Friday, December 14, 2007

A Music Review: Chrisette Michele

I sort of fell upon this artist by accident. I'd heard her popular single on the radio a few times in Philly - 'Be Ok' - and loved it. Had vaguely read about her on a blog and maybe a mention here and there in a couple of magazines, but nothing really registered. But just on the strength of how much I liked the single, I decided to buy the album. I gambled. I hadn't purchased any new music in a while, primarily because I'm not really keen on what's going on in the music space at the moment, especially in the R&B/Hip Hop genres. Now after playing the entire album the first time (and it's been on permanent rotation ever since), I absolutely looove it! Chrisette Michele is unbelieveably talented, in that rare but genuine way, and she lends an incredibly refreshing voice and style to the music arena at the moment. I'd even go as far as to say that this has got to be the best album of the year. She reminds me of a modern day Billy Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald - heart-rung jazz - but with an element of intense sweetness. She's young, fresh, wholesome and authentic.
All the tracks are fantastic, but my favorites are:
- Best of Me (track 4)
- Is this the way love feels*****(track 13)
- Golden*****(track 9)
- Be Ok****(track 7)
I guess I love this album, this amazing piece of work, so much because it speaks to my current state of mind; peaceful, renewed, confident, free, joyful, and almost in love..again...with life. I almost feel like I could have written the words to some of those songs myself.
I hope Chrisette Michele is here to stay. I wish her continued success. But please support this artist and go buy the album or download it from iTunes. You won't regret it.
Saymama gives it 5 out of 5 stars ***** :-). Check her out here.

Beauty For Ashes...

10.12.2007: My childhood friend and a former schoolmate, Tanwa, died today. I’m still in shock as I write this because it feels unreal that she really isn’t here anymore. When things like this happen, it makes me realize how I still find it difficult to grasp and understand the concept of death and that it is a passage that takes you away from your loved ones forever – in the earthly sense of the word. She was only 32 and left behind a beautiful 4-year old girl.

Flashbacks: The last time I saw her was back in January. She’d come to my house in Lagos with her daughter, Ella, to say hello. Before that, we’d spoken on the phone a number of times. We bantered back and forth for a bit, talked careers and caught up generally. It was the first time in quite a few years that Tanwa and I had spent anytime one on one. She looked fine; great in fact. She had on her signature long mid-back length tiny braids. It didn’t (as it usually doesn’t) occur to me that that would be the very last time I would ever see her again.

Flashback Two: I remember another conversation we’d had on the phone in the late summer of 2006. I was in London staying at our mutual friend’s, Funmi – another childhood friend and grew up together with. Before that, I hadn’t really spoken to Tanwa much over the preceding years. To be honest, I was kind of upset with her. I don’t remember exactly why anymore. But Funmi, as always, served as an intermediary and had mentioned to her that I wasn’t happy with her. So she asked Funmi to let her know when I arrive, that she would like to speak to me on the phone (she was still in Ireland at the time). So Tanwa called, Funmi handed the phone to me and she said to me (I’ll never forget), “Oremi, joo, ma binu si mi” – translation: “my friend, please don’t be upset with me”. I was totally disarmed by that as I didn’t quite know what to expect after not having spoken in quite some time. Ofcourse I relented and we squashed the beef there and then. The few times I saw and spoke to her after that, she would repeat it to me again, “oremi, joo, ma binu”. And I had to keep telling her that we were cool. I had looked forward to re-building our friendship, especially since she’d moved back to Lagos from Ireland and we would once again be in close proximity since we were both in the same vicinity again. I had also visualized it would be easier; so much had happened to us as individuals over the years and so much had changed. In her case, she was now a mother and a young woman coming into her own. In my case, I had matured a bit more over the years, on a continous journey of trying to be more patient, less feisty and learning that it’s the smaller things in life that matter the most.

She’d been sick since April and she succumbed to that illness today. She’d been between Ireland and the UK for treatment and I kept meaning to make the time to go and see her. But that’s the thing you see, time had other plans and couldn’t wait for me.

I’m so very sorry Tanwa, for not making more of an effort to come and see you while you were sick. You were in my prayers everyday, and I was so sure, on your behalf, that you would fight and overcome it. I was so sure. I spoke to Funmi every other week, staying abreast on your wellbeing and I believed in my heart that I would see you soon. I truly can’t believe you’re gone. But I know you’re in a better place; free of pain and full of peace. My memories of you are strong and vivid: that big smile and your very loud laugh....I promise, with Funmi and with everyone else that loved you so much, to help take care of Ella, and to help to make sure that she grows into the kind of woman that will one day make you proud. Beautiful, joyful, strong, accomplished. All the grand plans you had for her do not and will not have to change.

It’s my turn to beg you Tanwa. Oremi, joo, ma binu si mi. Sun Re O.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

American Gangster: A Movie Review

So I went to see American Gangster yesterday. I loved it. I've had some debates over this movie with a few people. Some thought great, others thought over-hyped, and another said he expected a bit more from it, given the story. What can I say. But my reasons for loving it are pretty simple. I thought the cast was stellar. Other than the big cahunas, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, I've long admired and followed the works of John Ortiz (villian of Miami Vice) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things and Naija brother) whom I've blogged about before. Given Denzel's versatile talent, I haven't, however, liked him in much lately. I didn't much enjoy Manchurian Candidate, I loathed Training Day, which he won an Oscar for, and I didn't bother to watch Deja Vu. But in this flick, I really do think he extended himself and was at his best here, portraying and humanizing the character of Frank Lucas. He trully made it his own. The other major thing that had me going was the lesson in economics, business strategy and supply chain management that I got from this movie. It fed my fascination for stories of enterprising and formidable individuals across different genres of life. Like Roger Ebert said in his review, if you take out the heroin element, this would otherwise have made a great business case for business school learning, entrepreneurs and business professionals alike. Brilliant I thought.
I think I've given enough spoilers to it. Saymama gives American Gangster 4 1/2 stars out of 5. I highly recommend. Go and watch it. It's out in London on November 16th and hopefully will hit the theatres in Lagos soon too.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Remembering Dame Anita Roddick - R.I.P.

