Monday, October 27, 2014

THE GOSPEL OF AID


CHAPTER 1: In the Beginning
  1. In the beginning was the word about change and the change was with aid, and the change was aid.
  2. All things were made by aid; and without aid there was nothing made.
CHAPTER 2: Sufficiency
  1. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will have its own government.
  2. Sufficient for each day is its own DFID grants.
CHAPTER 3: Love and Trust
  1. For foreign donors loved the third world so much that they gave their only begotten aid, that whosoever accepts it and takes some loans by the side will not perish but have everlasting help.
  2. Trust in the donor with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding, but in all your ways take notice of his aid.
CHAPTER 4: The Evil Chinese
  1. The Chinese only comes to steal kill and destroy. I have come that you may have aid and have it to the full.
  2. Avoid the yuan from the Chinese and reject their investments.
CHAPTER 5: The Way
  1. And the friends of foreign donors asked, how may we come to be your friends and they answered: Aid is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to development, except through aid.
  2. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you share my aid among yourselves.
CHAPTER 6: Man Power/ Human Capacity Development
  1. Show me a Nigerian thinker or academic and I will show you the kind of NGO/INGO where s/he spends his/her productive hours.
CHAPTER 7: The Beatitudes
  1. Blessed are the doctors who refuse to do a residency and choose an NGO, for theirs is the kingdom of per diems, foreign travels and stable salaries.
  2. Blessed are the lecturers who become NGO consultants, for they will drive better cars than their colleagues.
  3. Blessed are those who hustle to create NGOs, for they will be filled with foreign grants.
  4. Blessed are those who are persecuted for being activists, for they will be granted residency in foreign countries.
CHAPTER 8: Permanence
  1. Do not think that I have come to abolish dependence on foreign countries. I have come not to abolish it but to strengthen it.
  2. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest aid, not the least stoke of grants will by any means disappear from your hospitals and governments until everything is accomplished. Whatever that is.
CHAPTER 9: The Aid Prayer
  1. You must pray then this way: Our donors, who art abroad, hallowed be thy purse. Thy aid come in dollars and pounds.
  2. Thy will be done in our countries, as promoted by Bono
  3. Give us this day, our yearly funding
  4. And lead us not into self-reliance
  5. But deliver us from our selves
  6. For thine are dollars, the pounds and the euros, forever and ever. Amen



Sunday, October 26, 2014

MY DECLARATION FOR PRESIDENCY, 2015


Fellow Nigerians, my supporters and the currently frustrated masses,

It is with great pleasure that I formally announce my intention to join the race for Aso Rock, come 2015. Time is not on my side, and since my biggest rival Goodluck Ebele Jonathan declared a few days ago, my secretariat has been a beehive of activity. It is not that I am afraid of Ebele. It is just that Nigerians need to have both declaration speeches side by side so they can see for themselves that, as the Hausas will say, in ba ni ba, sai rijiya. Rough translation: I am the only one capable of carrying out God’s will for this country.

Although I intend to take over from Ebele in 2015, I do not doubt that he has changed the face of Nigeria forever. Because I also care about him, I will mention some of his achievements, in spite of which you really should vote for me.

Mr Jonathan was the first person, who, in spite of the loud chatter of his enemies in 2012, refused to be lured into declaring his assets. This shows confidence. Only a strong leader would have said the following:
“The issue of asset declaration is a matter of principle. I don’t give a damn about it, if you want to criticise me from heaven. The issue of public declaration I think is playing to the gallery. You don’t need to publicly declare any assets.”

However, while I admire Jonathan’s courage, we are a bit different in this regard. Please find below a brief declaration of my assets:
Cash in banks (naira): 200,000
Cash in banks (euros): 3,000
Cash in hand: 17, 650
Books: 100,000
Standing fan (2): 12,000
Clothes+ shoes: No secondhand value
Refrigerator: 21,000
Laptop: 55,000
Microwave: Almost broken down. No economic value
Flat screen TV: Borrowed. Owner will recover anytime soon
Chinese phone: No second hand value
Total: N393,650 + €3,000

My supporters may wonder where I will get the money for nationwide campaigns from. I know the banks will not give me any loans the way they gave Buhari to purchase his APC nomination forms. I have quarreled with all my banker friends. The money will come from friends and well-wishers. All I need is to organize a fund raiser and people will be falling over themselves to donate. Of course all the donors will have to sign a waiver freeing me from any obligation to pay back in cash or in favors when I become president. This is important. In fact there will be a clause where they will swear never to mention to anyone that they donated money to my cause. We do not want anyone to start bragging when I am sworn in that they financed my election.

