Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Why I Blog About Africa

No matter how detached I might sometimes feel from Nigeria and Africa, or view other cultures and then look at mine and ask what it is that hasn't happened yet?, I still feel that I can never abandon Africa. Growing up in Nigeria has greatly influenced who I am, and for this reason, my writing has elements of Africa in it.

Whether I am writing about complexities on myself, fiction or complaining about culture and people, I think it all relates to me hoping that there can be an alternate future for the African continent. That even when I read other African blogs, I go there hoping to find something new that marks improvement. It is the hope that when I visit Niyitabiti, I'll see something really exciting about Nigeria's emerging youth and entertainment culture.

And even being away from Nigeria makes me feel like I see the counrty better. I mean it's understandable that some people might disagree with me thinking I have a better vista, just because I'm outisde. But I feel that being away sought of puts me on some precipice where I can look down and see things that those in the valley might ignore. And I think that is why I blog about Africa, to tell what I see, when I look down.

I tag Jaja, Allied, Naijababe

Thursday, 27 November 2008

All these Veges!!

It's the American thanksgiving today, so a friend from the US celebrated it-but had a Vegan one. So I decided to go over with some friends to try it out, and see how Tofu taste like. After the meal and the usual mashed sweet and common potatoes, boiled carrots and scallops, Tofurkey all topped with mushroom and onion gravy, I thought the meal (most especially the Tofurkey was quite a delightful surprise- and I'm not being sarcastic). It did not taste like Turkey that it was supposed to simulate, but it did taste good and different, yet similar to something I had tried before (spiced Salmon, beans or Moi-moi? couldn't quite place it)...Regardless, it was good.

And that silly, half-thought notion I had, that questioned the sense in people simulating the same foods that they were against its excessive consumption, cropped up in my head again. I mean why try to simulate beef, Turkey, chicken with Soya and the other stuff they use, and call it all these names that try to allude to the real thing. Why don't you just eat the real things in small proportions, or better still make entirely new foods. But now I'm coming to realize and see the reason and concern in these people and even the courage (hope I'm not exaggerating, here)in them. The decision to eat differently from what ones been weaned, really, to eat and crave must be a tough one. Apart from the cruelty some claim eating animal products cause on animals, I was a bit perplexed on how exactly consumption of meat and animal products deteriorates the environment. Then I learnt of this concept Environmental Footprint in one of my Environmental Science classes. This concept measures the impact and demand humans have on the environment in relation to how much the earth can accommodate. So each individual's ecological footprint is dependent on how much resources he uses and the consequent impact on the environment. When I first arrived here in Canada, my footprint and most people from Nigeria as measured by the EC. Ft. website was really moderate, if not small, as compared to other Canadians.But after a few months here, it increased.

So after this my lecture, what I'm getting at is that the more meat one consumes, the higher ones impact on the environment. Also, the higher society's collective demand for meat, the more land is cut down for rearing livestock and then the more "cruelty" on animals.

So now, do I intend to become vegetarian or vegan, NOPE!! and I don't expect anyone to become one, neither do I see any kind of righteousness or uprightness in the people who do. I do admire them for their concern and courage, but as for me I feel that if I ever move towards that green path, it won't be because I truly care for animals or want to save the environment. I think I might be doing it because I want to lead some kind of alternative lifestyle. But who knows, a few years from now, I could become truly concerned. I am not an advocate for saving the environment through the avoidance of certain things like meat (I eat, like it) as I feel the deterioration of the environment can be reduced, through individual self-awareness. That awareness should take form in one knowing that the simple and everyday things one does, adversely affects the environment. Does one really need to spend more than 10minutes in the shower, sleep with the lights on, eat meat products for every meal? I myself am guilty for all the things mentioned above. But, I think I should really try to reduce my impact and I really don't have to follow blindly this western bandwagon of wastefulness and consuming more than what one needs and even expected to want.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Mind, Restless, Tired


There's been a story in my head for more than a year now. It has crept into crevices of my mind, stayed there, almost parasitic. It saps, whatever it is that doesn't make it dissipate from me, and grows. There are limbs, facial features, that continue to protrude from it, as it rests in my mind. But still it looks like an aberration, totally malformed. And I, the forced sculptor has to mold and make it less of a phantom. Soon, it is done, the sculpting is complete, yet there are hole, tiny and large, that need to be filled.And the story keeps plaguing for its completion, for its holes to be filled. In the most unusual places, it comes to mind. In class, with the boring professor teaching that dreaded chemystery, it emerges. Though this time it is redeeming as it takes me away from my class. I continue to stare at the professor, my eyes partially blind to the formulas on the board and my ears hearing words that sound like that of a seceding crowd. In the absence of my mind, the story reveals itself; its limbs-the corners of the stories, it's features-the complexities and connections of characters. And then I know I must write it, do it and myself a favor. But when I finally did see it on my laptop screen, it looked even more malformed. It appeared like those Asian gods with many arms stretching and curling out of their straight bodies. I did not know how to handle all those corners, flash backs and complexities.It was more than 25 pages (not double spaced, or edited) and I felt it was a mash up. But that was during the summer, now winter approaches, if not already here and I'm writing all over again. It seems to be going alright. This time, there are no flash backs, no corners yet, just starting the story in all its simplicity; just from the beginning. It takes a lot of maturity to write a book, not to mention starting from the end to beginning.

