Monday, April 21, 2008

OPC, Police e.t.c

I’m sorry I have been away. I have been tied up with work, traveling and other matters of national security. While I was away, a plane disappeared without trace, a female minister was fired, a female Senator disappeared into thin air and President Yaradua took ill. I hear he has been recuperating in Germany. I wish him well. If he has any advisers around him, they should tell him to leave Aso rock while he can. Nigeria is not worth dying for. The problems of Nigeria would overwhelm any healthy human being that serves as President.
Getting back home after my travels, I discovered that some things had changed in my area. I stay in an area of Lagos that is wholly residential and has a semblance of sanity. Security is of high priority in the area. From 10 pm, motorbikes (okada) and taxis are stopped from gaining entrance. By 12noon, all movement into and out of the area is restricted. At about 8 pm, a police patrol vehicle drives around the area keeping watch on any strange movement. Apparently, all of these security measures have not stopped robbery attacks in the area. I was surprised to hear that that people in the area had decided to call in the help of members of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC). Basically OPC members are highly regarded in the issue of security in Nigeria. Nigerian policemen are helpless in the face of superior firepower being demonstrated by armed robbers. “Who wan die” is a popular refrain in Police barracks nationwide. Banks, Eateries and corporate organizations have been subject to random attacks by armed robbers. These dangerously armed youngsters shoot their way into buildings, rob people blind and leave in a blaze of bullets. There is no place in Lagos that is safe from the attacks of these hoodlums. Ikoyi, VI and Lekki are now favorite strike spots for robbers.
The question is this – What do OPC members have that the Nigerian police do not have? After all, the Nigerian police are better armed with automatic weapons, bulletproof vests and walkie-talkies. OPC members only have whistles, flashlights, dane guns (Shakabola) and a great deal of courage. What is it that makes OPC members confront armed robbers without fear while trained policemen run for cover? What is responsible for their “great deal of courage”? I think it has to do largely with their affinity for traditional African religious beliefs. OPC members believe in the efficacy of charms, amulets and gourds. Armed with these traditional security devices, they confront dangerous men and bring them to submission. The manner of operation of these traditional devices is beyond explanation. As an educated young person, I am supposed to frown at such a belief in the efficacy of trado-african security methods. I will be deceiving my self by postulating that these things do not work.
In the early part of the year 2000, there were a number of confrontations between policemen and OPC members in Lagos. OPC members with the aid of Eggs razed police stations down. I was able to see the remains of one of these police stations in my locality. A Time magazine report described the incidents in an interesting manner. It said that eggs filled with sulphuric acid were used to burn down the Police posts. The question is – Which laboratory did OPC members obtain sulphuric acid from?
Yorubas have a proverb that says “A child does not recognize the efficacy of a herb so he calls it a mere vegetable ( Omode o mogun, o pe lefo). Sulphuric acid indeed.
OPC members are now highly popular with banks, petrol stations and eateries. There are ways to recognize them. If you see a man that looks out of place / not well dressed in the environs of any corporate organization and is walking around comfortably with security men, it is likely that the man is an OPC member. We should be looking forward to a time in which OPC members would start providing security to churches and mosques.
A fellow blogger once wrote about an experience her hubby had with robbers. I jokingly “advised” her to resort to these traditional means of protection. The advice was apparently not well received.
My fascination with traditional forms of protection goes back to my childhood days. “Arelu” was one of the most popular screen plays of my childhood. It’s main actor was “Fadeyi Oloro”. When we got to school, kids would imitate scenes from the episode of that week. We would stand in front of each other with imaginary horns in our hands and begin to utter incantations. These incantations went like these: Inu Fridge lati n se omi tutu , Inu oven latin se akara Oyinbo, Inu transformer latin se ina mona mona , Oya maa sun. ( Translated – Out of a fridge comes cold water, Out of an oven comes a cake, out of a transformer comes electricity, fall down and sleep). It sounds like dumb stuff now but we thought we had supernatural powers. I will end with a story I heard while growing up- A couple of kids were urinating beside the fence of a compound that belonged to an old man. The man was greatly feared in the neighborhood. As the kids, stood outside his fence, the man looked on them from his balcony. The following conversation ensued

Baba: You children, Wetin You dey find for there?
Children: Baba, we dey piss now
Baba: Ok o, dey piss o

