Sunday, March 22, 2015

MY NEW NIGERIAN PRISON



I need to clarify a few things. I was very worried when the First Lady, Dame Patience Faka Jonathan expressed fears about prison, saying that she was not ready to “feed my husband” in jail. While I can think of many reasons why her husband could land in jail when he loses the elections, that is not the point of this article. 

I am worried that she doubts her capacity to provide food for her husband if he ever gets to prison. This says a lot about the state of our prisons. A place that can make a strong woman like Dame Patience doubt her ability to fulfil her marital vows is a terrible place for anyone to be in. 

Indeed I have visited a Nigerian prison and I can totally understand the First Lady’s sentiments. Even just writing about it evokes the dreariness and pungent smells. 

Before I proceed let me just say that observing Dame Patience Jonathan on the campaign trail recently has made me wonder if I should not just swallow my pride and get married. Everyone needs a partner like Patience Jonathan: someone who can shamelessly defend you in public. I have friends, but they only defend you when it will not make them look bad. Once they have something to lose they politely pretend they have been struck by lightning and can’t speak up for you. But Patience is different. She opens her mouth and loyalty for Goodluck Jonathan just oozes out. It is impressive. I need a Dame in my life. 

I think that somehow the fear of imprisonment should at least make those in power think seriously about decongesting and upgrading prisons. If Jonathan had decongested and renovated prisons, his wife would not be petrified of jail. 

I suspect that President Jonathan watches only Africa Magic or NTA. Because if he watched nice foreign films and TV series like Prison Break or Shawshank Redemption, he would have seen how nice their prisons are and probably extended his transformation agenda there. 

If I become president I will make sure that all our prisons (except where rapists and child molesters are) have point-and-kill on the menu at least once every week. That, and things like banga soup on Sundays. Patience Jonathan would have nothing to fear. She would not need to cook. I cannot speak for Buhari, but I nothing can derail my plan to ensure all prisoners have a balanced diet - fruits, vegetables and all. 

My plan is also to have a gym in the prison. I saw one of Jonathan’s campaign ads where he was in a gym working out with fancy equipment. Our prisons currently do not have any provision for someone like Jonathan. My government will change all that. 

When I last visited prison, I asked the head if there was any provision for conjugal visits. He responded with an emphatic no. “It is prison!” he reminded me. “Prisoners don’t have such rights.” No wonder Patience Jonathan is afraid of Buhari. I would be afraid of anyone who was planning to stop me from having lawful carnal knowledge for many years. That kind of frustration can lead to further crime. As president I will make sure that every prisoner (except for sex offenders), has conjugal visits at least twice a month. We will provide beds and rooms for that purpose. We will even have plus-size beds for people who are on the big side. Nothing will be left to chance in this new Nigerian prison. 
***
There is only one week to the elections. The Americans sent one of their officials to speak to the Presidential candidates. Instead of speaking to all the candidates, he chose to speak just to Jonathan and Buhari. This is not right. It feels like the rigging has already begun with America. Are they trying to say to the world that the rest who want to be president are not important? America is like those aunties who would buy gifts for your siblings and not for you. They want us to fight amongst ourselves. I am protesting this action of the Americans by boycotting some of their very important products that have found their way to Nigeria. Like Jerry Springer and Kim Kardashian. 


PS. I am serious. I am looking for my Dame. Someone who will unconditionally, shamelessly defend all my inadequacies before man and God. If you see someone that fits, email me. Thanks. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

FEMI FANI KAYODE SHOULD BE CLEAR

So, Femi Fani Kayode recently accused some APC leaders of showing “an unhealthy interest in the affairs of little boys” and indulging in “gross and perverse intimate acts with them in his spare time in an obscene, indecent, shameful and completely unacceptable manner.”

Now I have spent the last few days thinking of this. I hate to jump to conclusions. What does he mean exactly? Does he mean like giving young boys too much chocolate or other sweets? Or does he mean allowing them stay out late or letting them watch things like Game of Thrones or 50 Shades of Grey? I am confused. I think Femi Fani Kayode should be clearer in his accusations. But if he means that APC leaders are allowing young boys watch things like 50 Shades of Grey, then I will be very upset. That is why I am glad that our censors board banned the movie in our cinemas. Because I believe that if you want to see naked men and women having sex, you should work for it by doing things like reading a book. The last time I checked it was still legal to sell, buy and read 50 Shades of Grey. 

Femi Fani Kayode made further accusations. He said that a certain APC leader “ended up eloping with and eventually marrying the house girl of his former leader.” This one I disagree with. I am a firm believer in human rights. That means the rights of all humans whether they are men, women, pastors, sex workers or house girls. I believe in the right of a house girl to be upgraded through marriage. I believe that this APC leader deserves praise, not condemnation. He has shown no discrimination based on class or social status. These are the kind of men Nigeria should trust to care about the masses: men who see a woman and do not allow what she does for a living to prevent him from eloping with her. Again, I think Femi Fani Kayode should mention names so that we can celebrate these people appropriately. 
***

They say it is bad to rejoice when tragedy befalls your enemy. That is all they say. But what they do not say is that, it can be deeply satisfying when your enemy lands in trouble. It was exactly how I felt when the King of Morocco said that Jonathan lied about speaking to him on the phone. I did not rejoice, because it is bad to rejoice. But it was satisfying. Because everyone who knows me knows how often I have tried to call, text, and WhatsApp Jonathan to discuss how we can move this country forward. He has ignored me for the past few years. It all makes me remember secondary school when this one guy kept telling everyone he had kissed the mixed race girl. Meanwhile he snubbed the many black girls who liked him. Then one day when he was bragging to everyone about kissing the mixed race girl, she appeared from behind him and said: “You kissed who? You liar!”

