Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Enough Said, Enough Talk!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Apapa - Kirikiri 2

So! Where did we stop? Ah, yes, so we kicked the sitting preacher and his female train out so we could commence with the most important event of the day – our birthday. Just kidding; we did usher them out but not unceremoniously. By and large the preacher soon came to an end of his message and after the prayer the co-ordinator or host, or compere, who was, incredibly, an inmate, stood at the podium to thank the group for choosing to celebrate its Easter day with them. He was very presentable in his well ironed short sleeved light coloured shirt and dark coloured trousers. He had a large sized head which seemed to tilt this way and that when he spoke and I couldn’t help wondering if he were to lean forward to inspect at his shoes, whether he would be unbalanced by his great head and topple over. I shook myself out of my reverie and paid attention. He was in control of his environment and was at complete ease with the congregation, even the presence of the comptroller – di oga of di prizin – did not seem to faze him as I curiously tried to, as he spoke, imagine what it was he had been convicted for. It had to be fraud or ‘sharp practices’ I surmised because the man was obviously a smooth and educated talker. He spoke very eloquently with the very dry sense of effortless humour typical of the Warri and Sapele people of Delta state; he soon introduced our E Taylor to the podium.
Our man stood up to an uproarious cheer from the entire hall which made Mary and me start, look at each other and turn to observe him more keenly. He walked to the podium, hugged our 'brainy' host, received the microphone, turned around with his head bowed and without saying a word, walked toward us and stopped in front of the comptroller. He began to speak softly, almost inaudibly and began to thank the comptroller,Mr Tunde Ladipo, a very nice, unassuming man with a quiet steely strength about him, for giving him the opportunity to see the people that meant so much him. He began to move towards me and thanked me for taking out the time to make an appearance, moved to his wife seated beside me, took her up by the hand and introduced her to us telling all at the same time that they both shared the same birth date. As he spoke, still softly, making some of us strain our ears to catch what he was saying, he began humming softly to himself inching towards the inmates when he suddenly thrust his right hand powerfully forward and froze as if waiting for a response – it did come. A thunderous roar emanating from three hundred throats deafened our ears. By the time we looked back at E Taylor from the crowd, the sixty one year old man was already crouched in a dancing position as the choir had already struck up the beat that was obviously familiar to everyone else in the hall save us. The man danced with the dexterity of a very dignified P Square duo as the congregation clapped and urged him on. He was such a delight to watch as he cavorted this way and that, making us will the music not to stop. When he held his hands up, too soon if I may add, he began to address the inmates with a fondness that betrayed his beautiful heart as he brought out the reverse birthday gifts he brought them. Even more magnificent than the silver haired titan were the main stars; the inmates and the comptroller himself.

There was a passion in them that could be matched only by children in the way they sang, the way they danced and the rapt attention with which they listened to the various speakers. There was an energy in all of them that reverberated off the walls of the building making us wonder who the real prisoners were; us on the outside or they who were inside, a little reminiscent of Fela A Kuti’s masterpiece “Beast of No Nation” where he questions the veracity of us on the outside calling ourselves free. There was a strange light shining in their eyes, like my grandmother’s goats’ used to whenever their favourite fodder is dangled before their noses, as if every moment they spent in that hall was to be savoured before they were sent back to their dreary enclaves. All inmates, from the most animated to the most docile, seemed to be threaded with the same intense yarn, from the same source and towards a common goal until it hit me, freedom! Freedom was the one thing we from the outside had that they on the inside didn’t. The one thing we took for granted was what these incarcerated men found as priceless as the very air they breathed. It pervaded everything they did; it was in their walk; the nervous energy in their step, their heels barely touching the ground, it was in the way they sang; their faces facing upwards as if waiting to be caught up and away by some invisible force, it was in the roaring ‘amens’ they punctuated the ending of every prayer declaimed and was in the way they followed our every move with their eyes– I suspect my colleague Mary garnered most if not all the eyes in that hall, and rightly so; she is a lovely girl.

