Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Faces and Phases

I once wrote a letter to my father; it was the heyday of postal service when we could trust the swift power of multiple stamps.

I remember how, weeks before that day, I had suffered sleepless nights trying to summon courage to pen my thoughts. My father would receive the letter, as I later heard, in the company of his friends where he also chose to read aloud the carefully sealed letter from the first fruit of his loins.

The letter read:

Dear Father,

Home had become war zone. Shouting bouts and words match. My father would rain “thick” abuses and my mother would retaliate with heavier insults. Wanting to remain unscathed, she would add some good measure of jeering and name-calling of all his ancestors, clapping her hands in demonstration. Sometimes it was funny to watch because, hours before the verbal onslaught, my father would proudly parade my mother to the envy of his friends; praising her culinary skills to the hearing of all that were near. He would even invite neighbors three houses down the street to come sit and merry on the current feast.

Father was such a talker. He would at every gathering recount how he chased my mother while teaching at Townsville Grammar School, somewhere on the outer border of Ijaiye in Abeokuta. “She was just a little downtown girl,” he would say…” but a very beautiful one as you all can attest to”.

“Folake,” my father bellowed, “Isn’t the egusi and eba ready to be served? My jolly friends are salivating already”.

“I am about serving my king,” she called out in response

“Salewa, come quickly. Carry these basins of water to your father and his friends. Be careful to set them properly on the wooden stools without spilling,” my mother warned, handing over the large tray to me.

As soon as father saw me approach them in the veranda, he reached for his belt buckle to release the pent-up space in readiness for the heavy sumptuous meal that was soon to follow. Bowing my head and slightly bending my knees as was customary, I set the four bowls on the stools as directed; one wash-hand basin for each man.

From the kitchen, while we washed the pots and other cooking utensils, I heard my father belch aloud. I could almost picture him rubbing his rotund belly and imagined Baba Wale, our neighbor who lived in the same compound with us doing same – he strived to follow my father’s every step. The meals always turned out good as in truth my 'mother could cook for Africa' and this meal was no exception. My father even held her in his arms for a while, playfully pushing aside her wrapper to gain thigh access while his head rested on her ample bosom as a sign of satisfaction and appreciation.

It was a big surprise then later that night when things took an ugly turn as my father threw the carefully hidden cutlass saved for armed-robbers at my mother. I had thought this fight would end in their usual five-minutes-verbal-sparring but no, the witches on duty that night had fiercer powers. That was the beginning of my nightmares. In the dead of the night, my two sisters and I huddled in one corner of the parlor praying to God that Baba Wale would come to mother’s rescue. Baba Wale never came. We crouched in the corner scared of father’s fury and unable to save mother from that burning fury. That night he beat her black and blue. The cause? I’ll never know till this day.

Father would go on to play romance in the day, throwing effusive praises on mother and become a beast at night. One would think a certain demon had been unleashed from the deepest part of hell! To the beatings he added drinking to stupor. Weekends when my own friend came around to study with me, he would come in, in his drunken state ordering me to get his shoes put aside and his toes s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d, according to him.

“Salewa, come here you good-for-nothing daughter of this illiterate poor excuse of a wife,” he would say, “take these shoes inside for me before I spank you. How dare you look to my face you little filth?”

Embarrassed at the turn of things I discouraged my friend from visiting. Too ashamed to keep my head high in school, I pleaded for transfer to another school through one of my teachers. He had spoken to my father to allow me enroll in another school out of town on the basis that the school rated high in the West African Examination Council state performance. There I was to spend 3 terms and live in the midst of other boys and girls. There I would come to see and hear how glowingly they spoke of their daddies. There I would also read and learn all the big grammar I could use as weapon to break my father’s spirit, or so I thought.

Dear Father, I had written.
With a thumping heart and trembling hands, I find the courage to write you. You are not the father I know or thought I knew. You are far from the father I hoped for – something really gigantically drastic has changed inside of you. I watch my classmates and listen to how they converse freely about their fathers, without loathe. Dread fills me every time one of them turns in my direction to hear me talk. What good thing is there to say about you truly? What imitable, enviable characters do you portray worthy enough to be shared?? How you display your manliness hitting your own wife and spewing venom? How you parade the joints leaving stench in your wake? The devious father, who cleverly disguises his ferocious fangs in the day only to unleash wicked words in the nighttime? Only a weak-willed man instills fear in another, not to talk of his own blood; children at impressionable age. You, dear father, are the hideous creature of pure disgrace. You have morphed into this beast-like form; a killer of joy and respect and I dare to pronounce to the entire world, YOU ARE EVIL!

