One more gang movie and I’m going to slit someone’s wrist. Try me.
Inner peace, Jide. Inner peace.
I can’t resist drawing a line between King of Boys, Shanty Town and Gangs of Lagos. The similitude is striking. The Machiavellian politician. The savage goons. The dispensable laity. The overarching theme of revenge and sub-themes of betrayal and power is a common thread. And though the flicks have different premises and inciting incidents, the plot lines are much of a muchness. We’ve been here before.
Nollywood 3.0* is beginning to have a problem with originality. The politico-gangland drama now seems like the magic brew for success. Take some godfatherism, mix it with copious bloodletting, lay it against not-too-shabby cinematography and sprinkle some stardust, and voila, a blockbuster. If the tincture worked for King of Boys and Shanty Town, then it bodes well for Gangs of Lagos too.
Well, I’m the kind of cat that likes fresh milk.
I appreciate that movie-making is an expensive venture and a ‘guaranteed winning formula’ soothes anxious studios and producers. Netflix and Amazon Prime tend to be risk-averse, especially in emerging markets. Certain genres have proven to be a hit. Let’s stick with them, shall we? Now, while we are thankful to Netflix and Amazon Prime for liberation from the see-finish and tedium that was DSTV, we have developed a fine taste in movies quickly. We want different. Vanilla is delicious the first time. But not the second, third or fourth time.
This is, of course, not saying Gangs of Lagos is a borefest. It is actually enjoyable in several respects. All I’m saying is, give me some Salted Caramel mixed with Mocha.
Now, let’s appraise Gangs of Lagos on its merit and not in comparison with any other movie. I’ll rate it along five indices: Plot, Attraction, Cinematography, Acting and Directing.
The plot in Nollywood 3.0* keeps getting better. An enjoyable movie must have a logical structure, and a comprehensive story arc that takes the audience through the movie in an easy-to-understand manner.
Traditionally, great movies have a three-arc structure: Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3. The whole point of the story arc is to help the audience follow the sequence of events and under cause and effect. Gang of Lagos has a good story arc. We were introduced to the characters and understood their milieu. We understood how the dominoes started tumbling. We see the tension rise, climax and resolution. In effect, we can draw a cause-and-effect line from the first scene to the last. It’s a pretty good arc.
Crucially, Gangs of Lagos will also rate highly on plausibility, a second important aspect of a plot. Plausibility simply means the storyline is believable in the universe in which it happened. We do not have to be members of a gang to believe the world in the Gangs of Lagos. It is credible.
The attraction of a movie breaks into its Premise and Entertainment Value. The premise is the pitch, the trailer for the movie. The premise steers the plot by creating interesting sets of circumstances for the story to take place. If the premise is boring, it won’t matter how well-structured and believable the plot is, you’d likely not be interested in seeing it. The entertainment value is, well, whether you snore while watching the movie. I’ve slept off during a few movies. Suffice it to say I didn’t find the movies entertaining enough to stay awake.
I am going to score Gangs of Lagos a six in Attraction. The premise is hackneyed. No originality here. We’ve seen it in King of Boys and in Shanty Town. And as for entertainment value, it is not too shabby. The plot was intriguing and interesting enough to keep you watching.
The cinematography in Nollywood 3.0 is another area of credit. Day by day, we see better pictures and consistent visual language. The mood and tone of Gangs of Lagos were one of foreboding, gruesomeness and gritty action. The lighting, setting, and wardrobe communicated that tone consistently throughout the movie. This is not Sound of Music or Mary Poppins. We are gutting people here, ladies and gentlemen.
I particularly praise the efforts in the production design of the movie. The locations, the art direction, the wardrobe, the special effects, and the lighting. Goodly. And no movie worth its salt is without drone shots. I mean, what’s a movie without an areal shot of New York, Lagos Island, Medellin or Gujarat? Drone shots make the mundane cinematic and Gang of Lagos used it to good effect. I like how the drone shots start out with a small focus area and then pull out to reveal a bigger picture. That style is more aesthetic than overhead panning shots.
