Sunday, March 20, 2016

HOW TO TRAVEL (EASILY) THROUGH AFRICA WITH A NIGERIAN PASSPORT


Please, if you also have a red or blue passport, this article is not for you. You can take a stroll now if you like. I am speaking to people like me, without a lifeline, whose only means of identification in this world is that green passport that reads Federal Republic of Nigeria and who have no special “connections”. Ordinary people who want to travel with ease around Africa.

Make no mistake about it, nobody in Africa is waiting for you at their border with open arms to say welcome, dear Nigerian. It is easier to find your way to Europe and Dubai (sometimes even America, yes!) than to travel through Africa. Travelling through Africa is like making heaven. On your way there will be a lot of obstacles, temptations, sins, and frustrations. I am here, not to insult the countries who make life hard for us, but to  help you find a way. God will judge those countries at an appropriate time. In this world you have to find solutions. As a frequent traveller I provide this advice free of charge.

1.    Find the corrupt link
No matter how much they spit at us, they are in fact like us. Often we hate the people we most resemble. As we are full of corruption, so are they. There will be that one hustler in their embassy that connives with the Nigerian interface who does the deals on the outside. Don’t be like me. Pay and pass through the gates of African heaven. I remember sitting in a visa office trying to get a South African visa. One of the Nigerians who worked security there whispered to me, that for a small fee she could make my life easier. “They will suffer you and you may not get it,” she told me. I declined her offer and told her I would rather follow the official route, confident that my application was strong enough not to need any “help”. Long story short, I did not get the South African visa, and I missed the trip. I could hear the spirit of that woman laughing at me for many months after that. Find the corrupt link. They are like us.

2.    Marry wisely
Now, for this one I am sorry if you are already married. I do not advise anyone to end their marriage to a Nigerian. So if you are stuck in a marriage to a Nigerian, just skip this part. Marrying wisely can mean the difference between a life time of disrespect or easy access to the world, especially Africa. It is no secret that people with the nice passports of the world – US, UK, Canada, Germany, France – find it easier to travel through Africa than Africans themselves. This is how we are. We are kind. We love visitors. Marrying well can convert you from an African to a visitor. It can convert you from a leprous carrier of a filthy green passport to a desirable human being with rights. Find yourself a nice foreigner, swallow your pride and say I do. In a few years, like a sexually transmitted disease, that passport will be passed on to you and you will forget what it feels like to be denied entry by another African country. But you have to be smart. Research the country before falling in love. Don't go and marry someone like from Switzerland. Apart from the racism, they don't make it particularly easy for spouses to pass on citizenship to people like us.  Be wise. You don’t want to be stuck with a foreign spouse in a cold, racist place without a passport. That would be a tragedy

3.    Run errands for a foreigner with a strong passport
Another thing: Africans respect the workers and messengers of foreigners. So if you work for say, the British, they will, for fear of offending the British, treat you like they would treat the British. So if you can’t marry well or find the corrupt link, look for a job with the Americans, the British or the Germans. Once they see that connection, you are good to go. You will travel Africa on the back of your foreign oga and you will forget how it feels to be the owner of a green passport. Don’t be stupid and lose that job. Be loyal to your foreign boss and continue receiving the blessings of their strong passport.


So, now, these three remain the rules for easy African travel: the corrupt link, marrying wisely and working for a foreigner. But the greatest of these is marrying wisely. It is the most secure. The most permanent. Even if the spouse with the powerful passport leaves you after you secure the passport, you have still won. With the new powerful sexually transmitted passport, you can hope all things, believe all things. Marrying wisely never fails. But whether there are corrupt links, they will cease; whether there are foreign employers, they too will pass away, but when that foreign passport comes, that which is temporary disappears. An article is enough for the wise.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A LOVE STORY


There was a great famine that spread throughout the farm. And the animals had neither water nor sunshine. And they fought in queues over dwindling rations. And the Whitists cursed the sun and the pipes that would not supply water and the food that did not grow and the former farm manager Goodhead whose tenure a long time ago they refused to forget. But that will not be the subject of this story. What is the point of a sad story of despair and privation? 

