Category Archives: Naija

So you think the ‘School of Hard Knocks’ is a metaphor in Nigeria? HAHAHA! I laugh at you.

Before I went to Nigeria this time around, I was always on the Hubster’s case about Tot going to school there. I spoke often and longingly of my own experiences in primary and secondary school in Nigeria; the ultra-strict teachers, cutting the tough elephant grass with a machete as punishment, the classrooms with no doors or windows, all that open space to play in, that one time my friends and I found a bullet as long as two index fingers in the sand around the smouldering rubbish heap outside Primary 6A…

“Hang on,” said the Hubster, his unibrow creasing up in one giant mark of concern. “None of that sounds very pleasant.”

“It wasn’t,” I replied.

“So why do you want him to experience all that?”

“Because…” I was confused. “What kind of question is that? Can you not hear all the things I have been saying?”

Sometimes, it is as if he doesn’t listen to me when I am talking.

Anyway, he finally gave in and the day before we left said “Well, when you get there, look around and see if you like any of the schools,” which made me very happy until I got there and realised that of course it was ELECTIONS followed by EASTER and all the schools had closed in anticipation of violence* followed by insane amounts of bingeing. But perhaps it did not matter because being home disabused me of the notion of Tot going to school in Nigeria, at least for now. Here, in order of increasing importance, are three reasons why this is the case:

3)  The discipline, my God the ‘discipline‘: By the age of eight/nine when I left primary school, in addition to the aforementioned grass-cutting, I had been flogged with a cane (several times), flogged with a switch (there is a difference), had my mouth flicked (painful!), been knocked on the head with knuckles (Hey! I can smell my brain!) and flogged on the calves (discouraged for girls, because you know, we have to maintain that hot-leg thing for future spouses). All this and I still do not know maths so it was pointless.

I am smiling to myself as I think about it but I admit, that reaction cannot be normal. However, it was part of life then. Everyone got flogged by their parents and teachers; for being cheeky, for not doing homework, for having a dirty uniform, for even looking at a teacher funny. This was just a fragment of life, there was A LOT of good. But tough preventative and disciplinary action was a big part of school where learning was by rote. No one cared if you knew why the sky was blue as long as that was the answer you gave when asked. It’s the Victorian way and as at the time I was in school, it had not changed.

There are a lot of Montessori schools in Nigeria now and a lot that do not employ corporal punishment. They were some of the latter when I was growing up as well. But, I would want Tot to go to a normal, non-ajebo school, like I did. One in which I do not have to pay through the nose for my kid to be treated as a human being. It’s the general culture of teaching we have that has to change, not just that of a few, choice schools. I’m all for discipline but it has to be equal to the misdemeanour.

Not like the time my sister was flogged on the ear for innocently asking a teacher how old she was. Or my baby brother,  flogged to get him to start writing with his right hand instead of God-ordained left. My mum went ballistic on the teachers in both cases but my brother now writes with his right. It was probably easier to avoid trouble – his mum wouldn’t be around all the time to fight his battles after all. For a while though, he used to write his letters backwards because his brain could not keep up with the switch.

(My kid is a leftie. Flog him for this and I koboko you right back.)

2) Paying through the nose for the level of education considered ‘basic’ here in London:  Which is frankly ridiculous. Some schools charge exorbitant fees because they follow the ‘British curriculum’, but they have no flipping clue what they are doing. The poor parents who will do anything just to see their kids get the best are sold all kinds of nonsense.

Case in point:  I have a set of cousins whose training my father is responsible for . Their mother was always demanding these sums for each child, close to the same amount which my father spent to put TWO of his own children through university per term. So he asked her “What on earth are they teaching them in that school?”

“It’s a very good school she said. They give them DVDs and uniform and all their text books are printed in Cambridge…”

“I don’t care what it is they give them, there is absolutely no reason it should cost this much. In fact bring their reading materials when next you’re coming and let me see,” he said.

The next time she came, we looked at the so-called material. It was full of Disney DVDs.  The school was making money selling the parents ‘The Lion King’ which they could buy in the market for a fraction of the cost. It did not matter if they kids had it or not, it was compulsory to purchase from the school.

Now, said Aunty could have been lying of course, taking the opportunity to try and get more money from my dad, yes, it’s possible. But I am inclined to believe it because it is the sort of thing we do in Nigeria. You want a ‘British’ education? Then you must do everything that goes it with. And buy this. And that. Or else.*

Or consider this: My sister Whatsapped me last year, complaining that her kids’ school had introduced compulsory swimming lessons. All well and good, right?

“So they have a swimming pool now?”



“They don’t. And they said we have to pay NXXX for both costumes and lessons, if we don’t have ours.”

I asked her to take a photo of the letter. The thing did not make any sort of sense to me.  Was there a provision to ferry the kids to the swimming pool? How were classes arranged? How were they going to assess the kids’ skill level? None of these things was covered in the letter.  It was just going to be by age, so you could have proficient swimmers in with kids who have never swum a lap in their lives.  Add to this a line which made me see red: ‘All teachers are to accompany their students to the pool’.  Were they qualified instructors? No. Would they know what to do if a child was drowning?

