him to retrieve his stolen property that had passed into the hands of an unidentified lady-of-the-beach. The sergeant told me of the stupendous wealth of the phone owner and how he owned “almost three aeroplanes”. “Stinkingly (sic) rich”, he described him as he told me of the man’s businesses and where his offices were situated. I still cannot figure out why I was chosen to be a member of the jury in the proceedings. It might have had something to do with my cavalier-style hat but the long and short of it was that the phone was retrieved after threats, cajoling and the same gun pointed at the lady who had lightened the cook off the burden he carried.
But back to “mortal blows”. We all know of people we have loved despite all their shortcomings and limitations. There are many people we have given our hearts to, whom in truth, did not deserve the honour. Yet for reasons we have not always been able to justify, we have pressed on, loving unconditionally. Many would have asked us, “Are you just plain stupid? Can’t you see what he is doing to you? How he/she is taking advantage off you?” However, we are able to accept the person’s imperfections, which is as divine as love can get, I reckon.
We soldier on bravely, loving in spite of it all, gritting our teeth and accepting that love is not always perfect. The person we are with cannot believe his/her luck, being able to get away with sheer murder in situations other partners would have long walked away from. However, as is the case in human relations, the partner who has been able to get away with everything, forgets himself/herself and continues to push, until a mortal blow is dealt the relationship. The mortal blow is the one blow no relationship can come back from, no matter the amount of pleading by the party that has done wrong, or how hard the wronged party tries to forgive and forget. It is literally the straw that breaks the camel’s back and it is a line you cross without realising it. One day, the party that has accepted all the rubbish for so long simply cannot take anymore. You do not know how you get there, you just find yourself in that place where you know you do not have the capacity to be insulted any longer. It might take months or even years. But it will happen if one party takes the other for granted. It might be infidelity or abuse and I do not talk of physical abuse (no one should wait in that situation) but of the emotional degradations that attempt to decrease your self-worth. I write of that partner who does not give the respect that should be your right, who pushes until you have nowhere to turn and you finally look him or her in the eye and say “no more”.
I write this for those who have taken advantage of the love they have found and have abused it, imagining it will stay forever. Love will go if you do not nurture it and you will stare in astonishment when you see you have nothing where once you were Lord of everything.
We all have a tendency to forget ourselves when we find a good thing; and to think love is a right. Having another love you is a privilege and we must never forget this. For those of us who have dealt repeated blows on the relationships we have and have taken morbid delight in the resilience it has shown, a time will come when cracks and fissures will appear. And you will be unable to paint them over.
The Girl Whisperer
as published by
The Sunday Guardian
The Whisperer has had several adventures over the past few days. One of these was a plane trip to Europe that suddenly detoured and chose to fly to the Republic of Benin. No, it was not as a result of a hijack. That airline named after people who have had no intimacy with the opposite gender was my carrier and decided to fill up its fuel tanks in that neighbouring country because Nigeria was facing a fuel crisis for the umpteenth time. So the pilot announced the detour and assured us it would last for about forty-five minutes and away to Cotonou we went. Apparently the airstrip we landed in was unused to air planes of the size we were in as it took forever to fill up the tanks and then the issue of payment came up. The authorities at this “airport” refused to accept credit cards or any of the usual means of payment the airline used in regular airports. They insisted on cash, not pounds or Euros but American dollars. When the pilot and his crew magically produced the cash requested, the Beninois authorities refused it because they said the money bore those little security stamps Nigerian money lenders are so fond of putting on the notes to show genuineness. Apparently, once Nigerians touch notes, something happens to the money.
Some passenger carrying cash “lent” unmarked notes to the airline and then came the issue of the calculation of the sum demanded and its equivalent in dollars. How did I know all this? An exasperated pilot kept announcing to us all how things were going. Once in a while, he would finish with the half serious-half pun utterance -”The wheels of progress grind slowly in West Africa”. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at this.
After about four and half hours, in which we were not allowed to get off the plane, even though we were only fifteen minutes away from Lagos, and in which we were trapped in close quarters with squabbling kids and their irritable mothers, but in which thankfully the air conditioners stayed on, the plane took off from Benin, Europe-bound, at the time it should have been landing in Britain. The proximity of the passengers led to debates and name-calling among the passengers. People were torn as whom to blame- The Beninois airport authorities who had found their day in the sun and had stood for more than four hours between us and freedom? The embattled Nigerian government which could not supply aviation fuel to air planes? Or the airline that had been forced to show innovation by flying to a neighbouring country?
The time in limbo gave me time to reflect on happenings and one of these brought the title of my piece- The Privilege. The problem with this world, as I read somewhere, is not that we ask for too much but we are ready to settle for too little. The day we realise we are worthy of whatever good comes to us and that evil happenings and misfortunes are not as a result of some “karma” for something we did in another life, we'll have a flying start ahead of the rest of the pack.
You must see whomsoever you have a relationship with or intend to have one with, as someone you are bestowing a privilege on. The privilege of knowing you, of having first call on your time and emotions, of being allowed to spend time in your presence and the like. Same way you must understand it is a privilege that person is bestowing on you. How did I come about this philosophy? I received mail from a young woman who said she was interested in the theatre (some of you might know the Whisperer is a somewhat busy theatre producer as well) and I offered her a chance to see a rehearsal. I thought all was well with the world until I received one of the most annoying letters that have come my way in recent times. This female I had forgotten since our meeting, sent in an article she had written and wanted me to give an opinion on (which is as normal a request as a writer can get). The problem I had was with the addendum, in which she said she had a crush on the Whisperer which was now no more but we could be friends and she hoped there would be no hard feelings.
I answered her telling her she had been presumptuous in thinking that the fact she had a crush on the whisperer meant it would have resulted in a relationship if the crush had stayed. I thought it was amazing she had concluded that her liking me was enough to fuel a relationship if she so decided.
You do not assume because you feel like a relationship, every one else will jump in line to await your command. For those who do not see even their friendships as privileges, it is about time. If you do not place value on yourself, no one else will. Firstly, don't apologise for being intelligent, smart, good-looking, witty or any of the other pluses you might have. Do not demean yourself, or force your light to burn less bright because you are afraid you might eclipse the person you are with. What is the point of being in a relationship you are afraid to be yourself in? Let your confidence border on (but not quite be) megalomania. Be yourself, be real, and walk with your head high.
I consider my friendship a privilege, the same way I consider the friendships of those who are close to me, privileges. When you are allowed into the lives of others, you are privileged to do so. Do not sell yourself short in this regard and do not settle for less.
As the year careens towards its final month, remember you have a right to be here too and there is nothing the matter with blowing your own horn from time to time.
The Girl Whisperer
by the Sunday Guardian
The Best Things
The best things in life are free. They have always been. The best things may be found in the ability never to lose your childhood; to find pleasure, contentment and peace as you hear the first rains hit your car roof in the heaviest traffic. It is in the ability to sit on a chair placed on the balcony as the rains come down and the dust goes up, and watch with delight these scenes of people hurrying homewards that once adorned the pages of the schoolbooks read in your early years.
The best things in life will always be free. It is in the unspeakable beauty in a girl-child’s smile, in a boy’s attempt to learn to walk. It is in the things that hold you close to a person you have not seen in more than a decade but whom you know will always remain a true friend.
For the Whisperer, it is in the simple pleasures of reading a comic, of coming across these treasures in another man’s possessions. The way I came across comics in the hands of Kunle Adeyoola also known as Soul Snatcha, one-half of the singing group, The Roof Top MCs as we rehearsed for the stage performance, “The Tarzan Monologues”. If comics are not your thing, there is no shame in it. However, if you are a true comic buff, you will read them up until the day you leave the earth. It cannot be helped. If you have ever seen the movies – Superman, Batman, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, The X-Men, Constantine, Judge Dredd, Conan The Barbarian and a thousand others, you have read a comic as all these movies had their origins in them.
