Tuesday, 30 October 2007

On......the memory of Izehi

The next time a major tragedy occurs remember this. You will go through what I call a 3 day wake. On the first day you will digest the news and scour your brain for any loved ones that may have been involved. Who could have been on that plane? Who do we know that lives in California? On the second day you continue to absorb the news and question such mindless disaster. On the third day, you will move on. The tragedy will become a footnote in history and you become zombiefied as the media continues to show you images and drip feeds you with news of the latest disaster. I learnt about Izehi’s death on the third day.

The tragedy in question occurred one year ago today with the ADC crash that claimed the life of the Sultan of Sokoto and 97 others. The news came, as does all Naija breaking news, in fits and starts. Was the plane Abuja bound or Sokoto bound? Where was it’s point of origin? How many were on the plane? The facts and figures changed as the day wore along. After ascertaining that the crash took place in Abuja, I made several calls to friends and family that lived there to make sure that none of them was on the plane. It was a successful headcount and my world was safe again. On the second day I offered prayers to the families of the dead and thanked God for sparing the lives of the few survivors. On day 3, Charles called me from Philadelphia and asked if I had heard. Heard what I asked. That our old classmate, Izehi Oleghe, had been on that plane. He was travelling from Lagos to Sokoto to start his Youth Service. I was no longer a spectator to this tragedy. I was now a part of it.

It is hard to talk about Izehi without resorting to cliché but he had a heart the size of the world. I first met him almost twenty years ago when I started in Atlantic Hall. In a school filled with elitist, snotty nosed kids, Izehi stood tall as the very antithesis of their pseudo-bourgeoisie culture. We shared a mutual love of Asterix and Obelix comics and a lifetime bond was sealed. He remains, to this day, one of the smartest people I have ever met and I will never forget the sight of him standing up on no less than a dozen occasions one night to collect prize after prize. Even when the priorities of a teenage boy started shifting to more carnal matters, Izehi still managed to find a way to stay within striking distance of the top of the class.

In 1994 I made the leap across the Atlantic to come to England whilst Izehi went on to Ibadan to study Medicine. Once distance comes into the equation I become the poorest of friends. I struggle to keep in touch for months on ends and sometimes lose friends altogether. Izehi never gave up on me. Even in the days before e-mail and instant messaging became de rigueur, he somehow found a way to always get in touch with me. I have a large family and Christmas was always spent under one roof. Izehi spent about two Christmases with us in succession and a visitor would have been hard pressed to distinguish Izehi from any member of my family, such was the ease with which he assimilated. He had a very mischievous streak and many of those Christmas nights were spent arguing about the most inane topics under the sun. Like could Superman defeat Flash in a sprint race? Was Star Wars really just a parable of modern life? Who was the best dancer in school? Sometimes he argued just to give his brain the mental workout. Such was the breadth and depth of his knowledge that he felt confident talking about virtually any subject.

He finally graduated as a doctor in 2000 after years of incessant strikes and stoppages. It is sad that the only thing that Nigeria could offer this bright young man was an unnecessary and untimely death. I travelled to Lagos less over the years but we still made a point of seeing each other at least once a year. This culminated in him spending a month in my house the summer before he died. I will forever be grateful for this time that God afforded us. I miss his booming laughter that reverberated through our house and shook the foundations. I miss his gleaming white smile that lit up the world. I miss his big head that was jam-packed with all sorts of useless trivia and information. I miss his brutal honesty and gentle soul. I miss the hours wasted reminiscing about events long gone and faces forgotten. Most of all I just miss my friend.

Dr. Izehi Oleghe (March 15 1977 - October 29 2006)

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

On......3 marriages? or 3 mirages?

