Saturday, January 31, 2009

The diary of a mad man – 31st January


You might not believe it, but there’s nothing as exciting and as liberating as voluntary madness. The day I chose to become a madman was the first day of my liberty. As I took each cloth off my body I felt like I was breaking the shackles which have held me bound from the day I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
For the first time in my life I could shout, scream obscenities… but that was short lived. I fought long and hard to become a certified, totally naked-on-the-street mad pesin.

I love being a mad man because basically I can do anything I like and nobody will blame me, they’ll say:
“He slapped you? You’d better start running or better still go to your pastor to do deliverance for you, how can a mad man slap you? You want to go back and fight a mad man abi? Please go ahead; just don’t come back here after the fight! I don’t want anybody to think I know you.”

But the real freedom lies in the fact that I chose not to do those things, I chose to live my life violence free … hehehe … but don’t tell anybody or they’ll start taking me for granted. I’m no father Christmas and I enjoy the way people cross to the other side of the road when they see me coming.

I even saw my mother once, gorgeously attired in a pink lace, she was sitting in one car that looks spanking new (father must be having another affair). I took out time to study her while she was busy reading a newspaper. Her face looked so stiff I suspected she must have had another face-lift.

Mother dear mother. The social butterfly, the social climber. I was so busy studying her I didn’t notice when a man came up behind me and grabbed me, I screamed with rage and that was when she looked up, our eyes met and I saw the shock of recognition in her eyes. Although her face remained immobile, but those eyes, they expressed horror, fear, revulsion and something akin to pain…

“Kasali, leave him alone!” she shouted at the man who was still busy shoving me.
“Modom, he’s a madings o! I seesaw him dey looks looks at you.” He said, reluctantly letting me go
“I said let him go!” she shoved a thousand naira note through the window at me, I laughed, picked up the money and tore it to bits. She looked at me and I gave her the finger… my mother … I remember my pre-freedom years, she had so much power over me. But now I’m free, free from her greedy, grasping claws forever … freeeeee.

The diary of a mad man - 30th January

They call me ‘alakowe’ or the gentleman, that’s what they call me to my face anyway, but when I’m not there they call me ‘were’ and ‘asinwin’. The old women hiss and sigh deeply “… and he’s someone’s child, mmm, were dun wo l’oja, ko se bi l’omo (literally: watching a madman in the market can be entertaining but it’s not entertaining to have a child who is stark, raving mad).”

The young women sigh and avert their eyes from my dangling member, they sigh over my tall physique, I can almost hear them sighing
“What a bloody waste!” and I smile and I laugh and laugh

The pity me, you can see it in their stance, the look in their eyes, they pity me … they look at my dirty and naked body, my filthy matted hair, my wild eyes, my yellowing teeth and shake their head. But I laugh, I look at them and laugh long and hard, I laugh my wildest and throatiest laughter because I am free… and they are not.

Writing this diary is actually one of my whims, something I just decided to do, and I think it’s kind of interesting you know. Sometimes I just get a bee in my bonnet … actually, I permanently have a bee in my bonnet … and I laugh at my own jokes and laugh, and of course, they give me a wide berth which makes me laugh harder…
My getting this pen and book to write with happened quite by accident … there’s this Ibo boy who sells secondhand books.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What friendship is … NOT

I read articles on how I’m supposed to behave, because I don’t give a flick about what people think about me, but I do care about not hurting others.
I read articles on psychology to check if I’ve not totally crossed the line which divides sanity (a.k.a. boringness) and total insanity (a.k.a. stripping naked on the road – an interesting idea really).
I read articles on personalities, to be sure I am not the only one with a personality disorder.
I read articles on love (identifying it, difference between love/lust/infatuation) so that each time I lose my head over another loser, I will be able to identify my feelings as infatuation and move on. I have read articles on friendship, singlehood, parenthood, fatherhood (yep because I have to be mum and dad, now I’m supermom!) … I’ve read practically every topic under the sun for various reasons (and some for none!).
Each of these articles try to tell me how to live, what to wear, what’s hot and what’s not. Sometimes there’s so much information flowing through my brains I just shut down! Anyway, my revenge on the world is this article on what friendship is not.
Actually this is more about talking to myself than anybody else, these are the rules I believe I should follow if I’m to have friends and not die a friendless old maid (although the old maid side will probably not change!) So here we go

