Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What to Do

I've been busy with my classmates, fighting to get admitted into lawschool. Thing is, we'd already been offered admission, but our evil Acting Dean decided to send the results of just some of the people in our class to lawschool. Those guys have been at their various campuses having lectures for almost a month. We on the other hand, have had to struggle to make him send our results to Abuja. He finally did, long after the deadline. The result? about 200 qualified law graduates have to wait almost an entire year. It's annoying. I hear the Acting Dean now has police protection. God help him!
The Struggle as we refer to it, is now practically over. We celebrate our small victories and hope that the wounds will soon phase into scars. there's been a lot of strategizing. An unlikely bunch of classmates thrown together by a common challenge. I'm now friends with people i never spoke to in all the 6 years i spent in that faculty. there has been a lot of bitterness confessedas well as a lot of beer consumed. there've been anecdotes from the time spent chasing that LLB degree. there's the guy who 'toasted' the most wicked female lecturer when he was in year 2. He claims he'd thought she was a student because of her very nice legs. He developed cold feet for Madam Hot Legs when someone told him who she was. He never called her, even though she had given him her number. the next time she saw him, she yelled "I don't like being disappointed!". He, on his part, prostrated and begged her to forgive him for ever coming on to her.
Now I have a year to fill, but I'm too exhausted to evaluate my options. I feel like I need to sleep for a long time, even my body aches. I got a call from my cousin she wants me to 'come to Lagos and hustle'. I'm not even sure what that means. My sister thinks I should travel, but she's not very clear on whether she'll be willing to bankroll such a trip. My mother called me last night.
"What are you doing now Porter?"
"When are you coming home for Christmas?"
"As soon as my girlfriends release me."
She chuckles uncomfortably, not sure if I'm serious.
"Well, don't keep us waiting for too long."
"Have you thought of what you'll do next year?"
"I'll find something to do. Maybe learn Spanish or something. I might even blog"
"What's that?"
I explain.
"I thought you wanted to be a writer? This blogging thing sounds like a compromise."
"I hate it when you do that Porter."
"Anyway, take care out there. Don't do anything that..."

The network rudely interrupts. Service is down again. I try to call her back, but I can't get a connection. I sit back and try to think of what I'll do in the coming year. My mind yawns. I'm having unpleasant flashbacks to that nasty episode with Punishment. I lie down and hope to wake up in 2008.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Porter: A Brief History of Treason

I remember quite clearly when I was about 6 or 7, I got thoroughly scolded by my eldest sister for not keeping my room tidy. As she was leaving the room, I made a rude gesture (I show her waka) and she just so happened to turn around at that moment. She saw my hand mid-air, palm facing her, fingers extended, and a defiant look on my face. She came back and gave me a memorable beating. After that, I made it a policy to keep my rude gestures mental and unseen to the human eye.

There was another incident not too long after that. I had just emerged from the toilet. My sister called out from downstairs

‘Porter, what is that horrible smell?’

“Smell? I can’t smell anything”

“What do you mean you can’t smell anything? Did you just use the toilet?”

“Yes, but it didn’t even smell, and I flushed”

Next thing I knew, my sister was bounding up the stairs, handkerchief tied over her nose and mouth. In her right hand, a loaded canister of some lilac airfreshner, in her left, a can of Raid. I’ve never been able to figure out what the Raid was for…to kill germs? To further suppress the (imagined) stench? To prevent flies from finding ground zero? She began to spray away the moment she saw me in front of my room. I had to get out of the way.

She sprayed generously from both cans all the way to the bathroom, and then she went postal when she got inside it. I reckon she must have emptied both cans in there. After that, she ordered me to go and take a bath in my father’s bathroom.

“You’d better scrub yourself very well because I will inspect”

I was angry, and I contemplated another rude gesture but the memory of the last beating was still too fresh and raw in my mind and so I did as the dictator had ordered.

I got my chance for revenge a few days later. I waited until my sister had gone into the toilet one evening and then I took a can of Raid and started spraying away outside the door.

“Who is that?” she called out, startled. I kept quiet and went on spraying.

“I say who is there? Porter?”

“Yes, aunty” (she made us call her aunty in those days. Such was her tyranny)

“Porter what’s going on there?”

“Nothing aunty”

“What is that sound? What are you spraying?”

“I smelled something. I think there’s a dead rat around here. I’m spraying Raid because of the smell, and to kill the insects that will be looking for the rat”

She kept quiet for a while and then she said “you evil child, you had better leave that place before I come out and descend on you. In short, go and kneel down in my room and wait for me”

I was standing covering my mouth with one hand, trying not to laugh out loud. As I turned to go and observe my punishment, I couldn’t resist one final spray. There is no need to recount what happened when she came out of the toilet that day. But let’s just say that I didn’t receive any presents from my sister/aunty the following Christmas.

