Sunday, April 28, 2013


*Because I Care series #11

I have been busy these past two weeks at the Caine Prize Writers Workshop in Uganda. Among the many benefits of this prestigious writing workshop, it will ensure that no ex-newspaper editor will end up writing my speeches. The risks of allowing people write your speeches cannot be overemphasized. Speech writers being ambitious are wont to give in to excesses and temptations- they are bound to chip in thoughts of their own just to feel powerful and relevant. Many years later after you will have left office, when you are battling diabetes, erectile dysfunction and other diseases that old age visits upon you, some young overzealous journalist looking for glory will dig up that speech and come to your country home to interview you. He will quote the 20 year-old speech verbatim, putting it in the most scandalous context. The tragedy is, you will not remember a thing about it or what you ‘really meant’. Because you did not write the bloody thing.  And old age plays nasty tricks on you. You will look at this small boy who barely knows how to shave trying to rubbish all the blood you shed for this ungrateful nation and you will snap. Do or say something stupid. Worse still, he will catch it all on camera and post it on YouTube or whatever cool internet program they have at that time. He will become popular and Nigerians will forward the video, make jokes and t-shirts from your puerile, anger-driven responses. They will spit on you. Your blood pressure will rise and you will slump and die with a heavy frown on your brow. All that people will remember will be that last interview. Not your sacrifices. Not how you saved the country from destruction. So, no, thank you. I don’t want a goddamn speech writer.

One of the things I did not find a lot of in Kampala was generators. I learnt some people in that city recently protested because of a two-week power cut. I blame King Museveni. Those 25 years in power haven’t taught him much. Once in my home state of Kaduna we had no electricity for 13 months. Did my people protest? No. Those who did not have money for generators came together, formed informal cooperatives, did asusu or adashe and one by one, bought generators. Those who couldn’t, became nicer to their neighbours so that they could frequently take their phones to charge. Why? Because our governments have been sensible not to start something they can’t finish. (Uganda has about the best weather on the continent- not too hot, not too cold. In fact, in my residence by Lake Victoria, I tried to ask them where the vents of the central AC were and the lanky Rwandese-speaking manager informed me that there was no AC in the hotel. That’s how lovely the weather is.)

It is a simple matter. Museveni spoilt Kampala with electricity. Next time, he should send those ungrateful protesters to tiny airless rooms in humid Port-Harcourt or sweltering Kano. By the time their necks begin to bend because of meningitis, they will learn gratitude.  

Reading the news upon my return, I saw a quote from Labaran Maku which said that Social Media critics “offer fiction”, “slander freely to the public without conscience” and “continue to destroy the well-earned reputation of worthy citizens and leaders for selfish reasons”. His advice to them was that “they should leave this ignoble task and embrace God and decency for the good of themselves and the society.” I have not heard better advice. Increasingly Goodluck Jonathan and his men impress me. I only insist on running for President because apart from the fact that I am younger, drink less, and can do better, too much of anything is bad- whether it is drinking schnapps or living in Aso Rock.

To further deal with this menace of Social Media critics, Mr. Jonathan seems to have awarded a 40 million dollar contract to an Israeli firm to monitor the Nigerian cyberspace. I commend this act of wisdom and foresight. I did some research on the issue and I will list a few of the uses of this policy which I must state I will continue when I take over office from Jonathan:

  1. It makes sure that not everyone can just join Social Media and start insulting the president.
  2. It makes sure that not everyone can just join Social Media and insult the president’s wife. This is worse than 1. above. We all agree that it is better to persecute a man than persecute his loved ones. Think of the trauma our dear leader goes through when wicked people say things like Dame Patience is corrupt, interferes with appointments and collects kickbacks from contractors.
  3. It makes sure that the government can gather useful Intel on wicked people and their sinister operations online. Many wicked people usually have skeletons in their malicious cupboards. Some of them are in extra marital affairs with other women or even men. Some are addicted to pornography. Monitoring Social Media and the internet will provide useful evidence of these so that when it gets too much, these wicked ones can be made to shut up. Nothing is more effective in shutting up an opposition politician than the real threat of a sexual scandal.
The only thing I will add to that will be that bloggers and internet critics during my regime will be made to wear red triangles on their clothes to identify them as the dangerous persons that they are. Because, I care.