Anita Roddick lived the type of life I'm seeking to emulate in many ways; not just business-wise, but ethics-wise also. I can't believe she died just as I was beginning to plot how I'd meet her and make her my friend :-). I have looked up to her since my late teens, just as I was discovering and harnessing my love for all things scented, lotioned and potioned. I remember by first visit into The Body Shop. I felt like I was in heaven. I loved the Body Shop (and still do) and repeatedly over the last several years would go in and could stay in there, sniffing, smelling, spritzing and rubbing my hands with everything in there. I would come out smelling like I'd emptied the entire store on myself. Reading her story, she first inspired me to want to set up my own bath and body line and store, not just to mix and bottle divinely scented soaps and potions, but to do it with a conscience. Profit, but paying it forward at the same time, job creation in emerging communities, care about replenishing the environment, caring for the oppressed and destitute, but above all living life with a strong sense of purpose, each and every day. Without meeting or knowing her, this is the sort of energy that she radiated and I had always felt infected by it.
I do feel her loss painfully. I had so many questions I wanted to ask her when we finally would've met, pick her brain, have her mentor me.
I have no doubt that she's resting peacefully, with a big smile across her face, a life fulfilled and well lived. A wife, mother, entrepreneur, activist, environmentalist, human rights campaigner. A passionate lover of life, all rolled into one tiny woman.
October 23rd of last week would've been her 65th birthday. Click here to read her husband's moving tribute and here for her life's story. *Sigh*


The Facebook Epidemic! Madness!!!! Is this a new age cult movement or what. Why is "everybody" I know hooked on this thing (my humble self included)? People are facebooking at work, in elevators, while driving, from crackberries, i-phones, etc. What are they (we) doing on it exactly? Creeping on people's pages, gazing and critiquing their posted photos, looking out for who next will have a cool or funny 'status' update and the madness continues. Check out a computer near you, "anywhere", and chances are that someone's on facebook. Apparently, Facebook's been around for at least 4 years, but I and I know a million others, just caught on to it this year, with more people catching on by the hour! I find that I can't get through the day without logging on to it. And if I happen to be away from the internet for any significant amount of time, I find myslef going into withdrawal. Literally! And this is something I've witnessed all my 'friends' going through as well. What has this bloody thing ( and piece of joy) done to us? Taking up so much of our productive hours during the day? In the age of instant messaging, text messaging, real time emailing, "telephoning" even, I find that people have regressed to messaging via Facebook instead. I rarely get direct mails into my email box anymore. The messaging has now been diverted to my inbox on Facebook. People have gone off instant messaging and onto Facebook messaging instead, which is not as instant. It's crazy and I'm guilty of it too. What's the world coming to? It's comical but fascinating nonetheless.
Facebook, from what I understand was a social utility tool that was initially developed for college students. The demographics have changed vastly since then. The age groups on it vary from teeny-boppers to college students, to young working adults, to even slightly older adults (they even have a group on it called 'Agbayas on Facebook', which I found hilarious). The interaction communities also vary from deeply Nigerian social circles (or clicks), to southern African ones, to Kenyan ones, to Indian ones and so on. I check out my neice's page from time to time (she grew up in Sweden and no lives in France) and her circles are hugely Swedish and French also and activity is specifially in those languages!
I don't know what it is, but it's interesting and it's fun. Aside from contributing grossly to the rising unproductivity of individuals, I notice it serves also as an amazing networking and marketing tool at no cost. People are using it as a means of promoting their businesses and some are using it as faceless means of garnering attention to their otherwise shy selves. But you go everywhere and people are talking about Facebook, cackling over gist of what so and so is doing or what they said on someone else's page.
I was aware of other social utility forums, such as MySpace and Hi-Five etc, which I ignored and once thought to be silly things. But I was at a dinner party a month ago and it came up in conversation, i.e. Facebook vs. Hi-five (or whatever). I quickly chimed in and said Hi-5 is a fake Gucci bag and Facebook's the new Prada of social utility networks. And it's true!
I'm addicted..and happily so. I wonder, where was this stuff when I was in college? I probably would never have made it to class!!
Mark Zuckerberg, you're definitely on to something here. You've single-handedly redefined the whole concept of "friends" and "friendship"!

Bode Agusto

Yes, I know, this is old news. But it still bugs me. I was and am still infuriated over the fact that his ministerial nomination for the Finance portfolio was dropped by the 'powers that be'. I'm seriously biased, but in a good way. I know Mr. Agusto quite well and have had the opportunity to work for him in years past. He is undoubtably one of the most brilliant minds to come out of Nigeria and in my view would have been the ideal candidate for the position as well as the ideal person to continue the reversal of decay that has plagued the finance ministry for decades. Bode is also frugal, to a fault perhaps. And as his reputation may have preceeded him before he met with the senators on the floor of the House of Reps who had a big axe to grind, because they know that he won't give anybody the opportunity to chop and unscrupulously 'reallocate' funds as they please. Nigerian politics at its best.
I still regard this as a huge loss personally and to the Nigerian economy. Does this mean regression is imminent, or am I over-reacting?

