Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Fellow Niagarans. Today is "tombo bar" day and I'm pleased to talk to my fellow countrymen and women. After staying in this tombo bar for about two years I can categorically tell you all that the best criteria for ruling an African giant are good luck and patience. With good luck you can attain the virtually impossible. With patience you can even catch the fattest bone, crunch it and wash down with "akpeteshi", Sapele water or, simply, native gin.
Hold it, Mr. Chairman. We haven't seen the dividends of good luck and patience yet.
Perhaps I should seize this opportunity to tell our critics and cynics that you don't have to be a tiger to be a carnivorous leader. You don't have to be a lion to roar to wake up a sleeping giant. You don't even have to be a General to throw bombs like Boko Haram. All you need is good luck and patience. We all need the patience of a Job and the good luck of a cobra to secure our daily bread.
What a couple of criteria!
You can count on my philosophy of leadership any day.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Opilogue as Therapeutic Humour


If you are looking for a book that is fun to read, didactic and irresistibly hilarious, then your best bet is Opilgue: Not a Laffing Matter, a compilation of the Opilogue column published in TELL between 2003 and 2010, by Dele Omotunde, deputy editor-in-chief of the magazine.

Omotunde’s choice of this genre of ‘opinion-in-dialogue’ called Opilogue is both unique and fascinating, a genre that is worthy of emulation but, I dare say, almost impossible to clone. It is a captivating style that lures the reader into the 75 dialogues, which discuss issues of serious concern to the author and his society.

The book straddles issues like ethnic marginalisation, women equality, politics, education, religion, sports and others situating them in a country the author calls Niagara which bears close semblance to his native country, Nigeria.

Virtually every dialogue or monologue in this book reeks of humour, which Omotunde uses to drive home his points, making serious issues look less stressful such that the reader can laugh them off. Yet the author in his usual satirical way warns that the issues are no laughing (Laffing) matter. This literary approach sets him apart from the crowd of columnists who raise the adrenalin as they inadvertently fuel tension and create fear while discussing issues of public importance. Omotunde’s style, on the other hand, calms the nerves as he informs, educates and entertains his readers even if they have to cry later when they fully grasp the import of his ‘mischief’. Pieces such as If I Must Die, Take a Message to Mama, This Heart Must Not Fall, and Their Chop-and-Chop Excellencies, and almost all the dialogues evoke this feeling.

Rich in its surreal form, most of the write-ups connect images, events, and objects in a strange yet fascinating and intelligent manner to not only send didactic messages, but also enthrall readers using some literary devices that blend with his rich African culture. This is best illustrated in Requiem at Ifa Mosque Cathedral, Death of Honour, These Things Called Human Beings and Return of the Farmer among others.

Although he talks about the tragedy of the state of affairs in Niagara, he imposes his poetic licence on the subject matters to drive home his point. After all he had in the prologue to the column asked and obtained the poetic licence “to write on anything I can think or unthink of!” And this licence the author uses to the maximum in all the articles he presents in the book.

Not a Laffing Matter proves that writing as an art, it is about creativity needed to do a well-informed critique of the absurdities being perpetrated in the state of Niagara without inviting the angst of its leaders, who in most cases ride roughshod on the people. Omotunde in some of the episodes also gives the impression that he has the spiritual weapon to peep into what takes place on the other side of life where the departed from Niagara hold court. His vision of heaven where he situates some of the characters is vivid and creative. The allocation of ‘residential’ quarters to these characters is a message and a warning to the living lords on earth to beware of life hereafter. Readers may want to verify this in Dividends of Deathocracy and Even Niagarans Can Kill God.

A thread that runs through the write ups is the message to the effect that Niagara is the Nigerian version of a land flowing with milk and honey; of brilliant and hard-working men and women who, unfortunately writhe in penury while their leaders gallivant about in abhorrent affluence. This the author illustrates in pieces like Death of Honour, Requiem at Ifa Mosque Cathedral, Farewell Umoru, Weep Not for Lamidi and Weep Not Crocodile (in memory of Kola Olawuyi, late presenter of a television programme, Nkan N’bee).

And his pen can be both informative and illustrative like in Mama’s Got a Brand-New Drug – where he plays on the medicinal and erotic benefits of banana.

Others could be narratives of special emotional and dreadful circumstances like Darfur, Not Yet Valentine, a paradoxical ‘speech’ of the main character before a phantom African Union, for war-torn Darfur on Lovers’ Day while suing for peace and love to reign.

Most of the articles in the compilation are fresh in ideas, distinct in thought, revitalising in presentation and alluring in style. But as different as the pieces are, a common thread that runs through them is the command of language, the flexibility and beauty in its usage, the ease and comfort with which the author relates with the characters in the realm of conversation and rich African culture including loaded proverbs employed to drive home the messages.

The use of African names, proverbs and languages, especially Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo, is predominant in some of the write-ups. This is obviously employed to draw people’s attention to the fact that local languages may go into extinction if not used. They will be as dead as Latin. The author is thus sending the message that people should not forget their language or culture. This is why he tries to make the characters speak the languages that fit them or their social-economic status. Depending on the character – area boys, military officers, politicians, legal luminaries, academics, musicians and diplomats – their language matches their social status.

You cannot help but fall in love with the book in spite of very insignificant slips, obviously printer’s devil – like ‘codemnation’ for condemnation, ‘prade’ for parade, ‘haamburgers’ for hamburger, in the Prologue. And both Baba Iyaboh My Foot! (2) and Biko, This London Na Wa o! (31), but there is no (32), the next piece is Requiem at Ifa Mosque Cathedral (33). There is The Redeemed Harvest of Names (2), but the preceding piece is missing from this compilation.

But these do not take anything away from this refreshingly different form of journalism, which elicits deep thoughts in a hilarious manner. Certainly, this book is more than a laughing matter.