As president I promise to dance better than Jonathan danced. I was thoroughly embarrassed when he danced in Kano right after the FCT bomb blast that killed almost 100 people, on the same day as the kidnapping of the Chibok girls. Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing him for dancing. But they say if you have to eat a frog, eat a fat one. If you have to dance at a political rally after a national tragedy, then for goodness sake, have some good dance moves. I assure my supporters that I have been practicing and will not embarrass this great country on national television. To show my seriousness I have stopped associating with people who can’t dance. Especially white people. Too much hanging out with them and I may just disgrace 170 million Nigerians at a public function. My white friends will understand. The rest don’t matter.

As president I promise to wear fitted clothes. For too long our leaders have used too much cloth to sew their clothes. That is wasteful, especially in a country where many children cannot afford new clothes because of poverty. I am also working hard on my beer belly and assure Nigerians that come May 29, 2015, my belly will not even be visible. Mr Jonathan wears high quality fabrics but, I don’t know if it is the tailor who makes it too big or if he is hiding something about his body. Nigerian taxpayers deserve to see the body they are nourishing with hundreds of millions each year. I promise to show my body with fitted clothes.

I will concede however, that one area where it may be hard for me to beat Mr Jonathan is his forgiving spirit. That is where Jonathan beat most Nigerian presidents. No president in our history has been as kind and forgiving to as many indicted and convicted persons. It must be his Christian spirit. He takes his faith very seriously. For the second time as President, he is in Israel on a pilgrimage. No wonder he is able to not only pardon former ex-convicts like Alamieyeseigha, but re-integrate them into decision making processes. Only a man with a big Christian heart can do this. What I can promise Nigerians is that I will try.

I will start by trying to forgive someone like Asari Dokubo. Not for all the fierce proclamations of war with which he has threatened all opponents of Jonathan. But for refusing to lose weight and sending wrong signals to impressionable children all around the country – that it is ok to allow your neck disappear when millions are starving.

My only prayer is that Jonathan does not turn out to be like Obasanjo after he hands over to me in 2015. Because I do not like long letters or public quarrels. If he has anything to discuss, the villa will be open to him during normal working hours. Obasanjo is a case though. He never lets go. He is like herpes. You think it is gone, but it shows up when you least expect, again and again. I do not want herpes when I am president.

To prevent an Obasanjo-herpes situation I promise to push for Mr Jonathan’s nomination to one of those UN jobs that will make sure he is mostly out of the country settling foreign quarrels in countries more rotten than Nigeria. Because I care.

Voting for me is voting for change, for a president who looks good in fitted clothes, for a leader who isn’t afraid to go most days without wearing a cap, for an unmarried, unencumbered president, for a president with better dance moves. My candidacy is an idea whose time has come. Vote wisely!




