Thursday, June 28, 2007


I mentioned earlier that I've been trying hard to come up with a v.good short story that'll launch me to Chimamanda-type stardom (I certainly wish!) I therefore asked a friend for some help. I needed to find out the problems fellow Nigerians (males, in particular) face. Alas! I'm no closer to having a story idea, but his expose is really something...

Nigerian men would rather not be seen as ordinary men, maybe the next best clan in ego that we can compare with that of the Nigerians would be the Jews…this would be how I'd prefer to open this expose on the intrigues (which is a better title when compared to the problems faced by Nigerian men).

Have you ever wondered why, that of all countries in the world, Nigerians were said to be the happiest people on earth? What makes us so apt in ourselves that to a large degree, we offer more than we get? How come our film industry pumps out more movies than the whole European market put together? Or why every car manufacturer in the world has a major dealership contract within this country? Or why every conceivable expensive car that exists on this planet can be found in Nigeria?...

It's only in this country that the inspector-general of police would swear to “protect and serve” amidst a crew of highly corrupt police officers and a day after retirement would be caught with 21million looted funds for his very own police officers…Or why in Nigeria, there are fewer registry weddings than in any part of the world because it is a standard national tradition to celebrate your marriage? Big people wont you say?

Isn’t it amusing that while other countries battle with war and other natural disasters, including a number of society-influenced disasters, here in Nigeria, a lot still acts as normal? (The extremes we've experienced in a large while would be precisely religious clashes and bomb or pipeline blasts).
Even if that on the surface isn’t all true, we as Nigerians do have a habit of appearing above our problems when being viewed on the international scene…so I’m poised to ask, firstly:

Are you sure Israel is God's chosen people or us?

And then, what kind of people are we? (Remember that horrendous CNN reporter that marred the country black some time back? I heard he’s been sacked over trying to do the same thing with south Africa, seems the guy forgot that so many decades of apartheid hasn’t changed much to the way the black south view white people).

Breaking the populace by the guidelines of census conduct, we would have males, females and children, but to a large extent, the majority would lie on the count of men, being the larger active workforce and mostly, the legislative dictators, with this in mind, I'd focus this strictly on men Nigerian men (as I had been told to)

(Nice preamble)
Firstly, where are Nigerian men found? You’d be surprised that there’s hardly any part of this world they can’t be found, reason? They find it hard to stay put in one place…there’s a lot that can be found outside the shores of home and its in the spirit of every Nigerian male to spread and search out those areas most men haven’t found…no matter how far that would take them.
To put a finger on what exactly makes them that way would be to asses the character that constitutes the Nigerian male…the majority of the lot that is. How much mind intrusion have you experienced lately? How often have you been asked in the same conversation by the same person how you feel? To a large extent, there's a great deal of concern that can be found in Nigerian men about there immediate environment, this would be attested for by the style and type of questions they ask…for one, its of more importance to a Nigerian man if the power bill has been paid than if a canary has freckled or spiked feathers. (Makes sense, tho)

This trait, though said to be possessed by a lot of critical thinkers, is also said to be sparing among the happier of the lot (sanguine) but in the case of Nigerian men, there's a joy in worry that cant be explained but is ever present, I guess that’s why its not too hard for them to conceal their troubles.
But then, would it be right to say that their temptations and challenges are far too little to be thought over as critical as George Bushes policy on the war in Iraq? Lets take a footstool and lay them down…starting with the married folk.

The average working Nigerian family man earns on the average about 50-90 thousand a month, lives in a three room apartment and has on the average three kids and a wife. This too some people are inadequate to be called an average because it sidelines the traditionalist Nigerians who incorporate polygamy as a standard practice. So we are left with about five kids to two wives and a husband as the typical Nigerian family…right? So now my point…Split the income by the dependents on that income, on the average, one of the wives wouldn’t be working class, so you have 50,000 to three pair of school fees, transportation and feeding, the house rent and other utility bills and of recent, the cell phone bill. The economics is very clear and simple, it just can’t go round, and yet, that’s the average scenario that most families face.

