Tuesday 4 June 2013

Lagos fires back

This is Lagos' riposte to Maku's comments about Governor Fashola benefiting from Federal Government infrastructure. Keep an eye on this one folks.

We read with a sense of pity the story credited to the Hon. Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, denying the verifiable achievements of His Excellency, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN, the Governor of Lagos State.

 On one hand we feel great pity that Mr. Maku has within a short time lost touch with the ethics of Journalism which emphasizes accuracy, objectivity and facts. On the other hand, we pity the country if the man with the status of Hon. Minister of Information can descend so low as to misinform the world with such impunity.

Although his reason for such inflammatory remarks is still hard to discern, he would have done himself and the nation much good by limiting himself to his brief rather than dabbling into issues he knows next to nothing about.

In an assignment such as Ministerial briefing, as Lagos State had just done while marking the 6th anniversary of His Excellency, all Mr. Maku would have done in his remarks was to concentrate more on the achievements of the Federal government if there is any and if there was nothing to report ( as is clear from his vituperation) he could still have done himself a world of good by keeping quiet (as journalism dictates) than exposing himself to such ridicule through the unguarded statement credited to him.

One is, however not perturbed by his behaviour since it has become his stock in trade going by the way of his earlier outburst on the National Assembly for which he later had to apologize when the House cautioned him.

We believe that if Mr. Maku had taken time to research into some of Fashola’s performance in the areas of Power, Agriculture, Transportation, Housing,  Health care delivery, Education, Sport, etc for which the government has received many accolades even from PDP leaders, his submission would have been better moderated as a communicator.

The issue of Environmental Sanitation raised by him betrays his understanding of the pedestal for good governance in any society.  It becomes apparent that the Hon. Minister was befuddled by the state of development in Lagos, the nation’s former capital that had been left to “rot away” but which the BRF administration is taking to higher heights.

That the BRT buses run on federal government roads is quite laughable. One may wish to ask that since the capital moved to Abuja, who has been maintaining most of the infrastructure left behind by the Federal Government. The questions are why has the Lagos – Ibadan road become daunting to the federal government and why has the federal government failed to replicate the BRT system in Abuja or all over the country.

Perhaps Mr. Maku should have taken a trip to Lagos to see the on-going transformation in the landscape of the State through the expansion of the Lagos –Badagry expressway into a 10-Lane highway with Light rail and BRT lanes, the 39km Eti-Osa -Lekki - Epe Express road, the recently commissioned cable -stayed bridge linking Lekki and Ikoyi communities, the on-going expansion of Mile 12-Ikorodu road, the greater attention to water transportation, the infrastructural facilities being provided all over Lagos and several other people-oriented programmes, before concluding erroneously that Fashola has not done anything in Lagos.

Recently His Excellency, President Goodluck  Ebele Jonathan was hosted alongside the former US President, Mr. Bill Clinton at the commissioning of the Eko Atlantic City where President Jonathan  pledged that the Federal Government will replicate the project in other parts of the country and yet Fashola has done nothing.

The Hon. Minister should know that democracy is not about playing politics with facts. Also journalism does not approve of people giving judgment based on personal interests. The fact that we did not allow Maku to take credit for our project in Lagos in the name of “Good Governance Tour” does give him the latitude to attempt to discredit a performing governor who continues to receive accolades from across the nation and internationally.

Fashola is working, Lagos is working.                            


JUNE 4, 2013.

Monday 16 January 2012

On......the militarisation of Lagos state

A full excerpt of the speech as delivered by Babatunde Raji Fashola on military occupation of Lagos state:

Dear Lagosians,

For the past few days, I have monitored the developments related to the public protest against the increase in the pump price of petrol.

During that period, I have at the invitation of my colleagues in the Governor’s Forum responded to an invitation from the Presidency.

My role since last Monday till date has been to find a ground of compromise that stabilizes the polity, protects our democracy and prevent any loss of lives.

Inspite of these efforts, we were not wholly successful in preventing the loss of the life of a young Nigerian, AdemolaAderinto who was sadly shot.