A couple of years later, my father’s lady friend found a note inside her car after one of her numerous overnight visits. The note was scribbled on a plain sheet of paper. Its message was simple, and the lettering was large and quite legible. It read:


She almost fainted when she saw it. My father was not at home, and so she went upstairs to his study and began pacing until he got back. Downstairs, there was a buzz, we weren’t quite sure what had happened, we could only speculate.

After about 10 minutes, my father summoned the household to his study. He told us what had happened. The lady sat quietly, glaring at my older brother and me with hateful eyes. My father then began to narrow down the list of suspects. The cook had been busy all day, besides she was very fond of Madam. The gateman couldn’t write a single alphabet even if his life depended on it. Our cousins had just come from the village the previous day, and they could not have formed an opinion about the lady in so short a time. And so it went until the only two people standing in the study and facing the hateful gaze of the woman and the certain justice of my father were my brother and I.

My father then asked us to go and bring our school notebooks. After some handwriting analysis, my brother was fingered as the culprit. My father said even though he had ‘tried to be clever’ by changing the way he constructed his letters, his W’s were unchanged. My brother would be grounded for a week. He would write a letter of apology, in his original handwriting, to the lady, and wash her car whenever she came (and slept over). I thought I was off the hook until my father turned to me and said

“Porter, I notice the note says ‘we hate you’. I can only imagine that you and your brother had agreed on this”

“No, I didn’t…”

“Sharrap!” he barked, and then he went on. “You will also write a letter of apology”. With that, he dismissed us. I went to my room and even as my brother was biting the top of his biro, agonizing over what to write, I wrote a very brief letter that went something like this

Dear Aunty,
I am writing to apologise for the note you found in your car today. I am sorry that somebody in this house does not like you. I don’t know the person, but I would like the person.

The lady was furious when she read this. She took the note to my father and he summoned me once again. He read it aloud to me and asked me what I meant by ‘I would like the person’

“Oh!” I exclaimed, feigning surprise “It’s a mistake, I meant to say I would like to find the person”

“It’s a lie!” the woman screamed.

My father asked her to calm down and let him handle it.

“Now look here Porter, I know you are trying to be very clever. I am now convinced you were the brains behind that note even though your brother was the one who foolishly wrote it. You will go and write another letter of apology, this time without any mistakes. You are also banned from watching TV for a week.” I thought I saw just the slightest hint of a smile playing on my father's lips.

With that, he sent me away. He knew he had given me a very painful punishment. I still like to think that my father was somewhat amused by my treachery. He wasn’t a humourless man, and in his youth, he’d been a bit a rascal. There were rumours that he’d been the leader of a group that burned the blackbook back when he was in secondary school. I think he was secretly proud of my naughtiness.

As for his lady friend, she became very paranoid and she was always on our case from then onwards. However, about a year later, she had a major falling out with my father and the day she left, my brother and I were smiling broadly and waving mockingly as we opened the gate for her to drive out of our lives.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

From Sugar to Shit in Just a Bit

She visits. We hug, and then kiss. We sit down to talk. We laugh and play. Our love is bliss. I say something. She misunderstands. I joke about it, she overreacts. I shrug, she curses. I yell at her, she yells back. I ignore her, she screams. I grab a beer, she hits me. I sip my beer and watch the TV. She sits on the bed and starts to sob. I turn off the TV and try to hold her. She pushes me away and curls up on her own. I try again, and fail again. I sigh, and sip my beer. Her cell phone rings. She wipes her eyes, and answers with the breathless hello she usually reserves for me. I turn on the TV and try to focus. Her whispered words distract me so. She soon sits up and cuddles a pillow. The call lingers, ands soon she laughs. I look at her, she turns away. Her whispers drop an octave. She giggles again, and leaves the room. I hear her lock the bathroom door. My jealous hearts quickens pace. My state of mind is insecure. Giggles and laughter are all I hear. They make her happy. I wonder who. When give her pain is all I seem to do. From across the door I listen in. I hear the smile in her happy hum. She comes out soon and stares at me. I’m leaving you, I hear her say. She knocks the sunshine out of my day. I sit on the floor and close my eyes. Something deep within me dies.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Gaze upon his back

Not so proud
But strong

Too often bent in subservience
With more stripes
Than the zebra in the Safari

The crimson welts
Are now Stygian scars

His eternal scowl
Began as a frequent wince

His anger is rooted
In his pain

His roots are watered
By his hate

His hate flows
From his past

His past
Has made his back

Not so proud

But strong

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Chase and the Chapel

We crouch in the grass, hoping somehow that the wild green blades will camouflage our gleaming white t-shirts. Location: School farm. Punishment points to a row of yams.

‘I planted those’

‘Shut up!’ I grunt, eyes intently scanning the road that runs between the hostel and the classroom buildings.
There is no sign of our pursuers. A big soldier ant makes an irregular dash across my toes. In panic, I kick off my palm slippers and stamp my feet trying to get him off before he strikes. Punishment laughs, I scowl. Somewhere to the left, just off the road, there’s a rustling sound. I just manage to pick up my slippers. The chase is on again.

