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).

Monday, 10 February 2014

What have Tall people ever done for the world?

The sharp tone playing from my phone told me all I needed to know. 

It was my nemesis on his weekly 'let's piss Kanmi off' pastime. Yes, I saved a special tone just for him. 

Reluctantly, I picked up the phone.


"Hey Baba, what's up?"

"Nothing bro. How can I help?"

"Ah ah! Na fight?"

"No, just having a stressful day."

"Okay, but don't take it out on me. Anyway, I called to check if you were still sticking to your plan not to blog this year."

"Yep. Why?"

"Well, I read something that I am certain will get your goat. You know that guy, Elnathan John, who you are always praising? He has been abusing us!"


"Yes. Hmm…the guy has been abusing us o. He said short people are stupid and troublemakers. He even started to boast that he is six feet tall. Can you imagine?"

"Really? So what do you want me to do about it? I am not the representative of short people worldwide. You want me to return to blogging by replying him, I suppose?"

"Of course! Who else do we have? If he had attacked fat people, they would have replied by now. Remember this is the same guy who replies vehemently when people attack gays. We need to respond and put him in his place. We are a minority too."

"But no one wants to imprison short people."

"Who told you that? This is how they start. No one took Hitler serious when he started and see how that ended."

"But using Hitler as an example will destroy your case bro. He was short."

"That's what the tall media told us. The guy was almost six feet!!

I sighed heavily as I walked through to the kitchen and looked out to the overgrown garden which should have had my attention ten minutes ago. I was about to say something before my fellow dwarf took the wind from my sail.

"Do you know he said we spend most of our lives staring at people's nipples? Can you imagine? Nonsense! And then he quoted Ian Fleming, saying all short people are insecure."

"Oh well, I am sure even he at six feet, has to stare at someone's nipples. It's relative, no? Maybe the insecurity is actually on his part. Maybe he hasn't achieved enough in his life for a tall person, so he wants to deflect by picking on short people. Maybe he has reflected on how much God has given him, height-wise and how little he has returned for that gift. Maybe you should reply on his blog and quote Jack Dempsey."

"Jack Dempsey? Who is that?"

"He was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world about a hundred years ago."

"Okay, okay. What did he say?"

"Tall men come down to my height, when I hit them in the body."

"I like it! I like it! I will definitely go to his blog now. Idiot! He thinks he can abuse us and get away with it. What I don't understand is tall people's obsession with us. They call us names, say we have short man syndrome, catch all the fine girls and yet, we say nothing about them. What is it sef?

"Can I go now?" I asked with total submission.

"Yes, but I will be back. You know the guy is clever. He will have a witty reply and I may not be able to counter. I may need you bro."

"Okay," I replied wearily, hoping the conversation was finished. But then, expectation is the root of all heartache.

"What really annoyed me is people's reaction to his rubbish article. They are all laughing, saying how much they enjoyed it. It is discrimination and they are endorsing it! Apart from Ali and Mandela, where are all these remarkable tall people? But look at us; Martin Luther King, Gandhi, all the popes, Dai Lama, Maradona, Pele, Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, even in the premiership today, Hazard is the best player. Where is the tall people's contribution?"

"But they have Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic and all those NBA players to name a few," I whispered.

The accompanying silence from his end was palpable. Finally, he spoke.

"Do you not know basketball started out as netball, until the tall people betrayed us and raised the baskets seven foot into the air? How the f*ck is that fair? Only a selfish people will do that. Bastards! Anyway, I am off to put my reply on all his postings. If he wants a war, we will give him one!"

I stifled my laughter and managed to query him further.

"So this article, what was the title? Surely it wasn’t just about short people? Elnathan always has something more concrete to say."

The dead line told me everything I need to know.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

All I want for 2014.

It was in the last few hours of 2012...

I was recovering from the festive excesses and fooling myself that I had discovered a new wind and 2013 was going to be my year. I opened up my laptop and began tinkering with several blogging ideas. Some friends had given me some unwelcome feedback and I thought it would be nice to convince them I actually valued their opinion. They were right of course...I should post articles more often....I should be less attracts more readers.

In that spirit, I came up with what I believed would be a more user-friendly post. 7 Sistas to watch in 2013 was my humble attempt to not only recognise deserving talent within the black community, but it was also evidence of my determination to highlight its persistently unrecognised female demographic. I had also selfishly hoped the individuals on the list would repay me when their deserved credit arrived (never happened).

A friend who had gone through the list called about a week after publication.

