Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Celebration of Life

I stumbled on a poem I wrote for one of the cultural ceremonies (African Night) during my PG studies. I just realised it’s been a while I wrote a line of poetry. I must confess it’s tough doing this part of creative writing. A couple of writer-friends have confirmed that. Nonetheless, I decided to post this poetry (the edited version) titled “Celebration of Life”. Hope it doesn’t read too tawdry ;-)

Celebration of Life
by Adewale Ajani

Greetings from the land of the Nubia
Home of the black, bold and beautiful
The cradle of life, poise and splendour
Where valiance and zeal reign supreme
Conquering all odds and disenchantment

The heat ‘though like a second skin
Warms up our ardent generous hearts
Fortifying the bonds of brotherliness
Healing the pains and gashes of history
Ushering in life, hope and rejuvenation

From the affluent beds of the Gold Coast
To the chilly pinnacles of the Kilimanjaro
From the alluring thrones of the Pharaohs
To the famous caverns of the heroic Zulus
Echoes this grand song celebrating our pride

Memorable and notable is our heritage
As you savour the grandest of all continents
A people of colour, elegance and history
Welcome to the oasis and dynasty of verve
Welcome to the “Celebration of Life”!

Friday, August 22, 2008


Olórunsògo is the fading inscription written above the door entrance of the communal living quarters popularly called Face-Me-I-Face-You in local parlance, located at the end of Liadi Street. This derives its name from the layout of the facility: Depending on the magnanimity or rapacity of the landlord, this type of household may contain 8 to 14 rooms with a corridor that runs from the main entrance which leads to another door exiting into a backyard, with equal number of rooms facing one another on each side of the passage way. Occupants, irrespective of their number, share meagre essential facilities (if and where they are provided) à la kitchen (usually a shed with stone tripods for cooking), bathrooms and toilets (often one or two pit latrines), all located in the backyard.

Olórunsògo which literally means “God has done something glorious” obtains its name from the deceased owner, Alhaji Olorunsogo a small scale industrialist in wood planks business. He owned half a dozen of sawmills scattered around the city with scores of workers on his pay roll. A thrifty business man, Alhaji Olorunsogo wasn’t half sparing on the home front. With five wives living under the same roof, innumerable concubines catered for on Alhaji’s bills and twenty-three “official” children, Olorunsogo proved without doubt that he was a man of insatiable libido!

In spite of his numerous properties, the exit of Alhaji did not but cause a royal rumble in the apportioning of the Olorunsogo’s empire. After a hurried burial, extended family members (ranging from immediate step-siblings to fifth cousins) grabbed a chunk of Alhaji’s estates leaving his wives and two dozens children to share the leftovers. Matters were complicated by emergence of concubines and their wards that also came to lay claim on the residual largesse. The “might is right; eat or be eaten” phenomenon took over. Wives and their children alike sprang at one another’s necks and lives. Dauda, Alhaji’s third son from his second wife lost his sight in an alleged juju (voodoo) battle with one of his kin. This is still being investigated as the neighbourhood police is “working day and night” to unveil the evil-doer(s).

Owing to sheer strong-headedness and access to firsthand information, Morufu (Alhaji’s first son and second child from his second wife) was able to lay hold on the Olórunsògo papers; one of Alhaji’s few remaining real estates. Hence, he assumed the position of the new landlord and rent collector, a status that’s still being contested by Salewa (Alhaji’s first daughter and first child from his first wife), the heiress-apparent to the Olorunsogo throne.

Back to Olórunsògo.

The inhabitants of Olórunsògo could least be described as a collection of assorted characters and enigmas – a very interesting household indeed.

Starting from the longest staying tenant, Daddy Pastor (as he’s popularly called), the roll call can’t be more intriguing. Daddy Pastor as the name indicates, pastors a shanty church with a dozen members, down the street adjacent to where Olórunsògo is situated. A 53-year old father of eight, Daddy Pastor “received a vision” to be a minister of the gospel a couple of years ago. It’s often rumoured that this might not be unconnected to his failure as a welder when he’d hardly fend for his large family. To ascertain they fulfil the Old Testament tradition of paying tithes and to avoid any temptation of “eating” this portion of their income, at the end of every month Daddy Pastor makes it a point of duty to collect tithes, going from one church member’s house to another. He saves them the trouble of having to pay the tithes in church, before which many of them may re-consider payment.