I am truly saddened by that ugly development. While I condole with his family, I pledge the commitment of our Government to bring the alleged perpetrator to justice.

I have decided to address you today in view of the very disquieting developments that occurred overnight especially the deployment of soldiers across Lagos.

I have the highest respect for members of our military, especially because they have made a contract with all of us that they will willingly lay down their lives whenever it becomes necessary to do so, in order to protect us.

This covenant is instructive, because soldiers did not sign up to stop us from expressing our grievance about things that we are displeased about.

It is not disputable that the citizens who have gathered in several parts of Lagos like Falomo, Ikorodu and Ojota to mention a few have largely conducted themselves peacefully, singing and dancing while they expressed their displeasure at the way that we have taken decisions that affect them.

That in my view should not offend those of us in Government. The majority of these people who represent diverse interests have not broken any law. If they have, it is my opinion that in a constitutional democracy, it is the police that hasthe responsibility for restoring law and order if civil protests threatens the breach of the peace.

This is not justification for sending out soldiers to a gathering of unarmed citizens. Every one of us, or at least majority of us who hold public office danced and sang before these same people when we were seeking their votes.

Why should we feel irritated when they sing and dance in protest against what we have done?

For me this is not a matter for the military. The sooner we rethink and rescind this decision the better and stronger our democracy will be.

If anything, this is a most welcome transformation of our democracy in the sense that it provokes a discussion of economic policies and this inevitably may result in political debate.

I therefore urge the reconsideration of the decision to deploy soldiers and implore the President and Commander-in-Chief to direct their withdrawal from our streets, I must also emphasize that the rights of free speech and protest is not absolute. They impose the duty not to break the law, breach the peace, endanger human life or destroy property whether public or private.

They also impose the duty to respect the rights of others not to support our protest and indeed to support what we oppose. At the end of the day, it is a contest of ideas in which the most persuasive will get the endorsement of the majority of the people we serve.

I am convinced that our democracy is mature enough to accommodate this. We must do our best to ensure that it does.

God bless you all.

BabatundeRajiFashola, SAN
Governor of Lagos State

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday 8 January 2012

Goodluck Jonathan: The most unpopular Nigerian President ever?

It is a good thing that President Goodluck Jonathan does not personally check his Facebook page. If he did, the level of opprobrium heaped on his comments page alone would surely cause him to immediately overturn his unpopular decision to remove the fuel subsidy. As of the time I wrote this piece, there were 12,391 comments posted on his wall. I didn’t have time to do a poll but I can safely report that the vast majority of them were not goodwill messages. I had intended to reproduce some of them but I just felt the amount of abuse and profanity might embarrass even the most liberal of readers.

Approval ratings and polls are sadly not used as a barometer of public opinion in Nigeria. If they did, it would be instructive to compare President Jonathan’s approval rating as at April 2011 (post election) with January 2nd 2011 (post subsidy removal). That there would be a significant dip is a no-brainer but the margin would be quite stark and possibly historic. This then got me thinking how popular Jonathan was when compared to other Nigerian Presidents and Heads of State. If a general election was to be called tomorrow, would the President amass even a riggable amount of votes?

Umaru yar’Adua was not around long enough to form a lasting impression, one way or the other. Olusegun Obasanjo, was a polarizing figure but managed to get Nigerians to re-elect him so couldn’t have been that disliked. Abacha was of course in a league of his own. Babangida’s worst known atrocity was to annul the Presidential elections, a sin he has never been forgiven for. Buhari’s brief regime was draconian but generally respected in retrospect. Shagari’s rule was characterized by public excesses but he too got himself re-elected. Obasanjo 1.0 stuck to the game plan and handed over when he said he would. Murtala Muhammed managed to create an endearing legacy in six months. Yakubu Gowon endured various undulations; from war criminal to war hero to alleged coup plotter. Ironsi was always uneasy in his role as Head of State. Azikiwe and Tafawa Balewa were both regarded as statesmen even if with ethnic slants.