The best things in life are free. An old school mate saw me carrying a backpack on one shoulder, as I like to do, hurrying down a flight of steps and said, “You still carry packs like these? They are meant for children.” I stopped to look at him even though I was in a hurry and asked, “What kind of bags do adults carry?” and he replied, “Briefcases”. We all have to be careful, because a man dies on top first.
I go through life finding pleasure in many things, in meaningful conversations, in a person’s ability to laugh at himself or herself and when done without cruelty, even at others.
An indicator of the kind of partner you have may be one who does not appreciate the fact that many of life’s pleasures are simple. Sometimes, pleasure is in watching the waves break on a quiet seashore, it is in spending time in conversation with your brother or sister or cousin, and never losing the ability to tease each other.
I watched a friend walk across a street one day and called out to him, “Jammin’ Jay”. He turned at the name and waved, a delighted grin on his face. At this time, the man known as Jammin’ Jay, his nickname in university, was in “power mode”, a dark-coloured suit that was an indicator of the banking profession he was so successful in. However, there was another fellow by my side as I called out, who had been in university with us. We had not been “good friends” but knew each other enough to stop and say hello each time we met. This fellow asked me, “You still call each other nicknames? I thought all that should have been left behind in university.” I looked at him for a few brief seconds but decided he was beyond help. I also thought sadly of the children he would have and the draconian rules he would impose. C’est la vie. We called our father “Supremo” like his friends did, not always to his face but he knew we called him that. My mother up until today is called “On-board” by her schoolmates because of a hair-cut she used to have. It was unnerving the day I stumbled across a meeting of some old students of her school, Holy Child College, and was addressed as “On-board’s son”.
The best things in life will always remain free and if you have a partner who does not get this, there might be issues that you need to resolve. I am not encouraging you to start a close friendship with a fellow who considers buying food sold by roadside hawkers for you daily as doing “the best things”. If you feel like buying akara from time to time by a busy roadside because you have a craving for it, that’s fine. It should not be turned into your staple diet, however. A man should treat a woman like a lady, even if he understands the simple pleasures.
I have a Marilyn Monroe CD in which she sings, “the best things in life may be free, but diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. According to her, when he returns to his wife, the diamonds will still keep you company. I can understand the logic behind her reasoning, but the Whisperer speaks today of those who will not let you laugh and not let you be who you really are. Sometimes you should take the time out to be goofy, to be yourself. The people we remember with the most fondness and with quiet smiles when their thoughts cross our minds are those who used to make us laugh. “What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?”
It does not matter if your partner has serious intentions of becoming the Arch Bishop of Canterbury. He must know how to laugh. If he cannot, no matter how hard he tries, and you are cut from the same cloth, why, eternal happiness is yours.
If you are one, however, whose heart sings, then you must be careful in weighing if you can spend the rest of your life with Sad Sam. The Whisperer has always laughed long and hard, has a sense of the ridiculous, plays video games (that’s right, play station 3) and has no apologies for these.
In a world that often tries to tell us otherwise, let me laugh without shame. It’s my life.
The Girl Whisperer
as published by
The Sunday Guardian
The Things Men Do.
Last night, I was in a telephone conversation with a friend whose family has diligently read the Guardian in Warri where they stay, for many years. She told me she had taken two days out to read the Whisperer’s articles after she and I became acquainted. That would have been over two years worth of Sunday ‘Newspapering’ and I was suitably impressed. She had made an observation however, and that was the Whisperer had not written of seduction and love on the rebound in any of the columns. That caught my attention. I was not aware there was any part of the world of men and women I had not written on, skimmed past, or prodded in some way, in over more than two years. The issue with relationships however, is they have so many compartments and then sub-compartments which also have their own spin-offs that I could write for another fifty years and still have enough material to start all over again with.
Still, I asked her, “What do you mean by seduction?” She was stumped for a few moments there but admitted it was a very broad topic. The very idea caught the Whisperer’s interest, however. What does seduction mean? Do people who are really seductive set out to do so deliberately? Is seduction in the quick flick of the tongue across the lips when a girl sees a fellow she likes? Is it in a sashay of the hips across a deserted hallway when the subject whose attention you are trying to catch is just a few metres away?
If you believe that is what seduction is about, you know nothing of it then. The unnatural things people do in their bid to forcibly impress other parties comes across as contrived, clunking, obvious to the target and unattractive. Learn from the Whisperer as he writes of what real seduction is. It is beyond words, beyond anything you can put a definition to. It is in the things you do without a moment’s thought. It is in the intelligence of your mind when you are in conversation with someone who is as intelligent and is in desperate need of meaningful discourse. I met a female a few weeks ago who seduced me with her mind without even trying. Physically, she was drop-dead gorgeous which is a great plus in any man’s computations; the Whisperer is still a man, after all, but the power of her attraction was that she was a intelligent as she was beautiful. Asteroids fell, stars crashed into each other and the sun went into eclipse as we spoke. You must realise however that we are talking of the art of seduction, itself, and nothing more. The fact that you are seduced does not mean, necessarily, that the seducer wants a relationship with you, since some of these signals are not even deliberately transmitted. Seduction is in the charm of the fellow you just met which he appears to have worn like others pour on perfume and it comes off him in gusts. You think, “Dear Lord, if only...” It is in the eyes of the man or woman who grins at you across a crowded street because both of you have just witnessed something silly and you feel connected in a way strangers sometimes do when they recognise a kindred spirit. If you have to work at seduction, then that is no longer what it is; it has become a manoeuvre, a ploy to make yourself attractive to another.
Love on the rebound sounds like a tactic performed like a lawn-tennis player on a basketball court. No one should start a relationship with another because you are trying to fill the space someone else left in your life and your heart. Sadly, many of us do exactly this even though we know it is the recipe to unhappiness and further pain. You are at your most vulnerable when you have just come out of a fragmented relationship and there are many who will take advantage of your need for solace.
As an aside, I was told of a lady who considered some of my writings, harsh. The truth is abrasive sometimes, and the Whisperer will not, for the sake of keeping feathers unruffled, couch quinine in sugar. So there.
Another ‘aside’ was this very lovely woman I met, who asked three people, after our meeting, what they thought of me. They, without exception, called the Whisperer, a flirt on a gargantuan level. I suppose writing an article that is meant to be a personal letter to many women and describing what you have experienced and seen might make one come across as a flirt of sorts. No matter what they think, this Whisperer still has a crush on Brittany Murphy. Please let her know if you meet her before I do. These articles have also provoked an inordinate interest in my private life over the years. I am the Whisperer, a very private man, emphasis on the “very” and you may consider me an “international man of mystery”. (I’m smiling at my foolishness now as I steal the line from the movie- Austin Powers’). My private life will remain that way, private, as we all walk this journey together. I was in conversation yesterday about status updates on Face book and the site sometimes telling half the world, “so-and-so is no longer in a relationship”. I cannot fathom why anyone would want to make his or her private life the stuff of gossip fodder in a forum that can be seen around the world. These aren’t marriages, they are relationships and that is what they do sometimes, they break up. When you make your private life the equivalent of newspaper headlines, you are asking for trouble for yourself and those who matter to you.
Every Sunday this month, the Whisperer’s “Tarzan Monologues”, the world as seen through the eyes of men, will be live on stage at Terra Kulture at 3pm and 6pm. It tells of all the issues that trouble men, and those things that make them vulnerable. You may subtitle it, “the Things Men Do”.
The Girl Whisperer
by the Sunday Guardian
Tales of the Unexpected
The world has a novelist whose name has stood against the ravages of time. His name? Roald Dahl. He was a soldier, who was also involved in espionage amongst many other things in his lifetime.
As a child, the Whisperer would sit enthralled, watching the television series originally based on Dahl’s work and wonder about the heart of man. With adulthood however, one learns that it really is an odd world and tales that will leave you numb in disbelief, exist everywhere.
