Sunday, December 31, 2006

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Ode to my diary

I have kept a diary on and off for the greater part of my life. It has helped me through times when I was down, in its pages are recorded my triumphs, despairs, hopes and plans. It has followed me through death in the family, new love, heart break and life changing moves. It has calmed me down like no anti-depressant ever could(not like I've ever tried anti depressants, a diary is way cheaper!).
Here is a poem from my diary entry for 14/08/2003 in which I tell how I feel about my diary.

Ode to my diary

Darling diary, best companion
At least for those without a shrink.
It can't be snide, it won't complain,
But still it has the same effect and
For a fraction of the cost at that!!!
ATO, 18/08/2003

Thursday, December 28, 2006


The moment I first set eyes on him,
I knew he was the one for me.
He whispered sweet nothings to me,
brought me flowers every other day
and beads to adorn my graceful neck.
I had visions of a wonderful future with him.
We would have children together,
He would cherish me and be my Prince.

Many years down the line,
I smile a bitter smile, because
my romantic dreams turned out a mirage.
They have become nightmares,
before my very eyes.

He slaps me around and tells me I am no good.
He rapes me every time he is drunk, which is often,
and tells me I’m lucky to have him.
A useless piece of shit like me deserves no better.

I cannot bear to look at myself in the mirror,
I have become so haggard,
He makes me feel like dirt, and I wonder why,
why do I stay with him?
God hates divorce, I justify.
It is my fate in life, my destiny,
God knows best.

My friends are deserting me,
after years of telling me to stop taking shit from him.
“You deserve more than this" they counselled.
"You need to stand up for your rights,
for your sake and for your children.”

I tell them, “ who will take me if I leave him?”
Look how unattractive and haggard I am,
I have no job, no chance of survival without him.”
I have to stick with him, he is my fate.

They force me to look at pictures
I would rather never see again.
Of myself as a beautiful young woman,
the toast of the land,
for whose hand all the men were vying.
Alas, that is no longer real to me.
I can hardly believe there was a time like that.

I have now become a by-word,
People shake their heads in pity when they see me pass.
“God forbid that your fate turns out like that of…..”
is the standard prayer for new brides.

I have no control over my children,
I think my 20 year old is a yahoo boy,
and my Precious is somewhere in Italy…..
The little ones tell me “Mummy, you’re useless.”
“ Please don’t follow us into town.”
“ We don’t want people to know you are our mother.”

I know that I deserve what is happening to me.
….don’t I?
I know that there is nothing I can do about it.
Or is there?

My name is Nigeria.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas


would like

to wish you all a

very Merry Christmas and

a Happy New Year in advance!!!!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

A reminder about life's fleetingness

Reading about the death of Saparmurat Niyazov causes me to dwell once again on the fleetingness of our human existence. Good or evil, we will all end up the same way, even those who think they are invincible like this man. Since death is the only certainty in our lives, why do people misuse their short time on earth?

I remember the first time I heard about Saparmurat Niyazov, the self named Turkmenbashi(Father of the Turkmeni) of Turkmenistan on Russia's NTV station, I was shocked into bursting out in laughter.What else can one do but laugh about someone who renamed the names and days of the week after himself and his family members, who made it a crime to wear a beard and who imposed a fee of thousands of dollars on any non Turkmeni who wanted to marry a woman from Turkmenistan. You can read more about his absurd reign in this Sunday Times Article.

Truly the evil that men do does live after them. IBB, take note.

Tis the season for giving.......

Tomorrow will be the last working day of 2006 for me. I've been looking forward to this day for months. God knows I need the rest.
I'm also looking forward to being one of the few people at work tomorrow, everyone has been in a chatty mood the whole week and it has been hard getting anything done.

Someone brought some cakes to work yesterday and everyone gathered in his office, steaming mugs of coffee in hand. As we chatted, we somehow got to the topic of Christmas presents. Most of my colleagues are men, and listening to them and mentally comparing them with my male friends and family members, I decided that the following types of men exist:

Type A- its probably a new relationship, or marriage and he is still very in love; this is your time, enjoy it. You'll get romantic gifts and well prepared surprises. Be sure to encourage him by also being innovative in your giving. Don't damp his enthusiasm by giving him a pair of boxers or a book every birthday or Christmas.

Type B- you have been married or going out for several years now and he has learnt by trial or error that perfumes and cosmetics are a no go area - you didn't appreciate that jasmine smelling poison(a.k.a. oriental perfume) he got you two years ago and could barely hide your disappointment over the purple lipstick he thought you were sure to love. So you get the topaz stone you liked(the first present you appreciated) in every form it can be glued - as necklaces, headties, glasses name it, for every birthday or Christmas until you feel like screaming. Or alternatively presents that cannot go wrong, like a gift certificate from Amazon.

Type C - doesn't think about Christmas gifts until 24th December. Then he runs around the high street wild-eyed like he has just been bitten by a rabid dog, desperate to get a present at the last minute, any present. So you get presents like a green and blue bag(you once mentioned that you liked mixing colours) or red eye pencil ( you are black) with a sheepish grin when you open the gift with one eyebrow raised and " I thought I would encourage you to explore your unknown depths".

Type D - he is practically minded, so be prepared to get all the household items that other people take for granted as presents. A blender for your birthday, an iron for get the point.

A, B, C or D, don't we just love our men???

Monday, December 18, 2006

A stroke of GOODLUCK for Yar’adua, same same for Nigeria

After numbly following the events of last weekend- namely the PDP presidential primaries and subsequent naming of the running mate, I realize that the reality of Nigeria will not adapt itself to our desires.

While I do not know anything about Yar’adua, apart from hear’ say, and all I know about Goodluck is that his wife was detained for money “laundry”, the mere fact that such relatively obscure people can win the ticket of the ruling party in a country where we all know that personality-cult rules the day shows that something is amiss.

My problem with the duo is however not that they are obscure, or that Yar'adua is Northern or in failing health, or even with the Jonathan Family laundry business(Lets watch and see if EFCC will let them be now that Oga has been annointed by feedeefee). What bothers me is the attempt to dramatise an obviously undemocratic process in order to present it as free, fair and transparent. Yeye dey smell. This must be a bitter lesson for people like Duke, reiterating once more the fact that "he who dines with the devil must have a very long spoon".