I was disappointed, yesterday, to find out what it meant to be a free thinker. The meaning contrasted with what I had always thought it was. Did I or I did not perceive it to mean one who was free spirited and thought out of the box and even what is deemed reality. But its actual meaning, to me, steals from it what it sounds like. Though the free thinker, by its dictionary definition, thinks outside the norm or tradition, I still feel that his focus on science and logic steals from him, much of his free-ness.

Why do I feel this way towards science- humanity's way of reaching new frontiers. It is too logical, too rigid for me, I've never felt I can contribute to the world through science.

I saw a play yesterday and in the end when all the actors, removed from their characters, took their bows, I felt lifted, inspired. I wanted to act, even though the only time I ever did was in high school. After my first play, I got reactions of both surprise and mockery. Both reactions made me feel good. Still, I want to be a writer! (it should be known) and I cannot imagine my life without exploring these things. Scary, scary images.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

I wish the meanings weren't so vague to me.

Wiseman - James Blunt

Awe - Asa



I think I understand the plea to find home, but I don't get where the Zungo is.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The Tufiakwa Syndrome.

When this word 'tufiakwa' is uttered, it is usually accompanied with sighs, tightly folded arms, heavy breathing, an almost violent jerk of the neck and shoulders and there could also be the intense snapping sounds of fingers, depending on the severity of the anomaly. The faces of the observers, accusers, critics, analysts, judges, Gbegoruns, Amebos always seem to be in some trance that levitates and traps their bodies in the bubble of the offender's iniquity or the wonder at how anyone at that, would give in to such debasement. Regardless of their positions in the country's socio-cultural, economic and educational strata, that trance-like look on their faces always shares striking similarities. And these shared similarities transcend widened eyes, opened mouths, pursed and pushed out lips that mimic a duck's beak and the consequent sucking sounds that follow, to one of a heated-ness that has the effect of sobering the offender to a state where he does not feel guilt for the crime that has been committed, but for a graver and more sinister one, that he fails to grasp, but his accusers, the Tufiakwa spitters, fully understand.

Though, the word has it's many equivalents-God forbid, Olorun ma je, Abasi Mbo, Jesus is Lord, Wonders shall never end and the very un-razz and still dismissive 'that's just sick'-that have become even more popular than it, it still retains its strength in its condemnation of anything that non-conforming to standards, that have come to be accepted and placed on a high pedestal. A pedestal that people in society strive to reach, even if they have to resort to hypocritical acts.

Having given background information-which might be meaningless info.-on the Nigerian word 'Tufiakwa', I proceed to the main point of this post, which tries to delve into the Nigerian People and our reaction to non-conformity. I will not try to fill this post with the obvious of how the Nigerian society is a conforming one,that sometimes inhibits individuality, but I will ask questions, that hopefully do not end up sounding too rhetorical.

I have always being perplexed, back in Nigeria, with how everyone seemed to be chasing the same things all in the bid to reach some acceptable level or attain success in society-success that seemed so uni-dimensional. To my young mind, it was surprising that diversity in the way people thought and approached life was almost non-existent. I still find myself asking if it is our sense of community or the ease with which we form tribal and gender-specific camaraderie, that makes us feel that we have to live our lives conforming to community or having to meet up to societal expectations of success. And when people do fail to meet up, they become topic of our side talk, something for us to look at with condemning awe. It is remarkable how Nigerian communities even in different parts of the world continue to live by or even create rules, values and moral obligations that sometimes streamlines them. And this communal action of creating sets of values also take form in young people setting up these expectations around themselves that they must meet in order to gain some kind of respect. Is it not alarming the motivations-Plasma screen, Lamborgini, house in South of France-young Nigerians have when choosing careers or the things they want to do? We also have the religious sort, that would even live by doctrines extreme than those in their holy books. Hence, they have to and expect others to conform to these set of values that sometimes remain unreformed. And it is not hard to find scenes of Nigerians reflexively changing who they are, when they get into their community. It is even deemed reasonable that one compromise oneself, in order to fit into community, society at large and consequently reaching that high pedestal.

Sometimes I feel that individuality and nationalism are so opposing, and can be likened to oil and water. There is that feeling that it is impossible for one to represent society, without compromising self. Does it mean that if one is to lead life, knowing that one is but responsible for oneself, and still carry out the selfless task of representing ones society, people or history? Can one truly define ones core identity without referring to one's nation (especially if it does not fully support ones dreams)?
In contrast, there is that part of me that believes that one can still be as individualistic as one chooses, without compromising oneself in representing one's background. There is that part that feels that referring to nation, background and history, when trying to define oneself does not tamper in any way with individuality. So what is stopping me from being nationalistic, without compromising myself? Maybe I have a problem with the way my country reacts to non-conformity, because my self, my core seems so out of place in the scheme of things. Sometimes, I feel that if life in Nigeria was to be likened to a novel, people, that I love and claim to love me, would become antagonistic to me, not for some intrinsic vileness in them, but for the reason that my core contradicts their beliefs and convictions. Yes, this might be the reason why I find the need to use the colloquial "Tufiakwa" to allude to our reaction to anything different, the reason why I feel torn between being the 'true Nigerian' or being my true self. Finally, I've come to reconcile all this, knowing that if I'm to lead a life not filled with mediocrity and compromise, I'll have to disappoint and confuse some people-and maybe live outside the shores of Nigeria.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Cradle......iv




When the military finally invaded The Cradle, everything around Tade seemed to pause and it felt like time and even things concrete were trapped in unmoving space. And in that entrapment, that seemed to take form as a round ball, everything shook and spun around him. It was raining heavily that day, and from the entrance of the housing estate, hecould here the skidding sound of their tires on the wet tar. The sound of their rifles hitting their trucks and vans , sent chill streams of fear down Tade and everyone’s body. Tade looked out of the window and past the row of buildings unto the Liberation Stadium that stood behind the white oblivious sky.
He saw that the sun made the clouds and everything around glisten in yellow, as it shed itself onto earth. The view, its rejecting people and expanse made him smile as they headed to the entrance of the estate to form a blockade against the military from entering into The Cradle, their home. They all filed out of the building and walked directly to the entrance, with rain dropping on their skins and on tar and releasing drum beats to their songs of solidarity.

