Now we wait

I was eager to vote, which is why on one day in December 2014, my friend and I woke up at 6:30am to go register for our voter’s cards. We had gone to the registration centre in our neighbourhood and it was crowded, so we thought it would be a good idea to go to another one which was farther away (we live in Lekki and we went to VI to register). At the time I was just too excited to be in the system, it did not occur to me that I would have to vote in the place I had registered.

Fast forward a few months, It’s election day and I am sat at home watching the election process on the television. Not only could I not vote in the polling unit closeby, a vehicular restriction had been imposed so I could not even drive to my polling unit. I was very sad to say the least. I was actually surprised by how much my conscience pricked me. Here I had a chance to make a difference by casting my vote and I was not doing that. I considered walking to my polling unit, but my mother immediately shut down that idea. It would have taken me a few hours to get there, by which time I would have had to vote in an ambulance.

Anyway the votes have been casted and we now await the results. There are about 12 presidential candidates, but the public seems to think there are only two and a half, the half here referring to the only female candidate who is not that well known but who is not entrenched in irrelevancy like the other unknown candidates.

The main candidates are the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan and three time presidential candidate and one time military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. Goodluck is representing the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) while Buhari is representing All Progressives Congress (APC). This is a mirror image of the elections in 2011 where the same two candidates contested. In the last elections, Jonathan won, something a lot of people have come to regret. APC is the underdog party and people hope that they will bring about a change if elected. PDP has been in power since Nigeria switched to democracy in 1999 and frankly people are sick of them. Not everyone of course, but a significant number of people.

Goodluck Jonathan is rightly seen as incompetent and bumbling, known more for his wife’s faux pas than for any tangible achievements. I believe he is a decent man who should be teaching in a secondary school somewhere, not making decisions on behalf of 170 million people. His handling of the Boko Haram siege has been completely disgraceful. He adopted the “ignore it and it will go away and if it doesn’t oh well what can I do am I God?” approach and only revved the engine in the last six weeks. Election is drawing nigh and suddenly Boko Haram starts getting crushed. For those who were murdered or kidnapped in the past four years, ooops.

My main irritation with him are his comments and the lack of thought that goes into them. I think he is a good man, I really do and in many ways he is the average Nigerian (look ma, no shoes!). But when one becomes the President, one has to be more careful about what one says. It is necessary to be able to inspire confidence in your people and to make them think that things will be okay. Felix can say silly things when he is hanging out with his friends at the beer parlour, but the president cannot go on national television and proclaim that Boko Haram is our family. Nope. In his 7th presidential media chat, he dropped a lot of gems that had me clutching my head wondering if this man has any media advisers.

When asked about an alleged missing $20 billion, his reply was that if any money was missing America would know.

If anyone steals $50 billion or $20 billion anywhere America will know, they will tell you where it is; it is their money.”

It hurts him when a Boko Haram member is killed because they are Nigerians and he is their president.

Anytime I hear of any one Nigerian dies I feel pained, even if it’s a Boko Haram member, I am their president.”

“I don’t know where they are. There is no confirmation of the location of the schoolgirls, you are a journalist, you know more than me.” When asked where the 200 Chibok girls are.

Over 70% of what they call corruption in Nigeria, is mere common theft. The word corruption is being abused, it’s just mere theft.”

“Even when I’m in church I am monitoring what is happening. Anytime I get reports of an attack somewhere, my face will change immediately, my expression will change. It used to happen every Sunday

In this article, he disputes the claim that Nigeria is poor saying: “If you talk about ownership of private jets, Nigeria will be among the first 10 countries, yet they are saying that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries.

When the Charlie Hebdo attacks happened, Jonathan could not offer his condolences fast enough. But when the town of Baga was obliterated, he stayed mum. It was like it never happened. How can this not make you mad? People are dying in our own backyard and the president is silent, but the same man is condemning attacks overseas. Madness.

Should we talk about his wife? Dame Patience Jonathan, comedian extraordinaire. She is such a lively comical character, it is a shame her talents are being wasted in politics. She needs to enter the Nigerian film industry and team up with Nkem Owoh. Forget Osoufia in London, Mama Peace in Aso Rock will be a hit.

Yeah Goodluck needs to go, but is the alternative any better? In 1983, Muhammadu Buhari took over leadership in a military coup. His reign was characterised by brute force. I was not there during his regime, but apparently it was quite repressive and inhumane. Wole Soyinka wrote a piece on Buhari aptly titled Crimes of Buhari. It is a testament to the state of Nigeria and the people’s frustration with the incumbent that a former dictator is actually being viewed as greener pasture.

