Monthly Archives: August 2011

Nigeria, what is going on? War is not the answer. Suicide bombing is not the answer. Boko Haram is not the answer.

Do not punish Nigeria the people, for the issues of a few.  Take that shit outside. Somehow, Marvin Gaye’s lyrics resonate with the situation right now.

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today – Ya

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Ya, what’s going on
Ah, what’s going on

In the mean time
Right on, baby
Right on
Right on

Father, father, everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply because our hair is long
Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
Oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
What’s going on
Ya, what’s going on
Tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you what’s going on – Uh
Right on baby
Right on baby.

*************************************************************

Our prayers are with the wounded. Please give blood in Abuja today.

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Speed dating can be dangerous to your health.

The host shushed the crowd and went through the rules.

“I know a lot of you are excited but listen carefully so that we can do this properly,” he said in Igbo. “The women are to remain seated on their tables at all times, the men will move in an anti-clockwise position once the bell rings. Do not ask for or collect numbers, just mark down on your cards whom you’d wish to contact. Be polite, be courteous. You are selling yourself after all.” He paused. “You have eight minutes.”

I looked over at my friends and smiled. The bell rang and the first man sat down opposite me.

“Hi,” he pushed up his glasses.

“Hi.” I sized him up. He was as dark as coffee and at a first glance he seemed slight, but I detected his muscles bulging beneath his shirt when he touched his face. Think Henry the accountant from Ugly Betty. He gazed at a point beyond my left ear.

“I’m Nwunye. What your name?” I shifted in my seat until I was in his line of vision. He moved his eyes again.

“I’m Odinaka.”

“So what do you do?” He took a deep breath.

“I’m training to be a doctor.”

“Oh, that’s interesting. What kind?”

“Pediatrician.”

“Excellent.” My cheeks hurt from smiling. Eight minutes stretched before me like a lifetime. I knew his type. I had tried to speak to him during the workshop but he ignored me or said very little. I thought he liked his women a bit on the quiet side.

“Would you like to know anything about me?” I tried again. He might have been uninterested but the least he could do was be polite. It wasn’t like he was my kind of man either. He must have caught something in my tone because he looked at me then.

“So what do you do?”

“I’m a journalist.”

“Ah, no wonder.” He smiled a little.

“No wonder what?”

“You’re very…outspoken.”

“Yes. Yes, I am. Thank you for noticing,” I gave him a chance for a zinger. He said nothing. I glanced at my wrist lying in my lap just as the bell rang. He jumped up.

“Pleased to meet you.” I didn’t realise I was holding my breath until he moved to the next table. No wonder I was light headed.

“Well, that was awkward,” said my next date. He settled as if he was in his living room.

“Great smile. Are you a model?”

“With this coconut head? Who’d take me?”

“You should stand up and let me take a look at you,” I joked.

“Alright.” He stood and turned around slowly. He was about 6″5 and immaculately groomed; his blazer/jean combo looked like it was hand made in some Italian village by peasants earning less than minimum wage. I became aware that he had stop turning when I eyeballed his crotch. He raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to twirl too? No double standards.”

“Nice,” he said when I sat down. “So you’re a journalist. What kind?”

“I didn’t say I was.”

“No, but my date was boring, so I eavesdropped on yours. Sorry.” He looked anything but.

“That’s my friend you’re talking about.”

“Oops. Well, I can safely say that there were no sparks there.” He winked at my friend who batted it away. I noticed a man come up behind him. He saw me looking and turned around. “Can I help you?”

“No, I am just waiting for the bell to ring,” the man said. My date looked past him. “Shouldn’t you be on your seat? I followed his gaze and noticed the man had jumped the queue. It wasn’t his turn to speak to me next. Just then the bell rang and my date stood. He kissed my hand. “I’m Kalu. It was a pleasure. Maybe we’ll be matched at the end.”

“Maybe.” I said.

“Ol’ boy jus’ move. I wan’ talk to her.”  The intruder pulled the next candidate aside and made a few gestures. “Hello, I’m Nonso.” He sat down and scrapped the chair across the floor.

“Hi, Nonso. I hope everything is OK now?” My rightful date settled himself elsewhere.

“Yes, I am here now. So talk to me.”

“Pardon me?”