"Wow, I didn't even know half of the people on that list. Laura Mvula? You really think she will be big in 2013? Well, I hope so for your sake. You are going to look pretty silly otherwise!"

It was clear he didn't understand the psyche of the average blogger. Yes, we have a section of us who crave validation and would do anything for a 'like' or approving comment, but in the main, we are a confident bunch (actually, make that arrogant bunch).

How else can you describe individuals who have a resolute belief that the public out there, are really interested in their views. Narcissism, I guess, is the underlying requisite trait.

Me? I belong to the hardcore of the group. Somewhere within my Medulla Oblongata, a superciliousness exists. A delusion of grandeur that makes me think I am a literary prophet. I stubbornly reject the notion that copious feedback is evidence of blogging talent. My gratification is strictly derived from publication, hence my inability to accept my limited comprehension of the blogging medium. I truly believe I tell people what is coming....whether they choose to embrace it, is not my concern.

In any case, as old dogs cannot (or will not) learn new tricks, I have decided to follow in my tiresome and redundant tradition, by sharing a list for 2014.

This time, I have relented and accepted my 2013 list was not sufficiently inclusive. Apparently, things have moved on and writers are not expected to focus on their race, religion, creed or nationality to the exclusion of others. We are expected to be more inviting and willing to reach out to a wider audience. We should be less racist, less homophobic, less sexist and hopefully less conceited. Well, 3 out of 4 is not bad....

2013 was a challenging one for me. I lost a good friend and a fortune, but then I gained wisdom and fortitude. It is mandatory for me to look forward if improvement is the ambition.

So here we go....the 5 things I want in 2014:

1. That post-Mandela, the ANC would finally accept it has been an indolent child of an over-protective father and the time for change has come. In what can only be described as their best chance to prove their detractors wrong and show the global community their maturity, the party of Mandela, Sisulu, Tambo and Zuma, failed abysmally. The lowest moment of course, was their denial of the inept sign language interpreter, who was later exposed as an ever-present member of their long-running charade. Apparently, he suffered a 'spiritual attack,' at the crucial moment. Let's hope the ANC doesn't experience same.

2. That the world would irrespectively of belief, embrace the current Pope. It has been a while since we had a 'Mother Theresa' figure and the world is in dire need of goodness. Yes, the body he leads might have its problems, but the humble Argentine has been all-embracing and all-inclusive. He deserves a collective pat on the back.

3. That worthy political leaders would emerge across the world. Everywhere you look, we are surrounded by ineffectual, maladroit frontmen (and women), pretending to deserve followership. They stumble miserably towards an election date, promising everything from prosperity to peace and then deliver the exact opposite. As an aside, as someone who resides in the United Kingdom, I do not believe I have seen a worse advert for privileged or elitist education, than this latest brigade of cowboys in Westminster. Enough said.

4. That we, the public, don't allow the media to determine what global events we pay attention to. Some of us are so bereft of world event knowledge, we don't seem to realise there is still a war going on in Syria, that there is still unspeakable crisis in a 'free' Libya and more importantly, there is a scary water crisis that the Rupert Murdochs of this world don't want us to discuss. Their hope is for us to focus on oil, diamonds and other natural resources, but I am not aware of any period in history when man drank black gold for sustenance.

5. Finally, that human beings resist the lunge towards prestige. You are not a better person because you belong to an elite mob. In truth, ala Groucho Marx, you shouldn't really want to be part of a collective that invites you. Focus more on doing good deeds for the world and not a select few. If you seriously want to help the world, do it because it emanates from your heart and not because of a national honour that lies in wait. If we learnt anything in the last year or so, it's that recognition does not equate worthiness. The Queen knighted Jimmy Saville and look how that turned out!

Happy 2014 people.....may the year bring you all you deserve.