After 3 hours and an endless torrent of urine

Children: Baba, Baba, Baba, Abeg ,we no piss again o, we no wan piss again o

Monday, March 17, 2008


And I almost had you
But I guess that doesn't cut it
Almost loved you
I almost wished u would've loved me too

And I almost had you
But I guess that doesn't cut it
Almost had you
And I didn't even know it

These days, I sit in a lot of churches for weddings of my high-school mates, university mates and other colleagues. As the priest delivers his homily, I look at the couple in front of him and think of what could have been. In some cases, I’m filled with a tinge of regret as I look at the young lady getting married. At other times, I thank the Good Lord who chose not to make that “my portion”. The fact that “I almost wore that black suit” pervades my mind
The lyrics written above are that of the chorus of a song which has been enjoying a fair amount of airplay on Lagos FM radio stations. The song was done by a musical group called Simple Plan. The song comes in the country/rock style of singing of fantasies and dreams that never came to reality.
As seen in the lyrics of the song, the operative word is “almost”. “Almost” signifies what could have been that never was. The word embodies a sense of unfulfilled potential. It gives an idea of tasks that could have been accomplished. ‘Almost’ does not only refer to things which we could have done. It speaks about things, which could have been done to us, or situations in which we could have found ourselves.
The key to understanding the “Almost” situation is that it relies on the power of retrospective thinking. i.e We can never know what we could almost do before the action. It is only when an action has taken place that we start considering the possibilities that could have come into play.
I have a couple of stories to support my line of thought.

There was a guy who was sent by his father to study in the United Kingdom. During the course of his stay in the UK, he developed an interest in music and formed a musical group with his friends. His father who was a prominent traditional ruler in Nigeria heard that his son was getting into music in the UK. His father felt he was going to disgrace the family name by becoming a musician. His father ordered him back home. He came back to Nigeria a week before the release of the group’s first single in 1979. So far, the musical group has sold over 55 million records worldwide. The young Nigerian had “almost “ become a part of history. The name of that musical group is UB 40. I read this story a couple of years ago and I wondered how I would have lived with the thought that I "almost " made history. How could such a young man forgive his father for preventing him from achieving fame and fortune?
The man was asked if he had any regrets and he said he didn’t. I see that as a man who chose to accept whatever cards life had dealt him. He rose to become a General Manager at the Muson Centre in Lagos.

The second story that comes to mind is that of a girl who grew up in a family in which all the kids that preceded her were American citizens. For some inexplicable reason, her parents decided to give to move to Nigeria a few weeks before she was due. She never forgave them for that decision. She saw herself as someone that “almost” became an American Citizen. She believed that she was different from her peers. On completion of her University Education, she started making plans to relocate. She did all in her power to move to the US , wasting precious time on embassy visits and visa interviews. The status, which she “almost” attained, became a snare to her progress in life.

Life is not a bed of roses. It unveils itself to us in phases. The idea is to make the most of the phase of life in which we currently live. Pondering over what could have been without applying any lessons learnt to future engagements would only lead to frustration. Infact, we are not supposed to learn from every single experience. Some experiences are best seen as stand-alone experiences. They just happen and you move on.

Life is full of choices. Most of the time, we are bogged down by the fact that we don’t want to make the wrong choice. This is because we know that choices have consequences. They’re like a pack of dominoes neatly arranged on a table. One piece falls, and the others go down with it.We can’t keep kicking ourselves because of situations that ‘almost’ happened. We need to make the most of the present as we prepare for the future

Monday, February 25, 2008


Olusegun Obasanjo, Alao Akala, Lucky Igbinedion and James Ibori. These “great” men have a lot in common. Apart from sharing a penchant for making private use of public funds, they are members of the same religious denomination. They are Baptists.
President Olusegun Obasanjo attends Owu Baptist Church, Abeokuta, Governor Alao Akala attends Molete Baptist Church, Ibadan, Governor James Ibori is a member of First Baptist Church, Warri while Governor Lucky Igbinedion is a member of Central Baptist Church, Benin
How did the Baptists come to town?
The work of the Baptist Mission in Nigeria started with the arrival of a Missionary named Thomas Jefferson Bowen in Badagry on August 5, 1980. T.J Bowen was sent to Africa under the auspices of the Southern Baptist Convention of the United States of America.
Bowen University, which is situated in Osun state, was named after this Pioneer Missionary..
The Baptist Church unlike other Orthodox denominations believes strongly in the concept of democracy and autonomy of the local church. This has to do with its American origins. The Pastor is regarded as the shepherd of the flock. However, the Baptist ideology of democracy gives the sheep the right to determine their shepherd. If the sheep do not like the shepherd’s face, they simply vote him out and get another one. This is very much unlike the structures in other denominations like The Anglican Communion, The Catholic Church and The Methodist church. The aforementioned churches operate a centralized structure in which Priests/ Preachers are posted by a central body to various churches. After a while, such a priest could be transferred to another church in a totally different domain. In the event that a priest is not liked for any reason, a report is made to the central body and his transfer is effected. Baptists do not need to go through this long process. There is a monthly meeting of registered Church members in which two-thirds of the members present simply have to vote out the Pastor. He is shown his way out of the door and he finds himself in the Spiritual Job Market. Baptists cherish their democratic way of doing things. Everything has to be voted on. Simple majority determines a lot of things in the church.

