Monday, December 14, 2009


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

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)
Program Officer

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Girl Whisperer
as published by
The Sunday Guardian

Mortal Blows

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 Privilege

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
as published
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
as published
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