Thursday, 31 December 2015

Books of 2015


Looking for Alaska
I read this book first in 2013. No exaggeration, I have gone on to read it at least another 25 times. I decided to review it this year only because it made more sense to me this year. It was written by the phenomenal John Green. It is a good story and when I get good stories, I don’t care about the writing or the techniques or any of that. Looking for Alaska is about a boy, Miles ‘Pudge’ Halter who leaves his home in Florida and attends boarding school at Culver Creek, Alabama, ‘to seek a Great Perhaps.’ He meets his roommate The Colonel, a genius, playfully enthusiastic short man. The Colonel names Miles Pudge and introduces him to one of the most phenomenal characters I have ever read, Alaska Young. Alaska is a beautiful, brilliant, unstable girl and she was fascinating while she lasted. One half of the book is intentionally, I think, dedicated to making us fall in love with Alaska Young and the idea of Alaska and Pudge as a thing, and then shatteringly, the second half of the book is dedicated to forcing us to mourn with Pudge and The Colonel, to appreciate the immense propensity of loss and the drive that loss creates. I hope I have not given away too much. Buy and Read Looking for Alaska.
Americanah
Yes. You are right. I reviewed Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie last year. But I read it again this year and I also read my review of it again and it seemed like I was incredibly unfair. Americanah is a brilliant book. It was fantastically written by one of the best in the game. The only part of it I did not really like was the end where Obinze went back to Ifemelu and she accepted him. Maybe we need more stories that have sad endings. I believe Americanah would have been better than it is if it did not end that way. I mean, Obinze was a married man already and Ifemelu had survived so long without him anyway. But generally, Americanah was a greatly written story of love and success. And I feel there is a lot for every reader to learn. Buy and Read Americanah.
The Martian
The Martian was written by Andy Weir. I read this book in a very busy December period and I managed to finish it in three days. It is fantastic. It is Science Fiction but it is Science Fiction that you can enjoy thoroughly even if you are not a Science Fiction person, it was recently adapted into a movie. It is about a NASA astronaut, Mark Watney, a hilarious botanist, who was left on Mars by his team when they assumed that he had died while they were evacuating the Ares III mission. In order to survive, Mark had to rely on his experiences in Chemistry, Botany, Engineering, everything.  I am not going to spoil it for you. I felt it was very brilliant of the author to speak in Chemistry and Physics and Biology yet make it easy for the non-physicist and non-chemist and non-biologist to understand and love it. The Martian was a great story and it was definitely among one of the most impressive novels I read this year. Buy and read TheMartian.
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
Permit me to Laugh Out Loud! This book is hilarious. I had heard of how impressive Lola Shoneyin’s writing was but this was awesome on many levels. I decided not to expect too much when I started reading it because it did not seem like a book I would enjoy. I enjoyed every minute of it, every second. This is a classic don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover (or Its Title). The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is about Bolanle who, despite being a graduate, opted to become the fourth wife of an illiterate Baba Segi. Obviously, she could not operate on the same wavelength as the other wives, their children and her husband. We learnt later on why she chose to marry the man and the secret that lurked in the man’s house. As the book unfolded in hilarity, it also unfolded in serious life lessons. I only felt that foul language like ‘fuck’ was not really necessary especially if we consider that it was mostly a family type book. It is easy to spoil this book for anyone who has not read it and so I will not say much. Buy and read The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.
I Do Not Come To You By Chance
I Do Not Come to You By Chance was written by Adaobi Tricia Nwabuani. The book is about Kings, a brilliant Chemical Engineer who wanted to work with a petroleum company. He sent application letter after application letter, went for interviews but remained unlucky, like many ordinary Nigerians remain. When his father got sick, he had to become closer to his uncle, Cash Daddy. After his father died, Cash Daddy, who by the way is another amazing character I read this year, introduces Kings to Cyber Crime. I am saying too much. I felt the book was a good read. However, I thought it could have ended better. The same problem I had with Americanah. Books do not have to have happy endings. I felt that it would have made more sense if Kings was arrested because, even though we loved him, he was a criminal for 95% of the book. I loved Cash Daddy. Buy and read I Do NotCome to You By Chance

The Whispering Trees
This book was written by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. It was dark in a bright way, The Whispering Trees. It is a book of short stories with each story being more interesting than the last. The ones I liked the most were The Garbage Man, about a young lady who stayed home alone most of the time and fell in love with The Garbage Man. She made him give up smoking. And I liked the way it ended and I feel we need more stories to end like this, ‘Amarya, are you alright?’ Tears were streaming down her eyes now and she tried to wipe them away. ‘Please, go,’ she said softly. ‘Don’t come back here anymore.’ I also liked The Whirlwind especially at the end when Audu said to his uncle ‘She should never wake up, Uncle. She is beautiful.’ He had killed her. LOL! Just fantastic! The Whispering Trees was also a great story. Buy and read The Whispering Trees.
Paper Towns
Paper Towns was written by John Green. As all John Green novels, including the one he wrote only 50% of, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which I am currently reading, it was beautiful in ways that was not pretentious and not arrogant. I love John Green. Paper Towns is about two characters who I think have the best names for characters in the whole history of literature, MARGO ROTH SPIEGELMAN and QUENTIN ‘Q’ JACOBSEN. Margo is a larger than life, weirdly intelligent young lady much like Alaska Young in Looking for Alaska but different. Margo, a month to graduation from high school, makes Q, who she doesn’t really speak with under normal circumstance; join her in a series of missions which culminate in breaking into Sea World. They are caught but Margo is able to wriggle them out of trouble. Anyway, the day after, Margo disappears much to the heartbreak of Q who had imagined a new found relationship with Margo Roth Spiegelman. The rest of the book is Q and his friends trying to figure out where she disappeared to and then going to find her. I enjoyed every minute of it. Buy and read PaperTowns.
Why We Struck
I decided to add this non-fiction book about the Nigerian Civil war because this year, I read more non-fiction than I did fiction and so it is only fair that I review at least one of those. Why We Struck is the story of Nigeria’s first military coup. It was written by Adewale Ademoyega. The coup took place on January 15 1966 and inadvertently led to the Civil War or Biafra war. The book was okay as an account of the Civil War and kind of an autobiography. It was vivid and deep enough. Although, in some other stories by some other people, none of whom were actually connected directly with the coup, the accounts were somewhat different, but generally, it is easier to believe this one because the author had direct involvement. I liked that the author never really strayed too far from the point. If you are looking for answers about the questions of Nigeria’s past, this is a fantastic book for you. Buy and Read Why We Struck.
And The Mountains Echoed
I have now read all three of Khaled Hosseini’s books and I can conclude that the man can weave a good yarn. His stories are mostly set in at least two continents, from his country of origin, Afghanistan, to America and back. And they are absolutely fantastic reads. In And The Mountains Echoed, there were several stories within a story. The stories were so real and so emotional. If you like happy endings and flowery life, it is best not to read any of Khaled Hosseini’s books and you better not read And The Mountains Echoed. The novel begins at a place called Saboor where a farmer has to sell his little daughter to a wealthy childless couple in Kabul. This girl had a brother, Abdullah, who she calls ‘Abollah’ and it just shatters the poor boy’s heart. I can’t say more, lest I spoil it. Just know that except for the next book, The Book Thief and maybe one or two others, I have never read a more absolutely heart wrenching book in my life. Here’s the poem that begins the book:
Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.- Jelaluddin Rumi.                      


The Book Thief 
The Book Thief was written by Markus Zusak. It is about Leisel Meminger, a nine year old and also about death, who narrates the story. Yes, the story was narrated by death himself itself. Leisel lost her brother tragically and arrives at her foster parents’ home, she was there mostly around the Nazi Germany era. Also, she is a book thief. She likes the idea of books but at first she could hardly read. Her foster father, Hans Hubermann, teaches her to read in time. While political tension intensifies, her family, very good people, hides a man called Max who is Jew in their basement. So the family is in danger most of that time. A lot of stories are told by death about Leisel and even death himself itself likes her a lot. At the end, tragedy happens. No spoilers. I loved The Book Thief because it was very different from your average book and also a lot better than your average book. Also, it is a very sad story. Buy andread The Book Thief.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Twelve Paragraphs, One Year




In January, you were invincible. You had it all mapped out in your head. Finish service July 2nd, do a little marketing for your book from July through to when you’d get admitted into school, perhaps September or October. And you have to get admitted into school this year because school is important, even if the entrepreneurship institute you enrolled into last November says differently. So you would study as hard as you ever had.