Tade had tried to convince Afeni not to join the opposing group that decided to fight for the Cradle-'that they believed in and had laid down so much for'-even if it came down to them using their hands and weapons. He had grabbed her wrists, that night, in her fits of rage, and tried to calm her down. He begged her to join his group that believed peace would be the only way to resolve their problems.

“Peace! you talk to me about peace in this time. What is all this to you Tade? Just your way of separating yourself from the rest of society? Or because you’re the rebellious kind?"

“Afeni, please listen”

“Oh, this is your smart way of reinforcing your superiority over common folks? Look,
this to me is what my life means to me …and to lose The Cradle, is to lose myself” she had lamented and then finally declared “I will fight anyone who dare taint anything I believe in”. Tade had watched Afeni free her slim wrists from his grip and walk out of the room and his life.

They all came down the rain-glistened road, with their fingers pressed together in prayer position. From the view of anyone standing on the military side, with the bullet-proof clad and rifle-yielding soldiers, one would see a group of men and women in drenched clothes, their eyes vacant yet hopeful, walking down the road as if praying. The soldiers announced through their loud speakers, to the praying crowd, to stand back, else risk being shot down. The praying people then stood a few meters away from the soldiers, forming a blockade into The Cradle. Their arms were no longer in prayer position but the crook of their elbows were now linked together. The military barked their warnings again, still the crowd did not move. Then the soldiers moved ahead, using the rifles to break the blockade. They went smashing and slashing, all with intent of breaking this human blockade.

Tade felt the butt of a rifle hit him hard on his chin. He saw blood and its redness around his shoes and on the tar. And as he still linked the crook of his elbow with his neighbor’s, he felt the wind increase the pain of his open wound. But he still held on,even lifting his neighbor who fell to the ground, when the butt of a gun struck him on the stomach. Soon, the blockade began to break as the army began to hit hard with the aid of tear gas.

There was a wet and smoky whiteness over Tade, as he felt the grit of the wet tar on his cheek. He lay on the floor, his eyes barely opened and everything appeared so distorted. Then he saw a face and tried to discern if the image he saw was real. The blue eyes changed to grey as he watched, through the smoky whiteness, and theskin had the color of hay. It was when this strange image pointed something held in front of its right eye to Tade’s face and a purple-white flash escaped from it, that Tade knew it was some foreign reporter. As his eyes closed and he felt he was sinking endlessly into some chasm formed around the wet tar, he wondered if there were any Nigerian reporters covering the incident.

A ball hit his trousers, smearing mud on one leg. He looked at the child, who stood at the other compound, where he had been playing football. The child watched Tade apologetically, at the same time curiously. Tade glanced at the smear of round-edged square patterns on one leg of his trousers and then turned to the child. He tossed the ball at him. The child would normally have uttered a ‘sorry’, but to this strange man or boy who stood for so long in front of a building, he thought better. Tade looked at the building, where The Cradlelites had last gathered and divided into the groups that would fight with arms or peace. It was here that he had last seen Afeni and then he remembered what he had read in the papers on what the government had done to the terrorists that attacked its offices and sent threats. Although, they had all being arrested, he still knew of the ones with rich parents like Afeni, who were bailed out and sent off to other countries. He had not spoken to her yet and he missed her. It was already three months after they had being forced out of this place and it was already filling up with families.

Tade turned away from the building and hopped onto an Okada, he had waved down. As the wind rushed by him in that right speed that had the effect of making one feel the ability to hover and view one's life and choices from a bird’s eye view, he thought about the absurdity of having a Bohemian community in Nigeria. Though this thought had roamed in his head, since the fall of The Cradle, he did not regret his experience there. He was happy that he had been in The Cradle, when he was coming of age, defining and painting a portrait of himself. And yes, when all was done, he was content with the portrait he saw.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Cradle.....iii

He went with Afeni to her close friend’s house, a converted flat still with traces of its former occupants, like church pamphlets and tiny yellow toys. Afeni introduced him to the people in the sitting room, she referred to as comrades. Someone amongst the crowd had refuted claiming they were Cradlelites and should be referred to that and nothing else.
“Cradlelites or not, we are still comrades” Afeni replied, her vivacious face now
flushed with a rosy sternness.Tade thought it was quite a funny name for adults to callthemselves and Afeni sensed this. She turned to him, her face showing no traces of mirth.Tade had started to get used to Afeni’s mood changes. But, as she faced him, sternly andexplained the idea behind the name, he was slightly taken a back. She told him that thecradle represents one’s beginnings and that was what this place or Krey-city-as somedubbed it-meant to them. The Cradle signified their entry into freedom, self truth andexpression, which she then summed up as the New World. After her speech, which sheonly let Tade hear, he became very sober.