Daddy Pastor’s wife automatically christened Mommy Pastor is a full-time housewife. Being married to the longest staying tenant she also by default qualifies to be the landlady-tenant. Therefore, she coordinates the women folk of Olórunsògo’s household on appropriate matters. Her position also gives her the right to occupy the veranda space in front of the house where she sells cooked beans and eegbo (over-cooked dry corn) served with fried fish stew to augment whatever her husband pays himself from the church coffers.

Daddy Pastor, his wife and eight children all occupy a “room-and-parlour” (two rooms with one used as a living room and the other, a bedroom).

Sisi Vero the 49-year old spinster appears next on the roll. Sisi means a lady in her teens or twenties. Why Veronica (shortened Vero) who’s almost striking her golden jubilee, insists to be called Sisi never ceases to amaze everyone. It was alleged that Sisi Vero once slapped an okada man (motorcyclist) vivaciously for addressing her as “Madam.” The two were taken to the police station and accused of “two fighting.” Sisi Vero, a woman (oops! a lady) that has had her fair share of failed relationships still believes she is young enough to marry a man of her dream (Would someone tell her to wake up before she does so in her grave?)! This informs her mode of dressing: From the colour-riot overdone make-up to the tight-fitting undersize dresses, buxom Sisi Vero tenaciously fights for space amongst contemporary and (in her own words) saucy girls.

Often times when she hosts a particular man for a long while, expectations are high as to her eventual “settling down.” Howbeit, more often than not when the man is no longer seen and Sisi Vero asked why, her scornful and hiss-ful response is one that’s always ambiguous and of the same leaning – it’s either the man doesn’t know what he wants or he’s married.

On many occasions, Sisi Vero disappears from home for days and at times weeks. No one really has an idea of what she does for a living.

Joe, the graduate and bachelor teacher lives next room to Sisi Vero. Joe moved into Olórunsògo after months of unfruitful job search. A graduate of Linguistics from one of the state-owned universities, Joe got wind of job opportunities acclaimed to outnumber job-seekers in Lagos. As a result, he moved in with a fellow town’s man who readily accepted to accommodate the new comer. However, after weeks of enjoying free food and accommodation with no prospect of securing a job, the wife of his benefactor deemed it fit to declare an end to the generosity bestowed Joe, with alacrity. Luckily for him, before he was sent packing, Joe got a job as a primary school teacher two streets away from Olórunsògo where he now resides. Oga Joe (as called by housemates) takes advantage of the beehive of children parented by Daddy Pastor and others in the neighbourhood by organising home lessons for a number of them. At times when payment is delayed, Joe barters food with Mommy Pastor for his home service.

Mr. Sunday, the electrician is a resource-tenant of Olórunsògo not because of what he gives but that which he saves the household. His expertise enables him to backdate the reading on their NEPA analogue meter, now and again. As a result, the household is able to evade payments of huge sums of electricity bills. On occasions when they are cut off from the mains supply by the authority, Mr. Sunday artfully reconnects Olórunsògo typically at night.

The conscientious electrician recently got married to Patience who everyone calls Iyawo (meaning “wife”). Mr. Sunday works for a small-scale local contractor. Occasionally, when business is on the gloomy side, he plies his okada (motorcycle) within the environs in order to eke out a living. On the other hand, Iyawo seems too otiose to complement her husband's efforts. All she is ever seen in is a filthy wrapper tied sloppily over her almost bare chest. All day long, she stays indoors watching home videos on Sunday’s 14-inch black-and-white TV. Patience's laziness doesn’t permit her to cook. Hence, she patronises food hawkers or Mommy Pastor depending on what her appetite dictates. Poor Sunday!

Another couple that occupies the “room-and-parlour” on the opposite wing is the aged Papa Nkechi with his wife, Mama Nkechi and their grand daughter, Oname. Papa Nkechi is a railway corporation retiree train driver while his wife sells ugu (a delicacy vegetable) at the community market. Years of accumulated pensions have impoverished the old man and his family. A civil war veteran, he always reminisces with relish the role he took in the “no victor, no vanquish” pyrrhic war. He lost an index finger, the stump of which he’s eager to show anyone who cares to listen to his tales. Indeed, ol’ soldier never dies.