At this point, I think people just want a change, they`(we) want Jonathan out. I believe people are more anti-Jonathan than they are pro-Buhari.  APC could have selected Mr. Ibu as its presidential candidate and some people would still vote him over Jonathan.

I do think it is important that people temper their expectations with a bit of reality. People seem to think Buhari is the knight in starched Babariga that Nigeria has been waiting for. Buhari will be elected and with a flash of his dazzling smile our economy will improve, oil prices will go up, the exchange rate will be $5000 to N1, the sun will be jealous of all the electricity we get, Boko Haram will be a thing of the past, everyone will have jobs, insecurity will be over and Nigeria will be utopia and will have to be renamed the Federal Republic of Nirvana.

Slow down.

People say things like “Why will you vote for Jonathan, aren’t you tired of not having steady power supply?” I’m pretty sure epileptic power supply preceded Jonathan and will continue even if Buhari is elected. Let’s not build up unrealistic expectations because we are then inadvertently setting Buhari up to fail. There is no way he will completely turn Nigeria around in four years and when he doesn’t we will start to hate him as well.

We need a change, Buhari happens to be that change now. He is not our saviour, not our Lee Kuan Yew. He is just a change. An APC win will signal a new start in Nigeria, one where PDP is not ruling us. A Nigeria where a presidential tenure is four years, not automatically 8 years regardless of performance. A Nigeria where ineptitude is not rewarded. If Buhari is elected and in four years he proves to be equally as inept, then he should be voted out. No more should we endure and tolerate nonsense.

We await the results. Either way life will go on, in true Nigerian fashion- suffering and smiling.

Pinkies up!

I used to love tea. I was once in a passionate one week love affair with tea: green tea, peppermint tea, camomile tea, oh sweet camomile. In the height of my madness I said this about tea.

Camomile (Chamomile) Tea is awesome!  Aaah it’s like a thousand angels fluttering on your tongue and then sliding down your throat to land softly in your belly.

But then one day I decided that if I was going to be a tea drinker I had to do it right and healthy and stop drinking tea with sugar. And that was the end of that. I can’t even drink tea anymore because it gives me heartburn/acid reflux. Poo.

So when I heard about the Lagos Tea House, I was torn. A part of me wanted to try it out because I like trying out new things and being fancy. The other part of me thought why spend money on tea? But I forgot about one thing, (or should that be one person?)- My mother- the patron saint of the tea drinkers association of the world. We were on our way to the supermarket when we came across the Tea House.

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Mum: Look! A tea house.

Me: Should we go in?

Mum: of course.

Before we went in, we decided to get something to eat from another restaurant. We were hungry and we didn’t think a tea house would serve proper food, we were wrong by the way.

I didn’t have any expectations of the interior but I was quite impressed. I liked everything from the wallpaper, to the mirrors to the artwork to the crystal glasses on the table.

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The best part is that the place was empty. I prefer to eat in empty places, I think I might have a mild case of agoraphobia.

They have a variety of teas-green, white,black,oolong and so on.

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They also have a food menu, of course. It should have occurred to me that a Nigerian food establishment cannot survive if it doesn’t serve rice. They had me at the Lagos Tea House Breakfast-pancakes, waffles and crepes. OOh yes.

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I settled for the blackberry mojito tea and my mother went with the Moroccan mint tea.

This is how it was served.

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The tea came in the transparent container and the timer was used to ensure the tea was steeped for the right amount of time before being released into the teapot.

My tea was nice. To complete the tea drinking experience, I decided to sit upright and hold the cup with my pinkies up and speaking in what was supposed to be posh English accent.I lasted about a minute before reverting to my comfortable bad posture.

The only downside of the day came when I went to pay the bill. Not only did they not have a functioning POS machine, they added some charges to my bill. I feel the price put on the menu should already incorporate all extra charges.

It was a nice experience all in all. I will go back there, not for the tea but for the breakfast.

Lagos Tea House: Plot 6, Admiralty Way
Lekki Phase 1, Lagos, Nigeria.
If you are familiar with the area, it is the green building beside UBA on the way to Ebeano Supermarket/Tantalisers/Forte oil.

They are open everyday from 8am-8pm.