“I have seen as your mouth has been working ‘kpara kpara kpara’. You think you can intimidate me? You can’t intimidate me.”

“Excuse me?” It began to feel dangerous. What did I have to do with making him feel intimidated?

Biko, just give me your number and stop all this pretense.” He whipped out his phone. “Where is your phone?”

“We’re not supposed to collect numbers until after this session.” I flashed my eyes around. My new friend caught my gaze and took off his blazer. ‘Are you OK?’ he mouthed at me. I nodded.

Abeg, stop this nonsense.” He was almost shouting. “This is my number.” He scribbled it on a piece of paper and pushed it towards me. The bells rang. “Aren’t you going to take it?” I put the piece of paper in my pocket, resolved to bin it later.

“Eh hen. Where is the number na?”  He said as a conversation started when the session was over. I turned from talking to my friends.

“Errrr…I have yours, so don’t worry. I’ll contact you.” I tried to move away but he blocked me.

“No.”

“No?”

“Either give me yours or throw mine away.”

“Ok, I will throw yours away.” I made for the bin in the corner of the hall. He grabbed my elbow and pulled hard. I fell against him.

“Give it back to me. Now.” I gave him the piece of paper with his number on it. He ripped it to shreds and walked off. My new friend is walking towards me in long strides which eat up the hall.

“What the hell was that about? Are you alright?”

I am speechless.

Thou shalt always be your mother’s eyes and ears.

The house-helps were stomping all over the top-floor flats in which we lived. I heard the louvres rattle as they banged doors and shrieked in their cat-and-mouse playtime antics. Soon, the doorbell would ring. A nurse from my father’s clinic downstairs would issue a warning from my father and the noise would quieten down. A shriek and the sound of flesh hitting flesh, and the banging-stomping-rattling would resume once more.

I sighed. I had been banished to our bedroom across the landing with severe instructions not to get up until it was five o’clock. But I was thirsty. The striped curtains both let and blocked the sunlight and for a while, I had played my usual game of ‘dodge the sun’. I was bored now.

My sister’s earlier suckling of her thumb had drawn a map on the bed. I knew from experience that it would smell. I poked her until she turned her head the other way.I got up little-by-little until I was sitting up. It would take a while to get out of bed completely – Creak. Pause. Creak. Creak. Creeeeeak. Pause. Breathe – but I would make it.

The bed was the least of my worries. The first door was the worst. Then there was the second. Then out the always-open third, across the landing, skipping over the hole with its bit of exposed piping left behind by a plumber, another creak into the kitchen and open the door leading to the dining room and to the fridge.

It seemed a long time but the fridge was a welcoming sight. Laughter bubbled up and I stopped mid-step. That was close. I leaned sideways, holding on to a dining room chair for balance. The door to the maids’ room was not completely shut. The laughter came again and I forgot my thirst. There was something about it….something curious. A genuine enjoyment. I had to see what it was all about. I skipped over the puffed-up bit of linoleum. It formed the ‘mountain’ in our little car games but stepping on it now would cause a loud ‘crack‘. I didn’t want that.

Once my feet touched the linoleum boundary, I breathed a sigh of relief. The floor was concrete, cool and hard. Nobody could hear my bare feet. I stood close to the door jamb, angling my head downwards so that my breath could brush against the wood frame as opposed to bouncing off it. I peeked.

At first my eyes couldn’t make out anything in the gloom. I pulled back in case somebody saw and closed my eyes. I tried again.

“Hehehehhehe.” A low chuckle.

“Look at his thing. It is so big.” The laughter was harsher, bolder. More assured. It belonged to the tall one.

“Can you read the words well?”

“Yes now. Let me see that piece you are looking at.” A cleared throat. “OK, he’s asking her if she is selling her breasts like the plantain on head. Because her breasts are shaped like plantains see?”

“I can see that from the pictures. I wanted to hear his own words.”

“I am telling you myself, oya read it if you don’t believe me, bush girl.”

“Who are you calling bush girl, don’t you know I am older than you? Is it because I can’t read?”

“You’re older than who?” The tall girl delivered a big slap to the other’s behind.

