Monday, 15 June 2015

One Red Night - Part 2

The doctor’s words came flooding back to me.

“You may experience shortness of breath, pain in your neck, arms, chest or even jaw. In general, it will be a feeling of discomfort and the best thing to do is alert anyone nearby
and desist from any activity which may exert you further.”

I was convinced the symptoms were spot on, so I reached to Barry (you will have to read Part 1 to understand), who was two seats away. As it turned out, it looked like everyone in my section, including my only hope, Barry, had similar symptoms. It was going to be a collective heart attack, how horribly romantic, I thought. With my last ounce of energy, I reached into my bag and squashed the Marlboro Lights packet.

My friends always told me cigarettes would kill me, but I never thought it would be so public. I glimpsed up at the scoreboard:


One minute to go in the first half and we, previous four-time winners of this competition, were three-nil down?

My Nokia 6310 kept humming as a flood of messages came in. Checking them was a redundant exercise, as I could almost mention the origin of every last one of them. My gloating and over-celebrating during the qualification stages had caught up with me. My work colleagues in Norwich - mostly non-Liverpool fans – had in the tradition with that part of the world, been measured in their reaction to my excesses. This was their opportunity to unleash and they did.

The rest of the derision predictably, came from my Manchester United (I have to wash my mouth out now), Arsenal and Chelsea (oh boy, did let me have it!) mates. The traffic was so much, the blue light on the Nokia came on so many times, the battery went flat. At least this was my excuse for not replying. I have never stopped asking myself what it would have been like, had Facebook being as popular as it is today.

Anyway, half-time went like a blur and the stadium rule of serving no alcohol ensured the pain could not be dulled. I looked across to Barry and ran my hand across my throat. He responded using another hand signal - the universal ‘calm down’ gesture. I sighed heavily and held my head in my hands, as the choruses of the Milan fans swept across the arena. I began to mentally tally the financial costs.

The closer the figure got to two thousand pounds, the more depressed I felt. A strange feeling descended on me, as my seat began to feel like a pod isolating me from everyone (I later found out from a spiritual guru in Norfolk that this was a state of transcending from reality into delirium) around me. I am almost certain if hadn’t been the unexpected roar from the wall of Liverpool fans behind me, my descent would have been final.

“Four-three, we’re gonna four-three, we’re gonna win four-three,” rang out breaking any Guinness Book of World records for decibels recorded in a sporting event. My pod shattered into insignificant little pieces, as I stood up and roared into life. Barry and the other people sitting in our ‘sandwich brigade’ section, sprang into action, stumping the stadium’s foundations into a rippling rumble that seemed to travel across to the Milan fans, quietening them in the process. It was clear they had never seen confidence like this.

The fully suited guys behind me definitely hadn’t and their uncontrolled exuberance, when Steven Gerard rose like a phoenix from the ashes, to bury Arne Riise’s brilliant cross in the 53rd minute, betrayed their initial corporate swag. If I had thought that was over the top, what occurred over the next five minutes was absolute mayhem!

In a space of three hundred seconds, the Liverpool section of the stadium had been transported from the depths of hell into first-class seats in heaven. There was now nothing corporate about the suited guys around us. Their jackets and ties were off, as they joined in the song and bounce, which had now consumed the match. A solitary ambulance drove around the stadium track, stopping in front of the Milan section. Apparently, like one usually sees in a boyband concert, some Milan fans had been overcome. It had been too much for some of them. 

Saying that, it now appeared the euphoria had spread to our section. The man-mountain decked in all red in front of me, was already in tears; “it doesn’t matter what happens now, I have seen the greatest football match of my lifetime and I have been watching Liverpool for over forty years,” he said blubbering uncontrollably.

Carried along by the rejuvenated fervency, an almost celestial version of “You’ll never walk alone” exploded into the air. Every note delivered perfectly and impeccably aided by those who clearly did not know the words, but felt they would be missing out by not joining in. By the time we had come down to earth, Djimi Traore had erased the memories of a disastrous personal performance from the first half, by clearing Andrei Shevshenko’s goal-bound shot. Minutes later, Dudek, the Liverpool goalkeeper denied the Milan striker again, when he produced what can only be described as an extra-terrestrial double-save, in what was a particularly horrific night for the Ukranian.

It was now apparent to all watching here in the stadium and the millions across the world; the Milan players and fans were shrinking right before our eyes. They started to sense they had snatched certain defeat from the jaws of what had seemed like certain victory.