Mr. Akin is the vice-principal and the most dreaded member of staff. He is our main pursuer and tormentor-in-chief this fine Saturday morning. Punishment is my friend and a total idiot. Twice suspended, never remorseful. He has a rap sheet as long as Fela’s discography (oh, and he’s been caught smoking and selling Fela’s favourite herb on more than one occasion). The reason for his nickname is a no-brainer.

Now, before you start thinking that us two gentlemen are being chased because we were spliffing, I’ll have you know that Porter did nothing of the sort. Thing is, we are being chased because we want to go and write our first JAMB exam. Honest.

We run. Out of the farm, back onto the side of the road, I look back. Mr. Akin and a security man are jogging about 50 yards back. Up ahead, the classroom buildings are drawing nearer. Punishment is keeping up. He has a silly grin on his stupid face. We hear the sound of a car. We look back to see Mr. Akin and his foot soldier jumping into one of the school’s pick-up trucks. This is so unfair. We run faster.

We dive under the stands around the tennis courts to catch our breaths and re-strategize. JAMB starts in less than an hour. I tell Punishment that the bag which holds our exam slips, materials, and contraband mufti clothes are hidden in the upper floor of the school chapel.

‘Take your things and leave mine in the bag’ I tell him in between my panting and peeping to see if Mr. Akin is already creeping up on us.
‘I’ll circle the primary school block and go for the bag’

He nods. ‘See you after the exam’

Our exam centers are different. The whole point of this cat and mouse game is to avoid going to our exam centers in the school bus, wearing the school uniform. More than a few of us have decided that we’ll go on our own to our exam centers, in our own clothes, and then find our way back to the fortress that is our school, after the exam. Mr. Akin got wind of the plan, no doubt through one of his many spies. Many of the boys have been rounded up and have been dispatched in the school bus. Punishment and I are just part of a handful of us still on the lamb, and now Mr. Akin is after us. We face serious er…punishment, especially now that we’ve made him chase us so hard.
We split up. I head towards the kiosks, and then up the stairs of the nursery section. I stay close to the walls, and listen for footsteps. After about ten minutes, I cautiously plot my way towards the chapel, saying a silent prayer of forgiveness to God for using His house to facilitate my disobedience. I enter the heavy oak doors in a hurry. The chapel of course is empty, I jog between the pews and then up the stairs to the empty room where the bag is hidden. Punishment should have taken his things by now. I stand on an empty paint bucket, reach up and push a loose ceiling board aside then but my hand into the dark space. The bag should be right…NOTHING!
A cold sweat breaks out all over my body suddenly. I search frantically within that dark foreboding space that now seems as bleak and unfortunate as my future is beginning to seem. Nothing. Still nothing.

I crumple on the floor, and try to think. My t-shirt dims. Punishment, you stupid bastard. How could you take the bag? My exam slip, my materials, my clothes. I try to remember his exam centre. I can’t. Outside I hear the sound of the pick-up truck patrolling, looking for me. I get up and head back downstairs.
The fence is not far. I scale it with more ease than I ever have. On the other side is a filling station. One of the securitymen approaches me but then thinks better of it when he sees my face. I get on the road and flag down an okada. I start my futile journey. Heading from one school to another, looking for Punishment, I do not know his centre or even his exam number. After visiting about eight centres in the large city that probably has hundreds of centres, I decided to go to my own. The exam is already underway. I have no form of identification, no idea of my exam number, nothing. They won’t let me write in spite of the very touching story I concoct. It’s hopeless.
I hang around for a while, begging. They can’t help me. I think about all the repercussions that are bound to come. Regret is that gloating enemy who wants to be in your face all the time.
I head back to school, and enter the same way I left. I'm probably the only S.S. 3 student in school at that particular moment. I fall on my bed and intothat deep, peaceful sleep that is God's gift to the troubled and helpless.
When I wake up hours later, the first thing I see is Punishment's face. He's grinning, the smug bastard. He looks like regret. I ask him very calmly why he did what he did. His grin disappears. He didn't know until just then that my exam slip was in the bag. He had wanted to play a prank so I'd have to go and write the exam wearing a t-shirt and my school trousers. He is truly sorry. I tell him it's okay. It's JAMB, I'll write it next year. I fall back on my bed and sleep. This time, my slumber is not so peaceful.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


The Revolution will not be serialized
The Revolution will not ask you to watch out for part two
The Revolution will not have Stella crying, or Pete blinking, or Ramsey squinting
The Revolution will not have a NAFDAC number
And yet Dora will be unable to seize it or burn it
The Revolution will not be privatized by the B.P.E
So the Atikus, Dangotes, and Obasanjos can forget about owning it

The Revolution will not be monetized or be the subject of due process
The Revolution will not be redenominated so it reads like this “REVLUTIN”
The Revolution will not be announced by INEC or contested at tribunals
The Revolution will not be renovated for #682M or for any amount whatsoever
The Revolution will not be imported, adulterated and sold in jerry cans in street corners

