Monday, April 30, 2007

Go Shawty!


I missed my 1000th profile view fake birthday thingiebob.

Happy 1095th Profile View to me!

I would like to thank my ma, my pa, my Yote, my homies, and my blog dawgs... you know who ye be! ;)

Naij - A Documentary

Christ! I really should be working. But Jeremy has commanded a post on this issue, so here I am, several hours earlier than intended.

What is it about me succumbing to people's wishes and commands of late? I was never like this before! In the past, I was a mule. If you told me (or suggested to me) what to do, I'd tell you, in plain and simple English, to piss off. On Saturday for example, my HauTe editrix demanded that I do some PR for the magazine. I had other plans. But no, being the great mumu that I am nowadays, I ended up spending two hours copying and pasting pictures, and attempting to construct 'witty' prose.


Naij - A documentary.

Before I begin, I would like to say that the organisers of the premiere really kinda got on my nerves in the run up to yesterday. I applied for an invitation to the premiere aeons ago, and also asked for their You Tube embed code, so that I could put the documentary's trailer on my Afro Beat blog (more shameless PR there, but whatever...) for publicity and awareness' sake.

They replied saying that they couldn't let me have the code, even though the blog was members only at the time, for 'copy right' reasons. A week later I found a You Tube embedded box (showcasing the premiere) sitting pretty on a friend's webpage. Turns out he knew the somebody of the director, or maybe the somebody of the somebody of the director. Who knows! (Gosh I really should stop with all this hating and bad bele-ing, and get to the good stuff!)

Anyway, so after giving me serious isho on the embed code front, they then said they'd run out of tickets for the screening but would be having another one soon. True to their word, they emailed me a month later saying the next screening would hold on April 29th at the Cine' Lumiere, and attached an invitation bearing my name.

Their very strict instructions stated that on receiving the invite, I should confirm my intention to attend immediately so as to secure my place on the guestlist, and that I should waste the colour ink (that stuff is expensive!) in my fancy printer, by printing a copy of their full colour invitation to guarantee admission. I didn't reply immediately because I was slightly irritated by all the protocol, but little did I know what next they had in store.

Three days later (I kid you not) I received an email saying something along the lines of - "You recently received an invitation to the premiere of Naij. Kindly note that until you respond in the requisite manner, your admittance to the venue will not be...." blah blah blah.

I huffed and puffed about their blockheadedness to anyone around me who would listen (basically, the four walls of my flat - even the Yote didn't have time to waste on such an issue) but sharply heeded their command. (I dared not front. I wanted to be on that exclusive list!)

This all happened about a month ago.

Yesterday, after a somewhat tumultous afternoon, I waded through the Knightsbridge area and arrived at South Kensington tube station. My friends (the poor victims of the movement for the cultural emancipation of OluwaBitchiola) were late, as I'd expected, so I made my way to the venue without them. Along the way I got stopped by not one, not two, but three sets of individuals of negroid persuasion, who sighted my clumsy A to Z and asked 'oh so innocently' if I knew which way the Cine' Lumiere was. Obviously I did! I had a bloody A to Z with me! (Bitchy did not go to this event with the intent to make new friends, Bitchy is bitchy, as you ought to know by now. Hehe...)

I finally got to the door, gave my name to the doorman guy, and found a gift bag being thrust into my hand, with smiles from affiliates and comrades of the director all round. In my head I thought, "can these really be the same people who sent all those uppity emails?" Who would have thought that they would shine their eyes so bright, and be so kind as to hand out cookies and Fanta (which I had changed to a Coke... what a diva), and meat pies. Had I known they would be so generous, I wouldn't have wasted a ridiculous amount of money on lunch in the area. Just kidding... teehee! I don't do meat pies. On days when I crave Mr. Biggs-esque delicacies, I go hunting for scotch eggs and sausage rolls. The real stuff. Mmmm.... Yummy!

Within half an hour, we were seated, and the show was about to begin.

The director, Jide, a young investment banker, gave a short introductory speech about the reasoning behind the project, and its intended outcome. Even though I'd been briefed on his stats by my resident gossip columnist, and knew that he was pretty young (as directors go), I still found that I was very impressed by the committment he had shown over two years to a project that could not have been easy... or cheap!

