A place to rave, a place to rant, to commend and recommend, mostly a place to vent...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dear John,

Mr John E. Blogger
123 Ships in the Night Way
Via Information Highway
World Wide Web

Dear John,

This is the hardest letter I have ever written. You might have noticed how distant I have become over the past few months. The old cliche goes, it's not you, it's me. This time, it really is true; it's me!!! If you recall, we met about a year ago. I was swept off my feet by your 'urbanness' and your access to all the sophisticated people I never could have made acquaintance with if not through you. You dazzled me with your brilliance, your friends were spread far and wide while mine were limited to the neighbourhood I grew up in. Yours were so knowledgeable about the goings-on in the world, mine were obsessed by the goings-on in the Kano Movie industry. Your friends accepted me without question and opened my horizons far beyond what I thought was possible. They taught me that it was okay to feel the way I did, to question long-held beliefs and to start to think for myself. I fell in love..hard...with a passion I thought I was incapable off. We could not keep our hands off each other, my hunger for you was insatiable and needed to be sated several times a day. We travelled all over the world and you showed me people, cultures and traditions that were so strange to me. By and by, like a baby bird testing its wings, I started to venture out on my own. At first I was scared, my flying was unsteady and I crashed a few times but soon I found my courage. I was no longer scared. I could soar on my own and could now voice my opinions, loud and clear. I made my own friends... and therein lies my dilemma. In my search to expand my horizons, I let down my guard. What started as an innocent flirtation, soon became a raging inferno. It was like I had been starved for so long. The thirst I felt was unquenchable. Like a moth to a flame, I had no control as I was dragged towards something I had no control over. I was seduced by a new lover...I am sorry but if I am going to tell, I am going to tell it all ( to Usher). He is much younger than both you and me. He makes me feel like no-one ever has. I am my TRUE self with him and can finally take off my mask. Through him, I have reacquainted with people I have met and lost over the different stages of my life. Everyday is a new discovery. People from my inglorious past are contacting me. It is always a pleasant surprise and no two days are the same. He is now my new obsession. Don't get me wrong, I still love you but I love him too but in different ways. While yours is a mature love, his is frantic and rushed and I like both. I am torn between the two of you. I can't get enough of him but I can't let you go. I guess what I am asking is 'are you willing to share'? That way, I will have no guilt and no reason to sneak if everything is out in the open. You have nothing to lose because I was always aware that I was not your only 'paramour' and I never complained. Please think long and hard and don't make any rash decisions. I really do love you and will forever be indebted to you for starting me on this journey but the pull of Facebook is just too strong. Can we all just get along?

Saturday, October 11, 2008


In reference to my last post, please be informed that all characters and incidents are products of the authors imagination and cannot be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living, dead or quarter to dead, is purely coincidental. SSS, NSA, NPF and EFCC , please take note!!!

Going by the comments on my last post, I cannot begin to understand how mischievous people can misconstrue an innocent exercise for my creative writing class into a death wish. I am amazed at how many negative comments were posted about 'our dear leader'. This is a man that is literally placing his life (not to mention his kidneys and lungs) in the pursuit ( ...can one still use 'pursuit' even if the pace is sluggish?) of a strong and vibrant Nigeria. I, for one would never criticise someone who in one year of office, has rejuvenated our epileptic power system ( ...operating at 10% capacity), revamped healthcare ( ...infant mortality at an all time high, primary healthcare unobtainable) and improved our education sector ( ...basic education means learning the alphabet) to compete adequately with the West. And some of you want to use me to insult this fine, charismatic gentleman,( ... Mr no-risk, no-responsibility.) Never! Whatever it is you imagine that you read between the lines is a hallucination of your medulla oblongata. See me, see trouble. I just dey mind my own business, people want co-opt me into 'treasonable activities'. I am a law-abiding citizen and this era of rule of law will prevail despite saboteurs camouflaging as bloggers. I beg, I no dey. In the last month, solely based on these comments, I have had the privilege of sightseeing several Federal Govt tourist attractions like the 'manmade' underground caves at the SSS Headquarters and the newly completed torture chamber at the Police Headquaters, built in the style of the chambers at Auschwitz to commemorate the long standing friendship between Nigeria and the Jewish nation. I was also given the opportunity to test the soundproof solitary confinement cell, where Nigerian ingenuity is showcased with experiments on the several methods of extracting the loudest screams from the human body. I have made the acquaintance of several 'al-mustaphaic' imitations, and one bonafide Sergeant Rogers. EFCC are now asking me to explain the origin of the N62,250 in my Zenith Bank account and the N31,778 in my Guaranty Trust Bank account, with all paperwork completed in triplicate. The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) have asked me to produce the receipts to my four pairs of shoes and three bags. My husband is now required to produce his income tax certificate from 1997. Ina zaman zama na, za ku sa a daure ni. Haba, dan Allah, ina da 'ya 'ya biyar, Wallahi, ba na neman rigima... You see, I am so petrified that I am now writing in Hausa...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Four weddings and perhaps a funeral?