Friday, 15 November 2013

For the Love of Dogs

"So you are basically a selfish person then," she said carrying a smirked face.
I wasn't certain if it was the sheer surprise at the barbed comment or the sledgehammer effect it had on me, but I was instantly uncomfortable.
"Selfish?" I asked. "For not wanting a dog, I am now self-centred?"
"Yes," she replied even more confidently.
In that moment, I thought of all the Emotional Intelligence books I had devoured for one of my management modules. Deep down, I knew what the books told me to do in this type of scenario, but it was also so clear I would not be able to deliver on this occasion.
She had succeeded in making me see red in record time, and a level-headed response and temperate retorts would not cut it.
"So you believe owning a dog makes you a selfless person? Where is the selflessness of all the owners of abandoned and neglected dogs across the length and breadth of this country? Did their generosity take flight once they discovered their pooches were going to engage in rapid and wanton defecation?"
Secretly, I knew my argument was weak, but it still felt good to have something to say. Unfortunately for me though, she hit back in a flash.
"You clearly do not understand dog ownership and anything I say would be lost on you!"
Her more aggressive tone confirmed I had succeeded in making her equally irritated. It was infantile of course, but there was something so satisfying in making her taste her brand of vile medicine. Or was it just my hyperbolic brand of assessment at work?
Undeterred, I began to delight in her subsequent screwed facial contortions. And when I say delight, I mean the type felt by a constipation patient, who, after a week of chronic discomfort, finally manages to do Number Two.
I felt it was time to let it all out.
"Dogs are basically like all animals, needy. The only reason you are drawn to them is their unique ability to display that trait better than any other beasts. Besides, they cannot be trusted. One wrong move and your child's leg is Pedigree Chum!"
The delibrate manner in which she unwrapped her long scarf, whilst also switching off her ubiquitous iPhone, told me I did ask for and will get a very long session of abuse.
I took a deep breath for false stamina, as she began to speak.
"First things first, dogs are not beasts. Wild dogs are a product of wild owners. Dog are lovely animals and have been man's best friend for God knows how many decades...."
I decided to interrupt.
"Do you have a specific number of years for that friendship or are we just plucking information from the Canine Cloud?
She continued as if I had spoken a silent language.
"A beast has no loyalties to you and would kill you the first chance it gets. Dogs are reliable and loyal. They help the blind, the disabled, the Police, the Armed Forces and contribute more to aid the welfare of man, than a billion of you would ever do. So, when you manage to garner up a coherent or even logical opinion about dogs, please let me know. In the meantime, can we move on? This topic is dead."
I had been completely savaged. My tormentor was noticeably rejuvenated and somewhat pleased with herself. Smirk back on, she switiched on her phone and began to wrap her loose scarf.
As I had no props to play with, I decided prematurely to reply. To say my retort was puerile at best, would be to flatter myself. I had lost this contest and my feeble attempt to call dogs dirty and smelly (yes, that was the totality of my reply), fell on well-deserved damp and squiggy ground.
A few inconvenient minutes passed and I could hear her tapping her shoes on the wooden floors. That action coupled with the scarf-wrapping, appeared to be a valedictory ritual.
Luckily for me, her phone rang.
"Hello Mum, she answered quietly. " The date? Well, it just ended. I have just wasted twenty of my limited dating minutes speaking to the devil's spawn."
It took me a few seconds of looking around, for it to dawn on me this heavenly woman had just labelled me as Hell's own.
Call me thin-skinned, but I do believe cues do not come more definitive.
I raised my hand (with credit card flickering in between my fingers) to catch the waiter's attention. My utter discomfort, evident in my unnecessary card flickering, was compounded by the feckless waiter pretending not to see me. This is the same guy who had been eavesdropping on our conversation all evening.
Is this the type of turn I deserved from tipping this guy pre-service?
Noticing my dilemma, my 'date's' parting shot was well aimed and delivered with crushing precision.
"You look upset. How much did you tip him again? I bet a labrador would have treated you with more loyalty."

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Afriyie's Stab in the Dark...

So, some Tories are out to get David Cameron and replace the Prime Minister with, wait for it....Windsor MP, Adam Afriyie.

And? I hear you ask.

Maybe, I should spell the name for clarity; A-F-R-I-Y-I-E. No? Nothing? Oh well, since you are going to be a spoilsport, I better let you in on the secret....he is black.

Try not to choke on your cornflakes, this is 2013 Britain....our heroes come in a variant of shades. The last Olympics ensured this would be the case for a long time to come.

Adam, a guy who is very much his own man, actually describes himself as 'post-racial not black'. Son of a Ghanaian father and a British mother, Adam is probably one of those mixed-race people like Tiger Woods, who detest people referring to them as black. To be fair, I suppose it's only fair that the 50-50 blood is acknowledged. We wouldn't call mixed-race people white, so why call them black, right?

Well, it is a free world and I don't really care what Mr Afriyie calls himself, as long as he does not try to introduce us to another word like 'Caubliasian' (this was Tiger's gift to us during one of his Oprah confessionals!). To the uninitiated, that stands for Caucasian, Black and Asian.