Obasanjo’s association with the Baptist Church started from his Secondary school days. He attended the Baptist Boys High School Abeokuta.
In his local church , Obasanjo played the game of democracy to its fullest. He had in times past , helped in unseating Pastors that preached messages he did not like to hear. Baptists were not surprised by Obasanjo’s actions as Nigeria’s President. The obstinacy and blind ambition, which characterized his tenure, had been evident in his contributions to his local church. The principles of democracy which he practiced in his local church were brought to fore on the national scene.
Governor Lucky Igbinedion
The Igbinedions are Baptists by tradition. The scion of the Igbinedion Clan – Chief Gabriel Igbinedion (The Esama of Benin Kingdom) is a prominent Baptist in Edo land.
However, he adds a sprinkling of traditional religion to his faith. He is said to mix the worship of local deities with his Baptist faith. An incident, which happened a couple of years back at one of his birthdays, comes to mind. Chief Gabriel Igbinedion arrived the Baptist Church in his full regalia to celebrate his birthday. Lady Cherry, his wife accompanied him. Esama thought it was going to be a traditional birthday service before they moved home for the celebrations. This was however not to be. The young Pastor in the church had no respect for the person of the Esama. He chose to preach on Idolatry and its Disastrous consequences. Esama hurriedly departed before the end of the message. He found a nearby church to hold his Birthday service.
Governor Alao Akala is from Ogbomosho in Oyo State. Indigenes of this town are usually Baptists. He is a member of Molete Baptist Church in Ibadan. This Church has had the (mis)fortune of producing 2 Deputy Governors in Oyo State.
The first was Chief Iyiola Oladokun , the second is the incumbent governor- Chief Alao Akala. The church occupies an enormous expanse of land around the Molete area of Ibadan. An interesting fact to note is that some of the church land was ceded to it by the Baale of Molete – Chief Lamidi Adedibu. I really don’t know how much Akala has been listening to his Pastor. If I were the Pastor of his church, I would give him this message - MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN.
As for James Onanafe Ibori- the enfant terrible of Niger-Delta Politics, his association with the Baptist Church started from his secondary school days. He attended a Baptist High School in Oghara. Till today, we do not know if he is the same person as James Ibori, a security man who was jailed for stealing roofing sheets during the military era.
Baptists take delight in memorizing the bible and reciting it by heart. Apparently, these spiritual drills have not made significant impact on Obasanjo, Akala, Lucky and Ibori
I am not insinuating that criminals abound in the Baptist Church. Even though it has its bad eggs, it has been able to produce great men such as Late Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Late Coach Yemi Tella, Late Chief Asalu, Senators Olorunnimbe Mamora, Tokunbo Afikuyomi and Jonathan Zwingina, Journalists such as Simon Kolawole of Thisday, Pentecostal Pastors such as Bishop Wale Oke, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Businessmen such as Gamaliel Onosode, Otega Emerhor, Remi Olowude and Bloggers such as Omo Alagbede and Tayo Odukoya

