Thursday, July 29, 2010

Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban - TIME

This got me thinking. Still don't get what they hoped to achieve by slicing off her nose, other than mutilating her features. It is a wicked world out there.
Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban - TIME

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another way to say goodbye

It was winter outside and the snow had been falling since yesterday, cloaking the environment with wool whiteness. I lolled under a thermal sheet, trying to recall the land I had left behind.
Sleep drew me close like a warm blanket on a very cold day. Sooner than I expected I fell into dream land. I dream of shadows these days. Gone are those visions of sunny meadows amongst which bright coloured butterflies fluttered, carried by gentle winds towards windswept hillocks. Though my heart’s eye still sees them, my mind knows it’s all gone, not near, too far away for even briefest touch. Like all other things I left behind, eroded with the vestiges of my past.
My dreams grew darker and fear propelled me, not out, but into deeper slumber and I awoke in another land, one I am all too familiar with, the one that comes to me whenever loneliness gets too hard to bear.
Now I lay, prone, no longer in my heated bedroom, amongst polka dot bed sheets, but in the mahogany and spring Vono bed I inherited from my mother, who has been gone now three years into the place of the ancestors -a bed she swore soaked up the red waters of her maiden head on her nuptial night. I wonder if she would turn in her cold grave if she knew that mine too was given up on this same bed not so long ago, only not on a nuptial night –not her kind anyway- but under the almost feminine weight of my cousin Bir, who sobbed like a woman afterwards while I silently watched the blood drip, already contemplating what next time will feel like.
I arose with a smile on my rosy lips, stretching my body as I stalked over to push open the bedroom windows. I scanned the valley beyond the bamboo fence my brothers erected years back to protect our chickens from prowling hyenas, attracted by the glint of sunlight off the roof of several mansions set into the slopes of Mgbidi.
I remembered I always wanted to own a house like that but mother never understood that desire, ‘stupid people,’ she says, ‘they build houses with room enough for an entire clan yet they only get to sleep in one room for only a few days in a year, Wasteful people.’ The venom usually poured from her at times like these and her eyes always lets me know that I am one of those ‘stupid people’.
The merry bark of our beloved family dog, told me father is back from his new job at the newly commissioned secondary school. He used to be a respected yam farmer, and then he became a respected driver, now he is a respected security officer –sorry, another name for a night-watchman, not that he will hear of that.
That’s one thing that is synonymous with father, RESPECT. He doesn’t say anything without mentioning respect. ‘Respect even those you are bigger than because respect tends to reciprocate’ that’s his mantra and he believes in it.
Suddenly was outside my door waiting for father to notice me, like I used to do when I was much younger. He smiled when he saw me and gave me the tightly wrapped ball of akara that he always remembers to bring back for me from wherever his journeys took him. It was because of him I falsely believed akara is available everywhere. I smile my thanks and he smiled back –are there gaps in his mouth where teeth used to be?
There had never been much need for words between us as we understand each other perfectly, he buys the gift, I take them and eat, that is all there is to it. I wonder at times if my problem with men didn’t stem from my expecting them to know me as well as father did.
He turned, walked a little way and turned to look at me over his shoulder ‘I will put water out for your bath, hurry up and prepare, I don’t want you to be late.’ He said before walking away.
I woke up with a start, mouthing the words ‘okay papa.’
I was not too sure of my environment as all seemed so strange until the hum of the heater and the rasp of falling snow on the glass panes brought me fully back.
I noticed that the ring ring sound I thought made by bicycle wheels children played with opposite my house in the village was actually my phone beeping.
A message? I clicked it open, my brother.
Sorry Nne. Father just passed away. Can you come home?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Funky Tuesday at the book Jam

You were a little bit sceptical when you received an invite for a special edition of what was usually a monthly event, The Bookjam. This special edition was supposedly in honour of writer John C Maxwell who, according to the invite, would be supported by three Nigerian authors.

Though only the name of one of the authors ringed familiar to your ears, Abraham Oshoko, author of ‘June 12: The Struggle For Power In Nigeria’ you decided to attend the event and arrived the venue about fifteen minutes before the 3 o’clock start of time, hoping to dodge a repeat of your adventure with African time a few weeks prior, but you hoped in vain. For an event that was billed for 3 pm, African time played much more than the usual havoc. You felt justified to give kudos to the organizers for starting just a few minutes later than the advertised time, but you also gave them knocks for, in 2010, using a sound system that transmitted more noise than all else.

You didn’t even shy away from also awarding Silverbird serious thumbs down for venue choice. Whoever picked the lobby of the Silverbird galleria for an event that was supposed to be intellectually engaging left too much to be desired as the constant drone of shoppers and a particularly annoying sound from some sort of machinery served as sources of more than just the casual distraction, drawing participants mind away from the discourse.

Anyway, after a sputtered (blame the sound) announcement by the mc, Ani, Abraham Oshoko began reading from his graphic novel. Though the young man really tried to convey the feel of his graphic novel via reading, the bland nature of it made you wonder if that is the best way to relay a work of that nature – perhaps an accompanying slide show would have suffixed here.

Sometime at this point, the audio got better, And you smiled as the author described his nationalistic leanings while answering a question from a participant as to what made him embark of his project (the graphic novel) and you recalled when you too found comfort in that sort of thing, Nationalism.

But then another young man, still young enough to fling his age about without feeling self conscious, Tolu Akani, a 21 year old, just a few weeks out of the university got up to read – to your undisguised interest – his newly published and launched book, which is basically a compilation of stuffs he wrote at 20.