Back to the matter at hand.

It appears the rumblings within the Tory party has refused to go away, especially around the contentious issue of the referendum on Europe. David Cameron in his infinite wisdom has already made this an election issue, by saying if he were to return to Downing Street in a Conservative victory in 2015, we would have the referendum by 2017. This and a relatively successful party conference has obviously not doused the blue fires.

Enter  some Conservative backbenchers (that's another word for bitter people who have no influence within their ruling party), who have got together and decided to truncate Cameron's time at the top. This group apparently, believes Mr Afriyie is the Tory Obama....the very type of character they can utilise to diffuse Labour's possible attempt to spring Chuka Umunna into Number 10.

Or is that just my naive political instincts driving me to the wrong conclusions? Well, I cannot speak for all, but to my mind, surely the future is neither black nor white, rather it is definitely leaning towards a wonderful blend. A blend that brings us to together and one that is bound to bring a tear to Sir Trevor Mcdonald eyes, as his trembling voice announces our 'Obama' moment.

But seriously, the truth remains everybody wants to be cool and every party wants to reverse their currently dwindling political fortunes. Post-racial is the place to be. Talking of fortunes, it turns out Adam is a self-made man with £100 Million dangling in his back pocket! I don't know about you, but I think he will fit in snugly in our 80% millionaire cabinet.

Clearly, for him to take that leap, he has decided to be a constant pain in his leader's side. Words like backstabbing, treacherous and perfidious, must be doing the rounds in the corridors of Whitehall. Of course one of the most precarious acts you can undertake in politics, is putting one's head above the parapet. Note to up on your Heseltine history.

Adam Afriyie and the missus

Saying all that Mr Afriyie, I do wish you luck sir with your 'leadership' plot.  I hope you are not the sacrificial lamb to be offered to High Priest Cameron. Politics is a complicated web of intrigues and underhandedness. From what I have seen so far, you are a micro-organism in a pool of sharks. I fear you will be torn apart.

With 140 of your 147 Tory parliamentary colleagues leaving you stranded on your Ego Island, I bet the end is definitely nigh. But why should you care, right? You are still young, rich and black (sorry, post-racial).

So much as I would like to see you become the British Obama, I would rather place my chips on Chuka Umunna, Labour MP for Streatham.

Nothing personal, I just want Nigeria to pip Ghana to the Downing Street finishing line...major bragging rights bro...major!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

A Man For all Seasons

It will be disingenuous to begin this piece without accepting an indubitable fact - Death is indeed a natural part of life.

Aside from being born, the only other certainty in life is the reality that you will one day...die.

Having said that, it is also a fact human beings will eternally struggle with the concept of that final breath leaving the body. It is an inherent trait of the Homosapien to search frantically for the ability to control everything around us. So our discomfort is palpable when something continuously outwits us.

This ensuing frustration is what leads most of us to attach what we see as cogent reasons to inexplicable (and explicable) expirations. We attach such negativity to death, forgetting that in reality, it is nothing but the continuum of the circle of life. No one escapes it.

As I write this, it has been seven days since the tragic plane crash in Lagos, Nigeria. That crash, of a small chartered plane, turned out to be responsible for a catastrophe of massive proportions. Not only did it claim the majority of the lives on-board, it also managed to wipe out two generations and visit jarring grief on aged parents, siblings, spouses and children alike.

I lost a friend in that flight. He would have been 43 years old yesterday. He was a vibrant, witty and cerebral individual. Whenever I went back home to Nigeria, I always hoped I would run into him….not because I yearned to socialise or hobnob with him, but more for the fact that he was a gifted raconteur. And boy, did he have stories to tell for days.

Deji Falae was the person responsible for my favourite political story of all time. I loved the story so much, I have since regurgitated it close to a hundred times, but somehow never nailing it in that brilliant way Deji always did. I wish I had been closer to him; perhaps I could have done a better job.

Here was a young man who managed to live what I would consider a relatively simple life, when in truth; he could have done the exact opposite. Nigeria is a place where people will brazenly live off the name of their distant influential relatives and do quite well in the process, so when you come across someone who people have to keep asking to confirm if indeed, they were the child of a popular politician, you slowly come to realise you are indeed in the company of a truly humble soul.

Enter the dark-cloaked, scythe-wielding embodiment of death:  the one we all know, but are rarely prepared for. The routine, creepily the same….as it came for one of us, hourglass in hand, waiting for the last particle of sand to drop. The result was swift, brutal and invariably has left us with numbing grief.