‘A thread that runs through the write-ups is the message to the effect that Niagara is the version of a land flowing with milk and honey; of brilliant and hard working men and women who, unfortunately, writhe in penury while their leaders gallivant about in abhorrent affluence’

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Papa has got a brand new drug!
Brand new what?
I said Papa has got a brand new drug.
What type of drug is that?
He calls it "opilogesic". You need to have one.
Show me a sample.
Here it is!
Look at you. So it's a book you're calling drug?
Yes, because apart from it's literary worth it is also good as a therapeutic companion to relieve you of mental stress.
Na lie! Iro ni! It's a lie! You mean NOT A LAFFING MATTER can reduce tension in my system?
Yes! Yes!
Can you prove it?
Why not? The taste of the pudding is in the "whacking".
Meaning what?
Meaning you should get a copy today and swallow it ink, line and index.
I dey laugh o! Me I dey laugh like Baba for farm.
Hear! Hear!! Hear!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Madhouse Called Niagara


Part of what lends Opilogue: Not a Laffing Matter its irresistible, tantalising power is the tragedy in our comedy and the comedy in our tragedy it lucidly portrays. Such is the surprising paradox of many of the pieces in this collection that they will repay contemplation. Once you understand what comedy of humours is all about as a mode of literary production, you will enjoy Dele Omotunde’s Opilogue. Wikipedia defines comedy of humours as a genre of dramatic comedy that focuses on a character, or range of characters, each of whom has one overriding trait that dominates their personality and conduct. This definition is not as accurate as that of Webster’s Dictionary, which says that the comedy consists in the portraiture of characters in whom one humour is overdeveloped, making them ridiculous when judged by some norm of behaviour. Satire, irony, parody, mockery and paradox are, therefore, some of the components of this mode of writing.

This book, to be sure, is not a collection of plays; it is a collection of melodramatic pieces of journalism, an interface between literature and journalism – a combination of fact and fiction. The people Omotunde writes about remind us of those marvellous characters in Aristophanes The Frogs, Ladies’ Day and The Birds. They remind us of Wole Soyinka’s Brother Jero, the charlatan, and those shameless characters in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Devil on the Cross who boast in the open about how they loot in Kenya. It also recalls John Milton’s defiant Satan. Peter Enahoro, Sad Sam, Dan Agbese, Niyi Osundare, Adebayo Williams, Olatunji Dare and Reuben Abati have used some aspects of this genre in their journalism. What distinguishes Omotunde from these other worthy satirists is that he predominantly uses Socratic Method, not necessarily in its purest form, to dramatise the state of our conditions and the conditions of our state. He tactically removes himself from the pieces in order to give his reader a false sense of neutrality.

This book is not a collection of plays; it is a collection of melodramatic pieces of journalism, an interface between literature and journalism’. See also www.tellng.com

Since its debut in 2003, Opilogue has not been a conventional, mainstream column writing engagement. In its grotesque, comic, ironic and absurd transformation of people and events, it turns exaggeration into an art form spiced with appropriate proverbs and interesting turns of phrase. This collection, then, is full of genuinely funny moments and comic tenderness, yet it is also very remorseless in its rage. To whom and to what does Omotunde turn the heat of his rage? I have given a hint of that already: lunatics and demons. Omotunde masks them in the same way that he invents Niagara as a name for Nigeria and Peoples Destruction Party for PDP. The masking of the bunch of lunatics and demons in Opilogue is not for fear of litigation or any artistic timidity. If anything, at the heart of the creative strategy in this collection of 75 Opilogue essays published in TELL, is intransigence itself. The author just wants the essays to be engaged at different layers of meanings. But I have chosen to tear all the painted masks to enhance my own interpretation. After all, I am a responsible citizen and critical student of Omotunde’s country.

The list is long. For lack of time, let us close-up on a few distinguished ones. For his astonishing buffoonery, hypocrisy, cunning, intolerance of better, dissident or opposing views, greed for power, encouragement of sycophancy, and for nurturing private and sick ambitions, which he packaged as national interest, General Olusegun Obasanjo is on top of this list. In the imaginary conversations, which he had with Remi Oyo, Folake Soyinka and Major Hamza Mustapha; in the imaginary meeting he held with the women in his cabinet; the chats he had with Nigerians on both radio and television; the talks he held with Matthew Kerekou and the madman Robert Mugabe who was very afraid of death but enjoyed killing his compatriots to remain in power, Omotunde uses the fantasies of Obasanjo to interrogate his horribly negative thoughts.

Next, of course, is the vampire of Ibadan, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu. He was mad at Governor Rashidi Ladoja for preventing him from having unfettered access to the state treasury, from choosing his own commissioners and chairmen of government parastatals and board members. He regaled us with how powerful he had become. He had many houses, slaves, cars and a young beautiful woman to boot. What did Ladoja have, he boasted to a journalist, that he did not have except that he was the governor in Agodi while he was the godfather in Molete? He said he would deal ruthlessly with Rashidi. And he did so with the support of the federal government under Obasanjo.

It is simply riveting reading the fictional broadcast of Chris Ngige from his hellhole in Anambra. A victim of another godfather across the Niger. Like a rattled rat he squealed, asking the whole world to save his life. The venality of Chris Uba had no limit. He had the full backing of Alhaji Tafa Balogun, the inspector-general of police, and, again, President Obasanjo. As if that was not enough to belittle a country, one day at the Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom, a melodrama played itself out right on the tarmac. A band of deranged Niger Delta activists were protesting the arrest, for money laundering, of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the Governor-General of the Ijaw nation himself. How could these neo-colonialists arrest the people’s general? What impudence! The protesters would not leave the tarmac if the man was not released immediately. In the alternative, Britain could keep part of the money and wire the rest to Nigeria. They reasoned oddly that Britain must be foolish, in the first instance, to make noise about the money it should just have kept for itself. Yet at that time the militant Niger Delta youths were up in arms against Nigeria for stealing all the resources belonging to the Niger Delta. Hostage-taking was rife. The militants whose leaders included Alhaji Mujahideen Asari-Dokubo just kidnapped a ‘whiteman’. It was only in the course of interrogating him that they discovered that the man was Ben Murray-Bruce!