Acting is about character and performance. The character is the person the actor assumes. The performance is how s/he delivers the character. The characterisations were strong and multidimensional enough. Obalola, Gift, Kazeem, Iffy, London, Kash, Mama Iffy. We can relate to many of the characters in Gangs of Lagos. And the performance of the actors delivered on the characters.
But not Tobi Bakre and Adesua Etomi. Rather poor performance. Tobi Bakre – Obalola – who is supposed to be a Yoruba goon, struggled to speak Yoruba. His Yoruba was not fluent. That impacted negatively on his performance.
Further, Tobi Bakre’s performance as Obalola was subdued. He did not give full reign and vitality to the character of Obalola. Consider Chidi Mokeme as Scar in Shanty Town. That was a performance that delivered the goods. We believed him, loathed him, and empathised with him. You were not indifferent to his character. Not so Tobi. Dude didn’t look like he could act.
Adesua’s performance fared better. But if she was supposed to be Yoruba in the movie, then she struggled to be Yoruba also. And guys, enough with a female goon taking on male goons and whooping their butts to kingdom come! Who is Gift, Wonder Woman? Ronda Rousey? With Gift’s physique in the movie, she ain’t beating her shadow let alone some eruku on loud. Her fighting is totally implausible.
A director should have a vision for the movie and then execute it to its full potential. The screenplay, the plot, the dialogue, the acting; everything has to be near perfect. This translates into, while there may be hundreds of ways to tell a story, the audience must believe the movie could not have been told in any other way than the director did. It must be the best way possible. It mustn’t be missing anything.
I can’t say Gangs of Lagos wasn’t missing anything. It could have been more. You end it feeling “Oh well, it’s another gang-related movie.” We could see Jade Osiberu’s vision for the movie in the narration, the acting, the cinematography, the editing and the sound effects. It was to create a gritty, gripping action thriller. But there was too much action and less grist. You feel the movie could have been told in a different or better way.
But I am stoked about the pace of improvement in Nollywood 3.0. Better stories. Better production. Better editing and effects. Won’t be long now before Nigeria has a credible showing at Sundance or Cannes Film Festival. My bet is in six years. We are on our way.
By the way, by ‘Nollywood 3.0’ I mean the era of big Nollywood productions and takings. This period is characterised by better production values and marketing. It likely started around 2014.
In September 2022, ARCON banned the use of foreign models and voice-overs in advertising targeted at Nigerians from 1 January 2023.
What the ban means is that Heineken or Coke or MTN can no longer expose in Nigeria the same advertising it runs in say Cameroon or South Africa, if the advertising does not include Nigerian models or voice-over.
While the ban is not the biggest grouse The Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) has with ARCON, it is nevertheless a source of concern for both advertisers and agencies. For ADVAN, the ban is another manifestation of ARCON’s partisan and overreaching powers.
ADVAN argues that the ban is antithetical to the government’s improving ease-of-doing-business agenda. Further, it will increase marketing costs which will ultimately be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices of goods. It also pushes Nigeria to be an isolationist state vis-a-vis the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
ARCON’s argument in support of the ban is three-legged.
One, ARCON argues that job and opportunity creation is a key agenda of the Buhari administration. And that tends to happen when advertising productions are done in Nigeria using Nigerians. Such productions create jobs throughout the line. Models earn money, voice-over artists earn money, sound engineers earn money, and caterers earn money. And on it goes through the chain. The ripple effect is positive on families and on the economy.
Two, ARCON argues that given the recent high-quality productions we see in Nigerian music videos and in Nollywood movies, there is no real justifiable basis for shooting TV commercials outside of Nigeria.
The third reason in support of the ban is to protect the profitability and health of the marketing communication industry, especially creative agencies, which seem to be haemorrhaging. It is, after all, the mandate of ARCON to ensure not just the survival but the thriving of the Marcom industry.
But is the ban well-considered or flawed? It is the latter. Allow me to espouse my position.