He stuttered as he replied: “I was just playing na. Don’t you know play again?”

Perhaps Jonathan should have done this to save face. Told the country that in fact, the lie that he had spoken to the King of Morocco was just a joke in the face of all the heat from the Presidential campaigns. I can understand that. Nigerians would have forgiven him for attempting to provide comic relief to Nigerians during this tense period.

But because I like to give the benefit of the doubt, I have one other scenario I want to propose. Perhaps it was all 419. Someone collected money from people in the presidency to arrange a phone call with the King of Morocco, then arrange with some Arab sounding person to speak to Jonathan on the phone. If that is the case, then my sympathy is with President Jonathan. It can be annoying to be conned. 

(I hear Jonathan has recently admitted that he actually did not speak to the Moroccan King. That is not good enough. It is like you and your family going to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage and when she says no, you showing up to deny that you ever even liked her.)

***
Professor Ben Nwabueze has called for a Government of National Unity, whoever wins the elections. I do not like this. However, if all the other candidates agree, who am I to say no? I believe in democracy. All I ask is that I become Minister of the FCT in that new arrangement. I am not asking for much. The other parties can share the remaining positions. I do not mind focusing on fixing all the traffic lights, replacing the manhole covers, taking care of urban poverty and homelessness, treating sex workers better and making sure that we have 24-hour ice cream shops. Because I care.



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Penis Makes Everything Ok.



I am taking a walk around Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent onto Ahmadu Bello Way and back. So far I have counted two men peeing in public. Last week, I started counting the number of men I see everyday peeing by the road side in the city. Not as research for an article or anything, I quite like to do pointless things like that - count the number of Peugot cars, the number of women with chin hair, the number of men with moustaches. And like a game of cards, the results don't matter at the end of the day. Public peeing survived one night and now, many days after, I still can't stop counting.

If you know Abuja city, you will agree that it is one of the most difficult cities in which a man can pee publicly. There is concrete everywhere and to the public peeist (you are right, I made the word up) there is nothing as inhibitive as concrete. Grass or earth are the preferred spots. Grass and soil do a perfect job of soaking up all the guilt involved in expelling one’s pungent waste in the open. Concrete is unforgiving, constantly reminding you of the consequences, in wetness and in dryness. It takes a peeist with a faulty bladder or no conscience to do it on concrete. 

***
I walk past a woman in front of an ATM, off Ahmadu Bello Way. I assume she is trying to jump over an open part of the sewer as she starts to lift her loose, pleated skirt. When the skirt reaches about halfway up her thighs, she straddles the sewer, arches her back slightly and lets out a single stream of urine. Both men and women look on in horror. People tap others and point at the spectacle. A taxi slows down and the driver screams, asking if she has no shame. People shake their head in that what-has-this-world-come-to? fashion. 

I am curious about the mechanics: how she is able to get the urine to flow straight down without squatting or pulling up her skirt completely. She is looking straight ahead, not at what she is doing. And she is making no errors. I almost want to ask her how she does it. 

Only a few blocks before, I had passed by a male peeist doing his thing against the fence of a hotel. He didn't seem to be in any great rush so I knew he didn't have a bad bladder - he was one of those no conscience peeing-on-concrete ones. No one stopped or stared at him. But for the fact that I was counting, I might not even have noticed. 

***
I am thinking of Rifkatu who is submitting a bid for a contract with a government agency. She wants me to go with her to see a older civil servant who can advise about the bid, because each time she sees him, he tells her how great her figure is and makes her sit for a long time while he tells her about his holiday home in Houston, Texas. 

“Now he wants me to come to his office at 8pm to talk about the bid,” she texts. We both know what bid he wants to discuss alone after working hours. 

***
There are some things that never leave you no matter how hard you try. 

About 12 years ago, in university, my friend Udi told me about this huge, soft-spoken bodybuilder with a pleasant mien who had tried to violently rape her in his secluded room far inside the wooded staff quarters. A friend of hers who was present, asked her why she followed such a huge man to such a secluded location. Udi maintained an apologetic silence. 

One year after, I was in that wooded silence, visiting a friend of mine who had rented a room from a lecturer. He too told me about his bodybuilder-neighbour who tried to rape almost every girl who ended up in his room. Sometimes he succeeded. Sometimes they escaped, looking dishevelled. I was upset. I asked him why no one had reported the matter. He was upset, feeling judged by me. He said I didn't understand. 

That afternoon we heard commotion coming from the bodybuilder’s room. A woman was screaming, fighting. The bodybuilder was silent. When the falling and breaking sounds stopped, they were replaced by shrill, desperate-but-defiant screams. 

“Help me,” she shouted, “Mummy help me!”

“You see what I was telling you?” my friend said. 

We agreed to go and confront him. My friend who knew the bodybuilder very well, knocked on the outer wooden door. There was silence for a few seconds followed by the click of the key in the inner iron door. He thrust his head out of the slight opening asked what we wanted.

“Is everything ok? We heard screaming.”

“No, it is just me and my girl, we were having a little quarrel,” he said to my friend. 

“We heard shouting, thats why,” my friend insisted. 