In February, you were calm. You met Elnathan John for the second time, he was awesome again. You met Abubakar Adam Ibrahim; you were captivated by The Whispering Trees when you read it for the first time. You were captivated by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, too. He looked like you imagined the writer of The Whispering Trees would look. You wanted to be a writer more than ever before. In February also, you were in love with a genius who liked poetry. You felt that she intimidated you more than she loved you. You had thought you read a lot of books but compared to her, you were a novice at reading. Like your last relationship, you began to look for ways to end it before it began. In Nigeria, the elections were postponed and the political atmosphere was so tense, you were sure a military coup would happen.

In March, you were disappointed. Your book was billed to come out that month but it did not. And so you were disappointed. It was not just the fact that people were not trustworthy that disappointed you. You realized also that no matter how hard you tried you were more tilted towards introversion than extroversion. This broke your heart into a million pieces every single time you thought about it. You wanted to be more outgoing. Your 2012 nightmare came back. Your ankles got red again.

In April, you were defiant. Your book came out online but since only a few people could access Amazon kindle, you did not say much about it. You started writing your second book; you titled it HOW TO BE A PERSON: A BOOK OF SHORT STORIES.  You loved the stories you were writing and you had a plan. When you finished the book, it would not be published in Nigeria and even if it would, it had to be a reputable publishing firm. The Nigerian elections came by and Nigeria won.

In May, you were relieved. Your genius girlfriend broke up with you and you were relieved. She loved Robert Frost more than she loved you; the only thing worse than competing with a poet for the love of a lady is competing with a dead poet for the love of a lady. We remain friends. You were relieved also because Muhammadu Buhari won in an election that was mostly peaceful. There were no backlashes. You found poetry more than ever before.

In June, you were humble. Your book of short stories was going better than you expected. You saw a theme playing out, and for the first time, you realized why you were writing How to Be a Person: you wanted to relive your Secondary School life, this time, as your characters; people who were more vociferous and overwhelming than you could ever be. You finished Looking for Alaska for the seventeenth time this year. You travelled home for your birthday and scaled the Mount Patti again as you decided you would the first time you did it in December of last year. You began to study in earnest for the entrance exam.

In July, you were happy. You passed out of NYSC. It was a hell of an experience. You loved every other second of it. You met people: smart, stupid, silly and serious. You made friends. You lived. You also passed the entrance exam you wrote and you were invited for an interview. You learnt that life is short.

In August, you were bored. After the interview in the first week of the month, which you thought you aced, you came back home and you were bored for most of the time. You continued How to Be a Person but you got stuck on many of the new stories. You tried to write poems but you realized the not so surprising fact that you were bad at it.

In September, you were confident. You had an entrance exam for anther school around the middle of the month and you were confident because you expected that there was no way it could be difficult for you. It was an English Proficiency Test and you decided that you were sufficiently okay in the English Language to score nothing less than an 80%. You did not work nearly hard enough for an 80% so your disappointment at scoring less than that when the results came out was surprising. But it was not really a bad result, you comforted yourself.

In October, you were worried. Based on precedents from past years, the school year was supposed to have begun in the first school and so when the month rolled through and you did not hear anything from them, you were worried. Your book of short stories could not have been going better so you drowned yourself in writing and intentionally locked away the thoughts of failing to get admitted.

In November, you were sanctified. You found religion more interesting than ever and so you studied the Bible and Googled about some other religions and decided that religion was fantastic opium. Indeed way better than ignorance. You got the admission in November and you were surprised by how, for some reason, it seemed not to matter that much anymore. November taught you all over again that life is short.

In December, you were peaceful. School resumed and so you were back to studying for the first time in years. You thought about your book of short stories a lot but you did not write anything significant. December is not over yet so you still look forward to the remaining few days, but so far, you feel that the year has not been too bad. The only disappointment was in your book release date being shifted and you got over that long ago. Next year will be better for you. Amen!     

*Thank you for reading my blog this year. You will be better than you are.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Thinking on Paper

I was thinking about being a good person. I conclude that I am not a good person because I do not know how to be one. But I am not a bad person either because... I have never killed anybody before. I have only ever blocked one person on Twitter. I used to think if a person could block another person on Twitter then he or she could kill that person. I don't think so anymore. That's quite a stupid thought. I have never even seen the person I blocked before, I blocked her because I was tired of seeing her nonsense tweets about how poor people deserved their poverty and how everybody that is poor is hopelessly lazy. And how she scored 406 in JAMB. And how she forgot serious money inside her bag. I felt bad for blocking her but only at that instant. I wonder how I would feel about her if I know her in real life. I'm just grateful I don't. I had blocked her before her rape story came up. (Just to clear this up, I believe the rape story).

I've been thinking about loyalty too, and how complex a subject matter loyalty is. Loyalty is an extremely complex thing. It is unfair to try and measure loyalty because measuring loyalty is like measuring kindness. It is not impossible, it is unkind. Loyalty is a kind of faith. I think It is wrong to try and measure these things because measuring them means comparing the measurement of one to another.

I've been thinking about failure. It seems like suddenly everybody has decided that failure is not really a bad thing. That's what I also thought. One is a failure only at the point of capitulation. But now I have reason to disagree with that. Failure teaches us lessons, agreed. But not everything that teaches a lesson is a good thing. Here's an analogy: The cactus plant is beautiful, everybody agrees. But it is only beautiful to the eyes, it is not so beautiful that we should start touching it. The first time I touched a cactus plant, I learnt the bitter lesson. It's spore (not really spore but that's the best name I have for it at the moment) entered into my thumb and for days, it caused me tremendous pain and itching. I learnt a lesson by touching a cactus plant but just because it is a lesson doesn't mean it is a good one. Not all lessons are good. Failure is an example of a bad lesson. No matter how much we coat failure with bright colours and call it success in disguise and call it an opportunity, it is still failure and nobody truly wants to be associated with it. I hope we never find a way to make failure seem like a rad thing the way we've converted the word bad into excellent. Failure teaches you how not to fail again, but it is still a bad thing.

Going back to the earlier thought about whether or not I'm a good or bad person, I do not think any human being can be intrinsically bad or even intrinsically good for that matter. I think they are very relative, these terms. A bad person is bad to you because he wants the opposite of the things you want. Say you want world peace or an end to communism, for example; the fact that you want that does not necessarily make you a good person, in fact, it actually makes you a bad person to the communist or the terrorist, because he wants communism, he believes communism is the right way to go. And because he believes his own God will be ashamed of him if he does not kill infidels and people who do not reason like him, respectively. Do you understand? This is kind of complicated, I have never really thought about it. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