He had driven to see me some few days after to forcefully withdraw me out of school.

“If this is what they teach you in school Salewa, to humiliate your elders especially your father, I will show you today”. He had dragged me by the ears, pulling my lips as if to destroy my wayward mouth, pushing me into the back seat of his Peugeot 504.

That night, I caught a full view of heaven and hell only I wasn’t allowed in, in either of them.

All pleas to let me return to school fell on deaf ears. His most beloved brother and a few other relatives had tried, hammering on how I am but a child, still he would not budge. I was so close to starting my Biology practicals but father was adamant on my punishment – I was to live with and care for his mother, my grandmother who suffered chronic arthritis and bed sore.

My mother would come to hate me because somehow my foolishness and boldness had toppled the state of things in the house. The issue had weighed heavily on father's mind, he almost sent her packing.

But then we would come to sit together again, each taking responsibilities for grave human errors that could have been easily avoided.

Writer’s note - I missed my deadline. Happy Fathers’ Day nonetheless.

'Mother could cook for Africa' - This slang is Nigerian depicting how vast and adept one is at doing things. Any verb will suffice in place of cook.  

Image source - Silhouette Design Store

Thursday, 16 June 2016

What's with the cut?

France versus Albania - Euro 2016

Been wanting to show-off my brogues *-*

Home early, just in time for the face-off between France and Albania. I was happy to slouch on the couch ready to enjoy an evening watching the host nation slug it out with Albania in the group play. After the usual hand shaking and this time some sixty seconds silence observance in respect of a murdered French policeman with his wife, the line-up was shown. Before then, when the players and officials assumed the pose for the customary anthem, I remember looking them over. I remember making a snide remark about Nigeria's Super Eagles not being as cute. I remember recognizing Patrice Evra and feeling the sense of pride that I hadn't lost touch after all - been inconsistent with following football but I still know my people. Sadly, his was the only face that registered.

Then the line-up list of France flashed across my TV screen. Bacary Sagna's name jumped out! Of course I know Sagna (wella in fact) but I DID NOT SEE HIM DURING THE ANTHEM RECITAL!!! If I am naturally inclined to betting, at that moment I would have dropped my last million dollars arguing over Sagna's presence on the pitch. I mean where was his eye-catching trademark dreadlocks? What's with the cut Sagna?

Sagna was on the pitch alright only his unmistakable locs had suffered some terrible fate :(

One could argue he looks perfectly responsible sporting a low but this is not the 'Sagna-brand' I know. A total emotional disconnect. No face recall whatsoever. The change wasn't even subtle!

Now you'll probably understand why negative reactions trail companies' sudden decisions to change brand names/logos. It is a different thing when modification occurs with product packaging/content (all these still have their down sides) but a total name change or logo overhaul? Are you Google? Even Google, as strong as its gravitational pull is still put out a video to the public to explain and justify reasons for such logo redesign. Consumers are wary of change no doubt but where there is a shared thought process, negative reaction is quelled.

Re-branding is a very radical decision which signifies the end of a brand; like a full stop to what used to be. Equity will be lost and all prior investment gone. Making this sort of decision should be because the brand CANNOT continue as is because it probably has a negative equity. To re-brand would then mean to offer a completely re-engineered brand. It is more of a re-definition; a re-position or a re-start. Are there pointers that your brand needs an overhaul?  Is the branding outdated? Have your products or services changed? You are not reaching your target audience or you are simply preparing for growth?

I read an article by Mark Sommer who proposed four critical questions that should be asked and carefully weighed before going this route...
  • Why are we proposing change? What are we looking to stop? What are we looking to start or gain? Critical brand decisions need to be underpinned by robust investigations of cause and effect.
  • What should our customers look to us for – and can we deliver that, or improve on that, in our current form? This is about quantifying what is possible within the brand structure that you have and what lies outside/beyond the current core.
  • What will we be able to do as a result of this change that we have never been able to do up until now – and how do we know that? It’s one thing to see the possibilities, it’s quite another to realize them. This is about making sure that the logistics of what you can deliver will marry with the brand changes you are proposing.
  • If we took a more/less radical approach, what would we gain/lose – and would that be worth it?This is the trade-off for change discussion. It helps you determine the level of brand change that’s required and the differences that varying levels of investment will enable.
There is something called 'Brand Integrity'. You will do well to have few tweaks here and there in order to preserve that existing integrity. Don't lose us along the guided!

