Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Depressing Nigerian politics, dreaming of white shirts,city life,supporting a bro & Ayoke slips away

I haven't posted on here in a while, partly because I've been so depressed by what's going on in the political space in Nigeria. A couple of months to the elections, concerns are already being raised about the credibility of the voter list, the dubious EFCC blacklist of people who are involved in corruption, including someone who has never held any public office but whose main crime seems to be that he is running against Obasanjo's daughter, and so on and so forth. I went against my better judgement to listen to Atiku at Chatham House, partly because I'd had a phone call from my mother, who is usually very skeptical of politicians (and especially Nigerian politicians) urging me to go, because in her words, "What they are doing to that man is so blatantly unjust" On getting there, I was struck by the polarization that was palpable in the audience. You were either for or against Atiku and they were no shades of grey. I looked at Tom Ikimi, Abacha's erstwhile Foreign Minister (immortalized in an irreverent advert sung to the tune of the TomTom sweet advert) as "the big fat man wey no get sense, na TomTom, im name na TomTom" during his glory days when he traversed international capitals defending Abacha's regime and cringed at being on the same side. Then I asked Akin Osuntokun (Obasanjo's political adviser) why Atiku had not been charged for the many crimes he was said to have committed. His response "There are so many charges against him" "Where have they been filed?" His response "Get out of here, you are a stooge, you are the people destroying Nigeria" So I slunk out of the venue, sideless and sank into a depression not helped by reading some of the pearls from the current campaign- Obasanjo on why the Igbo should vote for his party- "Any pikin wey Igbo woman born for me, I take am". Right, so acknowledging paternity of his children born to Igbo women is a really good reason to vote for his party. Then at another rally "The people who say Yaradua is not well, it is their heads that are not well" Charming. Two months to the elections, very little about what people will actually do to tackle Nigeria's numerous problems but lots of invective.....

Today walking to work, I bumped into a young man in a dazzling white shirt which took me back to my secondary school days. Someone had had the bright idea of making the school uniform for a bunch of active youth in a humid tropical setting white. So a large part of my time was spent soaking my uniforms in gallons of Parozone bleach (remember the white plastic bottles, anyone) and scrubbing at the collars and cuffs of my white shirt and the ends of the trousers until my eleven year old hands were blistered. I never quite managed that feat, and sooner or later, the pristine white shirts and trousers that my mother lovingly had made each new school year ended up nearer grey and cream than white. For some reason, seeing that young man in his gleaming white shirt which stood out against the coffee brown colour of his skin took me straight back to those years and watching enviously as the day students, who presumably had their uniforms laundered marched up the dais week after week to collect the prizes for neatest uniform....I'm still traumatized, I don't think I own a single white shirt now

I just finished The Yacoubian Building which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's not "high" fiction- in fairly simple language, the author spins out the stories of a handful of characters but succeeds in painting a really convincing and gripping portrait of modern city life in Cairo. It reminded me of Cyprian Ekwensi's novels about Lagos life in the 50s and 60s. Now who will be the modern chronicler of contemporary Lagos and Abuja life? Two books that lots of people were talking about when I went home for Christmas were Araceli Aipoh's No Sense of Limits and Kaine Agary's Yellow Yellow. Someone just sent me Yellow Yellow from Nigeria and I'm looking forward to reading it. I've also just finished Bittersweets by Roopa Farooki about a Bangladeshi-Pakistani family which was bland with a barely credible plot. I can only imagine that it got published to tap into the post Brick Lane market. Contrastingly, I loved Jamal Mahjoub's The Drift Latitudes which was in such elegant language and thought. He's a writer that I hadn't really come across before in the UK, but is half-Sudanese and based in Barcelona and has published six books and was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2005. This year, he's chair of the panel of judges for the Prize which has just announced a "partnering" with Georgetown University http://forums.booktrade.info/showthread.php?t=778

Meanwhile I got sent this link from a young Nigerian-American filmmaker who's trying to get on to a sort of Pop Idol for filmmakers and would like loads of people to see his short film and rate it so that he's in with a chance http://films.thelot.com/films/6287

By the way, I notice that Ayoke, whose blog Exodus I always enjoyed (even if I sometimes disagreed with it) seems to have slipped away silently from the blogworld- the Nigerian blogosphere is poorer

18 comments:

Waffarian said...

Just read a wonderful novel! just had to share, the novel is:" Zenzele, A letter for my daughter", by Nozipo Maraire. It is really good, I think you will enjoy it!Its about a mother talking about her life at the same time history, pre-colonial days in Zimbabwe, modern life etc. Lots of good-old African advices in that novel!

PG said...

Urghh, Waffarian, Maraire's book is the most ghastly drivel, really really poor, there is a passage where a man beats his wife in the 1960s in Rhodesia, and apologises the next day with a bunch of roses! That same man is later buried in an oak coffin....in the 1960s in Rhodesia...! And the "African advice" is straight of Oprah Winfrey! I am a Zimbabwean,and trust me when I say that that particular book is almost unknown in Zim, and with good reason. It is no "Nervous Conditions", for sure, if you have not read that one Waffarian, pick it up right away. Or anything by Yvonne Vera!

Naija, on Nigeria, keep your chin up, this too shall pass. On a more cheery note, you are going to be beyond jealous when I tell you that I am meeting the talented Mr. Majoub at the Caine Prize workshop next week.... :) :) :)

PG said...

I got carried away by my loathing of Zenzele ... Iwanted to say that I loved the white shirt story by the way, I could just see you with your peeling hands....longing to receive that prize......