So how do they cope? In most Nigerian homes, the idea of a single job earner seems rather archaic because of the enormous responsibilities that are ever present. if it wasn’t enough to add, most families have a few relatives more often than not permanently stationed and living with them to add an extra mouth to the already insufficient income. of recent, it is rare to hear of a civil servant, which in most cases would be referred to as the average job, depending solely on his salary for survival. This had led most Nigerian men to think double and work twice as much to meet their responsibilities…would you say physical strain to a certain degree might be inflicted? I'd disagree, when putting this piece together and trying to asses the Nigerian mans pride, it adds up that this strain is ever rewarding in the family it inflicts, this I would explain.

Have you ever wondered how it feels like to hold a new born baby of your own blood within your arms? Or to take him to the school graduation ceremony and watch him dedicate his one and only award to you? Or finish school with a first class degree and be offered work at a reputable firm, or about how gorgeous your wife looks cladded in that material you bought her that makes all the men at the party turn as she passes, or how beautiful she appears thanks to your pampering her with comfort and expensive make-up, (needless I mention the hairdo?), or how the most eloquent of fashion and society magazines dot your snapshots all over their pages to the admiration of the numerous readers? Or how at the Sunday golf club, your other male friends revel at the sight of your posh whip? Or talk about how good the engine on your new Mercedes is? Or why you seem to have the foresight to predict stock rises and benefit from them? Or hoe together your family looks? I could go on forever, but then that would kill the essence of the reasoning right?

So then, as much as the Christian folk would dwell on a lot of these (which they apparently indulge in) as vanity, they still make the larger call of success for a Nigerian man.
It’s not always about the success trek in the case of the married men. Trying hard not to put a notch on the fact that sexual temptation may be one of the other factors, I'd say to a large extent exposure could play a distinct role in the intrigues faced by Nigerian men.

Most men here are good at the plot-making art. Every naira spent is a calculated move to procure two more,(this rule doesn’t apply for the alcohol consuming sector of these men though). Imagine what it would be like if there was no wife at your neck tagging you off for feeding money, or no child crying because he’s hungry or no electric man trying to cut-off someones power supply…I guess a lot Nigerians would be dead by then (Really??).

A lady I spoke to a while ago said openly among the rest fo us listening to her that Nigerian men are a stingy bunch, I kinda wondered if she was referring to Nigerian men that are married or Nigerian single men, riding on the back of my uncle, I'd put it that the single Nigerian men aren’t as stingy as the married ones. Why don’t we blame the women a little huh? They ask too much…even if they don’t say, as crafty as the serpent was, they would find a way to express it…and believe me, you would definitely get the message.
But are Nigerian men plagued with greed so much that they find it hard to give? Should I say yes?

A recent fund-raising at an ECWA branch I went to had this deputy governor that was also sole owner of a chain of pharmaceutical stores in attendance. The target sum was about 20 million I think, (I'm not too sure about the exact amount), everyone had this eager ear to hear how much he was going to offer since it was with pride that the master of ceremony churned out the numbers for all to hear of the amounts that people were making. Let me put you in perspective, there were on-the-spot cash donations, some cheques and a lot of pledges. After about four hours of donation, ,(I must say, the way the service went, I was of the opinion that they weren’t going to close until they made their target so I was ready to be there another four hours on top, I really can't say what made me go there). Oh yeah, the dep. Gov. didn’t drop a dime till four hours later, and when he did, it was a raticious 50 grand to the call in pledge!

The uproar that followed wasn’t at all anything to put in words, you could hear the hisses like they were over and into the PA system, and everyone went sordid. Besides, was this not the church that boasted that all its members that voted at the election that saw him into office voted for him? ("Ya-wa!" my Aunt would have said: Good for you!) Wow! It was at that point that I and my accomplice left the scene, there was nothing more to witness besides the gradual stir of anger by the youth wing of the church. I ask myself why?