Book Review: Lady Oracle-Margaret Atwood

My introduction to Margaret  Atwood came a few years ago in my University library. I was  skimming through the books trying to decide which ones were interesting enough to borrow. I opened Lady Oracle and the first line seemed so intriguing I decided to check it out. I went on to read two more of Atwood’s books and to be honest, I am not crazy about her books. I liked Lady Oracle the most out of the three I read. Even though I did not like the other two, I will still concede that they are good books, just not to my taste. The Edible Woman had me thinking “what the hell am I reading?” but I was still impressed by it. Atwood is a good writer, she uses language beautifully and her books are really creative, sometimes to the point of utter confusion. Her books are well written but bland. I don’t know if I am making sense or if Ms. Atwood has made me lose my mind. Let’s get on with it.

Here is my review for Lady Oracle.

Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood

“I planned my death carefully…”

The very first line wets the reader’s appetite and arouses interest in the book.

The reader encounters the heroine, first as Joan Foster, hiding out in Terremoto Italy, and is then introduced to her past as Atwood takes us through her childhood in Toronto Canada as Joan Delacourt. Overweight Joan does not really fit in as she deals with bullies, spearheaded by her needling neurotic mother who never fails to convey her utter disappointment in her. Openly irritated by her obese daughter, she does all she can to mould Joan into the image she prefers, to no avail. Joan’s father, who was away at war for the first 5 years of her life, is a stranger she has little to say to. She finds succor in her plump aunt Louise with whom she identifies with. It is her aunt who takes her to a spiritualist church where she gets introduced to astral bodies and automatic writing.

After a fracas with her mother, she moves to England where she meets the mysterious Polish count- the first in a series of men she gets involved with, each different from the last but similar in their eccentricity. It is through the count that she gets introduced to romantic fiction and she secretly starts to write Costume Gothics, using her now dead aunt’s name- Louisa K Delacourt. Joan soon meets Arthur Foster, a melancholic activist fuelled by the different political causes he jumps into frequently. They get married and she assumes another persona- Joan Foster. While still secretly writing the Costume Gothics, she manages to publish a critically acclaimed novel she wrote in a trance. Her new found fame as a legitimate writer brings her love in form of the Royal Porcupine, a collector of dead animals. It also brings her blackmail which is what causes her to fake her death and run to Italy for comfort. Even then, in true Joan fashion, she quickly finds herself unsettled yet again.

Lady Oracle is a beautifully written novel. Margaret Atwood segues between the present and the past and carries the reader along flawlessly. Atwood writes about eerie and quirky situations with a strange sense of normalcy. There are no sharp twists and turns and she manages to carry the plot and intricate characters rather mundanely and hilariously.

The theme of a conflict of identity, present in some of the author’s other works, is prominent here. Joan battles with an identity crisis that defines her throughout the book. She frequently finds herself conforming to others’ expectations of her and has to create more identities the more people she meets. She manages to lose the weight but the scars from her childhood never fully heal and they travel with her like an omnipresent shadow. She tries to shed her past along with the excess weight but it leeches onto her like a parasite and she realizes nothing really goes away.

There is no clear conclusion to the story. I flipped through the pages ravenously, awaiting the climax and expecting some closure, both of which never came. I turned the page once more only to be confronted with the end and was thus left disappointed and unsatisfied.

Written in 1976, this was only Atwood’s third novel so any oversights may be forgiven. Readers, well versed with her later works may find Lady Oracle lacking in comparison. Nevertheless, Lady Oracle is a good introduction to Margaret Atwood and a fine book in itself. The let down at the end does not erase the wonderfulness of the preceding 345 pages.

Throwback Tuesday: Who am I as a writer in English?

In my junior year at University, I took a peer tutoring course and one of our first assignments was to write an essay on “Who am I as a writer in English?” I remember initially being perplexed as to what to write but once my fingers touched the keyboard, the words came flowing. I liked the end product and my professor did as well, because I got full marks on the paper. I was going through my documents when I came across it and thought to share it on here.

Because I can

8th grade French class: the professor walked in one fine day and asked us to write an essay on le jour le plus hereuse de ma vie. Le what? After the cries of ‘uh…what?” died down and the raised eyebrows were put back in their places, she explained that she wanted us to write an essay on the happiest day of our lives. My mind was blank for a second. I had no idea what the happiest day of my life was. For a day to be termed the happiest day of a person’s life it has to be really special and no day came to my mind. Not to worry, my trusty imagination quickly sprang up several wonderful scenarios. Nobody ever said it had to be true, and how would the teacher find out anyway? I could write about that one time I went to Paris or when I met Nelson Mandela and he shook my hand.