The first tale I would like to share is that of a pleasant young woman I first met about a decade ago outside Nigeria. At the time of our meeting, she had two kids and was living with a man who was not the father of one of her children but more than a decade before, she had left her West African country of birth on account of the war that had turned it inside out and in doing so had left the man she considered her true love behind.
This man was a bodyguard to the country’s despot (I kid you not) and had to flee when his boss’ government fell. She made it to Europe but when she next heard of him, it was that he had become a refugee in a camp somewhere in Nigeria. Now many of you probably had no idea that Nigeria had a refugee camp for many years. It was situated in Oru-Ijebu somewhere in Ogun State and had people from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda and many other war-torn places. How did I discover the camp? I was studying for a Master’s Degree in Humanitarian and Refugee Studies and my Professor, Akin Ibidapo-Obe, insisted I had to visit the camp for my research, which I did several times. That camp did not have electricity even though it officially housed thousands of people and many of the floors of the buildings were earthen, meaning people who lived in them could catch pneumonia. I knew of an old man from Liberia whose grandchild died from that illness in the camp. But away from my angst about governments that do not do what they should and back to the tale of this woman and her true love.
So she heard he was in a refugee camp in Nigeria (the Whisperer never met him) and then he disappeared only to re-surface in another refugee camp somewhere in Northern Africa. More than ten years had elapsed in which both had seemingly moved on with their lives, the man in the best way he could under harsh conditions and the female, bearing children for two other men.
But one day, she kicked out the man she lived in Europe with, boarded a plane and headed to North Africa. There in that desolate camp, she found the man she had never stopped thinking of and they got married in the embassy of the country that had given her shelter all these years. They stay together in Europe now and I would like to think they do so happily. The Whisperer has a photo of them together. Any dream can come true if you have purpose and determination.
Then there was the time a couple of years ago when the Whisperer went to the cinemas alone (he has been known to do that from time to time, sometimes the pleasure of a movie can be made dull by bad company) and what was showing was Sandra Bullock’s “The Premonition”.
When the movie started, I found myself sitting in a row just before a noisy couple. The noise came from the man, mostly, and he spoke into his phone to some unidentifiable caller as the movie ran (that is a nasty habit, using a phone in a movie/play theatre). When he finished with the phone call, he commenced talking to his friend at the top of his voice. Well, it sounded like the top of his voice seeing that his mouth was only a few inches away from the Whisperer’s scalp. I decided I was seated in the wrong place in the half-full hall and therefore climbed over the row of seats (That’s right, I didn’t use the aisles, I was that desperate to get away from them). Three rows in front and a lot further to the side, I found the peace I craved for or so I thought. But from nowhere, I felt popcorn landing on me. It was a female and her friend on the new row I had joined. In the gloom of the cinema hall, I thought she looked a bit like my female friend from University, let’s call her D.T., another movie buff, so I gratefully sidled to sit in the chair by her side. It wasn’t D.T. It was some a girl who pretended to show compassion for my earlier plight with the loud couple (half the hall had seen me flee them) but in the next few minutes, she had her hand firmly around mine in the dark hall, squeezing it from time to time as the movie went on. When Ms. Bullock appeared in front of the house of the woman her husband had been cheating with, my ‘companion’ shrieked at the screen, “Does she know her husband is skrulling her?” I hung my head in despair as she repeated that line a few times at the top of her voice. My soliciting friend meant the socially unacceptable word, “screwing” but obviously had learnt to speak English in the wrong schools.
When I unobtrusively tried to remove my hand from her claws, she growled belligerently, “Whassamarrer, where are you going?” I knew the audience in the hall that day might have felt I had lost my mind if I climbed over the seats again.
And then my saviour came in the shape of Frank Edoho, presenter of the television game-show, “Who wants to be a millionaire?” He and a male friend of his had entered the hall, late for the movie, and as they sat just a few rows away, I fled to them for safety.
The Whisperer has had more adventures than is his fair share and prays that all the unexpected tales you have will be ones with beautiful endings. May the new month be a rich one for us all.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Something is afoot in the land and Sunma knows. The danger lies seething just beneath the placid surface waiting for darkness to fall upon the land...
The Strong Breed – A Wole Soyinka masterpiece starring Jumoke Bello, Sola Roberts Iwaotan, Kenneth Uphopho, Precious Anyanwu and Kanayo Okani.
Also featuring Kemi Akindoju, Brenda Fashugba, and Renegade Theatre
Wole Soyinka's "The Strong Breed" returns to Terra Kulture every Sunday in December at 3pm and 6pm.
Tickets - N2000
Thursday, October 29, 2009
by Tyrone Terrence
Directed by Wole Oguntokun
Assistant Director - Kenneth Uphopho
What is a lie - but a misleading truth?
Are married men and women more accomplished liars than any other category of human beings?
On stage every Sunday in November 2009
starring Jumoke Bello, Kenneth Uphopho, Kemi 'lala' Akindoju and Sola Roberts Iwaotan.
Venue - Terra Kulture, Tiamiyu Savage St, Victoria Island
Tickets - N2000
Time - 3pm and 6pm
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English". In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k".
This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publikenthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter. In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away. By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".
During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi TU understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru. Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.
- Writer Unknown
STILL PARTIAL JUSTICE
by Jude Fashagba
The Nigerian Army has been in the news lately, first it was the “commuting” of the sentences of the “Akure 27”, from life to seven years imprisonment, then the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Dambazau, assuring that the Army (unlike before) would accept the verdicts of an appellate court. Pure rhetoric.
However, the announcement that the Army had retired one Lieutenant Colonel and two Majors for “culpable mistakes that led to the Akure protests” was a sign that the army may at last be trying to head in the direction of equity and justice.
Because it cannot be without reason, that the symbols for justice and the law are scales. Lady Justice, an allegorical personification of the force of right is usually depicted as a matron carrying a sword and measuring balances, and sometimes wearing a blindfold. The blindfold indicating that justice is (or should be) meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness; the scales, upon which she measures the strengths of a case's support and opposition; and a double-edged sword in her right hand, symbolizing the power of reason and justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party.
It was reasonable, therefore, that after all the hue and cry over the “Akure 27” someone at least considered that they were provoked by the action of certain senior officers. The report was careful not to say that the officers were guilty of stealing money due the soldiers.
Said their spokesperson, Brig-General Chris Olukolade, “it is important to make it categorically clear that contrary to speculations in some quarters, none of the officers in question was charged for stealing, as investigations into the subject did not in anyway suggest that anyone of them stole or attempted to steal the money meant for payment of the troops’ allowances.
Fine. Has someone therefore found out why they were not paid? Or if the patience of these soldiers were indeed, tested to the point where there were grounds for them to see or suspect that they would not be paid? Is there a history that people who went on peace-keeping missions did not receive their full due?
To dismiss the whole story, and suggest that by military law, the protest amounted to mutiny is in itself strange. And the army knows it has no monopoly of the dictionary. Neither can they ascribe new meanings to words as they deem fit. The soldiers might have disobeyed officers in the course of the protest, but if the punishment for disobeying an officer is life imprisonment, then what would be the punishment for murder? Clearly the military scales were tilted unreasonably and are not based on the foundation of equity.
So it sounded a lot better that, by their own review system, the judgment was commuted to seven years. Not that that in itself isn’t too much punishment for the offence in question, but when placed beside the compulsory retirement of the people who clearly provoked the soldiers to “mutiny”, retirement pales in comparison. The officers should be guilty of provocation, bringing the army to disrepute, criminal negligence, and causing soldiers to commit acts inimical to the interests of the army. They at least deserve the punishment of the 27, plus something else. The soldiers took to protest most likely because they could not find any reasonable path to express their grief and frustrations.