The documentary took the audience from about 1954 to 2007 in two and a half hours. We didn't once get bored, neither did we fall asleep, as in the case of Bamako. My friends and I still haven't gotten over that atrocious film by the way. In fact, just as the opening tune was being played (the national anthem of course), Maxine turned to me and whispered - "Bitchy, this better not be Bamako part two oh!"

And it wasn't.

We sat through incredible archive footage spanning from the petition for independence presented in London by eminent Nigerians (including Fela's mother) and the conferences by African intellectuals such as Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Awolowo, all the way to the current Obasanjo regime. The route (it really did feel like a journey) went something like this (I apologise in advance for any errors or misyarns at this stage. My memory is appalling. And also, feel free to skip this part of my post if you're a pro on Nigerian history)...

  • Petitions for independence by proud African nationalists (amongst which were many prominent Nigerians), the eventual granting of representation in a white-run parliament at home, a 1956 or so visit from Queen E'liza (as Osuofia would call her), the setting of a date in 1960 for independence.

  • The make up of the first Nigerian-run parliament (Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Okotie-Eboh (a wiley finance minister), the Sardauna of Sokoto, Azikiwe (a lot of people are still yet to learn that he really was just a figure head) etc), the internal strife and political backbiting and inefficiency. I had always wondered why my Yoruba uncles were full of little adulation for Awo - a man that I had been told was 'the father of the Yorubas'.

  • The first military coup by mid-ranking Ibo officers, the merciless slaughter of the Sardauna, Awo's imprisonment. The counter coup and rescue by another military officer (Aguiyi Ironsi), whose first press conference was hilarious - the guy really hadn't thought through any cohesive plan for the nation at all!

  • The northern coup, which saw many Igbos slaughtered, was led by figures such as Murtala Mohammed, but which eventually brought Yakubu Gowon to power. The peace talks in Ghana between Ojukwu and Gowon (Ojukwu wasn't having any of that cigar/food and wine-sharing nonsense).

  • The Biafran War - footage from mercenaries, international networks, it was incredible. Ojukwu's flight, Phillip Effiong's surrender, Gowon's mercy, and his government's subsequent inefficiency.

  • A coup to oust Gowon, led (I think, this could be wrong) by Obasanjo, Danjuma etc, which had Murtala Mohammed at its head. Murtala's assassination, the lost potential, the nation's widespread mourning, the firing squad death of suspects, Obasanjo's assumption of power, and the handover to Civilan rule - Shagari.

  • Corruption in Shagari's weak and useless regime, civilian unrest, the Buhari-led coup that brought in W.A.I - the War Against Independence, the brutality of that short regime, a botched attempt to kidnap Dikko from London (hilarious!!), Buhari's overthrow by Babangida (I could be wrong at this point as there was a whole part in the story they deliberately missed out because it was just the same people repeating the same mistakes or something)

  • Babangida's regime, the decline in the naira because of the worldwide oil glut, the Nigerian Mafia's drug invasion of America, the abandonment of government scholars in foreign countries, the advent of 419, June 12, Abiola's shady dealings, the annulment of the election, MKO's arrest, Shonekan's 'interim government' and Abacha (the defence minister in Shonekan's cabinet)'s assumption of power.

  • The Abacha years, the rediscovery of religion, new wave preachers, oppression, MKO's death, and Abacha's God-sent heart attack.

  • Abdusallami Abubakar, the handover to democracy, Obasanjo's release, 1999, Obasanjo's campaign and victory. The incredible changes between 1999 and 2007 that the nation has completely forgotten about, and an analysis of the dangerous failure to redistribute the newly acquired wealth to the poor.

  • Having written all this, I really have become aware of a sense of gratitude that I now feel towards Jide and his team. Prior to yesterday, I had struggled, and failed to put the pieces of my country's history (my history) together. My friends and I had often lamented about our complete ignorance of its complexity, and now, for the first time really, I've gotten to see that there truly is a fascinating story behind Nigeria. I no longer see Nigeria as a wreckage, a ship with no destination, substance or hope. I see it for the difficult experiment that it is (for that is what it has been all along), and for the immense challenge it represents to any person or group who attempts to control it or steer it in one united direction.