That said, its’ not over until its over. It is up to whatever credible parties there are(I refuse to name names, by their fruits we shall know them) to field credible candidates, and up to Nigerians to refuse to be imposed on. United we stand, divided we fall. I fear though that it is only when personal interests are at stake that we are ever stirred out of the lethargy that has fallen on us collectively like a babalawo’s jinx!

Until we, as Nigerians get up and say enough is enough. Until we realize that we deserve much, much, much more than we are getting, until we get to the point of no return, when we are prepared to die for what we believe in- indeed until we believe in anything other than in our personal comfort- we will continue to be led by our noses.

On another note, some people claimed that Goodluck was named running mate in order to pacify MEND- obviously MEND is not as easily satisfied as some thought as the latest blasts show. Or is MEND just being used as an excuse for the lame-duck pair that PDP will attempt to foist on us come May 2007?

I can understand the feelings of those who say the best way out would be for the country to break up, but I am certain that while such a move might lead to peace and progress in some parts of the country, it would lead mainlyto violence and destruction on an unprecedented scale, even for Africa.

The younger generation of Nigerians needs to put tribal, class and religious affiliations aside and look for a way forward together. We need to violently yank apart the string that the puppeteers are using to conduct this puppet theatre that Nigeria has become(or am I kidding myself and it was always so?).
It might not be perfect, but we have to work with what we have. Or give up and look for another homeland. Alas, while you might succeed in getting another Pali, there will never be any place quite like home.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Mmm, out of the blues, Donald Duke, the man who has wowed hearts and rekindled hope in Nigeria withdraws from the PDP primaries just hours after posting this on his blog- Eyes on the ball. IMO, something stinks here, and it sure ain't roses.......

Monday, December 11, 2006

My first love

The first time I set eyes on him, my heart did the jitterbug. I was at the home of my friend Tina, who was my roommate in UI’s Idia hall, during one of those long forced vacations, also known as strikes.

I was nearly eighteen, even stricter with myself than my parents had brought me up to be, thanks to my faithful attendance of the Redeemed church a few streets away from us, and a fellowship with like-minded youth in UI. I guess I must have been quite pretty, looking back, but as unbelievable as it sounds, at that time, a seventeen year old, I truly cared more about inward than outwards appearance. That is sadly not really the case with me anymore, lol.
So anyway, after chasing tons of boys away with a stern look and a steely “is that what your parents sent you here to do, to be chasing girls?”, I set eyes on Edward and knew at once that he was the guy for me. He was a very cool, handsome guy who worked as a DJ on Ray power FM next to his studies in Architecture in UI, every girl's dream-guy, my heart had betrayed my spirit. I was not happy about how I felt, I was not happy about it at all.

We exchanged pleasantries, and he was obviously as intrigued by me as I was by him, although I did not realize it at that time. When he left about 20 minutes later, we said see you around, and I knew that was the end of it. Guys like him did not fall for conservative born-again girls like me. And even if they did, I was not about to be unequally yoked with a dj. What would my friends and fellowship members say? Tina, who at that time was not born-again, smiled mischievously and said, "I have never seen Ed show so much interest in a girl before". Inwardly, my heart did a flip and I would have given anything for her observation to be true. But, I had not been born-again for years for nothing. I knew how to cast down imaginations, and that’s exactly what I did. To Tina, I said, “warrever, don’t such guys go around showing interest in every girl they meet?”. A dj, God forbid bad thing. I was holding out for my “spiri” brother who would guard my virginity even more jealously than even I, not some dj, who probably slept around just for fun.

A few days later, I returned to my home in another city and caught up in my normal affairs, tried to forget this guy. But it was difficult. I, who had before then lived for Don Moen, Ron Kenoly and co, and spurned had contemporary music as “wordly”, started to listen to Edwards programme on Raypower FM !!! My parents had given me a radio cassette player for my 15th (I think) birthday and every Monday and Friday after I met Edward, it was tuned to Raypower during the times when his show was on. I heard songs I had never heard before, by Babyface, Teddy Pendagrass etc. How my mother teased me. I guess deep inside she was grateful that I started to show some signs of normalcy. Every parent is happy to have a responsible and obedient child, but I went off the deep end, so much so that they could not believe I wasn’t hiding stuff from them.

When I stayed too long at fellowship, my father beat me, because he was sure I had been out with some boys. I also remember vividly, when one of the overzealous brothers in the lord decided to visit me at home, since I had not attended a certain new fellowship(I did not attend because there were no adults around and I was sure my parents would not approve). My father slapped me so hard, that I carried the imprint of his fingers on my face around for about three days. Many times I considered going bad, just to justify the constant beatings I got. Now, in retrospect, I wonder why the disbelief of my father was so great. Was he messing around with girls my age or what? Because he was so sure I was messing around.

Anyway, I am digressing from my story. About three months after I met Edward, the ASUU strike was called off and it was back to Ibadan for me. I wondered briefly if I would see him again, but as the stress of sharing a room with 8 others, and attending lectures with 500 people set in, I forgot all about my crush. Until I saw him again, about a month later. I had been visiting a friend at Queen’s Hall, when I saw him talking to this beautiful girl in front of the entrance. Again, my heart beat faster when I saw him, but, then I knew for sure that a guy like him could never be interested in a girl like me. After all, I reasoned, even if an unbeliever liked you, he was only after one thing, and that one thing, I could not give him.

So began my game of hide and seek on UI campus. It was a bizarre game, because he had no idea I was avoiding him. I knew that for the first time in my almost eighteen years, I was in serious danger of being controlled by my feelings for another person, instead of my very rational mind. I remember one night when Folusho, another roommate of mine had begged me into going to Trenchard hall with her. There had been a Lagbaja show in UI that day, and she hope to meet up with a guy she liked afterwards. I went with her, albeit disapprovingly. While she met up with her friend, I took a look around, and whom should I catch a glimpse of, but Ed. He was seeing another girl off to Queens. I quickly turned away, pretended like I did not know him, and scuttled off to a dark corner, under the shadow of the almond trees, where he could not see me. How it makes me laugh to remember.