Compared to some of his predecessors, President Jonathan seems to be a decent guy. Unlike an Abacha or even an Obasanjo, Jonathan actually seems to care about his public image. Yet he repeatedly seems unable to gauge the mood of a nation. He has an almost unerring knack of saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. PDP stalwarts are secretly yet to forgive him for violating their constitution and shifting the zoning arrangement. Even as he received wider support for that move, he proceeded to raise eyebrows by reacting slowly and inappropriately to the Independence Day bombing of 2010. His statement, following the attack, perplexed Nigerians when he seemingly absolved MEND of the atrocities before an investigation had even taken place. Prior to the elections, he shut down schools for a registration drive even as his own children continued to attend.

Many of these moves were dismissed as those of an inexperienced head and by the time the April 2011 elections rolled round, Jonathan remained a clear favourite. However 22 million Nigerians were soon questioning their choice when the President started putting out feelers about introducing an extended single term for government executives. Nigerians ransacked their minds to remember if this had been part of the ‘fresh air’ regime he had promised during his campaign. Even as that particular idea encountered turbulence, the perennial talk of fuel subsidy removal began doing the rounds. Things would be done differently this time though, Nigerians were promised. There were to be a series of consultations, town hall meetings, etc. Everybody would get a say, the Presidency assured. As it turns out, nobody did get a say. Not even the National Assembly which remain split on the issue.

As I stop writing, the Facebook abusers have already increased in number. There are now 12,469 comments. By the time you read this, there will be more. Those pleading for restraint are thoroughly outnumbered by those heaping curses and calling for Jonathan’s head. Finally here is one that is printable: “GEJ you have already failed,” it reads. Succint and perhaps premature but no one can ignore the anti-Jonathan sentiment at the moment. He may be currently lagging behind the likes of Abacha and Babangida in the unpopularity stakes for now but the Otueke honeymoon is certainly over.

Monday 27 April 2009

On......the winner of next year's Booker

Yes it is a shameless plug and yes I ought to have drafted a more appropiate post to explain my absence but I really had to shout about this particular book.

I do not come to you by chance is about to take the literary world by storm. The author, our very own Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, also happens to be a hottie apart from being a gifted writer. Grab a copy immediately.

You can buy it here:

And here:

And here:

And here:

Read a bit about Ada here

Friday 28 November 2008

On......death and the Nigerian policeman

The average Nigerian is terrified of death. Well, who isn’t right? But Nigerians are especially scared about the prospect of packing their bags and jetting off to the land of their demise. Take the police for example.

I was covering a bank robbery in Lekki a few days ago and the Mobile police force atypically made it to the crime scene before the robbers had completely scarpered with the loot. However, when they did arrive, they were so reticent in exchanging gunfire that all but one of them took cover in a nearby uncompleted building. Only one aged, dedicated cop had the balls to engage in a shootout with three of the armed robbers. His pleas to his cowardly colleagues, audible in spite of the staccato pummelling of the gunshots, were the saddest footnote in on overall distasteful affair. “Assist me,” he cried. “We fit take them, we plenty pass them”. The valiant enforcers of the law, protectors of the civil populace, cowered in their hiding place until the gunshots had died down and the armed gang had comfortably escaped.

I waited and waited but no ambulance came to treat the injured and pronounce the dead dead. The latter was obvious enough though; the lack of movement in a lifeless body, horrible in its stillness, is a dead giveaway. I saw no ballistics experts recovering bullets that had embedded themselves in the road, the cars and the perimeter fence that had surrounded the gunfight. There were no CCTV cameras to capture the faces of the brazen crooks who thought it impractical to bother wearing any sort of mask. The police interviewed no witnesses and dusted for no fingerprints. Blood was allowed to congeal and no samples were rushed to a forensics lab. There were no helicopters combing the area. I saw a few guys trying hard to look inquisitive and serious. They were either detectives or constipation sufferers. The only thing the police did of any note was to look exceptionally befuddled by the whole thing.