“You know, I don’t like to put down this society’s culture, but I feel we’ve heldon tight to old customs that are so repressive” Afeni said petulantly to her friends, butwith tiny sparks of hope still twinkling in her eyes.
“Afeni, you always put it right, it’s a society that is so blind with its expectations of itsyoung people, that it subjugates them to its hypocritical and overly moralistic ideals” oneof Afeni’s friend with a bald head and square framed glasses stated.
“Yup! Preach that talk, Omo” someone said from behind with a husky voice, passing
something to Afeni’s bald friend.
“I think we all suffer Nwoye’s plight and like him who wasn’t captivated by ‘the mad
logic of the trinity…but the poetry of the new religion…that seemed to answer a vague,and persistent question that haunted his young soul’...so are we. And this just explainswhy a lot of us are attracted or turn to Western cultures. They give answers to thosequestions that disturb young people and don’t rebuke them for asking in the first place” aguy with a checkered beret said ardently, also quoting Chinua Achebe. There was a waveof applause that came rippling from the back of the room, after the guy spoke. He smiledand took the beret off his head, in gratitude for the ovation.

Afeni’s bald friend had passed a joint to Tade and introduced himself as Madu.Tade shook his head nervously and introduced himself. He first inhaled, the smell ofweed that rose from the burning end. He gulped a lump of saliva, and thought about whathe had put himself into. Afeni smiled at him, not in coercing manner but in an anxiousone. Not withstanding, Tade misinterpreted her smile for coercion and took a puff of thejoint. He felt the dry smoke flow roughly down his throat and into his lungs and as hetried to exhale out, he felt his eyes water as he coughed terribly. Afeni and some peoplearound laughed, not in an offensive manner, but in one that welcomed a new member.

The stick was passed around the room and after a while he found himself craving for it.At first, he felt paranoid, as those problems and secrets he had, came flashing in hismind. But when Afeni tapped him on his shoulders, and he saw that her eyes were now arosy-red color, he felt calm and at peace. He gazed at her, at her dark brown skin that feltbuttery under the pelt of sweat on it. As he watched Afeni, he saw her from two planes ofview. He did not have that usual feeling that his mind was that bodiless constituent ofhimself that needed his physical body as its medium of expression. He felt that his mindnow had eyes and lips of their own and they saw and spoke clearly. His mind saw her,beautiful with that smile of hers-even the tiny gap at her right molars enchanted him. Butthe physical plane of view, his face, which she actually saw, was emblazoned with a verywidened smile, with his teeth hanging out. Sadly, he was too consumed with seeingthrough his mind’s eyes, to notice this.

Someone had walked out amidst the people in the sitting room and pranced into
the centre. He could not tell from the curved lips, pointed cheekbones and beanie whichcovered the head, if it was a guy or woman. The person swayed on the dance floor,its’ hips tossing from side to side. And if he was to judge by this, and by the smoothcurviness of its’ legs under the tight jeans, he would have concluded that it was a woman,but when it spoke he saw that it was a man. He was shocked and slightly appalled. Butwhen some of the girls, including Afeni and some guys joined him in dancing, he feltguilty for feeling the way he had felt. That night he realized that The Cradle was not justa New world but a different and free one.

Like a handful of other young people who left home, leaving messages for theirsoon-to-be paranoid parents, who would try every means to find their children, Tade hadleft home and begun living in the Cradle. In the few months at The Cradle, he took to paintingand writing essays for The Cradle journal. Even if he loved his experiences at The Cradle,he still questioned himself on why he was there and tried to make sense of it all. He had to eatand live and Tade was not willing to depend on his parents anymore. He took jobs around town,which would have repulsed his parents and some friends, if they found out. Tade began to live a
Bohemian life in The Cradle, forming friendships and getting closer to Afeni. He formed a circleof friends around Afeni, Madu and Rasheed the androgynous ‘it’ he had seen on his first night. In all, Tade was doing those things he had dreamed of and was living in a place that created and
fulfilled more dreams.

Things started to change when protest groups , against this small and created communityin Port Harcourt, began to sprout around the country. Religious and ‘Moral- conservation’ groups accused The Cradle of promoting and housing vices like cultism,drug use, immorality and most especially waywardness. Newspapers and TV
announcements were made on this community that housed hoodlums and deliquescent
young people. People who had never heard or bothered about this community suddenly
became outraged and then there was a national outcry for the demolishing of this
community. The government yielded to the cries of these groups and its people and ordered a two-week evacuation period for The Cradle occupants.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Cradle.....ii

He gulped down a glob of air, trapped in his throat that had dried from the bottles ofGuilder he had finally forced himself to drink. How did she know that something was brewing inhis head, not to mention, it needing to be spilled?

“Hi, saw you at the party” he said, trying hard to distract her from his nervousness.

“Oh, I saw you too” she said, her eyes pointing to the beer bottle, held precariously in hands, that trickled beer onto the ground and his sneakers.
He quickly and firmly grabbed the bottle, now understanding what she meant by him justspilling it all out.

They had introduced themselves and shared their concise histories . They continued their conversation, while they walked, dazed and drunk, back to those estates they lived in; they had found out that they didn’t live too far from each other. Their conversation had went on without any halt, right from leaving the party and boarding a bus. He had watched her speak, and in thecrowded and street-lamps-lit bus, her words seemed to hover around like white and fluffy dandelion seeds. He tried not to get too distracted with the fluffy dandelion seeds and so listened
to all she said and contributed as much as he could to the conversation.Afeni had spoken about her thoughts and more elaborately, the things she disliked about society. He agreed with most of her theories and thoughts, and felt she had eloquently structured those disorganized thoughts heoften had. Before she got into her compound, with the unwelcoming dogs barking, she told him that there would be a revolution and they would be part of it.