Of Red Roads and Replica Streets

For the last 12 days, I have been in the Nigerian city called Ilorin the capital of Kwara state. I intend to spend the next few years of my life there. Incidentally, I was born in Ilorin. It is an interesting place, this city. Mostly due, as far as I'm concerned anyway, to the fact that there are lots of people who speak Yoruba. I've found that there's always liveliness wherever a group of Yoruba people are situated. Take Ibadan and a little bit of Lagos for instances. Maybe it has to do with how little Yoruba people think of themselves. It is a fantastic thing to think little of yourself and not take everything so seriously. Of course they fight sometimes, as they do in every big city, but they laugh at each other way more than they fight with each other and that makes things a whole lot more interesting.
The houses, most of them, are old settlements that have existed for many, many decades. The roofs are not as red as the roofs at Ibadan though, but they're red enough to certify the city as an ancient one. A little history tells that the city was discovered by the Yorubas as early as in 1450. it went on to become a northern Nigeria protectorate when a descendant of Usman Dan fodio took control of the city through the spread of the Islamic religion.
I was fascinated by the way many of the streets were exact replicas of themselves. It is very easy for me to get lost under normal circumstances, but it is even easier for me to get lost in Ilorin, and the replicate streets do not make it any better. I love the weather as well. It remindes me of schooling during my undergraduate days when in the harmattan seasons, pullovers were not thick enough but then during the heat season, simple Ts were hardly simple enough. Weather is something I hardly consider anymore, however. I've lived most of my life in an environment that has perhaps one of the harshest weather conditions in Nigeria. It is inhumanly hot most of the time. So I feel like I've earned an immunity to any variant of Nigerian weather by virtue of my being bred in Lokoja.
Another interesting thing is the traffic holdup which probably thickened the last few weeks due to general fuel scarcity. There's a difference between traffic holdup in Ilorin and traffic holdup in Abuja. The one in Ilorin is more peaceful. The horn honking is present of course but not in the loud irreverence that applies in Abuja and Lagos. When cars are stuck in traffic in Ilorin they stay stuck until the congestion reduces and movement is possible. Very unlike Abuja where drivers try to take advantage of tiny spaces to further compound the problem. Even the honking is less and you can think during traffic jams. The driver in front of you expects that you are sane enough to understand that there is no where for him to go, therefore there is no need to honk your horn and disturb the quiet and sanctity of the whole world. I love that about them.
Finally, in order for you not to get too bored, I find it very interesting and mildly amusing how there is always a tinge of red on the tarred roads. It is a signature, I believe. I know nowhere else in the world, on TV and in real life, where there is red on the black tarred roads. Although, you need to look a little carefully but it's not hard to spot. The roads have the color red in it, for some utterly inexplicable reasons. It is like something red is mixed with the solution that forms the tar that is poured over graded ways. Even if the tar is so extremely black that it shines in the sun, you would still find that redness that just sits and waits for you to spot it.
There is a lot I'm looking forward to in Ilorin. And I believe my stay would be pretty exciting. I like the way it is both a big city and a peaceful city at the same time. Usually, most big cities tend to lose their tranquility and placidity with time. It would appear however that Ilorin is different. If Lagos is like Abuja on Steroids, then Ilorin, from the little I've observed, is like Abuja on Ambien.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

This Past Week

According to the Merriem-Webster dictionary, rape is unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent.

There are two crimes which I think deserve capital punishment: Rape and Premeditated Murder. Unfortunately, in our world, rape isn't even considered a crime in many places. I read an article in an old newspaper about a man who, after being detained because he raped a woman, was released on bail and went straight back to rape the same woman. He got out of prison three months later, and you don't need to be a genius to know what will send him back to prison in another few months. We read these things on the pages of newspapers and they feel so distant; but they actually happen close to us  and the frequency with which they do are a major cause for concern.

Here's a scary statistic:

"A United Nations statistical report compiled from government sources showed that more than 250,000 cases of rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually. The reported data covered 65 countries. 
The attitude of the police in many countries often discourages victims from reporting rape: one study in Turkey (1999) found that 33% of police officers agreed with the assertion that "some women deserve rape" and 66% agreed that "the physical appearance and behaviors of women tempt men to rape."

This past week on Twitter NG, a story surfaced about a rape case where the victim alleged that the accused took advantage of her love for him and didn't just rape her, but also got his friends and family to do same. It was a very detailed account and very many times it was gory and unimaginable. Of course, as expected, the accused has come out to deny it and has said he is not and was never a rapist and whatnot. 
I'm interested more today in talking about reactions than in trying to figure out who is a rapist or who is not. I read some tweets and my heart broke. Even though it is difficult to imagine a human being do those things to another (underaged) human being, we need to understand that some human beings are not human beings, some human beings are monsters.
The thing most people seem to be forgetting is the fact that the victim at the time was just a little child: gullible and stupid and impressionable like all children are. How a man, an adult man has sex, consensual or otherwise, with a seventeen year old is beyond me. I don't intend to go into the illegality of having sex with a girl who cannot give consent because she simply does not have a consent to give. It really does not matter if she agrees or not, you are raping her because she is seventeen years old. But I digress, let's look away from that. 
There were a series of particularly disturbing tweets from an individual who claimed to be the wife of the accused, these tweets were disturbing because it was difficult to come to terms with a woman wishing that another woman would get gang raped. There is something very sad about it. There's a lot of talk in this century about making conscious efforts to attempt to subvert the patriarchal paradigm, but with thoughts and then tweets like that from a woman, I fear for our generation.
There's also been a lot of talk that the victim is concocting this rape story, that it all happened inside her head. Because of the antecedents of this victim, this is quite a powerful argument. However, tweeting about a JAMB score or jewelry is one thing, writing a detailed account of serial rape is quite something else. It shouldn't matter just yet whether she's fabricating her stories, that is not for any of us to decide as none of us were actually there when it happened. Or when it did not happen.

This past week, the drama in Kogi state happened. There was a lot politics involved, and that meant a lot of people didn't really grasp the whole idea. It was mostly sentiments flying about. And a little stupidity as well: like saying the best option for replacement is the son of the candidate who died; to borrow the language of a friend, that's quite daft. If we decide not to be sentimental about it, we would find that the situation is really not that complicated. The Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the country, already decided in 2007 during the Amaechi case that electorates vote for parties and not individuals, and we know that in order for the constitution to be adhered to, every governor of every state has to first contest in a primary election within his or her party and win. It is not hard. The problem Kogi has is perennial. And it stems from the fact that we are extraordinarily one-dimensional. Our thinking is conveniently contained in 'the box' and it doesn't bother us. 
I can't see any serious change happening in Kogi state unless we make conscious efforts to change ourselves and our thinking first.

Monday, 23 November 2015

There Are Levels To This

Prince Abubakar Audu died on Sunday. He was on the cusp of becoming the fourth (technically third) governor of the state. Okay, so in case you are not Nigerian, here is what happened. Kogi State, where I come from, had a governorship election on Saturday. It was basically a contest between Prince Audu (who is now dead) and Captain Wada, See my dry story. INEC, which is the electoral body, Sunday afternoon had announced that the elections were inconclusive. Make no mistake though, Audu defeated Wada, the supplementary polls which INEC announced would take place was merely going to be a formality. Until an even more breaking news came in: Abubakar Audu, who had more or less won the election and was going to be sworn in next year after the shenanigan of supplementary polls were over, was dead.
There are levels to this.
For a long time, I imagined fetishism as something that would not bother you if you did not bother it, if you did not think about it. During my undergraduate years, I had a neighbour who saw ghosts or, well, creatures (fictionally or otherwise) on a relatively frequent basis and every morning he would tell me stories of what he saw the previous night while he was heading back home from night class, I would nod and say wow! But inside my head I would say 'if truly you see these frightening things every night, man, you need some serious deliverance.' I think I still feel the same way now. Fetishism is a thing, there's no doubt about that, however, how much power do our minds have? I read Louise Gluck's poem, Saints, for the first time one Saturday afternoon in my tiny room in Abuja during my service year. I did not appreciate it much at that time. I just felt it was a good poem and that was that. I thought about it today when it was confirmed that Abubakar Audu had died in the most mysterious circumstance.
There are levels to this.
Normally, I would consider this superficially and come up with theories like 'he suffered from exhaustion. Because he was 68 years old and those campaigns were draining.' or 'he was poisoned by one of his political opponents.' But there are levels to this.
There is the superficial level which I would be content with sticking to but there is also the arcane level.
As governor, from 1999 to 2003, Audu was unapologetic in his mysteriousness. Calabashes with salt and red things were not difficult to stumble upon within the State which he governed. There were rumour about all sorts of human sacrifices, there were testimonies from people who refused to go to shrines with him.  There was everything in those four years.
There are levels to this.
In Saints, Louise Gluck talks about an aunt and a grandmother who were both Saints but found their ways out very differently. Below is an excerpt:
My grandmother's was tranquil, even at the end.

She was like a person walking in calm water;
for some reason
the sea couldn't bring itself to hurt her.

When my aunt took the same path,
the waves broke over her, they attacked her,
which is how the Fates respond
to a true spiritual nature.


My grandmother was cautious, conservative:
that's why she escaped suffering.