With Shevshenko left to turn the tide in their favour, it was never going to happen. As Dudek raced towards his team mates, I couldn’t honestly account for the next thirty minutes. Suffice to say, I lost almost all the contents of my pockets in my rabid celebrations, but thankfully, not my passport and the banknotes secured within. In truth, it was a moment where loss was redundant. It was a moment that gave me more than I could have hoped for. It was a moment to start responding to those texts. What I could have done for a charger…..

An hour later, in the food halls of Istanbul Airport, we meandered through waves and waves of Milan fans. They were inconsolable and for most of the time, some of us managed to be magnanimous. If it had been us, we know how we would have felt. The Ultras were a different thing entirely though….in a bizarre close of an almighty loop, we have brushed past some of the same group we had encountered earlier.

Unlike the average Milan fan, their look of disappointment had a slightly different tilt to it. Their eyes seemed to be saying; somebody has to pay. It was impossible to avoid them and lethargy had begun to descend. As I contemplated our next move, I could see Barry folding his backpack to make a pillow.

“Baba, are you going to sleep with all these goons around us? We might never have the chance to wake up bro,” I said with genuine concern.

“Kanmi, I have a meeting in Switzerland in ten hours and I am tired. After all you have seen tonight, do you not believe in miracles? And even if anything happens, can anyone or anything take this day away from you,” he asked as he began to lay down.

I contemplated his sentiments for a few seconds and began nodding and smiling. It was time to  make my pillow.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

One Red Night - Part 1

“You get down here,” the taxi driver growled, in his best English.

My co-occupant and I looked at each other mysteriously. Was this a weird Turkish joke specially designed to wind up all football fans on this special day or was the serious look on the driver’s face, a valid clue to our predicament?

As we grudgingly exited the taxi, my cultural instincts kicked in. The co-occupant I refer to is slightly older than myself and also had the special status of having been my senior at both secondary school and university levels. As in we went to the same educational institutions. It was only courteous I suppressed my rising irritation, do the Nigerian thing and give way to his ‘superior’ knowledge.

“Baba Barry, can you believe this toe rag,” I asked, my emotions betraying my intent.

“It’s okay Kanmi, just let’s get to the game without any hassle,” he replied justifying my belief that he had to be in charge of all decision-making on this trip.

My nerves had clearly been frayed by the preparation for this football match. As we stood listening to a group of Liverpool fans, who had been equally dumped at the hurriedly assembled roadblock, the economic ramifications of the trip had finally caught up with me. I reached for the comfort of my Marlboro Lights and commenced to puff my nervousness away.

Barry, noticing my Tyson-like head movements, winked at me. I nodded back reassuringly, wincing as the cigarette alerted me to the fact I had held on to it for too long. A sudden burst of noise diverted me from the pain.

“We are Liverpool,” bellowed the now self-chosen leader. His ruby face, full of Scouse pride broke into a big grin as he ushered us forward - flags in hand and scarves on shoulders - into what can only be described as a march. We stomped the freshly laid tar proudly and seemed to be literally walking through a valley of hope, bordered by newly created mounds of sand, enforced, to pave way for the road to the brand spanking stadium.

Twenty minutes into the walk and with several blacked-out Mercedes whizzing past us, it slowly began to dawn on us. We had not only drawn the short straws, but there was now the distinct possibility we may need them to aid our liquid consumption, on what was turning out to be more of an endurance event. And by that I mean endurance test of our adoration for our football club and worse still, a lack of endurance in the physical stamina department.

To make things worse, we had begun to attract spectators, as the local people had walked up the mounds and used them as a vantage point, to view what must have looked like the Great Red Walk. Of course, in typical friendly Liverpool style, we waved at our audience and soaked in their reciprocal applause, but for most of the time, their bemusement was overwhelmingly evident.

Another fifteen minutes down the never-ending trail, and we had started to ignore the gathering lines of the crowd. There was only a finite amount of time one’s niceness could last in such searing heat and besides, we had started to notice small groups of the Rossoneri. That special nervous energy, driven by sports rivalry, had taken over the air as the evening began to give way to the dark. Everyone in our group had a different reaction. Most let out odd noises, whilst others increased their pace for what we now knew was the last leg. Barry cracked his knuckles noisily, as I reached into my pocket and bizarrely stroked my ticket for comfort.

Now hot, clearly bothered and after what seemed like an age, a few bottles of water began to surface. As it turned out, the weather was not the only thing we had to douse… what could only be described as an accident waiting to happen, we had somehow ended up in the entrance for the Milan fans! Of course, like with most of these things, it never just rains. In fact, in this particular case, it was pouring Ultras.