This avoidance game ended about six months later, when Tina came to visit me in Idia(she had since moved to a flat off campus). She then told me Ed had been wondering why he had not seen me since we met at her place. It turned out he was waiting outside Idia Hall for her to come out with me - guys were not allowed in after 9pm(or was it 11pm? hey you Uites out there please correct me, I don forget lol). I walked outside with her, my heart drumming a beat in my ears. “Where have you been hiding?, he asked”. Nowhere, have just been so busy, you know us MBBS people dwell in another world, I answered jokingly”. As he wrangled a date with me by force, Tina stood by grinning from ear to ear with an I-told-you-so look in her eyes.
He had asked me out to have some chicken and chips with him at SUB on a day that coincided with the day I normally had fellowship. For several days afterwards, I struggled inside myself about missing fellowship or not, in the end, I decided for fellowship. Right now, I marvel at the self-control of my 17-year-old self. I have to sadly admit that my 30-year-old self does not possess such self-control.

So sha, I went to my fellowship, where I spent most of my time banishing thoughts of him from my mind so I could pray. It didn’t work too well is all I can say. I got back to my room to find a note from him. He had been and had waited and gisted with my roommates. Four of them had been in at the time and they had all liked him so much. Mercy, my bubbling roommate scolded me for having bailed out on a date with such a fine guy. “Marin, you and this your fellowship, this guy is a really nice guy, don’t miss such a cool guy because of your born again nonsense o”.

Two days later, when I could no longer stand thoughts of him creeping up at odd moments, like when I was dissecting the thigh of God-only-knows-whose cadaver in anatomy, I decided to take the bull by the horns and pay him a visit in his room at Indy. If he was not there, I could always visit one of the brothers from fellowship or something. I got to his room and found that he was out. Disappointed, I decided to go back to my room, but for some reason, took a totally odd route. Normally when walking from Indy to Idia, it was easier to go via Zik Hall, not the PG Hall route that I had taken. I met him on the way. This was the first occurrence of what we liked to think of as evidence that our hearts communicated with each other. He had been going out with his friends, when all of a sudden he felt like returning to Indy. He seemed very glad to meet me, although he was disappointed that I had stood him up.

I apologized for having missed our appointment due to fellowship, went back to his room with him, we had a nice chat and he introduced me to his roommates. After that day, he visited me quite often, we went for walks, sat in front of the lake at the science lecture hall at sunset, sat talking till late on the seats in the Idia Hall bus stop, watching the cotton club girls being dropped up by their sugar daddies etc, but we officially started dating the following Valentine’s day, when I returned from a February 14th special at fellowship to find two lovely hand made cards, from him. There was a guy who made the loveliest cards in UI at that time. I had admired so many of his cards, because he was in the same faculty with me and I saw his work quite often. This would be the first and last time I got any of those cards. They were really lovely. I still have them now, and anytime I take a trip down memory’s lane and look over all my cards, the same emotions that surged through my breast that February so many years ago still surge over and over again.
That is the magic of first love.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What is love?

What is love?

Is it telling someone you care about something you know they'll dislike, something that could cause a quarrel between you and them or even put an end to your relationship because you know that it is important that they know about it and clean up their act?

Or is it keeping quiet about volatile issues because you put yourself in their shoes and try to make excuses for them and to understand why they are the way they are and do what they do?

What is love?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Microsoft Haiku

I received this as a fowarded message zillions of years ago.

In Japan, they have replaced the impersonal and unhelpful Microsoft Error messages with Haiku poetry messages.

Haiku poetry has strict Construction rules: Each poem has only 17 syllables; 5 syllables in the first, 7 in the second, 5 in the third. They are used to communicate a timeless message, often achieving a wistful, yearning and powerful insight through extreme brevity.

Here are 16 actual error messages from Japan. Below, the essence of Zen.

Your file was so big.
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

The Web site you seek .
Cannot be located, but
Countless more exist

Out of memory
We wish to hold the whole sky,
. But we never will.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

Program aborting:
Close all that you have worked on. .
You ask far too much.

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared
Screen. Mind. Both are blank….

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

First snow, then silence.
This thousand-dollar screen dies
So beautifully.

With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao until
You bring fresh toner.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes and lost data.
Guess which has occurred

Monday, November 27, 2006

Governor Duke: Saint or Sinner

Yesterday evening, as I browsed the web trying to find out even more information about Donald Duke (about whom I have become very enthusiastic) and his much acclaimed achievements in CRS, I came upon an article with the above title. The article, which you can read Here, though quite long-winded, made some very serious allegations, which if half of them are true, would prove that a friend of mine was right in saying that the “new” generation of politicians is even worse than the older generation.
With respect to today's post on Chxta’s blog, I definitely agree with him that DD needs to start answering some tough questions, if he is to be considered a credible candidate.While I am not condemning him before he is proven guilty, these are really serious accusations, which require honest answers. If these allegations are true, then such a suave politician who though committing such violations, manages to at the same time almost effortlessly pull off a mass hypnosis/deception of Nigerians is a dangerous person indeed.
Not that it isn’t easy to deceive us, seeing how hungry we are for good news from Nigeria. It says a lot about our desperation for good governance as Nigerians, when we say things like “even if he steals, at least he is still doing something”, which was the conclusion a friend and I came to over the weekend. After all, we rationalized, politicians all over the world steal public funds. The difference is that in other countries, they also take care of the welfare of their citizens.
Ever since I read about the programs initiated by DD, I have been half rejoicing for the people of Cross Rivers State, half sad that other State governors do not seem selfless enough to have been spurred to performing better by what DD has “done” in his state. One of the things that have kept me optimistic about the ongoing political drama in Nigeria has been the fact that younger candidates with unblemished pasts, like Pat Utomi and DD are taking part in the whole process. I believe that even if they do not win elections, they have raised the bar, and will force other politicians to aspire for better things, since the public will see that there are other, better possibilities. If these “paragons” also turn out to be tainted, then no hope for us o. That would explain why people like Babangida have the audacity to even think about contesting the presidential elections.
Meanwhile, I feel chastised by my overboard enthusiasm about DD on the grounds of hearsay alone (or should I say "see-read", since most of my information has come from the internet)……

He needs to answer some tough questions, and soon too, whether or not he wins the primaries.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Am Arsch der Welt!