My apologies to Chxta and Toks-Boy. I had been to four weddings this summer and I was holding my breath for a funeral. I crossed my fingers, prayed, found a four-leaf clover, burnt N270m in a graveyard at midnight, held a chicken in Okija shrine in my husbands y-fronts, stole a horseshoe, night-vigiled with my ''pastor'' but Allah did not answer my prayer. I had practiced my one teardrop, slowly rolling down my cheek as I exaggerate the void his passing would leave in the Nigerian polity. I imagined hugging and 'air-kissing' she who knows not her limitations, as I console the family. Alas, it was not to be. He really is the cat with nine lives. Our only consolation is that he has used up five. Four more close shaves and we will finally have some 'goodluck'. However, they say, be careful what you wish for. We might substitute one who is slumbering with one who is catatonic. Anyway, sha, it seems I have to destroy the eulogy I had written...Even if I have to say it myself, it was beautifully written. I had traced his slumbering, right from the old city. I compared him to the 'old lion' who was revered and had charisma. I thought of the older 'broda' who at least had a mind of his own and some initiative...I then realised that a boy was sent to do a mans job. What is he? A man or a mouse? A woman or a wouse?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Nairagraphy-The story of a twenty naira note...

Friend, dear friend! Don't turn up your nose at me. I realise I am not much to look at, what with being torn, tattered and so dirty. I repulse even my own self. But what can I do...What could I have done? Sit back, look at me and listen to my story. Look, listen and learn while I tell of my journey from pride to fall. I hope you will then understand.
I was born on the 4th August 2005 at the Minting Maternity of fairly well-to-do middle-aged machinery. I was the pick of my batch; batch 0036890NF. My sheen was unsurpassed, my imprints pronounced and even Murtala Mohammed's moustache seemed just a tad more distinguished on me. I was crisp and ready to take on the world.
It was astonishing the rate at which my confidence deflated once I got out to the real world. Hardest to take was the realisation that the peptalk we were given before being sent out was totally inconsistent with what obtains outside. Contrary to what we were told, we couldn't even walk head up high, side by side other world currencies. Most disappointing was the fact that even you, our fellow compatriots, preferred other currencies to us. That, dear friend, was the unkindest cut of all. But forgive me, I digress.
I began my journey ( obscurity?) from the Minting vault to the bullion van, to the IntraBank vault, to the cashier's cage to Alhaji Maigoro's briefcase. It was Friday and he was going to do his weekly almsgiving ritual at the mosque. I remember snuggling against Rebecca, a pretty fellow 0036890NFian. We said our hurried goodbyes as I was thrust from Alhaji Maigoro's clean, perfumed hands to those of Maimuna, the leper. She hurriedly stuffed me inside a dirty calf-skin bag hanging at her waist, unceremoniously squeezing me. DARKNESS!! I was there for quite some time, wondering if this was to be my humble abode and praying it wasn't. A few hours later, my 'landlady' took me out, flattened me (...thank God) and passed me, together with three other notes to Ibrahim, the butcher, who promptly re-squeezed me and dumped me in a tin on top of other notes. By this time I had creases, my sheen was losing its shine, Murtala Mohammed's moustache did not look so good any longer and his face had acquired a frown (...I exaggerate of course). I was stuffed with several other notes and I thought to myself, 'hmm, strangers, not quality stock, probably counterfeit'. You see, I was still looking new when compared to the other notes and I was still a snob. Reality soon shook the scales from my eyes. I was in that tin until the end of the day. Then I thought that having survived that airless, smelly deathtrap, I could survive anything. I did not reckon with Iya Ramota.
That night Ibrahim took me and some others to Iya Ramota in exchange for some moulded black stuff. I do have my pride and it hurt that Ibrahim considered that mould a fair exchange rate. Iya Ramota was my worst nightmare. She stored us near the darkest recesses of her person where the dank smell defies adequate description. Mercifully, I passed out.
