Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Condemned to History

I was tempted to buy it. After staring at it for about 2 minutes, it brought about a nostalgic feeling that i still can't accurately describe. Those were the days. So what was I staring at with such mental concentration? A picture. Let me rephrase: A classic picture. I was at the Silverbird Galleria during the holidays when I came across an exhibition of reputable photographer Sunmi Smart-Cole’s valuable work from the last 3 decades.Now, there were many fascinating & eye-catching pictures on display that day (including one with OBJ & Pope John Paul II both sitting across a table,wittily titled: CONFESSIONS).However, the framed picture that truly captivated me was the one named ‘War Against Indiscipline’. It was an aerial shot showing about 100 lagosians impressively queuing up for a commercial bus in 1984.The line was so organized that one would have easily assumed the nigerians on it were professional queuers (if there’s such a word).If that isn’t nostalgic for you, then I seriously doubt anything can be. I practically had goose-bumps looking at it.1984.The time when President Buhari, along with the admirable late Brig.Gen Idiagbon, had come close to ensuring we, Nigerians, were disciplined in most aspect of our public lives.
I clearly remember watching the network news on NTA those days (involuntarily, I must add, as a lack of cable TV limited everyone’s viewing choices).I would always laugh at video footage of civil servants being forced, by their superiors, to frog-jump for coming to work late. Thoughts of the humiliation the offenders’ kids would go through, in the hands of fellow students at school the next day, stayed perpetuated in my head each time. Things were organised then. One pissed or threw rubbish on the road at their own risk etc.Well, 24 years later that is ancient history now. In fact, many youths today never experienced ‘those days’ when there was some degree of sanity in our public behaviorial patterns. Today, indiscipline is practically embedded in our DNA.Almost as inseparable as a hen and her young. The first instinct of most of us in a place that involves a lengthy queue is to see how he/she can bribe his or her way to the front. We (including my humble self) are all guilty of this. Easy examples are at times of fuel scarcity, visa quests at the embassies or entry into a show/concert.In a way, economics has a key role to play in this continued decay. My point is this: the security guard who,say in the embassy, is supposed to ensure orderliness is hungry and earns peanuts.Expectedly, he’s ready to enable anyone beat the lengthy line or large crowd, as one as he/she can part away with 100 bucks. Same mindset with the fuel attendants & filling station chaps during times of fuel shortages. If you are not ready(or able) to part away with something, one would languish for hours in the queue.Another simple reason for the apparent extinction of discipline is because our leaders have failed to lead by example.
As I stared at Mr. Cole’s incredibly captured shot of history that sunday afternoon, I wondered if we could ever get back to the type of discipline that was visually evident in that bus stop.Actually, I still wonder.Sadly, the response can come from portions of the biblical saying: ‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for…..’.
You fill in the blank.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nollywood,Please Wake