Friday, October 17, 2014

LETTER FROM A STUDENT TO HER HISTORY TEACHER*


Dear Sir,
I don’t know if you knew sir, but we called you ‘Amalgamation’. You stumbled over the word many times that first day you came to replace Mr. John-Paul as History teacher. When we laughed, you made us say the word over and over again. We stumbled over it too and you said, ‘You see, you think it is easy to say the word?’ Most people can’t remember your name but we all remember the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorate of Nigeria. It was the first time we paid attention in History class. Mr John-Paul spoke to himself and looked up at the ceiling like he was shy of us. Some days he would just walk in and start writing with chalk on the black board for us to copy and then walk out when he finished. (Many boys used to skip his class.)
You came in without an exercise book or even chalk. I think you wanted to impress us. Believe me sir, after that first class and maybe for the rest of the term, we all wanted to be history teachers when we finished school.
I don’t know if you remember my first question. You told us about the last Sultan of Sokoto who stood up to the British and who was shot dead by I think Lord Lugard’s men. I asked who was there to know all the things the Sultan did in hiding before he died since you said that everyone was killed. That day you beat Mr. Bulus the English teacher to become my best teacher. You told me that you did not know everything and that you would try to find out, but you explained all the sources of history and how history is passed on from generation to generation. No teacher has ever agreed that there is something he doesn’t know.
I always wondered how you memorised those names and dates and stories. It is so hard for me to do at the court where the Judicial Panel of Inquiry is, when they want me to tell them exact names and dates and exactly how everything happened over and over again. Every time, a new lawyer wants to ask me the same questions and I am tired of describing you and calling your name, swearing that it was you, my history teacher who did those things and that I saw you and you saw me. I wish you would just appear so they can ask you the questions by themselves. How should I know who sent you and where you are now? After all it is all about what YOU did. Honestly sir I am tired.
There is an Igbo man at the Panel of Inquiry whose wife and children were killed on the other side of Kaduna, when the fighting began. I don’t know his name. The other day I heard him (there were tears in his eyes) saying to another man that he doesn’t know why north and south are one country, that things would be better if they didn’t force us to live together. I thought of what he said for a long time. But if the north was different from the south, you would still be in the north, because Zonkwa is in Kaduna and Kaduna is in the north and we would still be in the same country. Even if we were not living in Zonkwa, we would even be in the same state because Zaria where my grandfather is from and where my grandmother still lives is also in Kaduna. So I don’t agree with him.
The white woman at the camp where we now live, (she comes from France but she speaks English like someone from America) she told us that we should talk about what happened to us. She said it will help us get better.  She told us not to hate the people who did this to us but to understand them because hate only causes more pain. She made us say, ‘Hate begets more hate’ many times until we all memorised it. Her hair is long and her eyes are blue. She has a black tattoo on her back of her two hands and she told me it means peace in Chinese. (When I asked her, she said she didn’t understand Chinese). The tattoos look like the lalle we use to decorate our hands and legs during weddings. But the tattoo won’t wash off after some weeks. (Sorry I don’t know lalle in English). 

I don’t like talking. Too many people come to interview us at the camp. When the women talk about how their Christian neighbours killed their husbands, some of the people asking the questions have tears in the eyes and some just shake their heads. It is easier for me to write it, that way I think, I don’t have to keep saying it. My mother can’t read, so she doesn’t know what I write. She doesn’t know I am writing you this letter.

It has been six months and my mother still cries when she talks about it. I used to cry too, but now I am just tired of living with so many people in one small space and all the flies and mosquitoes. I am tired of the open toilets where somebody can easily see you. I want a bed and I want to know WHY it happened because I do not understand it. Sir, you used to say a good historian is not just concerned with the what, the where or the when but also with the WHY.
I know the WHAT. I know that my father’s head was broken. I know his neck was cut and that he only shouted twice. The WHAT is that he is dead or should I say, he was killed.
I know the WHERE. It was at the back of our mud house in the village where the grass was cleared and our two rams were tied. It started from the maize farm where he ran from but it happened when he reached the house, on the dusty ground. I was in the house trying to get a little kerosene from the lamp because the firewood fire that I was using to cook had died out and my arms were hurting from trying to fan the smoke into flames. My mother hates it when I do that. It is wasteful she says and shows that I am lazy. But why inhale all that smoke when I can just use a little kerosene to start the flame? So I waited for her to go to collect some spinach from our cousins’ mother in the next house.  I dropped the lantern when I heard the footsteps and shouting and ran out to see what was happening.
I know the WHEN. It was past six, not yet seven in the evening on Sunday after the Presidential elections. It was not too long before the time for the evening prayer. I remember what I was thinking before I dropped the lantern. I didn’t like the long break from school and I missed chatting behind the class with all my friends during break time. There are two reasons I love school. English and History. I like English because of comprehension exercises and because Mr Bulus speaks the best English I have ever heard from a black person. I like history because of the stories. Sometimes I think that you add some things to it to make it interesting and lively. It is like you were there when everything happened so you are able to tell us why everything happened and what everyone was thinking.
This is the part that I don’t know. The WHY? I stood right there. I saw you hold him to the ground with your friends. You used the machete on his head and I ran to you and held your hand. You looked at me and I told you that it was me, Hajara from your SS1 history class. Hajara who got 70 in the last history exam. I told you that this man was my father, but you continued and you used the knife on his neck. I was there but I don’t know why. Why you didn’t stop even though you knew he was my father, what did he do to you?