I came to the next day when I felt light on my face. Sunlight and oxygen never felt so good. I was suddenly (most happily you bet!) transferred from Iya Ramota to Adebayo, the taxi driver, a large impatient man with tribal marks on his cheeks. He crammed me into what was originally an ashtray but now served the dual purpose of both the ashtray and a money-cache. To say this was uncomfortable is an understatement. Before I even had time to come to terms with my discomfort, several others were dumped on top of me. By now I was permanently squeezed into a ball.
Later that day, which was a Saturday, we were all taken out, flattened and transferred to Adebayo's agbada. He took us out and as we got closer to his destination, I heard music and drumming. 'Civilisation at last' I thought. A little while later, I was a HANDKERCHIEF!!! A handkerchief, I ask you, wiping the sweat of Balogun, the juju musician's forehead. I felt like saying,' Pardon me but isn't there a mistake here? I am your national currency. You're supposed to respect me not use me as a tool for personal hygiene'. Soaked in sweat, I was then dumped in a carton with several other notes.
The next day, I was passed to Chudi, the molue conductor by one of Balogun's bandboys. He stuffed me in his pocket with tens of other grimy notes. This time I had no complaints because I was no longer a snob. At least I was dry although creased, dirty and limp. I was in Chudi's pocket a short while then I was passed on to Roli, a student as change accompanied by expletives from the conductor. I wonder why!
Roli treated me much nicer than I had been treated the two days. She thrust me into her school bag together with her books where I spent a very educative night.
Monday morning breaktime at school, I was jolted out of Roli's bag onto the floor. I lay helplessly as I watched her leave without a backward glance. Suddenly I was grabbed by Efere who noticed me on the floor but at the same time, Essien lunged at me but only managed to get a hold of my corner and he tugged hard. I felt myself tear and again thankfully, I passed out.
I woke up to find a clear, sticky plaster holding me together and I was in Efere's pocket together with two marbles who unreservedly banged into me with no consideration for my injuries. I slipped in and out of conciousness until gladly, Efere passed me onto Isa, the Mallam in exchange for some sweets.
Isa flattened me out and laid me gently under the tablecloth. I slept peacefully for most of the day until Isa passed me to Roseline Omaghomi who stopped to buy some chewing gum. Roseline! I will forever think of her with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart. She gently laid me in her wallet. At last! Finally, a wallet. Those rare things that we were told about at the Minting Maternity. It was of the softest leather and smelt of Roseline's perfume. I was facing her ID card which showed she was a banker. That was my nicest experience. It was paradise. If I had died then, I would have died a tattered but [on] a happy note.
The next day, Roseline went to pick up her car from Nwoke, the mechanic. After getting the car, we, (I was now thinking of us as inseparable) were about to leave when Peter, one of Nwoke's boys shouted, 'Madam, you no go give me anything?'. I was heartbroken when to my consternation, I was the 'something' Roseline threw to Peter. Thus ended my brief but wonderful respite with Roseline.
When she threw me, all the boys there dove to get me and in the struggle, I fell into the gutter. Peter fished me out and put me to dry on top of a car. I got dry alright as well as sunburnt. He picked me up later with his greasy hands and stuffed me into his pocket. At home the next morning, he gave me to Bidemi his daughter who was on her way to school. Bidemi decided on her way to buy some groundnuts so I was again passed to Iyabo, the groundnut seller. She immediately tried to give me to you as change, dear friend, and you turned up your nose. So now you know that it is really not my fault I look the way I do. In 6 days of existence, through 14 people, only one person treated me right. How dare you, dear friend, snub me? I ask you, here and now, do you own a wallet?

P/S This piece was inspired by the current CBN campaign against the abuse of the naira.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lagos, their Lagos...