$250 million a year. That’s the current value of the Nigerian movie industry, popularly referred to as Nollywood.Apparently, about 30 new movies are supplied to marketers each week. The industry is the 3rd largest in the world i.e. by volume of releases, led only by Hollywood & the Indian industry called Bollywood.The alleged story behind the origin of Nollywood is so basic that it’s actually quite funny. A Businessman from the eastern parts of Nigeria had thousands of videotapes to dispose of in the early 90s.So he, in conjunction with an aspiring director, decided to use a camcorder to shoot a film, making use of the empty tapes for mass duplication of the finished work. Did I hear you say ‘What???’.I relate with your surprise as to its genesis.
Anyway, are you a huge fan of Nigerian movies (sorry, Nigerian RECORDINGS)? I know many nigerians abroad watch them frequently(probably for the nostalgic feeling, since they are far from home) Househelps & hairdressers also make up a significant portion of the fanbase who consistently patronize the industry’s work. In terms of gender, women are the overwhelming sex regularly drawn to naija movies. I actually wonder why. I guess it’s because our dear ladies are anatomically drawn to stories of relationships, vengeance, deceit & treachery. Am I correct, sisters?
For me ,this is the primary reason I’ll stay glued to a naija film for 2 hrs:To laugh my head off at practically everything that unfolds before my very eyes(or if Genevieve's starring in it,of course).99% of Nollywood products never cease to amaze/amuse me. As an example to buttress a point, in the smash romantic drama Pretty Woman, Richard Gere’s character was meant to be a multi—millionaire. We believed because he looked & seemed like one while playing the role. The multi-millionaire in our own movies looks like an ‘Oga’ mechanic who had a good shower. The clothes & their mannerisms show anything but one with a lot of cash in his bank accounts. They’ll then be stupidly talking on the phone about taking their private jet to Abuja for an emergency meeting with the President and so on.Lol.Yeah, right.Which President? Of the Onitsha spare parts market union or what? How about the gangsters in naija movies? Are all nigerian mobsters big fans of colour riots? Green suits with red shirts & brown trousers combined.Aah!!Even Stevie Wonder go shout. The producers and directors can’t even get the simple things right. Must every scene of 2 people eating require them to use forks & knives to eat,or to drink orange juice? Also, you see a camera shot of the guy with half a glass of juice.Then the shot goes to the lady he’s with. When the shot returns to the gentleman 2 seconds after, his glass is full to the brim. When dem pour am? Who pour am? Spirit? As for the scripts, I honestly wonder if it’s primary school children that supply them with their screenplays. Someone shoots another person and the victim shouts out ’Aaaah.You shot Me’. No oh, he didn’t shoot you. He kissed you. For being such a mumu, maybe you deserved the gunshot in the first place. One more thing, guys: The Party Scenes e.g. an Owambe.Dear directors, the fact that the scene cost N100, 000 to shoot doesn’t mean that you show it for half the movie. No wonder many of our films have part 4s.After we have unnecessarily seen people drinking, dancing & spraying money for half an hour.Gosh.Abeg,Nollywood no kill me with laughter oh.
To be fair,a couple of good movies have been made i.e. with overall quality in practically all areas of production, but the vast majority of them are an absolute joke. I heard a Nollywood star recently say in an interview that she strongly believes that many nigerian actors here would soon be nominated for Oscars a la the british & australians. Wait a minute. The same acclaimed Academy Awards in America? Or do they now have Oscars in Enugu or something?
All I have to say about that hilarious comment is this:'She put jazz for mouth?’.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tipping with Care

Are you one of those who tips on the regular? As in, no matter what. Even if the person you were tipping didn’t deserve it. Actually, I know there are some who fall within this ‘constantly benevolent’ category. Sorry to make you feel used, but some of you have actually just been guilty of the western bug.Now, this may not necessarily be a bad thing but there are certain things you need to consider before you go doling out money to every single person who served you anywhere. This piece was in a way inspired by a chat I had with a friend recently. She seemed to feel that tipping was compulsory. As you may guess, I strongly disagree.Yes,in practically all Western Hotels, for example, you are sort of obliged to give the concierge something for carrying your suitcase & settling you into your classy hotel room. I guess that’s their culture.
Nonetheless, on the general/home perspective (with the knowledge of what the entire tipping concept was created for), it should only be given if you feel it is/was deserved. End of story. True, we know there are some exceptions like in a situation where your bar bill was N3, 470.You probably wouldn’t be waiting for your N30 change if you had given the waiter N3, 500.However, if you had received shabby or non-chalant treatment from the service person in a restaurant, why in the world would you dash them N100 or N200? To seem cool or western? The joke’s on you, in that case. In other words, you’ve just endorsed the chap/lady’s bad behaviour or poor customer service skills. And that only encourages them to maintain Status Quo, since they see that their attitude hasn’t stopped their tips from coming.Also,please note that in many of the standard bars/restaurants here, a 10% service charge is a compulsory addition to the cost of items you consumed: Even though the service wasn’t all that or was even poor. So by dashing out money again, you have basically being used twice. Fact of the matter. For me, if you treated me poorly during my stay at your joint, I would expect my exact change(except it’s like N10 outstanding or something).No be me get am?One of the main reasons for this is to indirectly let the waiter/attendant know that they were dismal and consequently wouldn’t receive a tip from me. That simple. And me not dashing anything doesn’t mean I can’t, but should be interpreted to mean I wouldn’t, for apparent reasons.If,on the other hand, I had been dazzled or pampered, I would gladly give out a sizeable amount of change for the staff’s effort.
This topic reminds me of a story I heard from someone who, in New York, had called a cab to take her mum & her to JFK from their Manhattan hotel. This taxi driver passively watched them, as they had carried their 3 heavy suitcases, on their own, into the trunk. At the airport, the mum was asking the daughter why she hadn’t tipped the driver anything extra for the services rendered. She said the fierce look she gave her mum was an appropriate,non-verbal response.
I really doubt it was as stern as mine when she relayed that tale.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Devil Or The Deep Blue Sea

