Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The other war we are not talking about

Photo from punchng.com
Back in the university, I was a politician; and like all politicians I had to form alliances—another way of saying I manoeuvred to be on the good side of other student politicians or popular students—to improve my chances at the polls.
I never had enough money to go beyond contesting—and winning (thank you very much) my Departmental Presidency—but after contesting for this and that, I knew most of the movers and shakers in my school—Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. One guy I knew was Obiadada—a nickname, coined from his first name, Obi, and adada, Igbo for ‘one who does not fall’. Obi was the Director of transport when we were in third year.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The gang wars no one is talking about

There is an on-going gang war on the streets of Lagos that the media is ignoring.
I choose to call it a silent war, but this classification – my attempt to stress the media’s seeming disinterest in the matter – is false. The war is by no means silent; it is loud and, as anyone who pays attention to happenings on the streets of Mushin, Bariga, Oshodi and affected parts of Lagos know too well, bloody.
I became aware of this war when I moved from Ajao Estate to Mafoluku, Oshodi, in 2008. Armed robbery and other associated crimes were at that time an issue in Ajao Estate, a town once considered prime real estate by the 419 dons of the ’90s (Eze Ego’s house still stands impressive and imposing opposite the CPM chapel). Ajao Estate later became a magnet for Yahoo-Yahoo boys and the Pentecostal preachers that are ever drawn to owners of easy money.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Selective Outrage: Are we guilty of ignoring human suffering?

Cenotaph to Dana air crash victims: pic from Premium Times
Last year, a Dana aircraft travelling from Abuja to Lagos ploughed into a two-storey building in the Iju area of Lagos killing everyone on board and some others on the ground. News of the crash soon spread as social media went abuzz. In ensuing weeks, the fatal incident hogged the headlines on blogs and websites, while many dedicated status updates to mourn the departed, especially those on-board the plane.
As is common with Nigerians, some constituted informal committees to measure how certain people mourned: Did he/she cry enough; show enough concern by taking one week off work? Was the government’s three-day mourning period too short? Did the officials who lost bosses or subordinates in the crash mourn for a respectable enough period?
Questions were asked and people were called out.

Monday, May 20, 2013

It's my birthday!

he calender on my wall says it is my birthday, but I doubt if this day share much with the day I first tasted this earth's air. If indeed it shares anything, it must be the memory of the date I dropped gills for lungs. 

My siblings and I grew up without birthday celebrations and I can't remember me or my siblings marking our various dates or telling each other happy birthday--well, my younger siblings, because they grew up in a different age, should be exempt here . This is not to say that we did not look with longing at birthday celebrations and wished that it was us behind the cake, pressing a knife through yummy softness and smirking at the camera man through the flickering flames of candles marking our years on earth.

We yearned for ours but only ever came close to realising this dream by sharing those of others. I can still see clearly the colour fotos from a time past. I can still place people in the rows and replace babyish faces with adult faces here and there. Though many names have since faded with time, a lot of names still come easily to the tongue. EB 2 Dutse Close looms in my mind and names of the lucky few whose birthdays, usually the 1st birthday , form on my lips. Lips that draw into sad lines as I recall names that can only now be stated in the past, names of people now in the world removed from this one.

I did get my chance to celebrate a birthday. Then I was already in the university and the fun muted as the mind had bigger fishes to fry.

Perhaps the fact that I thought little of birthdays, mine or other's, had something to do with the lack of birthday celebrations in my house. Still, I forget even my own and can't readily without thinking hard tell that of most of my siblings. I have to key in a reminder a week or more before so that I don't forget my wife's. lol. I don't remember dates well at all.

Well Facebook have changed that. Now friends ensure I don't forget the joy of birthdays and I have a party in my head knowing many people took the time to say 'Happy Birthday'.

The calendar on my wall says it is my birthday . My chi says you are born, you live, and then you die, a straight forward life marked by days and nights and the changing seasons . My chi also says I am no longer a man alone, so birthdays have been added to those must-remember dates, for my daughter, for my wife, for my crazy sister who tells me not to be 'too old school joor'.

Today, another circle is complete and we are officially older. Much thanks for everyone who sent a shout-out, may you be remembered too.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Boko Haram and the finger pointing nation

Finger pointing

My constantly changing Twitter and Facebook timelines are announcing news of another attack in Kano as I write this.
It’s Easter Sunday and I am lying sprawled on the now child-battered centre rug that used to be my pride and joy. Coming from the kitchen is the sound of something sizzling in oil and the scent of spices. My wife is cooking a feast for the Easter Celebration. I do not call out to her to inform her of the latest bomb story. I actually stopped telling her about the bombings long ago. On her part, gone are those exclamations, which used to be her response to news of another mass killing. Ewuchim o! She used to exclaim—an expression that encompasses the pain and helplessness that mark such situations. These days, when she hears of another attack she just shakes her head sadly and say “eeyah”.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A walk in the other side of music

Music is a part of human Culture. culture itself is universal. One aspect of culture that best exhibits this universality is music.