To brush up on this issue, here are some of the editorials about it: The Sun News and on Janada's blog.

More TED...

Another insightful talk @ TED by Ethiopian-born economist, Eleni Gabre-Madhin (click to watch). She talks about the new Ethiopian Commodity Exchange that she founded, the first commodities market in Ethiopia intended to benefit small farmers, create wealth and further tackling the issue of aid for trade. This further testifies to the ongoing brain gain taking place across the continent and people applying their skills to ambitious projects within their respective countries. It's still a long road, but it's an exciting time to be African (and female). I'm loving me some TED! It's inspiring to have legitimate platforms dedicated to thinkers translating their thoughts into action. Time for the disturbing images of Africa to be translated to healthy radiant ones. Watch this space!

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala @ TED

Feeding further into my passion for gender empowerment and entrepreneurship, and the fact that I believe that African women are the key to Africa’s future, I recently came across this talk that Ngozi Iweala gave at the TED conference that took place in Arusha, Tanzania, early in the summer of this year. In a project I developed and presented on for an old employer that I interned with in New York, many moons ago, I was trying to make a solid case for why I thought they should set up offices in Africa and do business there. I remember calling my father in Nigeria trying to get some help and input into it from him regarding Africa and the issue with aid and trying to get him to explain some of the long-standing relationships that a lot of the older corporations such as Coca Cola, Peugeot, etc, had had with Africa and why newer companies were so resistant to setting up businesses there in spite of the seeming success that those other ones had made. He was the one who said to me all those years ago that replacing aid for trade is the more realistic way to combat a lot of Africa’s core economic issues as well as embracing the risk with open arms. That was over 7 years ago and I remember seeing the look of light bulbs going off in the room full of American executives when I said this while concluding my presentation. To be honest, as a junior in college, I don’t know how much sense it made to me then, but I really did feel like I was on to something. So did they as well.
Fast forward to now. This talk by Mrs. Iweala puts a very interesting spin on the issue of aid and trade. Brilliant actually. Check it out here.

Cassava Republic

This is a fairly new publishing company in Nigeria owned by good friends Jeremy and his wife. They publish both new writers and reproduce works of existing Nigerian writers in the diaspora. I love the fact that in quite a (not so) small but significant way, they are helping to revive the formally vibrant publishing industry in Nigeria. The books are made locally available and a lot of book clubs and literary social circles are springing up all over the place in Nigeria, from Lagos to Jos and perhaps beyond. As a result, there's a refreshing reading culture taking place and Nigerians at home and abroad are loving the fact that they are able to read great books from indigenous writers that tackle issues of personal interest and relevance.
So check out their latest newsletter below; and also check out their website. Oh, and did I mention how much I love the name, "Cassava Republic"?

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Dear reader
Welcome to our November newsletter. As the Damina season slowly turns into Harmattan, what better way to avoid the dusty Sahara wind than to stay at home with a good book. This coming month, we're publishing an array of wonderful titles that we are sure you'll enjoy, or buy as Christmas presents.
As well as the new books, prize-winning author Helon Habila tours the following cities in November: 17th Lagos - NuMetro Silverbird Galleria; 21st Abuja NuMetro - Ceddi Plaza; 21st Keffi - Nasawara State University; 22nd, Jos - University of Jos, 23rd Gombe Gombe State University. We'll shortly be sending you more details about the tour.
Happy reading!
Bibi Bakare-Yusuf
New Fiction

Measuring Time by Helon Habila
Measuring Time is the new novel by Helon Habila, a leading figure amongst the new generation of Post-Abacha Nigerian writers. This is an epic novel charting the turbulent recent history of Nigeria through the eyes of a single family. Twin brothers, Mamo and LaMamo grow up in a small Northern village, with a philandering and domineering father. With high hopes, they flee, but only LaMamo escapes. He joins a rebel group near the Chad border and meets Charles Taylor. Mamo, the sickly twin, gradually comes out of his father’s shadow and gains fame as a chronicler of his people.
Measuring Time has a cast of memorable characters: the devout Christian Aunt Mariana, the lustful widows, a blind witch and her dog, a drunken cousin, two unmarried daughters of a white American missionary, and Zara, Mamo’s bold and thoughtful lover. Read more

Waiting for an Angel by Helon Habila
Through seven interconnected narratives, Habila provides a strikingly cinematic and hallucinatory account of the difficulties of life under the Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria. The central character, Lomba, a young journalist, languishes in prison as his world has slowly crumbled. While the guards sleep, he begins to write. His story spirals backwards in time, telling the tale of the residents of Poverty Street, Lagos. We hear of resistance leader Joshua, in love with a former pupil turned prostitute, of Nancy, who finds solace covering walls with graffiti, and of Janice, forced to marry a General. Read more
Visit Helon Habila’s website

Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole
Every Day is for the Thief is a striking account of Nigeria in change. Through a series of portraits of everyday life in Lagos, Cole provides a fresh and captivating account of a young man revisiting the city of his childhood.
TV presenter Funmi Iyanda has this to say: “Not since Frank McCourt’s Angela's Ashes have I read stories that make you want to laugh and cry simultaneously written in simple, powerful discerningly honest prose. I read everyday without pausing for breath and emerged satiated that someone has written a book that accurately reflects the tragedy and triumphs of Lagos, a mean task if you know how complex this city is.” Read more
A Tale of Two Covers
We’ve just reprinted two of our books.
Even though the demand for them was high, due to printing errors, we had to pull the books out of the market. Now we’ve redesigned the covers – see below (don’t they look irresistible!) For the 3,000 of you with pre-paid orders, you’ll be getting your copies in the post shortly.