The country, in this book, is a madhouse where Atiku Abubakar, whose hands were not clean, talked like Martin Luther King Jr.; a land of opportunists like Orji Uzor Kalu who talked about Igbo marginalisation only when it was convenient; an asylum where the judiciary took bribe and brazenly perverted justice; a prison-house where the policemen remained incorrigible crooks; a stinking cathedral where pastors praised dollars and naira, not Jesus Christ; a ‘Fuji House of Commotion’ where Ayo Fayose’s sister, Bimpe Sorinolu, took her brother-governor to the cleaner in the media; a haven for Charles Taylor, a war monger and a plain thief; a theatre of the absurd where Umar Musa Yar’Adua, the dead, held the living to ransom for months; a country of fanatics and rookie bombers like Farouk Abdul Mutallab.

If these represent a group of negative archetypes who are condemned in this book, there are positive archetypes too who are celebrated. They are the Avatars. Intellectuals like Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Elizabeth Anderson and Christopher Hitchens have argued rigorously and almost convincingly that there is no life after death. In the imaginary Godstown of Omotunde, however, the ancestors and Avatars met and had a national conference. Justice Atinuke Ige, the wife of Bola Ige, who hardly discussed politics publicly when she was alive, became a powerful debater of Nigerian conditions. Both husband and wife had brainstorming sessions in heaven. Ige who had now made many friends including William Shakespeare, Langston Hughes, Steve Biko and Oliver Tambo shouted Pin-Di-Pi! when Atinuke told him that one of the people being tried for his murder had won ‘neat and square’ in Ige strongholds. M.K.O. Abiola, who by this time, now lived in the God’s Reserved Area, GRA, in heaven, was holding talks with Kudirat his wife when Ajibola Olanipekun walked in. He informed them how and why Nigeria had become a den of assassins. All those whose lives were cut short by the bullets of assassins actually formed what they called Association of Assassinated Nigerians in Heaven. Barnabas Igwe and his wife were members, Papa Alfred Rewane, was a notable and active member. Omotehinwa and Olagbaju were members. Ken Saro-Wiwa and Adaka Boro were members. There were many others.

Obafemi Awolowo, a politician who was given to finding practical solutions to political problems on earth, was still agonising over many great opportunities, which he thought Nigeria was missing. Professors Claude Ake, Chike Obi and Ayodele Awojobi, Raji Abdallah, a NEPU leader, Walter Sisulu, Tai Solarin, Aminu Kano and Malcolm X always enjoyed Awolowo’s company. Gani Fawehinmi was happy to meet Dele Giwa in heaven. Giwa specifically wanted Gani to describe how he was killed, and what has been done to track down his killers. When Beko joined Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Olikoye and Dolupo in heaven, they reminisced on the essence of the struggle, which was the life of their family. We are reminded of the necessity of struggle against poverty, oppression, insecurity and bad governance. Every meaningful, effective struggle, we are told, is not a tea party.

With these refracted, mediated representations, Omotunde appears to be telling us: Let the spirit of the avatars guide us in our quest for greatness. Let the fog of the lunatics and demons clear. Let it clear.

Ajibade, executive editor of TheNEWS, identifies lunatics, demons and Avatars in OPILOGUE: Not a Laffing Matter at a public presentation of the book in Lagos, May 17, 2011.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Redeemed Harvest of Names

“He said if an ifa priest could become an ‘archbishop’, why can’t he become a pope?”

I know oko mi Adio like my palm. What else do you expect, anyway? We’ve been married for years. We eat together. We pray together. We play together. We even sleep together. Are you surprised? We do virtually everything together. And this very much I know about him: he is a very religious person. He wakes up reading the Bible. At midday, you will see him with the great book memorising its verses. At night he is also at it, fondling the robust Holy Book like a newly wedded wife. But of recent, oko mi Adio says he wants to take his romance with the Book to the next level. He has quit his well-paying job, ostensibly to engage in evangelism. But nobody can convince me that he is not up to something. I confronted him with my suspicion and I could not fault his reasoning.

What did he say?

He said all his contemporaries have become pastors and have prospered. He, too, wants to join the multitude to worship the god of prosperity. I was alarmed! How could anybody dare say that? He flared up, calling me names. I tried to dissuade him but it was obvious his hunter’s dog was destined to get lost in the wilderness of wishful thinking. He insisted he must become a pastor by all means. He said he is no longer interested in the god of poverty. I cried foul! He said if I liked, I could cry turkey or eagle, he would not care a hoot. He said if an Ifa priest could become an ‘archbishop’, why can’t he become a pope? His logic baffled me a bit. He even went further to lay a premise for his unprofessional calling. He said many “men of God” in Niagara today did not go to any major seminary or study theology in any divinity college. He gave instances of spouses of pastors taking over ministries after the demise of the breadwinners, and sons becoming deputy pastors and assistant bishops with “executive fiat”. I concurred and he thanked me for agreeing with his inordinate intention to set up his own ministry. The problem now is what name to give his proposed ministry.

Why should that be a problem? Why not just “OKO MI ADIO EVANGELICAL MISSION OF IGBOTAKO AND IGBOBINI?

Never! Oko mi Adio does not want a name like that. He wants a name that will draw crowds and dollars. And this is where he ran into a problem. To overcome this, he went out in search of specimen names and he became more confused than ever as to what name to adopt or adapt. The first day he went out, he said he almost ran back home because all he was seeing was fire, fire, fire everywhere!

Was the town burning?