Lagos, is said to be unlike any other town in Nigeria. Eko, the city that never sleeps, home to the brave and the foolhardy, a city that can make you but also breaks you, a city of sharp contrasts and contradictions...Its cosmopolitan allure is irresistable and despite its obvious disadvantages, it still manages to attract the strangest motley of individuals, each trying to eke out a living from the extremes of affluence, dynamism, poverty, unsanitary conditions, human perseverance and a mix of the best and the dregs of human society. This urban jungle has several problems but worth singling out for mention are the diehard problems of accomodation and transportation. Transportation in Lagos is an entirely different ballgame. The most popular means of transport still remain the indefatigable molues and danfos, where the denomination you proffer for your fare determines just how far down your ancestral lineage the conductor is allowed to insult before he grudgingly gives you your change. If you have a N100 note, you thank your God as this just earns you a hiss and a glare that says 'were, oloshi'. With a N200 however, the conductor can rain insults on your good self and your immediate family i.e. your parents and your offspring. The code of ethics of the 'Conductors Association Incorporated' categorically states that he can go no further. If you dare possess a N500 note, this is when you begin to see how the art of insults can be taken to greater heights. This note gives the conductor a little more room to manouver, excercising that civil (civil?) right of freedom of speech. Here the inate poet in us all surfaces as the conductor waxes lyrical, denigrating your grandparents and greatgrandparents. The winner takes all is the N1000 note. First of all, your courage is to be commended if you possess the nerve (also called liver, also called foolhardiness...) to present this note. The deluge that spews forth at the sight of this note is like Hiroshima, the eruption of Mount Etna and the bombing of Baghdad rolled into one. There is really no limit to how far (or how far back as the case may be) the conductor can go. He is allowed the liberty of cursing your 'Kunta Kinte' up to your 'Alex Haley'. He spares no one remotely connected to you, from the doctor or midwife that delivered you to your greatgrandprents neighbours. Some conductors have even been known to rope in people who live in the same hamlet with your mother's uncle's cousin's niece three times removed. He can go on even after you disembark as the molue or danfo rambles on. However, not being people to waste energy on a victim that is no longer within earshot, the conductor usually switches dissaffections and the tirade resumes at the next hapless fellow which is usually by the next bus stop. By the way, the conductor is allowed to join two or three complete strangers in 'transport matrimony', by giving all three the same note to share out as change. How you do this is no concern of his, as he has done his bit in the quest to achieve unity for the various peoples of this nation. How more can you get to know each other if not by spending time together as you fruitlessly search for change.

As for Lagos landlords, they are a different breed altogether. Sometimes a potential tenant ( AKA victim, AKA mumu...) is asked to pay in advance for an uncompleted building under construction. Anywhere else in Nigeria, your defense system would immediately go on red alert at this unusual request. In Lagos however, due to a chronic accomodation shortage, rationality takes the backseat and you of course pay, immediately promoting yourself from plain fool to a world class moron as later developments would confirm. Desperate as you are, you pay for two or three years depending on how humane (?) the landlord is. He then uses your hardearned money to complete the building and the next thing you know, there are tenants in the house. When you finally find him 'on seat', he gives you the spiel that the cost of building materials had risen so dramatically while he was still constucting it that he would be doing himself, his children and antecedents yet unborn, great harm if he lets out the house on the agreed rate. Getting your money back (...your dignity, never) depends on whether you know any army officer or some one in the underworld. You do not push it. You take your money and chalk it up as experience. Anyway, sha, God dey! A friend said the way crime evolves in Lagos is in direct connection to technology; 419 became 2 419 when Lagos became digital, it is now 080 419 in this wireless age.