Ps. Seriously, all the officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service at the departure area of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, need to be sacked, jailed and flogged daily with raffia palm. They cannot keep openly and shamelessly asking for bribes from people travelling out of the country. Either that or they remove that big poster that says in part: “Say no to corruption and bribery”. We cannot have extortion and that poster in the same space. Only one will do. And to be frank, I don’t really like the poster. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013


*Because I Care series #10

I have spent the last week in Uganda and Kenya, and I don’t know if it is just my eyes playing tricks, but it seems I have seen more people with dreadlocks in one week than all year in Abuja. In my small hotel alone, there are three women with dreadlocks of varying lengths. This got me thinking about hair and the politics of hair. 

I can’t remember seeing any Head of State being bold enough to experiment with hair. The moment a black man walks into a room with long or braided hair, there are immediate assumptions. People think you are a rascal, a drug dealer, a hippie, a Rastafarian, an African writer or a poor struggling artist. No one appreciates the work that goes into long male hair. I must digress to say that the most stressful of non-traditional male hair is white dreadlocks. The results aren’t always easy to look at, and I don’t understand or know why they go to such great lengths but I cannot help appreciating the effort. 

I am bald both by choice and nature. I discovered the latter once when I was too ill to keep my ritual of cutting my hair every four days. It is hard to put into words the trauma I experienced when, having recovered enough to walk into the hospital toilet myself, I saw in the mirror that the front of my hair had assumed an M shape. Just then I knew-  that was the end of any experimentation with my hair. 

I have pondered the issue of hair stereotypes and how growing up, we are fed the idea that no man (with the exception of good singers) who keeps long hair, braids or dreadlocks will ever amount to anything good in life; that no man with long hair will make heaven. This made me contemplate growing my hair when I become president. I was poised to give hope to all the children in Nigeria with dada, that they too can become anything they set their hearts to become without being judged. (Note that ‘dada’ and ‘dreadlocks’ are not the same. Dada is the less attractive, wilder, more superstitious cousin of dreadlocks)

I have since changed my mind on the issue. It is reactionary to grow dreadlocks and it does not solve the problem of stereotypes or people being free to be who they want without being judged. Apart from that this whole thing is also tied to the issue of race. I mean, who gives a white man who forces his straight hair into dreadlocks a lesson on race? And why is it that when a modern black woman whose tough natural hair is really problematic decides to use relaxer on it or just wear a weave gets judged and is forced to sit through myriad history lessons about the dangers of relaxer or how straight hair is culturally oppressive but when a white woman gets a breast implant as a birthday present from her boyfriend, people find it sweet. Why don’t we give the following lecture to white women who have small breasts or buttocks:
Dear not-so-endowed white woman,
Cosmetic surgery to increase the size of your breasts and buttocks means you are not proud of your white heritage. Breasts are very political. Be proud of the non-buttocks and small breasts that God gave you and stop trying to look like Yoruba or Ugandan women. There is nothing wrong with being white. 

My hair is political. It is not because I am bald and will look awkward with dreadlocks that my head is shaved clean. I keep my hair like Jacob Zuma to make a statement: that although I have nothing against dreadlocks, it is also fine to do what you find convenient. My baldness is a vote for choice without judgment. Let the black man have his dreadlocks or bald head, let the black woman have her weaves or natural hair, and let the white woman buy padded bras or get breast implants, and if one says no to the other, let their teeth break.