Monday, February 11, 2008


I’m really sorry I’ve not been able to update for a while. A lot of things have been happening at the same time. For those of you that read through the comments on my last post, you would have noticed that one of the Media Personalities that I mentioned in the write up replied to the post. This was none other than FAJ (Femi Akintunde Johnson).
I came in this morning to see that someone had sent in a reply to him. Well, that’s the power of the Internet. I never expected FAJ would get to see my article.
I can state that I have not met FAJ before. I have only heard of his great exploits. Regardless of what others might say, FAJ is a living legend and quite a number of people still know that. Only a few journalists get mentioned on KWAM 1 tapes. FAJ is one of them. I hope he gets the honor he deserves when a Media Hall of Fame is put into place It means a lot to hear that FAJ likes my writing style. Well, I am not a writer and I am not aspiring to be one. I am just a dedicated newspaper reader and a media lover.
I consider myself to be what Nigerian politicians call an “arm-chair critic”.
It wasn’t my plan to write another story about Nigerian airports/airlines. Funny things keep happening to me. A fellow blogger once remarked that I write with a rage. Maybe I do. I think I am just a normal person seeking a normal life in a normal country. I just seek normalcy. That’s not too much to ask of my country.
I had to travel to PortHarcourt sometime last week for some work. I was booked on Virgin Nigeria to fly to Port Harcourt International Airport. The flight was to leave at 7:40 a.m I got to the airport much earlier and checked into the departure lounge of the MMIA. It is instructive to note that FAAN has been having running battles with Virgin Nigeria and Arik Air over their refusal to move to the New Domestic Airport. Much of the departure lounge has been cut into by the Airport Authorities. Agents of FAAN had reduced Virgin Nigeria’s departure lounge to rubble in an attempt to show VN that they meant business.
I took my seat and I waited for the flight call. At about 7:15 pm, Virgin staff announced a delay on their flight to Port Harcourt International Airport due to abnormal weather conditions. A few minutes later, there was a boarding call for a Virgin Nigeria flight to NAF Base in Port Harcourt. NAF Base is used by smaller aircraft (usually 30 seater), while PH International Airport caters to large aircraft. At that point in time, I started wondering what was going on. How could Virgin have rough weather at PH International airport and still be able to fly into NAF Base, which is also in Port Harcourt? The Virgin staff tried to stand logic on its head by telling us that the smaller aircraft can handle lower visibility, while large aircraft are usually affected by turbulence. I sat quietly and my mind kept spinning. I had quality education from Primary school till I graduated from Nigeria’s Premier University. How could someone tell me that a 30 seater aircraft could handle turbulence better than a Boeing 727? The icing on the cake came much later. At about 8:00 am, Arik Air announced a boarding call for a flight to PH International Airport. Virgin Nigeria staff knew their game was up.
Looking around, I discovered that some people had surrounded the Virgin announcer’s desk. Apparently, Virgin Nigeria had not been able to fly to Port Harcourt from the previous evening. They had told the travelers that PH had low visibility. They later changed their story to that of Navigational facilities being poor at PH International Airport. Virgin had been carried over their “Weather tales” from the previous day till the day I was to travel. From nowhere, a Virgin Manager appeared and announced that the Weather had improved considerably but they had problems getting Aviation fuel. He said we could get a refund and exercise other Options to get to Port Harcourt. Some passengers totally lost their cool and were going to start manhandling the manager. I actually heard one of them tell the Virgin Manager that he was going to “catch fire” if he opened up his mouth to utter another lie. Shortly after, a senior manager arrived to tell us that they had problems getting aviation fuel but they were waiting for an aircraft to arrive from Abuja to convey us to PH.
I remember looking into the eyes of the young lady at the Virgin desk. She couldn’t sustain her gaze, as her eyeballs kept darting up and down making her look guilty. I felt pity for her. She was a decent individual who seemed caught in the indecent practices of a corporate entity. She didn’t seem cut out for the falsehood that emanated from her mouth.

I sat back on the metal benches and fell into depression. I started wondering – Why couldn’t Virgin Nigeria simply tell us that there was no aviation fuel? Why did they have to keep lying about the weather? Are Nigerians so daft and uneducated that you expect them to believe fables? Is the concept of Corporate Ethics and behavior totally alien to Multinationals working in this country. Is it possible for the Virgin brand to be associated with deceit in Europe or the Americas? Why? Why?
Why did they keep selling tickets when they knew they couldn’t fly? Why are there no consumer rights in Nigeria?
It is standard practice at the domestic airport for local airlines to announce disruptions due to weather and refuse to sell tickets for such flight. How could I convince anyone that Bellview, Chachangi, Capital and Associated airlines are more honest than Virgin Nigeria could ever be?
I suspect strongly that this is one of the major reasons why Virgin Nigeria has refused to leave the International Airport for the New Domestic one. Their game of deceit and falsehood would be impossible to sustain if they move in with their peers. How would you tell tall stories when Aero Contractors and Bellview are right beside you?
Do these people have any Integrity? Someone beside me at the airport said – “In Nigeria Integrity is not about following the rules and doing the right things. Integrity is about being able to afford a good life for your family and being able to build a house for your father-in-law”