No! He said virtually all the names of churches he saw bore ‘fire’ and he started wondering if he had not willingly entered hell in his quest for his daily bread. I told him he should not worry. The fire brigade is always there to rescue him even from hell. The first signboard was truly frightening: FIRE FOR FIRE MINISTRY! What could this be? Oko mi Adio said this must be a church for armed robbers and the police who are always slugging it out in their regular fire fights. He said he would never name his church like that. He can’t be ducking from bullets in the church. He had hardly moved forward when he saw another one, ANGELS ON FIRE, CHAPEL OF PEACE. He just hissed. He said how could he set up a church where angels will burn when he is not the Hitler who built the gas chambers for the extermination of Jews. No way, he said. But he had not seen anything yet. As he walked along some other streets, he saw a row of “fire ministries”. My friend, oko mi Adio had never been so alarmed.

What did he see?


Enough of fire! But how did he react to the line-up?

You can trust oko mi Adio. He just dismissed the names as those created by ignoramuses who have chosen to play with fire, despite the warning of Osibissa, in a country where the fire service is always short of water. He said he would prefer to stay far from the madding crowd. But he had not walked very far again when he saw another church name HOLY GHOST ON FIRE MINISTRY. Initially he liked the name saying instead of the congregation running helter skelter for water all the pastor needs to do is preach to them to dole out naira notes to buy “anointing water” with which to quench the fire. On a second thought he felt today’s pastors truly need FIRE MINISTRIES for practical lessons on what most of them may end up experiencing in hell. That seemed to have given him a new attitude to the “anointing business” and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Please, I don’t understand. It’s confusing to me. Can you come again?

I mean that oko mi Adio started to read meanings into the names instead of just throwing them away paint, brush and signboard. So when he saw the HIGH TENSION MINISTRY, oko mi Adio suggested that it could be a church for NEPA men and their megawatts expectations. Then he brought in his diabolical interpretation. He said it could be a church where the electrocution of evils takes place. But is oko mi Adio ready to name his own church after that? No, he said. Why? Hear him: “Many prospective worshippers may be scared away with their tithes and weekly offerings”. Can you beat that? However, this must be stated. If not because my husband was determined to make hay while the opium (that’s what he calls religion), lasts, he would have been frightened out of the business project with the kind of names he encountered at the beginning, names that have to do with the elements, fear, disaster and violence: HURRICANE MIRACLE MINISTRY, HEALING TSUNAMI MINISTRY, STATAN IN TROUBLE MINISTRY and so on. Oko mi Adio was flustered. He said after what hurricanes/Andrew and Katharina did in the United States, he can never name his ministry ‘hurricane’. Neither would he joke with tsunami. He said a tsunami will definitely wipe all tithes, weekly and harvest offerings away, leaving his wallet wet and empty. You need to see how oko mi Adio was looking while narrating his story. He looked frustrated. I said he should not worry. He could stay at home while I go out to help him sort out more names and promised to come back with what I thought was best for him.

For the concluding part, see 'The Redeemed Harvest of Names 2' in the book, Opilogue: Not a Laffing Matter.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Subway to Surrealism

In name and content, this is an unusual book written in an unusual way. If you have canons (of criticism) to fire after going through it, then you are at the wrong warfront. Do not expect the usual style of writing acknowledgement or introduction to a book because the author is a self-confessed non-conformist. A radical? Bury the thought. Just sit down and savour the aroma of a literary cuisine laced with African condiments. Welcome to the surreal world of Opilogue.

The idea to compile opilogues into book form is not mine. The truth must be told. It is the readers' wish. When I set out in May 2003 to experiment with the art of conversation in writing opinions, little did I know that many a reader would fall in love with the style. Again, the truth must be told. Writing opinion in dialogue format is not original to me. Many outstanding writers with a bolder claim to intellectualism have experimented and mastered the art of reducing hardcore opinions to witty, humorous conversations easily accessible to both the professor in the university campus and the pedestrian on the sidewalk. Langston Hughes, the great African-American writer, is one of the literary touchstones in this respect. His column in The Chicago Defender in the 1960s was a must read for fellow African-Americans and Hispanics.

To Hughes, humour is a weapon of no mean value against one's foes. "In the Latin American countries", he said, "the humorous magazines are often more dangerous to a crooked politician than the most serious articles in the intellectual press..." Thus, in his daily column, he used humour to treat issues of segregation and social inequality in Jim Crow America. In Opilogue, however, humour wears a less belligerent garb. Like one critic once noted, humour can be likened to a rubber sword. "It allows you to make a point without drawing blood".

Opilogue is carved out for entertainment. There is no pretence about that. But should that be the be-all and end-all of Opilogue? Should art only be for art's sake? This has always been a recurrent issue among critics. This I'd say of Opilogue: It operates at more than one level. It is a combination of fact and fiction or what is today known as FACTION. It does not pretend to be "a factual representation of the truth" as neo-classical theorists would say but a fictional representation of fact! Wait a minute. What is going on here? Well, you had better get used to this somewhat abrasive phenomenon because Opilogue, on a different level, is oxymoron in motion. Call it poetic licence!

Talking about poetic licence, Opilogue often takes advantage of this writing tool to “creatively break” the rules in order to expand the frontiers of humour. Well, in the realm of satire and comedy, the writer is at liberty to play on the follies and foibles (o my cliché!) of mankind and use both the congruous and the incongruous, the ridiculous and the sublime, the moderate and the exaggerated, to beam a searchlight on the profane and the perfidious, yet clapping and yelling when there is something to crow about. That has been the journey traversed by Opilogue. Every bone is meat. No matter how gory the story in the Opilogue is, the reader will find some laughlines. Dividends of Deathocracy, published May 12, 2003, set the tone for those opilogues in the category of tragedies. Others include Requiem at Ifa Mosque Cathedral, Weep Not for Lamidi and Farewell Umoru which appear in this collection.

Each Opilogue has its special circumstance though others are borne out of practically creative desires to tackle some issues other writers may consider inane or innocuous such as Knowing Me Knowing You, The Ghanageria Siamese Twins and Diplomatic Yabis. Others are blatantly socio-political commentaries. But whether in social or cultural or religious expositions, Opilogue tries to limit its setting to Niagara, an imaginary country that sounds and smells like Nigeria. That's where the similarity ends though. Any resemblance in the names of characters with those of actual persons, dead or alive, is just an accident which, unfortunately, is not covered by any insurance policy.