Their only child, Nkechi is married and lives with a vehicle spare parts business man who resides at the other end of town. At 15, Nkechi was impregnated by a “friendly” neighbour vulcaniser, an act he wasn’t willing to take responsibility for. Painfully, she had to drop out of school in order to supplement support for taking care of her baby, Oname. After years of emotional dejection, Nkechi regarded herself fortunate when Nnamdi requested for her hand in marriage, but only on one condition – he’s ready to cater for Oname but not under his roof. Not wanting to jeopardise this rare opportunity and fortune’s smile on her, she dumps Oname with Papa and Mama.

The last on the queer list is Bovi – the neighbourhood Casanova. Bovi came into Olórunsògo as a Youth Corper almost three years ago and he still claims to be on the one-year programme, for this reason he’s either referred to as Bovi or Corper. Many a time, the adventurous young man has been the object of accusation from mothers within the neighbourhood who claim Bovi has tactically deflowered their young daughters. Adolescent girls have been warned severally to keep off the amorous Corper but he always has a way around them as they’re seen either leaving or entering his den frequently.

The highpoint of Bovi’s escapades came when he was sought for by the police a couple of months ago but (un)fortunately he wasn’t indoors. When accosted by Daddy Pastor and Papa Nkechi as to ascertain the undisclosed reason behind the visit from the “men in black”, Bovi denied any wrong doing and assured them the “case” was resolved. Truly, no one knows Bovi’s source of livelihood. Besides, he’s often seen with questionable characters spending hours in the neighbourhood cybercafé. It’s rumoured that he’s a yahoo yahoo boy (advance fee fraudster).

Today, I decide to drive through the gully-ridden Liadi Street not out of lacking serious business doing but, sheer curiosity seeing a crowd of people gather in front of Olórunsògo. I am told Salewa and Morufu (Late Alhaji Olorunsogo’s children) are having a showdown there. The uncertainty that surrounds the new landlord/lady has excused the not-too-willing occupants from paying their rents. Consequently, Salewa and Morufu converged at Olórunsògo to slog it out. Both came simultaneously to collect the overdue rents from the tenants, each claiming legal right to do so. In the process, I think ignominious words were exchanged as each challenged the other to a reloaded version of the clash of the titans. At the moment, I can see Salewa with a swollen eye and in tattered clothings attempting to hold the part covering her bosom. Sprawling on the floor is Morufu, with a head which has doubled in size oozing out blood, turbulently. By his side lies a metal pole – I guess this should be the pain-inflicting weapon used by Salewa. Despite his obvious awfully painful condition, Morufu held down by on-lookers and passers-by, still brawls at Salewa.

Wonders have decided to reside at Olórunsògo! Anytime you need a break from the norm, feel free to visit Olórunsògo. It’s at No. 18 Liadi Street.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Enter, “The Green Revolution” Series

I intend to begin a series which after much brain racking I’ve christened “The Green Revolution”. This is to analyse mankind’s invasion of his environment and how nature has responded with retribution in its various forms: climate change, global warming, famine, floods, hurricane, tsunamis, etc. More importantly, the GR is about creating awareness of these anthropogenic disasters, abating the consequences while forestalling future occurrences and educating man on how to amiably live in and with his environment, as time ticks away on his continuous existence.

I have a number of articles I’m yet to complete on the GR (ranging from the academic to the trivial). I’ve always wanted to finish them before I kick-off the GR. However, I just don’t seem to get around that bug everyone has to deal with from time to time. You know what I’m talking about – it’s one word spelt P-R-O-C-R-A-S-T-I-N-A-T-I-O-N. I hope posting this intro will help me hit the road, running – I sincerely hope so!

The GR series will draw contributions from various sources and individuals who desire to. The cynical, paranoid, nonchalant and optimistic views/opinions are all welcome.

A couple of acquaintances (both real and virtual/online) have shown much interest in the GR series. In fact, a number of them are excited about a couple of ideas I shared with them. Some want us to initiate the GR club, establish vanguards in schools……Wait! I’m already letting the cat out of the bag!

I’m contemplating creating a new blog for this purpose. Let’s see how it goes.

BTW: ”What a Waste!” will be the first in the GR series.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Escaping the Age Noose

The radio program was the Africa edition of the BBC Have Your Say. The issue bothered around age and its overbearing significance within the African context. As usual, the veteran anchor pitched against one another, Africans with opposing views on the theme.