You should see the vigour with which our policemen hound commercial vehicles. If one tenth of that enthusiasm was reserved for confronting criminals then our society would be virtually crime free. Instead of nurturing their talents, they nurture their potbellies. They fear death like zombies fear life. Look to the west and think of the countless law enforcers that sacrifice their lives each day in the name of the fundamental ethos of their profession: to protect and to serve. In Nigeria, they have an ethos too - to pickpocket and to steal. A motto which they are quite prepared to die for.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

On...... Lagosisms, LASTMA and laid back sloths

Life is nature’s hangover; the splitting headache that it can never quite shake off after a drunken binge. Life is a long hiccup; one that I do not particularly want to cure because death awaits at its end. Lagos life is inconveniently simple and orderly. You kinda know where you stand.

You know that people will not wait for you. You know that they will attempt to fleece you at every turn. You know that bus drivers are worshippers of Beelzebub and are in a hurry to donate their souls to him. You know that the rains will bring with them chaos and excess flooding. You know that you will find excruciating hardships and acute comfort, quite often as intimate strangers. On any given day, there will be at least one unloved, unclaimed and very dead body on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway. Bomb craters will occasionally masquerade themselves as state roads. The unending thrust and momentum of Okada drivers will make the Energiser bunny look like a cannabis smoking sloth. The water hyacinth will be a perennial eyesore and you will wonder where it all comes from and where it all goes. LASTMA will harass the law abiding drivers and turn a blind eye to the reckless ones. You will be the daily recipient of verbal and possibly even physical abuse. Ten minute journeys become one hour excursions. You will begin to suffer from dirt blindness: an affliction that prevents the sufferer from seeing trash and garbage, no matter how vast the quantity. You will hear the words Balende, CMS and Anthony at least fifty times a day.

There is a certain inconvenient order and simplicity to all of that. And I kinda like that.

Friday 5 September 2008

On......a light hearted matter

There is never light. The ribcage of my laptop is now visible. The poor thing has been starved of electrical current for so long. My shaver has such little strength that it can barely walk (abi na work?). The small generator at the back mocks them with a horrible vibrating laugh. It has become stocky and robust through overuse and cruelly sneers at the skeletal frames of the other domestic appliances.

Electricity in Nigeria comes in splutters like the dying gasps of a cancerous old man. You begin to grow suspicious on the few occasions that NEPA actually do their jobs and provide sustainable electricity. The other week, we had an almost uninterrupted power supply for 48 hours. I felt a bit like a call girl who had been given one million naira by a punter. On the surface you are happy, but deep down you are deeply mistrustful of what you will have to do for this ostentatious good fortune. Following the recent awoof of light, I am beginning to fear that they are planning a three month power blackout. Nationwide. This is how wary they have made me.

I was trying to open a bank account the other day and the customer service assistant asked me for a NEPA bill as proof of my address. I was immediately gripped by overwhelming hysteria and had to be escorted out of the bank premises before I managed to stop laughing. NEPA bill ke? Do these things actually exist? What exactly is one billed for? I investigated further and I actually came across one of these so called NEPA bills. They even measure electricity in real units of measure; kilowatts. I suggest that they start billing people in kilonoughts of nonentricity used. It would save them a lot of paper work if nothing else.

Dear Mr Adekunle,
You have consumed 1 million kilonoughts of nonentricity this month. Please pay your balance of zilch before 9/9/9999 and you will be assured of continued lack of electricity.
Mr Pana-Pana

Nobody seems sure of when this sustainable power supply is to be achieved. Is it 2011or is it 2020? What are people’s thoughts? Can we really have sustainable power in this country? I fear that there are too many personal agendas for this to be a foreseeable reality. What happens to the generator sellers and distributors if there is regular electricity? What happens to the diesel sellers? What happens to big oil? What happens to Femi Otedola and co? Are we to reasonably expect all these people to quietly sail off into the night and never be heard of again? The fact is that it is still in the interest of far too many people – powerful people at that – for there to be an irregular and unreliable power supply. These people are so powerful that they helped your local government chairman win his election. And your Senator. And your Governor. And yes, even your President.

I cannot imagine that there are many more countries in the world that consume more diesel per year than we do in Nigeria. In most other countries, diesel pumps have become desolate figures on the forecourts of filling stations. In Nigeria, the stuff is at such a premium that it costs us twice the price of unleaded petrol. This diesel lust is fed by the need to power our generators because NEPA (now rejigged to PHCN) apparently generates less than 3000MW of electricity a day. The goal of the present government is to quintiple this meagre total by 2010. In the increasingly unlikely event that this is achieved, it would still not be in line with most other developing nations.