I did eventually leave that hall but not before I gave a speech (bowing of course to the venerable Taylor’s gentle prodding), danced till I sweated my shirt darker and had refreshment with the others in Mr Tunde Ladipo’s office. I had in there with strangers, a much better time than I have had out here in years, excluding loved ones of course and as I sit here writing, trying to piece together my thoughts, I ask myself how free I am. Am I making full use of the freedom available to me? What is my freedom for, to ensure that I make my life as pleasurable as I can to the exclusion of others, or is it to make others’ lives better? I find that even with my so called freedom, I am still buffeted from all sides by my obligation to family, friends and society at large, by the desires raging inside me that I fight every single day; desires that fight against the goals I strive to achieve and instead try to steer me towards the very things I abhor. If you ask me, I would say that I think the inmates of that walled prison I visited seem to have a better understanding of the prison they are in than we outsiders do of our wall-less prison out here we carry everywhere with us. I aim to visit that prison periodically even if it is to remind myself of where I am. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Apapa - Kirikiri 1

A good day to everybody! Immediately I went through the Kirikiri Prison gates I spotted Evangelist Taylor (the good looking white bearded man in the photograph) and another dear colleague and friend of mine, Mary Lazarus waiting patiently for me along the road. E Taylor was particularly pleased to see me and hugged me very warmly and led Mary and I towards the prison gates, my first prison gates.
The gates looked formidable while trying to look friendly and inviting with their fresh paint and casually lounging guards sitting on the gnarled exposed roots of a nearby tree; I wasn’t fooled. I waited, we waited behind Taylor, Mary and I, as if he was our only genuine reassurance that all would be safe with us behind those gates. I didn’t know what to expect to behold behind them. Would a strong heady wave of the stench of unwashed bodies come rolling out to us, or would we be walking through a gauntlet of dark mazes with flinty, beady eyes peering at us from the darkness barely held at bay by dim pools of light provided by even sorrier looking light bulbs up above? To my disappointment a small bye door etched from the gate was opened to us and we walked through to a considerably large cavernous reception hall. It was lit up by the natural light coming from the courtyard about twenty metres away and while not being very well lit, one could not only see that it was spotlessly clean, but one could catch a whiff of the slight pine smell of mango trees hidden from view. We were asked to hand in our phones to an officer behind a mesh wire fence, dashing hopes of sneaking an insider picture or two of the potential goings on within the facility. As we walked in, I glanced at my watch and silently promised myself I wouldn’t stay an hour longer in the place before I left for other more ‘lucrative’ engagements, my conscience suitably elevated from my charitable deed of the month; it was 11.30am. We walked into the courtyard and stopped short, Mary and me.

It was breathtaking. The forbidding walls enclosing the prison were just a fa├žade because a completely different picture lay spread out before us. There were no high concrete buildings with porthole windows and security turrets with armed guards standing watch. It looked more like a prestigious secondary boarding school from colonial times, and the typical prison colours cream and dark green were accentuated by large green mango trees and long rows of low shrubs covered with bright yellow flowers emblazoning the yard with their brilliance. A row of colonial buildings formed a perimeter around well manicured lawns, a modern basketball court, a football pitch and, I’m not sure if a lawn tennis court was present but I could definitely make out a table-tennis table or two. Oh, there was a mosque and a church as well, and into the church we went.

It was a large hall and was filled to capacity with the seated inmates occupying most of the space from the mid front row to the back of the hall. They wore mufti – a military term for civilian clothes, I learnt that from boarding school – and most of them wore poly-foam bathroom slippers. The front row was occupied by about twenty young men in uniform colours of the same printed fabric. They were better groomed than the others and all wore shiny black leather sandals. From the musical instruments before them I could tell they formed the prison choir (would you believe that since childhood I am still tempted to spell ‘choir’ as ‘quire’?). We were ushered to a row of chairs adjacent to the front facing inmates and sat to listen to the preacher.

Interestingly, I noted that the preacher preached a message of hope, not the typical ‘waiting to get to heaven before you get your reward’ but offered hope to not only re-entering the outside world of freedom but also the freeing of the mind from prison and going out to achieve great things. Great men who had once been imprisoned were made examples of: John the Baptist, Joseph, Obasanjo, Mahatma Ghandi; great men who were once vilified as these ones seated were. It might seem inconsequential to some, but for me, it was a huge step in the right direction. It swelled my heart with pride that our government, and private groups actually cared enough for erring citizens to invest in their future through genuine rehabilitating programs aimed at making them even better members of society.