The opilogues in this volume have been carefully selected and, deliberately, not much of annotation has been done to explain the circumstance of each one so as not to limit the reader’s interpretation. The joy of Opilogue, like poetry, is in the elasticity of interpretation and appreciation. For example, Far from the Madding Cow is one Opilogue that will be a hard nut to crack now except the reader can connect it with Dividends of Deathocracy. Same with some of the predominantly satirical pieces

Want to read more? See the introduction to the book, NOT A LAFFING MATTER, an illustrated Opilogue compilation, due for launch May 17, 2011. It’s a cocktail of the satirical, the surreal and the sublime.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Children, Too, Want to Be Governor

"Government money is our money and no Jupiter can query us on how we spend it. Those who don't like it can go and 'suicide' themselves"

Alao! … Alao!! … yes, I say Alao! … hmmm… you say there’s no any Alao there… Is that what you are saying? Look at you! Who says he wants to talk to Alao? I’m just greeting you the alakowe way. Alao! Alao!! (Hallo, Hallo) Who’s there? I say who’s speaking? What?! Akalamagbo, so, it’s you… you mean you cannot recognise my voice again. It’s true I have always summoned you to my palace any time I want to talk to you but you should be able to recognise my voice on the phone … Haba! Alao! Alao!! Alao!!!… What has happened? I can hear something falling… Akalamagbo, hope nothing…? Yes, yes… what? You fell down? O! You mean you fell while trying to apologise to me… That’s alright… that’s alright… stand up. Thank you… no, no… no, that’s not why I’m calling you…

Ngbo, what happened between you and Igbakeji? I learnt you are doing 'two fighting' in the office. Sebi, I have told you to be careful or you want me to flog the two of you inside the Government House? Yes… yes… Shurrrup! You children of nowadays are too stubborn. Sebi I told the two of you that any time you want to cough or sneeze or even vomit, you must let me know… Shurrrup! I say shurrrup!… listen… Akalamagbo, abi you want to see the red of my eyes? Why are you behaving like a thug? If the two of you had listened to me, your boys will not be exchanging blows in Agodi over chickenfeed. If you want to eat frog, at least you must choose a fat, juicy one for supper… Alao!… Alao!… can you hear me? Alao! Alao!!… Thank God you are still there. I don’t know what’s wrong with all these GSM phones.

Can you hear me now? Good… I was saying that if you want to fight, fight over millions and billions, not over chickenfeed. Don’t disgrace our great party. The two of you are my sons, if you don’t know, and I did not put you there to be doing what you like. You hear? Alao!… Alao!!… can you still hear me? Okay. Yes… yes… yes… that’s alright. But wait. The N50 million you sent last time was not enough for the number of cars I wanted to buy for the lawbreakers. You had forgotten that I needed to buy, also, patrol vehicles for our local ‘police’ and bodyguards. In fact, I needed an extra N300 million to buy boats and canoes for some of our guests who will like to cruise around in the Premier Motel swimming pool any time they come for the convention of our great party.

And that reminds me, Akalamagbo, I learnt you said you, too, want to continue licking soup beyond 2007. You must be joking. Even if we are spraying political posts like confetti, not a single flake will drop on your lap. Nibo? For where? If not because Aare Latosa did not play ball according to my rules, would you have ever smelt that seat? Our people have said it, “Nobody will ride a horse and not gallop”. Akalamagbo, you are galloping… o nma ga (you are overdoing it). Take it easy o, I’m warning you. Impeachment is two for a kobo here and if you don’t mind, it is the money I have that I am lending you… What? What did you say? Ah, you say I am speaking Yoruba-English? Wonderful! Wetin you speak, Your Excellency? Is it not olopa (police) English you are speaking? Look at His Excellency! Let me remind you, the koboko (horsewhip) used to beat sense into the senior wife’s head is still hanging in the ceiling… Yes… remember what happened to Aare Latosa. After dealing with him, he could only order for pounded yam. Did you see him wait for the soup? The matter became, for him and his supporters, a case of if the rat cannot make a quick getaway, it should make way for the tortoise. That’s how they disappeared from Agodi one by one because it’s what we tell ogbo that ogbo will hear… When a child sees Fear he must run. Beeni.

Yes… yes… of course, that’s a warning for you. A foretold war does not catch the cripple unawares, but that depends on how clever your own cripple is. Just as wrestling is the favourite pastime of the Offa people, so is civil unrest our own hobby in Ebaodan. I know you are a young calf trying to cut his teeth in the politics of this city but let me warn you that Oluyole doesn’t take nonsense from any premier, or gomina (governor). Ask Akintola. Ask Ige. No past non-native civilian ruler left this city alive. We killed them right inside their bedrooms except Baba Layinka. You can prove me wrong. And… Akalamagbo, if you don’t want to die suddenly in your bedroom now or later, I think that’s a timely warning for you. So, this your “third time” ambition will not work. Drop it. My own children are also warming up for aksion. I am tired of doing ijagboro (street fighting) on account of somebody else’s children… What? Oh, sorry, Akalamagbo. I don’t mean it that way. You are all my children but as we say it here, "A father knows who his real children are…" Yeesi o! A nursing mother should be able to feed herself also as she breastfeeds her baby. Afterall, the child is not the only hungry mouth in the family. My children are also coming! You hear? You had better do. I don’t want you to do like all of them who don’t know when to say goodnight to ayo game. And that reminds me, you must not spend all the money in the treasury. You hear? But don’t forget to send the usual N10 million weekly security vote for me to police our area here. Remember also to send the N20 million for entertainment for this week. You may add something on top because I will be receiving more visitors from Oyo and Abeokuta. Sebi you know, these are the real amala people. While the Oyo take amala dudu, the Egba (Abeokuta) are fond of amala funfun with abula to match. And lest I forget… if there is another controversy over the money voted for my ‘office’ and ‘palace’, you must clear from me before talking to the press. I don’t like the way you handled the N50 million car gifts that I dished out like amala the other time. Government money is our money and no Jupiter can query us on how we spend it. Those who don’t like it can go and 'suicide' themselves in Igbo Agala… Yeesi o! Greet Her Excellency, your wife, for me. Greet also His Excellency Jnr, I mean your son. I hope he is drinking milk well, wellahaa … you are laughing? Hmmm… Okunrin meta (three-men-in-one)! When should I be expecting the Accountant-General? Yes… hmmm… Before I go for Jumat? Your head is correct! I know you are a good boy, any day.

