Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I decided to write this piece as a response to the appalling attitude displayed by comedian Ayo Makun, popularly known as AY, and Nollywood actress Chioma Chukwuka, now known as Chioma Akpotha. I found it appalling that these two public figures would engage in word exchange. I won’t want to keep you, dear readers, in the dark as to what transpired while we were onboard our return flight to Lagos from Port Harcourt penultimate weekend. The atmosphere was tense and everyone was tired after we had waited endlessly to get onboard. It was a full flight chartered by our host, the organisers of the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). Since the flight was full, the flight attendant explained through the in-flight address system that it won’t be possible for the luggage to be on the same flight with us and as such another flight scheduled for 8pm would take them to Lagos. Obviously, Chioma Akpotha and her two friends were not paying attention. Sitting by the window afforded her the opportunity to see the luggage being wheeled away. She exclaimed: “Our luggages (sic) are there o. Wetin I wan go do for Lagos if my luggages (sic) no come with me?” “I have a show tonight o,” answered one of her friends. The flight attendant had to walk up to them to politely explain to them why it won’t be possible for the luggage to be on the flight. But Chioma and his friends won’t take any of that as they went on to chat noisily about their bags that were left behind. For me, Chioma and her friends did not understand basic aviation safety rules. There was no way those big bags and boxes could have come onboard with us. And I wondered if she had never been on international flights where no one would tell you your baggage were left behind until you get to your destination. I think the flight attendant was too nice to have taken the pain to explain to them why their bags were not taken. After that episode, Chioma and her group continued to chat noisily about one thing or the other, disturbing the peace of everyone onboard. It was obvious they wanted attention. You know that kind of I-want-everyone-to-know-I-am-here attitude that some ‘popular’ faces at times want to put up. As if that was not enough, there was a quarrel between Chioma’s group and Yemisi, a correspondent with Vanguard Newspaper, shortly after we landed in Lagos. The quarrel was caused by shoving or pushing on the aisle while a few people who got off their seats were trying to bring out their bags from the luggage compartment. Chioma and her friends resorted to insulting Yemisi in Igbo language, not knowing that Yemisi understood everything they said. She is half Igbo. Her mum is Igbo. Out of annoyance and irritation, she retorted: “What’s wrong with these lousy Igbo girls?” “Did you just say that?” asked one of the girls in Chioma’s group. “What did you say?” asked Yemisi. “Did you just say ‘these lousy Igbo girls’?” “Don’t mind her, she is a coward?” replied Chioma. “And if I say that?” Yemisi asked. The exchange continued, in which Yemisi was forced to call them lousy bitches and the other girls responded by calling her ugly bitch. In the midst of all this, the sentiment of tribalism was played up as everyone thought Yemisi name-called the girls because they were Igbos. But nobody knew she is Igbo herself. She equally insulted herself in the process. Chioma would stop at nothing to educate anyone onboard about how proud she is being Igbo and how she can afford to pay Yemisi’s salary. She went as far as questioning why the organisers of AMAA would put someone like Yemisi on the same plane with her, the superstar that she is. “If not for AMAA, why would someone like me be on the same plane with this one?” Chioma ranted. “It is not her fault now, it is AMAA. Who is this one, who knows her? I know her, she works with Vanguard. I will call her chairman now and tell him. He will sack her.” As if that was not enough, AY, who should have kept quiet, took sides and supported his fellow ‘superstar’. “If you were my wife, I would have slapped you,” he told Yemisi. I was perplexed by AY’s utterance. I was dismayed at how a public figure like him would say a thing like that because of a verbal exchange between two women. Why on earth will he say that? That just shows he has no respect for his wife and he must be a wife beater. There were other stars like Zack Orji, Dakore, Saheed Balogun, amongst others, onboard who never said a word. AY went ahead on Saturday to post a long piece on his Facebook page still defending his ‘co-star’. In his post, AY wrote: “(I am so sure she wouldn’t ask an Angelina Jolie or a Kim Kardashian that same question if she were to be on the same flight with any of them. Perhaps she would have started twitting immediately, saying ‘AMAA things…. Kim just asked me to take it easy, they are yet to open the exit door. Wow wow wow, 2013 my year of exit opening doors’). But definitely not to a Nollywood multiple awards-winning happily married actress with kids.” Kim, Angelina Jolie and Chioma are not on the same level when it comes to fame. AY may need to rigorously search for another personality for his comparison. Who is Chioma in Nollywood? She is definitely not on the same pedestal with the likes of Genevieve, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde or even Dakore. How much is she worth? What is her current market value in Nollywood? It was the brand ambassador deal she struck that made her have a little change and not the money she made from Nollywood. She is not amongst the highest paid or even the most popular. So what is AY’s pain? Perhaps AY has forgotten that he is also a father when he sagged his trousers revealing what he had under while boarding the plane that fateful Sunday evening. A word is enough for the wise!