The revolution will not be announced by a general
The Revolution will not be Newsline material
The Revolution will not be kidnapped and released for ransome
The Revolution will not lose network service, or be unable to connect to its servers
The Revolution will not be swept away by a broom, shaded by an umbrella, or forced to eat corn
The Revolution will not do the yahoozey, the suo or even galala
The Revolution will not be a contract, abandoned midway, or poorly done

The Revolution will not be made right by loaded Ghana-must-go bags
The Revolution will not pause for a public holiday or be held up in traffic so a big man’s convoy can pass
The Revolution will not need foreign investors
The Revolution will not be the brainchild of so-called academics and self-absorbed professors
The Revolution will not be marketed abroad by Andrew Young
And celebrated in Nigeria with a Yerima dance and song

The revolution will not be monitored by a government task force
The Revolution will not have a green passport
The Revolution is not imminent, it can’t be felt in the air
The Revolution will not happen in Nigeria
No, not now and certainly not here
**profuse apologies to Mr. Gil Scott-Heron for his groundbreaking poem, THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

PORT HARCOURT: an exaggerated account

Don’t ask me why I haven’t updated my blog, or patched the sole of my shoe, or finished my project, or been to see my lovely grandparents. Just listen to those increasingly familiar sounds outside. The crickets are quiet, in their stead, the rat-tat-tat of automatic weapons, the worrisome whir of helicopters, the wailing of the innocent on his knees about to be executed.
What is terror?

Ask my tailor who used to live in Marine Base, he is lucky to be alive. Homeless, bruised, no more shop, no Butterfly sewing machines, no angry customers screaming at him that the traditional wedding is tomorrow, and that the etubo must be sewn by tonight. He’s lucky to be alive. Marine base is a ghost town. My aunt and her ‘battalion’ are now refugees in some relative’s house. The militants have retreated into the ever-welcoming creeks, the innocents have fled their modest homes, and even the fish in the area have gone off in search of less-troubled waters (I haven’t had a half-decent plate of fresh fish peppersoup in weeks). The soldiers man the streets. Fierce, unyielding, foreign. They make us raise our hands as we pass. They whip women for sport, and savage boys for show. The streets are littered with bodies and bullet-casings. Blood flows into the stagnant gutters, trying, but failing to clot.
What is peace?

Over here on this side of the city, we are a bit more fortunate. We go to sleep hoping that those gunshots are loud rather than near. We pray the girl screaming in agony as the soldiers rape her is not a friend, or worse, a sister. The explosions rattle our buildings and our bodies. Bravery becomes a sentimental concept. We wake up, shrug off the rubble, cough dust, and get on. The grass is greener here, they say.
What is sleep?

The curfew adds to the chaos. The ashewos are cheaper and desperate. The brothels do brisk business between morning and evening. The soldiers have their pleasure on the house. At 6pm the okadas stop running, at 7pm the soldiers start shooting…go ahead, make their night. The night spots are ruined. We keep away from the windows and walk bending forward. We make love whenever we can, on the floor, and with the heated passion of people who know that tomorrow is a big-maybe. Le petit mort as the French say. The little death. Many petit morts before the big mort.
What is death?

The city that was once garden is now full of wreaths. First were the inexplicable killings-armed gangs coming out in broad daylight and killing regular folk, you and I. For a week, in virtually every part of this metropolis, the guns rang out and we cowered in fear.
What is courage?

On Sunday the twelfth I was on an okada, zipping along, wind in my hair and all that. I got to a certain junction, and was told to get off, raise my hands, and walk all the way to the other side. I wasn’t alone. We were legion. No one knew that soldiers had been drafted into our city. We were shocked and yet submissive. Vehicles also had to offload their human cargo. We all walked, hands raised, to the other side. In the middle of the road, three soldiers with body armor, and long guns fitted with bayonets were dancing to Fela’s Unknown Soldier booming out of the speakers of an empty beer parlour. The irony, the frigging irony. So eerie, so messed up. Porter with hands raised, shaking his head and sighing. This is still Port Harcourt right?
What is dignity?

They say the hunt is on for the militants/cultists/kidnappers. I fit the profile: male, indigenous, with a great appetite for fish, and a village in the creeks. What else do they need? I’m old enough to carry a gun, detonate explosives, and kidnap whitemen and little children. I’m who they want. Some people say I should cut my hair. Apparently an afro can earn you a whipping. The military checkpoints are unavoidable in some parts. The last time I did this much hand-raising, I was in secondary school. Can I complain? In some parts they make you frog-jump, or roll in mud. I stay within my neighbourhood. Porter de Harqourt besieged in a small obscure section of his kingdom. At i night i fall asleep. In my dream, Osama sends me an sms:
we r brothrs, Portr. u&i r kin. huntd, pinnd dwn, h8d. me in these mntains u in ur room. we r brothrs u&i
What is freedom?