This story is a love story. Love is not what you see in the movies. Sometimes love is neither kind nor patient; It is not selfless. Love is just love. And to understand love one must understand White, the farm manager whose speeches outside the farm forms the basis for what Whitists have now bound and codified called “A Treatise on Love”.

1.  Love is silent. 
Love does not make a lot of noise. Love does not have to act either. Love just knows when to appear and disappear, like White. Like when White began his tours of other farms and spoke to his animals mostly through foreign animals whose questions he was glad to answer. Like when the most crucial of his decisions and inner thoughts become known when he visits other farms and gets asked questions about his farm. Like when they asked him about the hardship animals were facing in making trips outside the farm and he said, “Well, they need to learn to live within their means, sit their behinds down and work for my farm.”

Even when they reminded him of his young pups that were living on other farms in relative luxury, he said, “Well, some of us can afford it. Those who want to afford it should become farm managers like me. Some people are meant to suffer in this life and some are meant to enjoy. I love destiny. I try very hard not to mess with destiny because I believe all the animal gods have plans for us animals. Some were born to suffer. Some were born to die. Some were born to be ridden. Some were born to be cuddled. I may be a perfect wolf, but I am not a god. I will advise those animals whose lot in life is never to afford what I can afford for my pups to be humble and learn patience.”

Mostly though, White is silent at home. And it is thus that we see this rule come true: love is silent. We can see it in the way White walks through the farm, arms behind his back, silent, except where a foreign animal asks him a question. Tough love. Silent love. 

Silent love even when, in the middle of the farm, hundreds of animals get hacked to death in a wolf invasion. Because one can love even the bodies of animals killed by wolves. 


2.  Love is stubborn
Some people wrongly assume that love yields. Love does not yield. Like White. White does what White wants even if it makes no economic sense, mostly because White is love and what White can see on four legs, bats cannot see with wings flying around. That is why they end up being massacred by people like Dick-Tai, White’s farm hand. (You may argue that bats are naturally blind but that is not the point. The point is that White knows stuff.)

White is love. And it is this love that makes him ignore any pleas to take actions that would help the flow of food in the farm. Like when White stubbornly pegged the exchange rate for yams at one yam to one bag of grain, making it difficult to do food exchanges in the farm because in the parallel food market, the real value was very very different. White knows however that heading a farm is a bit like an operation to take out the nail from an animal’s hooves. While the nail is being pulled out, the animal would squeal loudly. But the end justifies the means. And if there is extreme pain, in the words of White: “So be it.” 


3.  Love says what love wants
Love cannot be chained. Love will make stupid remarks but only because love is passionate and free and wild. Like White who, when he speaks, speaks first and thinks later. The important thing is the intention. White intends always to be helpful. Even when White calls animals who do not like what he has said “bigots”. Because that is what a bigot is. One who will see the holy intentions of a farm manager like White and do a radical thing like ask questions. Because questions show disloyalty especially when you are questioning a perfect creature like White who can do no wrong. And what is an animal’s life worth if that animal questions the good and perfect will of their farm manager? 


4.  When all things fail, love knows where to put the blame.
Love never takes responsibility. Because that would be admitting to failure. And White does not fail. If animals are to queue for water, White has not failed. If the exchange rate for yams is disastrous for trade, White has not failed. If a great famine sweeps through the land, then animals must ask themselves before complaining: “Did I complain when Goodhead and his cronies were in charge of the farm for over a decade? Did I complain?”


5.  Love is never stagnant
Love moves. It may be away for long, but it moves. Here today, there the next, renewing the soul, rejuvenating the spirit. Like White. White who went from farm to farm, showing nothing but love to his animals. 


In conclusion, s/he who does not worship White does not know love. Because White is love.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

THINGS I HAVE LEARNT IN GHANA


Three things are popular once you are in Ghana. Africa, Jesus, and dead people. 