The sleepy town of Yenogoa came to life last weekend when people from all parts of the continent and beyond converged on Bayelsa State. It was the 2013 edition of African Movie Academy Awards otherwise called AMAA. Hosting more than 5,000 people in a gathering at once is not a common occurrence in Bayelsa. It only happens once in a year when the AMAA takes place there, and the state has hosted more than five editions of the award that is in its ninth year. I have attended more than three editions of the awards held at the Gloryland Centre in Yenogoa and the story has always been the same – poor organisation. This last edition was horrific and I was saddened by the impression the visitors from overseas have about Nigeria. Leaving Lagos for Port Harcourt was a difficult task as everyone had to wait at the domestic airport for more than three hours. There was the promise of a chartered flight. Eventually, we were able to get on a plane. After a 45-minute flight, we were in Port Harcourt. It was a relief, though, that there were buses waiting to transport us by road to Yenogoa. We arrived Yenogoa and about 8pm. Everyone was tired. Sleep, food and water were top on our minds. We had thought we would be driven straight to the respective hotels booked for us. But anyone who had attended AMAA in Yenogoa would know that is not the norm. The tourism bureau is usually the next port of call. And I was right. When we got to the bureau, everyone tried to scramble for the few wraps of eba left. There was rice but no stew. There was eba and ogbono soup, no meat. A white guy had to eat his rice with ogbono soup. We were later told there was chicken frying on the big fire in a corner. Perhaps the caterers were overwhelmed by the large crowd who arrived at the bureau at the same time. But a better arrangement could have been made for us to have dinner at the hotel. The following day, a media chat with the jurors was held at the tourism bureau. From the look of things, it was obvious there was no adequate preparation for this. It was just a makeshift arrangement. After the briefing, there was no bus to take the media from Kenya to their hotel. They had to make the journey of foot. It was sad. In fact, a Kenyan delegate told me he won’t return to Nigeria for the AMAA again because he has been disappointed for the second time. “Do you know why Kenyans did not submit more films?” he said to me. “It is because they were disappointed the last time they came to Nigeria. If it were in Kenya, I wouldn’t agree to sleep in the kind of hotel I was lodged in.” Returning to Lagos was a battle. We stayed hours on end for the return tickets to be sorted. From 11am we didn’t get on the plane until 6pm. It is important that the Bayelsa State government take the annual hosting of the AMAA very seriously. They must begin to see and harness the opportunities therein for the development of Bayelsa. Out of the nine years of AMAA, Bayelsa has hosted it seven times. I was told the Ididie Hotel where my Kenyan friend was lodged was the ‘five-star hotel’ at the maiden edition of AMAA. It was the place Nollywood stars and other international guests were lodged. Nine years after, the number of hotels in the state has tripled. That’s one of the contributions of AMAA to the development of the state. In addition, AMAA offers the opportunity for the state’s tourism to grow side by side with the awards. A proper arrangement should have been made for all guests to go on a tour of the historical landmarks of the state with a guide on each bus explaining to them the importance of these places. This is an opportunity for job creation. At least, the guides will be paid at the end of it. Also, stalls should have been built for indigenes to sell the state’s arts and crafts like beads, little figurines, amongst others. Even the boat regatta, not all the guests were there. AMAA is an opportunity for commerce. No matter how little, it will begin to open up the state’s economy. AMAA is the only event that brings a crowd of that magnitude to the state annually. I see no reason the state government should not take it seriously. It should be properly organised in a way that air tickets would have been bought ahead, hotels inspected and booked, there should be meet and greet at the airport, amongst others. Visitors should not be left on their own to sort things out. It is not a time to play politics with the image of Nigeria because when AMAA is mentioned on the continent, the first thing that comes to mind is the name Nigeria because that is the awards’ origin. If AMAA is too big for Bayelsa – and it appears it is – then the organisers may begin to consider other African countries hosting it. They should allow them bid for hosting rights. This will change the game and the way the award is perceived on the continent. If not, then it is high time Bayelsa took AMAA seriously as its tenth anniversary comes up next year.