Note: This Opilogue was first published in TELL, June 19, 2006

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine Blues

Credit: creoleindc.typepad.com

"Marriage is the only war where you sleep with the enemy"

My friend, you must have been wondering where I have been since all these days. Well, it is Adio, my husband, who has been giving me the treat of my life. Since our reconciliation meeting, he has been showering me with blessings and affections, especially since his thugfather single-handedly made him the new president of the Semovita Kingdom. You need to see how he is now crazy about me. Without me, he cannot eat. Without me, he cannot sleep. Without me, he cannot even urinate. Because of me, he bought a book of text messages and, ever since, it has been messages galore on my handset. I never imagined that Oko mi Adio, without ever having been to Rome, could be so romantic… He has 're-valentined' my life.

You are making me jealous.

Jealous? Just spare me that crap lest you end up inside the well because that's where your type always ends. But, my friend, help me thank Baba Iyaboh, my national father-in-law, for the GSM he introduced to the country. If not for his revolution, I would not be receiving the kind of Valentine messages and calls I have been receiving from my heartthrob. I remember his first message to me the very day he purchased his GSM phone: "My darlin', where were you before you came camping in my heart? You started a fire and now my heart is filled with flames." I couldn't believe it. Oko mi Adio sending me a romantic message? I teasingly asked him to forward his message to the GSM provider or the Fire Brigade. The wonderful blockhead did not get the message. Instead, he sent what he thought to be another love booster: "Everyone wants to be the sun that lights up your life but I, your darlin' husband, would rather be your moon, so I can shine on you during your darkest hour when NEPA strikes". I quickly picked up my phone and told him some home truths. I said I deserved more than a standby generator. "I want you as my constant supply of light till death do us part", I concluded. You know what? Oko mi Adio lifts his text messages, word for word, without taking cognisance of the prevailing circumstance or mood. I have never seen such a pleasantly idiotic plagiarist in my life. The other day when I was on admission at St. Patient's Specialist Hospital, Apongbon, in downtown Lagos, all Oko mi Adio did was to send me this message: "Of all the friends I've ever met, you're the one I won't forget in a hurry. And if I die before you do, I'll go to heaven and wait for you." I read the message over and over again. What's Oko mi Adio up to?

He didn't mean any harm, you know.

You think so? Is that the kind of message people send to their loved ones who are convalescing in hospital? You kuku know me. I managed to sit up in bed and scribble a wait-and-get response: "Obtain your visa fast but make sure you write your will". He thought of atoning for his deed by sending me another fast-food-like text package: "I have a little angel flying around with a hammer, each person he hits gets a little dose of my love. I hope he beats the hell out of you.” I was devastated. Why should Oko mi Adio send an Iron Mike Tyson as angel to me? I called him, “Haba! Oko mi Adio. I know where you got that message from but can’t you use your sixth sense to recycle and tailor it to suit the prevailing circumstances?” He did not allow me to finish when he said he would send another message that I'd definitely like. And what was it? He went through the text book and came out with a message that had recycle in it: "Darlin', it's true they recycle paper till it's as good as new; reproduce cans, jars and old bottles too, but they can never recycle another person as you." I said, "look at this suegbe. Where was he when the oyinbo people recycled a sheep and they named it Dolly? Very soon, they will recycle even Dolly Parton herself. Oko mi Adio was terribly angry and, for the first time in his life, asked the chief of staff, COS, of Government Villa to talk to me. "Is that Her Excellency?" the COS started. I told him, in no unmistaken terms, that I am not Her Excellency. Only God is His Excellency. All mortals are mediocre. Only Oko mi Adio and those who are backing him like his thugfather can call themselves Their Excellencies. I am simply Mrs. Adio.

And what was his response?

He pretended he did not hear me. Instead he launched out like a battering ram, "Madam, do you take His Excellency to be your lawful text mate, to love and to hold, in fine and good lexicon, in poor signal and no service, till low credit do you part?" I said, "I do, I do". He said if I did, then I should not harass His Excellency again over his text messages to me whether they were original or copied, creative or not, pedestrian or motorised, logical or illogical, wise or foolish. I said, "Yes, sir." Afterall, one should learn to say, "Yes, sir" to the mad man so he could make way for one to pass.

You don't mean it!

I do, but that was the greatest mistake of my life. Oko mi Adio now took liberty for licence. 'Gyraffing' and xeroxing became his real business as if he were a WASCE or JAMB candidate. He started lifting messages indiscriminately to 'impress' me. Only God knows whether he did the same for his thugfather. On my last birthday, Oko mi Adio sent me the most unromantic message any spouse could send to his partner. "I never forget my wife's birthday. It's usually the day after she reminds me about it. Happy birthday, Mrs. Adio." I know he lifted it ink, pen and paper. The only new thing there was my name. I ignored him and his message. Then he sent another after waiting, as through for Godot, for my response. "No man is truly married until he understands every word his wife is not saying." That sounded intelligent to me and I told him so. What he sent the following day was even more philosophical: "Marriage is the only war where you sleep with the enemy". I reflected on this message and wondered aloud whether it's not true, indeed, to always learn to endure what one cannot avoid like Oko mi Adio. As if he was reading my mind, another message just came into the inbox: "Love is not finding someone to live with, it's finding someone you can't live without". I called him to ask why this is so. You know what the graceful pig of a chauvinist said? He said the full meaning of wife is actually: "Worries Invited For Ever". I argued why anybody should live with worries at all. If my husband does not love me again, then I should have the right to seek for divorce.