Sadly again, my motor mouth and my love for painting pictures has brought us to another annoying end to this post, but, gladly, even the least hope is not lost as I will be rounding off this story not a later than May the 2nd, the day after tomorrow by hook or by crook. I want to thank you for your patience so far and I would also like to use this opportunity to thank Tracy for her encouraging words plus a huge welcome to my irreverent Formerly Stealth Reader who is still the ‘master’ of stealth as far as I’m concerned. Welcome back to the fold, lost but found sheep – you have been missed. Have a great a day everybody and see you very soon

Monday, April 28, 2014

Apapa - The Journey

A good week to everybody! I sometimes wonder that I may have spoken too soon last week regarding keeping my joy. I have been tested sorely to know if I could really back up my claims I made regarding my sweet joy. I have had feuds with my friends especially my dear Ario who’s still not talking to me. Lola had yet another incident yesterday and is currently at the hospital (mechanic’s – beginning to wonder if I’m being scammed or not by these notoriously wily but short sighted fellows). It’s just one thing on top of the other, The most infuriating thing of all is that no one has lifted a finger to find my two hundred plus daughters who were kidnapped up north except for their parents, well wishers and foreign nationalities who till today are still ‘helping’ us wipe our smeared backsides in full view of the whole world; a case of the outsider actually grieving more than the bereaved. No matter, it’s of little consequence anyway; in a week’s time we’d have forgotten about the heartbreaking story of the hapless early teenage girls carted away far off north to fill violent men’s bellies, and have their bellies filled in return, and thank God it didn’t happen to us, until it does. Like I said before, I’ll vent my spleen, and then grab my joy back.
I had some real joy on Easter Monday last week when I went to visit the medium prisons at Kirikiri in Apapa, Lagos. A friend and colleague of mine, Evangelist Taylor, had invited me to join him in celebrating his 61st birthday at the Kirikiri maxim- sorry, medium prison which I curiously accepted but not without some angst. You see, the Apapa traffic is one I have a serious dread for. This is because being the main seaport of the country, the traffic, owing to the ubiquitous trailer-lorries laden with all kinds of goods, and their drivers who are a law unto themselves, routinely cause traffic snarls all over the place, adversely affecting businesses in the area. It is also important to point out that 70% of these trucks are forty years old or thereabouts, and as a result, are prone to breaking down all the time and consequently blocking traffic. Be foolhardy enough to vie for the right of way with them and you’ll be given a ‘crash’ course on the demerits of fighting with a forty year old truck: no brakes, 75% blind spot, ability to move only in a straight line as every attempt to turn even an inch to the left or right requires al the manual assistance of the driver’s mate, and above all, a very silly and stubborn driver! I say all this to say that I only dared go to Apapa because it was a public holiday and so I knew there would be no truck on the road.

I got to Apapa without incident and drove past very long rows of parked trucks until I realized too late I had made an inadvertent illegal turn at a market square – there were no road signs warning against this error. I only knew about the error from the menacing way the police and LASTMA officers came hulking towards my car, almost licking their lips in anticipation. They didn’t know that one whose buttocks have been stung by a soldier-ant is always cautious of where next he plants them. I leaned forward, my nose almost to the windscreen, grasping the steering wheel tightly with two hands, a fierce look of concentration on my face looking this way and that, as if trying to look for a familiar landmark, a look not unlike that of a sixty year old granny daring to pick her grandchildren from pre –school. I squinted my eyes and tried to look as stupid as possible as the officers pounded their fists at the car for me to stop. One of them even attempted to jump directly in my path but jumped back immediately when he seemed to realize that he might get crushed by this clueless driver who did not even seem to know his bearings. That was how I was saved from paying for some official’s child’s school fees for him.

I finally got to the prison gate and the rest of the incredible experiences I had there, are they not to be written in tomorrow’s conclusive post; this post being in the danger of being excessively long? Be sure to sign in tomorrow to read about Apapa – Kirikiri. In the meantime I leave you all to a glorious start to the week. Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Keeping My Joy

I really don’t know what the point of driving a new car in Lagos is any more! Good week everybody! I’m in a very good mood this day of our Lord. Why you may ask. Nothing I say, I just will myself to be in a very good mood because I have seen that it is the only way one can frustrate evil in this world. I know what I’m talking about. It’s as if no one has the right to be happy and content. When I’m done hurling lies at you, walk into your office or place of work and loudly announce how ecstatically happy you are. The first question you’d be asked is the source of your joy; is it the lottery, is it a new promotion, great night with the spouse? Say yes to the former and the evil demon invites itself in either of two ways: first, by your invitation. Everyone, feeling it’s their God given right to share in your good fortune, suddenly remembers how close you used to be and so cajoles or compels you to remember you owe them an obligation to share in your wealth in its entirety – until it is spent. Second, you say no. You’ll find out how one mouth can be more deadly than twenty thousand open graves – and that’s the nice ones. The not-so-nice-ones, well, put it this way. You would be well advised to relocate yourself, your family, aged parents from both sides and leave your belongings so they think you’re still coming back – a self imposed exile from your beloved community