Friendship is not

A ship – although the word is made up of friend and ship, the ship part is definitely not true. I know some of my friends who can compete with a ship when it comes to their girth (I mean their waistline), but really they ARE NOT SHIPS. You are not to board them and expect to be entertained (this seems to be what all that we want these days, to be ENTERTAINED). Well I’m sorry to disappoint you, your friend is not D’banj (you should be so lucky), so sentences like “oh she’s sooo booring”, “Don’t you ever do anything else but read/watch videos/surf the net/ beat your …em?” etc. does not apply

Fun: Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying friendship shouldn’t be fun, but I’d be careful when all my friends “just wanna have fuun!”. Go clubbing, go swimming, laugh, laugh, laugh, screeeeeeeeeam, gossip, feel better than everybody else, get high, get laid, look down on anybody unlucky enough not to be included in your circle of (myopic and silly) friends … nah friendship is not all about fun. Friendship should be serious too you know, when you get to discuss matters of grave importance (like the kind of clothes you should wear to church on Sunday). Friendship is actually a lot of work, sweat, tears, rage. You invest your time, money and emotions in it.

Cheap: this is a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again. Friendship is COSTLY, it is VERY expensive and not only in monetary terms. It will cost you your time, emotions and money, and what do you reap? Fierce loyalty. If you cannot do anything for anybody, give anything to anybody; help anybody … that your selfish body will continue feeding on itself.

Have I tortured you enough? I can actually go on and on, but I think I’d better save the rest for another day.

Monday, January 19, 2009

ENVIRONMENTAL AKALISM (I)

In spite of my outward show of being a romantic, of believing in ‘happily-ever-after’. In spite of the fact that I tend to view the world through rose colored lenses and stubbornly believe in basic human goodness. In spite of the fact that I am a dreamer and I don’t believe in the word ‘impossible’, I can be a level headed, cold eyed realist … this is the other extreme of my personality which I don’t allow to take total control of me. My bitchy, ‘never-say-die’ side, that side of me which drives me to excel at whatever I lay my hands on, that part of me which can be totally ruthless, callous and calculating.

That part of me that can look at situations dispassionately is what I use to look at my beloved country, Nigeria. I KNOW all the problems we have, I LIVE these problems with every air I draw into my lungs.

I wake up in the middle of the night and the problem hits me as oppressive, relentless heat and mutant mosquitoes. I PAY for the problems when I go shopping, when I pay my over inflated bills, when I try to buy the basic necessities of life. I INHALE the problem when I pass by gigantic heaps of refuse by the roadside. I’m EMBARRASED by the problem when I hear about another “pellow Nigerian” scamming someone from England or America (as if they don’t have enough scammers over there already!).

I get MAD at the problems when I hear or read about another method the Nigerian government has just invented to squander the money which rightfully belongs to the Niger Deltans. I HISS at the problem, when I encounter our men in uniform, who have sworn ‘to serve’ and ‘protect’ collecting 20 naira ‘offerings’ from commercial motorists.

I laugh at the problem when I see the idiocy of the people who have been forced over us by the ‘powers that be’ (e.g. ENVIRONMENTAL AKALISM, read part II and you MIGHT be able to understand what this means, I’m yet to figure it out myself). I WEEP for the problem when I see another mother and child dying due to the failure of the Nigerian government to provide basic amenities and infrastructures for its ‘fiffle’, when I see another demonstration of the “Don’t give a *&^n! Wether y’all live or die! I’m here to chop all the money till I quench!” Attitude of our so-called leaders.

So nobody should talk to me about the PROBLEMS confronting Nigeria. I’ve heard the country being described as ‘dead’, a failed state, moribund, hopeless, helpless, god-forsaken and other epithets and, honestly, I am sick and tired of these descriptions.

I will be the first one to admit that this country is sick and desperately in need of resuscitation, but I don’t want to hear another word about the ills, all I want to talk about now … all I want to DO now is find a way forward.

Since not all of us have dual citizenship or can apply for asylum (under any flimsy pretext), bully, beg, scam, marry or simply buy our way out of this country. Not all of us have the temperament to live as second class citizens or fugitives in somebody else’s country. And even if we’re willing to do any or all of the above, not all of us can get out of this country, I believe the only thing to do is find solutions to the problems besetting this country, after all we’re at rock bottom now and the only way out is UP. I strongly believe the only thing we can do is CHANGE.

I’m not talking about mass rallies, or the ‘miseducation’ of our people, I mean change that happens within individuals, when we change then we can change our environment. At this point in time, we have no other choice but to change

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nigerian men in uniform are INSANE!!!