My aunt's escaped nothing;
each time the sea retreats, someone she loves is taken away.

Many times, these things are inexplicable. And so I am not trying to explain anything. This isn't even a theory. It is merely a thought. I do not know anything other than the fact that there are levels to this. May the soul of the dead rest in peace. May we never see the likes of it again.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Evil of Terrorism

Yesterday was Friday the 13th. Yesterday was maybe the worst Friday the 13th in history. I was asleep when the evil that happened in Paris, France took place which is weird because I hardly sleep early these days. I woke up to a vlog post by Hank Green, it was called Feeling About Paris. First thing I noticed was Hank who was not his normal fun, bubbly self in the video. He looked forlorn. And then I started listening to what he was saying and he was saying, "Good morning, John. As I make this video there are lots of people killing lots of people in Paris, France." And I was still smiling and thinking what the hell is Hank going on about? And I was thinking soon he would become the normal bubbly Hank and laugh sarcastically and say "it's a joke, John." That did not happen. It was a sad video blog and I guess it prepared my mind for what I saw next. Hank went on to say things like, "if only we had been the way we had been, the way I wish the world was, this shouldn't have happened..." "If your response is to disengage, that's appropriate, if your response is to stare at live feeds on Twitter and Reddit, that's appropriate..." "Hatred is not the correct response to hatred..." "The world is broken but hope is not crazy..."
Anyway, next I went on Twitter and it was a tweet from the BBC that read "At least 120 people killed in terrorist attacks in Paris." I saw first. Then I went on to see more and more and more.
I don't really know the correct way to respond to something like this whether they happen in my country, Nigeria, or in France or in the USA or in Syria or in Iraq or anywhere else in the world, so like Hank said, most of the time I disengage and try to imagine what rationale drives human beings to be so cruel and so utterly unforgiving to their own kind. Most times I come up blank and I conclude that it is just not the rational thing to do, laying waste to humans like you. It is barbaric, it is animalistic, it is senseless. It is evil in its most unadulterated form. Have you ever thought of it? Thought of the driving force of a terrorist? I wrote a short story about it once and, writers are supposed to put themselves in the shoes of their characters, I tried so hard to imagine myself as a terrorist but things do not work like that? It is one of those things that are impossible to know unless you are.
When Boko Haram terrorists laid siege on a boys school in Buni Yadi, Adamawa State, Nigeria; and shot boys who were sleeping peacefully in the middle of the night and killed them oh so cruelly, the same thoughts came: what on earth or in heaven or anywhere else drives people to do these things? These are questions that cannot be answered here by me. And experts may do their analysis and state their inferences but no matter what reasons are stated and how cogent these reasons are, evil is evil. I have learned that evil is a denomination that is irresponsive to country or race or religion or region. It is the same evil that makes Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria kill school boys in Buni Yadi and abduct school girls in Chibok, that makes Islamic State terrorists lay waste to innocent French people relaxing from a hard week on a Friday night in Paris. It is that same evil that makes a young seventeen year old white American pick up a gun and walk into a church where black people worship and shoot at sight.
I should address also some misled and utterly naive and unintelligent people who are saying that this is God's punishment to Europe for being western and being an advanced country. And the people who are saying that the attack happened because Europeans are being leaders of the world and are absorbing immigrants who have been displaced in the Middle East and in Somalia. And then the idiotic Nigerians who are saying Nigerian people who are concerned about Paris are hypocrites because terrorism happens also in Nigeria?
On second thought, I shouldn't address anything. There's no point.
I have nothing else to say. May God grant the bereaved the fortitude they need.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Aunty Meimu

When Aunty Meimu told you that she was getting married, you were happy for her because it is normal to be happy when your older sister is getting married; even though Aunty Meimu happened to be 12 years old. That day she told you, you had just returned from the football field and you had still been wearing your tattered Arsenal jersey, and your small toe had been hurting because a boy who was wearing boots had stepped on your shoeless feet. She was standing by the door and wearing her purple hijab. You asked her when and she said in two weeks and then you asked her who she was marrying and she said she did not know and even though you thought that this was very strange, you did not ask her any other thing.
On the day she got married, you did not go to the field even though your friends came to beg you to go. You wanted to see Aunty Meimu get married so you told them to go without you. Aunty Meimu did not have a wedding, she just got married. One man, whose face, like a child’s drawing book, was full of lines, came and took her in his car after he had given mother a bag of rice, some tubers of yam and a basket of tomatoes. You waved at Aunty Meimu as she left. She waved back and smiled. She was forcing herself to smile because aunty Meimu’s normal smile was full and showed all of her black gums, but that day, her smile did not even show her teeth.
It was exactly the way Aunty Meimu told you she was getting married that she also told you that she was pregnant. She was standing by the door and and wearing her purple hijab and was not really looking at you. You had returned from the field where you went to play football with your friends wearing your tattered Arsenal jersey. You did not hear her the first time so you said ‘ehn,’ and she said, ‘Hamid, I said I am pregnant.’ You did not know what to say so you did not say anything. You went inside and fetched some water from the pot and then went into the bathroom made of roofing sheets at the backyard to take a bath. Before you finished bathing, Aunty Meimu had left and gone back to her husband’s house. You decided you would go and visit her tomorrow.
The man with the face full of lines’ house was very big but also very crowded. He had four other wives and they all had many children and so the big house was, in a sense, very small. Aunty Meimu’s room was a small detached one behind the main house. It was a single room with a small bathroom. You sat on a chair and watched her. ‘How is the pregnancy?’
She smiled. ‘It’s just two months old.’
You nodded.
‘I think I will name him Hamid.’ She said.
You smiled at the prospect of having Aunty Meimu’s son named after you. ‘What if she is a girl?’
‘He will be a boy.’ She assured. ‘But if she is a girl, she will be called Hamidat.’
‘Aunty Meimu, how are you, really?’ You did not know what else to say and you had wanted to ask her that yesterday before she left.
She smiled that smile that did not show her teeth, the smile that she smiled when the man with the face full of lines was taking her away months ago; the smile that was not a smile. ‘I am fine, Hamid.’ Then she began to cry. You did not know what to say. You went to the bed where she was laying and tapped her shoulder. ‘Sorry, Aunty Meimu,’ Tears had gathered in your eyes, too.
The man with the face full of lines came into the room and asked Aunty Meimu what she was doing and Aunty Meimu quickly cleaned her tears with her wrapper so that the man would not notice that she had been crying. ‘Nothing,’ she said to him.
He told her to go to the kitchen that he was expecting his friends, so aunty Meimu got up and went to the kitchen in the main house and cooked. When the friends of the man with the face full of lines arrived, aunty Meimu served them. But the man complained and said the food was too salty and screamed at aunty Meimu in front of all those people and said aunty Meimu lacked home training and could not cook a simple dish for him and his friends. You tasted the food; there was nothing wrong with it. Aunty Meimu went to her room and cried some more.
*
It was mother that told you. You had returned from the field where you went to play football with your friend wearing your tattered Arsenal jersey. She said Aunty Meimu’s husband came while you were away and you asked if aunty Meimu had delivered little Hamid yet. But mother only shook her head the same way she shook it the day she told you and Aunty Meimu that your father had died. And you asked mother what happened and mother began to cry and again you asked mother what happened and mother said through her tears that the man with the face full of lines had said that aunty Meimu had died from childbirth. You did not know what else to say.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

On The Varying Shades of Introversion

After years of pondering and wondering and thinking about this thing, I have come to a reasonable conclusion and that conclusion is that I am not an introvert because to be an introvert, one needs to like one’s own company more than one dislikes the company of others. I have found that I dislike company a little bit more than I love the company of myself. I just feel that people want one to be like them too much and if one is unlike them the judgement is that one is weird or strange or wicked. Lol!
I am the type of person that can stay in my room for weeks, as long as I have everything I need in that room. During my Service Year, my neighbour and fellow corps member concluded that I was strange because if one is not strange, how does he stay in a room in the company of things like a TV, a DVD, a laptop, a few CDs and immense heat for one whole weekend, without coming out for as little as a good morning to his outgoing, extremely extrovert neighbour? The problem I have, actually, is what is the point of saying good morning to a person when the very next thing you will say to that person is another good morning some twenty four hours later?