The Grim Reaper, unlike the person it has taken from us, is not our friend or ally. Its only duty is to leave us in no doubt of its fatal mission. It lacks compassion and in true form, during the period between that plane crash and today, it has taken more loved ones from people we all know. It leaves us sufficiently weary.

This is what must have led the late English playwright, Robert Bolt, to conclude:

Even at our birth, death does but stand aside a little. And every day he looks towards us and muses somewhat to himself whether that day or the next he will draw nigh.

The Grim Reaper drew uncomfortably nigh that Wednesday morning and the task was clear…it wants us to be caught unawares and stew in sorrow. It wants to stand aside and watch us perpetually shed hot, unplanned tears. Our pain is its joy and our anguish, its ecstasy.  This is the crowning piece in its grand intimidating design.

But on this occasion, we should not let it get its way. Even in these impossibly sad times, we should take a collective deep breath and learn to celebrate Deji’s life. As we offer our deep condolences to his parents, siblings, his wife, Ese and their children, we should remember the good times and sustain them with wonderful memories of his loving ways.

Yes, we could huddle and share our angst as we bitterly wonder why Deji took that flight. We could question the wisdom of flying alongside a coffin or the irony of how someone who wasn't the biggest fan of flying ended up on such an ill-fated flight. We could do all those things, but it would not ease the pain. 

What we should do is celebrate the legacy he left behind in his role as a son, father, husband, brother, friend and exemplary servant of his state and country. We need to gather around those left behind whenever we are chanced and tell joyful stories about Deji and not let death dictate how we remember this gem of a man.

This is how we can ensure he lives in our hearts forever.  For if we keep his memory alive, in essence…..he will never be away from us. We shouldn't fret that a part of us dies when a special loved one passes away, we should celebrate that a part of us lives with our loved ones on the other side.

We must take refuge in the biblical verse given to me when I tragically lost my younger sister five years ago:

John 14:1-4:

”Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”

Happy Birthday and Rest in Peace Deji.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Parental Advice - Nigerian Style