“How many children per class?” I asked my sister.

“17,” she said.

One teacher to seventeen pupils. In a swimming pool.

Bonus confusion: They’d told parents the swimming classes were compulsory but still gave them consent forms to sign. Consent for what again? I rest my case.

1) My kid has SEVERE food allergies. Here in London, a lot of food items on allergy lists are forbidden for kids to bring into school, as some kids might have contact allergies as well (inflammation of the skin when you come into contact with an allergen). Teachers are trained to respond in cases of allergic reactions, are trained in first aid and schools have certificates to prove it. Cannot say the same for back home, and I’m quite unwilling to risk it.

In the case of Tot, his soy and peanut allergies lead to anaphylaxis. The response has to be as quick as the reaction is and then you need to call an ambulance and he has to be monitored for an least 8 hours in hospital afterwards. We are simply, NOT EQUIPPED.

It is still my dream for him to be soaked in Nigerian culture. There was/is a lot of bad, but there is good as well. So of my best days were spent in boarding school (especially when I was no longer a Ju – junior girl) and the experience still features heavily in my writing.  I learnt so many life skills that if the apocalypse were to befall us, I would most likely survive. I’m not bragging. I just would.

However, for now, the challenges are overwhelming and so this may remain a dream for a little while longer.

PS Primary school, Awka, in front of Primary 4b. Can you spot which one I am?
PS Primary school, Awka, in front of Primary 4b. Can you spot which one I am?
Good memory: In the photo above, the PE teacher made some of us take off our socks and trainers so that those who could not afford any for sports i.e. had only sandals, did not feel inferior/left out. The girl still wearing hers arrived just as the photographer was about to click the button and was allowed to stay. We learnt football that day. I sprained my toe and never played again.

* Election violence luckily did not happen (or happened in a very small number of areas in Rivers State when some idiots tried and failed to hijack the process). We conducted our elections beautifully!

* My sister, Pastor, had to have a baby in a Lagos hospital. She had her delivery bag packed months ahead, checked and updated it regularly and was sure to carry it when it was time for her to go to hospital.  When she got there, they made her buy the hospital’s ‘Delivery Pack’ never mind that hers had everything, otherwise they said ‘she would not get a bed’. She had to take the receipt to another nurse before she was finally admitted. This is the sort of shit we do in Nigeria.

Don’t get me started on her ante-natal classes. Say you were in labour and you showed up at a hospital, they would make you pay ante-natal fees for all the classes you missed (even if you had done classes at some other hospital) before they let you in.  Not all hospitals behave this way. But A LOT of them are insane like this. What are you going to do? Not have your baby?

Photo highlights of our Nigeria trip.

Hello everyone,

We were in Nigeria for three weeks and two days and boy do I have a lot to tell you. It was Tot’s first time and my first time in six years, so it was really special. I enjoyed seeing the world through Tot’s eyes, his delight and lizards and geckos the dusty, dusty roads in Awka (Willie was working!). The rest of Anambra’s roads were like glass so I am inclined to believe the slogan.

Here are some highlights from our trip.  Will update the blog with more stories and photos soon. As soon as I get my speech for SOAS’ Igbo Conference out of the way. (Oy. I am trembling. I have 40 minutes to speak. FORTY MINUTES!! Why me, lord?)

Pretending to have a beard with his travel pillow. En route to Awka from Abuja by car. A whopping 7-hour drive!
Playing shadows at his grandma’s house in Lagos. It was not even noon yet.


This used to be the site for Polo Park when I was growing up. It’s one big mall right now which broke my heart but the park had been run-down for years with no support so…Oh look. They kept one ride.
Campaign posters were EVE-RY-WHERE in Awka (and Nigeria in general)! A visual riot. And so much littering. I took the photo because of the guy in the barrister garb opening his eyes. His slogan was ‘Shine your eyes’. LOL!
One of my mother’s ‘customers’ in Nnewi. Her hair is made from strands of rubber thread. Highly flammable but also very exquisite. I saw so many differently styled isi-owu’s made with the same shiny rubber thread. Much more intricate styling to when I lived there.
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She was kind enough to turn and let me take a back view. I took both with her permission.


Macjew table water! MACJEW! HAHAHAHOHOHOHEHEHE! *Dead* My people will not kill me. Taken en route to Awka from Abuja. #Theheightofsophistication #Scottish #Jewish




Baby Oku de Man-power!


My sister just sent me this photo of something she found in Oja market in Lagos. I think it’s supposed to be an aphrodisiac but every other thing is delightfully vague. Does it work on women too? Is it a liquid or powder? You you drink it straight or mix it with other stuff?  (Sister Hashtag says mix it with their drinks in beer parlours. Update, she’s just told me it’s a liquid, duh, it says 200ml)

Why is there a volume for alcohol by the side? Does alcohol not inhibit i.e. kill libido aka manpower? And for my final question, why on earth does it say ‘Hundred watts’? That seems like such a faff to take a little ‘helper’ only to light up like a Christmas tree so the whole world knows you’ve taken it.

Also…where  do you light up? (Do women like that sort of thing now? Damn I’m old.)