“Stop it. Osiso.” The sentence ended in a scream and they started tussling, falling back on the single bed. A piece of their literature floated in the air and landed near the door. There was a woman’s naked buttocks in black and white. It looked too big to belong to just one woman. There was a man, veins bulging in his neck, a long, knotted thing between his legs, he was sweating. It was his thing.

I gasped. The tall one looked up.

“What are you doing here?” She jumped up and stood in front of me. My heart beat in my mouth. “Aren’t you supposed to be taking siesta?”

“I was thirsty…” I hesitated. She looked like she was going to kill me. “I came to get water from the fridge.”

“You know you’re not supposed to touch the fridge. Why didn’t you take water from the filter in the kitchen?” I hated the filter. The water tasted of pot and…and… boil, no matter how long it had been left to cool.She put her hands on her waist and glared like she wanted me to set me on fire. Her breasts sat high on her chest. When did she take off her blouse? Without meaning to, my eyes darted around the room. The short one got up from the bed and moved quickly to the wardrobe. Her buttocks were two blackened buns as she pulled up her skirt.

“Yes but I wanted cold water. It is hot.” I decided to push my luck. “Besides, I saw what you were doing. You were reading a bad magazine. If you don’t let me drink water from the fridge I will tell mummy…” The tall one shoved me with such force that I hit thrust my elbows into the wall opposite. A numbness traveled down my arms. She reached down and picked up the magazine. She had put her foot on it as soon as they discovered I was there. ‘Lolly’ screamed at me from between a woman’s thighs. She dropped it on the bed and advanced.

“If you tell your mother what we were doing I will make sure she beats you well well for breaking your siesta. And I will tell your mum that you broke one of the tumblers. I have been hiding it to help you but try it and you will know yourself.” She poked me in the chest with a hard finger. I wanted to cry. I knew I was going to pay for breaking the glass. I should have told my mother when it broke. I knew I should have been suspicious when this one tried to cover for me. She didn’t even like me. She liked my sister.

I walked back to the room and waited for siesta to be over. I stayed in the room when it was TV time. I didn’t come out when dinner was ready. I knew when my mother came back but I didn’t come out to greet her. I knew from her footfalls that she was coming to give me the thrashing of my life.

“Welcome mummy. I’m sorry that I broke your glass and didn’t tell you. I am already punishing myself. I don’t deserve any dinner. But let me tell you all the bad-bad things they did today…”

Screw it. I knew which way my bread was buttered.

Say hello to your mother for me.

“Wait, this isn’t the way to my house. Where are we going? Why are you smiling like that?”

“We’re just going to branch for a little while.”

“Branch where, biko? You said you were taking me straight home that was why I agreed to come with you. I should have got a taxi.”

“We’re going to my house.”

“Eh? Why? What’s happening there?”

“I told you now. My mum is visiting. I wanted you guys to meet.”

“Why?”

“Why?”

“Yes, why? You heard me. Stop repeating what I’ve said.”

“Well, as someone that she should know. Someone I would like to have in my life.”

“We met just two weeks ago. This is only the second time I’ve been out with you, both times on work-related functions and you want me to meet your mother?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I want to marry you. Why are you sighing?”

“I’m tired of having this same conversation all the time.”

“We’ve never had this conversation.”

“Not you, no.”

“So?”

“So what?”

“Are you going to marry me?”

“You’re proposing?”

“Yes.”

“Just like that.”

“Yes.”

“We only met…”

“Two weeks ago, I know. But when the time is right, the time is right.”

“Oh, I see. Well the time is not right for me. And for godssake we just met.”

“Don’t shout.”

“Why not. I feel like I’m drowning. You’re not listening.”

“You’re so dramatic.”

“Melodramatic.”

“What?”

“Nevermind.”

“Look, she knows we went to this function together. I told her you’d stop by.”

“Before you’d even discussed it with me?”

“I knew you wouldn’t mind.”

“But I do mind. Look, stop the car, let me get out. I don’t understand how you think you can do this…What I supposed to say to her then?”

“Don’t be like that.”

“If you don’t stop the car, I will open the car door and roll out. We’ll see what you tell the police. If you think I’m joking try me.”

“Ok. No problem. No problem, at all. Let me drive you back to your house.”

“Please do you mind not texting while you turn the car?”

“I just need to tell my mum that you’re not coming again.”

