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 ;)