    The Naij documentary was fascinating - I hate that word, but it was!! It was surreal in the beginning, when the Sardauna and Balewa opened mouths out of which popped some of the most upper class, Winston Churchill-esque accents I had ever heard in black men. And it was hilarious to observe the steep decline in the fone' as time went on. I had always wondered why my grandfather (who will be 90 this year) sounded like such a pompous tosser! On the telephone, he could pass for a member of the royal family, and I don't mean Prince William, I'm talking Prince Philly! You know, "Hyar, hyar" and all that osh pigosh!

    To Jide at al, congratulations, c'etait fabuleux, long may you reign, more greeease to your wrist, etcetera etceteroo.

    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    The Icarus Girl

    I'm sitting in my flat, on a Wednesday morning, eating pork sausages and ketchup, and feeling very 'Manhattan' with myself. I don't think women in their twenties in Manhattan eat pork sausages on Wednesday mornings, but I think this is just a warped projection of my desire to live the New York dream.

    A long time ago I thought I would one day be a writer, and that I'd have a fabulous apartment in New York in which I'd sit all morning long, looking out into Central Park from behind my typewriter, and gathering mounds of inspiration.

    I suppose that day is now long gone because, as you know, I'm on my way to becoming a city lawyer.

    Quel snore!

    The cultural enlightenment and emancipation of OluwaBitchiola has so far been very exciting. In March, there was Bamako, which I despised, but there was also Shuffering and Smiling, which I never blogged about. That was a documentary about Fela and Femi Kuti, and their endless struggle with Nigeria's many problems - political mismanagement being the key one from the film's perspective. I'm surprised I forgot to talk about it on here, seeing as I went all the way to Clapham (CLAPHAM people) to see it. Ooh wait a minute, I did talk about it, but on The Afro Beat.

    Yesterday I ventured into a territory even more foreign to me than Clapham... I went to Dalston. I actually didn't know I was going to Dalston at the time, I thought I was going to Hackney. My three friends and I (one yellow investment banker, one development economics wiz cum fashion designer, and one stunning Spaniard in baby pink trousers) got onto the Bus 149 from Liverpool Street at about 7pm. The aim had been to get to Hackney for 7, but it turns out maths (well time mathematics anyway) isn't my forte'. Why did we need to get to Hackney at 7? Because 7 was when the 'pay what you can' tickets to the play we were going to see, were going on sale.

    Quel cheapscates!

    Needless to say, we didn't get to Hackney at 7. But we did get to Dalston at 7.40. The play, was at the Arcola Theatre, in what can only really be described as Turkeytown. I never knew that just as the major cities (London, New York, Lagos even) have Chinatown, they also have Turkeytown, which is where good people of Turkish origin come out to play. In the corner shop (or so we thought initially, but it was really just a dirty warehouse) nextdoor to the theatre, we stared at shelves for well over 5 minutes, struggling to find something familiar to purchase. Rukks, ever the daring soul, went for the least strange-looking biscuits she could find, whilst I ended up with Doritos, Ells with Walkers, and E-Weezy with pretzels.

    As luck would have it, despite the website's advice to arrive at 7 to be sure to secure 'pay what you can' tickets, there were still some available at 7.45. It was a funny moment when the lady asked us what we were going to pay, and I said £5. She thought I meant £5 for all 4 tickets, and struggled (but failed) to hide her scowl. In hindsight, I really should've thought ahead, and shouldn't have gone so well dressed!

    Tickets bought, weird Turkish snacks abandoned, chitchat underway, and I see a girl by the counter who looks oddly familiar. So I nudge E-Weezy and say "I think that's Helen Oyeyemi". After some hilarious debate, I conclude that it is her, and that I'm going to say hello. I suppose if she had been a much older author, I might have thought twice, but then seeing as she's my age, and we have friends in common, I didn't think much of it.

    Turns out, it was Helen. The only reason we were surprised to see her there was because our friend Tomlinson (yet another code name thank you... I do not have friends with names like Tomlinson) had brutally rejected our invite to the play because he already had plans to go see it with "the author herself" (i.e. Helen) on Thursday. It hadn't really occurred to us that she would want to see it more than once!

    Helen, as you must know, is the author of The Icarus Girl, a book I have purchased twice and never read.

