Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Easter in Vienna,Nigerian election results preannounced, Blair and black boys and echoes of Colonial Nigeria

Vienna was wide elegant avenues, tidy parks, reminiscent of Paris and yet at the same time overlaid with echoes of Germany, of Berlin. Heart of the Austro-Hungarian empire and seat of the Hapsburgs for nearly six centuries, it's awash with culture and palaces aplenty. The central area near Sebastianplatz around the Cathedral was filled with students in frock coats touting invitations to Mozart concerts. Easter morning saw us in the Hofburgkapelle listening to the world famousVienna Boys Choir. It was the first time I had to pay to go to church, at least explicitly- tickets were available from the hotel. It was worth it though, the angelic voices of the boys soaring up to the rafters of the chapel, the two Asian and African boys strategically placed to catch the eyes and the cameras. Me, a cynic? Enjoying the music and watching the young boys and the older men singing the deeper parts, a darker thought crossed my mind- aren't all- male choirs like this a haven for paedophiles?

To the museums and then Schonbrun Palace and sights aplenty- here a young Marie Antoinette played, there Napoleon once slept, here, a purported nail from the True Cross authenticated by a Pope from earlier times, there the file that stabbed the doomed Empress Elisabeth "Sissi", whose stories had echoes of Princess Diana- the early marriage, the struggles with royal life and court demands, an obsession with weight loss and finally a tragic death. Funny how over centuries, things remain the same...Plus ca change and all that...... Viennese food failed to win me over though- the stodginess of the boiled meat dishes and dumplings and sauerkraut were rather dull and the famed wienerschnitzel, the deepfried breadcrumbed flat pieces of veal left me underwhelmed.

In Nigeria, the political drama continues to unfold- what with the almighty PDP refusing to field governorship candidates in Rivers and Imo States rather than obey a Supreme Court judgement reinstating the rightful winners of the primaries. Nigeria can produce such bizarre results at times- from all that I hear about them, Araraume and Rotimi Amaechi, the candidates in question are hardly beacons of moral uprightness and yet one cannot help but support them in the injustice being meted out. Speaking to family and friends in Nigeria over the weekend, it seems as usual that Nigerians are resigning themselves to divine intervention- feeling completely helpless before the PDP behemoth. Frequent references were made as to how God intervened when Abacha thought he had his civilian succession sorted. The same mood of "what can we do?" pervaded the panel discussion at SOAS last week with Reuben Abati and Professor Akande- the general consensus was that the elections would be massively rigged but that Nigerians would accept the results. To put the icing on the cake, Patrick Wilmot, the writer and academic who was present at the SOAS event quoted the Secretary of the PDP as having predicted at a forum at Chatham House that PDP would win the elections by about 75 per cent. So ladies and gentlemen, there you have it, the results for the 2007 Nigerian elections, announced well in advance of any actual casting of votes. Remember, you read it here first....Meanwhile today the Obasanjo government announced a sudden two day public holiday to" enable" voters to prepare for the elections. Of course it has nothing to do with delaying potentially damaging Supreme Court judgments, or throwing a spanner in the logistics of opposition parties. Why the Court cannot sit in emergencies on public holidays I do not know. Here in the UK, I have been involved in a case where we were able to obtain an injunction on a Sunday before the duty judge....

Meanwhile in the UK, debates continue about whether the sailors who were released by Iran last week should have been allowed to sell their stories to the media. I'm pretty indifferent to the whole brouhaha and was more interested in the killing of yet another black youth of Nigerian heritage, Paul Erharhon in London at the weekend. The tragic death led Prime Minister Tony Bliar to say yesterday that the violence was restricted to a small group of black boys in spite of the massive support the government was giving them or words to that effect. He claimed to be quoting a London black pastor, Reverend Nims Obunge, who just this morning claimed he had been quoted out of context. I think that part of the problem is that attention is only paid to certain communities when things get to an extreme head. If the government and by extension society is genuinely interested in making a difference then initiatives to help troubled youth should not always ride on the back of high profile murders...

