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