Darkness has enveloped our land at night and also the thinking and ambitions of those that rule our country. Provision of sustainable electricity should be the most pressing issue on the agenda of all our rulers. It appears that it is not. NEPA, and all its incarnations, has become a byword for ineptitude and poor performance. It is a national joke. It is hard to accept the current standards when indigenes of smaller, weaker economies are basking in the dull glow of their evening light bulbs whilst millions of Nigerians continue to eat enforced candle-lit dinners. It is a sham and I can confidently proclaim that steady electrical supply would eradicate one third of Nigeria’s problems today (a half decent road network would solve another third). Let us bring sustainable electrical power back to the forefront of the national consciousness. It is no longer enough to merely fold our arms when they deprive us of electricity only to yell “UP NEPA” when it is returned to us.

On a slightly different note, we had any number of witty acronyms for NEPA - my favourite being Never Expect Power Always. Can anyone suggest an equally apt one for PHCN?

Thursday 7 August 2008

On......a return to the organized bedlam of Lagos

The first thing is always the humidity. Dense and sultry. Lagos-by-the-sea. Where no breeze dare ride freely for fear of being hit by an okada driver. Baggage collection is much improved with two separate halls divided by a Pyrex screen. Another flight has just landed but at no point do we have to go and check the conveyor belt in the other hall for misplaced baggage.

The long journey home. I am bracing myself to confront the traffic. The smallest things provide the greatest details. There is a small goat tottering across the motorway that leads from the airport. I wonder what it aims to do when it reaches the other side. If its entrails have not mingled with the motorway by then. The biggest road problem remains the bikers and okadas. Mechanical bees. They swarm around your car, coming from all directions, threatening to sting at the slightest provocation. There appears to be no law about what an okada can and cannot carry. I intend to set up a photo log displaying the varied passengers I have seen on the back of an okada. Today there is one carrying two passengers. Hardly noteworthy, aside from the fact that the second passenger is one half of a dead cow.

Businesses continue to thrive. Everywhere one looks there is the ubiquitous florescent green banner that proudly advertises some business or the other. Whoever creates those banners must be making a killing. One such sign for a charity bemuses me. Motherless babies. I wonder if there isn’t a good chance that the babies are not also fatherless babies. And if not why don’t they just call the thing an orphanage. It is only a euphemism of course but motherless babies always sounded a bit too cruel somehow. A bit too Dickensian.

Governor Fashola is doing a good job. Ask any one on the street and he will tell you. For the first time as far as I can remember, there are discernible changes in the way Lagosians are living. Actually, strike that. For the first time, there is a discernible positive change in the way Lagosians are living. The Molues are gone. There are proper bus stops. People are queuing. I am amazed. Many overhead bridges and walkways are now protected against the elements. I hope this will mean fewer deaths from breakneck pedestrians trying to cross a motorway when an overhead bridge is one foot away.

The mechanised tentacles of construction and redevelopment are spread right across the city but still too concentrated on Lagos Island. The mainland is still far and away it’s poorer cousin. Urban improvement is less visible in Yaba and Surulere than it is in Victoria Island and Ikoyi. It is still a tale of two cities. I know Islanders who do not venture into the Mainland unless they are going into the airport. If one thinks this is a class thing then consider that there are just as many Mainlanders who would rather prostrate naked on a bed of scorpions than live on the Island.

As we enter the island I notice the traffic in the other lane. It is the same traffic that I have been noticing since the Third Mainland Bridge. I wonder what time those at the tail end of the traffic will reach their loved ones. And what time they will need to set off again in the morning. I fear the effects of the partial closure of the Third Mainland Bridge. It will be two months of great difficulty.