And what's his take on that?

He said divorce is the past tense of marriage and we should rather focus on the present tense which is love and the future tense which is children. Can you believe that? But he agreed that nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes because "there's too much fraternising with the enemy". I asked if I should be considered an enemy. In his usual chauvinistic, arrogant style, he said even if women were in jet fighters or helicopter gunboats, men would always be on top in any war of the sexes. I quickly called off his bluff: "You may conquer with your sword, but you are easily conquered by a kiss". His response was devastating. "Love is like an hourglass, with the heart filling up as the brain empties". I chuckled to myself, "No wonder some men are empty upstairs despite their huge endowments downstairs".


Note: Valentine Blues first appeared in TELL March 6, 2006

Thursday, February 3, 2011

We Steal, We Kill, We Rig…

Ibadan City Pix: northoflagos.wordpress.com

“No matter how independent you may think you are, he who pays the viper dictates the poison”

Mr. Iru, I am surprised that you could initiate a political party conference without inviting people like me, or is it that you don't know me in this land? Who is your own father nihahin? If you don't know the sea, don't you taste salt in your wife's soup? It’s when people want to demystify the elephant that they say they saw something pass by. It’s a lie! Ajanaku (elephant) is more than "something" passing by. If I'm not the whale, at least I'm a shark, in the Niagaran waters. In this democracy, there is no stakeholder greater than I in our zone. Every politician, including the Owu chief, knows that I'm a free-for-all agent. If you want to be democratically elected before the election, you need to see me or else your pounded yam will turn into ordinary porridge in the mouth... Perhaps, I should introduce myself better. I'm a general political contractor. We beat. We kill. We steal. We rig, sorry, I mean...emmm...we can democratically elect you before the actual election. Ours is general merchandise.

I'm sorry, it's not your type that we want here. This is not democracy of mediocre politicians.

Stop there! Mondioka ko, Mondi amala ni! You think this thing called politics is for alakowe (the elite)? You must be joking. You think politics is child's play? Ah! I'm sorry for me. What a pity! Can you do roforofo fight in the streets? Can you kill? Can you lie three thousand times before the cock crows at dawn? Can you swear for fun with the Koran or the Bible? The real alakowe that I know cannot do these, can they?

Are these the only criteria for participation in Niagaran politics?

What have bacteria got to do with what we are saying?

I didn't say bacteria. What I wanted to know is if these are the only conditions that can make one participate successfully in party politics...

Not enough o! You must have money. You must have mouth...

Beg your pardon? Is there anybody who does not have mouth?

There you are! And that's exactly what we are saying. You are just alakowe for nothing, you don't know anything. Listen to me carefully. You must have money, you must have big mouth or what these larodo (young) people call basket mouth and … emm…plenty juju...

What?! Juju for what?

Look at you! Can't you see all of them just dying like rats all over the place? Before the assassin pulls the trigger, they have fallen down yakata and died, just like that! Is that how to do oselu (politics)? If it's not Ewedu State today, it's Lagoon State tomorrow. And if it's not Osemawe State this week, it's Okitiland next week.

Chief, you mean you still rely on this your useless juju power? As for me, it's blood of Jesus...

Look at you! Who says it is blood of satan that is in his own vein...? A youngster, not knowing danger, sees hand grenade and calls it small pineapple! If you cannot carry a tortoise around on your chest and be ever ready to pull the trigger first before the assassin does, like the mystery man of Ado Okiti did, then you are a goner!

I'm still baffled how you got here, chief.

Don't worry. Actually, my governor is not here because I sent him on an errand to Upper Yemoja River to settle some disputes between the Ibariba and the Fulani herdsmen who are always fighting over grazing land. And as for his deputy, you know that one is my house boy. He was still busy cleaning my bedroom when I decided to come myself.

By the way, who really allowed you in?!

Iru, or what do you call yourself? You have to be very careful when it comes to election in Niagara. You must consult and listen to the elders. If not, you will regret the day you were born, like Henry Nwosu.

You mean the footballer? Has he ever regretted being a footballer?

Who is talking about a footballer? I mean your oga before before. That one overstepped his boundaries by not consulting with the council of elders before releasing the so-called free, fair and peaceful election result. Na peace we go chop? We quickly sent our thugs in uniform after him. Have you heard from him ever since? Those boys dealt with him well, well. They slapped him a little to the right and kicked him a little to the left. He was so dazed that if he saw Babangida then, he would have thought it was Nzeribe he saw. Your own will not be like that o! Say "aamen!!" But let me tell you, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. No matter how independent you may think you are, he who pays the viper dictates the poison...

It’s not like that. It is “he who pays the piper dictates the tune”.

Is it not the same thing? Just let me warn you…

If you will just allow me to talk, sir…

Sure, why not? The slave master cannot be so wicked that he will deny his steward the right to urinate. Spoke on (sic).

With people like you in the corridors of power, there is no hope for the electoral process.

Eeemi?! (Me?!). Who is talking of hope? Politics in Niagara is not for HOPE but GOLD. Have you not heard their excellencies arguing lately?

Over what?

One says his goldmine is big. The other says his is bigger. And they are drawing more daggers as they dig in in their respective holes. While they are at each other's throat, the other parties are making hay on the campaign ground, trying to win the heart of both the men and womenfolk.

What are they saying?

One is trying to woo the male voters by saying: "The other party has been robbing you for eight years, now give us a chance too". Another says to the women: "That party has been killing your husbands' batteries for too long, we are here to revive them with ACiD, insha Allah!".

We are in trouble!

Note: This Opilogue was first published in TELL, September 25, 2006.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Siddon Look. Africa Is Watching

It's happening again.

What's that?

The wind of change that is blowing across Africa.

Wind of change? You must be joking.

You are the one joking. You mean you are not aware of the happenings in North Africa?

Tell me story. I’m full of ears.