Guys, what I’m about to ask would be quite difficult to answer. Some would try, but would fail. Some would argue for and against. This question, to be honest, requires incredible analytical ability. In fact, an argument over the question can go on for weeks. No exaggeration.Weeks.So without any further ado, this is what I want to know:Who are more irritating:Commercial Bus Drivers or Okada Riders? Told you it would be tough. Reminds you of the dreadful subject known as Further Maths from your secondary school days,right?Well,to ease the task of knowing the correct answer,I’ll try and give a little synopsis of both of these Kolomental creatures. The Okada Rider: In Naija, anyone can assume this suicidal role. As long as you are old enough to pedal. Although they tend to come from a particular part of the country (I won’t mention where, in the spirit of political correctness) they seem destined to irritate the hell out of motorists. They love to take one-way, consistently ride recklessly, have no regard for traffic lights unless it’s a place with a lot of cops/Lastma officials & are partners-in-crime when it comes to aiding criminals who rob motorists in traffic. To describe them in a simple, one-word summary: STUPID.Or in two words: STUPIDLY STUPID. Make the mistake of hitting one of them(which is actually one of my personal fantasies) & you’ll be amazed by the speed it takes for over 50 other Okadas to hit the scene in solidarity with the mumu(whether it was their colleague’s fault or not)Sometimes, I think they are from another galaxy & we earthlings just don’t know it yet. Sincerely.
Now, to the second set of Aliens. Commercial Bus Drivers: Show me 3 commercial buses in Lagos with working trafficator lights and I promise you 5 of my fingers. Or 100k.Actually, I’ll give you both. That’s how confident I am about the absence of the aforementioned item on their vehicles. The way then abruptly swerve, to pick up or drop passengers, while in front of you would make you certain that you were a victim of Punked (Nigerian Edition).Like someone is trying to make you as pissed as terrorists are with President Bush. And why do they love one-way so much, even if the correct lane/route is free? The moment they see 5 seconds of traffic, they immediately veer out of lane to climb on the curvette or pedestrian path in continuation of their journey.Like everyone else on the road is not in a hurry,abi?Now,this is a serious question: Is there any evidence of a bus conductor ever falling off a bus while routinely hanging out of it?Miraculously,I haven’t heard of such a consequence.
Well, as for me, this is my own answer to the mind-buggling question: It’s a photo-finish. They are both so annoying, disobedient & dumb in seemingly equal measure that it’s almost impossible to separate the two. That, in itself, is scary.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Love Them To Death

They are tiny,cuddly,cute,mostly playful,innocent and naive.Their lives are also quite straight forward.They cry when hungry or hurt.They spontaneously smile when one makes funny faces at them.They wrap their fingers around your finger once you place yours between theirs(99% guaranteed).They could also be erratic:i.e they could let you down by crying just five minutes after having being so receptive to your company.They are a gift from the Almighty who change the way their parents view life drastically.Unless you need some major help,i'm sure you've easily figured out who i'm refering to already(especially with the pictorial hint).Babies:those incredible little ones that most of us adore.The wonderful beings who are ignorant of the goings-on around the world.Oblivious of all the hustling,economics,joy,pain,hardship,treachery,hypocrisy,global affairs etc that grown-ups experience.All they know are how to cry when hungry or soiled down below,laugh when one makes silly faces and get carried about 80% of the time.
For me,what's really interesting about babies is the way they grow up to become young boys and girls.They would physically develop to be ladies who would one day wear make-up and be toasted by other guys.Grow to be guys who would probably steal the family car in their teenage years,come back late on fridays & possibly cause their parents some worry in the future,one way or the other.Don't you just wish babies stayed the adorable way & size they are?Strangely enough,i know some(though few)people who aren't crazy about kids.How in the world not?Things almost always change when they have babies of their own,though.That's quite certain.For those who have them,i'm sure the feeling is indescribable.For those yet to,we would all be blessed with as many as we desire some day,by the Lord's Grace.
As for me,i've always loved them for as far back as i can remember.How much?Frankly speaking,' death'.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tempted To Touch