Kemi’s Journal – Abidemi Sanusi
Kemi’s Journal is a sassy first novel about a twenty-something high-flying born-again Christian advertising executive who must reconcile her faith with a demanding career, pleasing family, trying to get over her non-believing, but adorable ex-boyfriend Zack. Although her faith is sometimes strong and can resist temptations and other times God takes a back seat as the arms of Zack appears more alluring. This is a bold, page-turning novel that tackles the moral decisions many people have to make about crisis of faith, sex before marriage, unplanned pregnancy and career with openness and maturity. Read more

Zack’s Story – Abidemi Sanusi
Zack’s Story, is the sequel to Kemi’s Journal. Here, we get to hear Zack’s side of the story: he didn’t plan to be a father, but now that baby Yanis is on the scene, he is determined to take parenting seriously whilst dealing with some of the dark shadows of his past. As for being a husband, he’s wanted that for a long time – but the volatile Kemi he loves so much doesn’t make it easy. And neither does the office temptress, Maxine. Then there’s a career to be built as a big shot corporate lawyer. Read more
Visit Abidemi Sanusi’s website

26a by Diana Evans
Diana Evans’ lyrical, enchanting first novel tells the coming-of-age story of Bessi and Georgia, identical twins growing up in Neasden and Nigeria, and the story of their mixed race family. Read more
We hope that there's something that appeals to you on our currrent list. For information about where to find our books, please email us at
November is a busy month in the Nigerian Literary calendar. Why not check out the following events:
The 2nd Northern Zonal Book Fair, 29th October - 2nd November, Abuja at the National Centre for Women's Development, Opposite Central Bank of Nigeria, Tafawa Balewa Way, Abuja. 9 - 5pm daily. This event is organised by the Nigerian Book Foundation. It will be attended by those involved in the book industry in the whole of the Northern region. There will be a series of talks, seminars, book signing and book exhibitions. For further information, call: 0803 379 4389.
The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) 26th International Convention, Owerri from 1st – 4th November, 2007. Contact Denja Abdullahi: 0805 786 8575
The Annual Lagos Book and Art Festival and the 3rd Lagos Comics and Cartoons Carnival.Date: November 9-11, 2007Venue: National Theatre, Iganmu, LagosClick here for more details.
Helon Habila Tours the following cities in November: Lagos 17th at NuMetro Silverbird Galleria; Abuja 21st NuMetro at Ceddi Plaza; 21st Nasawara State University in Lafia; 22nd, University of Jos, 23rd Gombe State University.
For further information:

Blogging Again!

I've been off the blogger circuit for a while now and happy to finally be back into it (blame it on Facebook!). I've had a lot that I've been meaning to blog about, lots of pieces that I began to write, meant to post, but never quite got around to it. Procastination is a disease I'm desperately seeking a cure from, so if any of you have any special potions out there to recommend, pls do!
Anyhow, please excuse the out-of-dateness of some of the posts you'll be reading, but since I had enough of an opinion to start to write about them in the first place, I'm going to go ahead and post them anyway! Some of them are issues that still bug me, a little :-)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Bidemi - A Poem

A toddler's beauty
ebony black glowing
the whitest smile
the fullest of lashes
biggest brown eyes ever paired
brimming with intelligence,
curdling with fire
tiny and belly-potted
full of love and affection
content with nature's simplicity
mangoes in their tree
mud huts and their thatched hats
Apata - a place called home
at one with God and his sky.

By: Me.. May '05

I wrote this poem a little over 2 years ago. It was inspired by this little girl, Abidemi, that I met on Erimo Ori Oke ( a prayer mountain) that I climed with my mother, just a few miles outside of Osogbo. I was so reluctant to go on that trip..I remember thinking to myself "this woman (my mother) has lost it". But that trip turned out to be one of the most purifying experiences in my life (and there haven't been many). There was this small village community up there..maybe a total of 50 people at best. Bidemi was a little chubby 3 year old daughter of one of the mountain keepers. And I fell in love with this little angel. She just clung to me and we had the most amazing little conversation in Yoruba. I loved her so much I wanted to take her back home with me and adopt her and just give her everything. I jokingly asked her if she would come back to Lagos with me and she said to me 'only if her dad could come along'. Can you imagine!! I found that to be so honest and mature for a 3 year old. I was amazed by how these people, who had so little, still had immense contentment. Including Bidemi, who juse seemed so content and on top of the world, literally, with her life. Even at age 3 she emanated that. She wanted to be my friend, but was in no hurry to leave her life or family behind. I got back to Lagos and continued to think about this girl, who gave me so much to think about. Life and contentment. What were those things exactly? This community have no light, no running water, just the clean air and a view to die for. Yet they all seemed to just get on with it all, surviving and living, joyously.
Thanks to the phenomena of 'gsm' which worked all the way up that high-a*s mountain, I was able to keep in touch with her by calling her mother's phone.
So since I wasn't able to take her home with me and make her mine (as crazy as that may sound) I decided that I could still adopt her from afar. I've continued to stay in touch and she has now started nursery school down the mountain in a small nearby village. I send her clothes and dolls and that kinda stuff and books to read (I even found some children's books in Yoruba for her) pretty regularly, check up on her schooling and things like that.
I just thought about her today and decided to publish this piece that I wrote. I wish though, that I'd had the presence of mind to have taken my digicam up there. I don't even have a photo of her. I was too busy kicking and screaming my way up the mountain. *sigh*.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Seven Things...