It is by and large a slot for blistering, thundering arguments cooked in an ever-boiling cauldron of controversies. Tensions are raised; tempers lost and on occasions before opprobrious words are exchanged, the anchor timely intervenes to dowse the nigh tangible heat.

Incidentally, I chose to oppose the much-cosseted age leech that has eaten deep into the African mindset and character fabric. This rabidity seeks to equate maturity with old age, demand respect as a function of the number of years an individual as marked on earth and emphasise age instead of expected and commensurate achievement. It is this same frame of mind that lords the African man’s superiority over his woman counterpart (this remains a discourse for another day).

Just before I am labelled as an errant, ‘westernised’, neo-colonised and cheeky African or infuriate the ‘traditional’ African reader, it is expedient to say I am an uncompromised, thick-lip, bushy-hair black African, with crimson-red Nubian blood running through my capillaries. In the words of Segun Akinlolu, I was born and have always lived “where the sun never sets or rises…where the heat is like a second skin.” I highly regard only the bent-back and white-hair that has garnered the proverbial old man’s wisdom - who believes respect for age, should not be self-seeking or gratuitously accorded but earned and mutually granted to both the old and young alike.

Among the issues raised was one that sought the appropriate age for women to take marital vows. On my side of the heated debate was the legendary Yvonne Khamati (one of Kenya very young female politicians). I inexorably argued that “marriageable age” does not automatically correspond to “disposed age.” While the former might be society-imposed, the latter is self-attained. Africa and the world at large seem to believe there exists a “marriageable age” for individuals. This has placed immense pressure on the women folk, in particular. As aforementioned, this unjustified strain has made individuals especially women to hotfoot themselves into this bewildering union. Bearing in mind, this is the only institution where its students are awarded certificates before taking the final exams. How satirical!

Hence, proper preparation, self-application and maturity are essential ingredients for a long-lasting, successful marital life. “Marriageable age” is not a pre-requisite. Marriages premised on the “marriageable age” philosophy have failed in large numbers producing broken homes, adult baby daddies/mommies and wayward children as fall outs. In the African setting where divorce is considered to be an odium, extempore couples have continued to live in emotional prison cages, for face-saving sake. As a result, marital success should be a “status” rather and an “age” thing. If you are not “there”, do not dare it or you get your fingers burnt! Some may get “there” at 19, 21 or 23 years while others may in due course be matured enough for signing the dotted lines at 30, 35 or 40! Self-disposition (which includes character building, self-actualisation, maturity and self-discipline) preponderates any form of pressure either society- or self-imposed.

Howbeit, this stance threw up a couple of issues during the BBC Africa Have Your Say showdown. The 21st century African woman has come to a state of self-assertion unlike her primordial fellow. She now acquires formal (western) education even up to the tertiary level (Study periods are lengthened in certain African countries by epileptic academic calendar due to incessant industrial actions). Pursuing a professional career is also paramount to her. All these have made contemporary women to say "I do" at older ages. Moreover, it was said there exists a physiological threshold a woman crosses, age-wise which might make her medically unfit to conceive and/or deliver a baby.

Nonetheless, one wonders if procreation outweighs the gains of a flourishing matrimony (which demands fidelity and self-discipline, at all times) with its accompanied emotional and mental constancy, the absence of which can impair every other sphere of living. Why should one sign him/herself off to a life of misery, abject rejection and psychosomatic trauma when he/she is not equipped for wedlock, all because “time is ticking out”? Apropos, is marriage all about breeding? What happens to companionship and mutual connectivity?

Individuals must first be “single” before opting to tie the knots or they might end up tying the noose. Being “single” means taking an inward journey of self-discovery. There is nothing that precludes women from attaining just like men, before taking the sacred vows. Marriage is not an avenue for the other party to absolve one’s problems and indulgences. Rather, both partners must constantly seek the happiness and bliss of the other. In doing this, marital vows are kept; characters moulded; upright offspring raised and at large, the society’s sanity is maintained.

Let the criticisms gush in!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Going Brrrrrrh! on the Creative Side of Advertising

Advertising in plain terms is “the public promotion of a product, service, business, or event in order to attract or increase interest in it.” It is an essential trade tool required to create awareness, solicit acceptability and/or increase sales of a product or service, thereby reinforcing the "brand." As a result, advertisements at times blend coaxing messages with factual information.