I was quickly brought back to earth when I remembered I was in French class and my English-French dictionary could only take me so far. How could I possibly capture these events in French? So I bottled up my imagination and settled on something basic. My essay ended up sounding like this. “I woke up. I went to the zoo. It was the happiest day of my life.” Oh yes, the emotions were just flowing out of the paper.

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9th grade Yoruba final exam: the theory question asked for a thousand word essay on ina monamona. The entire class looked around for someone who had an idea what this meant, but we were all as stumped as the other. Ina monamona? I had never heard my parents or aunts say anything about ina monamona. Where did the teacher dig up this word from? Eventually he brought us out of our misery by informing us that ina monamona meant electricity. I waited for the wave of relief, there was none. If my grade didn’t depend on the exam, I would have laughed. An essay on electricity? In Yoruba? A language where a simple essay about myself would require the teacher to arm himself with a couple packs of Advil. A language where a simple word like oko could mean, husband, car, farm or penis. Sound marks are used to differentiate the words; sound marks which I never learned to use. I wanted to write about how electricity was generated. I wanted to write on the good and bad sides of electricity. I wanted to touch on the epileptic power supply in Nigeria and possibly propose several solutions. I ended up writing an essay that was more English than Yoruba. I did not have the heart to check my grade afterwards.

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4th grade English composition class: we had to write an essay on how we spent the summer holiday. This was an easy enough assignment. I had spent the summer at home with my family and friends, watching movies and going out. I could have written about that but instead I decided to write about how I spent it in the United States, even though at that point I had never been there. But I used my imagination and wrote a wonderful essay, my friends who read it marveled at how much fun I had. My imagination went wild as I described New York and LA; the statue of liberty and the palm trees. I remember hiding the essay from my mum because I didn’t want her to catch me lying. She did eventually see it and my fears were baseless as she was quite impressed.

As a writer in English, my ever active imagination is used and I have no limitations. I can write about the forest of Narnia and the castle of Hogwarts. In English I can be poetic. I can write a love poem filled with soulful words and images. I can write a poem filled with hate and yet another filled with anguish and pain. This would never have been possible in French or Yoruba. I am a lot more wooden and in a box when it comes to those languages. As a person I am very imaginative and this spills out into my writing. But in a language other than English, my imagination is like a genie that has been banished to the dusty lamp. It’s still there, but it is trapped by my inability to flow well in Yoruba or French.

I am a very private and secretive person. My thoughts and emotions are mine and I guard them fiercely. But keeping things inside can be very frustrating. Everything builds up and it feels like I’m going to explode, I have to get things off my chest. The only time I let my feelings out is on paper. Emotions that I do not understand and do not want to tell anybody go down in writing. As I let the pen flow over the book, or in some cases my fingers over the keypad, I feel my sadness evaporating, almost like a therapy session. My phone is filled with notes of moments I keep to myself; the time my crush walked past and shot me a smile and my heart skipped a beat. Frustrations at exams that didn’t go well, relief when I eventually got the exam results, wishes, fears, that one time I was in a strange place and didn’t know anybody there and I felt so lonely, my feelings of pride and hopelessness. Sometimes I get a sudden inspiration and I whip out my journal and scribble in a poem. Because I can.

Maybe I would write more in Yoruba or French if I was fluent in them. I think in English and all of my brain processes are done in English as well. So writing in another language requires me to first translate my thoughts from English. I can’t imagine having to write an essay on ‘Who am I as a writer in Yoruba” ha! I would probably drop the course. I do really want to learn a lot more languages, but for now English is my trusty steed; my source of release.

I still cannot pinpoint a moment in my life that is my happiest, but if I had to write an English essay on that, I would have no problem. I could use my imagination to create a wonderful scenario and put it down on paper with ease. There are no restrictions. I could keep it simple and write about a rainy night spent cooped up under the warm sheets with my sisters and friends watching funny movies and sharing stories. Or I could go deeper (and a bit cliché) and write about falling in love in Paris. I would describe his face and the tiny scar on his left eyelid. I would write about his smile and tousled hair and how he made me all tingly. I would talk about our first kiss and the way it left me feeling like I was filled with helium.

Picasso wasn’t made in a day.

I am always on the lookout for something fun to do in Lagos. My regular day consists of me holding myself prisoner at home, slowly frittering away from the monotony of life, wondering what fun things other people are doing.

So when I heard of an event called Paint The Night Africa, I was immediately down for it. It is a fun painting class where people, art novices especially, can be guided through a painting session while simultaneously sipping a glass of wine or whatever. This is an article about their launch. I went on their website www.ptnafrica.com and found that they had an event on the 19th of March. My friend and I registered for it and waited excitedly for the day to come.