I see Miss X, in the evening walking past the shop where I’m trying to buy a recharge card. We’ve been eyeing each other for weeks. I decide to make a move now. Life is too short…these days especially. I call out to her, she stops. Hesitantly it seems, but girls are actors. I ask her if she’s in a hurry. Sorta, she says. I tell her I’d like for her to sorta slow down. Why, she asks. Because, I say, because it’s already past 6 pm and I’d love to spend my curfew getting to know her. She tries to suppress the smile, but she can’t, so she bends her head and pretends to look at her watch. She lifts her head and repeats the words. Because I’d love to spend my curfew getting to know you. She’s beaming. She takes my hand and we head for her room. On the way she asks if that was a line. I say maybe. By 7pm we are better acquainted. At 7pm, the soldiers at the junction fire warning shots to signal the beginning of the curfew. Her fingers dig into my back.
What is pleasure? What is pain?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gulder and Guilt

u wit ur goldn bubblz and fabulous froth
i luv u dear Gulder, i luv u a lot!

It’s the beginning of the second half. Arsenal are two goals up and yet piling relentless pressure on their opponents. I feel good. This one is in the bag surely. I take another sip of Gulder. Bentico, my Arsenal-hating Chelsea-loving friend is a lot more sober than he was in the first half. Between puffs of his cancer stick, he tries to explain away his pre-game prophesy. He puts it down to ‘luck’, the opponents aren’t playing at their best, their main striker is having domestic problems, the planets didn’t align properly, blah blah blah! As he reaches for the suya, I ask him if he’d like some crow with that. The girls giggle. He calls me a smug bastard. I accept.

Someone, Tari I think, is playing footsies with me under the table. I look at her across the table. She sips her baileys with feigned naivetĂ©, and then throws me the briefest of glances over her glass. Tari is my ex-girlfriend and we ran into her and her cousin Ama at this spot. I wonder what this is about. But I’m not complaining.

Van Persie takes a fabulous Fabregas pass and almost puts it past the keeper. We all cheer and applaud the effort. Someone starts running across the bar with a huge Arsenal flag. The Gunners in the house cheer.

My leg starts to vibrate. Right leg, close to my hip. I look across at Tari again. Surely her legs cannot be that long. Or can they? And how can anyone’s toes vibrate like that? Then I remember it is 21st century Nigeria, and I have a cell phone. I reach into my pocket and fish out my phone. Unfamiliar number. I think twice about taking the call. There’s too much noise inside, I don’t want to step out and miss the inevitable third goal. I let it ring out.

About a minute later it starts again. I excuse myself from the table and make a joke about having to take an urgent call from my uncle Arsene. I go outside and answer.


-Hello, this is a policeman, hold on for your caller.


There’s a brief crackle at the other end, and then a familiar voice.


-Who’s this, David?

-Ol’ boy no be small thing. We are in a police station.

-Serious? You and who? Wetin happen?

-We been dey come watch the match, they stopped our car and brought us all here.

-You and who?

-Me, Tonye, Peter, Timi, and im younger brother you need come bail us abeg! The guys inside the cell don already dey nack us. We can’t spend the night here.

Police cells. Feaces in the back, urine on the floor, sweating walls, cramped space, hostile detainees, extortion, the stench and potential for infection. Flashback unbearable.

-Wait, which station?

He tells me.

-Na inside cell, or behind counter?

-My guy u no hear wetin I dey talk? We dey cell, dem wan kill us inside here.

-How much the police people talk say dem want?

He tells me.

For some reason, I laugh. Maybe it’s the alcohol; maybe it’s the amount of money involved and the fact that I’ve got no chance of raising enough money to bail 5 people and a car at this time of the night. Maybe I’m just a stupid, wicked boy.

-It’s not funny, I told them I would call my lawyer


-You of course.

I laugh again. Me, lawyer. Struggling student like me. I try to picture going down to the station with Bentico, breathing beer, and pretending to be lawyers. I laugh yet again.

-Abeg just come, dem seize our phones so na their payphone I dey use. 100 naira per minute, my money don finish.

-So na me be your lawyer eh?

-Just come abeg

And he’s gone.

I review the situation as I walk back into the spot. Here I was with friends having a great time with my team doing well, giving me a reason to taunt Bentico. Even the girls seemed to be on my side. Now I had 5 of my friends locked up in some dingy cell and they were counting on me to come and get them out. I was their lawyer. I never even go the school finish sef. Dem sabi how many carryover I get? And they couldn’t honestly expect me to come up with that kind of money for bail. Or could they?

I get back to the table. Arsenal is under some pressure now and the score line is 2-1. How did this happen? Where did my great night go? I shouldn’t have taken that call. Maybe I’d had a Joshua moment going- the team needed me to be watching for it to succeed. I took my eye off the ball and our fortunes changed. Bentico, the redeemed prophet is having fun, grinning from ear to bloody ear with all his ‘I told you so’s. Tari orders yet another Gulder for me. She’s done that quite a few times already and I wonder what her game plan is. Maybe she wants to get me drunk so that she can…

I take Bentico away from the table and we huddle together. The maybe-false prophet, and the maybe-Joshua. Me and my co-counsel. I tell him about the call and our caged comrades. He smiles.