Waffarian said...

Heeeeee! Chineke!Okay, I am going to look for them, but they better be good after the way you blasted poor Maraire! heheheheh! and yes, i am dying of jealousy! Please come back and tell us all about it!

uknaija said...

@ waffarian I guess I'll have to seek out Zenzele to make up my own mind- pg no disrespect intended
@pg-How dare you suggest that Queen Oprah is anything but fantastic...:-). And yes, I'm jealous re the Caine Prize workshop and waffarian is right-you must tell us all about it

Idemili said...

LOL @ OBJ's rhetoric @ why Igbo's should vote for him. Honestly, could that be any more stupid? It's like when people tell me "Oh, I've got a black friend, from Nigeria" and look at me expectantly, like I should break into a dance.
Oh, bless! I could imagine you washing your clothes with bleach. I have an 11 year old brother in Nigeria and that has made me really nostalgic.
Thanks for visiting my blog.

Jeremy said...

Ayoke's blog is still going - although she hasnt posted for over a month. If you tried her site from mine, it would have failed until this evening - a glitch in the url appeared when I transferred to the new google-blogger platform.

Chameleon said...

lol, parazone bleach. cant forget the strong smell. thx god now for lemon scented bleach.

meanwhile, i need a good book to read. any recommendations?

uknaija said...

@idemmili-thanks for dropping by
@jeremy- I notice you still can't leave messages on Ayoke's blog and a google search no longer brings it up, so I think she has slipped away...
@chameleon- I'd recommend the Yacoubian Building, assuming that you've read Half of a Yellow Sun. Or you can go through this list
http://uknaija.blogspot.com/2005/10/contemporary-nigerian-writing-reading.html

Bitchy said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog the other day.. Reeeally like yours!!

Did you not stay to hear Atiku speak? Friends of mine who were so vehemently anti-Atiku have begun to look into his side of the story now... apparently he had a lot to say that was far more impressive than Obasanjo's comments on the situation. I'm so glad you mentioned his Igbo child/woman comment.. I read that online some weeks ago and thought "What the hell does THAT have to do with anything?"

Ooh and another thing... Yellow Yellow is a painful read. It had all the makings of a great book but could have benefited from serious editing. I got half way through and decided I wasn't going to waste anymore time... it was really that bad!

Am now on Habila's Measuring Time, and so far so good! :-)

Omodudu said...

There are so many charges against him"
That comment would get anybody fired in a functioning society.
Thanks once again for coming by.

ABENI said...

Thanks for stopping by. I'm liking yours already... the hard issues, I see...More than enough to keep me busy reading all weekend.
Yeps, noticed Ayoke's blog seems to have disappeared. Sad...
Nigerian politics, I cannot comment, or else I'll be up typing till dawn.

Barbarella said...

Hello again. About naija politics, i have stopped all the sighing and complaining i used to do. I guess u can say it would be easy for me to do that since i now live in the UK. But the truth of the matter is Nigeria is going thru growing pains, like all other developed nations did. Go and read up on the of the history of the United Kingdom or America or infact just California. They all went thru their own brand of growing pains. How else will we appreaciate sanity if we have never been insane. Or good health when u have never been of bad health. Might not be in our life time. But Nigeria will get there.

kulutempa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chameleon said...

@uknaija: yep...ive read all Ms Adichie's books. Infact, they were signed personally her (boasting, i know)

will def make my way through the list.

thx!

xxx

Anonymous said...

Talking about books in naija, there is anew novel by a naija woman who lives in Dublin-Ireland, titled Teen Mums R' Us. Anyone read it yet? I visited her website www.carolazams.com, I think people like these needs to be encouraged. I would like to know anybody have read her books..

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I read with sadness - albeit wonders - that good people like you still spend their times and efforts concentrating news, insights, and discussions on internal affairs and ‘local championship’. Although, I am not a Nigerian, I admire Nigerians like the people who are behind the African Muslim Website www.esinislam.com because of their incise coverage of the international affairs.

The problems of Nigeria and Africa in general today is not internal politics. Whatever politics our people fight or kill themselves for do little to change destiny of millions of the Black people, especially their own as the world order is not made within their reach. Think about the UN, the IMF, WHO, Commonwealth, US, Israel, Palestine, Hague, G8, CNN, BBC, Ibadan’s Nigerian Tribune… Who really is in charge of how the Nigerians - sorry - the Africans are living? Shell or Dan Tata, Naira or Dollar, Obasanjo or Bush? Wake up! Get real!! Open your door for international engagements, insights, and informations.

My father who was serving as a pastor here in the United States before he returned to Ghana used to say to me many people don’t know who serve their meals. I couldn’t understand then. But, my world! How right a pastor. He also joked his Nigerian friends used to called Jesus Jesu but he could not find equavalent in Twi. Perhaps, the Africans are too lazy to pronouce Jesus. Thay are active to master English and therefore promote the heritage of those who enslaved them, chaining them and shipping them like commodities only to plant suagr cane for their…

Well, with website like www.esinislam.com - though Islamic and also available via www.islamafrica.com and www.islamicafrica.com

Wake up. Wake up Nigerians! Wake up Africans. Expose to a wider world. The problems today cannot be solved by talking only about ourselves. As African, we must see our problems from its ‘emanacium’. It is the international politics that define our destiny not local issues.

Thank you for given me this opportunity to contact you. I look forward to your response on this important matter.

However, I commend you for your efforts.

Kevin Kofi

Kemi said...

I hope the depression has been banished by more good books and visits to good restaurants. I live vicariously through you, Update please :)