All bedecked in Brigate black t-shirts and menacing stares, ensuring the wisdom of this Turkish journey began to immediately drain from some of our faces. A few expletives and a coordinated gingerly U-turn through the tiny path they had now created for us, we found our way past the drama with a cacophony of aggravated Italian ringing in our ears.

An awkward silence enveloped us for the next few minutes, as we wearily found the Liverpool entrance. A warm and frenzied embrace of the Scouse Army was waiting for us, with Chorus after chorus of ‘You Will Never Walk Alone’ ringing into the sweaty night.

Finally, we sighted the bowl of the stadium.

Emerging out of the dark, and emitting a radiant blue light towards the sky, it felt as if we had finally arrived at a long-lost spaceship. A spaceship designed just to take us
home. Simultaneously, the much-loved UEFA Champions League anthem launched triumphantly and welcomed us to the arena.

Our group, now bonded by an hour of sweat, aches and fears, huddled and bounced in anticipation. It was on……

This piece is to commemorate the 10th year anniversary of Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League victory in Istanbul. WATCH OUT FOR PART 2.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Unquenchable Fire in the Belly...

It can be difficult…this writing palaver. Like an unfulfilled childhood ambition, it pokes continually at one’s resigned frame, asking the same questions on repeat.

This in turn, births an all-consuming belief most writers possess. A self-assuredness which convinces you, sitting behind your desk and tapping away at your keyboard, that you will eventually somehow, someday, make a difference.

All this, achieved without any political authority, economic influence or a warfare arsenal.

Just you and your chosen weapons of words, getting ready against all hope, to touch base with the implacable dictator, the unfeeling elite or the ordinary person on the street, who has completely tuned out, traumatised by a desperate bid to survive their overbearing conditions.

Staring at a blank piece of paper and urging your scrambled thoughts, to line up in an eloquent format and obey your quest to make some sort of contact. For if what one writes, had no impact on one’s intended audience, could one then still confidently call oneself a writer?

How does one avoid the cardinal sins of; using several words when one would do or indulging in verboseness, when succinctness will suffice? You see what I did there?

Should a writer’s emotions be dripping from their paragraphs, or is restraint a key driver in conveying a message the audience can relate to? Why even bother about relating to one’s audience?

Is engaging with the audience, a requisite for a serious writer? Is it in fact, just a form of lazy pandering or an indispensable trait for any wordsmith true to his or her craft?

Must all writers be serious? Even the ones who satirise for a living? Is a deadpan delivery more effective than parody, when the issues at hand, are of a - shall we say - more sombre nature?

Why all these questions?

Well, it’s a lonely task….writing, that is. But one, that is guided by a certain amount of nobility, so it’s always necessary to contemplate on the ethics, as well as techniques of the art.

Very few writers for instance, write for no reason. They are always trying to change something and the wind in their sails, though abating intermittently, never stops blowing.

The fire never leaves the belly.

Writers must persevere and keep dropping their nuggets (golden or otherwise), because in the end, all it takes is a few lines to make contact. Yes, it could be a long, arduous road, but once contact is made, a shift occurs and hopefully, a new day is born or at least a new consciousness triggered.

I think James Baldwin; the late, great American writer captured it best when he wrote:

“You write in order to change the world ... if you alter, even by a millimetre, the way people look at reality, then, you can change it.” 

And that could be the hope keeping most writers going. Still hoping that; truly, one day, the pen will indeed be mightier than the sword and it would have all been worth it.

Friday, 1 May 2015

It's the Wooing Game, Silly!

"We are your servants......"

May come across like a sound-bite from a group wooing session gone wrong, but this was one of the many quotes dropped on the BBC's Question Time podium in Leeds, by the political triumvirate begging for our votes, for next Thursday. It was Nick Clegg who came out with this gem actually and it is only appropriate this piece begins with him.

Of the three men, he appears to be the one seen by most (especially the female demographic), as lazy on the eye. His meteoric rise before the last elections, owned more to this factor, than the content of his message. He stood in the middle of Cameron and Brown on that podium, looking like the youngest and most handsome brother in a very average family line-up. It was only inevitable he was to then go on and play a vital role. That was the type of society we had become at the time. Watching America vote in a cool, suave and debonair individual, guaranteed some of the lust for that golden dust, rubbed off on us.

Five years later, having been Deputy Prime Minister for all his troubles, Mr Clegg is on his last legs politically. His recent efforts in Leeds, revealed a man determined to ensure his Order of Songs is predetermined by no one, but himself. At least he would leave a good-looking political corpse.