“Don’t worry, everything is ok now,” the bodybuilder said and slammed the door shut.

We both walked away and sat on a bench in the open courtyard to hear if there would be more shouting. There was silence. About thirty minutes later he walked out of the room with a bucket and walked into the shared bathroom. After taking his bath, he spread his prayer mat opposite his room and faced the east to say his late afternoon prayers. I wondered if she heard him from inside the room as he bowed and whispered the words “Allahu akbar”, God is great. 

About an hour after that, the bodybuilder emerged from the room, holding the girl's hand. He said hello to us as they walked past. She too said hello, without looking at us, in that subdued tone of humiliation.

My friend and I talked about reporting the incident for weeks. We had no idea who the girl was, whether she was a student of our university or from somewhere else. Although we knew another girl who admitted to us that the same thing had happened to her, she said there was no way she was going to report the incident or even admit to the school authorities that anything of the sort happened. 

I have never stopped thinking of all the other things we could have done. 

***

Khadija calls just as I get to Adetokunbo Ademola Way. 

She asks if I know how she can find an institution where she can learn how to paint, something formal. I do not know much about this but I suggest she finds a good artist and intern there. 

“I tried one,” she says, but then right after getting her number the painter began calling her very late at night.

“Why will he start calling me in the middle of the night just because I left my number with him?”

I know it is a rhetorical question but in my head I try to answer why. Because he is used to doing it. Because he has gone through life believing it is ok. Because he can. 

She will try to find a painter. Preferably a woman. 

***


As I reach my house, I feel the urge to go out dancing later at night. Alone. Sometimes I just want to go out and watch people dance without having to dance or talk to anyone. Partly because I like watching people but mostly because compared to most club-going Nigerians, I dance like a three legged dog. All I will need is money in my pocket. I will not need to worry about the officials in Abuja who randomly arrest unaccompanied women at night who they think are sex workers. I will not have to think about cat calls or what people will say of a woman having drinks by herself. 
I guess my penis makes everything ok.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

HOW TO SHOW SUPPORT FOR YOUR CANDIDATE


Give me a minute here. You think this is a waste of your time and you have nothing to learn from something that you should know how to do instinctively. I’m sorry to break it to you, but only few things come to us humans naturally, like lying and cheating (but just the act of cheating- getting away with cheating is something you have to learn). Every other thing must be learned through reading or observation. 

I see you got to the second paragraph. You are one of the smart ones. This shows you have at least one of the qualities of a good supporter: willingness to believe anything. Let’s start there. 

A good supporter must suspend all common sense during the election season. People who hate your candidate will fabricate all sorts of lies and spread them in the media. It is your job to first, deny those facts to yourself without thinking them through and next denouncing the peddler of that fact as a god-forsaken liar. It is important to not give those ideas a chance to breathe in your head otherwise you start believing them. You know like those friends who will come and tell you they saw your significant other in this place with this other person just to plant seeds of doubt in your mind and make you break up - next thing you know they are dating the person they made you break up with. Bloody traitors. The world is full of them. So if you read something bad your candidate did in the past, like killing people or stealing public funds, reject it in your mind - cast and bind it in the name of whichever God you worship.

Especially on social media, do a search of your candidate’s name and anywhere you find people talking about him, jump in and attack. Think of it this way: if you were riding in a bus, and two people were saying negative things about your spouse, would you let it go? Wouldn't you stop them and say, that’s my spouse you people are talking about? It is better to shut those kind of people up quickly because, think of it: what if someone hears those lies in the bus and before you can attack the lies, the person drops from the bus? That will be it! You may never see them again and forever and ever, they will believe the odious lies that they heard and somewhere in the world, someone will believe that your spouse is a horrible person and there will be nothing you can do about it. Isn't that a spine-chilling thought? Think of this possibility every time you hear someone criticising your candidate and do the right thing: attack. That may be the only chance of saving him from a lifetime of infamy. 

There are times when you want to tell everyone about your candidate and praise everything your candidate does but then you are filled with guilt because, you have never done the same about your parents or even worse, about the God you worship. You may feel that your God will feel slighted and jealous about this sudden reverence you have for a fellow human being. Don’t let that guilt get in the way of telling everyone about how much of a saint your candidate is. Your God will understand. I think so - I mean I don’t know about every God but the main ones might not mind. Who knows, your God may even like your saintly candidate. (We can never know until after the elections and INEC reveals which of the candidates your God preferred to ruin the country.)

Never fail to say that you know that your candidate will win. Even though you have only one vote and you cannot say for sure how the rest of the country will vote, there is one thing you know: your party and candidate are God’s gift to Nigeria. In fact people should be thanking God that your candidate has chosen to abandon personal pursuits and has decided to sacrifice time and resources to serve Nigeria. And as the singer Tuface famously sang: Who God have bless no man can curse. God has stamped the victory in heaven, and whatever is decided in heaven cannot be stopped on earth. Your candidate will win. There is no other way. 

In the unlikely situation that someone does find incriminating evidence that your candidate has done something not particularly praiseworthy, you must react by pointing out how the other candidate also does similar things. In other words, as Doyin Okupe, the presidential spokesman once said: ojoro cancel ojoro. Or in English: two wrongs make it all right. While you are at it, do well to use very effective catch phrases like: He who is without sin should cast the first stone or No man is perfect or My candidate is only human

It is important to be vigilant to the fact that anyone who stands in opposition to your candidate must have been paid by the other party. You need to regularly accuse people who do not support you of being paid. Because anyone with half a brain should know that your candidate is the only hope for Nigeria and if he does not win, Nigeria will crumble. God forbid that Nigeria should crumble. 