I understand the spirit of the ban. I support the sentiment. But the letter, the phrasing of the ban, is fraught. I’ll explain.
There’s a loophole in the phrasing of the ban. If the mandate is to use ‘Nigerian models or voice-overs in advertising targeted at Nigerians’, an advertiser and its foreign advertising agency have an easy way around this.
First, all the foreign agency needs to do is hire Nigerians living abroad to shoot the commercial abroad. There is a plethora of Nigerians living in Johannesburg, Nairobi, London or New York. The agency won’t have to step foot in Nigeria. They would not have created any jobs or opportunities for Nigerians living in Nigeria. But by the phrasing of the ban, they would have fulfilled ARCON’s requirement. Yet the desire of the ban is to create jobs and opportunities for Nigerians in Nigeria. This is obviously a loophole in the ban. It has to be plugged for the ban to make sense.
Second, there are such things as global brands. Global brands by definition cut across geographies. Often in product formulation, in marketing and in communication. They thrive on familiarity. And familiarity is aided by the uniformity of messaging and imagery across markets, many times using the exact same advertising across several markets. This is a standard global marketing practice. Nigeria can’t be an exception. If we like and want global brands in the country, we must also allow them the latitude to expose in Nigeria the same communication material they use in other markets. It is why they are a global brand.
Third, it is the case that the quality of TV production in Nigeria has improved tremendously. You only have to watch Nollywood and some of our locally-produced music videos. However, a TV commercial is not only about the quality of the picture.
Further, some types of productions require expertise, techniques and equipment that are not readily available in Nigeria. Product shots for alcoholic beverages, food products, automobiles and some types of computer-generated images (CGI) are a few of the productions whose expertise, technique and facilities requirement are not readily available in Nigeria. We need to leave wiggle room for these types of productions.
Several years ago, I was involved in TV commercials for an alcoholic beverage that required good pouring and liquid extrusion sequences. We did one in London and two years later another in Cape Town.
The technique and equipment used in achieving these shots were amazing and revelatory. Some good friends of mine also waxed lyrical about the CGI and shot techniques they witnessed in Cape Town shooting a commercial for a bank. Nigerian productions are simply not on this level. Yet this is the quality that many brands require in their advertising. A ban on such offshore productions robs many brands of this level of quality.
Check out some of the filming techniques in the video below.
Barring productions that involve special expertise, an easier way to ensure productions remain in Nigeria is to levy an “import duty” on offshore productions. Say a 35% or 40% levy on all such productions (yes, it has to be high to serve as a deterrent). So if a company goes abroad to shoot a TV commercial for $70K, it’ll have to pay ARCON a $24.5K or $28K levy before it can expose the TVC in Nigeria.
I have not met a CFO or CMO who will be happy to pay a 40% import levy on a TV commercial.
Over time, this levy should be a disincentive to shooting a TVC offshore.
How will ARCON enforce this levy? It’s easy. It will be at the point of requesting ARCON approval to run the ad. In the vetting form, ARCON will ask for the location of the shoot, name, address and contact details of the production house, name of the director, name of the producer, name of models etc. All entries in the form have to be filled in. Lest we forget, per the ARCON Act 2022, ARCON has the power to “investigate and compel public and private organisations to produce advertising and marketing communications related information.”
Sure the brand or agency can lie about these things on the form. But all ARCON needs is one scapegoat. Agency and client. When it withdraws an agency’s license and a $100K-TVC is canned, people will err on the side of caution.
But there are still many grey lines with the ban. What happens to the use of stock images in print, digital or OOH advertising? Are those banned too? What about buying and using foreign library music in radio and TV productions? So many questions, and very few answers.
ARCON should reevaluate this ban. The principal actor in the matter, the creative agencies, are against the ban. But more importantly, it has gaps. ARCON mustn’t throw the baby away with the bath water.
Like the phoenix, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) is reborn as the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON). With this rebirth comes a new set of fangs and claws in the form of the ARCON Act 2022. Goodbye to the impotent APCON Act 2004. All hail the ARCON Act 2022.