Next on the list, is Ed Miliband. Looking more confident than ever and seeming to be the only leader who recognised the significance and danger of the size of the "undecided vote". His strategy was simple: I will listen to your question; ask for your name; answer your question by prefacing my response with: "and this is why I believe that".

It looked like it worked for a while, until the banana skin of the "over-spending" question. Worse still, at the end of his allotted 30 minutes, somehow the banana skin had morphed from its literal state into a physical one. If the bacon pictures could garner so much steam, just imagine what the images of a sprawled Miliband would have done for social media and the poor man's political future.

The red tops would have had fun too: 

"Ed falls at the last hurdle".
"Red Ed spills blood on the political dancefloor".
"Floored by the public's questions".

I could go on, but it wouldn't leave me any room to acknowledge Mr Cameron. After all, he is the current Prime Minister and the first man to occupy the floor.

The issue with Mr Cameron is simple; no one outside the Tory confraternity believes anything he says. His swerve, on the NHS issue relating to where the requisite money would be generated was in line with educated expectations. His modus operandi during this election has revealed what most of his detractors like myself, have always highlighted. 

In brief, here is a man who has been raised to believe he was born to rule, but clearly lacks the charisma, instinct and gravitas required to do the job. He has been the lottery winner in a pool of very unlucky Conservative MPs. For me, this is the problem with the Tories and it is an issue which will haunt them for a while. Of the next generation identified as potential leaders, only Boris has what the electorate want and even he, is one inappropriate joke away from a political scandal. A flaw, that being the leader, is bound to bring to the fore.

So, put yourself in the position of the unfortunate electorate, whom, like a pretty woman being wooed, has to make a decision she has to live with for the next five years and maybe even beyond.

Nick, dashing, but prone to making false promises...Dave, decent chap, but with grand delusions of being the chosen one...or Ed, not an oil painting, but utterly devoted to you, albeit, prone to the odd stumble. 

Hmmm....most women I know would probably ask for the real Nicholas, David and Edward, to please stand up. This has been the true tragedy of these elections. Most of us are literally planning to vote according to allegiances and the rest, leant on by a sense of fear. All because we cannot say we really know any of these guys. 

My guess is, as the Lady has to make a choice come next Thursday, she will go for the decent guy with the huge ego. One snag though, he will not be allowed to consummate the relationship.

Interpretation: Tory Minority government.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

