Friday, June 27, 2008

The nameless

A few months ago, I was sitting at the local airport in Ikeja when this was announced over their public system. “Would Driver company name please report to the front desk”. Driver “company name” apparently had no surname; he now bore the name of the company he worked for. I found it all very amusing that even the woman announcing this, had actually agreed to address another human being like that. However, I was the only one laughing. Everybody else seemed to think that it was very normal for a driver‘s surname to be the name of a company. I asked the gentleman sitting next to me, if he did not find it amusing that a man’s name was “driver” and his surname a company name. I mean, think about all the drivers that now bear “Julius Berger ” as their surname or “MTN”...the worst surname would have to be “NEPA”! Anyway,(before I digress into a rant about the hopeless state of electricity in this country) as I tried to explain why I found the whole thing amusing, the lady sitting next to me jumped right in the conversation and asked “why should I know his surname?”. In fact, she was very upset that I would even dare to suggest such a thing! Preposterous! She said her driver had been driving her for more than two years now and she had no idea what his surname is. She defended her reason by adding that the driver did not know hers either…..which I very much doubt. If there is anything drivers are very familiar with, it is the names of their passengers. Imagine how many times you have sent them to deliver useless messages to friends and relatives. Imagine how many times you have sent them to the market, the pharmacy, tailor and other little errands that have nothing to do with his main job, which is actually driving. So, please believe that your driver knows your name very well and has probably cursed you a couple of times too! For a man in whose hands you put your life every day, it is preposterous that you do not know his name, family name and where he lives.

Anyway, the conversation with these two people got me thinking about how many people I see every day, talk to them every day, yet I do not know their names. The first person I would have to apologize for never asking her name would have to be “acara woman”. For years as a child, I bought acara from this woman. I played with her baby every morning as she fried acara, we had conversations about the weather, my family, her family, my health, her health and I never knew her name. Next would have to be “sweet woman”, which is very depressing to me because this woman knows the names of all my siblings, asks about every single one of them every time she sees me and even a grown woman like me still gets free sweets when I pass by. The third apology would have to be the “shoe boy”. “Shoe boy” is a shoemaker and stops by every Saturday to collect all those worn out soles of mine. I never have conversations with “shoe boy” but his presence in my life is very important. The fourth apology I will just have to give “newspaper boy”, who tells me the gist of all the newspapers, reads my column and sometimes suggest topics I should write about.

Now that I have started this countdown, I realize they are too many people that have been important in my life in such small ways that I never knew their name. A grown woman shouting “swimming pool uncle” across the street to a man who made me believe that I could be an Olympic champion, the best swimmer, I could do anything if I set my mind to it, is very embarrassing indeed. (By the way, God go punish all of una former Bendel state sports people wey go destroy all those better better swimming scholarship program those days, who know? I for be champion self, maybe na me for represent una for Beijing now? Shebi una see una selves?).

Well, what is done in this case, can be undone. I will have to introduce myself properly and they would have to do the same. They are human beings as we all are, no less important in life, yet every day we humiliate them by calling them the names of jobs which funny enough, we could never do without. We call them “house girl”, “driver”, “gardener”, “cook” like these names are their identities. They are not; these are just the jobs they perform (which many have no choice to but to do, by the way). They are fathers, mothers, daughters, cousins, somebody’s best friend, a Christian, a Muslim….. They are much more than we would ever know…… because we never ask.

On the way to.....

In every nook and cranny, there is a church or mosque ready to save our souls and prepare us for our final destination, heaven. We go to these churches/mosques and worship with men and women who we assume are people of God. We donate our hard earned money, pay tithes and only God knows the amount of time and energy the faithful dedicate to their churches, pastors, mosques and imams. It is therefore a shame when these men and women in whom so much is trusted, betray their members. Recently, I read the most disgusting story about a pastor who was arrested. The man was in possession of a couple of human heads which he was preparing for members of his church. According to him, he is not only a pastor but a native doctor as well. Now, my question to my fellow countrymen is thus: For how long are we all going to fool ourselves?

It is no secret that a lot of people consult native doctors, herbalists, spiritualists, etc in this country. In fact, it is the norm of the day. There is always someone who knows someone. Even in the confines of the church, there is always someone coming from somewhere and going somewhere. We all know this; it is no secret in our society. That is why it is very illogical for those who believe in whatever they believe in to continue fooling themselves in churches or mosques. There is no rule stating that we all must be Christians or Muslims, in fact, such a rule can never exist in a country where people are still dying “under mysterious” circumstances. Until we can admit to ourselves that a good number of the population are NOT Christians or Muslims, we will continue to discover human heads and different organs in peoples’ houses…including the houses of pastors. It is only then that we will be able to curb these insane acts. I would also like every single human being in a spiritual position to be investigated. Yes, that’s right. All pastors, priests, imams…in fact, if you are in any sort of position in any religious activity, (Sunday school self dey among) you should be investigated. Let us sort the wheat from the chaff…or however that saying goes.
However, I realize that such a task will be too much for our already worn out government. That is why I appeal to all good citizens of this country to embark on a thorough investigation of their spiritual leaders. It is your right to know who your leader is and where he/she is leading you to.
Make e no be say dem dey carry una go hell and una no know oh!