Also, it is strange that these officers were “not tried for stealing” when it was reported that evidence at the court martial showed that some of the officers involved were beneficiaries of these funds which were said to have been “wrongly posted to some other accounts”.
Why were the soldiers not compulsorily retired like the officers were? Why were their cases treated separately? And in the event of them appealing to the supreme court, would the soldiers not be right to request that the court declare the case of the officers a mistrial and that both cases be sent to a competent court of justice acting under military law?
The feeling that soldiers rioted, or protested leaves a bad taste in the mouth, but soldiers stealing? Moreover, I find it strange that the army did not see this as an opportunity to present the new face it is trying to sell to us as an equitable and law abiding organization to the public. The US army uses the payoff “be all you can be…learn to get the best out of life”. Can any reasonably thinking young man or woman join our army with such expectations? And if they do so mistakenly, do actions like these not portray the idea that the requirement for justice has been skewed ab initio against them? Are we as a people, and indeed our institutions at war with ourselves? Is the law made to protect, or to destroy us?
If the accounts department or whatever group was responsible for this cannot properly account for a million dollars or thereabouts, what does that say about the quality of governance (and accountability) we received in almost thirty years of military rule? These were senior officers. In a military regime, they could have been state governors.
They have to hide under the guise of military law. Knowing that no fair system will permit them to get away with such grave injustice. Justice should not just be done, but must be seen to have been done.
I will also dare to say that the whole court martial will prove to be an exercise in futility should the supreme court order a retrial or further commute the sentences. As a forward looking people, we should be in the forefront of eradicating a justice system which has untrained judges. As best the system, when compared to our justice system is an administrative panel. Why such a panel will have powers as to sentence people to death and life imprisonment is something that must be considered and curtailed. They should not have any powers more than to recommend to a competent court, a course of action.
I doubt however, if for the many young men who join the army, it is not just another job. If the motivation was not just a way, to stay away from unemployment. To be forced to join the army for lack of employment is bad enough, to find out that you joined an army where cheating is legal is killing. To get life imprisonment for a loud complaint against cheating cannot be fair.
Justice has not been done, that is why only the army lords can think it has been. The rest of us cannot possibly think so.
What happened to the military people who superintended over a “stolen” ship? Are they serving life? Has this case ridiculed the military more than that one? Have there not been people implicated in coups who got ten or fifteen years? Was this equal to or worse than a coup?
And some people have the guts to describe seven years imprisonment as punishment for people who complained (in whatever manner) that they were cheated (which was later proven to be true that they indeed were), as leniency? What then is the definition of wickedness?
The army in a democratic setting must first and foremost be a just army, and its laws can only be based on the fundamental liberties the constitution gives. Those are the bare minimum. The military would also need to revisit a lot of cases if indeed according to the COAS, the army itself has been acting in direct disregard to proper laws. Impunity will only be curtailed when people know that they can be tried and punished for offences in retrospect.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The Tarzan Monologues
See the world (Sex, Religion, Politics, Erectile Dysfunction, Sterility, Finances, Infidelity etc) through the eyes of men -
Starring Bimbo Manuel, Frank Edoho, O.C. Ukeje, Kunle Adeyoola, Paul Alumona, Precious Anyanwu and Kanayo Okani.
Every Sunday in October at Terra Kulture.
3pm and 6pm.
Written and Directed by Wole Oguntokun. Tarzan Monologues
The Girl Whisperer
as published in the Sunday Guardian
of September 20
The Promised Land
For many of us since the earliest days of childhood, we have dreamed of a place in our lives that we know simply as the Promised Land. We have told ourselves that if we can only attain this state of bliss, some might call it Utopia and others, El Dorado, all our troubles are over.
As children, this Whisperer inclusive, the dream was finding the fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It did not matter much to us that the pot of gold was reputed to have been placed there by leprechauns or equally unappealing folk. The driving force was that if we could just reach the gold, all our troubles would be over. As a child, I would pick up the shattered remains of car wind-shields and imagine the crystal pieces as handfuls of diamonds. Yes, I had a very vivid imagination as most children had, really no different from the alchemist trying to turn stones into gold.
Age does not always bring wisdom, and as we grow older, we exchange the wild dreams of finding ten billion American dollars lying on the street waiting for us, for the more adult ones like a young girl finding instant happiness in the hands of a fellow she just met at a social function or in church. It is important that the Whisperer is not misquoted here- you may find your dream partner at a social function or in church; a night-club might be a bit more difficult to find eternal happiness in, but it is not impossible. Stranger things have been known to happen. That fellow with glazed eyes and shaky feet you collided with while he stood trying to maintain his balance by the music speakers, and as you tried to find your way down the dimly lit hallway on the way back from the night club’s bathroom, after throwing up the mix of drinks you had placed on an empty stomach, might be your knight in shining armour. Yeah, right.
So back to the night club or church or bus or public library (we do not have too many of the latter here anymore) and the accidental collision with the person who might take you to the Promised Land. You look into his eyes and you know this is the person you have been waiting all your life for. We all know that feeling, don’t we? That moment of absolute certainty as you round the corner and run into this other person; that moment of déjà vu when the whole world stands absolutely still, and you are the only ones moving in “slow motion” as you both fall to your knees, trying to help each other pick up the books scattered everywhere (assuming it is a library) or a plate of food assuming it is a social gathering. Your eyes are locked on each other’s as your hands scrabble for the dropped items. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?
That moment also is one of the greatest delusions on the face of the earth. You may round a corner and find a stranger absolutely attractive, stunning or mind-blowing or any combination of all three; and the security detail might have a hard time trying to persuade you not to follow this person home. (Brittany Murphy and Nicole Kidman would probably have that effect on me) but you need intensive therapy if you think that is how long-lasting (and healthy) relationships are built.
You do not build the foundation of relationships on the illusion that your hand tingled when you shook hands, that there was just something in the eye of this person you met, or that your heart knew you had found eternal happiness when you hugged. Relationships are built at the warfront, in terrible weather, through sludge and slit and rain and snow. You hold on to it like a soldier-in-training holds on to his or her gun as the elements batter you, and believe the Whisperer when he says the elements will batter you. You take the good times, when the sun is shining and all the music you hear tells you of the beauty of what you have, and you take the rough as well when your partner appears to be an alien from another planet.
When the Whisperer talks of the elements battering you, he is not talking of a physically abusive partner. If you are the victim of physical battering, cut and run while you can still move (and if you are so inclined, give his address to the Whisperer, and I’ll sort him out for you). There will be pain in every relationship though, no matter what they tell you. Every relationship will have a flip-side as you try to communicate and level out your differences. There have to be speed bumps as you race on to El Dorado.
Remember that if two people agree all the time, it means only one is doing the thinking. People with different backgrounds and personalities will sometimes have divergent opinions and these will cause friction. It is a mature relationship that purposes it is on to something good and will hold on no matter what comes.
The Promised Land is a long trek, across deserts, through never-before-navigated forests, waterless places and some of the most unforgiving terrain this world ever saw. It is a place filled with pain and extreme joy. And it does not happen in a flash, like gold left behind by some leprechaun with amnesia.
Every strong relationship has probably gone through some kind of fire that burnt off most of its impurities and there is no human combination that does not have its frustrations and short-comings. Along the way, people make their minds up that this is who they want to be with and also purpose to work hard at making the partnership succeed. Those who have failed at relationships are not lesser people, sometimes some combinations just do not work.
It is possible that when I finally meet Brittany Murphy, I shall discover a beautiful face does not necessarily guaranty a wonderful, warm person. Maybe. In the interim, it would be wise if you remembered that as well.