-So we are supposed to be their lawyers? They should see our criminal law grades.

-And our lean wallets.

We both laugh. Wicked us.

On these oily streets of Port Harcourt, young men seem to be an endangered species. Long before this once-garden city became kidnap central, bands of armed men dressed in black were engaged in the abduction of young men at gunpoint. The name of this gang was and still is the Nigeria Police Force. When the men in black searched you, a nail-cutter in your pocket would be entered in your charge-sheet as a dagger. A lighter would mean you were an arsonist. A cyber café ticket would make you a cyber fraudster.

Their offences would be cooked up, totally fabricated. The ransom would be bail.

The whole restive situation and the militant problem have only made it worse. The police seem to avoid tangling with the real militants and criminals, preferring instead to harass the innocents. It is a ridiculous situation, they sometimes accost you, subject you to a body search, and when nothing incriminating is found on you, they take your cell phone and ask you for the receipt.

We decide against going to the police station and attempting any kind of rescue. We can’t afford it, and there’s no guarantee we won’t be thrown into the cell ourselves. We make a few calls and get some friends to commit to contributing to the ‘save our pals’ fund. We’ll go down to the station in the morning. Not tonight.

As we return to our drinks and the girls, I can’t help but feel a bit guilty. A police cell is a really messed up place to spend the night. David and the others will probably get beaten but they’ll come out with a few interesting war stories to tell over some drinks. Arsenal let another goal in. Damn you Jens Lehmann!

Bentico is rubbing it in. Ama is trying hard not to laugh at me. Tari comes to sit beside me to calm me down. She has her hand on my thigh now. I wonder how the night will end. I’ll get to sleep on a bed, and maybe even play catch up with my ex. Somewhere not too far away, my friends will get no sleep and for them the night will be a long and dreadful one. I feel something, maybe guilt. I drain my glass. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Tari as she discreetly signals a waiter to bring me yet another Gulder.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Yours and mine

In Nigeria
Wealth and weeping
Want and reaping
Tinted pleasure
Sinful leanings
Checkpoint robberies
Daylight rigging

Restive south’ners
OPEC quotas
Poisoned waters
Flawed unseatings
Reasoned verdicts
Sword unsheathings

Aso rumbles
Party stalwarts
Secret meetings
Whiteman sightings
Mass kidnappings
Cash transactions
Drastic actions

Yahoo option
Double standards
Fight corruption
Pipe explosions
Crawling traffic
Surging oceans

One Nigeria
No Bakassi
Census figures
Looted billions
Crashing airplanes
Sans blackboxes
Blacked out cities

Bloated contracts
Shrunken children
Increased tariffs
Labour congress
This our country
Work in progress…

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Today is not Monday

I got back from my 3week visit to Lagos on Saturday. The journey took all of ten hours and I think I suffered some nerve damage from all that sitting down. You've heard of dumb-ass now here comes numb-ass...I wish I could fly especially as it's been a while since any plane fell out of the sky in these parts. we thank God.

Port Harcourt hasn't changed much...same old same old. Traffic. Rain. Parties. Violent crime. Beautiful women. Craters in the road. Native soup (loaded of course,with an assortment of seafood...delish!). Money-hungry girls. Control Babas. Demented okada riders. Politcal Intrigue. Fresh fish peppersoup.

At least ASUU has called of the strike so we can get on with it. Person don dey old for dis school. It's going to be a hectic semester and a-half squeezed into a couple of months, but I think I'll live.

Lagos was interesting. Bridges. Amala. Nice clubs. Stinking gutters. Huge campaign billboards (take them down already!). Icecream. Suya. Molues. Traffic. Traffic. Traffic. Effizzi. Hustlers. Yahoo boys. Suya again. Radio. Lagoon. New money. Hasta La Vista baby, but I'll be Back!

Apparently, the people there dress up to the nines just to visit the mall. There was casual old me surrounded by men, women, and children in designer gear. Girls in tapered jeans, twelve-inch heels, and huge Gucci shades. The joke was them. There's no excuse for being overdressed in the mall, whether it's The Palms or anywhere else. There was this particular lady with make up that gave the word highbrow a whole new meaning. But then again, I guess they don't refer to Lekki as being highbrow for nothing.

It felt good to be able to wear my clothes without thinking too much about the colour. I can't do that in school. Apparently, almost every colour in the colour spectrum is the adopted 'flag' of one cult or the other. We innocents can not risk being wrongly identified just because you wear a certain combination of colours. It's impossible and ridiculous.

  • no wear red and black o! you know say na those people wey get school now.

  • hmmm, dis your yellow shirt fit put you for problem my guy.

  • shoo, na wa oh which one you wear black and white when you no be law student abi you don turn to axe man?

  • this kin socks wey you wear today, i don dey suspect you!