Of course the word ‘recluse’ is always there for me to describe myself as but I am not a recluse either – I am not withdrawn from society, no. I relate with society even though I do this more for the purpose of finding new holes through which to mock it than because I actually want to associate and stuff. I think I found myself more during my Service Year than any other period of time in my life (thanks, NYSC!) Again during that year, I discovered how easily I could make friends but how much I resented doing that. I really do not think it is wrong to be my extrovphobic self, I just think people are different and we as society have a responsibility to respect these differences.

Also, I think modernisation is making society as introverted as it has ever been. In a social gathering, you find people fingering key pads and if you are like me and you were forced, in the first place, to go for that event, you start wondering ‘what the actual *&%’ we could have all just sat in our houses and had a group chat instead, right? I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and I was asking why he did not have his birth date on Facebook and he said he disliked the one day-ness of it all. You are the only person in the world for just one day and after that day, it is over, no one remembers you. And it was such a deep thing to say that I was thinking about it for weeks. How is that friendship? How are you, the extrovert different from me, the extrovphobe when the only time you speak to me, the only time you remember I exist is on my birthday and it’s not even like you remember me in the real sense of the word, it is Facebook that reminds you and even at that all you do is type some abbreviated shit like HBD and GGB and MHR and WULLNP and MMTYC and all those other variants of crappy abbreviations that I am in no mood to remember? Do you see?

You grow into these things, I guess. The other night, I ran into a friend’s mother and after pleasantries, she told me that my friend is back from school and I said ‘ok ma, I will see him tomorrow.’ And at that instant I felt displeased because I knew that tomorrow I was going to be on my writing chair throughout. We had been good friends, her son and I, and I guess we still are, the thing is it is difficult for me to just go. These days, honestly, I would rather you come. The same way, my cousin came to visit a few days ago and it was great. I want people around but not in a way that is clingy like button to shirt. I want you to invite me but I want you to be fine with it if I say no, I cannot come because I have something (nothing) to do somewhere (nowhere). I am not an introvert, really, because though, my company is interesting to an extent, there are companies that are way better than mine but I just would rather not have.

*Extrovphobe and Extrovphobic are not real words. *

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Curious Case of An Unfortunate State

Once upon a time, in an unfortunate State, there lived a bleaching ex Governor with a round head. Nobody had seen a single strand of his hair before, however suspicions were rife that he was balding. So he was a balding and bleaching ex Governor with a round head. He was a funny looking man, this ex Governor. He was short and round and overweight, so that he looked like a balloon with legs.
He was desperate, this man, to be Governor again, rumours had it: he had forgotten something important to him in the government house. The last time he was Governor, he was not an ordinary Governor, he was more or less a 'god-governor', god-governor like he needed not just respect from his citizens but worship also. He needed these citizens to sit on the ground if they could not kneel. They (citizens) immensely resented this fact and therefore voted him out the very first chance they got, and in his stead, they voted for a carpenter who had lingual challenges. This carpenter turned state Governor was at the helm for 8 years during which time, he executed a grand total of three (III) capital projects. i.e., in 2922 days, he successfully started and completed 3 'things'. But even at this immensely unattractive, undesirous and underachieving statistic of this carpenter Governor, he was still very much adored and praised and revered by the people of this unfortunate State as the most hardworking civilian Governor in history.

***

Once upon a time, in the same unfortunate State, there lived a short pilot who had white hair in his nostrils and white hair in his chin, too. He became Governor after the carpenter and, along with his utterly hairless deputy, did absolutely nothing for the State throughout his first four year tenure.

It turned out, as things always do, that the short pilot full of hair wanted to be Governor the very same time the balloon with legs ex god Governor also wanted to be.

People got confused because they were stuck with a choice between a pilot full hair who did, to put it mildly, nothing in four years and an ex god Governor who would probably sack everyone who refused to bow down and praise him and bloat his overinflated ego. An ego which, strictly speaking, had no right to be overinflated in the first place.

Some people wanted the god Governor because 'at least the infrastructures in our beloved state would improve', while others wanted the short pilot full of hair because 'why should we go back to the past where we would have to worship our Governor as if he is God?', and so they insulted each other  and called each other names like 'wailers' and 'chainji', whatever the hell those meant.

The most curious thing about this curious State was hardly the fact that they alternated between mediocre, underachieving, sometimes outright failed, leaders, but that even at this glaring fact, they refused to demand for more than they already had, they refused to elope from their immense, epic docile and compliant nature. It was therefore all too obvious that the real failures in this unfortunate State of theirs were not their leaders but the citizens themselves.

N.B. This story has absolutely nothing to do with Kogi State.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Meditations on a Morose Monday Morning

It is 2.30am and this is not poetry. I still suck at poetry. It is curious, this my sucking at poetry, it is curious because I actually love poetry. I love it the way cattle egrets love cattle, the way umbrella loves rain. I read poetry these days more than I read prose (I suspect though that this has more to do with my laziness than my love for poetry, but that is not the point.)

I've been imagining things.

I imagine that the only way true happiness can be found in this unfortunate world of ours is if every man marries a woman smarter than he is. I admit that could be hard but still. I dated an extremely smart young lady once. Our relationship did not last. She liked Robert Frost more than she liked me. Let me tell you something, The only thing worst than competing with a poet for the love of a lady, is competing with a dead poet for the love of a lady.
The day we broke up, she texted me a link to There is Another Sky by Emily Dickinson and then fifteen minutes later, she texted me, 'what do you think about the poem?'
I texted, 'I think it's brilliant.'
She texted, 'Yea. But what do you really think?'
I texted, 'I think it is really brilliant.' I had not read the poem. In hindsight, I maybe should have at least tried to read the poem, or at least be honest with her about having not read it. It is a fairly simple poem and, more than anything else, I think it is about hope, and that, I guess, was the answer she was looking for:
There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
The poem goes on.

She texted, 'You don't have to lie.' And I think the rest is history.

There is something about smart ladies that defies life as it is, that defies status quo. The world, just the way it is for rich people, is also for men. It is indeed a man's world. It is for this reason that I am impressed by women who are smart and make no attempt, subliminally or otherwise, to mask their smartness. I do not think of marriage too many times, but when I do, I absolutely cannot imagine myself being stuck with a woman who is not at least a little challenging. It will be like being in a prison where the air is slowly being suctioned out. It will be like dying very slowly.

I've been imagining things.

I haven't really written about this next thought anywhere other than on Twitter.
There is an increase in the number of light skinned girls and a decrease in the number of dark skinned ones in this new world of ours. I wrote this, Of Skin Bleaching and Bleached Minds, sometime ago, the idea was that ladies who bleach their skin were not psychologically confident enough in their own skins. I basically still agree with most of the argument I made there, however, I no longer think it is wise to blame ladies for bleaching. Many times, as controversial as this may seem, it is difficult to blame the bleacher for bleaching. It is society's fault. It is the society that erects walls for dark skinned girls because they do not measure up to the accepted standards of pigmentation. It is the society that tells dark skinned girls consistently, brazenly that they are not good enough, they can never be good enough because their complexion is dark. It is the music videos that glorify light skinned girls and vilify the dark skinned ones. It is the movies where the light skinned girl is the good person, the angel, but the dark skinned girl is the devil, the witch that poisons the hero with a love potion because she is not cute enough to be capable of holding a man's attention without a potion. The dark skinned girl, society tells us, is not beautiful. You cannot be beautiful and dark skinned. Think about it, who is the most extraordinarily beautiful lady you have seen in your life? Is she dark skinned? Is she? Do you think your idea of beauty has been skewed by popular culture? By society? Is your definition of beauty your own or society's?
Do you understand? Do you see how this colourism thing is a huge problem? This discrimination of the dark skin? Can you blame a person for preferring not to be discriminated against and so hurting herself to look acceptable to you and your society? Can you blame a non Roman individual living in Rome for trying to act like the Romans?
I will write more about this soon.

I've been imagining things.