At about 12 noon, our flight took off. It was almost 5 hours behind schedule for me. For others, it was 20 hours behind schedule.
On my return trip to Lagos, I recounted the story to the person that sat next to me. He told me of a startling discovery which he made on his Virgin Nigeria flight to PortHarcourt -As he sat down, he discovered a piece of cloth on his seat. Lo and behold, it was female underwear.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The World of the Nigerian Soft Sell

The motivation for this post came from a personal experience which I once had with a Nigerian softsell. A story that I unknowingly contributed to was run as a Front page edition for 2 weeks . This resulted in increased sales for the Magazine. Ofcourse, I wasn’t mentioned as the source of the story.
The Nigerian Softsell world has seen the presence of so many magazines such as Hints, Global Excellence,Ovation, Fame , Encomium, City People, Classique , Treasure, Alaroye e.t.c
Hints had a pioneering crew of Toni Kan and Helon Habila. The strong point of Hints magazine was its unbridled love stories which appealed to the wild fantasies of teenagers and other young people. Ovation magazine was started by the quintessential Dele Momodu during the heady days of the military. It started of as a News magazine and later morphed into a photomagazine of the standard of Hello/ Ok magazines. Encomium is largely owned by Kunle Bakare. He is regarded as one of the Doyens of SoftSell journalism in Nigeria. He has managed to survive many years in a business that is associated with a high mortality rate. Classique was the brain child of Late Mee Mofe Damijo. She was able to run it till the time of her departure from this world. Fame and Treasure have a common denominator – Femi Akintunde Johnson (popularly called FAJ). FAJ is regarded as one of the Grandmasters of Soft Sell Journalism. He was the dread of many society women/ men. In one fell swoop, FAJ had the ability to make /mar the public career of any individual. FAJ started at Fame magazine before it went under.
The appellation RMD which Richard Mofe Damijo is known by was coined by Femi Akintunde Johnson of the Fame Era. After a while, things went rough for him, he became born-again and decided to put out Treasure magazine.
Fame Magazine rested on the 3 proverbial stones that did not allow the pot of stew to be overturned (Aro meta ti kin dobenu) – Mayor Akinpelu, FAJ and Kunle Bakare
Global Excellence is owned by Mayor Akinpelu.
City People is published by Seye Kehinde. Seye Kehinde is an amazing journalist who transformed from a Pro-democracy journalist during the Abacha era to a Celebrity News journalist when the Democrats came to town. The stories that surround Seye Kehinde’s exploits in the military era are numerous- Publishing in hideouts, running from SSS officials, jumping over fences and moving around in disguise.
Only a few of the aforementioned magazines are still in circulation. Some of the publishers are still around. Toni Kan is now born again and has given up his favorite past time of helping in the sexual development of youngsters. Helon Habila has won the Caine Prize. Dele Momodu is now a Baba-Isale in Journalism/ Business/Politics.
City People and Encomium remain the front-runners in Soft-sell journalism in Nigeria. City people is said to have the highest circulation figures. In second position is Encomium Magazine. Breasting the tape in 3rd position is Global Excellence.
If there is any thing that can be established from the preceding paragraph, it is the fact that the Nigerian Softsell industry is actually a small world. Most of the major players have worked with each other at some point in time. They mostly operate by the same rules.
The Nigerian Media is plagued by variety of problems. Some of these problems include the high cost of Newsprint, Epileptic Power supply, Ineffective distribution Network, Low circulation figures and Lack of a Freedom of Information act.e is How do they manage to survive in the midst of all these hindrances? What are their business practices? How do they generate the funds that keep them going? The answers are numerous.
Imagine a young, beautiful and sociable woman who has just started out on the party circuit. She manages to get herself invited to the parties that matter. She is seen at various award shows. The softsell photographers have started seeing a reoccurrence of her pictures in their cameras. The Softsell publishers then start to do a background check on her. This is not usually a hard job to do. She has friends that she comes to the parties with. Information about the new girl on the block could be coerced out of her well known friends. Now comes the Baptism of fire. A front page edition is run about the New Party Lady. This front page edition could often contain disparaging stories about her personal life. In order to show the lady that the softsell means business, another story is run about her the following week. The lady sees the story, she is sad at how her image is being tainted. Funny enough, she realizes that everyone now knows who she is. She gets in touch with the Publishers of the Softsell. She pays her dues (financially), and is officially initiated into the circle of Society ladies. The Publisher smiles to the bank.. If after a while, the publisher sees that business is not doing so good, he looks up his long list of society women, he bugs them for a week or so, they come and settle and life moves on.
Then there is the category of Society big girls who have beef with those with whom the soft sells have a cosy relationship. Woe betides such a society lady. Her life secrets are sent to the publishers who them embellish the stories in a readable fashion and print them. As long as the fight lasts, her stories would be run. These are the scenarios which the publishers love. Running such stories would cost money. Stopping them would cost a greater amount of money. They are able to eat their cake and have it.
An aspiring politician whose career needs a boost needs to befriend a Soft-Sell publisher. Such a politician needs to forget all the high-brow marketability of True Love and Genevieve. City People and Encomium run the streets. Only these 2 magazines can provide such an aspiring politician with enough street credibility to win any election.
The Nigerian Softsell is not all about blackmail and extortion. The burgeoning Fashion industry in Nigeria owes it success largely to the spadework done by Softsell magazines.
An aspiring fashion designer who cannot compete in the same class with the Tiffany Ambers, Deola Sagoes, Zizi Cardows could hook up with a softsell magazine and hold his/her show under the auspices of the softsell.
Nigerian softsells also help budding artistes organize musical concerts. The attendance in such a concert guarantees a free appearance in the subsequent edition of the soft-sell magazine. This serves as a motivation for the members of the public to attend such a musical concert.
In conclusion, Nigerian softsells have been here for a long while. They are going no where.