Am Arsch der Welt! Am Arsch der Welt! Am Arsch der Welt! Now that I've repeated that several times over, I feel so much better. Whew! One of the advantages of knowing several languages is that it has a multiplying effect on your ability to express yourself. Since every language has its limitations, knowing another language gives one expressions for emotions you can't vocally express in your own language. MBH(my better half) says letting loose vocally can save one hours of shrink time. I agree in toto.
So to cut the story short, yesterday night peacefully trying to fly to London, I found myself stuck am Arsch der Welt - means literarily in German - at the world's arse! When I decided to spend several days in London, three weeks ago, and chose to fly with Ryanair from Düsseldorf, little did I know that Düsseldorf airport, for Ryanair, meant Niederlein "Airport", near Weeze, which is about 100km from Düsseldorf. Not only did I not know where this airport was, practically no one else did. Finally, I found ticket desk worker who said - go to Düsseldorf train station and get a bus from there. I got to Düsseldorf main train station, only to find that the bus journey took almost 2 hrs, I would in fact have to take another train. Since the train journey lasted over one hour, and I had barely 2 hrs, I decided instead to take a taxi. We ended up travelling at break-neck speed - 160 km/hr I kid you not- in the rain o!!! Growing up in Nigeria where the roads are so bad, anything faster than 120 km/hr has me reciting “yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil….” ati be be lo. Finally, we got to the airport about 20 mins before the flight left, and I paid well over a hundred euros for this attempt to visit baba God before my time. To cut the long story short, I was not let on the flight and the check-in desk lady was so rude, I turned blue-black from anger. I was unable to get a refund. Changing my booking would have cost 75 €. The only good part of this Arsch der Welt airport was that booking the next available flight which was for the next morning only cost 30€, because, I believe no one in their right mind would want to fly from this location, except for people who actually come from Weeze. Luckily the information desk lady was sympathetic, and helped me find a room for the night at "Kevin's Pub"! Kevin is an Englishman who is married to a Weezian(don't know if they are called that), who runs a bed and breakfast. I spent my night in Kevin's Pub brooding over all the wrongs Ryanair had dealt me. The Info-Desk lady also shared with me the fact that this happens quite often.
All I can take comfort in right now is the fact that I share a unique if bizarre bond with all the other people who through a stressful lesson from Ryanair now know where Weeze is. I feel considerably wiser, as well as being several hundred euros poorer for the experience. Anyway, right now, I am waiting to board the plane and sincerely hoping that the rest of my trip will not be as stressful as the last 14 hours.    

Monday, November 13, 2006

The audacity of hope

The audacity of hope - that is the title of Sen. Barack Obama's new book. It was also the title of his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when he was contesting the race for the Senate of the United States.
This phrase resonated with me the first time I heard it, and it has kept on ringing in my mind constantly in the last few months due to the news coming out of Nigeria and the changes occurring there.

Things are not perfect - air crashes are two for ten kobo, unlawful impeachments are the order of the day, and more and more people go to bed hungry with every new night. For every gain that has been made since Obasanjo became president, 10 other things are still where they were or even worse. But every time I read about people like Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Donald Duke; about the changes that are taking place, that we are almost debt free, about the success stories, about courageous people daring to speak out, about people returning home to contribute their own quota, or doing their bit from the Diaspora, I dare to hope.

I feel optimism like I have not felt in years, I feel like things are finally going to change. I try to see the positive side of every story I hear. Sometimes, it is easy, like the Obasanjo and Atiku feud. My positive spin on that is that they will expose each other and rid our society of themselves at one go. Good riddance to useless rubbish. Or take Obasanjo for instance – I do not admire him at all, and I think he has no proper understanding of what democracy is. I have to give the devil his due though, and acknowledge the fact that he has surrounded himself with people who care and who are making a difference, irrespective of ethnicity (in fact, most of the inept members of the Obasanjo government are Yoruba, e.g Aborishade). El rufai and NOI, Akunyili, Soludo and Ribadu are not your typical political praise singers. They are making a difference in their own way, and it is a visible way. I tell myself, “It is easier to destroy than to rebuild”. “The long time it is taking to get things back up is due to the total decay that was inherited by this government”, I try to convince myself.
Even with this audacious optimism, I suffer setbacks. It is impossible to put a positive spin on things like plane crashes and stories of senseless loss of life, political assassinations and tales of money “laundry”, all of which is due to irresponsible leadership and a deeply ingrained corruption culture.

The wise one Solomon said "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" in Proverbs 13:12, so I know that this rekindled hope might be my undoing- if it is deferred for the umpteenth time, maybe my heart will become sick. But right now, I am going to keep on hoping, hoping that at last a new day has come for my beloved country. I am going to be audacious in my hope, because looking at the current reality on ground in Nigeria that is the only type of hope I can have at this time.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

BBC Article- The politics of corruption

Ehm, am I the only one who saw an article titled "The politics of corruption" by Alex Last on the BBC News website? The first line of the article went something like " It is common knowledge that Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world" or something of that nature, and it had a big picture of Obj. I started reading it at around 10pm(GMT+1), but got distracted by a call. When I tried to access the page again I could not find it. Could it be that the BEEB was afraid of controversy decided to remove the article? They seem to be doing that a lot lately.....

Monday, November 06, 2006

Xenophobia in Russia

Reading about racially motivated attacks in Moscow brings back memories, memories I would rather permanently delete.