An epiphany hit me as soon as I had spent the third day in Ghana. Perhaps it is safe to blame all those African stereotypes on Ghana, a country loved by non-African foreigners. There is Africa everywhere you go, in the holiday resorts, in the business names, in the signs, on the streets. I have never been anywhere where Africa is retailed to foreigners like it is here. Even I felt like I had finally arrived that huge country everyone talks about: Africa. 

For 50 US dollars you can stay in One Africa. Or a fraction of the cost in One Love Africa. And in One Africa you get everything, from a view of the ocean to images and histories of black people who were or at least according to management should be important to Africa. 

In One Love Africa, there are reminders of Bob Marley as ably marketed by it’s dreadlocked owner Judah, who never fails to tell his foreign guests that his wife is an obroni, a white woman. 

Africa is everywhere on the walls, painted in the colours of the Ghanaian flag. And somewhere in the middle is the black star. I blame Nigeria. Somewhere in our history, while we were busy trying to conquer the world, we lost everything: our reputation abroad, our reputation at home, and a franchise of Africa. Ghana cheated us out of Africa and now all a white person needs to do to become African is go to Ghana, get dreadlocks and take drumming lessons from someone near a beach. This could have been us. But, like our beloved president rightly pointed out recently, we were busy being criminals in Western capitals while Ghanaians were putting Africa in little packages the colour of their flag. 

Jesus is big in Ghana. And they do not do it by halves. Everywhere he is in full colour, white, blond, sad-faced and looking up to heaven. And then there are the people who retail Jesus on the large billboards, smiling, looking into the eyes and souls of Ghanaians, beckoning them to come and taste the glory and power of Jesus. None of the billboards offer any return policy on donations in the event that the glory and power does not manifest in one’s life. I think a refund policy is only fair, but then I have not spent enough time in Ghana to know if these agents of Jesus deliver on their promises. I like Jesus in Ghana. He does not mind sharing the space with Muslims whether as funded by the Lebanese or the big ones funded by Turkey. 

Occasionally you do see a Nigerian agent of Jesus expanding into Ghana sometimes dripping with hair products, offering the same power and glory only with a Nigerian flavour. I am not sure how Ghanaians react to this, but if I were a Ghanaian I would patronise made in Ghana products, especially if Nigerians are involved. 

As you leave Accra in the direction of places like Winneba or Cape Coast for example, there are old dead people in full colour by the side of the road. If the signs are anything to go by, it is mostly a celebration of life and I couldn't help thinking how long a dead person would stay on the side of the road and whether relatives change the signs when they fade due to being out in the elements. 

As a Nigerian, you learn to slow down in Ghana. You learn that, unlike in any of the Nigerian cities or capitals, traffic lights and zebra crossings are not fancy objects to decorate the road but have actual use. You learn that somewhere on the continent of Africa, not too far away, it is not illegal to kill pedestrians who step onto zebra crossings; it is not illegal to wait for other humans. You also learn not to be shocked when a Ghanaian shows little interest in doing the business they left their house to do, like a taxi driver telling you, without waiting to bargain, to try another taxi who might be cheaper or a tailor you need to quickly fix a broken button telling you they are too busy eating a snack to help and directing you to another tailor on the next street. 

You learn also that it is possible to love one’s country enough to go out on independence day and be happy even if you are not forced to do it as a civil servant or as a student in a school taking part in an independence day parade. 


I am thinking of going into this Africa business when I return home in one week. I will rent a place in  Abuja, give it a thatched roof, paint everything in green and white, draw huge maps of Africa all over, and employ a few reggae boys with dreadlocks to offer drumming and African dance classes to white women (I am still not sure if I should add a caveat banning my drummer boys from falling in love with my clients). Someone has to claim some of this Africa for Nigeria. 

Ps. And I must add, that although Ghanaians are generally more sane people than Nigerians, I am now convinced that Nigerian Jollof is infinitely superior to Ghanaian jollof. Which is why I have now resolved to spell ours with a capital J. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

DENIAL ON DEMAND


It was hot in the farm and the air was so still, animals had difficulty breathing. Animals would climb and fly to hilltops to see if the air was cooler. It was dry too and vegetation was withering away.