    I first learnt about her about four years ago, when the book was as yet unpublished. We were both still at school at the time. She was on her way to Cambridge, and I to LSE (talk about the wrong university for a hopeful fiction writer). I bought the book in the first month of its release (because I have a thing for hardbacks... quel dork, ey?), read the blurb at the back, and gave it to a friend. I then bought it again last year on a whim (okay because it was only -N- 600 at Nu Metro), but never once worked my way onto the first page.

    Why? Because I am the biggest fraidy-cat known to mankind, and I had heard it was a very scary, almost disturbing story. Even the critical acclaim phrases on the back of the book were saying so, so I did what any discerning fraidy-cat would do... I heeded their warning, and left TillyTilly and Jessamy Harrison well alone.

    Well... I certainly got 'acquainted' with them last night. And it wasn't pretty! At one point, I even held onto Ells and E-Weezy, shutting my eyes because I was afraid of what was coming.

    Talking to Helen after the play, she said the director had cut out many of the book's more frightening scenes. I had thought the play was bad enough! I couldn't stop myself from declaring to the author then and there, that I was never ever going to read her book.

    How surprised was I then to find myself dredging it out well past midnight, and reading the first chapter. I got to the end of that, and abandoned the book in the kitchen, just so TillyTilly couldn't get at me whilst I was asleep.

    (Yes, I have a very vivid imagination)

    Back to the play though... it was very well done, and there's still loads of time to go see it. Its on at The Arcola, which is in Dalston, not Hackney, get it right! And I could even go as far as to say that it was worth the near-death encounter Ells and I had on the way home.

    We decided to take the Bus 30 which'd take us right back to our cosy little end of London. The problem was that the Bus 30 didn't come anywhere near the theatre. So we got on some random bus with Rukks and E-Weezy who then, wisely, decided to go all the way on it to Waterloo. Ells and I, got off at the Dalston Lane Junction, and found the Bus 30's bus stop on Balls Pond Road (which was distinctly more creepy than the junction with all its bright lights). We stood there for a minute, pleased with ourselves, until I decided to check what direction buses at that stop were heading in. It turned out they were headed even deeper into the lion's den.

    We then crossed the road, and saw that the Bus 30 was already at the bus stop nearest to where we were standing. I looked around me and thought, there is NO way I am standing on this street for another half hour with a stunning Spaniard in her baby pink trousers waiting for another bus. I believe she had the same thought (minus the stunning Spaniard bit). And before we knew it, we were both legging it down the opposite end of Balls Pond Road, as fast as we could.

    It pains me to think of what was going through the minds of the other bus-awaiters that we had stood beside at the wrong bus stop. First, a posh looking black girl and a hot white girl stand in front of them looking flummoxed, then they cross the road and stop for a good minute, then next thing they're flying down the road with the black one in the lead, before the white one overtakes her leaving a good mile between them. (I never said athletics was my thing at school!)

    We ran so fast that we got to the stop long before the bus, and then had to get our breathless selves together hurriedly when a scary looking man began his approach (I suppose even a toddler would look scary against the Balls Pond Road backdrop). I could see Ells' veins popping as the man got even closer and the bus crawled sluggishly for what seemed like ages up the road. As Olodumare would have it though, thirty seconds later we were safe and snug on a filthy Bus 30 surrounded by two Chinese girls, one drug addict and some old people, and were on our way home.

    My only regret is that we forgot to make a pitt-stop at Obalende Suya.


    Helen and I should be going on a date to share something we have come to discover is a mutual passion next week. If anything other than drooling ensues, I will be sure to blog about it.

    Ooh and I'm going to the screening of the Naij documentary on Sunday. Will be sure to blog about that too, even though Jeremy already got in there first after his private screening. Can you smell the envy?

    Saturday, April 14, 2007

    Coming Live To You From CRU [Cowards R Us]

    Its just after midnight. In layman's speak, its still 'Friday night' and...

    Lagos is deserted. Completely deserted.

    The ride back from the Yote's house was frought with tension, tension and MORE bloody tension. In his silence I could hear the accusatory - "Why the hell were you refusing to go home all this while when you were falling asleep and taking up the space on my sofa with your silly derriere?"

    I'm exaggerating. Of course he wasn't thinking that. But he was on edge, and I was effing scared.

    Every night the Yote takes me from Ikoyi to V.I.