Thank you for sharing your candidate with Nigeria and the world. It is my hope that everyone will join you in seeing the light that only you and your candidate can provide. God bless. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

GRANDFATHER, DEAR GRANDFATHER


I just threw up. Honey irritates me. The sticky, nauseating taste of tumultuous dreams. False sweetness. Discomforting viscosity. I had to chew on bitter kola to get rid of the taste and smell - the pleasant after taste of truth following its initial almost unbearable bitterness. A familiar, bitter start to cure a discomforting, sweet ending. Sweet irony

My grandfather systematically takes out and lowers his limp, wrinkled penis into the toilet seat. He needs to find the right angle so he doesn’t mess up the hospital toilet seat like he did yesterday. I can see because I am with him in his final days of pain. 

I am patient. I will not descend to the depths of irritability and its attendant violence. Like my grandfather’s which happens not due to his age and illness but from seventy years of habit. It seems less now - he has little energy to be the man he was.

I was taught to revere age in spite of what oddities accompany it. So, I respect my grandfather and care for him, especially now that his proud heart is failing. Every evening I bring in his tasteless dietaries and escort him on his torturous trip to empty his inflated bladder and bowel. I am by him when he groans at night and when he cannot eat and when he shivers from the cold in his weak bones.

He has had his day. He once drowned in pools of sinister, cacophonous laughter, playing draught with his loud arrogant friends. Day and night. He would walk in just before midnight and wake my mother up with the heavy descent of his wide swarthy palm upon her back. The effective awakening was a reminder that even after twelve hours of working in the neighborhood bakery, a good daughter ought to wait up for her father. A good daughter ought to know that when her father has a night out, he needs some food. Grandma had died of a bad kidney and there was no submissive wife to lighten my mother’s load. Grandfather would scream and bicker to make the slightest point. He would curse and spit and slap. Effective communication. 

I am patient. For the first time I understand mother’s brashness and aggression, her temper and delirious tantrums. I have seen that beneath it lays a good heart, battered by years of brutish treatment. When she loses her temper as she often does, I know that they are only echoes from a childhood gagged by filial piety. In these few weeks with grandfather, I understand when mum tells me that even an imperfect marriage became paradise for her. Instead of being irritable when she screams, I pity her as I would a person suffering from some hereditary disease.
I am learning patience. 

These are his final days. It is a bit early for him, considering the history of longevity in the family. His pain is getting worse by the day and mother still refuses to see him as have his two older children. I see frustration lined up in every crease on his perpetually frowning face when his weak lungs do not allow him to raise his voice. He has not spoken for sometime now. Not that he cannot speak, but the pain in speaking is very great.

As he groaned last night, I looked into his jaundiced eyes and tried to see beyond the unpleasant phenomenon grandfather had become. I couldn’t see beyond the grim testimony of seventy odd years. But life has judged him and will go no further. 

Mother has agreed to attend the funeral together with the rest of the family. They want a quiet funeral. They will not indulge the old man even on his way to the grave.  They will shed quiet tears at the graveside. Not sorrow. Tears of freed slaves finally leaving a brutal master. At last, they will live their lives without crouching under the shadow of his heavy hand. I will watch it all, feeling vicariously, the new lightness in their crushed hearts and the numbness in their cicatrized souls. 

Gracious death. 
Bad ending. 

Good start.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

COLD

I hear the myriad bellowing voices like the howling of a sandstorm over me. Across the blood-soaked asphalt road, dust rises from a hundred boots stomping frenziedly. All the boots have the same dreary cocktail of dust and blood and sweat from kicking and smashing. I watch as bullets shoot from the sea of black and green… and white; white teeth flashing as adrenalin and spirit run through their veins and blind orders through their ears. I hear Malam’s blessed voice in my head as he says, I will be with you always. 

My beard is dusty and so is my white jallabiya. It’s time for Asr prayers and I should be joining my brothers for ablution. I like the communal ablution in front of the big mosque. Today, there is no call to prayer save the stutter of Kalashnikovs and the loud revving of military trucks but I know it is time. I have no water for ablution but does Allah not say: “if you find no water, then perform tayammum with clean soil and rub your faces and your hands therewith”? They do not know but they have done it for me. My faces and hands are covered in dust.

I am cold. Yet I can think of nothing but what has happened to Malam. Even as the mobile policemen dragged me out of the broken down truck, I thought, ‘is this how they dragged Malam too’? Did they ask him questions or did they just look at his beard and kaftan and say, we got him? How many of them used him for target practice and did he shiver from the cold like I now do? 

I had been promised Malam’s second daughter from his first wife. But for these bullets Malam would’ve become my father. I had never set my eyes on Umm Ayman’s face, but I was assured by Malam that she had heaven in her smile. I wrote her letters with permission from her father and she wrote me back. Her Arabic was excellent and not a few times I needed help with some of her phrases. 

I recall once as she thrilled the judges at the Quranic recitation competition for women. I tried to peer, astaghfirullah, through the dark green niqaab she was wearing. I could see nothing but a tale of beauty in those dark eyes shining through the tiny slit. Her voice was musical and if women could lead prayers, I am sure her call would rouse every lazy believer. That was the only time I actually saw Umm Ayman but her sonorous voice is still clear in my head as she started with Sura al-Fatiha: Bismillahi r-rahmani r-rahim. In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful...