Many animals had resolved to give White the farm manager some time to sort things out on the farm, and even now that he was busy having a nice time on other farms, they were reluctant to treat him with the displeasure that they treated the previous plundering farm manager Goodhead.

Whitist priests on the other hand did not let the stillness of the air or dryness stop them from singing hymns and holding praise worship sessions to declare White’s goodness. They were using oxygen masks to help with their breathing as they screamed. And for the dryness they had large bottles of water which they sipped in between hymns. And when people pointed out their struggles, they would say: More time. Give White more time.

Meanwhile the pack of rabid dogs that lived on the northern fringes of the farm, notorious for killing swans and ducks and sheep - the same dogs that the genocidal farm hand Dick-Tai claimed to have eradicated - were still showing up on the farm and setting fire to animal dwellings and killing. White had claimed, before he began his tour of farms, that they had been defeated.

“What you do not admit does not exist,” one farm hand said. “If we say the rabid dogs have been defeated, they have been defeated. If we say there is no more rabies, there is no more rabies. And if we say White is our loving lord and collective saviour, then he is our loving lord and collective saviour.”

Meanwhile another set of wild wolves, this time operating somewhere around the middle of the farm, went on a killing spree of animals, appearing in the night and disappearing before anyone could see or identify them. Animals would wake up to dead bodies all over their quarters. White had never commented on this. Goodhead in his time never commented on this either. The wolves travelled in packs, clashing with animals through whose quarters they were passing through. Sometimes the wolves would be attacked by animals on the way and sometimes the wolves would attack, but over time, without fail, the wolves would be blamed for everything. No animal was interested in solving this problem, not even prominent wolves whose interest was trying to accumulate as much food as they could. Not even White, who was himself a wolf. And wild wolves among them would kill and fade into the night, unchallenged.

While White was planning the finances for the farm, he had asked his farm hands to prepare expenses that would be sent to the committee of animals that approved spending for farm managers. While this was going on, several farm hands inflated their expenses and caused great embarrassment to White when the committee detected the fraud. Upon exposing the fraud, the spokesperson for White, the rambunctious owl called Mai-Karya, swore by all the animal gods that existed and by White that nothing of the sort had happened. He claimed that as Whitists, they could do no wrong and perhaps the committee members were suffering from dementia. But as the outcry among animals over this fraud became louder, White waded in and indeed confirmed that there were many strange items in the list of expenses, swearing by all things holy that he was going to deal with all those who inserted elements of fraud into his list of expenses. He sacked at least one farm hand because of this. Meanwhile Mai-Karya, who was the official denier of the White administration just blinked slowly, carrying on as if he did not just swear by all the animal gods that there was no fraud. His job was to deny all things embarrassing even before White, who was often slow to act, would respond. He had denied it and White had confirmed it but he was not going to offer an apology to anyone.

“Every mistake is a style,” Mai-Karya said, “and even when White farts, it is sweet smelling. If the White administration makes mistakes it is just to prove that we are animals and can stoop low to the level of you mortal animals. Think if we never made a mistake. Would we not seem like unreachable gods? So we sometimes make mistakes so that you animals can feel like we are part of you, even though, truth be told, we are bigger, better and whiter. White is love. And it is his love that shines through when he allows errors. We should praise him for this.”

And White kept travelling, visiting farms which were closer to the animal gods so he could pray for his farm.

And Mai-Karya continued to deny all things embarrassing on behalf of White.

And darkness filled the face of the farm.

And the farm became hotter and the air dryer.

And slowly the animals began to forget about the bats massacred and buried by the genocidal Dick-Tai.