    On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays we encounter eight to ten cars en route.

    On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays we occasionally queue up behind ten cars at the V.I. end of Falomo bridge alone! And in total, we see possibly sixteen cars.

    Even in the group I've placed it in, Friday night shines and beams way more than the others because Friday night in Lagos is, and has always been, a big deal.

    It hasn't been a big deal to me for a long time now as Lagos time is Yote time and I have absolutely no interest in engaging in the 'see and be seen' thing the 'elite' set are so famous for. The most contact I've had with clubbers and bar-hoppers during my last 3 trips to Lagos, has been spying on them from behind the windows of Yote's monster truck.

    Tonight, there was not a soul to spy on. Not a clubber, not a hopper, not a nothing! There was no one to laugh at. There wasn't even the dodgy banger that I have been known to delude myself into believing is a band of robbers waiting to pounce on us.

    Now, as far as I know, no curfew has been set in place. And earlier today, when the sun was shining, there was no katta-katta. Or perhaps I should say there was no reported katta-katta as I have lately become acquainted with the rock-solid propaganda machine manned by Oga Tinubu, his goons and the like.

    At one point this afternoon, I even ventured as far as Obalende, and then Marina (yes I know these places are not far before anyone crucifies me) and there was absolutely nothing going on. You could've been forgiven for thinking it was a Sunday - even the danfos were few and far between! There were cars on the road, several of them. But there was no manic traffic. Gone were the angry horns and the hoards of people and beggars. Those random hawkers carrying toilet seats and encyclopedia volumes were absent too, leaving only the real deal - the guys selling credit, chewing gum, and things you actually need whilst sitting in a car! Lagos was pleasant for a change, and I sat like a misguided little pup in my car, making a mental note to tell the Yote off for his million and one conspiracy theories about this weekend's possibilities, that had frightened the hell out of me.

    I also made a mental note to tell him about Saheeto, and his quest to become a member of the House of Reps this year. Just to get you up to speed, Saheeto was crowned 'the small chops king' of Lagos back in 2004. In 2005, he extended his realm by seizing Abuja from any local small chops hopefuls, and then in the same year (as Ovation informed me back when I was an avid reader) he took London by storm!

    Saheed Kekere-Ekun, the go to guy for those extra puffy puff puff balls, and that uber juicy piece of stickmeat/pepper snail, is the PDP (correct me if I'm wrong, which I probably am, as I was too gobsmacked to take a proper look at the poster) House of Reps candidate for Lagos, and is thus a potential member of that crucial institution (well it's crucial in other countries) - the Legislature.

    For more on Saheeto, click here. Its a Sun News (don't you love them?) article which begins - 'He applied for job of a waiter, but got employed as chef, today he has carved a niche in fast food business'. The typos are not mine.

    The Yote feels that my extreme aversion to Saheeto's audaciousness stems from my being a descendant of Snobby Snobberson herself. Remember her? My mother?

    Call it snobbery, call it whatever you will. Just answer me this - What could a man who only went so far as secondary school, and who has spent his entire working life building a small chops empire (even if it is a remarkable empire - click here), have to contribute to an institution that is (sorry, ought to be) the fount of the nation's legal order and the source of its continued amelioration?

    Tonight, on the Lekki Expressway, large groups of heavily-armed soldiers have only just set up road blocks with hefty bags of sand a la the U.S. in Iraq. I didn't see these myself. Perhaps I'm glad I didn't as I really and truly might've burst into tears on seeing them. The Yote was the one who saw the soldiers dragging the sand bags, when he drove on the opposite side of Falomo bridge, away from V.I.

    Does this spell trouble for tomorrow? Is it a sign that the rumours of violent clashes between warring political factions could be more than just rumours? On some level I am comforted by the notion that the govt is attempting, or at least, wanting to be seen to be attempting to prevent any harm coming to voters. But then, thinking back to how lazy and non-responsive this outgoing regime has been, I can't help but think that the threat of serious violence tomorrow must indeed be very real and very potent, for the govt to get off its backside and decide to maintain a visible presence on the streets!!

    Tomorrow, I will be indoors. There will be no live coverage from the voting stations on this blog. I don't do danger/conflict/anything that could potentially mess up my hair. My middle names are not Christiane and Amanpour. Sorry! And ironically enough, my hope is, that the next time I blog, I won't have a single thing to say.