Regarding the latter, the great night with the spouse, hmm, Frieda once told me that if ever the topic of our sex life were to come up among her female friends and her, she would lament my total lack of prowess – in equipment and in vigour – in bed. Laughing, I asked her why she would mock me thus to which she replied that when women see something good in their fellow woman’s possession, they don’t want one like it, they want that very thing that’s been tried and tested. To my mischievous nieces and nephew sneaking to read this piece, sex is after marriage and not before! Uncle Kalu was delirious while writing this piece! Office workers reading this know only full well the perils that come with announcing a new promotion too brashly – brandished daggers stabbing from all sides that would make Julius Caesar’s assassins’ humble with respect. Demons everywhere trying to steal your joy. Like I said before, I don’t know what the point of driving a new car in Lagos is any more.

My poor Lola has been bashed and nudged so many times that if all her nudges were to be likened to love trysts, she’d be branded promiscuous or a victim of abuse – which she is. One would simply look at the paint smudges left on her body and count how many lovers she’s had, and from their colours, racially profile them. In fact were I to go to a body shop to give her a paint job, her body would serve as my catalogue to pick one colour out of the many samples on her person. In Lagos traffic, if you don’t go looking for trouble, it will come looking for you: drivers who feel they’re smarter than everyone else and drive into, and block oncoming traffic, LASTMA officials waiting for whom to pounce on, dreaded police checkpoints lurking under desolate bridges, disillusioned people who, beset by society’s numerous pressures, suddenly walk out into the road to be mowed down by you. Thank God the era of street parties are over. Sometime in the past, while it was still in force, I have had it in my head to park near one of the odious parties, surreptitiously tie a rope to the furthest table to me at the other end, tie it to the back of my car, wait till the guests are served food and drinks, and drive off in the opposite direction. It just never ends.

In conclusion I have found that no one has the right to steal my joy no matter what. Being and staying joyful is my prerogative and no one else’s. If you hurt me or annoy me, I would simply take some time out, rant and rave, deal with the situation and mentally go back to my state of joyfulness; it’s all with good reason I tell you. What’s the point of venting your frustration from an earlier accident on an innocent acquaintance who may have the intention of introducing you to some lucrative deal, or you impatiently brush aside some youngster who has admired you all his/her life, scarring them forever? When I’m in Lagos traffic now, I’m very calm, I don’t fret. I simply toss my impatience out the window, reach into my joy and think all the thoughts I haven’t had time think about; what I’d do if I had a helicopter, what if a meteor came crashing down to earth, how best I should play this role or that, what would make a good story, why is the blacked out SUV in front of me bouncing up and down, are there empty bottles in this car should I need to ‘go’? Point is, a positive outcome can never be the offspring of a negative mind so guard your heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life. Have a great week everybody

Sunday, April 6, 2014

When I'm Dying

When I die, bury me in a frozen lake of ice! Don’t mind me jare, I’m just mimicking 2 Chainz and Kanye’s song “Birthday Song” which I found very catchy, the beat that is. I just can’t bring myself to say “Bury me in a Gucci store” Seriously, is that the highest level we wish to attain, being buried in a famed tailor’s shop? I bow o. Maybe my ignorance is bliss given my deaf ears to lyrics of the songs I generally listen to, or does my subconscious mind pick up more than I am aware of? If they were lyrics about what to do with itches and gardening tools – for digging up yams - then yes, that I could understand and make good use of by playing role play romps with my significant other in the bedroom or the sitting room or maybe the kitchen while checking on the muffins or boli (grilled or baked semi ripe plantain) in the oven, or, wait for it, shut up in the boot of the car! See why I love writing? It sometimes dredges up things you never knew lurked in the recesses of your mind. Two things I’d have to keep handy to safely accomplish that feat though: my car keys (remote car locks of course) and a sound theme of a large dog’s bark to be activated in the very likely event of an attempted car theft Hmm, stringy meat to chew on another day. My meat for today is yes, a little off the beaten track but no less important to yours truly, the way I would like to die.