Ps. Someone from the Embassy of Lebanon emailed me regarding my last article. Mr. Wassim Ibrahim informed me that although a huge signboard with the inscription ‘Embassy of Lebanon’ stands on a plot of land full of rubble, the actual building where the Embassy operates from is at 12 Usuma Street, Maitama, Abuja. Then he invited me for coffee. I might have gone, but apart from the fact that I am currently in Uganda (loving my view of Lake Victoria), coffee really upsets my stomach. I prefer tea instead.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


*Because I Care series #9

The internet is an amazing thing. It saves you from foolishness and separates you from the ignorant mass of people who confidently peddle falsehood. Nigeria turns 100 next year. I was trawling the internet for useful material on the subject, just in case some nosy reporter accosts me in front of the Federal Secretariat to interview me. (God forbid that a common journalist should disgrace a presidential aspirant). As I surfed, my eye caught the Wikipedia page of Nigeria. I have not been the same since then.

It is not that I did not know this fact I am about to reveal. I have been hearing of it like a rumour, but in Nigeria when you hear a thing, whether from the mouth of a government official or not, it is not true unless they confirm it in writing, swearing by whatever living relatives they have. Like that time when Nuhu Ribadu said that Bola Tinubu was a big thief and later swore to the Nigerian god during his campaign that he was just playing. Or when he was investigating Mrs. Patience Jonathan for money laundering and later touched his tongue and pointed to heaven when he was running for President and said he had never investigated Madam. I thought it was that kind of thing when I heard that it was Lord Lugard’s live-in girlfriend that named Nigeria. Until I saw it in writing. On Wikipedia. 

This is how Wikipedia attributes the origin of the name Nigeria: ‘This name was coined by Flora Shaw, the future wife of Baron Lugard’. Now, every Nigerian man knows the score. He knows that the easiest way to deceive a girl into sleeping with him is to tell her: ‘I will marry you.’ Sometimes the plan does not always work and the woman is smarter than the guy and he gets hooked and finds out one day, much to his chagrin, that he is actually married to the woman. Thus the term ‘future wife’ does not add any dignity to the origin of our country’s name. Lord Lugard was sleeping with a girl and the girl, probably without any clothes on or worse, in post coital excitement, blurted out the name NIGERIA. The fact that Mr. Lugard later found himself married to this woman is beside the point.

This unfortunate fact of our history is why I agree with those who want to change the name of this country on the eve of our centenary. It is not because, after reading Wikipedia, any time I hear ‘Nigeria’ I think of two naked British people. Far from it. It is purely a legal matter: that a woman without legal status in this country- neither colonial government official nor the spouse of one- produced our name while doing something we all agree is a sin. That’s all.

So Margaret Thatcher went and died this week. Since then I have read wicked people write bad things about the woman. Sadly, even some of my friends joined in saying things like she supported apartheid and called Mandela a terrorist. Some even quoted Fela- a promiscuous man notorious for singing naked and under the influence of marijuana- calling the then Prime Minister an ‘animal’ and ‘friend’ of South Africa’s (apartheid) Botha. But President Jonathan impressed me. He called her ‘one of the greatest leaders of our time’. This is quite appropriate. Even Jonathan knows this.

I know what is causing all this aggression among Nigerians about Thatcher. In 1983, when she was Prime Minister, the British Nationality Act of 1981 came into force, abolishing the principle of jus soli. In plain English, Nigerians (and others) could no longer just buy a plane ticket, saunter into the UK pregnant, give birth and confer British nationality on their children. You had to be a citizen or have permanent residency to confer British citizenship on your child born in the UK. This pained a lot of Nigerians. But please, what bad thing did Thatcher do to deserve all the name calling? Just because she stopped Britain from potentially being populated by Nigerians and possibly becoming an annex of Nigeria? Isn’t it bad enough that now, no thanks to Nigerians, Peckham smells of kpomo and crayfish? Forgive me, but I must join my soon-to-be-predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan in declaring her one of the greatest leaders of our time. 