It is not easy writing this letter. I am writing just in case one day I see you again. My mother says we will never go back to that village again, but I will carry this letter around just in case. Maybe you will change your mind and come to the Panel of Inquiry one day. I will like to know, like the men in the wars that you taught us, what was going through your mind when you decided to kill a man you did not know. Why you didn’t stop when I begged you and why you said sorry to me after you had killed him. What will sorry do for me?
This is all I want to know. Maybe if I know, I will be able to sleep without my father’s face waking me up and coming to me whenever I am in the dark.
Mr. Bulus will hate this letter because there is no introduction, body and conclusion, only a salutation and body and since you are not a friend or close family member he will say it should have been a formal letter. But I am sure Mr Bulus will understand. Sorry if my letter is too long. I hope you will reply.

Yours faithfully,

Hajara Musa (your former SS1 student, whose father you killed)

*based loosely on true events

Monday, October 13, 2014

THE BRASSIERE*

You never lock your wardrobe door. One of the hinges is coming loose so there is now a method to closing the door -- lift gently, swing slowly from right to left, wait for the click, release -- but this is not why you won’t close it. You want to see what dangles from the yellow plastic hanger in the corner when you lie on the bed; which has hung limply there since September 16, five years ago. You never forget the date you hung it there; you remember it, mark it more religiously than your birthday or the day your now run-away husband almost died in his own vomit. The rumours don’t bother you -- that his many drinks were poisoned by the women from a certain Madam Kosoko’s brothel in Lagos to teach men who like to fuck and run a lesson. He was supposed to be on a business trip. You have not seen him since he left the hospital. Though you would never say it, you thought it was a brilliant thing those women did, because you did not know how much more you could take -- the sermons from your mother and his mother on how a good Christian woman never brings shame by leaving.
You look at it when you lie and think of the first one you remember actually buying. You shake your head when you recall how you still got the size wrong after all those lectures by the tall girl with massive breasts in your JSS3 class. The girl who had come from South Africa in JSS 2. The girl whose breasts were rumored to know the hands of every bad boy in school. It intrigued you as she told you the steps which you still so clearly remember in an accent you now know, from having many South African friends, was Xhosa:
 “Breathe in and hold your breath as you run the tape measure round just underneath your boobs. For even numbers add four, for odd numbers, add five. Save that number. Call it 2. That’s your boob size. But for your cup size run the tape measure round the fullest part of your boobs…”
You can still smell the garlic from the pores of the doctor who cut your breasts to save your life on September 16. You remember your thoughts as you battled depression right after the operation: How you thought that at least no man will ever grapple you again to get a rise, like your husband, Yinka did mostly when he was drunk. Like Obiora the younger man you let touch you only to get back at Yinka. You stopped with Obiora after the first few times because you felt no freedom in doing it. Only attachment to another weighty thing. So you told him never to see you again.
This nightly ritual of staring at the last bra you wore before the operation is what soothes you at night. Mercy never stops telling you: shebi you know you can get an implant abi? You know you can, Bimbo got it in the UK where she had her own surgery. Some days you think about it, but your breast prosthesis has grown on you in a way that Bimbo cannot understand. She assures you that some days she even forgets she has an implant. And she has made you feel it twice to see that it is as real as it gets
This year you passed the five-year mark since the mastectomy and your doctor has told you it is unlikely for the cancer to return. Bimbo and Mercy want to throw a small cancer survival party for you but you plead with them not to. Some days you feel like people might compare you to Bimbo who had the same procedure as you had but has bounced back, doing charity work and appearing on TV. You are tired. It used to bother you but these days you say to yourself, I am not Bimbo, as you curl up in bed, switch off your phones and watch back to back episodes of the reality show, Cheaters
You call it the last man standing; you have stared at it so long, it appears in your dreams -- elastic straps, half satin, half lace cups, hard plastic about the edges, three hooks, milk colour. Bimbo does not know you call it that, or she would have given you a long feminist lecture about the philosophy of language and maleness of language and encoding of male worldview. You agree, but you do not have the energy to think up a more appropriate term. 
The therapist your doctor referred you to, before and after the mastectomy, told you to take it one day at a time. She still calls you to just check up on you but you know it is Bimbo who makes her do it. Yesterday when she called you wanted to tell her, I don't really feel depressed, just lethargic, but you said everything was alright. You still turn down Bimbo's subtle invitations to do cancer awareness walks and talks. But you love her because although she is different she seems to understand.
Mercy is dragging you to the cinema this weekend to watch Idris Elba's new movie, No Good Deed. You will go, if only to watch her gush like a teenage girl over Elba. She has even told her husband in jest, if Idris Elba ever says hello to me this marriage is over. Her husband has learnt to share her with the actor. 
You are mentally preparing what dress to wear. You close your eyes and travel five years back. You are wearing an off-white dress, black stilettos. And the bra. As you smile, you feel tears roll out of the side of your eyes. 