All over the world, from Lagos to New York; from manila to Rio; from the icy deserts of Greenland to the tiny islets of New Zealand, musicians, just like others involved in the arts, shape the way the world is viewed. Be it through the captivating moves of Michael Jackson, the mind numbing guitar tunes from Carlos Santana or the soul stirring vocals of Sade Adu, the world feels music and music fills the world.

Perhaps, my choice of music acts is not universal, but still, my point is out.

Like world shapers, artists mould culture. Consciously or not, they manipulate the choices of their subjects, shaping what we wear, where we sleep, what we eat and even in the extreme, who we marry.

Since Human minds are attuned in different ways; the artist, being human, are given to diverse idiosyncrasies that have a bearing on their creations. This character can either be infused with good or suffused with the dark side that we all obviously have.

Recently, just like in the distant past, the arts seem to lean more towards this dark side, exemplified by the runaway success of films like ‘Twilight’ and others of like ilk.

Music, like the movies, appears to be interpreting the times through lyrical content and visuals –the disturbed imagery of accompanying music videos- that some have interpreted to somehow glorify the darkness, personified by a Judaeo-Christian Satan. 

Artists like Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce, Rihanna, Lil Wane, to name a few, are some of those walking the part already taken by metal rock artists in the past.

Undoubtedly, Jay-z is one artist that has over the years delved into what many would consider the occult, if not in fact, then by insinuations.

Jay-Z, who has long been rumoured to belong to an occult order—probably Freemason—fuelled more speculations with the use of occult imagery in his latest video called “Run This Town” (featuring Rihanna and Kanye West).

But this is not the first time Jay-Z is showing signs of occult affiliations. Years earlier he propagated the massively popular ‘Roc sign’ that incorporated a widely known symbol of the Illuminati cult, the left eye within a triangle. Wild fans usually throw the salute during Jay-Z’s stage performances, probably not knowing the origins of the sign or perhaps, not caring.

Jay-Z also has appeared in public wearing a black hoodie with the words “Do What Thou Wilt” engraved on it. Though the words are suggestive in themselves, the fact that they are the official dictum of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) and of its reformer, occultist Aleister Crowley, leaves a whole lot to imagination (The O.T.O. is a hermetic order modelled after Freemasonry and German Illuminism).

Truth is, Jay-Z knows a lot about occult imagery and seeks to either make their use more mainstream or just wants to build an aura of mysticism around his persona, thereby tapping into the growing leaning of the west’s teenagers to the dark side. A phenomenon that has resulted in the cult like following of various vampire movies of which Twilight is a very good example.

Both Beyonce and Rihanna have done songs that centre on possession, with Beyonce taking it further by naming her possessed/possessing persona: her alter ego Sasha Fierce, who she affirms is the fun, sexual and aggressive side of her.

She says: I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m on stage, this alter ego that I’ve created that kind of protects me and who I really am”.

Sasha Fierce is at times depicted wearing a dress adorned with an occult symbol of a goats head, otherwise known as Baphomet’s head.

On her part Rihanna, in the video of her song Disturbia explores the bleak world of mind control and demonic possession. Not only does she play with the dark side, she appears to have recently embraced it completely as her recent videos show.

Though this use of occult imagery in video did not start with rap and Hip-hop acts, they appear to be taking it to the next level. If they do this to get recognition, then they have definitely succeeded--if the number of awards some of the artists mentioned above garnered at the last Grammy awards are anything to hinge ones assertions on.

Article first published by Side View magazine in 2010

Friday, January 25, 2013

Governor Chime has done well, but...

The continuing absence of Enugu state governor Sullivan Chime leaves a sour taste in my mouth, but it is not for the reasons you might think.

I am from Enugu state and the present state of affairs falls, as they say, on my doorsteps. It is unprecedented in Enugu history for a governor to—if we are to believe the official statement—be on accumulated leave for this long. Despite all the political and constitutional rules this lengthy absence is said to be breaching, I do not intend to dwell on what laws has been broken or how that will impact the polity. Rather, I want to dwell on how much the man’s tenure has affected my community and what his absence means to my constituency and me.