And the worshippers of White kept singing praises through their oxygen masks:

In the name of the White father
And of the farm hands
And of the holy Whitists

Bless us White for we have sinned
Bless our thoughts
Bless our desires
Bless our intentions

Blessed be thy name
Thy will be done in every quarter among every animal species
Teach us to love your will
Teach us to be teachable
Teach us to trust your will even when your will may not be clear
Teach us to defend your will before it becomes your will
For thine are the decisions, the thoughts and the glory
For as long as you choose to be farm leader
Amen


Sunday, February 21, 2016

ONE FOR ONE


White is love.
The animal who does not love White does not know love
For White is love
And in the name of White every animal’s knees shall bow
And every tongue shall give him glory
For White’s is the wisdom
The power and the glory
For the rest of his tenure as farm manager
Amen.

The farm had been fitted with loudspeakers that could be heard from all the corners of the farm. Every morning there was the anthem and a call to prayer. Animals were urged by Whitist priests to pray for White. To pray for the farm. But most of all to accept the farm as the sole property of White the wolf.

Because the land on the farm was not suitable for production of all the crops that the animals needed, they often had to import a lot of food. All the farm had was yams. Yams and water (which was taken out through pipelines out of the marshlands in the south of the farm and sold to other farms). Animals used yams to trade with animals on other farms for other items. The water was solely controlled by White as was also the case with every farm manager before him.

As White returned from visiting the veterinarian in a farm far away, he informed his farm hands that he was going to begin a tour of farms. He claimed that Goodhead had ruined the reputation of the farm and it was only when he went farm after farm telling other farm managers how useless some of his farm animals are, that respect would come back to the farm.

Meanwhile White pegged the value of yams on the farm. It was twenty tubers of yam to bag of grain. However everyone knew that unless it was White who was giving you the grains himself, you could not sell twenty yams for one bag of grain. On the streets and in other farms the real value was almost double what White had pegged it to be. You needed at least forty tubers of yam to buy one bag of grain. Other farm managers had told White that he should deregulate the value of yams or watch the value of his yams go so low that no one would be able to exchange yams for any commodity profitably. Animals would starve: you can only eat so much yams especially when you do not make anything apart from yams.

Many animals stopped trading outside the farm altogether because no one knew what the real value of yams were. The cost of imported food became so expensive that animals started to complain, even animals that were attending and singing praises at Whitist services.

As White prepared to go on a tour of farms, his priests and farm hands hailed him loudly, declaring that he was doing a great thing going around and improving the reputation of the farm.

“No one cares about yams,” they told him. “Yams will fix themselves and as soon as your work begins to pay off one yam will be equal to one bag of grain.”

Indeed that was what he promised the animals when he was trying to take over the farm. The slogan was One for One - one tuber of yam for one bag of grain. He was going to work wonders he claimed, as soon as he became farm manager.

White began his tour with a farm that had recently faced turmoil and whose leaders routinely tried and sentenced its animals to death, even if they were baby animals.

White also gave orders for all the animals that held positions under Goodhead to be relieved of their positions. As soon as he did this, his farm hands and the Whitist priests and their children began to hustle to be replacements for the now vacant positions. Their praise and worship had to pay off.

And the Whitist priests increased the volume of their singing.

And even though White promised to look into the massacre of bats by his genocidal farm hand Dick-Tai, another week passed when bats were swept into the bushes.

And no one cared or asked Dick-Tai to account for the whereabouts of hundreds of bats. Or at least the decency to tell the animals how many bats exactly he massacred and how many he buried in secret graves.

And the pain in White’s side persisted.

And White planned more trips to foreign farms.

And White refused to let the value of yams be controlled by the market.

And the value of yams kept depreciating.

And Whitists sang into the loud speakers that reached the length and breadth of the farm:

In the name of the White father
And of the farm hands
And of the holy Whitists

Bless us White for we have sinned
Bless our thoughts
Bless our desires
Bless our intentions

Blessed be thy name
Thy will be done in every quarter among every animal species
Teach us to love your will
Teach us to be teachable
Teach us to trust your will even when your will may not be clear
Teach us to defend your will before it becomes your will
For thine are the decisions, the thoughts and the glory
For as long as you choose to be farm leader


Amen