I must thank Jonathan for one more thing. In the ten commandments of Moses, commandment number  eight reads: ‘Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.’ Moses did not know our Jonathan, for there might have been a footnote that read: ‘Thy neighbor includes thy president.’ So, locking up those lying journalists from Leadership newspapers was a smart thing to do. In fact to show that everyone knew they were a bunch of liars, other newspapers and journalists continued doing their work and printing their papers as if nothing happened. In other countries, when a journalist is imprisoned, editors of other papers do things like have blank first pages and protest, you know, some sort of camaraderie. But when Jonathan put the handcuffs on those journalists, apart from a few grumbling articles, nothing happened. Because they lied about the president trying to muzzle opposition. I know, because, I am in the opposition.  

Ps. I passed by the Embassy of Lebanon in Abuja this week. The plot of fallen trees and rubble where the huge signboard stands must be a metaphor. It must mean something, maybe about the state of that country. If that is the case, it is a work of art.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


*I first published this in Metropole Magazine
Your beer almost spills. Not because the words are blasphemous. You can’t even remember entering a place of worship. It has even crossed your mind to interrogate your idea of the existence of an all powerful, all knowing deity. It is the stark incongruity that threatens to push that sweating glass of beer out of your grip and cause you to apologise all night to people whose clothes will smell of beer because of you. It is how the guys in the live band of this Garki club switch seamlessly from a song about holding women’s bottoms to one that begins with the words: “The gospel is not for Sunday morning/ Sunday morning alone/ Each and every day/ That the lord has made We gat to give thanks and praise to the lord”

You turn to your friend who has sworn to you that this little known but old club is the best new discovery in Abuja, not hiding the horror on your face, worsened now by how everyone around is whipping out white handkerchiefs- sober people, drunk people and people buying and selling sex. 

“Do you realise what they are singing,” you scream in your friend’s ear, not sure if your non-Nigerian friend has really taken the time to listen to the lyrics of the songs playing or if she is just having a good time enjoying the too-loud music. 

She smiles a smile that says, ‘shut up and enjoy’. 

You agree that it is fine to believe that ‘the gospel is not for Sunday morning alone’, anyone can believe what they want, but you are uncomfortable with the idea of invoking jealous gods and making them compete with the thick cigarette smoke, sweating beers, and the many women hanging around, waiting to be picked up. 

An old man whose eyes have shrunk in size every hour since you came here and who only comes alive twice- first after securing a young lady of immense buxomness to sit with him and next when this Gospel song by Buchi starts playing- looks longingly into the eyes of his lady friend as he sings aloud: “I thought about the good good things/ He has done for me/ I thought about my lovely children/I thought about my pretty wife/All I could think of to say was/Thank you Jesus.”

“This is crazy,” you scream to your friend above the noise and burst into laughter. As the song plays on however, you realise you are the only one who isn’t animated, who hasn’t joined in the chorus: “Mma mma/ Jesus onye ebere”

It has to be the club, you think. Maybe the clientele. 

A few months later, you are in a bar at the Hilton. You wonder if the band will get better as you order drinks. Different people do their acts and the only people that clap at first are the foreigners. Then a young man with a raspy voice takes the mic and starts to sing solo: “When a man make-a-love to a man/ That one is homosexual/ When a woman make-a-love to a woman/ That one is lesbian.” Everyone stops the side talk and suddenly there is amused laughter coming from all the corners of the room. You smile.

The song is short. The applause is loud. The young man signals to the band and when the first words reach people’s ears, it animates them even more than the previous song: “The gospel is not for Sunday morning…”

Your smile disappears fast. But then you remember the story of the only sane man in a village whose inhabitants were made mad by the water in the river. You turn around and again, you are the only one who isn’t ecstatic. It is unfair to bring sadness into this room, you think. Your third drink arrives, and like the sane man in that story who got tired of being the only sane one and eventually drank from the village river, you let go and join in the only words of the chorus that you know: “Mma mma/ Mma mma/ Mma mma Jesus/ onye ebere”.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


*Because I Care series #8

Since last week, my friends and I have been discussing my foreign policy. Of all the countries I fingered, America has been the subject of most debate. Through all the discussions, a scary pattern began to emerge. Look at the countries that America does not joke with, militarily or economically: Germany, Japan, China, North Korea, Russia. They have all gone to war with America, attacked, or threatened America militarily or economically. This epiphany has not let me sleep since last week. My obsession with Nigerian greatness will not let me continue taking the handouts that undermine any meaningful or competitive progress we may want to make globally. This may very well be the biggest test of my presidency: attack or threaten, militarily or economically; start a nuclear weapons program or kidnap Kim Kardashian. 