I woke up this morning and prepared myself and my son without an inkling of what was happen to me. I have heard about the insanity of Nigerian men in uniform, I have read about it, I have witnessed it, it has happened to my friends or friends of friends, but this morning I had a first hand taste of the insanity which seems to dodge our men in uniform and I’m convinced that it is a powerful curse that has been placed on them!

There I was on an Okada, and down Awolowo Avenue, Bodija were the men of Road Safety Corps (they should be called the “road hazard corps” I swear) I groaned inwardly and wondered what they wanted.

My Okada rider,who was going on a normal speed slowed down a bit, then out of the blues came this guy, SO Olagunju, (who has obviously been watching too many B grade action movies) he jumped in front of the okada, grabbed its handle bars and threw the okada, the Okada rider and myself, on the road. With the result that the okada rider and I were underneath the machine! (He’s obviously on some kind of drug) We nearly fell into a gutter! I’d never been so furious in my life!

“Are you f*&^%$*& insane? have you f*&^%$*& lost it?”
“Look here madam…” he said, acting surprised
“Don’t you f*&^%$*& madam me, you this f*&^%$*& blazing idiot.”
“Don’t talk to me like that!” He said getting aggressive, he drew near to me and acted like he was going to slap me.

By now the traffic had come to a standstill and some men had gathered, as he drew near to me, they moved closer to him, I swear, they would have beaten that guy up if he had laid a hand on me. I could smell their frustrations, they were willing him to hit me so that they can hit back at him, because at that point he represented the system that has oppressed them for so long … and still is…

Then his superiors who have been watching from afar drew near and started apologizing,
“Don’t f*&^%$*& apologize to me! What if I died? Would you be f*&^%$*& apologizing to me in heaven or hell or wherever?”
“Madam, we’re sorry, please let this Okada rider take you to your office.” But I’d totally lost it, I was screaming and yelling obscenities at them. I insulted every single one of them, I insulted the government that gave them the power to become licensed lawbreakers, I yelled, I screamed, I was egged on by the crowd who were also tired of the bullshit … I am totally freaked out… even rite now …

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It’s a pareeeeeee! II (Burials)

For a whole week, nothing happened, no Ologi, no Alakara, nothing! Even the women who run mini supermarkets on my street were nowhere to be found … I got so desperate that I had to ‘import’ pap from my mom’s ‘adugbo’. By the end of that week I was going around bleary eyed because of all the noise, it was a full fledged jamboree … a minute of silence for the souls of the departed chickens, goats and cows.
I was so annoyed I couldn’t get my regular dose of ogi that I totally ignored the party, I pretended I didn’t know what was going on, which was pretty easy because I assumed that nobody noticed my absence, practically everybody was there, why would my absence be noticed and then …
“Anti Ayo!!! Where have you been?” a loud voice yelled from behind me, I turned around to see Mama Yinka, the woman who sells me kerosene.
“Mama Yinka, how are you?” I yelled back, “Gen-gen! You are all kacked up o, me I like this material you’re wearing, and the style na waya, this your gele sef, o ga o!” I also noticed that her bleached skin is yellower than usual, “So where are you off to this beautiful day?” I said
“That’s why I called you now, where have you been? We’ve not seen you at all this week.” She said obviously displeased she’s not seen me
“Me ke? When I’ve been looking for you all over the place, I ran out of kerosene a couple of days ago.” She looked at me pityingly, clapped twice and hissed
“Mchew. You’re not serious o anti Ayo, don’t you know that Pa XYZ who lives in that red house died?” I’m honestly sick of being told this
“We have been burying him during the week.” She said as if that explains everything
“So I’m not supposed to cook…” I said, this was a new one on me. She burst into laughter and locked up her shop.
“E woo, you these alakowe people sha, we are going for the shursh service now, when I return I’ll send some kerosene to you through Yinka.” She said waving at me… I am still trying to figure out why people who have so little waste so much.
By the time I got to my house about 5more people had hailed me “Anti Ayo! Where have you been? Aren’t you coming to church for the ceremony?” and many more questions meant to stir my conscience about my social responsibility … to be at the burial party…
Anyway sha, that’s the beginning of my romance with parties in my adugbo. In the past three years I’ve been able to deduce that the success of a party is measured by the following:
a) How many people attended the party? Woe is you if only a few people attended your party … people must attend from near and far, including relatives living at Fiditi, Igbeti, Igbo Eleerin etcetera who you only see at burials and child naming ceremonies. Of course how you guys are related has to be really hazy and of course they must stay for two weeks to ‘help’ you clear up the mess.
b) Who was on the bandstand? Is it Igi sekele, Taye Paso, Gigi N’jake Sarafa, Ayinla Koroko(now don’t ask me what these names mean, ‘cos I don’t know!)
c) How much was ‘sprayed’ on the celebrants by the guests, how much was ‘sprayed’ on the musician? And how much got into the pockets of the people in the ‘adugbo’
d) The amount of amala, gbegiri, ewedu and deep fried meat that was made available to the guests (now this is the most important part of the whole thing) so they can ‘je aje’yo, a o tun bu lo’le’ (that is eat in and take away)… a minute of silence for the souls of dearly departed …goats, cows and shikin!