Good old Alawiye A few weeks ago, I encountered some friends who brought about old memories – memories of growing up in a peaceful country with functional educational system. One of them reminded me of those good old days when our teachers would take us out under the cool shade of trees outside our classroom to tell us stories. Story time under trees was a time we always looked forward to. It was strategic that our teachers had chosen to take us outside after lunch break because they knew sitting down in class to listen to any lesson was not the best for filled tiny stomachs! Sleep was always the next for us. That was when we were in primary school, Primary One to be precise. At the time, we would take turns to tell stories with Ijapa, the tortoise, the main character in our stories. Also, Alawiye by J. F. Odunjo was our indispensable companion. We would have memorised stories that we would share during story time from it. The moral lessons were always there for us to learn. Our teacher would swing his cane if anyone failed to state correctly the moral lesson from the story told. At the time also, we would memorise this famous poem from Alawiye Kini, the first of the book’s series. It was a popular poem whose lines I will never ever forget. They are ingrained in my subconscious forever. It is titled Ise ni Ogun Ise, literally meaning ‘hard work is the medicine for poverty’. It goes thus: Ise ni ogun ise/Mura si ise ore mi/Ise ni a fi n di eni giga/ti a ko ba ri eni feyintin/Bi ole la n ri/ Ti a ko ba ri eni gbekele /Ka tera mo ise eni/ Iya re le lowo lowo/Baba re si le lesin lekan/Bi o ba gbojulewon/ O te tan ni mo so fun o/Iya un be fun Omo ti o gbon/ Ekun un be fun omo ti n sa kiri/Ma fi owuro se ere ore mi. At the time, Alawiye was like a cross we all had to carry in primary school. We thought our teacher was taking us through hell because we had to learn all the words by heart. In Alawiye, there was also the story of Ijapa and Ojola and Alade, the man who grew horn on his head. These are interesting stories that I believe pupils in primary schools these days are missing. I don’t know if Alawiye is still included in the list of books for schools, especially for private schools where the American and British curricula are taught today. It is sad if books like Alawiye, Chike and the River, Ade Our Naughty Little Brother, Sugar Girl, This is Our Chance, amongst others are not on pupils’ reading list. These are books written to shape young minds. They help to shape imaginations. I can recall reading the stories of Simbi and Agbo in the Macmillian series and how these stories have shaped my imagination. Simbi, Agbo and Wakama were characters I adored. I used to imagine myself in their shoes whenever I read about them. They were to us then what the Superman was to an average child brought up in Europe and America. I think it is important that parents should also encourage their children to read these books even if they are not in the school curriculum. Parents should buy them and read them to their children. We must begin to build a reading generation.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