    Monday, April 09, 2007

    Pants on Fire

    What a lazy arse I've been.

    I wish I could say I've been doing something particularly exciting these last 3 weeks, but I can't.


    I've been basking in the glory of my previous post which so many people, surprisingly, found hilarious.

    After all that glory-basking, I realised that nothing worth reporting or even remotely funny had happened to me, and I couldn't bear the thought of coming on here to spout some carelessly-constructed trash only to receive 2 or 3 pity comments.

    But I have now decided that time is fast running out.

    So I'm taking the plunge. Screw you if you don't find me funny. Even the pros take time off!

    Now, aside from the acute laziness, the glory-basking and the failure-fearing, I've been experiencing a record amount of eye-opening during my 'mini-sabbatical'. Below are some of the random things I've 'discovered' of late that I rightly/wrongly feel are worth sharing:

    1 - People lie.

    The hair-do I moaned about last time received rave reviews from friends in London. Indeed, after all their ooing and cooing, I considered coming on here to do a retraction and put in a little praise for Feline. Until I came to Lagos. Barely within an hour of my arrival, my father asked why I was wearing a wig. He wasn't being malicious. He was genuinely curious. My brother, independently, then asked the same question 2 hours after that. And then a couple of days later, my newly-appointed esthetician (who has promised to rid me of all unwelcome inhabitants on my forehead) asked me to take my wig off so she could get a proper look at my face!!

    2 - The Yote lies.

    The liars are not confined to London alone it seems. On Friday, I was filling the Yote's sister in on the disastrous hairdo I had only that morning rid myself of, when the Yote chirped into the convo reinforcing and demonstrating just how disastrous the hairdo had been. I turned to him, mouth agape, at which point he stated matter of factly that the hair had looked incredibly fake, but he hadn't wanted to have to sit through another hair-inspired crying episode, so he hadn't said anything. This is the same Yote who had pretended (six days before that) not to be able to see any difference between my "do" and my real hair. There are no words.

    3 - I too am a member of 'Liars R Us'.

    I have never been on an okada, or a danfo, or molue, and I can count the number of times I've been in a taxi (in Lagos) on one hand. There is always light in my house, and there are no mosquitoes. I've never been anywhere dangerous or remotely exciting like Agindingbi, Shomolu, Oshodi, Mile 2 (or is it Mile 12?) or any of those places. I'm a sheltered brat frollicking in what can only properly be described as a doll-cage. This realisation isn't exactly groundbreaking, but it did make me feel rather foolish the day it dawned on me last week. Prior to the realisation, I had always thought of myself as a hardened Lagosian, who knew all there was to know, was the epitome of 'hardcore', and was on a par with any rough rider. I don't know what I was thinking really, considering that I haven't actually lived in Lagos for the last 9 years. I suppose the person I'd been comparing myself to was the Yote, who couldn't even get from Ikoyi to Chocolat Royal without directions a couple of months ago. (I love you boo!) How misguided was I?

    To sum up therefore...

    I am an outsider in Lagos. And it hurts to say it. Disarming this long-concocted delusion has not been good for my sense of self, I tell you. I also have friends who tell me what they think I want to hear - I can't quite tell if this is a good or a bad thing yet. My guess is its more bad than good. Furthermore I have a boyfriend who feels my constant hair woes are a form of superficial hypochondria. The same boyfriend also got just a tad frustrated during the week, when I tried, and failed, to explain why I suddenly felt so alienated and detached from Lagos. His point was that 'Lagos' is full of so many different types of people who undergo completely different experiences everyday, in which there're unlikely to be many commonalities. I couldn't pinpoint the exact aspect of Lagos I felt distant from, neither could I articulate my sentiments to the satisfaction of the Yote, but all I knew was that I was more than overwhelmed by how estranged I was from the entire Lagos experience.

    I wonder what other people hold onto when seeking to define themselves as Lagosians? Are there specific characteristics/experiences that define the Lagosian? Or is every person's identification of himself as a Lagosian based on his personal (and internal) determination of what constitutes a Lagosian?


    Oh and by the way, my newly-opened eyes and I will be on the look out for more treachery. I intend to expose the scam that is West African Idol soon. Stay tuned.