He was surprised to wake up with her hand draped against his chest. He could not remember the last time that there had been any post-sleep contact between the two of them. They slept in the same bed, as they had for the past twenty years, with an invisible wall between them. Occasionally a renegade foot or hand would stray into opposition territory. Sleepy recoil usually followed. Perhaps it was the discomfort that had awoken him. Her arm felt alien. Heavy. Sweaty. He wanted her to move but was reluctant to wake this most fragile of sleepers. He enjoyed this brief period of peace. There was no pressure to retort or respond to the quips of another. Tranquillity reigned. But that arm! It was a weight on his chest. He had to take the risk. He bent his spine and sunk his back deep into the mattress. This created a small space between arm and chest. In one movement, he rolled to his left side and tried to wriggle under her arm. His manoeuvre was too swift and poorly rehearsed and he ended up on the floor. He found the carpeted ground not entirely uncomfortable. The carpet was made from sea grass and had been specially woven and imported from Panama. Last year he and his wife had argued at great length over the price. In his sleepy state he quietly thanked her for her ability to discern quality carpets. He extended his hand over the bed and pulled his pillows on to the ground. Sleep at last!


It was not that she was unhappy - far from it -but Adaobi had started questioning her own sanity. On the face of it life was grand. She had been married for eight years and had three lovely children that she adored. Her husband, Chike, had a big job in the city that paid big bucks so they could afford the big mortgage repayments on their big house. Big deal. Life had become a series of chores. She wondered, with increasing regularity, how the path from graduating top of her Stanford business class had led to a beautifully finished oak and granite kitchen. Her aspiring whirlwind career had been replaced by the quotidian beats of suburban life. Still there were many people in worse positions she thought. Mustn't grumble. Mustn't grouse. If only Chike spent more time at home maybe she would have someone to talk to. Maybe if she took a part time job. Maybe when the kids grow up. Maybe if her damn friends didn’t spend the whole day complaining about their bloody husbands. Maybe if she stopped getting these fucking headaches. Maybe…….
The sound of tyres on gravel cut short her mental meanderings. Chike was home and his food was not yet ready. He would not be happy today.


She couldn't recall the last time she had looked forward to a date with such fervour. Maybe it was his inimitable charm. Perhaps it was his endearing elusiveness and apparent worldliness . He travelled all the time and they had postponed this date many times. They had met cordially enough but an exchange of emails and text messages followed, each slightly bolder and braver than the last. After a month, it had become very clear exactly what they wanted to do to each other and the number of times they wanted to do it. She arrived at San Lorenzo's a few minutes after seven and was ushered to a discreet table in the corner. In spite of their electronic courtship, they had actually only seen each other a few times. He was more handsome and charming than she remembered and the dinner was a rousing success. She talked about Venice and DaVinci. He talked about Inarritu and India. They found common ground. He dropped her off at her place and she invited him in for a night cap. The sexual tension of a compatible couple is a terrific thing. They were tearing each other's clothes off before the key was in the lock. The sex was furtive and forceful but no less gratifying. They crumpled into a sweaty heap and slept the sleep of long-time lovers. She woke earlier than he and silently marvelled at his naked body. She betrayed her instincts and started playfully thinking of their next date and beyond. Had she had sex too soon? Were here emails too brazen? What would he think of her? Her eyes fixed on his hands and her dawn light reverie was cruelly ended. She cursed herself for not noticing before. How could she have been so blind? She averted her gaze to the ceiling but her eyes forcefully returned to the single, solitary digit on his left hand. The fresh imprint of a wedding ring was unmistakable…..


Marriage was once sacred. Now they tell us that 1 in 3 marriages will end in divorce. I met a man the other day who was on his 3rd marriage - at the age of 40. Where does it start going wrong? When do people stop trying for each other or making the effort? When do the early joys and euphoria of being part of a collective start turning into a dull routine? When does marriage start becoming so unbearable that you can no longer stand the sight of the person sitting across the breakfast table? When do you stop eating breakfast together? When do dinners start going cold as a wife waits for a husband who is 'working late'?

They cease to be marriages. They become mirages. They mask the pain and the suffering of people who have long since stopped trying or giving a shit. If you are married and you are reading this, never stop trying. The day that your 100% slips to 98% is the day that you start creating a mirage. Do not become a statistic. Yes it can be tough. You will peak and you will trough. But do not treat every dip like a knockout blow. Always find commonality in the things that you enjoy and never forget the reasons you started loving your partner. Indeed, find even newer reasons to love them everyday and I promise you that you will be together until the Reaper parts you.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

On……the Gold Digger: I salute thee

………..so Heather Mills heads back to Family court today to hear how much she is entitled to following her split with Paul McCartney. Depending on who you believe the final figure is likely to be anything between £30 Million and £70 Million.