All roads led to the Eko Hotel and Suites last Sunday for Dare Art-Alade’s show tagged ‘Love Like a Movie’. To be candid, I am not really a fan of Dare’s music but I just had to be there to see a much-hyped show! It was just the hype that made me journey to the venue. I just wanted to see what would make the show different from what has been the norm. As with most Nigerian shows, ‘Love Like a Movie’ did not start on time. The red carpet did not end until past eight while the main show did not begin until a quarter to nine. I am sure that most people who attended the show were there just to see and maybe hear Kim. They all waited anxiously as the event unfolded. Eventually, Kim showed up. It was indeed love like a movie when Kim Kardashian came on stage, spoke for a few seconds and disappeared behind the stage. That was the first and last we saw of her. Nothing was heard from Kim till the one-hour show ended. It was sad. As expected, the topic trended on Twitter. In fact, I got different messages on my BB about people’s angst with such a brief appearance from Kim. Jeremy Weate wrote in an online article titled ‘Kim Kardashian does Lagos’ on www.guardian.co.uk thus: “And then Ms Kardashian appeared, said, ‘Hey Naija’ and vamoosed. The rumour was that she'd been paid 500,000 Benjamins for the honour of mixing with the petro-class. She arrived on Saturday evening (on Air France), and left within 24 hours (someone Instagrammed her back at MMIA). Prole class tickets were apparently N100,000 ($640), although quite a few got in gratis on the guest list. “The Lagos elite blows money at puffery, while most of Nigeria suffers. It's the same as it ever was. I recall Carlos Moore railing against the Gowon era on his trip to Nigeria a couple of years ago – how Lagosians were partying while bodies were lying unburied in the street. Gowon was famous at the time for saying that the problem in Nigeria was not money, but how to spend it. Reflecting a little on the unfolding disappointment in Lagos, I couldn't help but think that the narrow slice of KK the audience was granted reflects a cargo cult/import economy/colo-mentality that dresses its shame in dandified arrogance. Last year, Hugh Masekela played at the Motor Boat club. I was lucky to be there (I think I paid N15,000 for the privilege). People chatted noisily throughout. The great jazzman could hardly hide his disgust.” For me, I think the fault is not Kim’s but that of the show organisers who perhaps did not brief her properly on what they expected her to do, although the radio jingles that preceded the show told us she would co-host the show with Dare. Maybe we have to define what hosting means at this juncture. Dare was the host because he conceived the idea, planned it with his team and he lives in Nigeria. Kim was invited by Dare, that means Dare was her host, right? So if Dare was her host, do we then say she also hosted Dare? It would have been right to say she co-hosted the show with Dare if they had both appeared on stage to talk to the audience or sang together or even acted a scene of the ‘Love Like a Movie’. But that was not the case. Kim just came on stage to introduce the show in a sentence and left. Dare was not on stage with her. Well, we need to cry over spilt milk because Kim used American sense for us. She outsmarted us all. Like Weate concluded in the article: “As the disgruntled tweets flowed out on my timeline, I thought of Special K, comfy in her jimjams, the plane rising gradually above the Atlantic, safe from all Lagos harm, smiling to herself that she'd actually 419'd the 419ers. And I went to bed with one final thought: oil turns all who touch it completely insane.”