It goes on and on. You end up having to wear the safe colours like brown, grey, or purple, pink, or lime green...it gets ridiculoser and ridiculoser.But I'm certain that in some similarly shitty school in a parallel dimension, even those colours are forbidden. How we go do? We wey be Jewmen. You may think it's stupid but people have been killed for wearing the wrong colours. Last year a guy was killed in a cult hit because he had a red shirt on. It's that bad.

So anyway, I went to Lagos and for once I could dress as colourfully as a pimp, but with slightly better taste. It was fun. I'm back to Earth and my earth tones now. And I'm back to the small off-campus apartment I share with my friend, a total megalomaniac bigot. I'm back to arguing with him and getting irritated by his attitude and frustrated with his absolute inability to have a logical argument. I didn't miss him at all when I was in Lagos. He gives me my respect and we live peacefully but I can't stand all that prejudice and bigotry even though it is rarely ever aimed at me. He's such a bully and I can't help but step in when he starts harassing someone. The boy too do. Did I mention that he's a misogynist as well. Thank God I have just a few months left to be in this school...can't wait.

In all the time I spent in Lagos(21 days), I had just one bottle of beer. It felt like I was cleaning out my system. It felt good. I've been back in Port Harcourt for less than a week and it seems my friends are intent on upsetting my blood-alcohol balance. It's crazy. These Port Harcourt boys can be notorious. I've danced in a restaurant (not a dancing resautrant, mind), been to a couple of parties, scaled the gate of my compound to get in at 3am (my landlord is an old soldier, I've seen his double barrel twice). I've had enough adventure. Time for school work now. Dem no go see me.

So it's good to be back, but there's work to be done. My sly neighbours upstairs are timing me- waiting for me to finish cooking so that they can come and visit. E no go happen. No be everyday be Christmas. I'll lock windows and eat while they watch me from outside, begging to come in. It's all fun though, na moving train we dey call dat one! We'll all laugh about it later, as they wait for their chance to do me back. Life is good.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

TV Raised Me!

...But I'd like to thank the streets that drove me crazy

And all the televisions out there that raised me


TV raised me. It became my addiction, influenced my language and impacted my diction. I see myself standing out there in the lights, Grammy, Oscar, Pulitzer or whatever award or statuette in hand, and then I give props to God, my father, my mother, and television. So I’m neither an artist, actor nor writer. Call me a dreamer if you like, but blame television because it played a part.

TV, that box with boundless content-some of it entertaining, some shocking, some stimulating, some sinful, and some downright evil. Food for thought? TV can serve up feast. I remember sitting in a classroom and just thinking of all the programs I’d watch when I got back home. TV was the motivation for me to finish my assignments and lunch pronto! The light from the screen would meet the light of wonderment in my eyes, and I’d spend so many hours in front of that box. Meals would be a distraction and every errand pulling me away from the TV, an absolute annoyance.

Long before satellite television and 24hr local channels, 4pm was H-hour for me. My brother and I would wait in front of the TV from about 3pm. We’d sit there watching those colour bars. Then we’d stand at attention for the national anthem. My father would be very amused. We would listen intently to the program schedule and then settle down. Wrestling was a big hit with us. Loved Hulk Hogan, hated Andre the Giant. My brother practiced a lot of wrestling moves on his willing volunteer- silly little me. Thank God my spine is still intact.

Back then, TV signals were very weak, or perhaps our antennae were not very receptive. Either way, there was a lot of pole turning going on. My brother would go out and turn the pole on which the external antenna sat, desperate to achieve a clearer picture. He’d be outside turning, I’d be inside directing.

Is it clear?
Is it clear?
How about now?
It’s even worse than before?
And now?
Blank, nothing…oh wait stop!
Go back, turn it back, it showed that time!

How can I forget such small screen delights as the courtroom comedy set in colonial times, Ichoku, the ever-hilarious Jagua or that classic gem of Nigerian television The Village Headmaster. It wasn’t all fun though. Sometimes, the TV was the source of a lot of animosity. My brother and I fought over the remote several times. There was this particularly scary program on at that time. If you grew up in Port Harcourt, you know Willy-Willy. Forget the fact that the title could be mistaken for a phallic reference. There was nothing funny about it. i didn't have the balls to watch it. Utterly hated it. I still do. As a matter of fact I don’t know anyone who has fond memories of that show even though it was a hit. Just the haunting melody of the theme music was enough to send me scurrying to my room. I’d be in tears begging that they turn the TV off. Unsurprisingly, my brother loved Willy-Willy. We still laugh about it now but my own laff na from my throat.

Cable TV was a blessing. I remember watching The Three Stooges on weekends. Coming back home from school to catch Captain Planet. Seinfeld, The Commish, Quantum Leap, Friends, I was getting sensory overload. I was having so much fun that I began to rebel against my 10pm bedtime rule. My father was adamant, after the 9pm Network News (yes, I used to watch it as a child, and no, I wasn’t forced to) I was banished to bed. I remember the guilt I’d feel whenever I was watching any movie that wasn’t rated for general viewing. My brother (yes, him again) would tell me to scram when a PG13 movie came on. Oh, the indignities one suffers in his pre-teen years! There was a time one of my darkest secrets was the number of R18 movies I’d seen!