Although certain isms believe that an excellent product or service should “speak for itself”, hence little of no advertisement might be required. Howbeit, publicity of such is usually the first avenue via which the existence of such a good or service is taken cognisance of, ab initio. Proponents of this school of thought seem to be unmindful of the various types and media of advertising that exist. Publicising a product could range from informal words of mouth, reference/advice to formal, contemporary, state-of-the-art techniques. Advertising (in its various forms) serves as an indispensable arena where promotion of goods and services can be jump-started.

Advertising dates back to historic times. With the invention of papyrus during the First Dynasty era (about 3100 to 2890 BC), Egyptians likewise ancient Greeks and Romans had created various forms of commercial messages and political campaign displays. It has also been recorded that as printing developed in the 15th and 16th centuries, advertising throve into handbills. In the 17th century, advertisements began to appear in English newspapers.

The advent of television and radio broadcasting completely revolutionised promotion of goods and services. Increasingly, cable television played an unprecedented role when introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The internet created new cutting-edge technologies and avenues for marketing purposes, with the boom of innumerable websites for businesses to interactively reach their legion of customers.

With the emergence of a materialistic 21st century world, business promoters are always at neck-and-neck rivalry - a fierce competition aimed at grasping the attention and better still, the pockets of a more cognisant pool of consumers. These, indeed are exciting times!

In present times, advertising via whatever means, has gone highly cerebral while scintillatingly appealing to all the senses of already captured or potential customers. This probably has continuously informed the extraordinary adverts placed by the No. 1 beverage company in the world – Coca-Cola.

The Coca-Cola company has established its brand worldwide. It is said the word “Coke” is among a couple of the most popular in the world that requires no translation to any language or form of dialect! – “Coke” in Luxembourg does not change its pronunciation and meaning in the Americas, Asia or Africa. Despite the fact that one can safely say Coca-Cola has crushed almost every form of competition, provided varieties of its products and captured a wide range of consumers, the Asa Candler-brand has not ceased to expand its frontiers in any possible manner. It has relentlessly “shifted the demand curve to the right” so that its consumers will buy more of its products at the same price. This is spelt out in its recent “Coke side of life” campaign.

In its various forms, one that readily charms is the “It’s Brrrrrrh on the Coke Side of Life” version. This parades a contemporary Negro chief (with his toothy, afro-hair, megaphone-holding page) experiencing a “vibration” after sipping some Coke. It also shows a parrot losing its feathers to the “brrrrrrh” phenomenon. The shake-up experience furthermore finds expression in a football fan that couldn’t brrrrrrh hitherto until the Coke substance gets into his digestive streams. “Brrrrrrh” is depicted to be a sensational thrill one experiences after drinking the more-than-a-century old soft drink. Coca-Cola has consistently trail-blazed advertising. Creativity is the key! And this is the essence of this write-up.

In spite of nouveau developments and exhilaration designed to aid advertising in all its ramifications, the advertising landscape in certain climes appears to be parched, colourless, monotonous and non-inventive. In recent times, some adverts have lost the tonic of originality and inspiring ingenuity. This is usually played out in copious ads as observed daily: For a number of industries, what is often seen is a “strange object” that suddenly appears in the sky. This catches the attention of various individuals – the market woman, the newspaper vendor, the corporate executive, the taxi driver, the shop owner, et cetera – as they chase this “object” (which is usually the company’s logo or brand) through market places, highways and byways, across streams, rivers and some times transoceanic! It’s either this or an adaptation of same. One could almost predict what certain adverts are about at first glance and after watching for moments.

Apart from creativity, another major problem with the present lack-lustre adverts has to do with the targeted audience/viewers or market. Most intended consumers often fail to understand or get the message about the product or service being advertised. I once watched an advert clip on a cable TV with a number of individuals as we waited in a banking hall. One of the viewers voiced openly he couldn’t understand the “nonsense”! Intellectually, it was light years beyond him.

Be it as it may, it is expected that advertisers and promoters need a “brrrrrrh” (in more concrete terms, a shake up). While it is not being required of advertisers to “re-invent the wheel”, it is expedient they make the use of the wheel further attractive. They should be more creative, imaginative, resourceful and original with their adverts.

It’s time to get some shake-up. Let’s go “brrrrrrh” on the creative side of advertising!
Comments are welcome.