The revolution Afeni spoke of, was what this place had become, before the military came.Cradle as it was called, was formerly a Housing estate, on the other side of town, wheremostly Civil servants and retired people lived. But the housing estate had changed, with establishment of a Liberal Art training centre by a visiting American artist. There was an influx of art students, who were not satisfied with their restrictive University curriculums, into the Housing Estate. And these artists were of the rebellious brand, some of them, including women, proudly wore their paint-smeared baggies around. Most of them had piercings that adorned their faces and other parts of their bodies. Their skins were canvases to their wild and imaginative minds. They hosted parties which other young people
living around were naturally attracted to. Soon, all these incited contempt from the parents and pious residents. Their lifestyles suddenly became proof for the churches and Christian fellowships around, that the end time was near. Those who could live the estate, left. Those who couldn’t, receded to the outskirts . And that was how The Cradle came to be, with theatre students, writers, socially conscious young people and generally those not content or willing to conform with the outside world, joining in.

Tade had been amazed on his first day at the Cradle. The two storey apartment
and flat buildings were converted into studios, make-shift theatres, bars and homes for the young people. The housing estate had undergone change from a being a quasi-suburban area to a very artistically conscious one. As Tade walked with Afeni, who
strangely preferred to prance than walk, with both of her feet clapping in the air and hereyes twinkling, he admired her and the new look of the Housing Estate. The bare walls of some buildings, which formerly had paint ripping out like molting skin, now had graffiti on them. Some of the graffiti were parodies of former military heads of statesand others philosophical declarations and quotes of people he didn’t know. But there wasone which was inscribed on the wall of a church, tucked in between two houses, that struck him the most. It read;

‘When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.’ - James Joyce

Tade knew that he was one, who sparingly got absorbed by quotes, but there
was something poignant in this one that seemed to give an answer to those many disorderedquestions that all unified to plague him. That thought rioted in his head, as he tried tounderstand those nets in his life and how he would fly by them. And the answers seemed so easy, yet they kept eluding him. They had walked past the church, but Tade who was stilldistraught, felt like asking Afeni on the questions that troubled him. Since, he had met Afeni,there were attributes about her, that made him feel she had answers to his burning questions,yet there was that part of him, that distrusted showing ignorance to Afeni.

"Is everything alright, anything around that you find a tad bit pointed?" Afeni asked,emphasizing the 'pointed'.

"No, not really...uhn, just the quote of the Joyce guy"

"Oh that one, a personal favorite of mine" Afeni said, smiling at a friend of hers

who rode abike, shirtless, down the street.

"What 'bout it do you find POINTED?"

"Nothing more than the obvious, but, do you not think that we have an obligation to honor our country and follow the values our parents pass down to us?

should we not...basically live by those culture and values of the society we belong

to" Tade asked, feeling like a heavy dumbbell, had been lifted away from him.

"Tade, my answer is- that in whatever way we decide to fulfil our obligation to society's expectations, we should never compromise our inner selves and who we truely are. And Tade,every custom or value that is repressive to any group or any person who does no harm, should be abolished. There should be no questions asked about it. None!"

Friday, 1 August 2008

Cradle.....i

Inspired partly by Another Country

On the mushy ground, he stood, staring at the army of ants marching in perfectly
straight trails. They crawled out of a hole in the ground, veiled by the lusciously green grass, and marched into a crack on the wall. Despite their diminutiveness, he felt that the
march of the ants mimicked those of the military men sent by the government to “sweep-out” the “travesty” that they created before “their very own eyes”. Though, he stood watching the two storey building with green moss on it’s base, spreading out like bodiless tendrils, he did not see the man in his buttoned-up shirt or the other people looking suspiciously at him, he saw a different time. A different time not too long ago, before the military came and destroyed, when they roamed and conquered this place.

He had come here with hopes that the desperation he had for his dreams and desires to be fulfilled would not be too obvious, but his wide and dreamy brown eyes betrayed him.It was not his first time in this place, but it was his first time since it got transformed. He lived on the other side of Port Harcourt; where people lived in detached houses and bungalows built on procured lands, in poorly planned estates with less attractive roads.He, like most of the teens who lived in these houses, was a former high school student preparing for his entry into university to study degrees that ranged from Medicine, Engineering, Law, Accountancy, Mass communication et al. He belonged to one of these groups and had already freed himself into the chains of studying and living by one of these career choices. His parents in their unquestionable love for him had planned for him to study at a British University. The master plan was that he would spend about eight years doing this degree and would come back home to take a core job at his father’s hospital.

All these would have come to fruition if he hadn't met Afeni.It had been one of those parties he was chanced to attend. His parents were out of town and he had been invited by a former class mate. The party was filled with mostly young people a few years older than him. And there seemed to be coolers with ice and beer bottles submerged in water, at every point he turned. He saw some people grab beer bottles, gulp them and some others tossing bottles at walls, jokingly. He left the scene, heading to where everyone danced, hoping that he would find his former classmate there. The party people formed a circle around the terrace of the host’s parent’s house,and in the space inside the circle, he saw people dancing, smoking and drinking.