Now, how potent are these new ARCON powers? See below excerpts from the Act passed into law by President Muhammad Buhari.
The Council shall…
(d) notwithstanding the provisions in any other Act, have exclusive power to determine, pronounce upon, administer, monitor and enforce compliance by persons and organisations on matters relating to advertisements, advertising, and marketing communication in Nigeria, whether of a general or specific nature.
2 (c) promote and encourage local content whilst entrenching best practices in the advertising industry in Nigeria.
8 The Council shall –
(hi) carry out investigation or inquiry considered necessary or desirable in connection with any matter relating to advertising, advertisement and marketing communications in Nigeria;
(j) ensure the preservation of Nigerian local content and use of indigenous skills as an important element in advertising, advertisement and marketing communication services in Nigeria and directed at the Nigerian market.
9. The Council shall have powers to –
(g) investigate and compel public and private organisations to produce advertising and marketing communications-related information;
(k) compel public and private organisations to disclose all advertising service providers engaged by them;
(r) upon violation of any provision of this Act, seal advertising department, marketing department or commercial departments of organisations and agencies upon obtaining court order;
So, you see, these are not trifling powers that ARCON now has. And unlike the halcyon days of APCON, ARCON’s jurisdiction now covers ALL agencies and advertisers, or “the client”.
ADVAN, the Advertisers Association of Nigeria, which wields the cash, is clearly not happy with this new power ARCON has acquired. In recent instances when ARCON has bared its teeth, ADVAN considers the power an overreach and meddlesome. ARCON disagrees.
I contend that power is at the centre of the tussle between ADVAN and ARCON. Let me introduce you to the Jide Power Equilibrium Principle, an epiphany given me in the sixth heaven.
You see, the total amount of power in the universe is constant. It cannot be increased or decreased but can be redistributed. If Object A increases in power, it means it has drawn away power from some other place or entity in its universe, say Object B, C or D. An entity can lose power to another but no new power is created. Power only moves between entities. Regardless of who gains or loses power, the total power in the universe will be constant. Will remain the same.
Look at it this way: I have four oranges, and you have four oranges. If I take away two oranges from you, I now have six oranges and you now have two. I am more, you are less. Yet the total number of oranges remains eight. Whatever subtraction or addition we do, the total number of oranges in the equation will always remain eight. Eight is the constant. So it is with power, according to the Jide Power Equilibrium Principle – JPEP.
It’s likely utter tosh and a hogwash theory. But if JPEP is true, then if ARCON increases in power, then either ADVAN or the agencies must decrease in power.
ADVAN can’t be happy with this state of affairs. Nobody likes to give up power. Not ADVAN. Not me. Or you.
Now, also in the ARCON 2022 Act, you would have noticed the copious use of the terms “advertising”, “advertisement”, “advertiser”, “advertisement agency” and “marketing communications.” Lest you think these terms pertain only to creative advertising agencies, below is how the ARCON Act 2022 define those terms.
Interpretation 63. In this Act –
“advertisement” means a notice, announcement, exposure, publication, broadcast, statement, announsorial, infomercial, commercial, hype, display, town cry, show, event, logo, payoff or trademark to promote, advocate, solicit, showcase, endorse, vote or support a product, service, cause, idea, person or organisation with the intention to influence, sway, actuate, impress, arouse, patronise, entice or attract a person, people or organisation by an identified sponsor irrespective of media, medium or platform;
“advertisement agency” means any agent, agency or organisation that engages in full advertising service, creative advertising, media buying, media planning, media brokerage, experiential marketing, activation, out of home advertising, brand consulting, brand management, digital advertising or any other advertising, marketing communications service;
“advertiser” means a person, private or public organisation that causes, requests, directs or pays for an advertisement advertising or marketing communications ideas to be created, developed, produced, executed, expose or that takes benefit of advertisement, advertising, and marketing communication services;
Marketing Communications” means any act, gesture, endeavour, execution, performance tactics or effort aimed at sharing promotional information, evoking emotion, creating awareness or encouraging demand for a product service, cause, idea, person or organisation through the use of public media, mass media, or any medium capable of disseminating information to the public directly, or indirectly, intentionally, or unintentionally.