United Kingdom of Nigeria

The uncanny parallels that merge the two countries of Nigeria and Great Britain are truly mind-boggling. The historical coming together of both entities about three centuries ago has somehow resulted in a weird morphing of the most unlikely national psyches.
Ask the average Brit on why their country deserves her first name, and you are bound to be taken back to the classroom and schooled on the fine details of Empire 101. Somewhere along the way, you will also be peppered with grandiose tales of Churchill, the unique sacrifice of the Royal Family and depending on their political persuasion; some Thatcher sound bites could also be dropped.
Next, invite the average Nigerian to the same podium, and they will "educate" you on the size, the ethnic diversity, the religious balance and the fact the country is Africa's largest economy. Of course, if you gave them more minutes on stage, they may stretch the truth and tell you how Nigerians were the people "responsible" for the anti-colonial spark that lit the continent in the 1960's and led it into the light of independence.
When all the chitty-chatter is done, none of what either group tells you will represent something for the future. They will unearth some magnificent details from history and some questionable ones from the present but in the end, they will begin to sound like that hapless job candidate. The one with the spanking CV, who mysteriously, cannot articulate how they will take your company forward...
They exude confidence and swagger, crafted on the back of past events, but lack the essential killer traits to stand tall amongst their current-day peers. It's the ultimate price paid when there is an acute lack of leadership.
Consequently, the majority of people in both countries are incredibly optimistic people, with a consummate sense of humour, which they wear like an indispensable cloak. They have to. Anything else will be a one-way ticket to Depression.
Let us take a look at recent events in Great Britain and Nigeria, as they once again share an election year.
On the African side of the Atlantic, you have a huge chunk of the population who vehemently hold on to the view only one particular individual can take the country forward. Just to garnish the mess further, not only is this person in the advanced stage of his life, he has actually had a bite of the top job a few decades ago. And yet they tell us it is "Change".
But then you realise the maturity of the farce, when the incumbent's supporters tell us their man will perform feats in four years, which he wasn't able to do in six. They call that "transformation" apparently.
Meanwhile, on the other side, you have a Prime Minister with probably the worst record of personal judgement in history. From Coulson, to Harrison, to Cruddas, to Fink, to Clarkson, to that Euro veto and so on and so forth. What makes Mr Cameron's case alarming is the fact he was always forewarned with copious evidence, which he consistently ignored. I often wonder what job our PM would have been doing today, if he hadn't gone to Oxford.
Even with all that in mind, it appears Mr Cameron is still the only candidate that "looks" like a Prime Minister. That seems to be the conclusion from the media, driven by the polls. But what else would one expect, when the other candidates are Messrs Clegg and Miliband, et al.
Mr Clegg - who my five year old once told me was David Cameron's brother - appears to share his "brother's" lack of judgement, if not his DNA. It is a crying shame; he will eventually take his party down with him to the unknown depths of the political graveyard, with the tuition fees albatross, hanging from their collective neck.
Mr Miliband is probably the only PM Wannabe I truly feel sorry for. His intellect is not in doubt and his wellmeaningness is indubitable, but when you cannot inspire people to take you seriously as a contender, how the hell are you going to arouse them to the polling stations to vote for you?
And so a few days from now, Nigerians should hopefully be going to the polls, although, there is no guarantee it wouldn't end in an April Fools debacle. Judging by the government's record, I doubt anyone out there, is holding their breath. As a female friend of mine joked; anyone who makes a false promise for Valentine's Day cannot be trusted.
Pan the camera back to these shores and although we have a few more weeks to go before voting, the drama is no less. First of all, it took a lot of high drama to get all recognised partly leaders into the televised debates and now, we have a Prime Minister who has never won an outright majority in an election, sounding off about his lofty plans to hand over the reins of his political party.
The resulting lack of quality leadership in both scenarios, means over 100 million people are about to go out and participate in redundant electoral exercises. But then I guess that's what happens when electorates do not engage genuinely in the political process and are buoyed on media guidance, rather than personal conviction. Invariably, the people will vote to keep the status quo and the politicians will massage voter egos, by saying things like; the people have spoken!
Consequently, like the thousands out there who happen to share a common love, heritage of and roots in both countries, I am staring out of my window and wondering when real purpose will return. Living in hope that some heroes will rise and save us, as we perfectly perch in the middle of what constantly reminds me of Ernest Hemingway's great quote:
"Life is like a sh*t sandwich the more bread you have the less sh*t you have to eat...."
Well, to all the power-brokers from Abuja to Westminster... more bread please.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Nigeria 2015 - Valentine's Day Blues

And so on the very day the rest of the world will be celebrating love, some bright sparks in Nigeria decided it was the perfect day for the country’s two main political tribes to go to war. Surprised? Well, not really, I guess. We are Nigerians after all and everything we do must have our stamp of uniqueness and creativity.

In any event, if the Nigerian Love Brigade is truly unhappy and the female demographic rises up, sufficiently raising the protest decibels and demanding their bouquets and chocolate, our matchlessness also means our government (maybe as an election sweetener) could actually postpone Valentine’s Day.

Don’t laugh, you know it’s possible. Stranger things have definitely happened in our beloved land.

Before we move on, let me confirm the sole intention of this piece is to get the salient points of Nigeria 2015 elections and to do it with brevity as the watchword. I am not going to attempt to compete with anyone on word-count or give a lengthy sermon to the converted. Charles Soludo has easily won the trophies in both categories. Furthermore, the majority of the people casting their vote on that day will not have read his well-researched, but extensive thesis. For me, the issues on ground are hardly that complicated and one doesn’t need a PhD to see through the smoke and mirrors. With this in mind, best to get back to the elections and the resultant matters.

Let us start from the beginning.

For those of you who may live under a rock somewhere and for others who have not been bothered to date, the two elephants fighting over the Nigerian grass would be the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Of course, there are other baby elephants involved, but why mention them, when it appears Nigerians have conveniently decided these calves do not even exist.

Who is who?

The Gladiators

On the one hand, we have Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ), the incumbent, and on the other, you have the APC candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB). Both candidates have already led the nation in one guise or the other. Buhari, for twenty months between December 1983 and August 1985, on the back of a military coup that saw the overthrow of the Shehu Shagari government and Jonathan, for the last fifty-five months having succeeded the previous president, Umaru Yar'Adua (Late).

So, with the abridged history lesson out of the way, there is only one question at the top of everyone’s list.

Who will win?

I would hate to be the one who elected (pun intended) to raise the collective blood pressure of members of either party, so I will hold my predictions for a little while longer. Instead, let’s ask another burning question on millions of Nigerian lips.

Who should we go for?