The Girl Whisperer
as published in the Sunday Guardian
of September 13
The Departure Hall
For the past half-hour or so, I have lain on my back and watched the day break through the windows. I have also placed Ibiyemi’s new single, “Don’t Leave Me” on repeat. Her rich, strong voice sings with all the pain of a girl who, in spite of the misgivings she had from the start about the fellow who came cruising into her life, starts a relationship with him. A relationship which appears enjoyable for a while, before hitting turbulence. She plaintively begs him not to leave her standing all alone. “Don’t go” she sings to this fellow who’s had enough. “Till the end of time, I will love you, don’t do this to me.”
At some point in our lives, and hopefully while we are still quite young, we all will stand in a departure lounge and be left behind, knowing as our partner walks away, he or she is never going to return to you. This is where the really young or those that are in denial are going to say “it’s never going to happen to me”. There’s very little chance of you running through an open field like the young Mayan in Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” and think you are going to dodge all the spears and javelins thrown at your bare back. One’s going to nick you, draw blood, cause you pain; the prayer would be for it not to impale and incapacitate you permanently.
What is it about relationships and a planet that has five billion people that makes us think the departure of a single person will bring our world crashing down? What is it that makes us sing like ‘Ibiyemi’, “When you walk out through the door, you’ll mess up my life...I won’t let this go”?
Why can’t we just shrug and say “there are many fishes (sic) in the ocean” or whatever other mundane cliché would be appropriate? It is obvious that the synchronization of one’s life with that of another human, creates something, an entity, a corporation, an existing structure, that to pull down would tear the soul apart (or at least cause that kind of pain). Instead of the business structure that requires hard-headed common sense, what you have is a structure built from love (or some similar substance) and two members of the board that are guided by their hearts.
The best way to prepare for pain, some would say, is to have it at the back of your mind that anything can happen to a combination of two people. However, if one enters a relationship with the mind-set that it is certain there will be a rainy day, isn’t the potential for immense pleasure and joy taken away from the relationship from the very beginning?
Should we, because we are afraid of heart-break, not take risks? Now if the ‘risk’ becomes one that shoots us in the face, do we walk away from it or like Ibiyemi, sing the words, “Don’t Leave Me”? Years ago, the yet-to-be Whisperer received a letter. In it, the girl he felt he had found happiness with wrote, “I love you with all my heart but you can’t give me what I want”. Somewhere along the line and before the letter came in, I had come to my senses and prepared myself for such a day as that, still it did little to temper the pain. However, the preparation made it certain that I did not plead with her to stay. Years later, as she and I laughed over it, (well, I did the laughing, she was too busy being pained by how far I’d come), I realized that sometimes it is best not to hold on to someone who is insistent on leaving or a “love corporation” that has fallen apart. If a member of the board is bent on dissolving the company and there is a stale-mate, better to yield to the person who can no longer see the vision or you will go bankrupt.
The best revenge is living well, and if like the Whisperer, you are like wine, getting better with age, the last laugh should be yours. How many of us have come across people who “dumped” us and have thought with an inward sigh of satisfaction and the words of Sunny Nneji’s song in our heads “I’m the little bird that couldn’t fly, now see me high up in the sky”. I apologise, but yes, I have had the opportunity to sing those lines in my head after a separation in the departure lounge.
People will leave you because they do not see your potential (you should let those go, they are likely to become impediments to your development) or because they think “you do not have what they need” (whatever that might be). One of my favourite people, J, was left behind at the departure lounge by some chap after she had gone ahead to start a relationship with him despite serious opposition from her friends (and they were a tight lot). He left her for someone he considered more glamorous but she, in turn, found happiness and incredible advancement elsewhere. In retrospect, it was a good thing he got out of her life; he would have cramped her style.
The well-worn saying is true in this case, “if you love something set it free. If it comes back it is yours, if it does not, it never was.” There are many reasons why we so strongly hold on to those who are in turn, desperate to get out of our lives- We wonder where we will start again, from; how we can find the strength to wake up the next morning; how we will ever be able to make the pain go away. The Whisperer thinks we should let those who want to leave, leave. “A person convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” We must find the strength to say goodbye, to get on with our lives and above all, to continue to add value to ourselves. It is the loss of anyone who insists on walking away. Life is too beautiful to spend it in misery because of someone who does not want you. Tell the person, “get up and get out” and make your life continue the way it should, positively.
This Whisperer likes Ibiyemi’s song for many reasons apart from its superb melody. One of these is that the lines made him think, and there are parts of it that remind him of the all-time heart-break song, Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on by”. In affairs of the heart, well, you must follow your heart but remember, don’t let another human’s actions or omissions be what give the meaning to your life.
The Girl Whisperer
published in the Sunday Guardian
of September 6, 2009
I receive mail all the time from people around the country who read this column, people who have been touched in diverse ways by the things I write, and mostly in a positive manner, I would like to think. There are people with very serious situations out there and in some way, this Whisperer who has never laid claim to perfection or being anywhere near it has been of help at times. However, just a few days ago, an e-mail arrived in response to the Whisperer’s article titled “The Ugly Truth” from a lady I’ll call C.N. I found the mail quite inspiring and I thought I should share it. She wrote: “For all the subtle truths. Thank you. For all the whispered lessons. Thank you. For all the 'in your face' daring advice. Thank you. Thank you for being my true friend (even if you didn’t know me...)
You've been there for me(through the back page of ‘Life’ every week.) in good and bad times, in times of discontent and almost hopeless despair. I appreciate the fact that you know you are not perfect but you 'try'. And so I pray that you never lack for someone to share a smile with. That you never lack a true friend especially when you need one and that you will find fulfilment in the things you do.”
All the “Thank you(s) were written in capital letters and the Whisperer spent a while reading and re-reading the words. For some reason that I cannot find words for, the mail came across as a very profound one and I thank C.N. whom I have never met before, wherever she may be at this moment, and whatever she might be doing, for taking the time out to let me know the impact of my words on her. The Whisperer considers it a privilege that others allow his words into their lives and he’ll be treasuring that mail for a long while.
Many have asked, “Who is this Whisperer that talks with such boldness” and sometimes like C.N. wrote, states “in your face daring advice?” This then is the Whisperer’s autobiography as he chooses to reveal it.
The Whisperer has been there, done that and gone round the block several times. He talks from experience and scenarios he imagines (being a playwright is a great help in such matters). He has been cruel to women in times past (Is there any man who hasn’t?) as they have been cruel to him. He has learnt that life is not about cruelty, and happiness in a relationship is not just a distant and unattainable mirage as some might like us to think.
The Whisperer tells his truths as he knows them. He knows if you enter a relationship and make your life an open book; fools will write their autobiography in it. The truth is simple. You must guard your heart and be very fussy about whom you allow to leave an imprint. When you finally get to write that autobiography of yours, there are some people that should not be blips on your radar. They should not be able to say with a smirk that “I caused her pain” or “I was the subject of that amount of distress”.
I have known females who have not expected to hear me say anything that might put that gender in a bad light. In a singular case, one female I had made acquaintance with, said I hated women on account of these writings. That came from reading a column which apparently struck home in her case, but if I was giving examples of females to emulate, she would be at the bottom of the rung. The aim is to tell all parties the truth, and even if he leans in favour of the “Girls”, he will still tell it like it is. The Whisperer has always been thankful for the opportunity given to tell others of his experiences and his thoughts.
The Whisperer has never claimed his words to be a Bible or the Talmud. His word is not law, it is advice and as in all things, you must weigh the things you hear and balance it with the reality of your life. There is such a thing as commonsense however, and you do yourself a disservice when you do not do things that are sensible.
There are many people who write me privately with issues that you can tell they should know the answer immediately to. You start a letter with “He and I were together and now he is with someone else but I still love him”- You’re asking for trouble. The aim of whispering is not to rubber-stamp situations you should not get yourself entangled in. Why cause yourself further pain? If a partner falls out of love with you, walk away from this person. Don’t grovel, don’t beg. If he changes his mind out of pity, remember that “a person convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”.