Asda and Walmart killed the trader. We stop at the Palms and Shoprite is fantastic. You can find anything and everything at reasonable prices. There is a suya man there buying huge quantities of meat. I ask him in Hausa why he does not buy his meat in the market. He says that whilst the meat is still slightly cheaper in market, the cost of transportation there and back removes any actual savings. How long before there is a Shoprite in every corner of town? How long before they start squeezing prices and forcing small traders and middle men out of the equation? The cost of a carton of juice is twenty naira cheaper in the market than in Shoprite.

I am so happy to be back. It has been fourteen years now since I have lived here, disregarding holidays in between. Fourteen years. More than enough time to spend in any one place I reckon. These days you get less than that for murder. I will give myself ten years here then let us see what happens. America perhaps would be the next great adventure. Gosh, I will be 40 then. Where does the time go? I aim to have fun. I left Jand because I stopped having fun. There will be disappointments strewn across the road in front of me. Tragedy even. But I will hurdle each one and continue running. Let us meet at the end.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

On......the story of Ashewos Anonymous

With varying degrees of disharmony, the six women sat down in a semi-circle in a small conference room at the Eko Le Meridien Hotel. They were assembled for the fourth meeting of Ashewos Anonymous, a support group designed to ‘cure’ nymphomaniacs and other women who were addicted to sex. Since its inaugural meeting, numbers had dropped significantly, with the deserters finding the AA’s twelve step program either too demanding or not demanding enough. For their needs.

Alhaja Silikat, for example, had to stop coming after her husband and erstwhile pimp, Alhaji Mushin, had discovered the existence of these meetings. Alhaji had gone into semi retirement many years ago after becoming partially deaf. He still sold gas cylinders for a living but this was not enough to support a growing family of seven children. It was unfortunate also that his wife’s full time job of selling boli contributed very little to the overall family income. He decided one day that it would be more beneficial for him to become his wife’s agent and began to advertise her sexual services. He charged roughly about 2000 Naira per hour per person. In a good week, Alhaja’s big yansh would bring in about 60000 Naira for the family. It was hardly the kind of income that Alhaji was going to jeopardise and he was livid on hearing of her visits to Ashewos Anonymous. He warned her that she was never to socialise with those harlots, those midnight walkers, those damsels of the night. Alhaja, meek and always subservient, had listened to her husband and put a halt to her AA meetings.

Of the six women that remained, each had a different motive for their continued attendance:

Hepritta Okolie, was the worst kind of ashewo, the unrepentant kind. In truth she only attended these meetings because of the free poff poff and minerals. If there was anything that Hepritta liked more than a big strong John Thomas, it was poff poff. She had recently secured a very lucrative patch on Sanusi Fafunwa and clients were steady. However, even after taking care of rent and tuition fees, buying food was a problem. Yes, she thought, when all these stupid ashewos finished talking opata she was just going to stuff as many poff poffs as she could into her bag before hitting the street. Tchhhhhw. Idiots.

Godwina Iriambong was not really an ashewo at all. She only came for these meetings in a secret bid to learn more about the art of being a successful ashewo in the hope that she too could improve her sex appeal. Sadly for Godwina, God was not in a winning mood on the day that he moulded her. Her teeth were small and sharp like that of a grasscutter and to compound matters she suffered from an inability to close her mouth for longer than one second which meant that her gnashers were always in full view. Her weight had always been a source of great distress. She had recently tried the award winning Akin’s diet which prescribed eating nothing but Banga soup day and night. Poor Godwina was usually so ravenous at night that she had once devoured about 3 kilos of Banga in one sitting. This was not quite what Dr. Akin had in mind. Her facial features may have been acceptable if she had a basic understanding of make-up arrangement. As it was, she had skin the colour of night yet insisted on a lipstick shade that was as red as uncontaminated blood. In addition to her unnecessary rouge and purple eye shadow, this gave her a rather freakish look which was responsible for at least two accidents and one small riot on the Lagos-Ikorodu expressway. Godwina would sit at the meeting nodding furiously at all that was being said, making copious notes along the way. For Godwina, therefore, ashewoism was not a malaise but an aspiration.