Well, I don’t know where the majority are, but for the silent minority (and yes, we are millions too) like me – who have chosen to keep quiet until now – we do not believe there is any real choice out there. All we see is a two-headed snake, with one head being marginally less venomous than the other. We, in this group, naturally recoil on sighting snakes, so our natural position is to be cautious, alert and stay at a safe distance. You cannot blame us. We are still reeling from the Creation story, but, no one should mistake our distance for apathy. We can still see it all from our sanctuary and yes, we are riveted.

From our view over here, we find little comfort in a sitting president who appears to believe kneeling before pastors and speaking from the pulpit in crowded churches, will somehow transform him into a strident, forthright and performing leader, which is what Nigerians require, but sadly do not have. We cannot quite tell which is more painful; the leader floundering in the darkness looking for the light, or the nation stuck in the darkness, having to watch the drama unfold with their candles, lanterns and diesel cash-guzzlers.

We are equally uneasy with a presidential candidate who says things like;

“It is a legal responsibility which God has given us, within the context of one Nigeria, to continue to uphold the practice of Sharia wholeheartedly and to educate non-Muslims that they have nothing to fear…"

"What remains for Muslims in Nigeria is for them to redouble their efforts, educate Muslims on the need to promote the full implementation of Sharia law…."

This is fine if you are an Imam (or even the average Muslim minding his or her own business), but not when you are wishing to occupy the top position, overseeing a country with over 70 million non-Muslims. Also, when someone of Buhari’s record tells me there is “nothing to fear,” that is the time I begin to tremble with certain trepidation. To be blunt, we will prefer anyone who wants to rule us, to leave religion out of the electoral process and just give us solid and viable plans for good governance. It’s not a Christian/ Muslim thing….it’s a Nigeria thing.

We know Mahatma Gandhi said;

"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." 

But still, we are confident he didn't have this modern-day Nigeria - where insensitive leaders conveniently forget our secularism - in mind. Our advice will be for anyone who wants our votes, to keep the Koran and Bible out of our faces and stop hiding behind God. We may not be as religious as you, but we at least hope God will not protect incompetents. Besides, no matter the reassurances they may have obtained from their pastor or imam, we doubt anyone can bribe their way to paradise. On the day of judgement, we are relatively certain it will just be you and your creator. So, please in the name of God, stop.

Of course, the chutzpah of these politicians is sometimes created from events that surround us all. In a country where a keenly followed “man of God” has promised to “open up the gates of Hell on the president’s foes,” why are we puzzled when the average corrupt politician, believes he or she can open up the gates of Heaven and enter with a clear conscience?

Moving on swiftly, we cannot see how the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, can seriously justify staying on for another four years in the face of our country turning into the laughing stock of the world, whilst his ardent supporters bombard use with sterile indices showing Nigeria’s economy growing by 7% over the next blah years. Excuse me, but those in the know have been predicting the same statistic - along with Nigeria’s economy someday outstripping that of South Africa - way before your man came into power. Our advice will be for the president's followers to confront him on his woeful record on corruption and his penchant for surrounding himself with such poor advisers. The buck stops at your man's desk, so get him to do what leaders do...lead or get out of the way.

As for the other side, we, unlike the fervent millions pushing the Buhari ticket can’t see how his government can be incorruptible or attempt to probe anyone, when the very people who are financially springing him to power, have, shall we say “questionable” public service records. How anyone believes Buhari will be anything more than a figure-head, is still utterly befuddling to us. Do Buhari fans understand how much money will be spent to get him to the Rock? Do they know the source of those funds? Have they even bothered to do the mathematics, before giving the General their unshaken support? The mind boggles...

These GMB enthusiasts have sole reserve of our incredulity for they have conveniently forgotten this particular job at Abuja, requires a skill-set their renowned inflexible candidate (this will not be a military setting) may not possess. We of course pray for the best, as we have to concede Buhari has evidently softened over the years, or how else would he, Tinubu and Atiku be convenient bedfellows? How else could someone like Senator Yerima (he of the child-bride fame), be on Buhari’s presidential campaign committee? We could go on, but Brevity restrains us, as we continue to hope against all hope.

We worry about our intellectuals – bar a few – who have somehow conspired to overwhelmingly get on the ABJ (Anybody But Jonathan) train, whilst not holding the GMB bus shuttle to the same bar or standards. This particular point is one we find extremely worrying, especially; when we know some of these same characters never tire of educating us on whom to vote for, with no credible, historical record of them ever getting it right. It appears sadly, it is not only the politicians capitalising on the millions of Nigerians, whose determination to ignore the issues, is only surpassed by their rigid determination to vote for Buhari. Dissemination of knowledge is definitely not the goal here.