Monday, January 7, 2008


DEC. 24, 2007
I got off from work early. I received a call from a friend in SOD (Spirit of David) inviting me for the season finale of their Reality Show- Celebrity Takes Two. Celebrity takes 2 is a dance competition that is modeled after Dancing with the Stars / So you think you can dance? It featured 10 Nigerian celebrities. Recording of the show was done on Tuesdays while the TV Broadcast was done on Sundays. However, this was not to be the case for the season finale because the final show was to be on Christmas day. They decided to move the show to Christmas Eve for logistic purposes. Planet One in Maryland Lagos played host to the show throughout its duration. I arrived there at 4pm and got my VIP Pass. I got there 2 hours before time because I wanted to see the pre-show activities and preparations
I took special interest in the show when I saw the billboard near Falomo roundabout in Ikoyi. I have close ties with the SOD club in my alma mater. We were able to work together successfully through many shows on campus. Celebrity Takes 2 started as Takes 2 a couple of years ago. Takes 2 was a dance competition between members of SOD nationwide. Members were paired in couples as they competed against each other.
Those were the days of humble beginnings.
The question is – How did they make the transition from the Nursing Auditorium on Afribank Street to Planet One Events hall in Maryland? It took a lot of hardwork, prayers, perseverance and doggedness. I am aware of how many times proposals they submitted were turned down by corporate organizations only to later hear that the corporate entity was sponsoring its own dance show. E.g Close-up Salsa. However, Providence smiled their way, Skye bank accepted their proposal and Celebrity Takes 2 was birthed.
The final show, which was to commence at 6pm, did not start till about 10 pm. This was due to many factors – Christmas Eve traffic, Low Publicity and organizational difficulties. Electricity was taken off around 5pm and was not restored till about 7 pm. Sound and Visual guys came in late. Stage setup was also done pretty late. As expected, the celebrities did not show up on time. After all, that’s why they are called celebrities. In the final round, were Passuma Wonder, Funmi Aofiyebi and Omowunmi Akinnifesi. The show started with a song by some Lil John impersonator. Segz and Sarah Boulos started off as hosts while the usual hosts Ben and his lady counterpart came in as a dance couple and did a few moves to the amazement of the audience. Dayo Liadi and Ijodee Dance Troupe did justice to Olori Oko . He showed the audience the real meaning of Contemporary African Dance and validated all the critical comments he had made during the show. Highlights of all the moves of the finalists were shown to the audience. Then, the time came for the winner to be announced.
Funmi Aofiyebi was declared the winner based on votes received as SMS from members of the public. She was presented with the keys to a Chinese SUV- Hoover.
Looking at the final show critically, it largely fell below international standards despite all the effort put into it by the SOD crew. Logistics proved to be a major nightmare for them. A lot of things which were handled by volunteers need to be outsourced in subsequent shows. Professionals must handle every aspect of the show while SOD concentrates on its core competence- dance.
SOD’s main advantage is its religious background. It is made up of young folks who see dancing as a spiritual ministry. I am sure their members would have done the whole show for free if they had to. This is what gives them an advantage over most dance ensembles in Nigeria. They really don’t care about the money. They have a structure that has lasted almost a decade. I sincerely hope the Instructors would be well paid after the show.
All the years of hard work had paid off eventually. Some of them had poor results in school, some dropped out while others had issues with their parents because they wanted to do dance. The hallmark of the show was when I saw the mother of one of the instructors jumping up for joy and as she spoke to her husband on phone about the final result. I heard another parent reconciled with his son who was a member of the dance crew during the course of the show. For all their tears, pain, sweat and hardwork, I will like to congratulate my SOD folks. Keep the flag flying