Funke Okunrinoletemilorun, founder of this society, was a young lady with genuine sexual neuroses. At the last count she had slept with no less than 127 men, not including the okada driver that would drop her later that evening. She came from a solid background and her parents were of considerable reputation. By the time she was 18 she had slept with all the male members of her household including the washaman that came once a week. At 21 she no longer felt any sensation during sex yet felt the compulsion to continuously seek new partners. At 25, she acknowledged that she had a problem and needed to proactively deal with it. She formed this organisation with the belief that there were other women who shared her predicament and that together they could help each other.

The fourth lady needed little introduction. I am referring of course to Chief (Mrs) Oladunjoye Akinpelu nee Harrison-Thomas, the socialite, the bon vivant, the collector of men, the lover of all things fiscal, and without much doubt the greatest fornicator of all time. She was now on her sixth husband and had amassed a personal wealth of some 1.2 billion Naira through various enterprises and divorce settlements. Her primary source of income remained her very successful brothel franchise which had started out as a modest concern in her boys-quarters in Ilupeju. Over the years it had grown into a national franchise and now boasted no less than 49 depots across the country. There were only four states in Nigeria that she did not have at least one brothel and development plans were already at an advanced stage. She had once bragged that if Mr.Biggs was the biggest franchise in Nigeria, then her brothels were a close second. Chief (Mrs) Akinpelu nee Harrison-Thomas was attending the meeting to make sure that none of her girls were attending. She had personally interviewed each of the 448 ashewos that were under her direct employ and she ran a tight ship. She was nothing if not thorough and did not want any of them to start getting ideas above their station by attending new fangled concepts like Ashewos Anonymous.

Mama Ikpamosa, septuagenarian, wrinkled, toothless and recently widowed was a peculiar attendee. Since Papa Ikpamosa’s death her life was of very little meaning and she had attempted suicide several times. At the fifth attempt she had doused herself in diesel but forgot that she had bought no matches that week and therefore had to curtail that particular effort. As she slept that night, smelling like a Mobil filling station, she had something of an epiphany in which some celestial voice advised her to seek comfort in the company of other women. She decided the next day that she would stop trying to kill herself and try and make some friends instead. Ashewos Anonymous was one of ten groups that encouraged female solidarity in which Mama Ikpamosa had become a card carrying member. Her darling husband, in his infinite wisdom, had always discouraged her from keeping female company, believing women to be the product of Satan and only good for their superior culinary ability and reproductive organs. For the first time in her life she was interacting regularly with other women and loving every second.

The last woman in this motley crew was Doorshima Mbanengen, the poor unfortunate who was the victim of a generational curse that compelled her to have sex with any man who asked her. Her grandmother had once angered the Mammy water by boasting that she was of the very strong conviction that she was the most beautiful woman in all of Tiv land. The Mammy water had overheard her and placed a curse on Doorshima’s grandmother and all her future offspring. The curse was, for a woman, the worst of all curses - constant consent. She and her future generation were unable to say no to any advances made by a male. Doorshima’s own mother had died in childbirth and was not able to advise her daughter of the terrible hex that was to walk with her for all her living days. Doorshima had grown up unaware of this curse until she began secondary school and word got around that she was a “girl of loose morals and even looser pant”. Her compulsion disgusted her and she tried everything to rid herself of it, including joining The Sacred Church of Indigo and Lavender in the belief that hers was a spiritual problem. She left the church after the priest discovered her little problem and used it to his advantage, repeatedly. She sought out this group as a means to purge herself and try and understand more about her inabilities to turn men down.

The six women would talk of their exploits, real and imagined, with a candour and openness that would embarrass a market woman. Over time, they all started to look forward to these meetings and although numbers fluctuated, the six remained constant attendees. They did not really socialise outside of the sessions but a great affinity developed between the six of them, and it was truly remarkable to see them helping and encouraging one another, reclaiming the word ashewo in the process to become a term of endearment.

In a country where instances of female solidarity are as rare as blue gold, it was Ashewos Anonymous that brought these women together with a (dis)united purpose. It makes it incredibly sad that Funke, the founder and chairwoman, died less than a year after the inaugural meeting from an AIDS related illness. The women still met once a year in her honour and today, in Onikan, there is even a small memorial stone with the inscription – Remembering Funke, the greatest ashewo that ever lived.