Sure, why not? The wind of revolution is blowing away sit-tight rulers as it did the remaining colonialists in Africa in the 1980s. Tunisia has fallen. Egypt is falling. Algeria is waiting. The wind is even blowing across the Arabian Peninsula. Yemenis are protesting. Jordanians are complaining too. The Arab world is turned upside down. Things are falling apart.

Wonderful! You mean these are happening in the Arab world? How did it happen?

A hungry man is an angry man. In Tunisia the people defied the police. They defied nature. They defied the law of self preservation. They set themselves ablaze. Algerians did the same. Egyptians followed suit like the kami-kaze Japanese pilots. Self immolation they call it.

I just hope the rest of Africans are watching.

Sure. It's "Siddon Look". We are watching. Ivorians are watching. Niagarans are watching. Everybody is watching

Monday, January 24, 2011

Waiting for Mr. Gomina

Politics without violence is like Xmas in London without snow, Wallahi!”

Right, left! Left, right!! Right, left!!! They are on the march again. The lilliputians. They are on the march again. Marching to Government House. Left, right. Right, left. Left, right. Some are clenching their fists, ready to fight. They shout, "Pack a punch!" "Power!" Some are holding corn cobs as if ready to feed the hungry but they themselves look so lean and mean that they require urgent "food transfusion". They shout, "Operation Fool Niagara!", "OFN!" Some are carrying brooms as if ready to sweep something under the carpet. They shout, "Corruption for Where!" "Action!" Right, left, right, left, right, left...abouuut turn! This is Radio Wayo. DJ, play me Zombi.... No, play ITT. That's better. "....Like Abusanjo and Obatiku, international tough tough...ITT, international tough tough..." Stop! Second base joh! On the march again...waiting for His Excellency, Mr. Gomina...4-1-9 is our man o! Alaya Biagba is our warrior! Josman is our saint! Okirika man is our saviour o o o!! This governor, na we own!!!

It's a lie! It's a lie!! It's a lie!!!

Who's this?

Jigijigi Bamubamu...

Wait, what kind of name is that? Do you mean Jigijigi Majimaji?

No, I'm Jigijigi Bamubamu, original. I'm calling to let you know that those your lilliputians are going nowhere. It's a lie! We are going to stop them by all means.

How are you going to do that?

We have guns, matchets, swords and daggers...

Stop! Who really are you?

I'm Tokyo Japan!

Wait a minute. But you've just said you are Jigijigi Bamubamu or something to that effect.

Yes. Tokyo Japan is my trade name. I'm a professional killer. I mug. I hug. I shoot. I rob. I kill for anything. Do you have anybody to fight or kill?

No, no, no, don't say that on air, Mr. Japan.

There's nothing new under the sun. Niagaran politics is not sweet without gidigbo and jagidijagan...

Eh! What's that?

Politics without violence is like Xmas in London without snow, wallahi!

Ha! Tokyo Japan!! How dare you? Do you know somebody called Waziri Ibrahim?

Is he an Ibadan man?

Sorry, Mr. Japan, does that name sound Mesiogo? Is that Oluyole name? How old are you?

I am 43, going to 44.

And you say you don't know the late apostle of politics without bitterness?

What concerns me about that? Will that belleful me? I trust our own paymaster. This Saturday, we shall get double pay. We shall also eat plates and plates of amala with abula and orisirisi... at Oga’s place.

Sorry, Mr Tokyo Japan, we have to cut you short. We have another caller on the line. Thank you for being part of the programme but don't forget to shun violence on election day so that we can all live to vote another day....Eh...? Who's this? Kareem Oji...what? Oh, Ojikutu? What a name early in the morning! Ahaaa...Ojikutu laro kutukutu... It’s obvious you are boiling and bubbling with energy kutukutu! I like that. My brother, how're you doing? What's going on?

Sorry, my name is Kareem Ojikutu, not Ojikutu Laro Kutukutu. Please take note of that. Yes...I was listening to the last speaker and I'm really pissed off...

Eh, eh, eh...watch your language. You do not say that on air. What exactly do you want to say?

Sorry, I mean it's very disgusting to hear somebody say he has guns and matchets. What for? Is he an alapata (butcher)? Haba! The only weapon against the ugly lilliputians is our vote. Niagarans must put on their thinking caps. The lilliputians are only coming again to loot the treasury.

Beg your pardon! Who says?

Hear them making empty promises. Free air, free water. Free women, free husbands, free injuries, free deaths, free mortuaries....free this, free that. One even promised to build bridges for Niagarans in the Sahel Savannah and when they reminded him that there are no rivers in that region, he said they should not worry, he would either set up labs to manufacture beautiful rivers or import them from Europe to flow under the bridges immediately he is voted into power!

Waoh! You don't mean that, do you? Could you please tell the kind lilliputian to move fast by air-freighting the rivers when he comes to power in order to beat the people's expectation....Yes, who is this?

I am Jacob Essien. My friends call me Johnny Hotdog.

Are you from Calabar?

No. I'm from Oron.

What's the difference?

By the way, why are you asking?

I thought you said you are hot dog.

And so what?

I'm so sorry. I was just thinking of your personal safety.

You mean the likes of Tokyo may take offence over what I intend to say? Who cares?!

It appears we are operating on two different wavelengths. Okay, forget it. What have you got to say?

I think our lilliputians are just great on abuses but small on issues. They are too busy abusing the incumbent office holders that they forget to espouse their own motives for seeking power. Somebody told me the other day that the election results had already been compiled but I disagree vehemently over that. Methinks Niagara is too advanced for that. Or what do you think?

I think of Ondo ’83 when the riggers rigged so well that the voters went mad. I think of Rivers ’03 when all the voters incredibly voted for only one candidate in an election. I also think of the day when the he-goat went to the market and failed to return.

You are right, my brother. Every day is for the thief; one day is for the owner.

Ohimai, I hear you.

What’s Ohimai?

That’s the in-thing in Lagos now. Just check it out!