That would bring me to the next major problem I'm smugged over with concerning Nigerian men; they think too much about the voice of without to trust the voice within. Later on, the dep. Gov did add to his donation in private and his reason for not giving his elaborate sum in church was that his political opponents would nail him on the point that he was donating state money to the church…but couldn’t that be true? So here we are, with men conscious about what is being spoken of them, scared to put their women in control, scared of loosing control over situations, stingy to a degree because of being stringent, harrased by their richer pairs and their wives, living above their means, trying hard to keep up appearances, harrased visually and mentally by the opposite sex, further harassed by their income, even more harrased by other men, and yet form part of the people the world calls the happiest!?! But don’t these problems apply to women also? (I guess...).So I'd plod down family lane:

Jay's mum wants four grand kids, Jay can only AFFORD two?
Sharma's dad says Sharma can't get married to a Bachama lady but Sharma is madly in love with one?
Being the only male child, Tammi wants to be an engineer but his dad wants him to take over the mini-mega companies he’s built over the years. Tammi hates business?
Chris hates flying but his wife demands he come to see her in Ukraine?
Bulus loves being allowed to explain himself, but people think he talks too much?
Josh cant stand having sex every night but his wife seems to be “ever-ready”?
Musa worries over his wifes’ numerous male friends but is scared confronting her would mean their split?
Abel loves Tani but Tani has this high end attitude that would never allow Abel get close?
Solo wishes his parents would’ve let him read maths instead of the crappy geography he’s studying at present?
Barka loves the movements but his wife hates politics. So, I guess from that, there's always an ever inflicting difference in interest between men, their parents, fianc├ęs, wives, children…..blah blah blah…more male problem right? Little wonder these days they love staying single without any limp of getting married, oh yeah, forgot to add, this is just for a fraction of all the men.I’m tired of typing.
(Well... that was refreshing! How do people manage to be so smart, eh? Kai!)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


“Time up! Submit your papers!”

Mr. Stressful practically screams. It’s a calculation course. The time is really not enough, but most of the 300 level Chemical Engineering students hurry to comply, nonetheless. Half-bread is better than none, they say, and it really applies in this case.

To keep writing while Mr. Stressful screams and takes your concentration and biro-chewing energy away is guaranteed to make him mad, tear up your paper, and sometimes, fail you a couple of times.

Despite this though, students will always be students. You’d notice people forming clusters, checking out their answers-

“A-ah! How did you get a bottom product of 625lbs?!”

“Abegs, turn the paper now!!”

This naturally prompts Mr. Stressful to say something like “Apart from these people here-” He gestures “- the rest of you should not submit!”


Well this makes the commotion intensify –everybody starts pushing to submit their test scripts, and as two hundred students are telling each other to move or get trampled, Mr. Stressful points and bellows:

“You chooked me!!”

A sharp, high pitched and very ticked off retort goes “Excuse Sir, I did not chook you!”

“Keep quiet! I said you chooked me! I saw you!!”

“I said I did not chook you! I did not chook you!” she replies, flailing her arms in anger.

He looks her up and down, and then you realize that this chic is towering over him. Hmm… The man is clearly unimpressed by this. In his anger, he forgets what he said earlier on about not collecting some scripts and collects them all as he launches into an interesting speech:

“You think I don’t know you?! I know you! See the pencil in your hand too! Hm! You will see! Very rude girl…I’ve been observing you… you will see!”

Suddenly, the reality that this particular lecturer can make her or break her dawns on her. She immediately gets on her knees and proceeds,

“Excuse Sir!! I-said-I-did-not-chook-you-and-I-did-not-chook-you!!”

(Uh-oh! Is that a hiss that just escaped her lips?! And is she really folding her hands across her chest in this I’m-ready-to-fight way? That… doesn’t really go with the kneeling pose). But she’s past caring anyway; of all the one hundred and ninety nine students, he picks on her.

Lai-lai, today is today! The man makes a good show of ignoring her, though he might probably be feeling better now that he’s a bit taller than her.

Papers in hand, he walks out of the lecture hall imperiously, and she promptly stands up and follows him, pouting mouth leading the way.

[N.B:- Help me fill the blank: “Ye, you _______ me!” a) chooked b) chuked c) chukked d) none of these]

Saturday, June 9, 2007


"Can I Help You?"