 Allah has been most gracious. I have lived the dream of being with Umm Ayman through every word of her well crafted letters laden with romantic innuendoes. She astounded me with the way she infused life and love into her words. I have followed Malam as he grew to become a father and leader to thousands and seen how he was demonized and called a terrorist. 

Allah has been merciful. I did not have to watch what evil was done to Malam and all I can do is speculate and wish that they did not make him suffer on his way to the hereafter. 

I will not go for the next hajj as Malam promised and neither will he. I will not be his son. I will not see the country united in the peace that only submission to the will of Allah can bring. But Allah be praised, we did what we could. We lived good lives, we fasted and gave to the poor. And insh’allah we shall be united again. La ilaha illallah…
 I am cold…


Friday, February 27, 2015

10 TIPS FOR THE FOREIGN JOURNALIST COVERING THE NIGERIAN ELECTIONS


Nigeria is an important country for many reasons. First there is the jihadist group Boko Haram which has engaged in a expansionist campaign, freaking out everyone in the free world. Then there is the fact that Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy. Most recently however, everyone is interested in the upcoming elections with analysts predicting everything from widespread violence to a breakup of the country. Expectedly, every major news organisation around the world doesn't want to be somewhere covering the escape of Llamas when this sexy, maybe-conflict story is unfolding in Nigeria. So most of them are putting boots on the ground. 

Some journalists have had to wait long periods for their visas while others have come and gone in the wake of the six-week postponement of the elections from February 14 to March 28. As a local, I keep getting  contacted for interviews and pointers. Consequently, I have decided, at no cost, to provide a fairly detailed list of tips for foreign journalists coming to Nigeria for the first time:

NOTE: Most of my advice is for the white or light-skinned foreigner. If you are black and cannot be visibly identified as a foreigner, then I am sorry, you will have to work as hard as every other local journalist. 

  1. There is no protocol for the foreign journalist.
    You may think, I want to interview a high profile politician and I am not sure a foreigner who just flew in to cover the elections will be able to get access. Nonsense! There are no access issues for the foreign journalist in Nigeria. You know the saying “man proposes, God disposes”? Well, here it is “foreign journo proposes, foreign journo disposes”.  Especially if you are white, there is hardly any door you cannot walk right into and be greeted with a smile. If you cannot enter, then rest assured that no one can. 
  2. You are white. Don’t fight it.
    Like I said above, this article is for the light(er)-skinned journalist. In Nigeria, all light-skinned foreigners are referred to as white, or “oyibo”. Up north, where Hausa is the main language, you will be called “bature”. It does not matter if you are Algerian, Mexican or Chinese. Do not try to argue or explain that you are not white. The tag comes with a lot of perks like the one in 1. above. You will experience more love and attention than you have ever received since the nurse first showed you to your parents. 
  3. Don’t be shy to ask personal questions
    Sure there are taboo questions, but because you are foreign, most of these will not apply to you. Do not be shocked if you find people telling you their most intimate secrets. You will not need to be very influential for a public official to share sensitive government information or for a random stranger to tell you the crimes they have committed. There is something about your skin that makes us trust you. Milk it.
  4. Prepare for the beer gardens
    Especially in Lagos and Abuja, you will find that there are dozens of beer gardens or bush bars in any one area. Feel free to explore these lively places but please do not wear those hideous shorts that foreign journos like to wear in tropical countries. Along with the general population, mosquitoes converge there and will not hesitate to feast on you. Especially you. If you have never had malaria before, trust me, the first time is not good. Plus, you don’t want to be delirious with fever while your colleagues are out covering electoral violence. An African election report without some violence is like a man with erectile dysfunction. You don't want that.
  5. Love is a dangerous game
    Everyone needs some loving. While you are in Nigeria, there is nothing wrong in some adventure of a sexual nature. Again, it doesn't matter how you look - old, fat, sun-burnt - you will be treated like a local celebrity. Sex (transactional and otherwise) will be fairly easy to find. People will tell you very quickly that you are beautiful, or even, that they love you. Especially if you are no longer in your prime and it has been years since someone last said those words to you, it can be quite intoxicating to hear them. Enjoy the attention, but be careful. You may end up sponsoring someone’s trip abroad. Love at your own risk.
  6. The gay shall not inherit the earth
    If you are gay and you need some action while you are in Nigeria, you might want to be extra cautious. It is a crime to show any same sex amorous affection. We can talk about how this is against human rights and all another time. Today it is a crime, and you can get in trouble. Plus, the open playing field for the gay foreigner in Nigeria is a minefield. To scam you, we will pretend to be gay. Don’t use the internet for hookups. I am not recommending abstinence (that can be frustrating), but you might want to think about it. 
  7. We stare at exotic people. Deal with it.
    You will find out very quickly that as a foreigner, you stand out. People will stare at you, nonstop. No, they will not look away when you look back. Yes, they will call out to you in the streets, referring to you by race. Calm down. This is not racist. It is endearment. Deal with it.
  8. You will pay more. Deal with it.
    Will you be charged higher prices when you go to the market or take cabs or pay for sex? Yes. Yes. Yes. If you ask me, it is a small price to pay for all that love. Deal with it. 
  9. The devil is in the spices
    Especially if you are from places with bland food, the first time you eat a Nigerian dish will be followed by reactions that will require a long period of recovery. If you do not like hot spices, you might want to mention that several times before the food arrives. 
  10. Vegans can go to hell
    I am sorry but if you are vegan, food will be a challenge for you here. If you will not feel too guilty about it, you might want to take a vegan break in Nigeria and enjoy the meaty culinary delights for the one or two weeks you will be here. Trust me, the one or two kilos of meat you will eat in the period will not destroy the planet. However, to deal with any extreme guilt when you do go back home, you can volunteer at a homeless shelter, donate to Oxfam or to one of those animal rights organisations.