1. That I'm grateful for the gift of life, which I took for granted without even knowing. I have a new leash on life right now and won't ever compromise or take my health, or my happiness for granted again.

2. That deep down, I really want to love and be loved back in return.

3. That for the past seven or eight years, I've had a crush on one of my favorite mentors..(he may or may not be freaked out by this crazy revelation). He is 'the' most amazing man I know. "THE".

4. That I really can't imagine life without my mother. Not now, not ever.

5. That if I'm not married in the next two years, I've decided that I'm going to adopt a baby girl.

6. That even if I marry in two years, I'm going to adopt a baby girl anyways!

7. That losing my aunt to HIV late last year, really brought this epidemic home to me. It's still so hushed in our society and seen only as the 'poor man's disease'. The denial to HIV and AIDS in our society, especially amongst the elite is shameful.

+1: That it's important that one marries or ends up with the best sex they've ever had. The number of young African (Nigerian) women settling for mediocre or lousy sex in long term partnerships is alarming. Catastrophic even!

Thanks to Jeremy for this idea.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Lagos: The New York of Africa"

A friend of mine in LA sent me this article below. From the title, I started out to read this article thinking it would have some interesting things to say, like literally..'comparisons to New York'. But alas.....!!!! I'm so sick of these tongue-in-cheek negative and continuously insular articles written about Nigeria. Read on and let me know what you think. I have 2 words: Vanity Fair. But expect my retort on this shortly. In the midst of so much negative remarks and reviews rolling of the tongues of many about poor Africa or porr Nigeria and it's plight, part of my mission is to try to fairly highlight some of the "good" that does exist in our country and on the continent, inspite of the obvious setbacks of poor governance. Like Iman said in the current July '07 edition of Vanity Fair (a must check out), "I get insulted when I see only the images of our dying, our wars, our Dafur, our AIDS wictims...not our doctors, our nurses, our teachers...Africa must find its own saviours: the salvation of Africa is in the hands of African women."

More venting on this issue in a bit.

Lagos: 'The New York of Nigeria'
It is among the world's fastest-growing cities, at once a chaotic megalopolis and a thriving center of entrepreneurship.
By Robyn Dixon, Times Staff WriterJune 25, 2007