I’ve been trying to write my final year project, read for my 1st Semester exams (8 courses), come up with a really good short story to submit to The Okigbo Review, keep a patch of Nigeria clean, and I have come to the following conclusions:
* Multi-tasking is not as interesting as some people make it sound
* Multi-tasking is not for me.

More Proof:

My mother and I thought it would be a good idea to get some snacks at J & G (a nice fast-food and African-dish place) after church one Sunday. I also needed to get a packet of biscuits for my Sis. (I ate the one she’d bought the day before, only to realize that she wanted to offer it to a friend of hers the next day- Sunday).

My mother parked in front of the place and I promptly got out, got the snacks, crossed the street, walked some distance, found an open store, purchased the said item and sighed happily. So far, so good.

I began the brisk walk back to the car, all the while watching for a safe opportunity to cross the road. I noticed 3 or 4 newspaper boys eagerly trying to sell newspapers to my mother. They has effectively blocked her window.

Ah! Thank God, I thought, cuz you see, my mother keeps telling me to be careful when I cross the road. She even holds my hand, and when there’s the constraint of distance, she watches me like a hawk and sometimes freely shouts advice at me. (In a bid to encourage me to learn the fine art of road-crossing, she once told me about an Okada (Biker) man that “broke one girl’s legs completely”. Hm).

She says and does all this because she firmly believes that I cannot cross the road, and indeed it has a great element of truth. (Unfortunately, too, one day she witnessed this inadequacy as we were out shopping. I was nearly hit by a biker and car at the same time). Enough said.

While I kept watching out for a safe opportunity to cross the street, I kept glancing at the car to make sure the newspaper boys were still blocking her view, all the while thinking, Since when did she start buying newspapers? Hm. Walk faster, sha. These shoes make me walk funny. Or lemme just cross the road now-now…Thank God I got the biscuit. What are we going to cook when we get home? Can’t I cross now…

To cut the story short, I crossed the road and was just too glad to ponder over the fact that as I approached the car, the windows started sliding up.

Oh… I didn’t know her car could do that automatic window thing, I thought not-very-brightly. (This is a car she has had for 5 years now).
I got in, happy as ever, and then I heard a strange, bass voice say in a very unfriendly tone:


My heart must have stopped, skipped a beat, frozen or what-ever they usually say. I’m not sure I replied at all, and I was out of the car as fast as a bullet.


The newspaper boys were laughing hard, as is expected, and the few people present were watching me in amazement as I stood there, dazed. I remember putting my hand on my mouth – the classic Western expression of lady-like horror (thank God for ‘secondary reflexes’).

A similar white Benz parked in the exact spot my mother had parked. What a terrible coincidence. So where was she???

Confusion set in, but I managed to look composed (I believe) as I searched for her car.

Ah! Look at her there! Relief!
The car was parked far ahead, directly opposite the store I’d just left, and my mother was seriously waving her hands to get my attention... ever since I left the store, she told me later.

She’d wanted to spare me the walk back to the car, but I guess I needed the lesson on the pitfalls of doing/thinking too many things at the same time.
But then again, I don’t seem to have learnt the lesson at the moment…Tsk tsk.


"Marriage. So?!"

Everybody is talking about marriage these days. I guess everybody has always talked about marriage, but I’m only just tuning in (what can I say? I’m now “of age”J ).
For Sarah, there are certain topics in marriage that she finds unfair: joint accounts, housework division, who takes care of the children, etc. Everyone else, though, seems to be okay with these issues, so I’m curious about how her friends and roommates (as well as their friends) will take this oddness of hers... and remember: it’s marriage we’re talking about here!

Sarah’s room was very full and noisy one Wednesday morning. An ‘interesting’ kind of noise, though. (Not the kind that irritated because you were desperately trying to read, sleep or meditate on the Word). Everyone was just lively. Yemisi, one of Sarah’s nine roommates, (you can read it again; bolder this time: NINE) was particularly excited. She had just been given a souvenir from one of her classmate’s weddings, and was enthusiastically narrating the wedding’s sights and sounds.