What all these mean is that if you fart and it happens to smell like Channel No.5, ARCON has the power to regulate how and what you fart.
More importantly, the new Act coalesces all the Marcom agencies under ARCON’s wings. Whereas, under the APCON Act 2004, only creative advertising agencies cooped under APCON’s wings, under the ARCON 2022 Act, all agencies involved in marketing communications now have recourse to ARCON. AAAN – the Association of Advertising Agency of Nigeria. EXMAN – the Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria. MIPAN – the Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria. And OAAN – Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria. All are now under ARCON.
Marketing communication practice in Nigeria is about to change. For better or worse?
This is the first post in the x-ray series I will be doing on the tension between ARCON and ADVAN. I have dubbed the series “Who Is Thanos, ARCON or ADVAN?” Stay tuned!
So, that was me worshipping at the Temple of Kukulcán at Chichén Itzá, Mexico.
If you look closely at the top of the pyramid, you will see the feathered serpent god Kukulcán slithering down the steps. If you can’t see him, that’s because you are not spirit-filled. Nothing a few shots of tequila can’t fix, however.
But you can’t go to Cancun without going up to Chichén Itzá. It’s a touristy thing to do. But mi gente, we were turistas.
We’ll get back to Chichén Itzá shortly. First, Cancun.
Oh, I can get used to Cancun.
I have a love-hate relationship with any body of water. But Cancun put me at ease. The powdery-sand beaches. The turquoise waters. The promise of a million tacos and toothsome enchiladas. Oh yea, I can get used to Cancun.
Right from the Cancun International Airport, the missus’ mood brightened. The Arrivals area was clean, modern and efficient. The border control officers were courteous and professional. The airport experience was a stark contrast to the one in Havana.
But once you clear Immigration and Customs at Cancun International Airport, it is bedlam. You are besieged by a deluge of salespeople offering you time shares, tour packages, car rentals and taxi rides. It can be overwhelming to the unprepared. But me, I’d pored over several YouTube videos and read a tonne about Cancun. I knew what to expect.
A simple advice: don’t sign up for any timeshares, presentations or take a taxi from one of the taxi hawks at the airport. Pre-arrange your taxi. Your hotel can help you out or you can book online. The taxis at the airport will gouge you so deeply, you’ll think you’ve been mauled by a tiger. These dudes can charge you between $80 — $100 for the 20-minute ride to the Hotel Zone. The ride costs no more than $35 in a private shuttle. If you are sharing the shuttle with other travellers, it’ll be around $15 per rider. I’d pre-booked our hotel transfer before arrival. I was in no mood for charity.
Let me tell you about a little hustle the missus fell for.
While waiting for our hotel transfer, Mrs Alade thought she’d cool her heels at Air Margaritaville, an open-air bar outside the Arrivals area. I chose to stand around and look out for our shuttle. As an Agege boy pulling himself up by his Timberland bootstraps, I have developed finely tuned nostrils for sniffing out a bad deal or a rip-off. And that Air Margaritaville smelled more like Mugsville. A bar in the waiting area of an airport in a city that thrives on tourism can’t charge a monk price. But Mrs Alade is not from the streets. She sat in a comfy chair and ordered a pina colada.
It was $45.
When we were in Miami, against my hesitance, the missus had also made us go into a cute ice cream parlour on Ocean Drive. It was our first time in Miami and on Ocean Drive. But again, I’d watched so many videos and read so much about Miami. Ocean Drive is not where you go if you have money you don’t want to spend. But how can we come to Miami and not go to Ocean Drive? Instagram might even sue us.
The missus ordered the smallest ice cream serving for one. Some flavour I’d never heard of. It was $19.50. Excluding tip. She said the ice cream was nice.