Photo Gallery
Exploding cityLAGOS, NIGERIA — Away from the noise and hustle and stink, the shriek of energy, the never-ending buzz that is Lagos, a man reclines on a gravestone, serenely reading a book.His name is Immortal, and he sells life insurance. He says he is waiting for an angel."I just come here to relax," says Immortal Emenike, 40, from his unexpected haven in Trinity Cemetery in Olodi Apapa neighborhood. "I like the serenity, the fresh air. It's very hard to find in Lagos." Nearby, a goat named Sikira nibbles on the vegetation. Outside is a wall of sound: buzzing motorcycles, car horns and traffic. Like many Lagosians, Immortal appears nonplused if you ask him what he loves about the raucous mega-city he calls home. He has a passion for Lagos, yet seems wary of questions, in case they're not kindly meant."Lagos is like the New York of Nigeria," he says. "It's a jungle where a lot of things can happen. Things that don't happen anywhere will happen in Lagos: the unexpected."Lagos is one of the planet's fastest-growing mega-cities, with people drawn not only from rural Nigeria but also from all over West Africa to hack out a living. Depending on your point of view, it's either a center of irrepressible entrepreneurialism or a nightmarish city of unplanned chaos, a cautionary tale on what not to do.No one is sure whether the population is 9 million, as last year's house-to-house census claimed; 16 million, as estimated by the U.N. Population Fund; or 17 million, as the Lagos state government insists. The United Nations agency has predicted that Lagos will be the world's third most-populous city by 2015, with 23 million people.It's not a place for the fainthearted. From the first wallop of steamy air on alighting from a plane, Lagos is a plunge pool of intense exhilaration, jumbled with measures of shock, frustration, rage and boredom. Despite poverty, intractable social problems, mind-boggling corruption and dire failures of planning and infrastructure, "I think this total doomsday scenario that Lagos is going to be this total Dickensian horror place is not right either," says Daniel J. Smith, a demographic anthropologist at Brown University. "Nigerians have lived with the failure of their government to provide leadership and infrastructure for a long time, and so they have adapted all these ways to make things work."There's this incredible ethic and tradition of entrepreneurship, and maybe that's related to living in a place where you can't count on the government to provide services and amenities."Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has argued that the mega-cities of the future will look like Lagos: chaotic and spontaneous with planning solutions improvised on the run rather than following some master plan.Even arriving can be a shock. "Lagos airport? In a word, don't," cautions the Lonely Planet Bluelist of destinations to avoid at all costs.Borne downward on the airport arrival hall escalator, international visitors arriving for the presidential inauguration at the end of May found themselves trapped, with a solid crowd bottlenecked at the bottom. They crashed into a wall of backs, tripped, stumbled, even leaped over the sides, literally falling into Lagos with a thunk.Then there's the metal jigsaw of rickety trolleys pressed around the baggage carousels and sometimes a wait of hours to collect as huge bags of traders' goods are unloaded.Outside, license plates proclaim that you've arrived in "Lagos: Center of Excellence." The jostling thoroughfares are much more than mere arteries for the choking traffic. The roadside is an open-air market, a car sales yard, a photo studio; a truck depot, pool hall, butcher's; a lumber yard, an office, a sheep yard; a place to hang laundry on the highway sidings, or to nap on any available surface.There are some sights that strain credulity: A city skyscraper just folded like a house of cards one weekend.Papered all over walls and suspended from any pole are advertising billboards and banners, as though the city were screaming out its own exuberant and often perplexing monologue: "Food is ready." "Slow down, bridge under investigation." "Plumber is here." "We paste posters." "Keep off the wall." "No parking no waiting no hawking." "Please pay your tax regularly." "Do not urinate here. It is prohibit." "Don't offend our ancestors with fakes. Insist on the original prayer drink." "Overhead banners are prohibited." "It is illegal to have anything to do with touts. You may end up facing various miscellaneous offenses."Taxis are plastered with biblical verses and homespun advice: "Love everyone Trust no-one." "Watch and See." "No controversy." Businesses grab attention by turning to religion: "God is Able Store." "Heaven Economics." "Miracle Outfits." "Divine Ultrasound." Then there are more the bizarre appeals, such as the "Peculiar Beauty Salon," or the "Cholesterol Hair Conditioner" found in some outlets.The exuberance is reflected in Lagosians' flamboyant clothing and the startling towers of bright material that women wear on their heads like flames of color. There are nightclubs where patrons fling all the plastic tables and chairs into the air when things are really humming.Taiwo Adeyeye, 19, arrived alone from the town of Ogbomosho in Oyo state in April. "I love it because it's a commercial city. It's a place where you get a lot of buyers for your wares," says Adeyeye, who lives in a room behind a baker's shop and walks all day in the sauna-like heat selling bread from a tray on her head."It's not really everything that I'd want," she says of her room and job. In the little leisure she has, "I just walk around the area. I feel good walking around. The things I see all around excite me."Smith, the demographic anthropologist, says that despite government failures and corruption, Lagosians have developed small trusting business networks, allowing them to survive and profit."People look at a place like Lagos and some of them think, 'Why would anyone ever want to go there, because it's so big and populated and there's so much poverty?' " he says. "But people are carving out a living better than they would have been able to had they stayed at home."People have managed to cobble together an informal economic infrastructure that enables them to carry out all these commercial activities somehow. Everyone's getting water for their homes somehow, and every business manages to hire a generator to keep their business going." Ezekial Charles, 38, a pastor and businessman who arrived seeking his fortune in 2001, sits in the shade of a tree surrounded by litter a few yards from a busy highway."I think you get used to it. When there's no light it sometimes is painful, but still I feel happy," he says, referring to the long and frequent power outages. "I love the population, the way business is flowing. A few people are honest, let's say a quarter of them. People here can help you and make life easier for you."Even the rich cannot escape the city's notorious traffic jams. But for the poor, opportunity knocks with every "go-slow." Buyers collect their purchase before paying, in case the traffic moves along. Then, according to local etiquette, it's up to the seller to run thundering along to collect the cash and give change. The traffic lanes are always busy with the sound of flip-flopping feet in cheap Chinese footwear and the shout of traders plying their goods.Everywhere there are entrepreneurial openings: Two boys put up a traffic cone blocking access from a clogged artery to a highway, demanding money to pass. When one driver refuses to pay, he and one of the boys scream at each other, waving arms and blazing with fury. Just as it seems someone will pull out a gun, the row abruptly evaporates. The cone is removed. The driver passes."Roads are the worst planning problem," Lagos state government planner Benedict Kehinde says. "I can say that there wasn't any planning. The government would acquire land, and people just moved on and constructed buildings, so it becomes difficult to build roads on that land. So you have to wind your way around the existing structures." At times the city is visual anarchy, with piles of uncollected trash, mountains of jumbled timber, abandoned car skeletons, tires. Lagos produces half a million tons of trash a day, according to a recent environmental report to the state government, and much of it is collected and dumped anywhere by freelancers.A train drifts by with people crowded on the roof. Traffic buzzes the wrong way up a one-way street, spreading across the lanes like waters in front of the opposing traffic flow. Lounging near two dusty outdoor pool tables on a recent election day, civil servant Kola McCauley, 30, waxes lyrical about his hometown."I love my city. I love Lagos. It's very lovely. The people, they're very intelligent. They're very versatile. They're very hospitable and accommodating," he says as a screaming match erupts between voters and polling officials a few yards from where he sits and police have to be called in.Mostly, Lagosians know when to stop. But not always, says Immortal in the cemetery, taking a break from his book."You have to be cautious all the time. Maybe I'm walking and I step on your shoes, even if it's by mistake. It can cause a big fight, and in the end the police arrive. It's because of the pressure of society."You see it every day. Things that should be cooled down are blown up like a volcano. The serenity here helps me to mellow and think of good things."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bookshelf Series - When She Was White by Judith Stone

What I'm reading now. I'm about through a quarter of it thus far. Not as difficult and traumatic a read as I expected, but heavyhearted . A book like this compells you to try to imagine the sort of lives some people have lived through and in eras of unfathomable sentiments. This book is about the lonely world of a South African girl that was biologically born to white apartheid-supporting Afrikaans parents, but who's skin was significantly darker than those of her white parents and siblings. It tells of the trauma she suffered throughout her life as a result where she was bounced back and forth, being classified and re-classified as "colored" vs. white, etc. Some tough shtuff I tell you.
I'll post a proper review when I'm almost through. But so far I recommend. Get a copy and let's have a banter about it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Genevieve Magazine: April Cover