Eating out in Lagos is quite the experience. Strategically placed near those large and influential corporate offices on Victoria Island, are several bukkas and 'mama puts' where one needs both hands free in order to eat. One needs a hand to successfully mould and sculp the eba to the appropriate shape and size (good training ground for potential sculpters) before throwing the lump in the mouth. The other hand is needed to swat the multitude of flies, as well as wiping the cascade of sweat that drips down your forehead with the regularity of the appearance of a molue at Oshodi bus stop. Regular customers do not bother with the latter part for I am reliably informed that any sweat that drips onto your plate just seasons the meal to perfection. The most interesting part is the calibre of customers you find eating there. These are mostly professionals working in fully airconditioned and 'generatored' offices, giving out instructions, speaking through their noses with British accents or American twangs acquired from a two week vacation in London in the early nineties. At these street bukkas, all egos are checked at the entrance which is actually the pavement. Bank officers rub shoulders with labourers from the building sites around. Throwing all pretenses and dignity to the winds, people re-adopt their mother-tongue accents and ways of talking as they order eba, iyan, bushmeat, okro, drawsoup and all other such uniquely African foods with reckless abandon. Meet them elsewhere, perhaps at a social gathering and they would insist that they only eat salads and drink bottled water. Lagos, na waa. Then there is Iya Solimat, where you experience the epitome of customer service as it is practised in Lagos. At this popular bukka in Akoka, each serving of food is accompanied, for the slightest infractions, by your money's worth in insults from Iya Solimat's very vituperative and acidic tongue. To give credit where it's due, the food is absolutely delicious, so despite constant resolutions never to go back to be insulted even as they spend their money, her clientele remain loyal.

No discourse on Lagos is complete without a mention of the flooding problem during the rainy season that converts every building to a 'waterfront property' ?(v. convenient for real estate listings...). During my two weeks, the rains, which are usually my favourite season up North, exasperated me to despair because everything stops when it rains in Lagos. The traffic becomes horrendous and tempers are on a short (dare I say, shorter than usual) fuse. So many times, I had to wade through black, muddy waters infested with God Knows what to get to my training on time. In Kano, we say the rains are Allah's blessing but in Lagos, its a curse.

I look at the inherent problems of Lagos and think to myself, I am so lucky, I dont live there. With each passing day, I would count down my return home to Abuja. Lagos is so-o-o expensive. I have nostalgic feelings about Gaya, my village in Kano where N400 buys a 'mudu' of Gari, a bunch of spinach leaves, enough tomatoes, onions and pepper for stew, six oranges or mangoes, two average size fish and one female goat! In Lagos, N400 buys one meatpie, one boli (roasted plantain), one mouth organ (roasted corn) and a bottle of drink. In Gaya, one buys six oranges and probably get two more as 'jara'. In Lagos, nothing goes for free, except the air we breathe. Although clean air is fast becoming a thing of the past considering all the pollution and smog in the city. Lagosians, being the ingenious people they are, will soon start selling clean oxygen in little sealed plastic bags in 'go slows' as they do 'pure water'. 'Undiluted clean oxygen, o mo gan, twenty, twenty naira' (...and it will be worth it).

It was Romain Gary that said humour is an affirmation of dignity and a declaration of man's superiority to all that befalls him. Readers of my blog (...God, that sounds so immodest, like I have delusions of grandeur...) might have notice a certain thread of humour running through the pieces I write. Through my writing, I try to lessen life's pressures both for me and the reader. Well, I hope my piece amused you. To the Lagosians amongst you, think constructive criticism cos actually there is a lot the rest of Naija can learn from you. Your Governor, Fashola, is really doing amazing stuff. He is opening up roads (the one from Onikan to VI), dualising some that are long overdue (Bourdillon, Alexander etc) and beautifying the city (Cloverleaf Park) to name a few. The BRT idea is progressive and a first in Nigeria. So what you hear unsaid in my words is actually envy. O.K. thats it, go back to work...that's why your company pays you. It's over. You have had your break. Come on! Back to the grindstone, or in this age of technological progress, back to the blender!!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Home, sweet home...

To paraphrase the words of that old negro spiritual...'Home at last, home at last. Thank God Almighty, I am home at last!!!"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

It's hard out there for a girl...

For the last five months, I have been job hunting in Abj and it hasn't been easy. Is it me or are the recruiters getting younger, more smug and arrogant. There is a general condescending attitude towards applicants by these upstarts but we have to grin and bear it cos, of course, a beggar cannot be a chooser. I will blog in detail about my experiences. Now, I have good news and bad news... the good news being I got me a job that I think I'm going to like; the bad news is from Monday June 30th, I have to be in Lagos for two weeks training and orientation...aaargh!!! I am getting too old to be 'suffering and smiling'. Anyway, wish me luck. I hope to blow the trainers away with my intellect, charm, efficiency, good looks, comportment etc so that I can rise to the executive cadre in, say 2 years....A girls got to reach for the sky...