 *written to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month


Saturday, October 11, 2014

HOW TO CONDUCT A NIGERIAN MEETING


A Nigerian is not just a person who has a green passport or one whose parents are Nigerian citizens. A Nigerian properly-so-called, is one who knows how to live in Nigeria without bursting an artery, committing suicide, or running away to seek asylum somewhere else. If you have run away, kindly refrain from calling yourself a Nigerian. The acceptable term for you is ‘of Nigerian origin’. There is a difference.
Being a proper Nigerian, I feel like I should explain this concept thoroughly starting with how to conduct meetings. A Nigerian meeting is not just an event. It is that sacred, multipurpose, indispensable tool for living the Nigerian life. This is how to conduct a Nigerian meeting.
As a business owner, always call for meetings even for things you can do by email. Sometimes, meet early in the morning for morning devotion to commit your business and hustle to the hands of God. Meet to set the agenda for other meetings that will be held over the week.
Jobs are boring. You need a distraction. Meetings, especially ones with tea break, prevent you from losing your mind and picking up a gun to shoot all your annoying colleagues like white people do. White people need to have more meetings.
When going for a meeting, never arrive early. This will give the impression that you are jobless, desperate or too eager. Nobody likes Nigerians who are jobless or too eager. A true Nigerian, not one who is pretending to be white, will understand if you show up late for a meeting. They may feign annoyance, but usually they will wait. In fact the best of Nigerians will make excuses for you, especially if you live in a place like Lagos. You will walk in late to a meeting, panting, with that faux look of contrition and the person you are having a meeting with – if she is a good Nigerian – will say: Eiyah! Traffic abi? You will only have to nod or say something like: No be small tin o. Everyone will be grateful that you showed up and the meeting will begin.
When you are having a big meeting with an ‘oga’ (or oga-madam) it is safer to cancel all other appointments for the day. Because the oga will saunter in three hours late and you will have to smile and say “No, not at all!” when he asks: “Did I keep you waiting?”
If you are an oga, you should never, ever show up for a meeting on time. This is Nigeria. People disrespect ogas who don’t keep them waiting forever. They will think you are equals and before you know it one ordinary person will call your name without adding Chief or Prof or Honorable or Your Excellency. God forbid that after hustling to get those titles, some idiot forgets to mention them. All because you came early to a meeting.
As a proper Nigerian whose father is God, you must commit all meetings to His hands. You may work hard but it is God that is in charge of blessing our hustle. Never forget to say at least two prayers in every meeting. One Christian, one Muslim. You never know which of the Gods will answer favorably. It does not matter if you will be discussing how to steal from other people. God sees the heart and he knows that deep down, all you want to do is succeed.
When it is your turn to speak at a meeting it is rude to go straight to the point. Proper Nigerians are not rude. Because I care, please find below a summary of how to speak at a Nigerian meeting:
1.     Don’t be ungrateful. Thank the moderator for giving you the opportunity to speak.
2.   Don’t be disrespectful. Observe all protocol. People did not become highly placed by mistake.
3.    Show appreciation. Say how much it is a privilege for you to be at the meeting. Use the phrases ‘singular honor’ and ‘rare privilege’.
4.  Show understanding. Explain how important the meeting is to you and to everyone present. Thank the conveners for having the wisdom to organize the meeting.
5.    Show regard for the last speaker. Use words like ‘just like the last speaker has said’ or ‘I want to concur with the last speaker’ or ‘I totally agree with the last speaker’ or ‘I want to align myself with the last speaker’. Then proceed to say the same thing using your own words. It is important for everyone to have a chance to speak at a meeting.
6.     Be considerate. Promise not to speak too long with a phrase like: ‘I will not take much of your time’, after which you can speak freely.
7.    Always provide a summary of all you have just said. Use phrases like: ‘So, what have I just said?’ or ‘What am I trying to say?’ to introduce you summary. 
8.    Be observant.  If you still have more things to say and you sense that people are tired of hearing you speak, use the words ‘In conclusion’ to give them hope that you will soon end, after which you can continue to speak freely.
All meetings must end in a closing prayer. To avoid a fight however, take care to remember whether it was a Christian prayer or Muslim prayer you began with. When you are not sure, do both prayers. You do not want to annoy any children of the Nigerian God.
One last thing: Don’t forget that the only acceptable way of answering a phone call during a Nigerian meeting is to shout: “Hello, please I am in a meeting, let me call you back.” People will smile, seeing how important this meeting is to you.  