Isn’t the truth obvious in these cases? Dump the sucker and get on with your life. Life is what we make it, usually. You shouldn’t be afraid to live your life as you see it. There are many things that militate against us making decisions for ourselves- They are family, friends, loved ones, religion... the list is endless. However, if you sit and consider that the life you have to live is yours alone and that no one signed the lease for your life alongside you, you’ll grow up quickly and become an adult. There is a reason the voting age is eighteen. If your society believes you are old enough to choose who will lead your government at that age, why does it consider you brain-dead in your twenties, thirties, forties and even older when it comes to relationships? Like the song in that eternal movie, ‘The sound of music’ goes, “Your heart, little girl, is an empty page that men will want to write on”. Hold the hand of the writer before he starts to scribble, stare deep into his eyes and if you have any doubts or you meet shifty eyes, twist that thumb till the pen drops from his slack fingers.
It’s an autobiography, baby, write the chapters yourself.
Theatre@Terra presents "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" written by Athol Fugard and directed by Wole Oguntokun every Sunday in September featuring the world's first-ever female 'Sizwe' - Kemi "lala" Akindoju, Paul Alumona as "Styles" and Precious Anyanwu as "Buntu"
Every Sunday in September at 3pm and 6pm.
Monday, August 03, 2009
The Girl Whisperer
as published by the Sunday Guardian
of 2nd August 2009
The Whisperer is in the city of London as he writes this. A city meant to be in the middle of summer but still feeling very cold to a body that has been warmed over several decades by the African sun. He sits quietly, looking out of glass-plated windows at blood-red buses carrying people to varying destinations, people meditating on their own thoughts and he remembers some of the lessons life has taught him.
One of these is that the best revenge you can ever mete out is the revenge of living well. For everyone who has ever abandoned you in a relationship, who has ever looked at you and told you, you would never make the cut, that you would never be a success; it is your determination to prove them wrong that should be your driving ambition. It should not be you praying night after night that they stand under a crumbling skyscraper, that a speeding car runs them over or that they accidentally swallow ground glass. The best payback is the one that improves you so much that both the doubter and the rest of the world are awe-struck when they finally see you come up for air.
Another lesson goes hand in hand with this. You must always remember no one is compelled to believe in you or your dreams and aspirations. There is no one who owes you that obligation, not your mother or brother or best friend. The primary believer must be you. If you do not believe in yourself, no else can, no matter how much they pay lip service to your cause. “There will be miracles if you believe”. The power of consistency and single-minded pursuit of a cause can never be over-stated. Take the Whisperer’s word for it as he once took the word of Professor Adeoye Lambo, the renowned psychiatrist, in a quiet conversation at a dinner table years ago. Lambo said, “A cutlass has only one sharp side”. Keep cutting.
You will also learn that success has many parents but failure is forever an orphan. There are many who lay claim to having lent a hand to the supposed, perceived success of the Whisperer but this man can count and he knows those who truly believed. Guard your heart, guard your strength, and keep true friends. Nwabundo Onyeabo, I’m never letting you go.
The Whisperer has learnt that not all that is gold glitters. In searching for potential in prospective partners, the flashy are not always the best options. Often we do not look below the surface, as we are swept away by the glamour, the glitz, the trappings and the tinsel, but there are deeper things and those are the things that will last when the surface trimmings are gone. And believe the Whisperer when he says the surface trimmings will go, some sooner than later.
A lesson that must never be forgotten is that patience is a virtue and it will serve you when other things have failed. Often however, we are not prepared to wait. In a world of instant gratification, we expect results at the click of a button. One day, your ship will berth in the harbour, carrying all (or who) you want if only you can resist the urge to be hasty. I have seen things I longed for; fall in place many years after, even though not at the time I desperately sought it, and I have chosen to believe that the eventual timing is the right one. Beware of desperate steps; the darkest night lived will turn to day.
The Whisperer has learnt not to believe in stereotypes; for angels come in many forms and not all of them are pretty but they are angels all the same. The most-sound advice he ever got in academics came from a classmate on a dusty classroom corridor when he was thirteen; and help has come from unlikely sources like “area-boys” when he was stranded and at their mercy. Do not judge a book by its cover or a potential suitor by pedigree or family history. Open the book to read and then if it does not catch your attention, throw it away. Note that I did not say to take the book home when you can steal a quick glance through its pages by a busy roadside. The world is full of surprises and the book’s contents might surprise you. Everyone has a story.
I have learnt that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, that for some reason, many humans are wired to believe what lies unattainable just across the iron-gate is much better than what they have in their possession. We long for the good-looking person who goes past the door every morning, thinking of how life would be a much better place if only that beautiful person existed in it. The only fault with our calculations is that we underestimate the baggage other people carry. There are a number of variables in every relationship; the mind-set of the people involved, their personal quirks… Sometimes we do not realise we are in possession of the real deal, that we hold gold in our hands as we strive for “fools gold” in other places, material that bears a semblance to the real thing but is of much less value.
I have learnt that happiness and laughter know no colour or language barriers, that you can find happiness in the company of those who are young at heart and contentment with those who are truly content. I have learnt that truly peaceful people are priceless and a person who is like “still waters” can be calming to the soul. I have learnt that a person dies on top first and the day you lose your childhood is the day you lose everything.
I have learnt you must be able to speak the language of children and have the strength to look Presidents in the face.
I have learnt you must love yourself first before you can truly love others and though others might have the ability to make you happy, there is no one who can give you joy. It is your duty to find that wellspring inside yourself.
The Girl Whisperer
as published by the Sunday Guardian
of July 26, 2009
If I were a boy
I first came across the poignant Beyonce Knowles song, “If I were a boy” one day as I sat surfing cable television channels. A good looking woman, Beyonce herself, was playing the part of a police officer who did her work well but spent time with the other officers doing what men generally do after hours; drinking, clubbing, and just “kicking it” as men have an inclination to. All this while, she had a doting boyfriend/partner at home who would watch the clock and wait for her to come home. It was a reversal of roles and gave me a lot of food for thought as the singer must have intended. Then only a few days ago, I sat talking with the Alli-Hakeem sisters, Toyin and Anike and one of them said, “If I were a boy”, and she elaborated on the things she would do and get away with, expressing pain that runs deep in women, pain inflicted by the things men do and never have to answer for.
In some ways, men are like the officers’ corps, policemen if you wish, who stand up for each other, whose ranks are closed and who will never testify against a “brother-officer” even at their own detriment. It is a rare man who tells a woman, “I saw your man with so-and-so”, or “I saw him at so-and so”. For some reason, the “esprit de corps” code among men also conjures a code of silence. Many men take relationships for granted the way the generality of women could never. Beyonce sang, “If I were a boy even just for a day, I’d roll out of bed in the morning, and throw on what I wanted and go drink beer with the guys”. As an aside, that might be the singular advantage men have over women, the ability to wear clothes without thinking if the colours suit our eyes, or whether our eye-shadow is the wrong shade of blue or whether our arms are growing bigger and we cannot get away with wearing sleeveless tops anymore. But back to our song and Beyonce. “If I were a boy, I would turn off my phone; tell everyone it’s broken so they would think I was sleeping alone.” At this point, many of the men reading should take deep breaths and think of the variations of this lie they have told. Some will say, “But the women do it too”. The Whisperer agrees but submits that this is a fallacious argument. According to philosophers,“And you too” does not work very well when you are the one accused of wrong-doing. Today, the Whisperer looks only at the men and the way they take their women for granted.
We turn off our phones and claim there is no network in a world that permits us to do whatever we want to do as long as it is not “hurting anyone else”. When the men sit to reflect, they must remember that the breaking of a human heart is probably more painful than a physical accident.