I hope you enjoy Nigeria as much I hope Nigeria enjoys you.


Love and peace. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

WHY AFRICA NEEDS GATEKEEPERS AND HOW WHITE PEOPLE CAN SHOW SOLIDARITY WITHOUT BEING ANNOYING OR RACIST


I like to begin with definitions. 
An African gatekeeper is an important intermediary between the kind white world of saviours and Africa enthusiasts on the one hand and Africans on the other. You might think, why do you need an intermediary? That is a good question. Let’s just say Africa is a big, complicated place - a minefield for otherwise well-meaning foreigners who want to help but may end up being accused of racism or ignorance. The answer to this question will become clearer as I explain the reasons why Africa needs gatekeepers. 

1.  White people shouldn't have to deal with all of Africa. 
Like I said, Africa is complicated. It can get confusing for the well meaning white person who wants to assist poor Africans, whether they are orphans or struggling writers. You need a knowledgeable African who can help select deserving Africans for foreign assistance, from grants to fellowships. It is like when you go to a new country and head to the fruit market. There will be fruits you have never seen and want to try. Because you have never had the fruit before, you need a local to help you pick the good, ripe ones. 

2.   Africans need order, someone to set agenda. 
I can say this because I am African: sometimes we need people to put us in line. Look at Nigeria, the largest African country. The most popular candidate in the presidential elections due on March 28, is General Muhammadu Buhari, who, as dictator in 1984, declared a war against indiscipline and forced people to stand in orderly queues. When he left, we all went back to fighting at bus stops. So, yes, we need smart Africans who can set the agenda for us all and tell us what new thing we should be doing, fighting or talking about. An African gatekeeper writes nice articles about what Africans should be doing with their lives.

3.   Someone needs to determine the validity of African ideas and identities
It is important that we have Africans who can curate African ideas and shoot down unintelligent anti-African ideas. Because sometimes we have these rogue Africans around the world who come up with weird ideas about Africa and about who they think they are. Like when someone African who has a foreign passport decides to call themselves Afropolitan. The duty of the African gatekeeper is to tell the misguided African why it is not up to them to determine their own identity. African gatekeepers know these things.

4.  Someone needs to protect Africa from ignorant white people who try to get cheap glory.
Sometimes foreigners think they can just come into Africa and help people. The job of the African gatekeeper is to make sure ignorant white people are mobbed and humiliated until they come to their senses. Like that white boy, Jason Russell, from California who tried to catch the Ugandan rebel leader, Kony without knowing anything about the local context. God bless African gatekeepers. In the end he had a public breakdown and was even hospitalised for psychiatric evaluation. 

5. Someone needs to protect Africa from ignorant black people who try to make Africa look bad. 
Sometimes you find some Africans writing about the things which make white people think we all need charity. Like poverty, wars and shit like that. Traitors. People who spend time writing novels and stories about African suffering, as if they missed the memo about the continent rising. An African gatekeeper denounces such people, because it is important to have one unified image of what Africa is, what it really is like: the bright lights, azonto music, lively bright-eyed people, intellectuals arguing in beer gardens, great safe sex, flourishing businesses, fantastic internet connection, Skype calls…all that shit. That glorious Africa. 
***

Now, you might as a white person who loves Africa and doesn't want to get in trouble with these African gatekeepers who set the agenda ask, how do I engage with the minefield that is Africa? I have tips for you good white people:

1.   Good white people do not argue with African gatekeepers.
Especially on Twitter, when an African gatekeeper tweets something you do not agree with, do not go down that foolish path where you challenge or argue with them. You can’t win. A good white person retweets an African gatekeeper. 

2.   Good white people do not intervene when two African gatekeepers argue.
When two African gatekeepers argue about something integral to African identity or race or hair or even whether croaker is better than catfish, a good white person stays away. Very far away. Because it is a trap. If this happens on Twitter, favourite the tweets of both gatekeepers to show you are loyal to them both (and ultimately to Africa) without taking sides.

3.   Good white people can handle criticism.
When an African gatekeeper gets upset or criticises white people, especially after being treated badly at an airport or embassy, never, ever try to defend white people. A good white person shows solidarity with an African gatekeeper and apologises for the actions of other white people. Empathise. Retweet the criticism. It shows you are not racist.

4.   Good white people take photos with African children. 
It is important to pose with black children and use those photos on social media. Nothing says you love Africa, like a photo of you with a black child wearing an oversized T-shirt. But be careful. African gatekeepers get suspicious when you have too many of those type of photos. One on your profile is enough.