Loving this cover. Go Lanre and Lisa! Genevieve is having a good month. Its covers usually tend to be boring with the color palettes used and uninspiring photogrphy. They do have the occasional hits, which makes you just wanna buy it before knowing what's inside, like this edition. I'm really big on magazine covers and I do believe in such cases you must "judge by its cover". A great cover is already 90% of the sale. It's a shame that more of this magazine isn't online for people who don't have access to a hard copy like Essence or Lucky. I never really cared or appreciated that until now that I find myself unable to wind down my window in traffic on Ozumba Mbadiwe and buying my latest copy from the running salesman (*smile*). These are some of the things that I trully miss when I'm out of Nigeria. It's only been a couple months, but it feels like a couple years :-(. How homesick am I........
Check out teaser-bites @ Genevieve or better yet get your copy in traffic if you can :-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Births and Babies - *Sigh*

OMG*. One of my best friends, A.K.* just sent me a text message today that she had just given birth to a bouncing baby boy. I stopped dead in my tracks when I got the text. A myriad of thoughts went through my mind. First off, I called her back right away, although I thought she would be crazy to be picking up her phone on the same day she gave birth! So I left her this garbled message, sounding all excited and not knowing even knowing what say. The journey of the last nine months with A.K.*, talking every other day or week through it all, still didn’t prepare me for the reality that hit home today when I got her text. Don’t get me wrong, this is not my first friend to have a baby. I have a godson whom I love very much; son of another dear childhood and long time friend. But for some reason, this does feel like the first time that this phase of life – marriage, motherhood, and compromise – is really settling in and seemingly here to stay. Being almost 30, or being 30 and over (the general age demographics of my friends and I), this is the likely reality for some of us. But of course, right? Another reality that makes me nostalgic (and this may sound selfish, though I don’t intend this to be) is that with the onset of this phase of life is the loss of a certain element of a once carefree friendship, where time and the spontaneity to do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted existed. Each time I send a good friend off down this road I’m going to call ‘reality’, I feel like a certain part of them which I had indefinite access to, is lost to me forever. I’m left feeling like I have less of a right to my friend – it’s a bittersweet feeling. Crazy sounding isn’t it? More than half the time, this is the sort of reality – the happily ever after type, a great husband or wife, cute fat children, the house on the hill – that we fantasize about, secretly long for even. And then some of it happens and you’re happy, but you’re left with this nostalgic feeling of loss. Contradictory, no?
But there’s nothing like the joy of watching someone give life and spend the rest of her life nurturing it, often at the expense of her own. It’s a beautiful blessing. *Sigh*………….

O Jesu, Take The Wheel

Predictable outcome. But I’m still in denial. Where on earth did they get the skewed high numbers in favor of the Mr. President-elect come from, pray tell? 24 million votes to PDP? Ah, ah? Who are we kidding here?
I’ve had a couple friends tell me to get over it and move on. Another friend said to me that in ‘his’ opinion, “the elections went well, commends Baba for a job well done, the foreign observers should go fly a kite and let them get their own houses in order before judging ours” [end quote]. I had to pick my jaw up from the floor. So after mulling over this for the past two days, I’ve decided, that I’m going to reject these results “and” I’m going to move on. In moving on, I will continue to be optimistic for my country in hopes that people can heal from this and let’s just see what the future holds in store. Baba had his way in the end? Or is the end not quite here yet? O Jesu take the wheel o!
More analysis in days to come.
Read this from Reuters Africa:

Monday, April 23, 2007

My Latest Obsession

I watched Dirty Pretty Things earlier today, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. I’d noticed him before in Inside Man and had read a couple of indie reviews about him. Back then his name caught my attention for obvious reasons (he’s Nigerian) and because of that I always give him silent props. But he caught my attention today with this movie. Yes, I know it came out 5 years ago and I’m only just catching on, but it was a “very” good performance. The story line felt very real and he was convincing in that role. So what can I say? I’m hooked on the dude. I wish him the sort of success that would earn him an Oscar in the near future. I believe he’s that good, and heck; I’m proud of the affiliation we share. Go Naija :-)

P.S. If you haven't seen the flick, go get the DVD.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

MTS Crisis

I was reading about this again yesterday. MTS under new management again? Fresh ideas again? Abeg. Who are we kidding here. The wise thing for the PTB (*powers that be*) in this company would be to sell off its assets, everybody split the money, go their different ways and maybe even start new ventures to renew an ego or two. Anyone following the telecoms industry in Nigeria over the last 6 years, and that of MTS’ most especially, know that this company has been hemorrhaging almost since its inception. Almost 2 years ago they hired an experienced squad to turn things around, which would have been a miracle by all accounts, taking the insurmountable level of debt, bad blood and checkered history involved. They came in and tried and obviously were stifled by even more red tape and anti-progress factions. The “entire” upper management team resigned! Doesn’t that tell you something? But the papers quoted the situations as
“industry players described yesterday as curious why an entire senior management team should resign in droves and for the board to accept such resignation may have been "a clear vote of no confidence on the senior team."
Sources were silent on what led to the resignation but insider sources explained that the team may have been asked to go "because the company was wobbling and if not checked now may not be able to compete fully in the emerging market and capitalisation process."

Pleasssse!! Give me a break. If the Dem and his team couldn't turn it around, I doubt that this new 'management' can! All I have to say us take a cue from the folks that sold out or 'recapitalized' at Intercellular. $258 Million. Enough to make any PTB in Naija happy I'll bet. Call me biased. I am infact.

Read for more info here:

Virginia Tech

This is just depressing. I can’t even begin to imagine the reality of this. You’re minding your business one fine Monday morning, going to school, trying to get a life. Then boom. A guy comes into your class outta the blue and starts spraying y’all with bullets. Ah ah? Na fight? Obviously! I think it’ll be insensitive of me to comment further on this, but my heart and prayers – truly – goes out to the families of the extinguished souls from this grossly unfortunate incident. But you know, life – literally – is so short, so unpredictable. God help us and also help the family of the poor disturbed kid who did this.

