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.



Credits

 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).

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.

"Yep."

"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!"

"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 verbose...it 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 Adam....read 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.