Yes. Between $60 to $140 Million


Do I stutter? As I said, 7.5 to 17.5 Billion Naira.

In any currency that one na money. Kai God o why did I enter this world as a man sef? If I was a babe no one go do ashewo work pass me. 70 Million kpon for four years of marital service. The babe made roughly about 17.5 Million a year. And for doing what exactly? No be say they torture am for those four years o. No be say Paul dey flog am every day with koboko. No, quite the contrary. Film festivals, awards shows, St Tropez, Dinner with the Queen, etc, etc. In fact open any glossy magazine in the last four years and if you don't see Heather shining teeth inside then no be correct magazine you buy. Before you start telling me say na love, don't forget that this is the same woman who, on meeting Paul McCartney for the first time, ditched the poor schmuck she was engaged to - four days before the wedding. Ouch!

My question of the day is a very simple one. Ladies, is there any shame in marrying a rich dude? Biko make una think well before una answer o! Is a man's wealth and success really not an issue for you? I bet your instinctive response is Hell NO! The thought of a gold digging female instantly conjures up an image of some mini-skirt rocking, make-up plastering, high-heel wearing hoochie who has no better prospects other than to marry rich. But why? Why can't you be a successful woman who wants to be spoilt a bit as well? Sure you can buy that Lex by yourself but if somebody can just come and dash you one, will you turn an indignant nose up at it? There is a perennial stereotype that the rich guy is always some craggy, saggy, wrinkled, grizzled, 87 year old geriatric (RIP Anna Nicole). But again to refute this, there are many attractive, successful and personable men who just happen to be rich. Success does not always breed arrogance or an undesirable personality.

Fairytales have corrupted our thinking somewhat. The poor student is always so sweet and whimsical; his love is somehow more genuine than that of the rich dude who is invariably hard-nosed and egotistical. Sometimes there is just no winning either way. It is the same poor student that might be the first to ditch your ass as soon as he has made it big. Na minor dilemma but the solution is simple though. Marry someone with at least a sense of purpose and direction. Someone you can go on a journey with. This person should ideally be somewhere between scrub status and big man level. It is a sweeter life journey.

My guys nko? Can you marry in an attempt to upgrade your lifestyle? There is an increasing number of men who will answer yes to that question. See Kpakpando's hilarious post that addresses this new breed of man. This may sound old fashioned but Atutu wants to be the one to look after you in a relationship. When we go out I want to be the one to pay for dinner dammit. I dunno maybe it makes me feel more like a man. Many guys I know swear blindly that they could not go out with a girl that earned considerably more than them. Well bloody work harder then I say to them! But seriously does this mean that we men subconsciously (or perhaps even consciously) go after women we assume will depend on us? Are we wary of those independent, feisty types that look like they will only use you for occasional gbenshing and nothing more? It explains, then, the prevalent nature of the Gold Digger. The Paul McCartneys of this world could easily marry women who are dooched up in their own right. Yet they seem drawn to these women that enter the relationship with six naira fifty kobo and exit with £70 Million. If they ain't no punks, holla "we want pre-nup, we want pre-nup"….

I will leave you with the online exchange between the woman looking for a rich husband and the mysterious Wall Street banker. She placed an ad on some online dating website proclaiming how young and attractive she was and how she was seeking a partner that made at least 500 thou a year. She had recently dated a guy who was on 250 a year but according to her she hit a roadblock because "$250,00 won't get me into Central Park West". She obviously reached her target audience because a rich guy did indeed respond to her ad but perhaps not quite in the manner she was hoping:

"Your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity ... in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful!" the banker wrote.

"So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset," he said. "Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!"

"It doesn't make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather lease"

Suffice to say that the woman pulled the ad shortly after. The shame that should have caught her before placing the ad eventually made a belated appearance. If I was her I would have offered a long term lease with option to buy after ten years. After all Heather Mills only offered four…..
Gold digger: I salute thee

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

On......the story of Nigeria's first astronaut (well...nearly)

Pius Igede was excited. Tomorrow he was going to be the first Nigerian to land on the Moon. He had won the first prize on the Silverbird produced reality TV show, Who Wants to be an Astronaut? In conjunction with NASS (Nigerian Aeronautical Something Something), 24 contestants vied for a chance to fly to the moon. To tell the truth Pius did not even know what an astronaut was before the show began, he had applied only because the application fee was 'just' fifty Naira. His third cousin from his mother's side had reached the final 12 of African Idol and he was determined that he too must appear on TV before he died.