When I die and how I’d like to die are of little concern to me as whatever puny control I may exercise over the when and how of my demise may only be effected through prayer or due diligence regarding my security and lifestyle. What I would like to do at the point of my demise is a matter I have given my imagination free range to roam to its heart’s content. I have come to accept that there is, and may remain a childlike and playful side to me, and I would love to keep it that way till I’m a hundred, hopefully plus. At the moment, to my shame, I have so far only managed to envisage any of the three things I’d like to do just before kicking the bucket, which even so few, still give me a warm glow on the inside.

Like the Okinawa residents in Japan, I would love to still shag my wife at a hundred and two years old, and she, mmm, maybe between eighty two to a hundred years. Of course by then we’d have sensibly begun investing in lubricating gel, strictly to jumpstart her of course, and I, by God’s divine will, will still be rising to the occasion on demand, give or take an hour or two of prompting or stimulation, at this point, of any kind, oral or any sensible otherwise. Anyway the meat of it that we’d have been at it for any length of time ranging from four minutes to thirty – yes, I am that ambitious, the software program chosen being the lovemaking application so I can remember she’s the woman I love who has borne me these wonderful initially troublesome children who have left us to our rapturous delights and our unfathomable petty squabbles – the kind no one dares intervene in the knowledge that both of us are just looking for an excuse to have make up sex - I digress. She’s busy with her electric toothbrush buzzing away downtown between us, her wrinkled face – still as beautiful to me as the day I married her – distorted in concentration and I roger on as manly as possible, LLCool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” playing in the background to aid my rhythm and vigour until she stiffens suddenly and begins to let out an almost eerie low but slowly rising moan as my own fever begins to take over me in paroxysms of blurred vision, my glasses almost falling off my nose, convulsions radiating from my loins as they take over my body in ever powerful waves as now a hundred million half lives course their way up from my bejewelled orbs, my centenarian roar sounding like it’s coming from the adjoining room as we cling to each other in our torturous bliss as we are suddenly levitated to celestial transports, God’s throne. Oblivious to our new environment, we look at each other and gasp, “Wow, that was some banging!”, before we notice our celestial surroundings, angels and all, and I, seeing the Almighty and quaking with fear, blurt out, “Banging at, sorry, on Heaven’s door!”. Sharrap all of you, it’s not blasphemy; we widowed each other in matrimony!

Second, I’m at my deathbed in my home hopefully and not the hospital, still at a hundred and two, surrounded by my wife (she should outlive me – I love being pampered), children: biological, in-law and adopted, grandchildren and hopefully the greats. I call our children to draw closer to me for the last blessings and admonishment. As I bless each one and their future genealogies, I punctuate each blessing by spitting into their open mouths, yes there is an Igbo community where this form of father-child blessing has long been practised – and, hehehe, you never deny a dying man his wish. I would have made it seven spits per mouth but that would be greed, and I may expire before getting to the third child, besides I don’t know how much saliva I’d still be able to muster at that ripe age so I’ll dispense my treasures sparingly.

Thirdly, if God tarries His hand at taking me away to Him, I would bless the rest of my beloved gathering and save the last for the one most alike to me in personality or maybe the youngest. I would call him/her to me very lovingly, pray for the beautiful child, bless him/her with a tremulous voice and trembling hands, give him/her some life serving advice and ask him/her to put his/her hand under my thigh as they used to do in biblical times. When they obey me, I’ll ask them to move it up further a bit, just under my bottom whereupon I’d take a deep breath and unleash the most ferocious fart I can muster. Hopefully the force generated will be enough to propel my soul and spirit from my body to eternal bliss leaving behind a mischievous grin on my face. I must remember to maintain a strict diet of raw broccoli and beans for when the beams start to tremble and the bulb starts to dim to give me enough wind for my sails- note to self.

My point here is who says dying can’t be fun? It is inevitable so why not, instead of being so petrified all the time of it, have fun with it and making your exit as memorable as possible, both here and beyond? Cowards have the misfortune of dying many times before their death but the creative ones have the luxury of enjoying theirs many times before it comes. Death is naught but a gateway so I enjoin everyone to enjoy this life, its passing and the life beyond this one. Have a great week everyone and don’t forget to eat your fruit and veggies!.