The last fiction I published here was titled The Standard of Morality. The last two sentences were something like, 'Hate is not hate to everyone. To a few, it is only the proper thing to do.' I was reading through it again and I realized how true those statements were. Of course some people do not regard hate as hate. Some people regard hate as the right thing to do. Take Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel and his hate towards everything Palestinian and The Middle East other than Israel and Islam in the broader sense. He does not consider it to be hate, he considers it to be the only proper thing to do: Kill Them All. Kill the children and the women that cannot defend themselves. Netanyahu considers himself the Moses of the 21st Century. But what he's doing, it's hate, it's genocide, you cannot define it differently, no matter how smart you are or how hard you try. Do you see?
And this relativity of morality is something that can never ever change. Morality is not uniform, it cannot be uniform as long as there are so many different types of people in so many different types of places. People who think differently, who see differently, who behave differently. There is no uniform morality. There is no Standard Morality. And it is best to recognize this. What is wrong to you is right to others.
However, it is important to say, many things, many other variants of hate are plain wrong and there is no other way of looking at it, an example is terrorism.
I will write more about this soon.

It is 4.45am and this is still not poetry.

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Standard of Morality

You were seven and in primary two when you heard the word freak for the first time. You were in a secluded part of the playground and a football rolled towards you. You picked it up and you were tempted to begin to juggle it when a boy in Primary Six shouted from a distance. ‘Throw it,’ ‘go on, throw.’ Then, as if enraged by your slowness, he shouted, ‘Throw it, freak.’ You did not know what freak meant but it pierced you. It pierced like a hot knife would pierce skin. ‘Freak’ seared you. You threw him his ball and went to your class.
Your difference was a cloak that grew on you like age, that you had to wear everywhere you went. Schoolmates called you ‘albino’ and then laughed as though there was anything even remotely funny about the word. You grew up being called a freak; it did not annoy you as much as it enervated you.
You met Bimbo in SS1. She was, in terms of complexion, the stark opposite of you. In my former school, she had said to you, a boy as handsome as yourself would not be admitted, on account of your extreme, everlasting good looks.
You did not know how to respond. You did not know whether to be angry at her because it was an insult or to smile and say thank you because it was a compliment. You learnt, over the years, to understand Bimbo as that type of person, one whose compliments could be perceived as an insult, and whose insult could be perceived as a compliment.
I don’t get you, you said to her on an occasion.
I would feel extreme anguish if you did, to be honest. I am a monumental book of enigma, nobody ‘gets’ me. She said and smiled her half lipped smile. For Bimbo, everything was perception.
In Biology class when the teacher was discussing genetic disorders and he mentioned albinism and inexplicably said something in the lines of: You know, albinos exist; their skins are... The class thundered to raucous laughter. You did not know where to look. You felt like being swallowed by concrete, by quicksand, by anything that could swallow you, anything that was willing to swallow you. You finally looked ahead and saw Bimbo looking at you. She was smiling her half lipped smile and you hated her for that and then she winked a wink of camaraderie at you and you loved her for that.
The chief antagonist joined your class in SS3 on account of how he was unable to pass his finals in his last school, his name was Daniel. He was big and intellectually disabled, two qualities which were by no means mutually exclusive. He was told, on his first day, by the class master, Mr Olayemi, a man as skinny as twine, to put his locker next to yours, and quite openly and remorselessly, he said, No sir, I cannot sit next to an albino. Of course Mr Olayemi was hardly man enough to defend himself, talk littler of defending a poor albino like you. He said nothing and watched Daniel mount his locker where Daniel wanted to mount his locker.
Daniel settled in quickly, as people like him often did. The day after, you heard him talking to the class monitor: You guys better find a way of getting rid of that albino before he infects all of you.
The class monitor laughed. The boy is not that bad. He will stay out of your business. He is good at that.
I hate albinos, Daniel said.
I am here, you heard yourself say, stupidly, in hindsight. If you have a problem with me, I am right here.
He punched, he blew, he kicked, he kneed; he did so many things at the same time that you were on the ground before you knew that you were being beaten up. Yes, I have a problem with you. Daniel said before spitting a rich emulsion of phlegm and saliva at your cheek.
It was more painful because, in Secondary School, reporting a person was something that nobody did, it was regarded as sacrilegious, in fact. Of course, to you it made no sense because what if, like yourself, a person was consistently being picked on? It was Secondary School though, a place where nothing ever made any sense, but everything seemed just fine that way.
You found comfort speaking to Bimbo. She was ever-present and so you were immensely fluid with her. It therefore did not take long for Daniel’s angst to reach Bimbo. It was as though she was object of his rage by virtue of her association with you.
One sunny Thursday morning, a few weeks to your finals, everything changed. You got to school late on account of how you could not join the school bus because the new bus driver acted as though he did not see you waiting at the bus stop.
You knew there was something wrong that morning when you saw that some students, mostly juniors, were peering into your class through the glass louvers. In class, trouble was brewing. There was an extremely loud argument between Bimbo and Daniel, voices were being raised, passions were being stirred. And, most nightmarishly, the argument was about you. Daniel was holding a long plank and you wondered what he wanted to do with it as you went closer.
You need to stop defending that freak of nature, Daniel was saying.
The irony is the real freak of nature here is you. Bimbo shouted.
The next thing that happened was gory. Daniel raised his plank and threw it aggressively and everything stopped for a while, then there was a shrill of ‘Jesus’, palpable silence followed, the type that you could pick from the air and mould into whatever variant of horror you wanted and then there were cries and then the junior students who were standing by the windows vanished like smoke from exhausts of vehicles, only then did it occur to you that Daniel had hurt Bimbo.  
You ran to her. Blood was dripping from her temple to the ground. Her eyes were opened. She saw you and smiled her half lipped smile then shook her head in disappointment, before she closed her eyes. Even then, even as she was dripping blood, even as incertitude was slowly diluting the idea of her existence, she was still that Monumental Book of Enigma.
Bimbo survived. She was back in school in time for your finals, although with a white bandage bound around her head. As for Daniel, he was expelled from the school in a story that quite quickly became popular school lore. On the assembly ground the day after, yourself and Daniel were called out to the front. The principal went on and on about how the school would no longer tolerate any sort of dis, no matter how minuscule, against you on account of your ‘pigmentation’. He narrated what happened the previous day to the whole school as though there was anybody standing on that assembly ground who did not know the story even better than he did. He said the school administration had decided to expel Daniel because he did not measure up to the school’s ‘Standard of Morality’. You imagined, with extreme certitude, that had Bimbo been standing on that assembly ground, she would have burst out laughing. What the hell did ‘Standard of Morality’ mean? You wondered. Who set this Standard of Morality? Was there anybody standing on that assembly ground who could boast of being morally up to standard? Yours was a morally relativistic world; Daniel’s loathe for albinos would not change, could not change irrespective of what they did to him here. If anything, in fact, he would loathe more. You realized that the school’s Standard of Morality was but an unintentional burlesque. The Standard of Morality talk however worked wonders for you because, after that, the hostilities towards you muted into whispers. In life, you learnt, everybody considered everything differently. Hate is not hate to everybody. To a few, like Daniel, as unfortunate as it is, hate is only the proper thing to do.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Instagram

I don't understand many things. I don't understand smoking, I think it is unintelligent and obtuse. Intelligent people do unintelligent stuff.
I don't understand hide and seek, it makes no sense, there's no point to hiding because eventually, no matter how long it takes, you will 'un hide'.
I don't understand screaming. In my mind, there are only two valid reasons why anyone should scream, 1. You're dying. 2. You're being born.
I don't understand fashion, fashionableness, as far as I'm concerned, is relative. No one can possibly tell me what looks good on me.
I don't understand being cool. There's something not very smart about the idea of being cool. Cool, like fashion, is relative. Cool is something that appeals to kids, teenagers. If you are over 20 and you still go about hustling to be cool, please accept my condolences.
I don't understand Kim Kardashian, I don't understand people who sit in front of a television screen and watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians and actually enjoy it; then go on Facebook and add it to list of shows they like. I imagine that people like that are very likely to have issues with trust, weight, food and life.
I don't understand Rugby, overweight men jumping on each other so that, at the end, another overweight man can run with an oval ball and slide, like 5 year olds trying WWE moves 'at home'.
I don't understand gift wrapping, it just does not add up. I mean, what's the point of wrapping gifts when the singular purpose of gifting is to tear up the wrappings. I think it is unfair to 1. The gift 2. The wrappings 3. The unfortunate individual whose job it is to do the wrapping 4. The unfortunate individual whose job it is to do the unwrapping 5. The environment 6. Whatever it is that gift wrappings are made from.
And finally, I don't understand Instagram, and of all the things I don't understand, Instagram is the one I intend to talk of a little today.
Hi