5.   Good white people support African products.
You know those cheap African fabrics and African arts, crafts and jewellery? Most of them are made in China, sabotaging the local industries. Always make sure your African fabric and Afrocrap is made in Africa. Mention to your African gatekeeper friend that you know the difference between the shit made in China and the ones made in Africa. Say how Chinese counterfeiters destroy African businesses. They will respect you. And who knows, one day, they may even come to love you.
Now wouldn’t that be grand?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

LIARS, WRESTLING AND ROTATIONAL FIRST LADIES


I used to have a little respect for Governor Rotimi Amaechi. Mostly because he has for the last few years been standing up to my political rival, Goodluck Jonathan and his loving wife Dame “Mama Peace” Jonathan. It is not easy to fight the president, I know this. However Amaechi recently claimed that Christian leaders in Nigeria had been given 6 billion Naira by Jonathan to campaign against Buhari. I do not like people who do not verify their facts before they go to press. More recently, a Borno-based cleric who is in a better position to know this by virtue of his membership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, has made a contrary assertion. Kallamu Musa-Dikwa, who is the Executive Director of the Voice of Northern Christian Movement said that “it was N7bn that was given to the CAN leadership by President Goodluck Jonathan”. Not 6 billion. He has exposed Amaechi as a liar. And if you think 1 billion difference is nothing, go and steal just 500 Naira in the market and see what will happen to you. One billion naira is no joke. If I had 1 billion I would not have been writing weekly columns begging Nigerians to vote for me. 

This week I contemplated temporarily joining one of the rival political parties. Like PDP. Or APC. Let me explain. You know how as children we used to enjoy watching American wrestling on TV? Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, The Undertaker… One of the things we used to live for was to see the young, burly Hulk Hogan tear his shirt just before beginning a match. We just knew that once that shirt was torn, Hulk Hogan was going to win that match, no matter the beating he took from his opponent. Obasanjo made me feel that same way this week when he tore his PDP membership card. All I could think was Hulk Hogan. I was envious of how cool he looked. Of course he didn’t tear it himself. A big man doesn’t do things himself. Just like if I say I built a house, it doesn’t mean I mixed concrete and did the German floor myself. What do I know about German floors? 
Anyway, I was jealous of that Hulk Hogan move. In fact, to make matters worse, a Special Assistant to the governor of Gombe State Abdullahi Babangida Muhammad also did the same this week. This is why I wanted to quickly join APC or PDP so I could also hold a press conference and tear my membership card. But all attempts to reach the APC and PDP leaders in my ward proved abortive. 

I like Babatunde Fashola, even though he refused to follow my advice and convert to Christianity to run with General Buhari. But sometimes he does not think things through. I just read that he has acquired 100 mass transit buses - air-conditioned, and equipped with video, music and WiFi internet. In Lagos! Who does that? I will tell you exactly what will happen. People will get on those buses and pay for 3 or 4 routes - and knowing Lagos traffic that will be anywhere between 2 to 8 hours - just so they can use internet in an air-conditioned environment. It will become cheap office space for many people - from legitimate business men to people trying to lure old white women to the Ikeja Marriage Registry. But then, maybe that is the idea and he only wants to boost business and interracial, intergenerational love. Who knows?


Now that it seems highly likely that Malam Nasir El-Rufai will become governor in my state, Kaduna, I keep wondering which of his three wives he will make first lady. By his own admission, Kaduna is one of the most indebted states, so surely he is not planning to have three first ladies at the same time. Any one who knows Malam El-Rufai knows that he will develop Kaduna and bring a sense of decency to governance. We cannot have distractions while that is going on. He needs to clarify now who the first lady will be, to avoid any in-fighting. If you ask me though, I think he should do a four-year timetable and rotate the office between the three wives. Of course he will have to publish it and make it available to us all so that there is no doubt as to who is first lady at any given time. It will be colourful, especially if you add a handing over ceremony, presided over by the Chief Justice of the state where at the end of each first lady’s term, she hands over to the new first lady. It would even boost tourism as I am sure that many will be interested to come and watch this spectacle. El-Rufai should think seriously about this. I am only sharing this with him, because I care. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