“And because we were serving the people, we weren’t able to get our souvenirs. We told her husband, sha.”

“But we didn’t expect to be given anything again,” her friend Gladys finished, equally bright-eyed. She had also gotten a souvenir.

“Ba?! Then this morning, Elizabeth came in with these tek cups!” Yemisi said, displaying the pretty cups proudly.

“And they’re expensive too,” Gladys declared. “One two each!”
The roommates and friends were impressed and said so.

“Well, that’s why they say weddings are expensive,” Sarah said indifferently as she ate Indomie out of the pot.

“Shey?!” There was more talk about the wedding, but Sarah tuned out. So romantic, so beautiful, so… ihhh! What’s all the hype about marriage, anyway? Before you know it, the man –
“I wonder what kind of dreams people have that make them want to eat Indomie so early in the morning,” That was Yetty. She had just come in with Larai, and they were giggling seriously.

“That’s very funny,” Sarah grumbled.

“What’s wrong, the Indomie got cold too fast?” Larai asked, half-joking.
“I don’t get why people are so crazy about marriage!” She blurted out. (Incidentally, she had just finished eating, so she threw the pot down drama-queen like).

“Na wa O, thass serious my dear,” one of the roommates, Ezinne, said. The rest of them paused, waiting.
Thinking fast, Sarah plodded on.
“I’m not looking for someone that’ll agree with me even if I’m talking trash, and I know that you girls” - she motioned to the room-full of girls – “will help me out.”

Touched, most of the girls gave a chorus of ‘what’s the matter’?s Yetty and Larai sat down beside her, ears open.
“It’s this thing about being female! It’s so terrible, especially when you’re a married female… ok, that’s a wrong way to start… is it just me or… oh!

“You’re wondering why we are so happy about marriage even when we’ve heard terrible stories,” Gladys helped.

“Yes! And I myself have observed something about married women that I find disturbing on a good day, and very annoying on a lousy, I’m-so-irritated-with-everything day.

This made the girls chuckle briefly.

“It’s like once you’re labeled as a man, you have the right to be demanding, inconsiderate, insensitive, in-… in- everything! I’m sure you get what I’m saying.” She glanced about the entire room. They were all in agreement, so she continued.

“Here are a few things men get away with,” using her fingers to count, “one: my mum tells me, ‘my dear girl, don’t be in a hurry to get annoyed. When your husband finds out that you easily get annoyed, he will frustrate you! Sit down, let me tell you what my mother told me. She said that a man (your husband in particular,) will call you all manner of things that you aren’t- he will call you karuwa, prostitute, and a fool, and what do you do? If you blow up, he may blow you. Be quiet; rub it on your arm and move on. It’s us women that keep the marriage going’
Haba! As if to say women are BDIs!”

“Beady eyes?” Yemisi asked, confused.

“No, B – D – I: Brain-Dead Idiot. You know, brain-dead…”

“Ok. But these your insults aren’t easy O!”

“But Sarah, see -”
“Tolu please let her finish,” Ezinne interrupted.

“Two: Let’s say your husband is the type that very rarely eats supper, but one day, he decides that he’s hungry. Of course he wasn’t included in the meal, and then he proceeds to shout on you for not preparing his supper. You then say ‘Sorry, but you know you hardly eat supper,’ Ho! That just makes the man shout, ‘and so what?!’

And that reminds me, when your mums are complaining about headaches or tummy aches or whatever, do their husbands say anything? Yes they do. They say, ‘It’s ok. Hurry up and give me food. I’m hungry.’ Which brings me to three -”

By this time the girls could not control themselves. They had been trying hard to contain their laughter, because they sensed that Sarah was being really serious. They simply couldn’t hold it in any more.

“ –three,” she continued when they had managed to stop laughing, “after treating you like trash, he wants to get physical with you, so he becomes all nice and spice… and then treats you like trash after… or maybe even -
“- hey, keep it clean! If you have a mind like mine, you won’t be happy with yourself two days later!” Ezinne cautioned.
The girls were like, ‘eh?’ but she pointedly ignored them.
“As you were saying, my dear,” she said.