I hope that this helps and that God will continue to bless your hustle as you conduct meetings.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

GRATITUDE IN DEPENDENCE


It is another celebration of Nigeria’s independence. Speeches have been made about how great we are as an independent country. However, I am disappointed in President Jonathan who showed what we Nigerians call ‘lack of home training’. He gave an Independence Day speech with zero gratitude to the people and institutions whose actions keep Nigeria alive and stable. As president come 2015, I have home training and know the value of gratitude. On behalf of our ungrateful president and Nigeria, I want to express my gratitude as follows:
Thank you English football and the UEFA Champions League. For providing a distraction for young Nigerians who would otherwise have had the time to worry about a failed country. You don’t know it yet, but English football and the Champions League have contributed to our stability as a nation, so that instead of quarrel about development, we can spend time fighting over Arsenal and Manchester United or whether Ronaldo is better than Messi. And for this we say, God bless you. 
Thank you Holland. For easing the nerves of Nigerians with our most popular brand of beer. Many Nigerians may not realize Star Lager is a Dutch product, but I do. Thank you for helping us effectively wash away our sorrows.
Thank you South Africa. For all the companies that make our lives bearable. For DSTV, without which we would be stuck with government propaganda and adverts. For Shoprite. For MTN which teaches us values like patience and knowing how to have a backup plan. For keeping some of our terrorists in your hygienic, safe jails. Because we cannot risk exposing our real terrorist leaders to our filthy overcrowded jails. That is why we either kill them extrajudicially or make their lives better with millions of dollars through a program we christen 'amnesty'. Thanks big brother.
Thank you Dubai. For keeping the wives and mistresses of our corrupt civil servants and leaders busy with interesting, expensive hobbies. For providing a safe haven when our corrupt politicians are too scared to go into America or Britain. You preserve our love.
Thank you Switzerland. For safely storing all the money stolen from our country. Your honesty is commendable. You even returned some of it. People think you people are boring. They just don’t understand you like I do. Hugs. Oh, also for Sepp Blatter, who has proven that corruption is not a genetic problem of black people – white people too can be corrupt, sit-tight leaders.
Thank you Germany. For Julius Berger. Without whom in the event of an emergency, we would be in serious trouble. Thank you for all our major roads and bridges.
Thank you Ghana, Cyprus, Ukraine, Malaysia… for providing not-too-rich Nigerians an opportunity to give their children a decent education.
Thank you America, for sometimes stepping in and telling our president what to do. For that accent that our radio presenters across the country try so desperately to copy. Radio would be dead without you. We love you.
Thank you Brazil. For all your unselfish women who give up their awesome hair that our women may look beautiful. And China for making sure the women who can’t afford human Brazilian hair can at least buy artificial hair.
Thank you Benin Republic. For all the cooks who keep the expatriates in Nigeria nourished while they provide us technical expertise and foreign aid.
Thank you UK. For helping us track some corrupt politicians so that we could find them and pardon them. Because if you had not caught them, how else would we have forgiven them. For DFID. Without which most of our hospitals would crash. For the projects which provide decent employment for our consultants and PhD’s and other development hustlers.
Thank you foreign journalists. For asking the questions our journalists are too underpaid to ask. For being the only ones our president will speak to. For telling us the things we would never have found out. May God bless your hustle and lead you to more of our leaders.
Thank you Malala. For informing our president about the plight of the missing school girls and extracting a commitment from him. We appreciate you.
Thank you Washington Post. For those editorials that spurred our President to action. May your business continue to grow.
Thank you, Western countries in general. For granting asylum to those who cannot be gay in Nigeria, both real and fake. We appreciate your patience in dealing with the flood of applications.
Thank you China. For the shinier, cheaper versions of all the things most of our people cannot afford. Ps. It would be nice if your people mixed with our people sometimes. We are Ebola free, you know.
Thank you Israel for all the guns. For helping our leaders spy on us. For protecting our leaders from us. What would we do without you?
Thank you Harvard. For providing a space for ex government officials to soothe their consciences and (re)write the history of their time in government. We love those books.
Thank you Germany, England and India. For preserving the quality of life of our politicians and making sure they are healthy and able to rule us well. For also treating their families and providing a decent place for our wealthy to die. God will bless your hustle.
It is my hope that these countries and entities accept my gratitude and keep supporting our collective hustle.