It’ll be nice if she doesn’t bankrupt me.
But I digress. Back to Cancun.
Getting into Mexico was simple. Unlike Cuba, I didn’t have to write to the United Nations about where and how to get a Mexican tourist visa. As a Nigerian citizen, you need a visa to visit Mexico. But getting a visa is easy. You apply to the Mexico Embassy in Abuja in person, and if all goes well, the visa is issued the same day. But we didn’t need to apply for a visa. Because if you have a US visa (of any type) or a Schengen, UK, Canada or Japan visa, you do not need a visa to visit Mexico. Just buy your plane ticket and you’ll be por favor-ing in no time.
Now, we could have flown directly from Havana to Cancun — a 1hr 45m hop. But the only direct flight was at 8:30 pm and on the poorly reviewed Mexican airline Aeromar. Call me cowardly, but I didn’t fancy a night flight between two third-world countries over the Caribbean Sea on an airline people thought was absolute crap. I read reviews a lot. I once bought a bicycle for my daughter that had a terrible review but hoped the buy would turn out right. It didn’t. It broke on the first day of riding. So, I decided to be safe than sorry. We opted to fly back to Miami and from Miami fly to Cancun.
Hotel Zone or Downtown Cancun?
What is special about Cancun anyway?
You mean apart from the turquoise beaches, forgetting all your worries and the enchantment of a Mexican society? Nothing really.
Cancun exists for tourism. That’s probably a discrediting thing to say about the nice and hardworking Mexicans who live in the city. Sure, Mexican folks live and work in the city long before hotels and resorts sprang up. But Mexican folks also live and work in Hidalgo del Parral. Nobody waxes lyrical about Hidalgo del Parra. Mexico has a lot of jungles and scorched earth. Not Cancun. It chose a nice spot on the Caribbean shores. On waters with delightful shades of blue where you can snorkel with turtles. Right from its mother’s womb, Cancun knew what it wanted to be.
Cancun is divided into two areas: the Zona Hotelera or Hotel Zone, and Downtown Cancun or El Centro.
The Hotel Zone is a narrow 22.5-km-strip on the Caribbean shores. It is dotted with hotels, resorts, villas, waterfront restaurants, nightlife and other attractions. It is the Cancun people have in mind when they think “Cancun.” The Cancun 23 million tourists visited in 2019. It is the Cancun 25 million people would have visited by the end of 2022.
Our hotel was in the Hotel Zone, the Beachscape Kin Ha Villa & Suites. Not too shabby. It claims to have the best natural beach in the whole of Cancun. It may well have. The beach was powdery white sand and the water was crystal turquoise. No dangerous undertow. No churning waves. Our homely one-bedroom apartment was only 40 meters away from the beach. I walked about two kilometres every morning on the beach, the clear water caressing my feet and darting back. I’m loving it in Mehico!
Downtown Cancun or El Centro (City Centre) is where the locals live. The real Cancun. The hotels here are cheaper and it is where you stay if you want to experience authentic Mexican living. This is where you’ll find the Walmarts, the iHops, and McDonald’s. It is also where you should go to buy souvenirs and eat inexpensive authentic Mexican meals. We booked a one-night stay in Downtown Cancun just to see what the place was like. It was a decent hotel. But I didn’t come all the way to Cancun to do decent. It is the Hotel Zone for me.
Beaches in Cancun
Strictly speaking, all beaches in Cancun are public (federal property). However, the beaches in the Hotel Zone have been appropriated by the numerous hotels, resorts and villas that line them. Each section of the beach now “belongs” to the hotel behind it. On paper, you can walk through any hotel lobby and onto the beach. The hotels that allow that might require a minimum purchase of beverages. And you can’t use the beach umbrellas, chairs or loungers for free. But not to worry. There are over 11 public beaches in Cancun. You can check them out here.
Getting around in Cancun.