I'm finishing Restless by William Boyd at the moment. I've liked most of his books but I struggled with this one, perhaps because it deals with World War II espionage and trying to keep up with the single and double agents and the various characters and which side they were really on was a bit of a burden. I'm nearing the end though and the suspense is picking up. I hadn't realized he had Nigerian connections as well. Apparently his father was an engineer in the colonial Public Works Department in Lagos- a titbit I heard from an old "Nigeria hand" whom I met at a dinner last week. Meeting "old Nigerian hands" is always a challenge for me- on one hand I'm fascinated by their stories and insights and people they have known and on the other I struggle with the patronizing attitudes and casual prejudice of a bygone age that often suffuses their conversation....almost invariably the conversation ends with "Oh, Nigeria has changed so much" with a wistful look on a wizened face dreaming I think, incharitably of gin and tonics on the verandah brought by "boys" in starched white uniforms....

10 comments:

Pilgrimage to Self said...

'...the stodginess of the boiled meat dishes and dumplings and sauerkraut were rather dull and the famed wienerschnitzel, the deepfried breadcrumbed flat pieces of veal left me underwhelmed...'

Oh, uknaija, you've just panned all of my favourite dishes (my mum's german and the foods of the two countries are very similar) :( But I forgive you though - it's not to everyones taste. Perhaps I should cook you a German meal - that may win you around!

Have a great weekend

Tim said...

Welcome aboard UKNaija. Bring your friends :) -tim

chioma said...

nice post...i was happy when i had they had ditched ararume.but when i heard the full story i felt bad for bothe of them na was

Ugo Daniels said...

I wonder when da black killings in uk will end. This is really getting outta hand nah!

Anonymous said...

Another article about you....

http://allafrica.com/stories/200704120943.html

Africa: Review of Blogs

Fahamu (Oxford)
COLUMN
April 11, 2007
Posted to the web April 12, 2007

………
Musings of a Naijaman comments on his adventures in London seeking out Nigerian food and newspapers and ends up at the Bukka in Kilburn High Road. And on the continuing drama that is the Nigerian elections he points to a piece in This Day on how to prevent Rigging

uknaija said...

@pts, sorry o! You'll need to cook me one maybe with a naija flavour to it...perhaps when you're less busy :-)
@Tim thanks
@ Chioma- thanks for dropping by. Na real wa
@ugo daniels- Naija man in Cyprus- I bow o
@anonymous thanks for the headsup

Anonymous said...

If you haven't already done so, check out Albert Camus' "The Stranger".There's a character in the book called Moneur Merissault, you'll be able to relate to him. You seem to live day-to-day, in a rather existentialist-like manner. The reading, the eating, the blogging, the occasional nostalgia for Naija, seem to be used systematically to prolong The Dreadful Solitude. The Solitude that says to you in your lonesome hour "okay, I've listened to Mozart, I've seen an art exhibit, I've had good wine to drink, I had a delectable meal, I've just finished reading a good book... but why am I still not CONTENT? This is why, perhaps, you discontinued your habbit of going to dance to Naija music with your friends, because it wasn't performing the function of delaying your encounter with The Solitude, the way you would have wanted it to. Because so long as you're immersed in these things, there is something of cosmic significance which you're keeping yourself from.
But I could be wrong, you might be a very happy human being, for all its worth. But judging from the tone of your blogs, something seems to be missing; like that book you read which you said it never "gripped" you because something was missing. And just as you weren't satisfied with that book; you won't be COMPLETELY satisfied with life until you find that missing link. And what would make you know what the missing link is...

uknaija said...

@anonymous- I haven't read Camus but find your analysis intriguing but woefully off the mark probably because there's loads that I don't blog about...I'm quite happy with where I am in my life at the moment- but can any human being in the world that we live in today be COMPLETELY satisfied?

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