To all readers who happen to be bankers or ex-bankers, how many of you have ever been tempted to steal from your bank? Before you rush and say ‘Never’, think of all that crazy amount of raw cash you guys see on a daily basis. Particularly those of you who work (or worked) in the banking halls. No temptation, whatsoever? I honestly doubt that none of you had any. What about those who had the ‘slightly degrading’ role of riding in those crazy bullion vans with policemen to transport millions of naira on a daily basis?
Well,the temptation was a bit too much for a cash officer, driver & 3 cops who were attached to a new generation bank recently. The crew, who were to move the sum of N37m from the Akoka branch to the bank’s head office in VI decided to disappear into thin air with the impressive sum. What a simple heist to pull off, right? If shared equally amongst the greedy 5, that’s over N7 million per criminal.Anyway,the dubious cash officer later called the bank to say that their convoy had been intercepted by armed robbers who stole the entire amount from them. This unwise move was what led to his arrest somewhere in Ajah, as the origin of the cellphone call was traced. A Manager in the bank was also arrested by the police and they are both currently assisting the men in black(with some torture,of course) with their investigations in the much dreaded State CID at Panti,Yaba.So,for the umpteenth time, our devoted men of the Nigeria Police Force have received further bad publicity.
As for banks, how can the risk of a re-occurrence be avoided in the future? Do they get police to escort the police escorting the cash-filled bullion vans?Lol.Or do you fit all bullion vans with tracking devices that at least help to show every single movement of the vehicle? For the bank staff who have connived to steal, with or without the help of cops, I feel your pain. It’s like locking a kid up in a candy store & asking him not to touch anything. That requires serious willpower.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Power of Power

Just when you think there's nothing else that can shock you in this our beloved Nigeria,something else springs up like it was straight out of a Stephen King thriller.I just finished reading this extremely silly,but 'sad' story.Mrs.Kemi Alao-Akala,wife of the Oyo state Governor, had gone to the Murtala Muhammed Airport yesterday en route to Abuja.At some point,while she was in the VIP lounge,the sum of N56k was stolen from the first lady's bag.Do you know that the security officials attached to her/the airport turned the entire building upside down in search of this 'tremendous' amount of money?In fact,the stern-faced men even asked the airport authorities to provide the last 2 days of CCTV footage,in their devoted quest to find the culprit.2 days!!!!That's 48hrs worth of recording,guys.Are some of us stupid or what?Were they expecting to find evidence of the petty thief camped in the airport lounge since saturday evening or something?With all due respect,while N56,000 isn't exactly chicken change,i doubt many would have gone through 2 days of vigil in a 'secure' location like an airport's VIP lounge just to steal that.Honestly,i think there are some aliens amongst us in this country.Was it all part of the usual sycophancy that made the SS dudes scatter the airport i.e trying to impress the woman or to appear as hard-working?If it was say an assasination attempt on a VIP/top government official,i can swear they would be the first to duck for cover,probably under the nearest stool or table they could find.As at press time,the money was,'shockingly',yet to be found.
Please lord,help our citizens to get serious.Seriously.

Monday, January 7, 2008

I Need Nostradamus

Can it happen? The exciting signs are there. Has God decided that it’s time? Time for a coloured man to have a chance at the cunningly named ‘White House’.Senator Barack Obama,the black presidential candidate from the state of Illinois is causing a bit of a buzz in the U.S right now especially after his remarkable victory in the Iowa primaries. A state that’s 90% white,population-wise.His main rival & previously assumed Democratic Party nominee-in-waiting Hillary Clinton is worried, to the extent that she’s started lashing out desperately at Obama as being an inexperienced politician who talks a good talk without much substance attached.
The irony of it all is that Barack Obama reminds many Americans (particularly the youths) of Sen. Clinton’s extremely popular spouse back in the day: a young, energetic, brilliant & visually appealing candidate who preaches change & hope. The only & significant difference is Osama’s colour.Are Americans ready to put that aside for the sake of a new beginning? Many cynics (including myself, I must confess) may say no. Not in a hundred years. However, stranger things had happened in the history of mankind. The latest polls from New Hampshire (venue of the next round of primaries) show Obama with an 11% lead over Bill Clinton’s wife.Hugely influential Oprah Winfrey is solidly behind the Harvard/Columbia University alumni and that, we know, is valuable.Yes, Hillary’s campaign team has a larger purse & are possibly better organized, but where was all that when she lost to Obama in Iowa last week?
I read that fire marshals had to be called in to prevent a stampede at the rally the 46-yr old African-American was holding in New Hampshire yesterday. Supporters of Senator Obama had thronged in their thousands attempting to enter the overpopulated cafeteria hall. The buzz is strong. Blacks are salivating. Young America is believing.The voting numbers have more than trebled compared to 4 years ago,possibly due to new-found enthusiasm amongst the electorate.Was Martin Luther King’s ‘I have A Dream’ speech a 45 yrs-in-advance hint? Can he get to lead the United States with its 75% white majority? Can life imitate art & place the young man, with the Kenyan father, in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January next year, a la President Palmer in the hit show,24?Time,they say, would definitely tell. My goodness, how I wish I had Nostradamus right here in front of me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Naija Music: A Good Year