“I’d put myself first and make the rules as I go, because I know she’d be faithful, waiting for me to come home”. The Whisperer is not only in this procession of those who make the rules as they go; he is also carrying a banner. This is said without pride and shame-facedly. Men often make up the rules of engagement as they move along, much like the way children create new rules to suit themselves in games they have not mastered fully. What applied in a previous relationship will not apply in a new one. A rule set for the female partner, will not be applicable to the male. We can take long sultry looks at other females as we drive along but a glance from our woman that lasts for more than one second on a passing male is tantamount to fornication. She has sinned in her heart. The man is confident always that the woman at home is exactly where he wants her to be. She will not be going anywhere and no matter how long the pursuit took, she has been conquered and he can look to newer horizons. But do not forget that it is a strange world we live in where there are never any guaranteed fairy-tale endings and it is possible that like in the words of Mr. Ray Parker, “by the time poor Jack returned up the hill, somebody else had been loving Jill.”
Music is the closest thing we have to a time machine, able to teleport you to exact places and times when you first heard the song. With songs, the situation is created again, the same players, the entire scenario. I can never hear the Oleta Adams song, “Get here if you can” without feeling pain and Gabrielle’s “Dreams” does the same thing for me.
Madonna’s haunting “La Isla Bonita” is a victory song for this Whisperer, one that always reminds me of a day I took a major step in the right direction, and All 4 One’s ”I swear” will remind me of my father till my dying days. The reason is simple. I heard him singing the song in accompaniment one day as it played on the radio and I was brought into reality forcibly, that my father was a man first, before being a father.
The talented Ms. Knowles sang, “You don’t care how it hurts until you lose the one you wanted because you’re taking her for granted” and I agree. And the Whisperer gives advice to all men wherever they might be, and in whatever generation they might come from, even if they find this article seventy-five years from now in some dusty archive and they sit to read from yellowing, brittle pages. As they ponder on how love must have been in generations gone by as they go about their business in a world that may bear no resemblance to this one that we know; all men should remember one thing, times and seasons may change but men and women will always be. There are many pluses in being a man but it is not a sign of manliness to drag a woman in the mud behind you.
“If I were a boy...” Walk a mile in your woman’s shoes.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
A Nation's Identity Crisis
By Reuben Abati
You may not have noticed it: Nigeria is suffering from an identity crisis imposed on it in part by an emergent generation of irreverent and creative young Nigerians who are revising old norms and patterns. And for me nothing demonstrates this more frontally than the gradual change of the name of the country.
When Flora Shaw, Lord Lugard's consort came up with the name, Nigeria in 1914, she meant to define the new country by the strategic importance of the Niger River. And indeed, River Niger used to be as important to this country as the Nile was/is to Egypt. We grew up as school children imagining stories about how Lugard in one special romantic moment, asked his mistress to have the honour of naming a new country in Africa. Something like: "Hello, sweetheart, what name would you rather give the new country that I am creating?"
"Let me give it a thought? ....Awright, how about Ni-ge-ria darling?"
"That would do. That would do. How thoughtful, my fair lady? You are forever so dependable"
And the name stuck and it has become our history and identity. But these days, the name Nigeria is gradually being replaced by so many variants, that I am afraid a new set of Nigerians may in the immediate future not even know the correct spelling of the name of their country. For these Nigerians whose lives revolve mostly around the internet and the blogosphere, the name Nigeria has been thrown out of the window. Our dear country is now "naija" or "nija". What happened to the "-eria" that Ms Shaw must have thoughtfully included? The new referents for Nigeria are now creeping into writings, conversations, and internet discourse. I am beaten flat by the increasing re-writing of the country's name not only as naija or nija, but consider this: "9ja". Or this other name for Nigeria: "gidi". There is even a television programme that is titled "Nigerzie". In addiiton, Etisalat, a telecom company has since adopted a marketing platform that is titled: "0809ja." Such mainstreaming of these new labels is alarming.
This obviously is the age of abbreviations. The emerging young generation lacks the discipline or the patience to write complete sentences or think through a subject to its logical end. It is a generation in a hurry, it feels the constraints of space so much, it has to reduce everything to manageable, cryptic forms. This is what the e-mail and text message culture has done to the popular consciousness. Older generations of Nigerians brought up on a culture of correctness and compeleteness may never get used to the re-writing of Nigeria as "9ja". Language is mutatory, but referring to the motherland or the fatherland in slang terms may point to a certain meaninglessness or alienation.
What's in a name? In Africa, names are utilitarian constructs not merely labels. Even among the Ijaw where people bear such unique names as University, Conference, FEDECO, Manager, Heineken, Education, Polo, Boyloaf, Bread, College, Summit, Aeroplane, Bicycle, Internet - there is a much deeper sense to the names. But the name Nigeria means nothing to many young Nigerians. They have no reason to respect the sanctity of the name. They don't know Flora Shaw or Lord Lugard, and even if they do, they are likely to say as Ogaga Ifowodo does in an unforgettable poem: "God Punish you, Lord Lugard." Eedris Abdulakarim summarises the concern of young Nigerians in one of his songs when he declared: "Nigeria jagajaga, everything scata, scata"
The post-modernist, deconstructive temper of emergent youth culture is even more manifest in the cynical stripping to the bones character of today's Nigerian hip-hop. It is marked by a Grunge character that shouts: non-meaning and alienation. On my way to Rutam House the other day, I listened at mid-day to a continuous stream of old musical numbers from 93.7 Radio FM. Soulful, meaningful tunes of Felix Lebarty, Chris Okotie (as he then was), Mandy Ojugbana, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Onyeka Onwenu, Sony Okosun, Alex O, Ras Kimono, Majek Fashek, Evi Edna-Ogoli, Bongos Ikwue, Veno Marioghae, Uche Ibeto, Dora Ifudu, Mike Okri, Dizzy K. Falola, and Tina Onwudiwe. Onyeka Onwenu sang; "One love, keep us together". Veno Marioghae sang: "Nigeria Go Survive". Even in the romantic offerings like Chris Okotie's "I need someone, give me your love", or Felix Lebarty's "Ifeoma, Ifeoma, I want to marry you, give me your love" and Stella Monye's "Oko mi ye, duro ti mi o", or Tina Onwudiwe's award-winning "Asiko lo laye". there was so much meaning and polish.
This was in the 80s. That generation which sang music under its real names, not abbreviations or slangs, was continuing, after the fashion of T.S. Eliot's description of "Tradition and the Individual Talent", a pattern of meaning that dates back to traditional African musicians and all the musicians that succeeded them: S. B. Bakare, Victor Olaiya, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Dan Maraya of Jos, Osita Osadebey, Ayinla Omowura, Victor Uwaifo, Geraldo Pino, Rex Lawson, I. K. Dairo, Haruna Ishola, Yusuf Olatunji, Inyang Henshaw, Tunji Oyelana, Bobby Benson, Tunde Nightingale, and even the later ones: Shina Peters, Dele Abiodun, Y.K. Ajao, Ayinde Barrister, Kollington Ayinla, Batile Alake, Sir Warrior, Moroccco Nwa Maduko, Orlando Owoh, Salawa Abeni, KWAM I (Arabambi 1 and please include his disciples- Wasiu Alabi Pasuma et al), Oliver de Coque (Importer and Exporter...), Ayefele, Atorise .... But there has been a terrible crisis in the construction of music. The children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of these ancestors have changed the face and identity of Nigerian music. As a rule, gospel musicians, given the nature of their form, sing meaningful lyrics, but the airwaves these days have been taken over by the children of "gidi","naija", "nija", "nigerzie" and "9ja". I listen to them too, but everyday, I struggle to make meaning out of their lyrics.