I am from the hills of Anike. My ancestral home is the hilltop town of Nkwe: one of those places that development seems to ignore perpetually, until recently that is. This lack of development may, or may not, have something to do with the fact that aside from meagre cassava, vegetable and palm produce that our women take to the markets in Awgu—where our LGA headquarters is situated—and neighbouring  towns, we appear, on the surface, to largely lack much to offer in terms of commerce. This argument, that we don’t contribute much to the state to warrant attention, was used to justify the lack of government presence in the villages that make up Anike for decades by successive governments.

Rape and the Nigerian society

I encountered rape very early in life. I was perhaps 14 when a random visit to the home of a local ruffian presented me with my first glimpse. A girl, lying on the bed, with only a tiny towel to cover a miniscule part of her honour, stared at me from a threadbare mattress, her eyes pleading yet seemingly resigned to her fate. I had been sent to the room to “take kola”. I remember her clothes were in a bucket by the door, a bucket filled with water. Her story was sad. A visitor from the east, she had only asked for directions to her brother’s house in Angwan Kanawa and was lured to the house of Baba Wani’s aged grandmother, where he and his boys took turns on her. I got to the house on the second day. The monsters were clearly done with her and were offering her as kola to any young man that came to the house. I recall crying as I begged them to let her go, I recall the girl saying nothing, defeated I think. I recall she kept her legs parted, tired of fighting, she existed in a state of ‘cooperation’.

They let her go the next day. Fate however, knows how to mete out poetic justice.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My next BIG Thing!

Social media will be celebrated whenever and wherever the story of the generation of Nigerian writers that I belong to is written. And that story will surely feature how writers of my generation, managed, despite the odds, to create something grand out of the possibilities inherent in social media. The story will be big and surely, the tales of how aspiring writers searched for and connected with thousands of like minded individuals would be an integral part of it. While I don’t particular feel I am qualified to write this story, I won’t deny the fact that what you are reading now is a facet of that story.

I met Gbenga Awomodu, online, I can’t recall if it was on Facebook or in the early days of Naijastories, but we connected online and since we both live in Lagos and shared an interest in event reviews and journalism, the chances of us meeting outside of the electronic world of social media was high. We met a couple of times outside of social media before the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop brought us face to face again in August 2012. The story of my generation of writers actually played out in that workshop. Of the 22 participants, I had only ever met Gbenga in person before the workshop, but Richard Ali, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, and Samuel Tosin Kolawole were already (Facebook connected) friends of mine, even though I had never met them in person. I still shiver at that social media strangeness that allows you know people intimately before you meet them in person. I was also meeting Yemisi Ogbe for the first time, but I knew her work as a food writer with the now sadly defunct Next Newspaper, where I also had the privilege of contributing articles, and we happen to have mutual admiration for each other’s work—I  discovered that out during the course of the workshop. I summarised my workshop experience here and Yewande Omotosho did here, so we can skip all the long tori and bite into the meat of this one.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Of traffic snarls and the land of the rubber men

It is a hot day.
Another of those days that traffic stretches as far as the eyes can see causing people in cars to share something other than the unity of crawling traffic and sweltering heat: short fused temperament.

This is Lagos, the heat and traffic snarls are constant realities that we have learnt to live with, no matter how hard that is. Nigerians, we are special breeds, rubber men that defy the laws of elasticity—we are yet to find that elastic limit and we continue to adjust to constantly shifting challenges. Nothing seems to shift more constantly than our traffic laws. Perhaps they don’t really shift, change, rather the government finds new way to express them. That way they keep us on our toes, sweating in choking traffic.

We do have constants, those things that remain the same year in year out. The danfo bus, a modified Volkswagen van that perhaps ferried goods from one point to another in the European country that hosted its first incarnation, is one of the things that remain the same. A testament of our dump mentality, the danfo, like millions of other automobiles in Nigeria, comes second-hand: Europe’s discard serving faithfully here, still.
There is little to see in the scrap-like drabness of the danfo bus I boarded in the hope that their street and alley meandering ability would perhaps shorten the time I would otherwise spend in the traffic snarl—a vain hope. The clammy intensity of the heat that comes from within and without did not gift concentration, so Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I will Write About This Place rests in its place in the side pocket of my well-used bag. Yes, I had discovered that the three hours spent in traffic heading to work and the three hours spent on the way back is a good time as any to catch up on reading. Before One Day I Will Write About This Place, one of those Ikeja-under-bridge-paper-backs—a novel by John Varley—occupied the space in the bag. Victor Ehikhamenor’s brand new book Excuse Me!, a testament of where Nigerian literature is headed, will replace Binya’s in a few days.