P.S It would seem the hair shaving started last year, Honiilols just caught up on that ;) 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Give him to the gods

The child I was is just one breath away from me" - Sheniz Janmohamed

This was the wrongest time to arrive in Lagos, he knew but then again, this mega-city sprawling with a multitude of both two-legged and four-legged at 4 a.m had never been known to posses the calmness of a millpond; no matter the hour of day. The hooting sound made by the many vehicles is a killer trigger for his migraine.The weather isn't right for his delicate radiation-exposed skin either and as his doctors had foreseen and forewarned, his exposure to viruses and germs was damn sure! Everything seems to be against this trip like boats against the current, but it was now or never, he thought. Picking up his noise-cancelling ear muffs from the hand luggage which nestled against his thigh - unfazed by the Lagos drama - he dons it over his ears like the protective shield it is meant to be. Lagos is so unkind to him, unsurprisingly as it had always been, but the penetrating noise is one evil he can squash.

As his Muritala Mohammed International Airport-chattered car speeds through the busy streets, he takes his time to study the view from his back seat, watching as firewood crackle to life; as a petite-looking woman singlehandedly positions a 3-ft high steel pot upon the stoked fire to begin the day's cooking. Food selling is one business that remains viable around the world, after all man must eat and Lagosians obviously need their food early - however it is prepared. He takes a few seconds more to study the gigantic buildings that seem to have sprung up in the once bare area, some things have sure changed. Then his gaze shifts inwards towards his driver and the Quran proudly placed on the dashboard. Mr Jamal, according to the name tag appears somewhat decent - or shouldn't that be assumed when you see Arabic scribbling and Quran around a man? Convinced of his safety for the remainder of the drive to Igando, his destination, he let his eyes droop as a response to nature's call.

"You'll never believe, let alone accept a word that any of those worthless uncles of yours say to you Akubundu.  Ozoemena is mine and I'll nurse him till I take my last breath. You shouldn't even open your mouth to tell me these things! Do you know how many years it took for me before bearing this child? How I cried and prayed? Accepting concoctions from this same family of yours? Visiting your dibias and letting my own faith slide, do you?" 'Mena's mother screamed shifting her weight from behind the door to face her husband. Her face was a contortion of emotions, her chest heaving loudly even as she forced herself to remain calm and to refrain from throwing objects at her husband. 

"Nwanyi!" Akubundu, seeing the fierce anger on his wife's face started, "my words are final in this house. I do not care for how long it took you and don't forget that I waited too for the gods to turn around your barrenness without succumbing to the pressures of my people to take another sturdy wife, I waited. If after waiting with you for e-i-g-h-t good years and all I have to show still is this thing only you have chosen to call child, then I will not be a part of it. Take it back to where it came from. In fact a better use would be for it to be sacrificed to the gods in the village and that is my stance on this!"


"Ooga. Ooga fassenger" Jamal taps again hoping to rouse his ajebo passenger. "Walahi, me I no dey phaind this kain trouble for early mo'nin o," his voice sounding solemn and shaky, he watches again as his passenger's body convulse, his arms flailing in all directions. "Ooga fassenger..." 

A succession of taps. A quick jolt. More voices in his head. Someone else is screaming out of fear and it isn't his mother...

'Mena opens his eyes to see another pair of eyes peering at him. It is a scared Jamal with his cap in his left hand and his right hand on 'Mena's shoulder. "Ooga, make I call anoda moota phor you or make I drop you phor one clinic across that road? Igando still phar small o".

An embarrassed 'Mena now fully aware of what must have happened forces a sincere smile at the distressed driver, "No it's fine Mr Jamal. Just take me to that address in Igando. I'll double your pay to N20,000. In fact I'll come sit with you in front so you can pinch me when it appears I am dozing off again,that's the only time these ehm 'anjonus' come," 'Mena pleads with his head slightly bowed. He makes a switch leaving his hand luggage at the back seat, sweat trickling down his palms.

"Ooga, if you say so. Gaskia no more sleeping," Jamal eyed

And so the drive continues, uneventful till he reaches House 406.

The house looks familiar, it had once been his inheritance before the family decided otherwise. His mother had told him the stories. She had told him how the house with the vast surrounding acres had been in his father's family for generations. How they were part of the few Igbos in Lagos who could lay claims to lands. How it had been a tradition to pass on to first sons or the first son of the next son peradventure the first son had no surviving one. 

So it was no surprise in the end that all the coons eyeing him and his mother several years ago when they would make the frequent trips to the clinic to treat whatever was ailing him, would eventually win over his father's mind over a generational property.  

He drags his luggage to the gate of the house to the joy of Jamal who is quick to bid him farewell. 'Mena knocks on the gate, the very same black-colored gate he grew up knowing, with a lot of corrugation this time. He listens for footsteps and hears none. He raps on the gate again using a stone he picked from the floor. Still no sound then a sudden creaking sound transported over the quiet Igando air. He wonders who it will be...his father? 