Friday, October 3, 2014

PROSE AND SATIRE WRITING WORKSHOP

If you are interested in writing short prose and satire, there will be a one-day workshop on Friday 14 November, 2014 for twenty selected participants. Elnathan John will be sharing tips and lessons on writing and improving short prose, both fiction and non-fiction. He will also be talking about how to write effective satire. The workshop will be held in Abuja, Nigeria*. There is no provision for transportation or accommodation. Selected participants will be expected to bear their travel and/or accommodation costs. The workshop is free. However, participants will be expected to commit to staying for the entire program, from 9am to 5pm (with a one hour lunch break). Please do not apply if you cannot stay for the full workshop. The participants will receive texts by email which they will be expected to read ahead of the workshop. THIS WORKSHOP IS NOT OPEN TO PERSONS BELOW THE AGE OF 18 AT THE TIME OF APPLICATION. 

To apply, send an original sample of prose, (whether fiction, non-fiction or satire) and an application letter not exceeding one-page each to abujawritingworkshop@gmail.com with the subject, "Workshop Application" no later than 25th October, 2014. The shorter, the better. As there are only twenty slots and selection will be based on the writing sample, send in what you think best represents your work. Only selected participants will be contacted. 

abujawritingworkshop@gmail.com

Elnathan John's prose has been published in Per Contra, Evergreen Review, Otis Nebula, The Caine Prize for African Writing anthologies 2013 and 2014, and ZAM Magazine. He has a weekly satire column in Sunday Trust Newspaper and contributes to Chimurenga's The Chronic. He was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2013 and has a novel due to be published in 2015 by Cassava Republic Press. 


*the venue will be communicated to selected participants

Thursday, October 2, 2014

HAIRCLIPS. A story


You are looking for a hairclip. It exasperates you how you can never find one when you need it. Your mum hates it when you try to share her stuff. You have an allowance. You shouldn’t cultivate the habit of borrowing. It’s bad for a woman. Aunt Ryan in Jos thinks your mum is just stingy. She has been like that since they were kids, she says.
Your mum does not use hairclips. She has been cutting her hair low since she had Jang nine years ago. She even went totally bald once. ‘Felt like doing something revolutionary,’ she said. Your dad almost passed out when he saw it. You couldn’t tell whether it was one of her happy or depressed spells. She did crazy things when she was excited. Crazy things when she was depressed.
You check her drawers anyway, starting with the one by the full length mirror adjacent her bed. There used to be two beds but your mum and dad sleep in separate rooms now. Your mum never throws anything away; perhaps you will find something from when she still had hair.
The first drawer has sequins, a new tape measure, her big turquoise marble ring that you have always wanted, two sewing needles stuck in a used MTN recharge card and a single key. You pick up the turquoise ring and slip it into your middle finger, taking note of the exact position of the ring- your mum pays attention to detail in a scary way. The ring looks perfect on you, you think. You strut up and down the room in mock model fashion making silly faces in the mirror.
The bottom drawer is always locked. You try the key in the top drawer and it opens. There are two diaries. You have always been taught never to look at another person’s diary, not even your brother’s which he started keeping right after his eighth birthday. Keeping a diary has never appealed to you. You are staring at the open drawer battling with your conscience. The front door creaks open and you hear footsteps. You jam your index finger trying to slam the drawer shut. The pain travels in quick circular motion from your finger through your entire body to your head and back to your finger. Tears fill your eyes and you double over squeezing the finger in your left palm.
‘Maggi,’ Noro, the housemaid calls out.
‘Magdalene?’
Her voice adds to your pain. You would scream at her but she really has done nothing but walk in with confident footsteps like your mum.
‘What?’ you shout.
‘I have gone. Till tomorrow.’
You do not answer. Slowly you release pressure from your injured finger and look at it. A blood clot is forming beneath the nail. Now you will have to wear coloured nail polish, which you do not like.
If this was all for the diaries, then dammit, I might as well read it, you say to yourself.