His packing consisted of:

1 tube of toothpaste (Close-up)
1 Goodmans personal cd player
3 CDs (Olu Maintain, Tony Tetuila and 2Pac's All Eyez on Me)
5 Clean St Michael's underpants
5 Slightly worn string vests
1 Bible (King James Version)

Anti-gravity training in Kaduna had been a bit of a nightmare. First of all the special guests from NASA had missed their connecting flight from Abuja and had to travel by road. Secondly the simulation software that had been couriered had somehow ended up in Sokoto. To make matters worse the live screening of the event had to be postponed because Area boys had stolen one of the electric transformers. In spite of this, Pius managed to impress the judges enough to get to the final round.

On receiving the good news via SMS text, his first reaction was to send money to his village and ask the elders to pray for him on his voyage. In addition to the star prize of flying to the moon, Pius had been presented with a cheque for five hundred thousand naira which he planned to use to build a house in his village. Pius’ mobile phone had been inundated with phone calls in the days leading up to the big take-off. He had to explain many times that on this particular trip , there were no way he could buy them soccer jerseys , Ipod Nanos or Nintendo DS. They did not believe him and accused him of being a poser “now that you been don see small money” After a while he switched off his mobile altogether.

The day arrived with much fanfare despite the fact that take-off had been delayed from 9am until 1pm as the various senators and ministers made their way to the space centre. This was a momentous occasion in Nigeria’s history and the event was quite fitting. ThisDay had sponsored a music concert in Pius’ honour and had invited the likes of Beyonce, Jay-Z and Kelly Rowland. Unfortunately Miss Rowland had declined to attend unless something was done about the humid conditions.

The space shuttle was an STS-116 that had been specially imported from North Korea albeit after their aborted space mission. Silverbird were at great pains to explain that this was not a Tokunbo space shuttle because technically it had never really left the earth’s atmosphere - it had merely crash landed about 70000 feet from the ground before actually entering space. After some remedial work by Aba’s finest, Silverbird were confident that the STS-116 was in even better shape than when it was new.

On the day, Pius was beginning to have serious doubts and felt that the training he had received was slightly less than adequate. His brother, Absalom, confided to him that the money he had sent for goodwill prayers had been used instead to perform funeral rites. By the time he walked up the red carpet and spotted a mechanic making some last minute adjustments to the rear wing, his doubts had become a major conviction. He knew that there was no way in hell that he would be entering that thing. Imagine! Somebody who had never even entered ordinary plane sef, they wanted him to go and die for who? Tufiakwa! God forbid! His mother was still alive in the village and he had not yet bore her any grandchildren. The unwavering gaze of the promoters pierced his skin as if to say "ol boy make u no fuck up for here o!" How could he possibly turn back now he wondered? He remembered a film he had watched where the actor had pretended to faint before going on a plane he was reluctant to board. But who would really believe that an ajepaki like him could actually faint? He had once worked as a labourer carrying cement on his back for 12 hours a day. He had not fainted then. Na now him want faint? They go just use slap wake am up. He decided he just had to come clean. An impassioned plea to the gathered crowd would surely carry some resonance. After all could they byforce him to enter the space plane?

About a hundred yards from the shuttle the decision was made for him. Providence, it seemed, was a mechanic named Eric. Eric emerged from the rear of the shuttle with a look of unmitigated gloom on his face. He shook his head in that foreboding way Nigerian mechanics have mastered and announced that the carburettor had blown and that the kick-starter was not responding. He said that the spark plugs had been stolen but were easily replaced, unfortunately the carburettor needed to be ordered from Onitsha. It was agreed that the take-off would be postponed for two days after which they would all reconvene at the same venue. Beyonce complained that she had an awards ceremony to attend the next day in New York and would not be able to perform in two days time. The concert went ahead anyway and nobody really noticed as Pius slipped through the back door. It was the last that anybody was to see of him. Some say he had died in an accident on the way to his village whilst others report that he was now living in Togo under an assumed identity. His house in the village was never built.