Sunday, February 3, 2013
There is a war raging on Twitter now, people. Our dear comedians have taken their craft away from the stage onto the Twitter space. It was last week when I returned home from work and my cousin, Toyin, showed me something on her Blackberry that had been making her laugh. It was a joke a friend shared with her. “I have found my Soulmate,” the message read. “I didn’t know the stupid hair cream was lying under my bed.” After reading, I had a good laugh. I had earlier read the joke on Twitter while I was in the office. And I had laughed out really loud. This has been the trend lately on Twitter where Nigerian comedians and comediennes share jokes freely on the social network. I find Helen Paul’s jokes and Seyi Law’s jokes very interesting. I could recall my experience at a fashion show I once attended. The high point of the evening for me was Helen Paul’s comic performance, which was really hilarious. It got us all cracking our ribs with laughter. She was natural with her jokes; she never struggled to let them out. That was really the first time I would see her perform live and I think her childish voice and mannerism were truly original. The duo of Kate Henshaw-Nuttal and Denrele Edun were good as they tried to spice up every segment of the programme without leaving a dull moment. However, the fun was nearly marred by the poor performance of the girls. It was sad they could not answer correctly most of the questions posed to them by the compere, Denrele and Kate, as part of the elimination process to the final stage. It was a narrow escape for those of them who got the three questions right. When asked who the author of Things Fall Apart was, one of them said pointblank she did not know! It was funny she was ignorant of the author of a world-acclaimed novel like Things Fall Apart. Another girl could not mention three countries in Southern Africa. It was funny Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were names that did not cross her mind. Same was the case for a girl who could not name two countries in East Africa. The compere brought the question home at a point when they asked a contestant to name three southern states in Nigeria and their governors. The contestant could not answer it correctly. She even called Sam Egwu, governor of Delta State! The girl’s performance was the butt of jokes for a long time to come. Even now on Twitter there have been many jokes on beauty pageants and all what-nots. It is amazing that a silent but revolutionary group of comedians are building up on Twitter. In fact, at times they ask for a retweet and recommend comedians to follow for Twitter addicts to enjoy more jokes. This has kept me wondering why these comedians are giving away so freely their source of income. How do they keep body and soul together? Are they just following the adage that a taste of the pudding is in the eating? Whatever the case is, more money will come whenever they organise shows and their fans on Twitter will throng such shows. Comedians on Twitter have come to stay and I am enjoying them!
She gazes steadfastly at the piece of fabric in her hands as she takes her time to study carefully the shape of her client’s head. Obviously, the question on her mind is what style will suit perfectly? Her eyes brighten as she gets a clue. She neatly wraps the fabric round her client’s head with one side of it overlapping the other, creating a V-shape at the front. The result is a creative masterpiece headgear otherwise called ‘gele’ in Yoruba. Some people may not know, but gele tying has become an art which smart makeup artistes like Juliet Esiri have turned into a goldmine. She has been able to create different styles from all kinds of fabrics like aso-oke, kente, jacquard, amongst others. “I can sit down to imagine different styles,” she says gleefully, using her hand to demonstrate the tying process. “Gele tying is actually a form of art. It’s not everyone that can do it. Whenever I see women at functions in Nigeria, I just shake my head. Why? Because it’s boring, it’s just one style. I miss the UK for this. UK ladies want different styles. They always want to go out in different styles.” The UK is a hot market for Esiri, where she ties the headgear from when the weekend begins on Thursday to when it ends on Sunday. At times she ties the head wrap, packages it and sends it by courier to her clients who live in different parts of the UK. Often, her clients don’t untie the gele. They would keep it carefully in the carton for use another time. “In the UK, I get a lot of appointment. In fact, my diary is filled with a lot of appointments,” she tells me.
Our meeting that Thursday afternoon is scheduled for Goethe Institut on Catholic mission Street, Lagos Island. That will be a perfect place to meet a cultural enthusiast like Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo. But he has to attend an event first before our interview will commence. Unexpectedly, the media briefing for the musical show, ‘Ten Cities’, drags late into the afternoon hence Jahman suggests we have the interview over lunch at the Freedom Park. “Go to the lady first,” he tells the waiter who had stood by him to take his orders first. “And you never stop saying you are romantic.” Jahman is known to everyone at the Freedom Park. His name alone gains me an entrance into the place as I had gone there ahead of him; he had to make a stop at the bank. It is not a surprise therefore that he poke funs at the waiter whom he had had a conversation with about being romantic. We placed our orders. Lunch is served. His phone rings. “I had to answer this call, he tells me, “or else we won’t enjoy this interview.” The great poet, J.P Clark is on the phone. After answering Clark, his phone rings again. “I had gone to withdraw the last coins I have,” he tells the person on phone jokingly. If he has withdrawn his last penny, I won’t be surprised because he his a man who is said to have spent all he has promoting the arts in particular organising Wordslam, an evening of performance poetry, Under the Samarkand Tree and other cultural events in the past.