The year was 2001; I was in a Taganskaya Krasnopresenskaya line train in Moscow. It was 31st of December, in the middle of winter and everyone was in a lively mood due to the season. As usual in Moscow, the times when everyone is in a good mood fueled by Spirits are the times when minorities like me needed to be most alert. Okay, you always need to be alert in Moscow especially if you stand out, but it is of even more importance when there is celebration or mourning going on. Russians remind me of Africans, they are extremely intense. That can be a good thing if they like you, but it is deadly if for some reason they do not. So anyway, on this cold winter evening in 2001 I sat in a corner of the wagon, reading my book and trying to disappear in the background as much as is possible for a black person surrounded by a sea of Drunken Slavics. The next thing I knew, there was a hand laid roughly on my knee. I jerked my head up in surprise and indignation. As bad as it was in Russia, up till then, I had never been physically assaulted before. "Shto takoe?"(What is this?) I asked angrily. I got up from my seat and decided to leave the train before something undesirable happened. I did not want to end the year with a brawl on the Metro. Then, out of anger over the injustice of it all, I decided to return to my seat. After all, it would not be the first time I had been racially abused and I decided to sit it through since I still had a few more stations to go. As I got back to my sit, this ugly Slavic specimen forcibly pushed me down in my seat, so that he and his son could take a picture with me. I got angry and swung my very dainty handbag at him. The next thing I knew, he had given me a dirty slap. Nobody blinked an eye, everyone in the crowded wagon kept silent and watched with interest as this man, twice my size that I did not know from Adam gave me a dirty slap for daring to be angry that he forcibly took a picture of me. His wife sat opposite from me and was silent as well. I was mad, as mad as an angry bull. What made it even worse was the fact that I knew that I would not get any justice, it was no use trying. I became hysterical; I cursed him, I really cursed him, and I hope the curse sticks, like a bad odour. I finally got to my friend's place and celebrated New Year's Eve in a subdued mood with welts on the right side of my face, where he hit me. This was the only physical attack I faced in Moscow, but there had been other emotionally scarring attacks.

Nobody is safe, there is the macabre joke which was g0ing around Moscow about the Indian student who tried to avoid being beating by skinheads by shaking his head in that peculiarly Indian way and shouting ' ya ne cherni, ya ne cherni’ (I'm not black, I'm not black), as if black people were the ones who deserve to be beaten up. Anyway, he was beaten up as well, and we were all of one mind in saying that he deserved to be beaten ten times over for his racist comments. Japanese, Chinese Thai, even Russian citizens from Siberia (they look Asian) and every other person who looked remotely Asian was thoroughly beaten up, and their shops were destroyed when South Korea defeated Russia in the football World Cup of 2002. Etcetera, Etcetera, melo ni mo ma so ninu iwe kobo? (How many incidents can I recount?)

I was so traumatised, that one night several months after the physical assault of 2001 New Year's eve, I was in a tube station in London, and having heard what sounded like a group of young men laughing and talking excitedly, I turned and ran for dear life! I then saw a man going underground, and I incoherently tried to explain to him that I was afraid of being attacked by the youngsters in the underground station. He looked at me like I was a mad person. He probably thought I had just moved from Liberia or Congo or some other war torn country in Africa. He probably neither understood nor believed what I told him about Moscow and attacks and skinheads. Basically, I walked back with him into the underground station, only to find that my 'attackers' were a racially mixed group of youngsters who were just fooling around and did not even spare me a second glance. It was at this point that I knew I had to get out before I became certifiable.

I feel so sorry for all non-white foreigners in Russia. Any day could be their last. Neither at home, nor in the University,not at work place, or even at the Kremlin is one safe. Yet countries keep sending new students every year; in Nigeria, it is an opportunity for someone to prove he is helping the people. Even if the Students then get abandoned halfway through their studies. Instead of improving our own higher education system, we send our children en masse abroad to countries of the former USSR, to get scarred for life.

I feel even more sorry for all non-Slavic Russians because they have nowhere else to go, that is their country, and they face the same problems and discrimination as foreigners, even worse! After all, we foreigners could always leave. Our countries might not be paradise, but we could leave. I have Russian friends who abuse the skinheads for the attacks against foreigners, who even housed me to protect me when things go especially hot(like in April every year, when skin heads celebrate Hitler's birthday, going on a rampage of killing and maiming. Grandchildren of those who defiantly withstood Hitler). These same friends of mine at the same time talk of Caucasians (people from Chechnya, Dagestan, Tajikistan Azerbaijan etc) and Jews with such hatred that its frightening. Xenophobia is so deeply ingrained in the Russian, that its people do not even realise it sometimes.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Uncle Max

In order to try and battle the blues, I'll write on a topic I have been meaning to write about for some time now.

I was in Abuja visiting my aunt’s family one summer while on vacation from Uni. My aunt has two daughters and a son, with the son being the youngest child. There was a subordinate of my uncles' who had been assisting my aunt with car issues due to the fact that my uncle was away on a business trip. I'll call him Max here.

Anyway, uncle Max came visiting one day when my aunt was away at work. As I returned into the sitting room with a tray of soft drinks which I had gone to bring for uncle Max, I was alarmed to see him holding first one of my female cousins, then the other and telling them to come sit on his laps, and sitting them on his privates. These were a ten and an eight year old – and you know how fast children develop these days. Their respective bums were bigger than mine, their 19-year-old cousin! Under normal circumstances, if he had wanted to show affection by hugging a child, the logical choice would have been the five-year-old boy, or at least all of them, but he ignored the little boy apart from an absent minded pat on the head. I did not feel comfortable and sort of cunningly managed to send the girls into their room to tidy up in order to get them away from this uncle Max. When my aunt got back from work, I told her about what I had observed and advised her to be careful about leaving older "uncles" around her daughters.

I am sure that after reading this story you probably think that I was a teenager with a dirty mind. Unfortunately, the reason why I felt so bothered about my observations that afternoon was because I had been the victim of attempted assault by a houseboy. In fact, I was literarily saved by the car horn. If my mother had not arrived at precisely the moment she did, I would have been disvirgined by Godwin our houseboy at eight years old. As it was, he ejaculated in my hands, destroying my innocence forever. I was too ashamed to tell my parents about it, because I thought it was my fault. We had been playing a game with my other siblings and I and Godwin, who must have been around eighteen at the time, somehow ended up together in the kitchen, away from the other kids. I cannot recollect clearly exactly what happened, except for the fact that I was left with a tiny hand full of disgusting gooey stuff as he went to open the garage door for my mother.