First of all, here’s wishing each and every one of you a happy new year. May 2008 bring you all abundant blessings. So the year 2007 has come and gone. For many of us, it was quite an eventful one. On a broader perspective, many industries achieved a lot in the year but none more so than the naija music industry. As most know, the local music scene has blown up significantly in recent years. In continuing with this impressive explosion of talent & quality of material, the year proved to be huge as quite a lot of new acts were exposed to the music-loving public. The household names also strengthened their reputations by releasing huge hits in 07.For me, there were four main acts (specifically, 5 individuals) who had a great year indeed.So, I’ll share them with you.
1. Olu Maintain: The ex-member of a popular Ibadan-based group was massive as a solo artiste with a comical anthem called ‘Yahoozee’.This infectious track was basically a satire of the lifestyles & mentality of the average, infamous 419 beneficiary. To underline this club banger’s popularity, I saw white folks rocking their lives out to the track at a British High Commission party I attended recently. A truly funny/special moment.
2. 2face: The young man from Benue did it again with another special album. How many albums do you get to hear these days that are sweet from Track 1 till the end a la Michael Jackson’s Thriller? Very few indeed.Mr Idibia showed with this CD(released in late 2006) that he’s truly a gifted artiste whose music always comes along with great production, catchy melodies & a sweet, believable voice.’ See Me So’ proved to be another hot track that seemed made for the clubs & parties.’Hey ya Hey Brother eee…’.What a song.
3. D'Banj:The Koko Master was at his very best last year especially with the enormous popularity of the anthemic tracks ‘Why Me’,’Loke’ & ‘Move Your Body’. Ably assisted by his close friend & producer Don Jazzy, this headline artiste of Mo Hits Records clearly proved why he’s loved by many across the country & beyond. I believe that one of his main objectives, i.e when he & Don Jazzy are recording, is to always create songs that get music lovers to spontaneous move their feet as soon as they hear the track’s beats. The MTV Award-winning star ended the year with the release of another huge record called ‘Booty Call’, significantly boosted by the sweet vocals of Wande Coal, another member of the Mo Hits crew. I saw him at a joint on the island a few weeks ago. As I was leaving that night, I noticed his black Benz with the customized ‘KOKOLET’ plate number. No long thing.
4. P-Square: Unless deaf, there’s no young person in this lagos who can say they haven’t heard the extremely popular ‘Do Me’ by the dark-skinned twins.Honestly,I didn’t really like the song when I first heard it.However,with the track seemingly being played at every single place I went to this Christmas, I have to admit that it has eventually grown on me. No matter the occasion, as soon as that unique beat drops, everyone instantaneously springs to their feet. Although the lyrics are nowhere near the songwriting quality level of say Ne-Yo’s, there’s just something that makes it a great song to dance & mime to. Accompanied by a really cool video, this definite club banger was obviously the most popular song during the xmas holidays. Out of curiosity, I recently bought a copy of their latest CD ’Game Over’ while in traffic. After a first listen, I was so impressed by the quality of practically all the songs on it. For me, ‘No One Like U’ is my clear favorite though. To Peter & Paul, I must confess this about your music:’E get as e dey do me’.Lol.
I eagerly wait to see what the year 2008 holds for the millions of naija music fans out there. Mouth-watering prospect indeed.