“What kind of impression have you given her about me anyway? Look at the time. It’s eleven o’clock. Does she think I’m the kind of girl who can just stop over at any man’s place at this time of the night?”

“Ah-ahn. She knows we went to this thing now, that you’re a journalist and that your work takes all hours.”

“Yes but I go straight home afterwards.”

“Sorry, sorry. My mistake.”

“Hmmm.”

“I really am sorry. I guess I got carried away with you, I just wanted to show you off. One of my sisters is there as well, so it won’t be just my mother if you think it will be uncomfortable.”

“No thank you.”

“My sister is about your age, I’m sure you’ll have plenty to talk about.”

“I don’t know your sister. No offence I’m sure she’s a lovely person but I will not make friends under false pretences.”

“Who is pretending? What I want for myself with you is real.”

“Be that as it may, I have not been given a chance to decide what to feel. I cannot just meet your mum and sister because you’ve decided that you want to get married to me, and especially not at this time of the night; it’s short notice. And we’ve only just met.”

“Why are you shaking your head? What did I do now?”

“Nothing. I just can’t believe you.”

“I’ve said sorry.”

“Yes but you must have known that I would refuse which is why you didn’t tell me before. Some part of you must know this is wrong, however…turn right here please, then keep going straight until you get to the junction…however much you want to pretend that it’s a normal thing to do.”

“You’re still shaking your head.”

“You Igbo men are really something.”

“Eh?”

“I can’t talk about it any more. I feel as if I am always talking about the same thing all the time.”

“I don’t know why you keep resisting me sef. I have a house here and I am building one in my village back home. I am a senior executive at my job. I am a citizen – I passed my exams in one sitting. Surely that counts for something?”

“Yes but…”

“I am not a bad guy here. I will not impregnate you and leave. I am not asking you to become a girlfriend. I am giving you respect by seeing you as wife material. I am the kind of man that would take you out for dinner at the weekends. I would allow you to work, in fact, I would even give you the money to start your own business. If I were president, you would not be merely a first lady but a minister in your own right.”

“And what’s wrong with me being president? Ha ha. You will ‘allow’ me to work?”

“Yes now. I am one of the good guys, you know. I will always let you do whatever you want.”

“I can’t do it. I can’t have this conversation again with another man. I’m tired. You are a nice guy but you just don’t get it and I can’t keep explaining. Thank you for bringing me home. Have a safe journey back to yours.”

“I know you think I am not thinking of you. The truth is, I could marry anyone I wanted but it’s you I want. I could marry a white or Jamaican.”

“This is so unreal. I’m going to get out now.”

“Wait.”

“Yes?”

“My mother says she’s disappointed that you didn’t meet. She made oha soup. It’s my favourite.”

“Well, say hello to her for me. And enjoy the soup.”

Looting in Iceland, Rye Lane, Peckham.
Image by Nkem Ifejika.

Given the state of London and the UK, it seemed somehow inappropriate to ignore this in a blog post. But to make it up to you guys, I will definitely put up the ‘Igbo Girl’ post I originally wrote this week so keep checking.

As you know, the Metropolitan Police instructed parents to call their children and get those on the streets to go home. This led to a brief discussion I had with @chykere (owner of Igbopeople.blogspot.com). He thought parents of the rioters should be jailed or at the very least face serious questions.

It got me wondering how my parents would have handled the situation if I had been a teenager involved in the looting. For one thing a lot of Igbo parents have Biafran complex – they lost their property at the end of the war to the Nigerian government who quickly redistributed it – and so looting is not an option. For another they would rather kill you with their hands than have you bring disgrace on the family. A conversation between the police and my mother would have gone like this:

Police: Is this Mrs X?

Mum: Yes this is Mrs, X. How may I help you?

Police: Madam your daughter was identified on CCTV as one of the looters in Peckham/Enfield/Croydon/Hackney. We’ve finished preliminary questioning. We need you to come and bail her until a sentencing date is set.

Mum: Oh, that’s quite alright.

Police: Madam?

Mum X: We have a lot of children, officer so you can keep that one if you like. In fact are you sure she was operating alone? She has one sister she is particularly close to, you might want to come and take that one for questioning as well.

What would have been your parents’ response during the ‘riots’? Answers in the comment section please!