This experience, as well as some others which I won’t share today, is what makes me laugh derisively when people claim that such things as pedophilia do not happen in Africa. They so do!!!! It is just that parents are sometimes too busy to notice what is happening (like everywhere else around the world). Sometimes, in order to avoid a scandal, people also just decide to keep quiet. There are also cases like mine where, due to fear of strict parents, you are afraid to disclose something, which to your childish mind is wrong but which you fear you'll be blamed for. We need to wake up and realize that such things have happened in the past and continue to happen in our societies Here are just a few examples, although these are not exactly A-list news sources: a father who raped his own daughter, or this case of rape at a quranic school . Lets not even go to the ever-ongoing sexual harassment of female university students by male lecturers. Pedophilia and/or rape go on in our schools, in our places of worship, etc.

It is time to begin to speak out and to stop the business of saving face.
Rape is a crime and rapists must be punished. The very lowest on the ladder are those who defile children! Parents need to take steps to protect their children, by educating them on how to get away from potentially dangerous situations, and at the very least ensuring an atmosphere where dialogue is encouraged in the home, so that a child does not need to carry the emotional torment alone in case the child is abused in spite of all efforts to protect the child.

As for me sha, I will do my utmost to ensure that no uncle comes near any daughter of mine in my absence, if I have a daughter that is.
Have you ever been in such a state of mind where a thousand thoughts and emotions are going through your mind which you are incapable of expressing, either vocally or in writing? Have you ever been so paralysed by the hopelessness of occurences around you that the numbness you feel is the only way you can avoid going crazy?
That is the place I'm at right now, I have one million things to say, yet am unable to detoxify my mind by expressing them. I hope this phase passes soon, because it is a strange place that I do not feel capable of dealing with. I've always been bad at vocally expressing myself, and writing has always been my escape. If I lose that escape, I see myself slowly and painfully slipping into an irreversible abyss of despair.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Wannabe Grandparents

I was in the Hague a couple of weeks ago on an official trip and while there, I met up with a friend, A.R., whom I had not seen for several years. Since we last met, we've both gotten married, I-over two years ago, she-last December.
As we talked about mutual acquaintances and caught up on old gist, we somehow came to the issue of children and our parents. I would love to have kids eventually, but for now I am focusing on my career. A.R. on the other hand would prefer not to have children. She says she has enough nieces and nephews and it is unnecessary to bring another child into the world. She also says she feels incapable of loving a child like it should be loved. Fair enough. Although on my part I subscribe to the literal translation of the biblical injunction "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth....". Interesting though it is to analyze the different viewpoints of different people with respect to procreation, that is not the issue I want to explore in this post. This post is about our "grandparents wannabe" parents.

As A.R. and I continued to discuss about children and family, I asked her whether her parents had raised the topic yet. It turns out that not only has she received the proprietary lecture, her mother has taken to keeping track of her period and asking her monthly how she is feeling in order to determine whether they had “struck gold” that month. This monthly interview is driving her nuts, slowly.

My case on the other hand, is subtler. First of all, when I decided I wanted to get married, to someone who was not “suitable” from the viewpoint of my family (another day’s topic), my father was sure I was pregnant. Love ko o, love ni! Like my mother used to say, nowadays love wears contact lenses. The only way they could explain the desire of CK and I to marry as fast as we wanted to, was that I had to be pregnant. Since they could not get me to admit to being preggs before we got married, there were expectations of a “premature baby”. Several months after we got married, they realized that I had not “rushed" into marriage due to an unexpected pregnancy, the hints started coming.
A year after I got married, my cousin got married, and typical naija style nine months after the wedding, she had a baby girl. As I called excitedly to congratulate her on the new addition to the family, the first thing she said to me was “ in Jesus name, yours will be next”. Of course I said amen, not bothering to explain to her that we were trying to plan our family, that I am trying to settle down career wise. It would have been of no use, it would just have reiterated the idea that is fast becoming fixed on their minds that I have been brainwashed by living too long abroad.

Recently, I had the following conversation with my father.

Daddy: Is there anything you want to talk to me about?
Me: How do you mean that?
Daddy: What are you plans with respect to starting your own family?
Me: (thinking, "he has started again") we are taking our time and I am trying to settle down in my job
Daddy: Are you using anything?

Imagine my embarrassment- discussing contraceptives with my father! And it was more like an interrogation!

Daddy: I am just asking, so I can know how to pray – is it that you are having problems conceiving… you do know that you need to stop the pill several months before getting pregnant and take your vitamins to help your body recover…

See me see trouble o!
This is the same person who sent me an E-mail after our Nigeria trip that he “was so happy to see us, and is looking forward to being a Granddad any time we are ready, no pressure at all”. Those were his exact words. Tell me how this inquisition can be reconciled with those words.

Finally, the funny conversation of a dear friend of mine with his dad on a trip home:

His Father:
You are a good son to me and your wife is lovely. My only wish before I die is to see your child
My friend: Daddy, you are very lucky.
His Father: why do you say that?
My friend: Since we do not have any plans of starting a family in before five or six years time, that means you still have a long life ahead of you
His Father: aah!

I am sure his father promptly embarked on forty days prayer and fasting, because he recently told me that they are expecting their first child next year ;)

First they are obsessed with you getting married, then they want you to have children, only God know what comes after you eventually have children!!!!! I am eagerly awaiting the next installment of my friend's story, after the baby comes.
Does anyone have any similar funny experiences to share?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Suffering and smiling

I am in a very melancholic mood today, fueled by a lack of sleep, due to the fact that I am having to work night shifts for a while, as by the most recent tragedy in Nigeria's airspace. In a bid to raise my spirits, I have dug out one of the most apt(I can imagine some Nigerian women behaving this way!), if ridiculous videos which always makes me laugh. Enjoy.