How would he face his old man now after these years? There is still so much bitterness from the years of deprivation his mother and him had to endure. He closes his eyes to stem the tears that threaten, after all he is a man and men don't cry. How would he inform the family that Chimamkpa, the son whom his own inheritance had fallen into his hands had somehow lost sight of what was meant to be tradition and sold the family land to a stranger in a foreign man's land - him? How would he explain to whoever was resident there now that they needed to vacate his property? How would he also explain that mama Ozoemena, his estranged wife had forced him to come all this way to mend burned bridges? How will he say that in his hand luggage is the urn which holds her ashes and her single dying wish was to be in the hands of her first and only love even if it was in death?

"Who is there this early morning?" he heard a voice ask. It belonged to his mother's husband no doubt, the man that sired him. 

"It's Ozoemena, papa. Your son". 

Silence follows, then a sudden struggle with lock and bolt. The gate flings open. 

Father and son stare at each other. Father with an old-looking cane in hand, his long kaftan almost as worn. 

Him and his family had thought he would die. A boy at ten who couldn't walk. Their gods had written off his destiny. Yes, it is true that he is still sickly and dying twenty-something odd years later after that confrontation between his parents when he was ten but he had so much to be thankful for; a happy wife and two healthy boys await his return back in America. His work as a Director for Instructional Design and Technology at McDonough School of Business is very fulfilling. 

The silence is disturbing...'Mena makes his speech. "This urn holds my mother's ashes, she wanted you to have it. This is my call card and a phone for your use too. These are the pictures of your grandchildren - your only ones I believe. I also know you've been living in that playhouse behind the main building over the years. This house and the surrounding land is now in my possession, you'll be moved to another location - comfortable I must add. I return to my home tomorrow and that's all I came to say," he finished, never once looking into the eyes that is just like his. 

“In the life of everyone there is a limited number of experiences which are not written upon the memory, but stamped there with a die; and in the long years after, they can be called up in detail, and every emotion that was stirred by them can be lived through anew; these are the tragedies of life.” 
― James Weldon Johnson

Image credit - Dream Imagination

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Legendary Yoruba Hips

My father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give me this day my desired fanny like *inserts name* forever & ever

Simple and succinct! That's a little girl's prayer. Yoruba too from Oke-Igbala in Irepodun LGA of Kwara State. Necessary or unnecessary prayer?

As a young girl I remember making similar supplication; one would have thought I was praying for life itself. Daily I obsessed over how rotund my hips would be. I remember sitting in front of my mom's shop one of those days, as far back as 1998 - she had this very long wooden bench which was always positioned between her shop and Alhaja's from the next store who was a big merchant of rice and other food items. That bench was my mini bed. It practically took all forms of activities I indulged in; sleeping; sitting; squatting; standing for purpose of elevating my height; playing WHOT and all else - I was seated but not alone as there were others sharing space with me. They were two older guys actually both of whom were our landlord's sons, *Akin and *Bode. "Buroda" (Brother) was the usual prefix before their names but I ditch that for smooth reading ;-) 

Bode, the younger of the two, made a show of whispering something into the ears of his elder brother and I heard them laugh out really loud. That caught my attention. My eyes trailed their line of vision and finally settled on the 'object' of  their amusement - my sister from another mother. There she was 200 meters away standing in all her glory. Full height about 5.5". Legs with weight on one foot. We saw her side view. She had on a bright colored off shoulder top very well complemented with a black ripped jeans molding her figure from waist down. Her figure even at the time is what you will rightly describe as a triangular shape. Yes she was endowed and still is. I kid you not the next second my sister made a turn to wave at her friend putting her rear in our direct view. Bode screamed "yeepa" then he went tumbling off my mama's bench. No the fall wasn't intentional, it was truly the effect of a glorious buxom and posterior. That was how my daily supplication started...I needed to have that kind of neck-craning hips. Hips that cause men to fall off chairs. I prayed that prayer for years(till I knew the difference between objective and motive) and even though I didn't exactly turn out all curvy I have had to smile at comments such as, "Honiilols the hippy fashionista" (Hey stop trying to remember what I look like! No mental checks!).

Every shape is beautiful truly.