I have never really 'gotten' selfies. I mean the 247 ones, when the only times you're not taking selfies are the times you are thinking of taking selfies. I understand how our minds need memories, and selfies, sometimes, some places, are fantastic ignition for memories, but still I don't get it. It is one thing that my mind has not been able to fully wrap itself around. I haven't been able to, on my own, figure out why people love selfies so much. I suspect, although I am not sure, that it is for purposes of self gratification more than anything else. I mean, there's probably nothing as self gratifying as one taking flattering pictures of one's self, lips pouted towards the heavens, for reasons best known to God, hips outstretched apart from the body, as if it is a separate entity and has a separate existence from the body. Narcissism, in my mind, is the mother of the selfie.
Now, Instagram takes selfie taking to a-whole-nother level. I joined Instagram at some point during the last year, I deactivated the account a little over a month later. Apart from the immense, absolutely unapologetic level of fakery that the Instagram app basks in the glory of, I feel it is also harming us, gradually but steadily.
These days an act of kindness is incomplete until it has found its way to Instagram. You are not yet a good person until you have taken a photo or a short video of you being a good person and have posted it on  Instagram and have embellished it with thousands of hash tags and have gotten a hundred oohs and aahs and 'you're such a kind heart' and 'it's so beautiful what you are doing for these poor children who can't do anything for themselves.' in the comments section. The danger in this trend is that the children who are being born into this Instagram and generally, social media generation will grow up imagining that kindness and thoughtfulness is incomplete without pictures on Instagram, without pictures on Facebook, without announcements. The moment one announces one's kindness, it stops being kindness, it becomes something different.
The next reason I don't understand Instagram is noise. Do you remember how in Primary School there was always this boy or girl who, during the holidays, had travelled outside the country and would not shut up about it? The constant waylaying of your eardrums with absolute nonsense about Shanghai's sunset and the people who do not speak a single word of the English language, remember them? Remember how they made you feel like tearing out your ears and keeping them in a safe place until you got home? That's exactly how it feels when Instagram users post a million pictures of arrant nonsense a day, each bedraggled in a million hash tags that have nothing to do with the stupid pictures anyway.

Fakery is important. It is important because the filters that remove all the blemishes on your face and in your life only exists on Instagram. If you are a shitty person, you are a shitty person. Instagram would only be able to change that on its app, not in real life.
Finally, therefore, more important is what you do in real life, what you are in real life than the make believe life that Instagram enables you have, that Instagram has created for your egoistic pleasure.

N.B. If this write offends you, if it upsets you, good. It's probably directed at your ego anyway.

Friday, 14 August 2015

The World Is For Rich People

The truth is, as bitter a pill as it is to swallow, one cannot blame the poverty of the poor on the wealth of the rich. Except in the rare cases where the politicians get rich at the expenses of the citizens of a nation, but that's a separate conversation.

The hash tag, #NigeriaIsForRichPeople, trended on Twitter this morning. I was interested in it because I have spoken/written a lot, on this blog and everywhere else I have gotten a chance to, about Social and Societal stratifications, the immense disadvantages of the rich people being so extremely rich and poor ones being so extremely poor, and both existing within the same space, and breathing the same air, and walking/driving the same roads.

In Abuja, where I have spent a lot of time in the last year or so, I find that the only sets of people that social stratifications occur to, that are conscious about 'classism', are the poor ones. The rich people do not pay attention to the fact that such a thing even exists. They mostly just drive in their exotic cars with their windows raised and honk their horns so the boys hawking air fresheners and handkerchiefs and breath enhancers or mints could get out of their way.

It is not actually intentional, this nonchalance, this unawareness of the rich. It is not something they wake up in the morning and decide. No millionaire wakes up at 6 in the morning and goes, 'You know what, today, the woman in the market who sells a bunch of bananas to me at 100 naira, will sell them to me at 80 naira even though I can afford the extra 20 naira and I am very much aware that she needs the 20 naira a lot more than I do.' No one wakes up in the middle of the night and says 'In the morning, I will not slow down where there is a puddle of water because I intentionally want to splash muddy water on the unemployed young man by the side of the road, who is looking to flag down a taxi because he has a job interview with a multinational company in thirty minutes; a job interview that I know he will not be successful in because my son also applied for same job and I'm friend's with the company's Director.'
Do you understand?
It is not intentional, this nonchalance. It is not intentional that a woman wearing a newly made fashionable, female agbada and too much make up, and who has car keys dangling from her over-bedazzled hands, and who is on the phone commanding someone to be at a certain place at a certain time, would walk right past the long queue in the banking hall, straight to the cashier; and the cashier, who has been ordering people not to break queue all day, would smile dumbly, like she has been tranced by some exotic potion from the fifteenth century, and do everything for this woman and have that miserable smile plastered on her face throughout the transaction. It is one of those things that exist because it is the way it is, because it is what it is. I am not defending over exuberance, I am not defending the wealthy, but the world is setup in a way that allows money to speak much more than the mouth ever can. Where there's money, the mouth becomes useless. We have setup society so that the poor are condemned, not reckoned with in any instance.

Solutions? Of course, there are always solutions, but the solutions to this immense degrees of inequality would mean tearing down everything we have built, would mean unlearning everything we have learnt. Would literally mean 'CTRL Zing' the world as we know it. Nigeria is not for rich people, the world is for rich people.
This is why I keep hammering on the next generation. We cannot afford to have them think the same way as us. It would be a travesty for social inequality, in such brazen manner, to continue up until the generation that comes after ours, it would be a disaster of giant proportions. We have to change things. We must.

Friday, 17 July 2015

The Hamartia that is Smoking

My favourite book of all time (this changes a lot), Looking for Alaska, had a single hamartia. Cigarettes! Everyone smoked in that book. Everyone. The only major character that was not a smoker was The Eagle. But if you think about it, he probably smoked in the privacy of his house when everyone was away, seeing as Alaska said one time,  and I quote: 
"He's just happy most everyone's gone. He's probably masturbating for the first time in a month."

I detest smoking, and that's smokING, not necessarily smokERS. I have found that smokers generally tend to be rad, - of above average intelligence individuals. So I don't have a problem with smokers, my problem is with the act of smoking. I do not understand it. I do not think it makes any sense. My view of smoking is perhaps mirrored perfectly by Hazel Grace's reaction to Gus Waters when she saw him pick a stick of cigarette from a pack and put it in his mouth in The Fault In Our Stars, my second favourite book of all time (this changes a lot!) here: 
'Then Augustus Waters reached into a pocket and pulled out, of all things, a pack of cigarettes. He flipped it open and put a cigarette between his lips.
"Are you serious?" I asked. "You think that's cool? Oh, my God, you just ruined the whole thing."
"Which whole thing?" he asked, turning to me. The cigarette dangled unlit from the unsmiling corner of his mouth.
"The whole thing where a boy who is not unattractive or unintelligent or seemingly in any way unacceptable stares at me and points out incorrect uses of literality and compares me to actresses and asks me to watch a movie at his house. But of course there is always a hamartia and yours is that oh, my God, even though you HAD FREAKING CANCER you give money to a company in exchange for the chance to acquire YET MORE CANCER. Oh, my God. Let me just assure you that not being able to breathe? SUCKS. Totally disappointing. Totally."'
Lol! The key word to point out there is "Hamartia" - A fatal flaw. And I really think smoking is a hamartia. No matter how cool and rad and intellectually blessed you are, you are fatally flawed if you are a smoker.
Did you know that in a population where smoking is common it causes:
— 90% of lung cancer;
— 15 to 20% of other cancer;
— 75% of chronic bronchitis;
— 25% of cardiovascular disease related deaths
— 16% of total annual incidences of cancer
— 12% of tuberculosis deaths?
Everything is wrong with smoking and there is no other way to look at it. It is a scourge, a murderer. It is like a prostitute serial killer that has sex with one before bringing out the sharp knife tucked under the pillow. I don't think smokers enjoy smoking because how do you enjoy inhaling smoke into your lungs? How? I have thought about this and I think it is the idea of smoking that smokers enjoy. The idea of 'yes, I have this killing thing between my lips and it is lit, but I am alive. I AM IMMORTAL.' The idea that smoking is cool, that smoking is what the 'fetch' guys do, it is what the cool guys do. It is how to be cool, taking pictures of you and your friends smoking and posting it on Instagram. Truth is, that idea is so twentieth century. These days, the cool guys read John Green novels and metaphorical poems, that is how to be cool in the 21st century. You are welcome!
 Till next time,, Stop Smoking!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Another Year.