It’s a Parreeeeeeeeee!(I)

Nigerians are well known for our love for partying, no matter how poor, oppressed or downtrodden we are, one thing we know how to do with flair is throwing and rocking a party. Chop, drink and quench… that’s why you’ll find a couple who’s monthly income doesn’t add up to 20k throwing a wedding party and inviting everybody and their cousins, and trust Nigerians, they will turn up, en masse (I actually stopped attending weddings a long time ago!). In fact some of them don’t even bother going to the church/mosque/shrine/local government headquarters where the wedding is taking place; they go straight to the reception…zat’s where it’s happening!
And the same goes for every excuse for throwing parties, child naming, burials (now that’s a reeeeeeeeeeeally biiig one), house warming, buyday(1st, 16th, 18th , 21st, 40th and every th’s thereafter), we even throw parties to ‘flip over’ dead ancestors! Trust Nigerians, everybody will turn out in their orange gele and green shoe and bag combo (no matter how broke they are!).
Why am I talking about parties? Well about three years ago, I moved from a very genteel and Ajebutta neighborhood (Bodija) to a big and rambunctious ‘Adugbo’(expression Femi’s). One of the best things about this adugbo (aside from my extremely cheap akomodashon) is the pap, I love taking hot, thick pap early in the morning, especially with pipping hot Akara. Unlike my former neighbourhood where everybody was too tush to be selling stuff like pap and akara, this one’s got my favorite breakfast in abundance.
My problem with parties started when one day I woke up and all the pap sellers were nowhere to be found, I rushed downstairs and walked up and down the street, nada… even the woman selling akara beside my house was not available … haba! This na disaster in the offing o! So I went to my next door neighbour’s place (Lanre, now that’s one character that will take a whole book to analyze) who kindly informed me that ‘they’ are throwing a burial party.
“Who are ‘they’?” I asked a bit bemused
“Everybody now.” Now I was totally flummoxed
“Who’s everybody? Does that include you and me? Because I don’t remember being told about any burial party.”
“What do you mean? Don’t you know Pa xyz who lives in that red building died?”
“So?”
“So everybody is attending the party and nobody’s doing anything until after the party.”
“I still don’t get it, and I’m definitely not attending a party that has nothing to do with me.”
“What do you mean by that? Everybody will be there…”
“When will the women selling pap and akara be around then?”
“As soon as the party is over…”
I said okay and made to walk away, “Wait Ayo, I still don’t understand you o! You mean you haven’t bought the Aso Ebi?”
“Mcheeeeeeeeeeeew! Whose Ebi? They are Not my ebi…”
“But don’t you greet the old man?” He said
“Oh so greeting people nowadays makes me their Ebi? Will I be mentioned in the will too? Wo Lanre, I’ll see you later jare…” I said, quickly walking off before the conversation degenerates any further.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dreaming

Floating on a cloud, I see myself as more than I am, I see myself up above, I see myself among the stars. I am doing what I’ve always wanted to do, I am doing what I was born to do, and then they came along, they pointed at my dreams, they laughed at my dreams, they said it can never be done.
Flying on gossamer wings, I reached dizzying heights, I landed on top of my mountain, I’m on top of my heap. I rock, I’m in charge of my game and then they came and they pointed and they laughed, and they said it can’t be done. “You are just like everyone else, you’re not special.” they said “get your head out of the clouds and accept you’ll never be more than what you are.”
For a split second I was dumbfounded, I stopped dreaming and sat down there. I looked at myself and realized my ordinariness, it’s true I’m just like everybody else, I’m just a bit more cuckoo, how could I have thought it can be done? Why did I imagine for a moment that I could make a difference? I should grow up, get a life and stop dreaming. These are my friends, not my enemies. They’ve had more experience, they’ve done many things.
Then I said to myself, why then was I created, to be a drone? Not to make a difference? I asked myself what’s the use of dreaming? What’s the point of God’s love, God’s investment in me?
Then I realized I need my friends as my enemies, they made me more determined to dream, to reach out for that which I’ve always desired, more, better, touching lives, making a difference, that’s why I’m me.
So I achieved all they said I couldn’t and reached out for more, for better, for best… and there I found myself floating on clouds, borne gently on the milky way, I’m a planet, I’m more than the eye can see…