We, against all hope, pray our electorate is aware Nigeria’s foremost issue is a Lack of Leadership, because we can see the gaping hole created by a dearth of individuals prepared to knuckle down and inspire Nigerians to believe in and contribute positively to the creation of a better land. We know the requisite structure and culture just doesn't exist, because we have refused to copy the examples of countries like Singapore and Indonesia - two countries that more or less dragged their nationals out of the Third World pile, right before our eyes – instead, we have actually started to see the our hole become a grotesque gorge of hopelessness and resigned apathy.          

We wish we could have a Vladimir Putin Jonathan or Vladimir Putin Buhari for the next four years and at least, be frank with ourselves on the type of person we have in charge. A laconic individual, who is clearly very knowledgeable about his country, has a good grasp of her foes and friends (foreign and domestic) and also possesses an iron, nationalistic will to see his country prosper and not be left behind. An undeniable patriot, who though flawed, is driven by a passionate belief in the supremacy of his country. A person who Boko Haram know gives them only two options, when they attack his people; a one-way ticket to their maker or a lifetime in hell.

Of course we realise this is a flight of fantasy, so, we grudgingly accept Buhari and Jonathan are all we realistically have for now and a choice has to be made. But yet, we wonder why a country of 160 million plus, has refused to carve out her identity, but instead has blindly followed the Democratic / Republican model, which is clearly throwing that icon of democracy into bureaucratic chaos. We can’t really understand why Nigerians have decided to totally ignore the other candidates. Yes, they genuinely may not have a chance, but at least one or two of them should be able to join the national debate. You will be surprised the quality of the “between the lines” detail that a third or fourth candidate brings to the table. If in doubt, ask David Cameron and Gordon Brown about a certain Nick Clegg or draw some inspiration from the electoral shift, away from the traditional political parties in Europe.

Finally, we really hope Nigerians have a cunning plan and just want to exploit the fervency of the Buhari factor, to knock Jonathan from his perch and then a few years down the line; exert their electoral muscles and take out the General and his political soldiers. You never know….we Nigerians remain ingenious like that. In fact, this is the scenario we pray is playing out in front of us, as we look on and laugh.

We rest.

So, really, who will win?

Well, the same people who always win. The same group that have been winning since 1960, and have positioned things in such a way, as to ensure whichever snake-head shows up, they, have enough anti-venom to contain the situation for their own benefit. If you are wondering who these people are, well, don’t strain your cerebral Rolodex on our behalf. We will help you.

The group rarely grows past twenty in number and their clout within their setting, is determined on natural causes like death, sickness and finally, on whom they have allowed to inhabit the seat of power. They are all male, arguably the only true Nigerians – as in, they know the country inside out and unlike most of us, have cultural, political and familial connections that defy creed, religion or tribe – and are individually, sufficiently ruthless and benevolent in equal measure.

If you require more assistance in compiling the list, I will go as far as to advise you the most visible - yes, some have to be shadowy - of the collective, have acronymic monikers with three characters permanently branded on the brain of most Nigerians. What else do you expect after five decades of oppression and ensuing trauma?

Oh, we shouldn't forget America. She wins too. Any which way Nigeria goes, America just magically happens to come up trumps. Must be something in the Rivers Niger and Benue.

Final verdict of Nigeria Elections 2015 

A Valentine’s Day Massacre of the common man……tick-tock.


 1.  Cartoon courtesy of  Mike Asukwo (+234 802 3462978)
 2.  Charles Soludo article courtesy of Vanguard Newspapers

Friday, 2 May 2014

Nigeria We Hail Thee!