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Once Upon 4 Robbers

Dec 23, 2007
At about 2 pm, I headed for the Island. Getting there 30 minutes later, I went down to Terra Kulture to catch Laspapi’s Sunday play. It happened to be a staging of Femi Osofisan’s Once Upon 4 robbers. I approached the back of the building and found my way into the auditorium. I discovered I had to pay the gate fee – N2000. My mind flashed back to my University days. I remember how many shows I was able to enter free of charge based on Personal recognition. For others, we had a way of pretending to be part of the technical crew. The idea was to hold a piece of wire / carry some electrical device as if you were part of the technical crew. If it were a religious musical concert, you just had to wear a white shirt on black trousers in order to look like a choir member. We had all the tricks up our sleeves. If by any chance, I knew any of the stage artistes, it was free entrance. Well, none of my old tricks was going to work at Terra Kulture , so I humbly paid and entered the auditorium. “Once Upon 4 robbers” is a play I had seen twice in my University days. It is a play that is set in the military era speaking of concepts such as trust, betrayal, bravery and social stratification. I will not attempt to critique Laspapi’s production because a critic in this case would be expected to have seen the play a couple of times and know the lines and appropriate dramatizations. It was a good production despite the limitations of the stage. The Terra Kulture stage could not be more than 20ft by 8ft. The UI theatre where it has been fully expressed is almost 4 times that size. Also the auditorium is a flat, plane surface with some elevation for the stage. It is my belief that theatre is best produced in a pit theatre with the audience looking at the stage from on high.
Cast was also limited to those who had to do the talking. Ok, end of Critique
Shortly after I sat down in the auditorium , 2 ladies got in and sat behind me. From the conversation , they sounded like Awon omo Lekki yen ( Lekki folks). Out of the 2, one seemed to have come to Nigeria for holidays. The conversation went thus-

Girl 1: When is the play starting?
Girl 11: The play will start when Mr. Oguntokun decides to show up

Shortly after Mr. Oguntokun shows up and welcomes the audience. He introduces the play and mentions his educational background. He happens to mention that he has a Masters in Law. This is the point where my ears zoom back to the Lekki duo behind. At the point where Mr. Oguntokun mentions having a Masters degree in Law,
Girl II: Hmmmm
I started to imagine the girl’s facial expression. I couldn’t turn back to verify this but I’m sure it was a dramatic expression.
At the end of the production, I hung around a little bit while the Lekki duo disappeared almost immediately. Anyway, I started wondering if these were not part of the ones who Laspapi once used these words for- “those who bay the moon because of me”. Going through his blog, he often paints a picture of a man whom so many females pray that Olorun Esan would visit.
However, I believe that the Theatre absolves its own. “The stage” is where restitution is made for the frailties of human existence. In simple English, No matter how much wrong you do in your life, the stage gives you a rebirth.

From there I proceeded to Nu Metro Bookshop and took part in my yearly ritual. I have a habit of going to the bookshop before the end of any year and picking up some Nigerian Contemporary works that are released or profiled that year. I use this last minute spree to make up for my neglect of such literary works during the year. I picked up
Measuring Time - Helon Habila
Waiting for An Angel - Helon Habila
The Activist- Tanure Ojaide
Half of a Yellow Sun - Chinamanda Adichie
Every Day is for the thief - Teju Cole
Nine Lives- El Nukoya
Yellow Yellow- Kaine Agary
The Phoenix- Chika Unigwe

Most of my Christmas holiday was spent buried in these books