‘Fire baby oku’. Chai. Lagos life is not easy at all. First you have your wife. Then you probably have your mistress (who’s had children for another man/may be divorced etc) then you have your girlfriend (who is a small university girl like this). No wonder men need all the help they can get. E no easy.

If you’ve taken this, send me an email. I won’t tell anyone. It’s strictly for journalistic purposes, you understand.

So I am into Phyno now.

I am always the last to know anything, living in my own head for a majority of the time and all. But last year, I discovered Phyno with ‘Man of the Year’ and I have been asking myself how I did not feel the earthquake that must have happened when he came on the scene.

Phyno: Image from


Anyway, I know now and I am about to give him the same obsessive treatment as I give anything I like. Expect a few weeks of this. I am not sorry!

First of all, I have absolutely no desire to see Phyno without his shirt – and not because I suspect he might look a bit reptilian (he reminds me a bit of all those crested lizards. I wouldn’t want to mess with him). But because I heard him before I saw what he looked like and I do not wish to objectify him, at all at all. You all know I am a bit irreverent but this boy has TALENT in spades. You can tell he is extra serious about his art. Respect.

I have never heard anyone make such mincemeat of Igbo in rap before. He shreds it. He just plays with the language; tossing it out, deftly applying puns, flipping the language on its head like a pancake before he devours it.

Nwanne look into my eyes/ Ego di m n’obu/ Money on my mind/All you need is owe me/Egbutego m the money/Now your chic wish she knew me/A dighi m agbo ncha/But my nigger I do me/ …If you go against me/Ntuo gi down ka alusi. (‘Man of the Year’.)

Brother look into my eyes/There’s money on my mind/All you need is owe me/I’ve eked out the money/Now your chic wish she knew me/I don’t lather soap/But my nigger I do me/…If you go against me/I’ll throw you down like an idol.

Looks simple enough, right? Wrong. Igbo can be difficult to rap in and rhyme which probably explains why not a lot of people are doing it. Those bits in bold are one of the ways you can tell someone who learnt Igbo from speakers because you won’t really find those in books – at least not the first one, which is a reference to male masturbation (frothing, ejaculating). The second is a nod to the Igbo way of showing displeasure in personal gods. In the old days, personal gods who disappointed or did not perform as expected could be disposed of or burnt aka ‘thrown down’.

There’s a lot of English in this verse and in the whole track in general and I for one wish Phyno would never speak English again, but it serves as a modifier for the Igbo, in a way a lot of us would speak it casually. He even calls it by its popular name: Engili-Igbo.

I am not a music critic by any stretch of the imagination. I can’t tell you anything about the beat or the arrangement or anything like that. But I know what I like: poets in any language, people who make language fresh to the ears. In this, Phyno gets my vote.

Ngwo-Ngwo vs Nkwobi

A friend asked me  ‘What’s the difference between Ngwo-Ngwo and Nkwobi?’ and I didn’t know what to tell her having never tasted Nkwobi before.

When I moved to London a few years ago it was all ‘Nkwobi-this’ and ‘Nkwobi-that’ and I approached it in the same way I do all faddy things – which is not at all. I have never tasted Nkwobi.

It didn’t help that men were just going mad over it like it was the new onugbu soup. You’d have barely said hello on a date before the guy would ask with ill-disguised desperation:

“You can make Nkwobi right?” Trying to contain the drool pouring out of his mouth. And failing.

Needless to say, when I lived in Enfield, women – and they were always women-  who could make Nkwobi were almost always elevated to superstar status. And even then I did not taste it. Even though it looked the same as Ngwo-ngwo. I could not understand the frenzy. Na jazz?

You can imagine how flabbergasted I was to realise that my suspicions were correct. The two are more or less the same. Hiss.

For those who do not know, this is a spicy dish made from goat or cow foot and/or tail, palm oil and in some cases goat brain. Mmmmmmmm….nice creamy brain. My mother never used the brain though and she would often scoop it out when she was making Isi Ewu – another delicacy involving a goat’s head.

*Just FYI, few things in life are as satisfying as scooping out a goat's mushy brain through a gash in the temple after it has been roasted. It looks like a cross between porridge and cottage cheese but it smells so divine! 
*Another FYI, maybe TMI. Goat's teeth are nasty if the cook is careless enough to get them in the dish. (Not my mother though.)

This is something my mother would knock out from boredom which is probably why I am so blasé about it.  I guess she was a superstar too. My father’s friends would eat it and drink palm-wine, laughing into the night while we forced our child-eyes to stay open so as not to miss any gossip.

Some people would say Ngwo-Ngwo differs from Nkwobi in that the former can and does contain other parts of meat/offal as well as the aforementioned limbs and I suppose that could be correct. But I think this is splitting hairs a bit because ultimately  they are both based around the same bits of animal and the technique is the same.

Anyway, I just finished a serious discussion on the subject (yes, this is a serious matter. Take note if you are married to or friends with an Igbo person because this is the stuff wars are made of!) and got sent a video.

Can I just be the first to say that this girl’s accent is making me all warm and fuzzy? I just want to marry her. Is she not the friendliest person you have ever not-met?