Pushy Nigeria Mom

Mrs Omokorede sees Funmi's headmistress

Friday, October 27, 2006


Gele is the traditional headpiece of the Yoruba. A few months ago we had an office party, with an Ascot theme. I racked my brain trying to decide what type of hat I wanted to buy or make. I had the idea of making a papier-mache hat, but did not have enough time to do it. Okay, the real reason is that I used to feel creativity challenged, until I attended a course in September. This was all due to my Arts teacher in Secondary school, Mama, but that is a story for another day. Anyway, my sister-in-law suggested buying a plain hat and adding flowers or fruit to it. It was during this period of trying to stimulate my inexistent -as I thought at the time- creative juices that I went to Nigeria. It was a very short trip- barely five days. One of the reasons for this trip was a friend's wedding. Before hand I had arranged for the Gele and Fila to be bought for CK. and I. Fila is a male cap. As usual, on the wedding day, I had to get someone to tie my Gele for me. I can tie the normal cloth ones in one style, and I can usually tie the Aso-Oke ones, but I had never successfully tied "paper" or damask Geles. My Gele was superb, she tied it so fast and it stayed on all day.
The Office party was a week after we returned from our Nigeria trip. I still did not have a hat for the party and was toying with the idea of just going to the party normally dressed. " Why don't you tie a Gele?” CK asked. I bet nobody would have any hat as nice as yours at the party. At first I was inclined to scoff at his idea, but after thinking about it for I while, I decided it would have been a good idea if only I knew how to tie a Gele. Unfortunately for me, I do not know any Yoruba women and very few Nigerians in general where I live. If I were in London now, I could have my pick of people to tie the Gele for me. So I gave up the idea. But CK insisted that it couldn't be so hard could it-proves that he is a man, right? After window-shopping unsuccessfully for the perfect hat, I decided to try my hand at tying a Gele. I tried unsuccessfully to tie my Gele the whole weekend. Even CK also tried. It ended up looking really weird every time, nothing like all those nice pictures one sees. I looked like one of those mad women you see on Nollywood movies. I searched for ideas on the Internet, found mostly inadequate sites, meant in my opinion for unsuspecting African Americans out of their money. Here is one such site. Seriously, who would buy a head tying video? I got some tips from guys at the NVS. Someone sent me different websites, and I got this video from someone there. Check out all the different styles. And they make tying a Gele seem as simple as ABC.

So I spent my evenings for the next week playing this video over and over again trying unsuccessfully to grasp the technique. So I basically gave up…until the night before the party, when I decided to try again. I stayed till 12 before the mirror and finally managed to tie one, the golden Gele from my friends wedding, and using the same technique, I tied another one (which I had not even remembered I had)!!!!! I went to the party with my Gele, and everyone was like wow!!! I won second prize for the best hat, even though everyone says mine was the best and they just gave it to the wife of an Oga. But na them know. I am so happy that I tied my first Gele independently, and even won a one and a half litre bottle of champagne for it. The picture above is one of us on the podium parading our hats. As you can see, I'm contestant number 15.I am so proud of my Gele tying achievement. Agreed, none of the people there know what it should look like anyway, so I could have got away with tying anything. In any case, I feel like I have come of age as a Naija woman. Now, lets wait and see if I can repeat the feat next time I'm invited to a Nigerian party!!!!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Comportment 101

I sat watching with a bizarre mixture of fascination and shame as she carried out a very thorough grooming of first one foot and then the other. I was sitting in the departure lounge of CDG airport in France on my first trip back to Nigeria in several years and the subject of my study sat across from me. This lack of inhibition, to place your bare feet on your laps in the middle of one of the busiest airports in the world, pinching and poking between your toes to get out whatever stinking dirt particle is lodged there, got me thinking on one of the issues which bother me a lot - general rules of conduct, carriage and manners.

While the average Nigerian does not go about inspecting their feet in public, there are a lot of behavioural attitudes, which could prevent career success and which contribute to a generally bad opinion of Nigerians. Why does everyone have to listen to your conversation, how come other people can have quiet phone conversations, apart from us? I cannot count the number of times I and countless others have had to listen to a phone call from someone to their relatives in Nigeria. If you want to make a phone call, why not stay in the peace and quiet of your home, where you don’t have to shout above the sound of moving traffic? Why do we fidget and stand askew in our clothes as if they are ill fitting; wearing your clothes like you just started wearing clothes yesterday has nothing to do with not being educated does it? Men are especially at fault in this area. No one wants to see your singlet, and why do you walk like there is something wrong with the balance function of your ears. During my trip to Nigeria I went to Shoprite, just out of curiosity, and was greatly impressed by the building, the only thing was, my hand was itching to dress the maintenance staff properly. It’s not that difficult to tuck in one's shirt properly is it? Just the other day on my way into town, I saw a nicely dressed African woman walking along, talking to a friend and lifting up her blouse to play with her stomach. No one wants to see your top up and you stroking your bare stomach in public.
These are just little things that show refinement and which a lot of people lack. I was at an interview in England where there was another Nigeria guy. He boasted loudly about another interview where he had been the best, but where according to him "because of racism" a white guy had gotten the job instead of him. I had plenty of opportunity to observe him and came to the conclusion that I would not have hired him either, and it had nothing to do with racism. I do not claim to have been able to judge how good he was in his subject area, but I know I sure would not want him to represent my company. Even in an interview situation where people strive to put their best foot forward, he was loud. A poor command of the English language, not being able to use cutlery properly, talking with the mouth full, talking even more than the recruiter, sitting at a dinner table like in his sitting room at home, putting his feet up on the seat next to him, in a restaurant during an interview process, leaving the table before those that invited, I definitely would not have hired him. That is not to say that racism is not present in western society, it is, but sometimes we need to look deeper than racism to find the reason behind some of the problems we have integrating. A degree and a suit are not enough; there are also issues of comportment, which tend to influence the way people look at one.
Now, I expect that there will be a few people who will say that I have been brainwashed by living in Europe too long. I beg to disagree; I can still remember the dirty looks I got from my mother anytime I talked with a full mouth at the dining table. And that was while eating eba with my hands. I remember time and again the reprimand of our principal, at a girl’s secondary school in Abeokuta, to stop fidgeting. A lot of the rules of good behaviour are global, you do not need to be Oyinbo to be disgusted by people scratching their privates in public or picking their noses. Being courteous is a traditional value in our society, which is being erased. Some people emulate everything in their new surroundings, not remembering that unless you are lucky and belong to a very restricted circle and come from an affluent background, it is very likely that the people you have around you are not the best that society has to offer.
It is not enough to say we are Nigerians; that is how we are. In one’s quest to successfully and happily live in the Diaspora, good comportment can only be of help. For Nigeria as a nation, being more disciplined will only bring us forward as a people. Our pseudo- modernism, which discards the good in our traditional behavioural rules with the bad, is one of our greatest problems as a society in my opinion. We must also learn to sift the good out of the cocktail of "Oyinbo behaviour" which are so popular in Nigeria nowadays. For the younger generation, it is so not cool to wear "I shit in my pants jeans" (like my husband calls it) which are thrice your size.
If this article makes one less person scratch his crotch in public, I will feel like I have achieved something.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


I am convinced that one of the main drivers of success in the 21st century world is the spirit of competition. It could be the desire to do better than one's neighbour/colleague, the desire to earn to more than the competition; whatever it is it is more than just about an individual, it has to do with humans being social animals.