It costs 5000 for one person, a steep price for an unemployed person like myself but I rationalised it this way: I never go out, so this is actually not too much money to spend on what is possibly my only outing in the foreseeable future.

The event was held at a cozy restaurant in Victoria Island called Gingers Tapas and Grill. It was scheduled to start at 6:30pm and being the Punctual Polly that I am, I got there right as the clock struck half past 6. But as usual Nigerian Timing* came into effect.

Nigerian timing aka African timing aka Coloured people timing: This is when an event is billed to start at 6:30 and people do not get there till 8pm. It is expected and accepted that people will be late and the event will not start on time so nobody leaves their house on time, nobody except me that is. 

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Apart from the instructors/organisers, we were the first people there and so we waited. The waitress came over with menus but we were not interested in drinking or eating anything, we just wanted to know the WIFI password. I suspect the waitress did not want us to know the password because we had to ask over and over again before she muttered something. We then tried this password multiple times in multiple ways but it did not work. Eventually we had to give her our phones and she took them away to some magical land and when they were returned, they were connected to the wifi. Hallelujah.

At 7:15, a few more people had arrived and the organiser said we could not wait any longer for the latecomers and the painting class was declared open.

The theme of the class was Crazy Daisies. We received a brief tutorial from the instructor on what brushes to use, how to mix colours and things like that. Then we started to paint and by paint I mean I just closed my eyes and threw random colours on the canvas. At the end of the class, this is what I ended up with

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Mine was the darkest and the busiest and least artistic in the class. Every one else had nice pastel backgrounds with minimalist themes and I had this. I love it though. I really do. I’m going to ship it off to the Tate Modern and become a millionaire.

The class was fun and I hope to go back soon to redeem myself. On the drive home, I started to think about all the ways I could have gone about this painting. I might just invest in a few canvases and paint brushes and paint the night away in my room. Painting is not as difficult as I thought it was, and in this age of pretentious art snobs and with what is considered art these days, I reckon I have a bright future as an artist.

A poem a day keeps the blues away

Today is World Poetry Day. I was not aware there was a world poetry day but I should have known seeing as there is a day for everything now. I am not sure when poetry day was first celebrated, but it is a quite a big deal. Some cafes are accepting poems as payments today.

In celebration of this beautiful day, I have decided to put the spotlight on one of my favourite poets- Langston Hughes.

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was a mixed race American man. As is the norm in America, especially back then, being biracial means you’re black. Though he was of mixed heritage, he identified as Black and this shows in his poems. The themes of race, segregation, struggle, discrimination, black beauty and black pride are prominent and pervasive in his work. He was a prominent figure of the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote about the unglamorous parts of Black life, something that was not taken very kindly by Black people. Hughes discusses this criticism in his autobiography: Continue reading

Flourless pancakes. Say what?

In a quest to be healthy, I decided to check out flourless pancake recipes. I love pancakes. Love is too mild a word to describe my feelings for pancakes. Pancakes and scrambled eggs are my go to breakfast. But eating pancakes every morning cannot be healthy, at least that’s what my mother says. So I went on google and got the easiest recipe I could find.

2 bananas

1 egg

How much easier can this get? The ingredients are readily available and it is such a simple process, I thought.

Mash all ingredients together.

So I did.

I put a little oil in the pan and poured a little batter in it. This is what I ended up with

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It suffices to say that I was sorely disappointed. I had visions of eating delicious guilt free pancakes and I ended up with this. Before frying it, I was already suspicious because the batter was not as thick as normal pancake batter and it kept sticking to the pan. It was a struggle to flip this “pancake”. I had my mum taste it and she said it was alright, just very bananaey (she didn’t use that word). It didn’t taste like a pancake, it just tasted like bananas which wasn’t bad but wasn’t good either.

If at first you don’t succeed…

I figured I needed something to thicken up the batter and by that I mean my mother told me I needed something to thicken up the batter. I got a new recipe.

2 bananas

1 egg

Oats

Cinnamon

Baking powder

A little salt.

Don’t ask about proportions and servings and all that jazz. I used my discretion and threw everything in the blender. I ended up with this

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I fried them like regular pancakes.

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Much better.

Now do not delude yourself into thinking these flour less banana pancakes will taste anything like real pancakes. They will not. They tasted nice though and I have no problem incorporating this into my breakfast menu. I cannot describe the taste, it is just different.

That’s it for healthy food. Off to devour some pasta. Yum.