Though you have never been inclined towards self help books, listening to young Mr Tolu read from his book sold you completely, or almost. The young man used simple every day analogies in a very creative way to convince you that his book is what whatever hype it surely would generate in the near future. You laughed aloud at his portrayal of the travails of a bottle of coke, how it sells for 50 Naira in a road-side buka and becomes 500 Naira in a high brow eatery, somehow you could imagine you being that bottle of coke…yeah, you could be. Says Mr Tolu…it’s all about packaging!
Then Mr Adebayo Adelaja-Olowo-Ake came with his delightful reading from his novel ‘Thunder Lightening and Storm’. Man! Did he bring all that and more to bear?

The fresh novel, which he said was inspired by a real life female Major-General in the Nigerian army, Aderonke Kale (rtd), a name whose fame was further buttressed by the fact that it was recognised by your word processor, centres around lieutenant Aminat Zechariah of the Nigerian airforce. The depth of this book, clearly evident even in the light of the less than an hour reading of a few parts, made you wonder why the author wasn’t published by one of the big players in the Nigerian literary scene.

The 2nd runner up of Project fame West Africa, Mr Tomiwa, was also on hand to entertain the guests with a rendition of his brand new single ‘I will do’. You nodded your head, captivated by the music, a love song, one you considered well crafted, while frowning slightly at the bum length short most of the obviously affluent young ladies that trooped in and out of the high-end galleria were sporting, wondering if, when they come, you will allow your daughters dress in such, let alone buy it for them.

Deciding to leave the venue a few minutes shy of the 6 pm closing time, you hastily explained to the man next to you that the traffic wouldn’t wait for the Aforementioned John Maxwell before closing up, making your journey home more hectic.
Outside, you flag an Okada down and as it meandered with you through the building traffic, you felt the weight of Tomiwa complementary CD in your suit pocket, You smiled happily. Yeah, it was well worth it…even without the advertised John Maxwell.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The first novel I read

I was in primary four when I read my first novel.
My dad had this collection of books, kept in a three tier shelve, that we were forbidden to touch or allow our multitude of uncles, aunties and other kin take away, under pain of sever flogging (yes, my father didn’t spare the rod, that’s why I turned out so well bred – I hope).
My and I brothers used to look at those books with awe, pondering what made them so special, wondering if we will ever get to read them.
There were times that the urge to know what made the books so special got too much to bear, times we gave in to that compulsion and standing on a kitchen stool we would take them down one at a time and look at the covers paying special attention to those that had pictures in them.
It was this same compulsion that led to my punishment. As usual I and my brothers had visited the out-of-bounds shelve to look at the books. Everything had gone according to plan until I began reading the notes attached to the pictures and got too engrossed that I did not hear when my father walked in.
I had thought the world would fall down on me when I looked up after a shadow crossed the page I was reading to see him looming over me. He had looked at me for a spell, and then when I had expected his usual ‘my friend what do you think you are doing?’ he had asked for his food which I quickly ran to get.
I was sitting quietly outside, awaiting his wrath, when his booming voice called me back into the sitting room to clear the plate. As I turned to carry the plates away he asked me to hold on.
“My friend, take that book,” he said, pointing to a book lying face down on the table. “That one you were reading is too advanced for you. Read this one but you must tell the story when you finish.”
My heart went flip flop. I had expected the worst. But there was I, with permission to touch one of the sacred texts. I began reading in earnest almost immediately, not that I was overly eager to read the book but on account of the instruction to retell the story afterwards – the punishment for touching the sacred books. At first I found some words strange, but an older cousin soon taught me how to write the difficult words down and check them later in our little oxford dictionary.
Before I knew it, I was caught up in a world of love, money and cars, all of which I knew only little about, in a world I wanted so much to visit. That first book changed my life, gave me an escape from the taunts that usually followed me whenever I went to where other kids played football – I was that kid with a bad leg that everyone laughed at.
That was the beginning of my incursion into books and the world of make believe. Before I left primary school I had read everything in the forbidden bookshelf and by JSS 1, I could tell that James Hadley Chase was a fictional character. Yeah, I already could tell style then.
I was in primary four when I read my first novel. It was a Pacesetters book written by Muhammed Sule. ‘Undesirable element’.

Friday, July 2, 2010

100 writing mistakes to avoid

I got a review copy of the book ‘100 writing mistakes to avoid’ by Maeve Maddox two days ago. As is my nature, I quickly scanned through before reading – from the end downwards.

I must say that the first thing that struck me was the choice of font and colour; they truly stood out and made for an easy read.

Thirty minutes later I looked up from my screen, a smile of intense satisfaction playing around my lips. It is not every day that one encounters gold nuggets, something this book truly is.

Yes, this book aside from being timely is one of those ones that you would readily recommend to friends, but dread giving out. Like the author said in the introduction “it is for writers who want to avoid the most common errors of written English without spending a lot of time looking it up.”

The 100 errors are arranged according to type: spelling mistakes, usage Mistakes, grammar mistakes and punctuation mistakes. All in an easily accessible way.

The errors covered are many of those that cause writers a lot of embarrassment, especially when they appear in works that have passed through the editing process. The book will surely not answer the questions of anyone not familiar with English parts of speech and other basic terms, but it sure would become a very good companion for writers that find it hard commiting things to memory.

For me, I think it is one of the handiest books on the subject matter I have seen so far. I recommend this to anybody serious about error-free writing.

the book is available at