The bigger diary is the High Court diary mum gets every year from her friend who is a registrar. In it she writes shopping lists, lists of her debtors and how much they owe, addresses and phone numbers. The smaller diary- the black New Yorker desk diary she ordered from America with her name crested in silver- is the one that has a lot of writing. You sit on the hard bed.
The first entry on January 3 is short. Lidocaine. STUD 100. You whip out your smartphone and search the internet. As you scroll down and read, your eyes widen, your mouth assumes an O shape. The website you find says it is a desensitizer for men. It helps delay ejaculation. You struggle to suppress the combined thoughts of your father and quick ejaculations. You flip the page.

Met Q at the gym today. Flirty as ever. Not a good time to be running into Q especially as the one you are bound to is refusing to be reasonable.
You go quickly through paragraphs and pages looking for other occurrences of Q; through thoughts and feelings; through anxieties about weight and stretch marks; through resolutions to quit drinking; through unexplained frustrations about your father. You feel your blood rushing faster through your veins. Too much blood going too quickly to your heart. In her last entry on April 3, five days ago, you find the mysterious Q again.
Easy lunch. Then pool to burn calories. Went to see Q’s new gym at home. Impressive. I told myself no shenanigans. No resuming old habits. I hate feeling powerless, but with Q, you feel it’s all ok. Crazy how Q still knows every bit of my body…

You pick up the big diary. Carefully with your finger you search for all names beginning with Q. You scan every page. Nothing. After many searches, the closest you find to Q is Sadiq. You know a Sadiq that is nicknamed Q.
***
You have been snooping around your mum for three days now, waiting for her to leave her phone for a few minutes. Her phone is like an appendage to her body. Even if you get it, you still have to get past her lock code. You put your phone on silent and slip it into one of your sneakers in your room.
‘Mum I can’t find my phone, can you please dial my number?’
‘Ok,’ she says and dials. ‘It’s ringing.’
You make a show of searching. You search the living room, the dining room, the kitchen; everywhere but your sneakers.
‘Shit!’ you say.
‘What?’
‘I think I put it on vibrate.’
‘But why would you turn your ringer off in the house?’
‘Mum can you just keep dialing while I check?’
This is the plan: your mum doesn’t like to feel like she is being made to do something.
‘Here, do it yourself,’ she says.
You walk into your room and quickly search for Q in her contacts. It is there sitting pretty with a number beneath it. You take out your phone from your sneakers and save the number. As Q.
‘Found it!’ you scream.
It all feels so wrong, but you will not be able to sleep well if you do not finish this.

You compare Q’s number with Sadiq’s. They are different. You hide your number and call Q. As it starts to ring, you feel faint. The caller tune is Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.  Suddenly you realize, you do not know what to say to Q, what to ask him. You feel cramps in your stomach. Dozens of thoughts cram themselves into these few seconds in a way you did not know was possible.
Is Q an older, richer man? Richer than dad? Or one of those young studs, young enough to date me? How long has this been going on? Does my brother look like dad? Do I?
‘Hello,’ the voice comes, crisp, clear.
‘Q?’ you ask, a quiver in your voice.
‘Yes, Queen speaking, who is this?’ she says.
You drop the call. Grit your teeth. And cry.
***
‘How many do you need?’ the sales girl without eyebrows asks.
‘Just show me everything you have,’ you say.
She brings out a transparent plastic box.
‘How much?’
‘For which one?’
‘For all.’
The sales girl looks at you to make sure you aren’t joking. She gets the big calculator and starts counting, the surprise never leaving her face. This is an early eighteenth birthday gift for yourself. A box of sixty-seven hairclips.