Music is about sense, sound, shape and skills. But there is an on-going deficit in all other aspects except sound. So much sound is being produced in Nigeria, but there is very little sense, shape and skills. They call it hip-hop. They try to imitate Western hip pop stars. They even dress like them. The boys don't wear trousers on their waists: the new thing is called "sagging", somewhere below the waist it looks as if the trouser is about to fall off. The women are struggling to expose strategic flesh as Janet Jackson once did. The boys and the girls are cloaked in outlandish jewellery and their prime heroes are Ja-Rule, Lil'Wayne, Fat Joe, P. Diddy, 50 Cents, Ronz Brown, Chris Brown, Sean Kingston, Nas, Juelz Santana, Akon, Young Jeezy, Mike Jones, T-Pain, F.L.O-RIDA, Will.I.am, Beyonce, Rihanna, Ciara, Keri Hilson, Jay-Z, Ace hood, Rick Ross, Birdman, Busta Rhymes, Cassidy, Chamillionaire, Soulja Boy, Young Joc, Kanye West, R. Kelly, Kevin Rudolph, T.I.P-king of the South, Ludacris, Plies-The real goon, The Game, Young Rox, Flow killa, Osmosis (2 sick), Flow-ssik, Raprince, Bionic, Fabulous, Jadakiss, Nas, Swiss Beatz, Dj Khaled, Maze, Yung Buck, Maino, MoBB Deep, Lloyd Banks, Olivia, Lady Gaga... Well, God Almighty, we are in your hands.
And so the most impactful musicians in Nigeria today, the ones who rule the party include the following: D'Banj, MI, Mode Nine, Sauce kid, Naeto C, Sasha, Ikechukwu, 9ice, Bouqui, Mo'cheddah, Teeto, P-square, Don-jazzy, Wande Coal, 2-face, Faze, Black Face, Dr. Sid, D'prince, K-Switch, Timaya, Dj-Zeez, Dj Neptune, Banky w., Big bamo, Art quake, Bigiano, Durella, Eldee, Kelly Hansome, Lord of Ajasa, M.P., Terry tha rapman, Weird MC, Y.Q., Da grin, kel, Roof-top Mcs, Pype, Niga Raw, Ghetto p., Kaka, Kaha, Terry G, Ill Bliss, Zulezoo, Pipe, Dj Jimmy jatt, X-project, Konga, Gino, Morachi... Well, the Lord is God. These are Nigerian children who were given proper names by their parents. Ikechukwu bears his real name. But who are these other ones who have since abandoned their proper names? For example, 9ice's real name is Abolore Akande, (what a fine name!), Tu face (Innocent Idibia), Sauce Kid (Babalola Falemi), D'Banj (Dapo Oyebanjo), Banky w. (Bankole Willington), P-Square (Peter and Paul), MI (Jude Abaga), Timaya (Enetimi Alfred Odom), Sasha (Yetunde Alabi), Weird MC (Adesola Idowu). But why such strange names? They don't sing. They rap. Most of them don't play instruments, they use synthetic piano.
At public functions, they mime. They are not artists, they perform. They are not necessarily composers, they dance. The more terrible ones can't even sing a correct musical note. They talk. And they are all businessmen and women. They are more interested in commerce and self-advertisement, name recognition, brand extension and memory recall! They want a name that sells, not some culturally conditioned name that is tied down to culture and geography. But the strange thing is that they are so successful. Nollywood has projected Nigeria, the next big revelations are in hip hop.
Despite the identity crisis and the moral turpitude that we find in Nigeria's contemporary hip-hop, the truth is that it is a brand of music that sells. Nigeria's hip hop is bringing the country so much international recognition. All those strange names are household names across the African continent, so real is this that the phrase "collabo" is now part of the vocabulary of the new art. It speaks to an extension of frontiers. In Nigeria, it is now possible to hold a party without playing a single foreign musical track, the great grand children of Nigerian music are belting out purely danceable sounds which excites the young at heart. But the output belongs majorly to the age of meaningless and prurience. The lyrics says it all.
Rooftop MC sings for example: "Ori mi wu o, e lagi mo". This is a very popular song. But all it says is: "my head is swollen, please hit it with a log of wood." X-Project sings: "Lori le o di gonbe (2x), e so fun sisi ologe ko ya faya gbe, ko ya faya gbe, file, gbabe, se be, bobo o ti e le, wo bo nse fe sa hale hale niwaju omoge, ha, lori le odi gonbe, .....sisi ologe ki lo di saya o, so fun mi ki lofe, o wa on fire o...." Now, what does this mean in real terms? But let's go to Naeto C: "kini big deal, kini big deal, sebi sebi we're on fire", or D'Banj: " my sweet potato, I wanna make you wife, I wanna make you my wife o, see I no understand o, cause I dey see well well, but dey say love is blind, see I never thought I will find someone like you that will capture my heart and there will be nothing I can do....". Yes, we are in the age of sweet potato. And so Art quake sings: "E be like fire dey burn my body, e je ki n fera, oru lo n mu mi. Open your hand like say you wan fly away. Ju pa, ju se, ka jo ma sere, alanta, alanta."
And here is Zulezoo, another popular Nigerian musical team: "Daddy o, daddy, daddy wen you go for journey, somebody enter for mummy's house, person sit down for mummy bed, person push mummy, mummy push person, mummy fall for bed yakata, daddy, o daddy, the man jus dey do kerewa kerewa...kerewa ke" And Dj-Zeez: "ori e o 4 ka sibe, ori e o 4 ka sibe, 4 ka sibe, 4 ka sibe". And MI: "Anoti, anoti, anoti ti, anoti titi." And Konga: "Baby konga so konga, di konga, ileke konga, ju pa pa, ju pa, konga, ju pa pa, ju pa, sibe".. And 9ice: "gongo a so, kutupu a wu, eni a de ee, aji se bi oyo laari; oyo o se bi baba enikan, kan, i be double now, aye n lo, a mi to o, gongo a so, oti so o, e wo le e wo enu oko..." Or Tony Tetuila: "U don hit my car, oyinbo repete, u don hit my car o". Or Weird MC: "Sola lo ni jo, lyrics lori gangan, awa lo ni jo". Sheer drivel. So much sound, little sense. Is this the future? Maybe not.
Most of the music being produced now will not be listenable in another five years and this perhaps is the certain fate of commercial art that is driven by branding, show and cash. But we should be grateful all the same for the music, coming out of Nigeria also at this time in the soul, gospel, hip, hop genre: the music that is of Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, Lagbaja, Asa (there is fire on the mountain/and no one seems to be on the run/ there is fire on the mountain now..."), Ara, Sam Okposo, Dare, Sunny Neji, Infinity (now a broken up team), African China, Alariwo of Afrika.... We suffer nonetheless in music as in the national nomenclature, an identity crisis. A country's character is indexed into its arts and culture, eternal purveyors of tones and modes. Nigerian youths now sing of broken heads, raw sex, uselessness and raw, aspirational emotionalism. A sign of the times? Yes, I guess.
I find further justification in the national anthem, many versions of which now exist. I grew up in this same country knowing only one way of singing the national anthem: from "Nigeria we hail thee" to "Arise o Compatriots". The singing of the national anthem is supposed to be a solemn moment. Arms clasped by the side, a straight posture, and the mind strictly focussed on the ideals of patriotism and nationalism. Stillness. Nobody moves. And the national song is rendered in an unchanging format. But not so any longer. There are so many versions of the Nigerian national anthem these days. Same lyrics but different musical rhythms. I have heard the national anthem sung in juju, in fuji, in hip hop, in Ishan's igbagbolemini, in acapella mode, even reggae. I attended an ocassion once, the rendition of the national music was so enthralling, people started dancing. Even the photographers and cameramen danced with their cameras. For me that was the ultimate expression of the people's cynicism. The prevalent mood is as expressed by Dj-Zeez: "ori e 4 ka sibe, 4 ka sibe": an epigrammatic, onomatopoeic, market-driven diminution of language as vehicle and sign. What kind of people are we? A dancing nation? Dancing and writing away our frustrations and caring little about sense, in this country that is now known as "naija", "nija", "9ja", "nigerzie," "gidi"?