I wonder, now that North Korea seems serious about attacking South Korea and the American Island of Guam, what if we all are wrong? What if that overweight boy with a bad haircut, has what it takes, to nuke his way to world leadership. What if, instead of the predictions that war will end the regime of North Korea, it is America whose regime will suffer? What if the Americans will protest all the suffering and make Obama take refuge in Kenya? Think of that chubby face staring like a child playing a video game on t-shirts and TV stations (with inaccurate subtitles) around the world. Think of it and join me in praying against North Korean world domination. God forbid that our prayers don’t work and this happens, but if it does, it will be our fault, all of us, and especially those of us on social media who have relentlessly belittled and made fun of the pudgy 29 year old and pushed him into wanting to prove his manhood. 

The Supreme Court of Kenya has just confirmed Uhuru Kenyatta as the next president of Kenya. I like Uhuru. You can tell a man who appreciates the good things of life by looking at his eyes. I will hang out with Uhuru. I am glad the Kenyans had the courage to ignore the electoral issues and that evil Wikileaks cable that says that he drinks too much. Who judges a man because they are given to a certain type of liquid? 

I don’t get the Israelis and Palestinians. I don’t. Any quarrel that lasts more than one generation must be probed. No one has been able to explain to me in an intelligible manner why they hate each other so much. Me, when a quarrel has lasted so long I start to forget why the quarrel started in the first place. The problem with the Arabs and Israelis then must be their good memories. The Arabs and Jews are known for being good memorizers. They never forget. This scares me. Every time I go for a school recitation, I fear for the kids who are made to memorize large amounts of words.  I will introduce laws to ban any sort of activity that requires people to commit anything to memory. I will ban poem recitation in schools and insist that all school dramas be performed by actors reading from sheets of paper. Singers will have to sing from notes. We cannot take any chances. 

The French make me laugh. I realize they have been bored for a while as other world powers have been making headlines. The Germans have been leading economically, the Americans have been fighting terror, the Brits have been following closely behind holding America’s briefcase, the Chinese have been keeping the Americans busy but the French, they have been receiving tourists and orders for French recipes. This must be hard to handle especially when they consider themselves one of the world’s main powers.  It has taken a huge toll on France’s self esteem. It thus came as no surprise to me when they jumped in to take charge of the war in Mali. I could almost feel them panting with excitement when the French government finally found a way to make real headlines without standing behind Angela Merkel. I hope Mali sustains their interest.

There is a reason Spain and Italy are quiet and sleepy in global politics. Any country where it is not just culturally acceptable but expected for everyone to go to sleep for several hours in the middle of the day (when things are getting heated up around the world) cannot expect to play a major role in global politics. I don’t understand their need to close shops and businesses to go sleep in the middle of the day, but we thank god for Italian pizza. 

There has been another case of bird flu in China. I don’t understand these guys. One of my Uncles taught me that if you try something once, twice, thrice and keep having problems, then maybe you should try something else. Is it by force to keep and eat chickens? Can’t they try goats or rams? Why do they keep putting the world at risk of this bird flu? As president I will beg the Chinese to leave this chicken matter. There is something in their country that the chickens just can’t stand. 

Ps. I came home last week and found a letter from my landlord. Pay up or move out. I felt a warm trickle down my thighs. It wasn’t urine. It was sweat. I looked again and discovered he had got his dates wrong. I called him. For the next few months at least, I have nothing to fear. I cannot wait to live rent free for four years at least at the Presidential Villa.