“Ok, four: older women tell us to make sure we buy property… like land, before we get married. That once we get married, sorry!”

“It’s that what happened to your mum?” someone Sarah wasn’t at all fond of teased.
“No, but it could happen to you,” she replied evenly.
“See eh, there’s a lot more, but I think you’ve gotten the picture.”

They nodded soberly.

“So why are you guys so crazy about marriage when you know all this?!” she asked, incredulous.

“But Sarah, marriage is not by force, shey you know?” said Ezinne.
She sighed before responding, “I know…” She had a faraway look just then.

Larai, who had been silent all through, finally said, “You look down girls who are eager to get married. You think they are chicken brains, as Stanley once stated smugly. But deep down, you also want to get married, and you wonder why you want to get married – knowing all that you know.”
“Chei! Sarah, only you?!” Gladys joked.
“I told you my friend reminds me of the Holy Spirit, “Sarah replied calmly. “She, like Him, tells it like it is.” She idly picked up her dirty pot and studied it.
“It’s true… Larai is right. And I like the gentle way she said it.” Ezinne said, studying Larai.
“Please, I prefer ‘tender’ to ‘gentle’”

It was Yetty that said next, “Girls, I think the hot, big, necessary question now is not ‘what, why or who needs this rubbish?’ Sarah, we’ve established that you’d rather not be single, so the question is, ‘how am I going to prevent such things from happening to me?’

“Yes!” they all agreed enthusiastically.

“Let us all establish that we do not want to get cynical about this marriage issue. God designs great things - He made clothes that lasted 40 years -”

“-what’s the secret, Victoria? That’s right, you wouldn’t know,” Larai joked, glancing at Sarah, hoping to see her smile. She had dropped the pot and was staring at the floor.

“You showed me a passage in Exodus where He created a spicy, exciting fragrance; oil-based too. He created you. He also created marriage, so it’s great shebi?” Yetty continued.
“And of course we all know that it’s not what it was meant to be, but just as God rescued us from our death sentence, He can rescue us from trash.”

“So let us kill BabyCynic! Die! Now-now!” Sarah joked, still staring at the floor.

“I want to get married, because I have seen the good sides of it. A man in the hand is worth two in the bush. Seriously though, the security, the companionship…”

“Thass’ true talk, Yetty!” Larai and the others enthused.

“My mother made me realize that what I start early in the marriage should be what I can finish- if I serve him breakfast in bed at the start I had better be able to continue, if I permit him to punch me every now and then, ridicule me once a week, bring his extended family over for long stretches at the start, I should get used to it,” Sarah added, smiling prettily. Her head was finally up.

“And Sarah, prefer to think positive thoughts generally. It’s not something that comes easily to me, but I like to try at least. Thinking angry, resentful thoughts only make me bitter,” Ezinne said.

“Angry, hateful thoughts also drive me toward sin. For example, I once I start to say to myself, ‘Since even ‘holy’women are being dealt with in this marriage game, I’d rather kangare, that is, start sleeping around,’ a messed-up me emerges. Just keep killing BabyCynic with God’s help.”

“To add to what Larai said, another thing that helps is dating with your eyes wide open,” Gladys added.

“Mm…” they all agreed, thoughtful.

Sarah, saturated and mostly satisfied, stood up. She assumed a pious posture as she said mock-seriously,

“Well I’m grateful, girls, for everything. For our closing hymn we shall sing Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride, or Gettin’ Back on My Feet Again* by Atomic Kitten if you prefer. Its contents are gospel and inspiring, trust me!” She finished, dodging pillows efficiently.

“Don’t forget that we ladies have our own faults too! Talking too much-”

As her roommates and friends kept talking and laughing, she realized that she really felt good. I like my roommates, she decided. Not all the time, but I like them…and I am sorry for assuming that I’m better than others when I’m not…and I commit my future husband - ha ha! Come on, let me get serious…Em… ok, I pray we understand each other, respect each other…

* The actual track name is Everything Goes Around, Track 6 of their Ladies’ Night cd.