Nigeria Votes

What can I say. I’m nervous. Nervous about the elections tomorrow. How is it going to go, what’s going to happen? Has the fate for Nigeria already been decided or do those that vote actually stand a chance to decide that on their own? Regardless of those possibilities, we Nigerians owe it to ourselves to vote, it’s a civic duty that shouldn’t be wasted.

The list of contenders leaves much to be desired, but I’ll admit, I have been most intrigued by Atiku and all the drama that has trailed him to date. It’s also intriguing to me to see, that in a complex justice system that is often subject to manipulation by the powers that be, Atiku, still came out of the quagmire of tangled thorns; blemished and bruised, but still with a pulse. Take away Atiku’s checkered genesis for a moment, one cannot help but marvel, ever so mildly, at his relentless pursuit for justice and standing up to his boss and his powerful political machinery. And sure enough, justice was served and respected. That INEC would respect the last minute ruling without tossing it into tangled debate again, was a pleasant shock to me. That the judge did not disappear mysteriously as a result; even one of the toughest critics of the situation, Gani Fawehinmi, also said that though he disagreed with the outcome of the verdict, it nonetheless has to be respected and upheld. Hence Atiku’s name being added to the ballot of contenders to rule the rough but brilliant gem of Africa, yours truly, Nigeria.

Drum roll now for elections tomorrow…what is it going to be? I was on the phone a few hours ago talking to my mother, assessing and speculating on the situation and how the elections might turn out. I asked her who she was going to vote for and after a long sigh, she said “Nigeria needs new blood, new hope, and new direction.” Obviously, I thought. Then she said, ‘Pat Utomi I’m sure will be good for Nigeria, so maybe he’ll get my vote’. I was gobsmacked! I argued with her that why would she waste her vote on a guy that, yes, has an interesting ‘economic’ agenda, but doesn’t stand a chance. She retorted back that if enough people thought like her, the guy might actually stand a chance! There I was thinking, Pat Utomi’s complex English and Economics grammar does not sway me off my feet, how much more the average Nigerian in the interiors of Jigawa or Gombe? Is he speaking a language that they can understand or identify with? I knew that Pat Utomi was running; I’ve seen his posters on walls of bridges in Lagos, I even get spam mail from his website, but I never thought I actually knew anyone personally, who was taking him seriously! Let alone my own mother! I took it for granted that she would be pro-Atiku, sympathetic to his “cause” and all the fire-ringed hoops that he has scaled through (NINE COURT RULINGS), but such is not the case. Interesting huh?
I’m still not pro-Utomi or Okotie (*cough*), because I’m not sure of the sincerity of their agendas or feel that they have the necessary political muscle and fuel to really get across to ALL Nigerians. I personally find Mr Utomi to be brilliant, but bland and uncharismatic. But I have to say, mom’s got me thinking.

I know this may all sound contradictory, and somewhat controversial, but Nigeria is very complex and needs a person with simplicity to rule it. In my personal view, I think that Nigeria has too many different facets to it to even be under one umbrella of a country. Too many languages, too many ideologies, too different traditional beliefs, so it makes sense that we all find it very hard to get along and live as “one” nation. I’ve always said that when you force a large group of people with different backgrounds, issues and lifestyles to live under the same roof, how can strife and animosity not be the obvious end result? I’m of the controversial opinion that the ideal situation would be for Nigeria to be split into 3 or 4 smaller zones or countries, where everyone goes their way. Then trade treaties should be set up with each zone and everyone lives happily ever after. Or attempts to. Those who have oil sell it to those who don’t. Those who have gas sell it to those who don’t. Those who have yams and peanuts sell it to those who don’t, etc. So for example, if a Fulani girl decides she’s in love with and wants to marry an Ijaw man, then they do so ‘voluntarily’ and then choose to live under the same roof and raise their children as a ‘choice’. But this is just my fantasy. It’s not going to happen, so back down to reality. Here we are and we are stuck with it. So which way to go from here, my brothers and sisters?

Please vote. And we’ll take it from there.

Monday, February 26, 2007

..and she wins!

...and Jennifer wins the Oscar for best supporting actress. Absolutely deserved :-)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Intro to Blogging..via the Oscars..

Finally. I'm getting around to starting my blog. I've procrastinated doing this for almost 2 years! But today, I've decided, is the day.

So amongst the plethora of topics that will be graced by my commentary will be tonite's big thing. The Oscars. Pardon me for my mild enthusiasm, but this is the first time I have gotten to watch it live in quite a few years. So here, I get to indulge in my passion for fashion and film.

Tonite is Oscar nite! My personal list of favorite hits and misses:
My favorite nominee,Jennifer Hudson, yet my biggest disappointment is her dress. A miss. After all the hoopla and she ends up in that dreadful lifeless dress. That's what happens when you let Andre Leon dress you up. You end up looking like something short of a drag queen :-(. In spite of this, however, Jennifer still has my vote to win. And I truly hope she does.
Cate Blanchett - gorgeous grey glittery number.
Reese Witherspoon - looked glowy and confident. It's allowed after a divorce.
Kate Winslet - lovely in pale green.
Helen Mirren - one of the sexiest women over 50. Inspiration to us all to want to age gracefully and beautifully.
Beautiful and graceful and elegant Djimon African brother
Maggie Gyllenhaal - shocker - lovely dress. A sure hit.
I'll be back when Hudson wins. My bet. Care to join me anyone?