P.S: Just to remind una say Olympics dey around the corner because I know small time na, una go begin complain say no money to transport our people, this, that, one thing do one thing. Me, I no wan hear any long tory oh. I don buy my green white green flag, make shirt self, so make una make sure all our better sports men and women dey ready oh! I don remind una, because this sports ministry una fit disgrace human being sometimes.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Growing old with grace

My people, how una dey? As far as una still dey alive, we thank God. I have been feeling so uninspired lately. Everytime I read something about Africa, it is always so depressing. These days, I avoid anything that has to do with Zimbabwe. Is it me, or has that old man gone nuts? I find it amusing that such an old man can have a hold over a whole country… he must be very strong…I wonder what he is eating because the eba I eat in this country definitely does not give me that kind of strength. One would think that an old man like that should be on a farm somewhere, sleeping under a shade with goats nearby… or chickens. Imagine how nice it would be for him, to enjoy his final years with his family. He could even take up fishing or perhaps a more sophisticated sport like golf? He could play golf all day…or maybe he would rather travel? Yes, that would be so nice, he could see all the wonders of the world, wine and dine and maybe even go on a spiritual journey? But no, mba. Instead, he is there busy complicating life for himself and others. Why can’t we as human beings just make life easier for ourselves? Look at the mess he has got himself and his country in, now. Very depressing because there are so many things he could have been doing instead of causing mayhem and distress. How sad!

It is not every day you see power make a fool of a human being. Most times, power makes them strong, mighty, wealthy or even dangerous…so this is a rare occasion indeed, we have the combination of all that with the inclusion of the person being made a fool as well. It is really depressing and leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth. However, let this be a warning to all power hungry people. Sooner or later, your greed will not only destroy you but those around you as well. So whilst you are bribing and threatening and God knows what else you people do behind the scenes, please remember that there is nothing more pathetic than a human being that has lost all sense of pride and dignity.

I therefore appeal to all men and women in seats of power in this country to be wise enough so as to be able to determine when their time has come for retirement. If you have any doubts as to when your time is near, I would say start looking for a retirement home once you reach the age of fifty. In fact, considering the life expectancy age in this country, (46 years for men and 47 for women, and no be me talk am oh, na UN, so make una go fight them if una no gree) I would suggest that one should start planning as soon as possible.

Ehen, I don tell una. Because me I no wan hear say una begin kolo because of old age oh! Una do well.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Please, let our culture be!

Let the music play!

There was a time in Nigeria when I thought “life can’t be better than this”…..I call it the “Clarus and Giringory years”, the years when N.T. A was the only station on T.V. I remember watching so many interviews with Nigerian artists. Not only did we get to see our favorite artists talk about themselves and their music, but sometimes, they gave live concerts too!

There is so much in the music of those years that ties me to people, places…those were great times for me and a huge part of my childhood. I have never been worried about losing any of that because I have always believed that the music will always be there, it will live forever in the archives of N.T.A. How wrong I was!

Recently, I asked a couple of my friends where one could get film footages of our great musicians, possibly interviews and appearances on television. To my surprise and disgust, I was told that N.T.A had “wiped” most of the tapes….whatever that means. In lay man’s terms, we simply do not have recordings of our own artists that have been part of so much in this country. If you want to find film footages of our best musicians, please turn to BBC, even the French would have more to offer you than N.T. A. This is perhaps not surprising in this country, who cares right? Why should we care about our own heritage and culture? Why should we preserve history for our children? After all, we’ll all be long gone to accept any accountability. It is a shame and to say the truth, pure laziness. If we continue at the pace we are going, so much beauty will be lost to our children.

What kind of nation do we want to be? Nigeria is failing new generations of its children by continuing to destroy all traces of cultural productions in the country. However, let me not scare you all, I am sure we will always have “Nollywood”, those low budget movies that continue to subject Nigerians with archaic views on religion and marriage. Nollywood story for Marriage: Man and woman fall in love, get married and enjoy peace until the beautiful and young seductress (probably a friend of the wife) lures the good husband from his home. Husband sends wife packing, while younger woman enters house. Now, the only choice wife has, is to turn to the church for serious fasting and prayers. Somehow, husband comes to his senses (probably because the juju has now been cast into the deepest hole or whatever) and comes back crying to wife. Wife accepts husband back, and returns to her rightful place as madam of the comfortable home she was living in. We thank God.

Now that is what our children are watching. That is the kind of “culture” we are giving them and have no fear of it ever being “wiped” out because we have enough pirated copies to last us a life time.

I hope there are enough people in this country that understand the need for documenting our cultural heritage. It is a challenge to us, and one that we must rise up to.

We will never forget those that have left so much beauty behind them.

Rest in peace,

Sonny Okosuns
Steve Rhodes

Your music lives on.