Everyone seemed to have the same distorted face, as he stood behind the circumference of people , with the smell of cigarette smoke and alcohol disorientating him. He did not feel like drinking the Guilder beer, someone had placed into his hands, while laughing madly. His legs buckled almost giving way for his weakened body unto the awaiting and strangely comfy looking ground. But when he straightened himself and shook his head,as if that would shrug off his disorientation and stupidity, he saw her dancing among group of girls. Her Afro hair coiled into twined strips swayed in the black night’s breeze,like her cotton-white dress. She danced as if in a trance and at the same time drank her beer.She was the only one who drank alcohol among the girls around her. He quickly gulped down his beer. Her slim legs sliced the air as she danced and her oblivious but pearly eyes pierced him. A sweat pattern formed like an inverted gable on the neckline of her string-sleeved dress. She didn't seem to care about that or anything as she danced with her full-moon breasts bouncing, and her coral-coloured lips quivering. He was enthralled by her.

It was when she walked past him at the end of the party, that a storm brewed
in his head. He, with his alcohol-induced confidence, had promised himself to talk to her before she left the party. But as he stood watching her back, he punched himself-that is inwardly.

“You know it’s better to just spill it all out” she said, turning to him, with the dim and slow r n b music playing making her voice even more melodic.

Friday, 18 July 2008

The Ijebu Gene

Though, I am sometimes guilty of stereotyping, I try to desist from it-and focus on the individual not community traits. But, I've come to realize that some stereotypes have elements of truth to them. I'm Ijebu (that's what I was told, that's the 'tribe' of my parents and basically where I go to, during festive periods) and I lived most of life in Port Harcourt. Apart from learning certain values from my parents (which really weren't that 'Ijebuic') and from cousins and uncles (who themselves were ignoring their culture in bids to fit into the western one), I did not have any external influences on the Ijebu culture. The few things I knew growing up were that it was sought of a group of tribes (Ikenne-Remo, Ijebu-Igbo etc) and had its own separate language that sounded like its speakers had their mouths full when they spoke. And the most popular of these traits was that Ijebus were naturally and staunchly prudent. As easily predictable, my father was a true Ijebu man when it came to this particular trait. I grew up learning that money really doesn't have to be spent-why buy, when you can save, really. 'Really?'

"Ah Daddy lets gotto Park 'n' Shop" we would all sing, as kids
"Okay...go get ready"

As soon as we step out of the car, father is already informing us that we won't spend too much. On some occasions he would allot to everyone the maximum amount we can spend.
No doubt, my parents were always there to provide us with what we needed and even most of our wants, still, we had to learn to sometimes settle for less. This left us confused why we couldn't get better, knowing Daddy definitely had to the doe (people had told us).
Father's excuse was however that he went for "value for money, not price".

A haa! (in the Yoruba way of expressing incredulity), when did less expensive things start getting higher quality than costlier things?

Now, at this point of my life, I'm being accused for being too Ijebu-in the "you are too stingy" kind of way. Canadian friends call me "cheap", while my PH peeps declare me an "Akanchichi"
Someone tell me why I should buy a polo shirt that just has an effin crocodile or
polo-stick yielding man on the left breast, when you can get an equally nice one at STITCHES or even BLUENOTES.

So after all my ramblings, the point I am getting at is that I have in some manner-genetically or otherwise inherited this peculiar Ijebu trait from my father. But I'm curious to know if I got it through being influenced by my folks or is there a genetic explanation to this?

To Nigerian Researchers or Khaki-clad white explorers out there: This is definitely a puzzling scientific and anthropological question.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Labyrinth

Pic of Rumoukorushi, Port Harcourt showing quite a contrast between the suburban shell camp and the surrounding district.


The idea that we are all,in some way, connected first hit me when I was about 6 or 7. I can remember walking back from school with my mother, who was quick to admonish me, on seeing that I played with a Naira note with my lips.
"Do you know where that money has being" my mother commented that day, with her eyes glaring the way it used to, before she realised that constant mannerisms like that, caused a distancing of her children from her. The comment triggered me into wondering where actually that money had been, right from its origins at the Central bank. I tried to imagine who had handled that particular note right from when I took it as change from the kiosk opposite my primary school. The always indifferent-faced woman at the kiosk might have gotten the note from some other student, who was probably handed the money by his pregnanancy-induced slouched mother, who herself might have gotten the money from her middle-class and thrifty husband, who just got paid his forty thousand monthly salary in two batches of 100, 50 and 20 naira denominations.

That idea of of us being all connected by some material thing or common emotional feeling has even intrigued more, with movies like crash, Babel etc. And it reoccurred to me a while ago on writing a non-linear story that chronicled certain troubled Nigerian individuals of different cultural, financial, academic and introspective differences all heading to Abeokuta city; which is the destination of their journey in search of a common desire and need. And I wondered what this common need or rather missing link, that these characters searched for, was. Then, I got transported into another realm of thought, where the idea of equating what connects all Nigerians together as a people to what connects these searching characters, occured to me. In as much as the inadequacies and annoying bustle of our country connects us all together-whether you are in Nigeria or the diaspora, I wanted some other fact or even idea that was more extrinsic and existential that binds us. And by extrinsic, I do not mean some trait in us that is as a result of our tribe or just being part of a geographical region, rather, I mean something that has being built or arrested in us and is a product of living in Nigeria or just being of Nigerian heritage. All I could come up with was the individual search of every Nigeria for self-fulfilment, regardless of our communal and sometimes repressive culture. But, I wasn't satisfied with my conclusion, as I felt the search for fulfilment and individual happiness is a common and universal one.
So, I put out this question to you bloggers or anyone reading, on what they feel connects us as Nigerians together, apart from the country's inadequacies and instability?

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Success??