Maybe it's the Nigerian in me, but when it comes to my parents, any insult, intentional or otherwise, will always be met with forceful brimstone and years of grudge-holding. And yes, my father has been dead for 13 years. Nigerians are just like that.
We may share many things with Black Americans, but it doesn't extend to the 'yo mama' thing. In fact, I know many people who still nurse injuries visited upon them decades ago for forgetting that fact.
With that introduction out of the way, you can just imagine how the Daily Mail/ Ed Miliband war of words is playing out in Nigerian homes across the UK. If you don't have a friend of Nigerian background, get one quick and enjoy our unique views on unreserved parental reverence. You can thank me later.
So, what exactly did the UK's 2nd best-selling newspaper say and why is the leader of the UK's most popular party (if you believe the pools) so irate?
In the spirit of brevity, here's the condensed version:
The Daily Mail, in the wake of Ed Miliband's speech at the Labour Party conference, published an article entitled 'The Man Who Hated Britain,' in which the paper honed in on the Marxist beliefs of Ralph Miliband, Ed's father. In that piece, they contended Miliband Snr nursed anti-British sentiments which could have influenced his son and as such ".....should disturb everyone who loves this country".
As if that wasn't enough, just for added vitriolic relish, they included a picture of Miliband Snr's grave with the caption, 'Grave Socialist'.
Clearly, the Milibands were not going to have this depiction of their late father stick. Ed managed to get a 'right to reply' which in turn was cynically neutralised by the paper's re-assertion of their story in the same edition! It became clear there was no concession from the paper and the war of words ignited into a free-for-all.
Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's erstwhile enforcer and sworn enemy of the paper got into the ring with impressive gusto, as he took the paper's position apart and savaged the paper's deputy editor, Jon Steafel, on Newsnight. In case you live under a rock, here's the evidence.
Unsettling as that verbal execution was, one could almost say it was well deserved. Although, you couldn't help but wonder if Mr Campbell was morally positioned to do the hatchet job. His bully-boy vocals whilst accusing the paper of bully-boy tactics, wasn't exactly a golden moment.
Personally, an execution delivered by Mehdi Hassan is more my style. Low-key, incessant, witty and ultimately destructive. His BBC Question Time savaging of the Daily Mail was a class act.
But getting back to the paper's accusations. Ralph Miliband was a 17 year old who said things which underlined his conflicts at the time. He went on to serve the country and laid his life on the line. Yes, he was a confessed Marxist and yes he hoped the Britain lost the Falklands War, but I am not aware of these sentiments being crimes.
Anyone who thinks our armed forces is full of people who love everything the UK does, needs medication. Furthermore, anyone who reads the article and genuinely comes to the conclusion that Miliband Snr did indeed hate Britain....well, they need the whole medicine cabinet.
Yes, ironically, Ed Miliband would want a 17 year old to get the vote, so I guess there will be those like myself asking why we should then disregard the views of someone that age. But at the same time, I am prepared to wager there are civilians and members of the armed forces (of all ages) who have said worse things. And I am doubly sure they still continue to root and fight for this country.
Civilians and Soldiers alike are not robots, consequently, they sometimes feel frustrated, but it doesn't diminish their patriotism.
Interestingly, as the row went into overdrive, The Telegraph newspaper, in a subtle rebuke to their 'noisy cousin' reprinted their 1994 obituary of Professor Ralph Miliband, in which they described him as a balanced socialist, leading many on social media to praise the right-wing paper, whilst continuing to pummel the Daily Mail.
The Telegraph's move was delivered with so much class, it reminded me of how the Tories deliver the same messages UKIP struggle to impart into the national psyche and in the process, manage to steal some borderline supporters.
In any case, in the preparation for this post, I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to eat some Nigerian food. Perhaps my writing about Nigeria had made me nostalgic and only a meal of pounded yam and egusi stew could douse the flames. I contemplated on the best venue.
Whilst deliberating, I received a call from my Sarah, my English friend who loved all things politics and even more so, foreign food. She had pestered me earlier in the year about wanting to try Nigerian cuisine. I decided to invite her to the 805 restaurant in London. It was going to be the blogger's holy grail: food, chat and booze.
Once at the venue, I quickly brought her up to speed on my project and how I came to the restaurant for inspiration. As we chin-wagged and waited for our food, a long-lost older friend walked towards (without invitation) our table.
I quickly warned my friend this could be my opportunity to get that unique aforementioned Nigerian view. She swore herself to complete silence. Secretly, I was elated the older friend clearly wasn't capable of same.
He had gleamed my folded newspaper and went into full throttle.
"Can you imagine the disrespect? The man is dead and not here to defend himself."
"Margaret Thatcher is not here, but she got torn to shreds by some Labour people and Ed Miliband did not exactly slam them," I replied feebly.
"Is Thatcher the mother of the Daily Mail?"
"In a way, yes you can say that. She was someone they will claim they hold as dear as the Milibands' hold their father."
"What? Do you think you are white? Sometimes I think you have lived in this country too long! How can you say something that silly?"
I reassuringly nudged my friend under the table and prayed there would no further mention of race. Still, I had to continue with the conversation.
"This is what some Tories are saying. I'm just repeating...."
"Would the Tories have been happy if a newspaper came after Cameron's father? Please don't say anymore. I need to get a bottle of Guinness to erase the memory of your last statement."
I sighed heavily as I ordered his drink. It was my weak attempt at placation. Although, as he gulped down the contents of his glass, it became obvious it hadn't worked.
"What were the parents of the newspaper people doing when Ralph Miliband went to war for this country?"
"They were probably at war too, although I heard the editor's father, Peter Dacre, may have not gone as he was a journalist in London."
"A journalist? Jesus Christ of Nazareth! So he is questioning what someone else's father did, but his father avoided fighting for the country. You see where we are going wrong in this country?"
"But the editor is not contesting for the country's most powerful job?"
"Really? But he already has a very powerful job. Mark my words, I have lived in this country for a long time and it is my prediction the Daily Mail will apologise. Imagine this was back home, the editor will be in serious pain by now."
At that point, just to ensure my friend wasn't confused and had heard him correctly, I decided to drill further.
"You mean if I wrote same article about your father, you will come and hurt me?"
His answer came in form of a glaring stare. His erstwhile joviality was now a distant thing.
I could feel the sweat trickling down in my hidden places. Worse still, I could see my friend's increasing discomfort. I couldn't say for sure if it was the spice in the egusi stew or the intimidating stare. Either way, she had gone completely red in the face.
Either way, it was a relief when he lowered his stare and finished the contents of his drink.
"Thanks for the Guinness," he said menacingly as he left the table.
(This article is dedicated to the memory of my dear friend, Deji Falae, who lost his life in the October 3 Lagos air crash. May his gentle, witty soul rest in peace.)