Monday, February 05, 2007

Nigeria-more than you think, Birmingham & other musings

It's a buzzy drinks party somewhere in the West End and I find myself chatting to this Eastern European man who works in investment banking. On learning I'm from Nigeria he tells me that he first started learning English using Nigerian secondary school English textbooks. Apparently, his uncle had been an engineer in Nigeria in the seventies, part of the stream of technical aid sent from Communist Eastern Europe to Africa to try and help establish the socialist empire there. His cousin had brought back his textbooks from Nigeria and so that was how he first started to learn English. He speaks impeccably, telling me how good the Nigerian textbooks were and I marvel at the connection.

Later in the week, I am chatting with some Nigerian friends when this Indian gentleman pitches up clapping one of them on the back and speaking impeccable Nigerian pidgin- he apparently grew up in Nigeria and speaks pidgin fluently. For the second time in the week I'm struck by the tagline on the Heart of Nigeria adverts which have suddenly appeared on the tube- Nigeria- more than you think! Indeed

It's been a fairly lazy weekend- I did have to go up to Birmingham on Saturday briefly for work and it was actually my first time in the city proper- having been to a few meetings at the conference centre at Birmingham International train station. It was rather much as I expected- the little of it that I saw, could be any other large English city- but I was struck by how diverse the crowds in the shopping centres in the city centre were. As I started walking to the station, a limousine pulled up into the hotel foyer in front of me and a wedding party tumbled out- half decked in glittering saris and the other half in smart mother and sister of the bride outfits.....

Tony Blair made a rare appearance on the Today programme on Radio 4, sounding very much like a man who has begun his valedictory speech- finally he realizes that "you can't please all the people all the time" but admits that "he likes to be liked". The newspaper analysts all thought that he sounded a lot more reflective than he had in the past but I must admit I didn't feel terribly sympathetic towards him- but then if you've read this blog before you won't be surprised by that

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch Somalian politician arrives in the UK to launch her autobiography "Infidel" I've meant to blog about her for a long time but have never got round to it because I felt she required a more measured analysis than I have had the time to provide here. I do sympathize somewhat with her awakening to Enlightenment values following her politics degree at a Dutch university, even though I have issues with some of the interpretations that she makes, but what I don't understand is why the media keep referring to her as a Muslim reformer when from her utterances she has repudiated her Islamic faith. She may have once been a Muslim but I don't think she regards herself as one any longer so holding her up as an emblem of moderate Islam is flawed in itself...I guess my in-depth analysis will have to wait till after I've read Infidel

I've just finished Harbor- Lorraine Adams' book about Algerian immigrants in the US. It's a complex story but displayed a plausible portrayal of the issues that immigrants face and more importantly how in the war against terror, the line between innocent and guilty become so blurred that the truth remains anyone's guess....

Next up on my reading list is Helon Habila's Measuring Time which arrived at the weekend and which received favourable reviews in Metro the free newspaper and the Observer. Sadly the Metro review isn't available online but the reviewer also picked up on the subject of twins in Habila's book and Adichie's as I had done earlier. The Observer review is however available here http://snipurl.com/19diz

I'd hoped to go the Royal Court Theatre to see the new production of Chekhov's The Seagull in which Chiwetel Ejiofor is appearing. The production has got very good reviews and having seen him last week on the street strengthened my resolve to get a ticket. Alas the play is completely sold out- which I guess is great for the production but not for me...

10 comments:

Patrice said...

Interesting label put on Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She has publically claimed no religious affiliation, so presumably the reference is to her mission, for lack of a better word, to reform Islam, or, what seems more likely to be the case from what I have read, to "out" it in the least flattering (and most dangerous) way.

My Talking Beginnings said...

Alas?
Uknaija, what is your secret to having such brilliant weekends...it is not fair o!
Listened to Ayaan Hirsi Ali on women's hour on radio 4 (don't ask)and it was a brilliant interview...however, i believe the woman has extreme views herself even though it is to the european end of things!! Perhaps, reading the book will provide further insight as you suggest!

londonnaijachic said...

Nigeria has affected and being a par of a lot of non-nigerians.Its not something that we citizens know ourselves until we meet people from other nationalities.I work in a place were i have to wear a name badge and its funny how a lot of customers can tell am nigerian from my name and i hear tales of how they've lived or worked in nigeria at one point or the other.You read a lot,Good!

uknaija said...

@patrice- In the interviews I've read she gives the impression that she is no longer a practising muslim which leads me to ask- can you reform what you are not a part of? You can criticize but to actually reform, you must be part of the movement- hence my puzzlement

@mtb Don't worry, when you grow up you can be like me :-))

Monef said...

I must say that the last time I was in London I was really taken with those 'Heart of Nigeria' ads. They made my heart ache a little!

Pilgrimage to Self said...

So you were on my home turf huh? Yes, Birmingham is indeed a mish-mash of different people. Sometimes you have to strain to see an authentic English person.

Give a review of Helon's book when you're done with it so I know whether to head to Amazon or not.

uknaija said...

@londonnaijachic -You're right..it amazes me
@Monef- Yes the adverts tug at the heartstrings no?
@Ah Pilgrimage- I no know say you be Brummie babe- I for come check your side out :-). I'll try and do a review of Helon's book- so far I'm loving the limpid dreamlike prose

Omodudu said...

Promptly added to my reader. I will not miss any post from now.

uknaija said...

Thanks for dropping by omodudu

PG said...

I will be very interested to hear what you make of Hirsi Ali. She is featured in this month's US Vogue, and she did a Hardtalk interview on BBC last week. As you say, she is not a Muslim reformer, how can she be when she does not believe in either God or Islam? For all her concerns about the oppression of women, she is scarily right-wing; she was a member of a party that called for forced repatriations of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers who lied (when she was one herself, by the way) I find her cold and unappealing, then again, I prefer my public figures to have more substance to them than the blinding light of zealotry. She has been characterised in some circles as a "native informant" heh heh