"Are you happy Afolabi?" Dad asks
"Yeah...Yes Daddy"
"Good, that's...good" dad says with a forced conviction that even leaks through the three perforations of the phone's handset.

This is a poem that is not against success, but questions the kind we strive for and that which is truly ours.


Scribblings for the Trigenarian

That each stage of life is separated by seconds
Is a shame and maiming truth.
Small, yet potent are these changes amidst life’s turns,
That one is thrust from childhood to Youth.
Manhood to Old age, then to
Well, your bible en-lightens that other side to you.

And now, at this stage of my life
I apologize to you, dear Trigenerian;
For not setting a strong foundation,
For that Grand sea-side semi; of your heart’s strife.
Though, I am unsure if you’ll be more forgiving,
I still risk these scribblings as your pardon’s condition.

You crave for the laurelled title; the Ideal man.
And I fear I will not aid in this quest.
Uncertainty spells you response to these words of mine,
Yet, I still offer you words seamed with trust
' In your own differences, I plea
That you find your own ideal.'

FYI: Trigenerian is not in the dictionary!!

Friday, 30 May 2008

6 quirky things about me!!

I got tagged by Loomnie.

The rules:
1. Link the person(s) who tagged you…loomnie
2. Mention the rules in your blog…
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours…
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them…
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged…
6 quirky things about me

1. I have a high tendency to loose concentration and wander off into different states which is usually about-me thinking of a story that's brewing in my head, a conversation I had or overhead, acting out scenes from characters in a book or movie and even rehearsing what I'll say if I was plunged into possible and sometimes ludicrous situations.

2. I have a compulsion to make fun of religion-christianity, my beliefs and those of others,
and also differences between tribes, races, personalities and so on. I'm not racist or tribalistic, it's just that some of our differences are just too funny when observed.
3. I read in the bathroom and it doesn't matter if it's fiction or even my text book, it goes with
me and mehn do I get what I read in such relieving states.
4. I often dance or hum reflexively to music I like. That's why I try very hard to control myslelf in parties and gatherings.

5. I have a propensity to say things that are just outrightly stupid and later regret opening my mouth. I get too hard on myself sometimes!!

6. Sometimes, I have this very mischievous smile and laughter that some people hate and others are intrigued or surprised by.

I tag mamarita, Onyeka, Afro nuts, big head, porter de harcourt, bitchy

Saturday, 10 May 2008


The Old Cab Driver

I was late, that unexpected morning.
Your cab; a welcoming relief
From the clear and unadulterated morning light
That stung my sleep-calloused eyes.
Still, you were forgiving, too accepting
Of my apology and my poor respect for punctuality.
Worst of all, you capped it all with a smile.
And I cringed deep from my core to crust.
Then, we started the usual cab-passenger chatter.
But, ours was a wide-notch different.
You listened warmly, as I spoke not coldly.
I told you my very clich├ęd 5 minute life history,
And you told me yours in 2 minutes.
But, yours lasted, it left traces.
“I live alone in a one room apartment” you said, harmlessly.
A stranger, I was, but you revealed to me
Something sad. You lost someone special, your wife, in an accident
When you said it, it sounded painless and repeated
Did you not feel pain? saying this to your half-drunk passengers
I felt something move in me. Emotions?
I doubt, too self-absorbed, too narcissistic for that
But, the truth be told, your undeniable strength and cheer inspired
Dear old cab driver.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Lost Boys, I know what the what is.

The illustration of a man's face with distinctly negroid features drew my attention to this book. The title which at first sounded quite stupid was even less repelling. I knew I had to get this book, even if I wasn't entirely sure what its contents were about. Hey, I guess that makes me sought of literally vain; judging a book by its cover and title (mehn, my first book must def. have a good cover). The book titled What is the What chronicles the life of Achak Deng Valentino, a Sudanese man presently living in the US, from his days running away from his war-stricken southern Sudan, refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya and finally terminating in Atlanta. What is most stricking about the book which is an auto-biography of this Sudanese man, is that it is actually written by a white guy, Dave Eggers and the book is considered fiction. Regardless, of the inaccuracy in some accounts by the narrator, I still feel this book deserves the status of a non-fiction (and it's not that fiction is of any lesser value than non-fiction). This book is well-written with Dave Eggers making good use of language and imagery. Beyond all the literary talk of the book, its message is important. The war which took place in parts of Sudan has certain similarities to the Nigerian Biafran war. There are similarities in that the more vulnerable part of the country (south) was attacked by the all-powerful and Muslim north. The Northern part of Sudan which consisted of mostly Arabs wanted to enforce Islam and sharia on the mostly-christian and north. This consequently caused the uprising of the South in the form of a rebel group (SPLA). And just like the Biafran war and almost every other war, simple and everyday people got thrust into bloody and directionless wars.

Without trying to bore you with all these details, another fascinating part of the book is the question the narrator's father poses to him, after telling the Sudanese folktale, where God decides to give his people cattle (which symbolizes wealth), but with a catch to it. God decided to give them something else which was called the what. He also did not reveal to them what the what was, but asks them to choose between cattle and the enigmatic "what". The Dinka people in their own wisdom choose what is accessible and already revealed. The narrator Achak Deng is fortunate enough to be considered to migrate to the US, however, he is plagued on the morality of leaving his family behind. His father does however convince him to move to the US, telling him that the what, which has been a mystery all this while is the US.