Few dress up tips:
As a Pear Body type (sometimes called triangle), your hips are larger than your bust and you have a nicely defined waist. You have an elegant neck and proportionately slim arms and shoulders. You first gain weight in your bottom and legs followed by your tummy and upper body. Your waist is your best asset so don’t be afraid to show it off ;-)

How to Dress a Pear Body Shape
The key to dressing a pear body type is to enhance and add volume (or the illusion of volume) to your upper body while emphasizing your waist and de-emphasizing your lower body to create a balanced, hourglass appearance. Always look for tops that will will help balance your lower half while accentuating your defined waist:
  • Tops with nipped or fitted waists
  • Off the shoulder, boat-neck tops, wide V or U necks
  • Structured shoulders, princess or flutter sleeves
  • Embellishments around the bust and shoulders
  • Bright colors and bold patterns
Read more HERE

No doubt she's Yoruba
I have quite a number of Yoruba friends with the legendary hips. *Asucon is one(I refuse to divulge her details). Only very few of us seem to have fallen from the wrong tree. Is there some mixed blood somewhere? The other day I was walking down the road and I did something truly silly. I took a picture *covers face* Blame it on the advent of camera phones.

Isn't it funny how certain physical features are attributed to particular tribes? I would have continued on a weekly series tagging it #TheLengendary but let's see how the blogger community will run with this one. So here is the challenge: make a version of your own legendary post e.g The Legendary Igbo head *hahahahahahaha* It could be a physical feature or character attributed to any tribe in the world. Please drop a comment here or notify me somehow so I can read up. Is this a contest? Not exactly. It's just something different and maybe unblushing.

Post title inspired by Moses Obroku

Friday, 1 January 2016

The First Time

The first time I wrote a poem, it was for a boy. Typical you say? We were in JSS 3 going on SS 1. He was the poet; his pen always causing words to dribble atop paper in fine ink, impeccable English too. I was to reciprocate in the same vein and I did. Few words and the rhymes were such a hit :-)

The first time I wrote competitively, it was for my hostel. Too shy however I penned it under another name, not even an alias I mean that was how little I believed in my writing. My girls and I did a recital exactly as I had earlier coached - we won 2nd place and I wished I had confidently put my name.

The first time I cried over a loss, it was for our dog. S-ki-ppy was such a real dear I never ever feared his size and mean barks. We couldn't take long walks but would stand by the house gate for short whiles cos I feared he would cut loose and bite another kid like he once did my little sis. On return from Uni one day I was shown his tiny grave covered with sand. He had died and no one had the courage to tell me. Yes I cried and haven't loved another since.

The first time I saw shrimps 'face-face', Christie showed me. Of course you know this favored sea food cost a bit but Christie would stock them and make everything with...from fried rice to indomie to stew to "okra lasanlasan" (ordinary okra).

The first time I ate watermelon, my papa gave me. Crap that stuff tasted so odd I wrinkled my face in distaste. My papa wondered when I would develop the palate for finer, healthier food and fruits other than my regular eba "garri" in the morning, afternoon and night!

The first time I saw my period, only mama knew. A day later she saw drops of blood on the ground where I stood in front of her shop with a throng of customers beside me. Embarrassed and ashamed on my behalf, she shooed the customers away and called me inside but it wasn't my blood you see...well it was mine only that this came from a cut in my hand not nature's monthly free flow from...

The first time  I drove on the express, it was Christie's Yaris. Damn! My lungs were in my mouth but she wouldn't have me chicken out and yes I so brushed a man's vehicle, it was a forerunner. We flashed our 32 and he let us be but the next second I parked and let her lead.

The first time a boy hit me, it was my best friend Walata. It was during prep and we had no hostel master present. He slapped me hard; a very thunderous slap and he threatened to hit again! Fourteen years later he asks me to marry him and every time I scuff and close the Facebook/Whatsapp chat window.

The first time I got a visit in the hostel after a loooooong dry while, it was my mama. She saw me from afar talking to a boy in the corner. The very same boy she had seen once or twice around me in Lagos live and direct in Ikenne, Ogun State. The coconut rice with "ata sweswe" (fried stew), bournvita, powdered milk and all else she had brought took a journey back with her...halfway through the hostel gate till my matron's plea thawed her heart to drop them for me.

The first time I went to Sokoto State, it was to NYSC camp in Farfaru. I lived like a queen drinking bottled water and eating food ONLY from maami market. The weather was unkind to me but the serving doctors were kinder. I learned to laugh and dance and play like the mallamas without a care in the world.

The first time I fell genuinely in love, it was with myself. Only recently have I come to extremely adore myself and enjoy my own company. I treat me good. I take me out. I teach myself. I laugh with myself. I respect me, honor me and my confidence in me grows daily.

That's a list of a few of my firsts...what 'first' stands out for you?

Happy New Year beautiful people. May 2016 be lovelier, grander and merrier than the last. Today is a first of many...take charge, make it count.