When I went to boarding school, my TV obsession continued. I became something of an expert on the subject of movies. I could reel off Val Kilmer’s movie credits and tell you how much DeNiro got paid for Wag the Dog or what Waterworld made (cough!) at the box office. If you couldn’t remember the name of the actor who played the role of the prison warden in Shawshank Redemption, I was the man to see. There was a neat arrangement which saw us gathering in our common rooms at the weekends for some movies. Somehow that tradition wasn’t sustained. I began having withdrawal symptoms. Suddenly the hostel began to feel a bit like prison, or rehab. At some point my prayers were answered and our proprietress hooked us up with a satellite connection. We had such a good time with that for about a week, until someone stole the decoder. I was distraught.

The holiday could never come to soon. Back home, I’d pork on movies and TV programs. I couldn’t get enough. One day, I went to the video club to borrow some movies. After I’d made my selection, I was told that I had broken some sort of record and was therefore entitled to a bonus 10 rentals. Would I like to take some now, and the rest later? No siree! I’ll take ‘em all right away. There I was hauling a ridiculous stack of fourteen movies from the video club to our house. Of course my brother and I had another fight. He thought he was entitled to select some of the movies.

Whenever I was back home, I’d be caught up in the 30 minute cycle of TV programs. I’ll go and take a bath after this program. I’d say to myself. Then just as the program was ending and I was backing out to the bathroom, another interesting one would come on. The programs would segue into each other and I'd sit there, glued. Let’s just say that back then, I was taking my morning showers right around lunchtime. Eventually I was allowed to stay up and watch TV for as long as I liked. On a few occasions, my father would go off to bed just before 9pm. He’d ask me to watch the network news and tell him all about it in the morning. By then I had lost interest in the 9 o’clock news. I’d watch something else, then wake up in the morning and listen to the 7 o’clock news on the radio and relate that to my father. Ingenious eh? He knew the difference. He caught me in the lie. We laughed about it.

I've come a long way from those days when my life seemed to revolve around the box. I still love to watch Television programs and movies, but my attention span seems to have shortened. I flip channels so often that the buttons on my remote controls are worn. I have a bit of a reputation as a flipper. When some one else is watching, I politely yield the remote. One of my sisters suggested that maybe all that TV watching fried my brain and left me with ADHD -attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. My retort is that all those ridiculously colourful clothes she wore from the 1980's and into the 90's have somehow affected her ability to reason (hey, maybe TV made me a bit rude. hmmm). Today, I can only follow a sitcom or drama if I get it on DVD (bootlegs 500 Naira for an entire season) and then I never finish watching the damn thing.

So once again, raise my glass and doff my hat to that magical box that brings a lot into our homes, takes us to untold places, and fills us with wonderment, joy and sadness. If you think I'll ever stop watching the box, you can fuggedaboudit. Right now, I'm off to watch the Sopranos.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

tick-tock tick-tock then nada

i feel like i'm in a bloody anti-climax. tick-tock tick-tock the timer counts down to 00:00 and then, just as we brace ourselves and excpect the worst...nothing.

the bomb fails to go off, the rocket won't launch, the calabash tips over but it's abominable contents fail to spill out.

so maybe it's not as dramatic as that whole y2k bug thing. maybe we (or is it just me) were being a bit too cynical in expecting a bit of drama on May 29th (democracy day...hmmmpff). or perhaps not, these days, cynicism is the Nigerian reality. remember that half-assed attempt to 'blow up' the INEC HQ on the morning of the Presidential elections? wasteful and potentially disastrous as that was it sure did stir things up a bit, and we still dunno whodunnit ordowe?

which brings us to that rather uneventful event at the Eagle Square yesterday. no demonstrators, no detractors chanting, no rolling gas cylinder-laden, well filled petrol tankers to add some colour to the event, nothing. what would have been the highest point for me even ended up to be a dud-i was hoping at least one of the presidential outriders who were 'thrilling' the crowd by performing dangerous stunts on their government issued bikes (with the taxpayers' fuel at #75 per litre) would fall off, but no, nothing, nada.

in 1999 Obasanjo had one star phrase from his speech: NO SACRED COWS

in 2003 nobody was really interested in what Obasanjo had to say...by then we had more sacred cows than there are in India

yesterday Yar'Adua had a good phrase for us to hold over his head and beat him with whenever he acts contrarily: SERVANT LEADER

we'll hold him to that and hope he's the servant of the people rather than OBJ's puppet. even Geppetto let Pinnocchio live at some point. let's see how long the strings stay on, and get pulled.
anticlimactic as yesterday was, i think we are on our way to a better place. i'll stay cynical to stay alive. but for now i'll have to go and find my climax somewhere else