Without that spirit, only a very small percentage of people would do extraordinary things. It is my belief that the majority of people would be more or less satisfied with whatever mediocre result they achieve if they did not have the information that someone else once did better to drive them.

Although competition can be dangerous if it not tempered by a reasonable mind, I sincerely believe that one of the main drivers of innovation is competition. And of course it is rightly said that necessity is the mother of inventions, but that is a whole new topic.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sushi mania or how to enrich your life......

I LOVE SUSHI. I just love the taste of the salmon smothered in wasabi and ginger, and the Sushi rice, yummy!!!! I first had real Sushi (by that I mean non-vegetarian Sushi) in 2004. Before then, I had once or twice had a cucumber Maki. The raw Sushi had a certain fascination for me, but I was fine with it being eaten by other people. Just not by me. Then I went and moved abroad, and adventurous as I have always been, things got out of my control. And so I found myself at dinner with Joe and family, and guess what a rare treat they had ordered for us - real Sushi. Okay, its probably not fair to sound like an innocent, I also like red caviar which convinced most of my African friends that I was from another planet. It was not all bad though; they always brought me any caviar they received as gifts, ensuring that I had a steady supply without necessarily spending too much money on my bizarre taste. Its probably a good thing that I do not live in America, because I also love Pate, and I just read a few weeks ago that restaurants all over the US were banning the product due to cruelty to ducks by those barbarian French people (oh puhleez, I bet its only because the French do not support Bush's war in Iraq). So, anyway, back to my gist, since we were on a visit, I decided not to complain too much and just eat as little as I could get away with (that comes from the ethics of not wasting food which my darling mama drilled into me mercilessly). I started off with the cucumber and avocado Sushi, delicious. Then I decided to be more adventurous and so I took tentative bites of the Salmon Sushi, and, surprise, surprise, I liked the taste. Then I tried the shrimp Sushi and found it not bad at all. The caviar Sushi was also very nice. Surprised that it tasted so nice, and feeling smug with myself for having tried at all, I thought that was the end of my Sushi adventure. Na so Sushi hunger come grip me at the beginning of this year o. I vaguely recollect it being as a result of reading Marian Keyes Sushi for beginners. All of a sudden, that Friday evening after work, I dragged CK. to the local Sushi bar. It was so nice that we went again and again, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now I know all the names, Sake Nigiri, Sake Maki, Tempura Maki, and Shashimi etcetera, etcetera. They already know CK and I at the local Sushi bar as it has become one of our favorite places to go on Saturday morning for brunch. The only funny part of this whole issue is that the only Nigiri Sushi I enjoy is the Sake Nigiri(which is Salmon topping atop vinegary rice). I have tried other types, but they just don't taste as good. This obsession is so bad that no week is complete without my eating Sushi at least once. I even had a Sushi dinner for my dearie and I, and I am proud to say my Sushi didn't taste half bad- and at a fraction of the cost. I'll let you into a secret though - these types of obsessions come and go with me quite often. I have been affected with Plov mania, Lamb Shahi Korma mania (it was so bad that I borrowed cookbooks and tried unsuccessfully to recreate the taste), Tarte Flambé mania, Akara mania, Pelmeni mania, Puff puff mania, Russian Pancake mania, Doner Kebab mania, Pate mania, to name a few, over the last few years. Even listing them all has exhausted me, whew! What a good thing it is that there is so much more food to discover out there. My Sushi mania has been the most expensive of my food related manias though. I can't wait until my body decides it has gotten enough, so I can move on to a cheaper mania, like... Gari mania! Oh, I forgot, I'm in Europe and Gari is almost as expensive as Sushi here. Oh well, maybe I’ll be lucky and crave bread next.

Seriously though, I do not know why I am prone to manias. Take my book manias for instance, I have almost every Agatha Christie book published, and have read/bought practically every Anthony Trollope book I could lay my hands on. Okay so, I should not compare these two writers, yet, that exactly illustrates the illogical nature of my manias. Once it catches me, it is like a fever attack and it takes a while before I can act rationally.

The only thing I have found is that every single one of my fixations has enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Coming out

Admit it, when you read the title of my blog, you thought I was gay and coming out.
Sorry to disappoint you, the thing is, I am actually a Yoruba girl, who has never quite fit in. Although I grew up in Nigeria, with some brief interludes in the U.K., I have always had a different outlook on issues. I am Christian pentecostal, without liking all the noise and asheju of the typical Naija Church. I love hymns, probably due to my girls only Anglican school education. I love Bach, and will go to the theatre whenever I get the opportunity(schlepping some poor friend or the other along), and I think Pushkin is cool. I like people who look nice and when in the mood I can really make some effort over my appearance, but most of the time I just cannot be bothered, as long as I am clean and neat.
Apart from that, I think I am polite to a fault- which is not standing me in good stead in this "step-over-as-many- people-as-you can-as-long-as-you-get-what-you-want-world". I do not like b.s. I prefer people to say it like it is, no pretence, which is not a very helpful trait if you are Yoruba- we have the reputation of being the most diplomatic people you can imagine.

Since I am normally one who shies away from change, I have amazed myself with how well I have adapted to living outside Nigeria. Yet, I am still as Yoruba as I ever was. How can there be two different mes? Or am I just a normal person in the 21st Century? In this century where because the world has become a global village, we grow up exposed on an amazing level to different viewpoints and cultures. Although maybe its more right to say I am a product of the eighties and nineties, because all young Nigerian kids seem to be exposed to nowadays is hip-hop, an over-dose of insincere religion and materialism on a whole new level.
BLOG WATCH!!!! Don't forget to give credit if you borrow anything from this blog.