Thursday, January 1, 2009

You wouldn’t know love

You wouldn’t know love
If it knocked down your door…
If it fell in your hands
From the heavens above
You wouldn’t know love… (Micheal Bolton)

I love jogging early in the morning, it helps clear my head and my body, enables me to plan and focus on my goals for the day…though I’m still a slightly chubby woman who behaves like a girl, has a tendency to bloat at certain time of the month, takes decisions with her heart rather than her head, can leave things as they are (laissez faire) but fierce when she wants something badly enough.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, I was jogging early Wednesday morning when I made the startling discovery that not everybody responds positively to being loved.

Everybody talks about loving and being loved, everybody wants…nay, needs to be loved. We all talk about it, chase after it, beg for it or try to buy it, but when it’s freely given, we get freaked out!

That’s when we put on our superior attitude. Me? You love me? How can you love me? Did I ask you to love me? Have I solicited for your love in any way form or fashion? Who are you to love me?

Underneath the ‘fronting’ is the fact that we feel unlovable. We’ve judged ourselves and come to the conclusion that we are ‘not good enough’. Instead of accepting love and basking in the feeling of being genuinely adored (not for our looks, money or social status), we try to humiliate the person who loves us, we disrespect them because we think to ourselves ‘how can he/she/it love me without any reason? I’m not good enough for that kind of love, so why should he/she love me? There must be something wrong with him/her/it, because there’s something wrong with me.’

We assume that the person is ‘cheap’ and does not have any pride that’s why he/she/it loves us, that he/she/it might even enjoy the humiliations we m├ęte out to them. The person becomes the butt of jokes or, worse still, an object of pity. We give them crumbs of affection, and condescend to him/her/it.

I remember someone that loved me like that once, he did everything in his power to show me that he doesn’t care about my looks, social status or circumstances and I did everything in my power to push him away… then he went away…now its my loss…

The conclusion of the whole matter… I’m not asking you to fall in love with everybody who loves you, just give them a modicum of respect, just avoid doing things to humiliate them, talk to them like human beings and if they start stalking you?...shoot ‘em down!

Self-worth and the Society (I)

Our society is made up of people in or who had been in our space at one point or the other. Our intimates, family members, acquaintances, people we admire, those that admire us, people in our neighborhood, colleagues, schoolmates, people we grew up knowing. All these people are interwoven into the fabric of our lives.

For every society there are rules (mostly unwritten) which guides the behavior of the individual. The society dictates what is wrong and right to us and without thinking about it most of us accept these rules. Some rules are the norm, they cut across every stratum of the society (there are strata). From childhood all these rules have been pounded into our medulla oblongata, thou shalt not – steal, lie, kill, covet, envy, take God for granted, diss your parents, for-ni-cate, thou shalt not or else…

Aside from the general rules stated above there are also different rules guiding different strata of the society, these strata are called classes. The classes can be broadly divided into the upper, middle and lower classes, this division varies from one society to another.
Within the classes are classes and within those another set of classes– ad infinitum.

These ‘classes’, in most cases dictate the way we perceive ourselves and others, they are like glass bubbles which allow you to see and hear other people without touching them. These bubbles confine us and our experiences within a certain limited space, denying us the freedom to BE. This is due to the fact that within the bubbles are ladders which everyone is scrambling to get on top of, basically because their experiences are so limited and boredom sets in, so a game is made out of being a top dog.

This is the reason, for example, a person who was raised in Mushin and had listened to Fuji and Juju all his or her life will expect to be bored at a jazz or classical music concert. I use the word ‘expect’ because the person has never experienced these forms of music before and therefore cannot be sure of how he/she will respond to it. The same can be said of someone who had lived a sheltered life (sheltered by wealth and affluence), the person cannot even imagine a music form called Fuji…