Many years ago, I attended a boarding secondary school in Nigeria. It was a great time, filled with youthful, vivid and memorable moments....some low, but mainly, mostly high.
It was a different time then, but the school, was not much different from the one in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria, where over 200 young girls between the ages of 16 and 18 were abducted on the 15th of April 2014.
The attack, widely attributed to Boko Haram - the insurgent group who are purportedly driven by a desire to 'unwesternise' Nigeria - happened in the still of the night, as the girls prepared for their final-year examinations.
In normal societies, this dastardly act would have been followed by a stern and robust response from the government of the day, hunting down the terrorists and rescuing the poor little girls. But this is Nigeria.
Nigeria, where our president, Goodluck Jonathan, goes into rapturous gyrations on the campaign trail, barely hours after a bomb went off in the country's capital city, Abuja on the 14th of April, twenty-four hours before the Chibok kidnappings.
The same Nigeria, where the Federal Executive Council (equivalent of the UK Cabinet) decided to cancel one of their sessions in respect to the vice-president, who had lost his younger brother in a car crash, but somehow did not see it fit to do same for the Abuja bomb victims or even as a mark of respect for the snatched Chibok girls.
Since then - in case you live under a rock - there has been another bomb blast in Abuja yesterday, literally a few metres away from the spot where it occurred two weeks ago. To their credit, the president's men have released a tweet to confirm a security meeting was being convened.
A little too late, many Nigerians would say and can one really blame them? They are pissed and have had enough.
Twitter, is actually one of the best places in the social media landscape to observe that sense of rage and revulsion. Under various hash-tags to drive their message home and riding on the back of the platform's powerful reach, Nigerians of all creeds and religions have spewed their frustrations.
Some even went as far as to doubt if a God actually existed and wondering if the nation's religious leaders - with their deafening silence - were also in the government's pocket. In a God-fearing nation like Nigeria, the significance of this type of development cannot be exaggerated.
In any case, we have all been doing our bit on the #bringourgirlsback thread, alongside thousands of people including celebrities like Mary J Blige, Kerry Washington, Keri Hilson, Russell Simmons, Piers Morgan etc. The shared hope is that the message reaches into the nooks, corners and corridors of the influential, who can then pressurise Goodluck Jonathan to act decisively or at least feign concern.
So why are Nigerians so angry?
Well, consider this; prior to the above-mentioned atrocities, there have been countless other murderous acts descended upon the people in that part of Nigeria, including:
  • 33 people killed at churches in Maiduguri, Pokistum and Musarari, over the Christmas holidays in 2012.
  • 42 students and teachers killed at Government Secondary school in Mamudo, Yobe State, on 6 July, 2013.
  • 44 students and teachers killed at the College of Agriculture in Gujba, Yobe State, on 29 September, 2013.
  • 59 students killed at the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi, Yobe State, on 25 February, 2014.
Nigerians are raging because in the world's largest black populace, we have a government that can no longer guarantee security and is not shame-faced enough to step up to the plate. Our president continues to stew in puerile denials, whilst a part of the country, as big as some as some European nations burns to the ground.
Clueless, ineffective and impotent in the face of a well-organised and ruthless foe, they stumble from pillar to post, trying to convince the outside world that Nigeria is faced with an international problem. A problem they claim has been brought on by insurgents being driven into Nigeria by anti-terrorist campaigns effected by foreign powers.
But these type of lame excuses are expected from a government known for blaming everyone else but themselves for the country's long list of social and economic problems. No electricity, yes, it is the work of our enemies. No water, yes, it is the work of our detractors. No roads, yep, that is definitely our foes again!
Meanwhile, no one has bothered to tell us where the missing $20 billion oil money is. The Nigerian ship is rudderless with a completely bamboozled captain and crew. Drift has not only become inevitable, it is now the norm.
Leadership is absent and accountability has gone to the dogs. So much so, that almost two decades after his death, the late great Nigerian musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's words still ring true:
"Dem go dey parambulate and go still dey same same place."
Like an army with no strategy, this government is indeed going round in circles and as if this was not bad enough, there is no viable replacement waiting in the wings. The opposition is driven by individuals whose real intentions are at best unknown and at worse, cannot be relied upon. The collective Nigerian mind boggles.
Talking about the army, it is now not unexpected that the average Nigerian on the streets of Abuja, Yobe and Lagos is secretly - in the deep recesses of their oppressed minds - praying for the return of the boys in green. Let's face it....they cannot be worse than this current lot.
Those of us in the Diaspora, well, most of us anyway, carry the country's woes with us everywhere we go. We look at the younger generation and constantly retune our 'Nigeria is Good' message, whilst those in charge constantly undo all our good work. And just when we think we have it bad, we remember our friends, family and fellow Nigerians surviving under the yoke of that government's ineptitude and we sigh.
This morning, a friend with a penchant for all things Nigeria, called me to discuss the situation and summarised as follows;
"When it comes to Nigeria, I will believe anything can happen. It is that bad now. There are no conspiracy theories in our country. What may seem far-fetched anywhere else is just the norm over there. I always said it will get worse before getting better, but I never foresaw this complete shambles."
I paused to reflect on his words and our silence filled the space. Suddenly, we both broke it at the same, echoing the opening line from the nation's former national anthem and a refuge all Nigerians gravitate towards when faced with awesome confusion.
"Nigeria we hail thee," we chorused.
(Dedicated to the missing Chibok girls - bring them home. A protest is planned for bank holiday Monday 5th May, 2014 at 11am. Venue: Nigeria House, 9 Northumberland Avenue, London. WC2N 5BX. Please come out to support us).