I REFUSED to believe this, due to my disappointment and notion that America and the west in general does not have to be acknowledged for everything good (wetin!!!). Soon, I soothed my nerves and saw the wisdom in the old Dinka man's answer. The US to him was a novel concept. A concept of a place that offered something different and prospects for a better life. He was not saying the US was the enigmatic what, because of his belief of their undoubted superiority, but the fact that life could be better in a place outside his war-thorn and impoverished Southern Sudan.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The Fear and Dream

For a moment, imagine what Nigeria would be like if it was a developed country. Still with this image in your head, try to picture it, with this time considering the industrious, creative and brilliant minds of Nigerians you know. For me, I picture that society; where the true talents and skills of its citizens are collectively harnessed for nation growth. My post is actually not what Nigeria could or might not be, but this post describes me as an aspiring writer and the realities I face. It is sad that most of our great minds-in this case writers- have achieved their dreams outside the shores of Nigeria. It is sad that most people, who have dreams outside the typical chain of jobs-doctor, engineer,lawyer and even barrister- have a higher chance of achieving these dreams outside the country. Fortunately, I'm privileged to be in a very structured and proper university (at least when compared to those we have back in Nig.). Prior to coming over to Canada, I always viewed writing as a hobby. But, on coming over here and observing the serious manner in which people take their skills, my perspective on writing changed. Now, writing to me is more than big and sweet sounding words or just telling stories, it means more.
I never had to question my authenticity as a writer before coming over to Canada.Back home in Nigeria, I've always being commended for my writing. But on getting to this very questioning society, one's motives for expressing this SKILL are questioned. At first, I never had a strong answer for this question, other than the usual answer of writing being a means for me to express those rioting thoughts in my head. However, I've come to realise that I do not have any strong answer, other than the fact that I just have to write. No matter what ones skills are, they have to be improved through training and experience. And this is what I intend to do. Although I'm in school for a Pre-medical course (SHIO!!!), writing is still in the front of my head. I'm planning on taking creative writing courses and meeting professors for their advice and suggestions.
The scary part of it all is the Fear. That creeping fear that the dream will not be reached, is sometimes hard to ignore. That fear that the realities of doing what is acceptable and profitable will deter one's dream, scares the hell outta me.
But I've come to this compromise, that I will struggle and work for this dream, that no matter what happens, I'll keep the dream alive.....

Saturday, 23 February 2008

...As a result of a Blog Black out

I wanted to put up a post on how teachers are special, but I felt it was a fact everyone knew. So, I decided to put up some pictures I took and really like. Again, I don't have much to blog , hence the title (blog black out, I hope this makes sense though).


A rarity in the winter


Calling forth


Somewhere downtown Toronto




fowl...Nah, swan

Monday, 28 January 2008

Exploiting Depravity

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

I haven't posted any reflective posts for a while now. This is not because I don't think anymore, or I've finally come to the realisation that I might be a pseudo-intellectual. Some of it could be blamed on me being quite busy this semester. However, I have come to realise the reason that I do not think deeply about issues, might be as a result of my present environment having a very low level of depraved issues to think about. By no means is the society that I presently live in, close to an Utopian society; it has its own problems. Still, these problems are not grave enough to arouse deep thoughts and ideas in me. A guilty feeling cropped up in me, as I wondered if I wanted depraved things to happen, in order for me to gain some sought of perverse inspiration. As one of my blog commentators Oyibo put it, he claimed writing about good things is simply bland. I found this statement really true, as we really don't enjoy reading or listening to the good things that happen everyday. We yearn for news or ideas that are sensational, provoking, eye-popping and leaves us with a sense of sadness or better still thoughtfulness.
If we are to cite popular instances, there would be a full list of tragedy that has being exploited. For instance, what would Chimamanda Adichie have written if there was no Biafran war? What would have inspired Wole Soyinka's The Man died, if there was also no Biafran war and corrupt state of government? These literary works are masterpieces that I do not have any problem with, nor am I claiming that they are works based on the exploiting deprave occurrences. It is just the thought of how depravity is exploited for creating entertainment; whether it be in an intellectual form that bother me. There will always be depraved things that happen, and it is the duty of those gifted to recount and account these depraved events. And as I hope to transfer to a bigger city or go to Nigeria this summer, with my adaptors absorbing consciously and subconsciously all sorts of things happening around me. I hope that my motive of putting anything down in paper is to express and inform my readers, rather than exploit depravity for my own benefit.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

I wish:

that I could speak Yoruba fluently. Growing up in Port Harcourt, I felt learning to speak Yoruba was unimportant. I would normally laugh at my Yoruba friends who spoke Yoruba with their parents. To us half-Yorubas who couldn't speak our language, seeing phonetics that are unique to the Yoruba language being accidentally, intentionally and ignorantly used when speaking English was hilarious. And I thought I was refined because I felt my English was unadulterated from the clayey hands of the Yoruba language. When people would ask why I couldn't speak my language, my excuse would be that, it was an asset I did not need in the "modern world". My parents tried to teach us to speak Yoruba fluently with a lot of authority. But, their authoritative measures always came to abrupt ends as their laws of no longer speaking English in the house were suddenly forgotten (they too were afflicted).

Above all, the blame is on me, as I did not put much effort in learning to speak Yoruba. Though, I understand Yoruba very well and can fairly (maybe poorly) speak it , I wish I was a stronger speaker. But, according to my folks, they always encouraged me to speak Yoruba, while still young, lest, I loose the window of opportunity". But I don't think I'm that old, that learning a second language will be that hard. Our native language is one of the ways we identify ourselves as being part of a certain community or tribe. Therefore, if I can't speak Yoruba fluently, where's my identity?