Today, June 21st, is my birthday. I am thankful to God for this new year.
I went mountain climbing today and let me tell you, dear friend, mountain climbing is the best fun you can have alone. It is hiking, but it exhilarates a lot more. It almost intoxicates. And the air on top, the air on the mountain, it's so pure, so unadulterated... so airy. The world, this world is created so beautifully, so fantastically in a way that makes you just marvel in awe at the unprecedented profundity of it. The universe is such a beautiful place. Life is such a beautiful thing, such a precious thing. We all need, sometimes, to just stop and appreciate the beauty of this world. We need, once in a while, to marvel at the utter comeliness of this place called earth, this absolute pulchritude that God has created and has kept us in.The world, dear friends,is beautiful. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Residues of Kubwa Camp - Last


Kubwa Camp ended up being a fun place; it ended up being a fantastic experience that will remain engraved in my memory for as long as I live. I felt like giving up at the start, I felt like screaming back at the soldiers wielding their silly whips and screaming at me. I felt like strangling some of the people I met, people who were absolutely, unapologetically nutcases and murdering them. I felt like laying waste to the already dilapidated Camp Secretariat at times when I was told I would have to come back tomorrow to get this or that form or to sign this or that document. I felt like grabbing for the jugular of the sky and beating the shit out of it on days when, without warning, and with me outside standing on some miserable queue, it would up and open like some deranged sesame, and a downpour would begin. I got to my wits’ end very many times in Kubwa Camp especially during the first week. But still, it was a fantastic experience, one I would not trade for anything in the entire world.
After Camp, for my Primary Assignment, I was posted to a Pharmaceutical Research Institute. Actually, the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, the institute was located in Idu Industrial area, at poverty stricken Abuja. Idu was not very far from Abuja main town, in fact, on days of towering strength, one could walk from Idu to Life Camp, which is in main town Abuja. The fact that a place like Idu was located in Abuja was the first shock that greeted me. Idu is so irrelevant and minuscule, one could drive past it without even knowing it is there, and you should, too, to be honest. In my thoughts, Abuja was all mansions and paved ways and boys hawking fancy things like lavender face towels and short bread biscuits and Ribena and things. I was not mentally prepared for an Abuja where the roads were not tarred and were red and disgusting when it rained, an Abuja where there were more dumpsites than people, more little shops that sell tomato and pepper than houses, an Abuja where houses were made from mud and old aluminum roofing sheets. That Abuja was definitely not the one I had in mind on the day I collected my call-up letter and saw FCT. The trouble with Abuja, the biggest trouble with Abuja is that there is so much difference between rich people and poor people. The poor people are just so unfortunately, miserably poor; but the rich are rich in such brazen, in-your-face manner that makes you want to ask serious questions about inequality. I tried to do that in this piece I called ‘What is Abuja?’ Potentially, this trend is extremely harmful, especially for these rich people because a time will come when a rich man will blare the horn of his Chrysler Jeep in the ear of the poor man and the poor man would not have it in him to take it on the chin and would match towards the Chrysler Jeep and open the door and bring the rich man out and only your mind can complete this story.
I did not enjoy my time at the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development in the real sense of the word, mostly because a) I did not care much for the type of work they did there and b) the sheer drudgery of monotonousness. I got used to it at a point and I began to enjoy the idea of it but not it itself. And so it continued and continued and it seemed like it would never end, but now we are here! NIPRD only served, for me, as something to add to my CV, I worked at NIPRD for a year and I prepared lots of media and cultured lots of microorganisms and did lots of sensitivity tests - none of which gave positive results, by the way - and a whole lot of walking from the Microbiology and Biotechnology Laboratory on the second floor to the TB Laboratory on the ground floor, and a lot of confirming that people had Tuberculosis. SMH. The list is endless. There is time for everything, as people say all the time. My sun has almost set as a Corps member, and therefore also has this title ‘Residues of Kubwa Camp’, I could have written more, I just did not have the time, or I was lazy, or  both. Thank you for reading if you read. And if you did not, you should.
Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Blood on These Streets

Source


There is blood on these streets if you look carefully. Those who do not look carefully step on people’s blood as they walk. I think it is bad to step on people’s blood especially since they are dead. There are lots of dead people in this country: I think about that sometimes when I have not had food to eat in days. Thinking about it helps me not to feel too sad about having nothing to eat. How can I feel sad because I am hungry when people are dead and their bloods are being stepped on? This clime smells like smoke, like something that is burning, but we are used to it. Almost always, there are houses burning, cars burning; many times with people in it. Things are not too bad, although. On alternate days the big, white ‘UN’ truck that has a couple of blue feathers drawn under a net-like ball, bring us food.
I learnt about the UN from school. Our school is not the same as it used to be. A missile landed on it two months ago. On that day, I did not go and that is why I am alive. Everybody that went died. Their bodies were seared, melted as if they were wax from a burning candle stick. Talatu’s mother could not identify her. She and her husband packed an amount of debris into a wooden casket and buried it to represent her amidst tears and unbearable pain. My mother said that was also how my father was killed and was buried. She said some white people from countries faraway sent a plane with a missile where my father worked. The missile landed and even though it killed many rebels, it also killed many civilians, like my father. She could not find my father’s remains so she packed some debris into a wooden casket and buried it.
Our school is under a Neem tree now and our teacher is a woman’s voice from the radio, she calls herself Miss Kimberly. She teaches us English language and French sometimes and she tells us that the UN, who she works for, is trying to help us. But I don’t like this method of teaching because there are no rooms for questions. She has funny pronunciations and so it is difficult to understand some things she says. I wish we could get our old school back where we can ask our teachers questions and understand their pronunciations. I prefer our old school.
Today, for the first time in my life, I saw fear. It was sadness mixed with anxiety and then somewhere underneath, mixed with hope also. It was not exactly what I expected. I have heard a few times that fear is a bad thing, but when I saw it today, it did not look bad, in fact, it looked quite the opposite. It looked as though it had no choice, it looked natural, it looked pitiable, even. I saw fear in a photograph; a photograph of some girl. She was young, maybe four or five. They said she lived in one of the camps somewhere with her mother close to the border. The border is where the rebels and the soldiers exchange bullets and bombs on close to a daily basis. She probably thought the cameraman was one of the soldiers or one of the rebels or an assailant of some unknown variety. She raised her hands up in surrender and the look on her face was fear, defined. I wanted to cry not because of fear exactly, more because of what she had become due to fear, of what fear had turned her into. At first, she reminded me of myself a few years ago when I was her age. But I was never so fearful. It is not that I was more mature at her age than she is now. It is that the war has ravaged us so much that these days, our constant companion is fear in its most unadulterated form. It is that when I was her age, I did not know fear in the immense degree that I know it now. It is that those years ago when I was five, we needed not to fear cameramen imagining that their cameras were weapons to hurt. It is that our peace has disappeared and war has taken its place. It is that there is blood on these streets and children stepping on it.
***

The pictures above had such profound effects on me. I had to write a story on. It truly is unfortunate what society is doing to the children.

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!