Now, if Elon Musk or Bill Gates ever became broke, it’ll be because they took taxis in Cancun. In Mexico, you don’t need to join the Sinaloa Cartel to be rich. You only need to be a taxi driver in Cancun. The taxi drivers reason that if you are a tourist, you must have money and are entitled to rummage in your pocket.
How expensive are the taxis?
So, one day, Mrs Alade sent me to get some groceries. I walked to the Chedraui Supermarket about three hundred meters from the hotel. It was a walking distance. I’d planned on walking back to the hotel after the shopping. But the sun in Mexico is scorching and I was toting groceries in both hands. I decided to take a taxi.
I went to the taxi ramp at the supermarket. A taxi driver asked me to pay MX$200 pesos ($20). I baulked. He then reduced it to $15. No, can’t do. Adiós amigo. $15 for a 300-metre ride was simply unconscionable.
There was a bus stop across from the supermarket. I recalled the airport shuttle driver telling us we can get up and down the Hotel Zone for $1 on designated buses. I decided to give the bus a try. I waited alongside godly Mexicans. A few minutes later the bus arrived. I got in. It was $1 and it dropped me in front of my hotel less than a minute later.
Needless to say, I never took a registered taxi in Cancun.
There is Uber in Mexico. But in Cancun, Uber drivers are endangered species. They are frequently assaulted by taxi drivers. All the Uber I took were so secretive, they wouldn’t come into the hotel to pick me up. They’ll park outside the hotel or mall and ask me to get into the car as if I was an acquaintance. On a few occasions, I had to walk a few blocks to get into the Uber to protect the driver from being seen by taxi drivers.
The police are no help. They look away. One of the Uber drivers told me the taxi union and the police break bread together.
So, beware if you want to take Uber in Cancun. If you don’t like intrigue and subterfuge, just fork out for the shylock taxis. Or you can get around like most locals do: on the bus. The R2 bus for the Hotel Zone and the R1 for beyond. It’s clean and safe. And it is $1. Getting on the bus makes you look less touristy.
In the Hotel Zone, people struggle to keep their clothes on. Young dudes go shirtless and dudettes spot bikinis. Even in supermarkets. I thought about going around only in my beach shorts too. But I didn’t want to scare children.
Souvenirs and Mercado 28.
Well, I couldn’t go to Mexico and not bring home souvenirs. For me, that was a sombrero, a poncho, some glow-in-the-night ghoulish t-shirts and a Mayan hand-crafted leather backpack. And of course, tequila. This is the spiritual home of the tequila. I like to think that Mexicans consider poor tequila a national affront.
The place to get souvenirs in Cancun is Mercado 28 or Market 28, in Downtown Cancun.
There are shops that sell souvenirs in the Hotel Zone. But expectedly, they are expensive and the choice is limited. What you need to do is to head to Downtown Cancun, to Mercado 28. Take the R2 bus that plies the Hotel Zone ($1) and tell the driver your stop is Mercado 28. He’ll drop you off at a bus stop called Mercado 28.
But beware! At the bus stop, there are lots of shops selling souvenirs. But this is not Mercado 28. Many tourists have taken this array of shops to be Mercado 28 and have bought souvenirs there at high prices. Me, I’d read a lot about Cancun to know the real Mercado 28 was just a few minute’s walk from the bus stop. It has Mercado 28 written boldly on the wall. I knew what to look out for. I’d read a lot about Cancun, I could run for its Mayor.
But alas! The glow-in-dark t-shirts do not glow in the dark but glow only under certain coloured lights. So be warned. But I like the ghoulish tees enough to rock them without the glow. I’ll wear them to church for Communion Service.
Right. Chichén Itzá
Remember the Mel Gibson flick Apocalypto? That was the Mayan people. And the city of the marauding warriors could as well have been Chichén Itzá.
The Mayan people and civilization included several city-states that extended all the way to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize. Chichén Itzá was one of the biggest and more prosperous cities. It dates back to 400 AD. In 1998, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and voted as one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’ in a 2007 global survey.