THE REAL REASON THE ELECTIONS WERE SHIFTED


I am terribly disappointed. Saying any less about the recent postponement of the elections would be dishonest. Everything was in place for my victory on February 14 but at the last minute, Jonathan sent soldiers to tell INEC to shift the election.
When Jonathan used the army to change the dates he reminded me of those boys in secondary school who would go and look for trouble and when they got afraid would go home to call their older brothers. That is cheating. Stay and fight. Our people say you do not invoke the rain if you do not have an umbrella. And it is not as if Jonathan does not have an umbrella. 
Jonathan should have been man enough to tell us the real reason for this postponement instead of hiding in the villa and sending his soldiers. I am not married but I can understand if he did it to save his marriage. Wicked Nigerians have been spreading rumours about Jonathan sneaking into some house in Abuja to see another woman. Some evil people have even suggested his relationship with a certain Minister is more than official. I hate rumours and gossip and when anyone brings these wicked stories to me just because he is my political enemy I often rebuke them in the name of Jesus. I told the last one: Get thee behind me Satan. 
But like I said, I can understand if Nigerians and their wicked rumour mongering have driven a wedge between Goodluck and Mama Peace. If I was Mama Peace (and I am not saying this is what happened) and my husband was sneaking off to see other women, and then decided to fix elections on Valentine’s day, I would be very suspicious. Only a man with a woman on the side fixes anything else on that day. So, yes, if I was Her Excellency Mama Peace, I would make trouble until Goodluck realizes the error of his ways. As a woman from the grassroots, the First Lady knows very well how to handle the situation of a goat that is always eating a person’s yams. She knows that the only way of stopping a goat from eating yams is to separate the goat from the yam. I am not saying her husband is a goat. I am just saying he could have called or sent me a WhatsApp message to tell me the problems he was having instead of hiding behind soldiers.
While I want the Jonathans out of office on May 29, 2015, I wish them well in their marriage as they find their way back to monogamous love. I hope Jonathan, after inconveniencing the entire country, will at least use February 14 to mend things on the home front. Mama Peace deserves it for being patient all these years. 
I am only concerned about all the other Nigerian relationships that this postponement will endanger. No one planned anything spectacular for the Valentine celebration because of the proposed election. People did not order huge cakes or red roses. All the couples I know had bought extra dry food, water and gas so that, just in case there was any violence on the election weekend and curfews had to be imposed, they would not starve. So instead of preparing for love they were preparing for war. It is not easy to suddenly start preparing for love. The least Goodluck Jonathan could have done after postponing the election was to declare a subsidy for cakes and weaves and phones and all the other gifts Nigerian couples buy for Valentine. If he had a problem with that, he could have simply shifted Valentine along with the elections to March 28. He didn't. Imagine all the quarrels, failed marriages and broken relationships that will result from this. 
In spite of all of this however, I am calling on Nigerians, especially my supporters, not to let their frustrations push them into angry protests. This is not the time to play into the hands of those who do not want to leave power. There is a time to shout and there is a time to keep calm and sip moringa juice. Collect your PVCs if you have not collected them and prepare to go out on March 28. Remember that no matter how strongly you feel about a candidate, no matter how much you want to be part of the process, all you have is one vote. Others are equally entitled to express themselves no matter how foolish that expression may be. And in the end democracy is about how many votes count. Sometimes after the count, it emerges that stupidity wins. But the beauty of democracy also is that stupidity, once elected, lasts only four years. 
Democracy is no guarantee for good governance. We must be part of the process of making Nigeria change before, during and after elections. So let us allow Jonathan enjoy this Valentine with his wife while we wait for March 28. If you had bought dry food stuff for the election weekend, keep it for March 28. Raw rice will not spoil in six weeks. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

CONVERSATIONS AT A PVC COLLECTION CENTRE


You can tell it is the collection centre because of the people pressing in against the gate, waving their temporary voters cards in the air, some new, some yellowed from age. There are two sets of people: those who registered in 2011 and those who registered in 2014. And there are others like you who have lost their temporary cards.
You will have to get used to the dust on this narrow dirt road where almost two hundred people are milling about, complaining, about the inefficiency of the INEC staff handing out permanent voters cards (PVC).
“Are you the last person on the queue?” you ask.
When he scrunches his face, you realise he doesn’t understand what you asked. You switch to Hausa.
“Kai ne na karshe a layin?”
His face relaxes. He is the last person on the queue.
Ten people are allowed past the gate at a time to search through piles of cards. One hour passes and not a single one of the ten has come out. The queue breaks into groups of people discussing, cursing, laughing, arguing.
“See eh! Make I tell you, if I get like one billion, I no go change…”
“Na lie!”
“Na big lie!”
“Money get spirit make I tell you. You go change.”
“I swear to God I no go change. See, I go keep de money first. Comot like 100 thousand. Go find beta woman, go hotel, go rest small.”
Everyone bursts into laughter except the fair plump woman. She is not amused.
“Why I go vote? Person wey don win election don win. Na so Nigeria be. Why I go waste my time?”
“Me I register for town but my house dey inside Kapuwa. Why I go suffer myself. Shebi dem talk say no movement dat day.”
“I just wan collect de PVC because dem talk say anytin you wan do now you need am. Weda bank o, even to go abroad now, if you no get PVC you no fit go. Das why I still dey here o.”
It is 2 pm and the sun is high in the sky. The queue has moved only a little bit for the past three hours. People are leaving to eat and return. People are returning to discover they have lost their place on the queue.
A small police car attempts to drive into the premises with a woman at the back. The crowd at the gate is suspicious and reluctant to move. The policeman in charge of security speaks with the policeman driving the car and suggests that the woman get down and enter on foot. People realise the policemen are trying to smuggle the woman past the hundreds who are outside into the PVC collection centre. The women grumble and slowly the men join in too.
Chants of “No!” ring out in the air.
“We no go gree!”
One policewoman tries to punch her way through the crowd of mostly women who have formed a barricade. She makes her way through but is unable to drag the civilian woman across. The policeman in charge, first tries to threaten, then plead with people to let the woman in. No one agrees.
He back down when he sees the resolve of the crowd. They drive the woman away in the police car.
“For the last election I sell my sef, dey tink say, maybe na dat one go beta for me. Election finish, na me regret. Dis time, e no go happen to me again.”
“As you don see de light dis time, e get plenty people wey still foolish like you.”
People burst into laughter at an old man’s retort to a repentant young voter.
The young man continues: “Me I don tell my guys say, if politician bring money, we go collect, shout im name. But if e turn im back, we go vote wetin we like. We go chop de money.”
Another young man nods vigorously.
Everyone seems to agree that this is the way to go. Take the money. Vote the candidate you really believe in.
At 5 pm most of the people who were at this Garki PVC collection centre have still not collected their PVCs. 
The officials declare they have closed.
You are exhausted but you have enjoyed listening to all the banter.
“Na wetin dem want be dis,” an old man complains, “dey wan carry all the PVC go do wetin dem want wit am.”
“I get business to do. I no go come here again. I no fit suffer like this.”

As you listen to this middle aged man swear he will not return, something tells you, if you come back here tomorrow, you will find him standing.