Going to Cancun and not going to Chichén Itzá is like going to London and not eating fish and chips. It’s ridiculous, verging on the sacrilegious even. We had to go learn more about the Mayans.
Mexico may have some amazing beaches. But it also has some great archaeological sites. Chichén Itzá sits at the top of the pile and is still an active archaeological site. The fact that it is 193 miles from Cancun makes it one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico.
We went on a group tour. The tour bus picked us up in front of the hotel at 5:30 am. Yea, 5:30 am. It needed to be this early to make the rounds to pick up other tourists at their hotels. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and hilarious. He was of Mayan descent and was effusive about Mayan history. You gotta toot your horn I say.
As the crow flies, Chichén Itzá is a 2:30hr-drive from Cancun. We made a short detour to the 16th-century town of Valladolid. We then stopped over at a Mayan village for lunch, tequila tasting and some Mayan crafts. On our way back, we visited a cenote for a quick swim.
Now, let me warn you: Chichén Itzá is hot! I mean, this is right in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula. Please go along with sunblock (sunscreen lotion) or a small umbrella. And dress lightly and comfortably. Sneakers and sandals are your best friend. You can of course wear your stiletto or oxfords if you want. But you’ll probably die and be buried in the bushes.
Right. Meet Rodolfo and Flavia. They are an Argentine couple. We met at the cenote.
Flavia came over to where Mrs Alade and I were sitting and began touching Mrs Alade’s skin! What in the world! Then she beckoned to her husband. Rodolfo came over with a big embarrassed smile as if to apologise for his wife’s lack of discretion. But Flavia didn’t care. She was just gushing over the missus’ taught skin. She touched my cheeks too.
Normally, I should have been incensed at this invasion of our space and seeming inappropriateness. I could convince my brain to dredge up Argentina’s detestable history with black people. But not everything in the world is about sexism or racism. I didn’t sense disrespect from these two people. Rather, there was warmth and affection towards us.
Turned out they were admiring our skin. Oh yea, black is beautiful. We age well. Flavia was telling Rodolfo how beautiful and smooth Mrs Alade’s skin was. She wished she had such skin. She wished she was young again. The couple were in their mid-sixties. They’d been married close to forty years.
Rodolfo knew only a few words in English. Flavia was hopeless with English. So we communicated through Google Translate. They told us that their children had left home and they were just travelling some. They invited us to visit them in Argentina. We would not pay for a hotel. They have rooms to spare and would love to host us. We exchanged numbers and got into our respective tour buses.
That’s what I like about travelling. You meet the most amazing people.
I’ve got to know Rodolfo and Flavia a little more. During the just concluded World Cup in Qatar, we texted one another when Argentina was playing. I shared in their tenterhooks in the finals between Argentina and France. I was chatting with both Rodolfo and Flavia on their separate mobile numbers. The chatter was relentless. When Argentina went up 2–0, I could sense Flavia doing cartwheels. When France equalized, Flavia cursed some patron saint. Luckily Argentina won. Flavia sent me a video of Rodolfo on the streets with an Argentina flag singing merrily. They both reminded me of their invitation to visit. It still stands. Flavia was one of the first people to send me a Happy New Year greeting.
Argentina is not on my list of places to see soon. But I confess that I am now seriously thinking about it.
There ends the account of our Mexican trip. I’m remiss we didn’t make the short trip to Tulum. Mexico, you haven’t seen the last of me! I’ll be back!
That was me raising my hat to Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos at La Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, Cuba.
Now, let me impress upon your otherwise chagrined minds that I do not care for communism or its purveyors. I was saluting Che and Camilo only because, well, my picture at La Plaza de la Revolución had to be different from everyone else’s. It had to pique curiosity. Besides, everyone in Cuba adores the ‘Revolución.’
It’s hard to talk about Cuba without getting into the politics of its destitution. But I’ll try. One thing is for sure: most people don’t drool over Cuba as a vacation hotspot. I mean, it is Cuba. Communism. Privation. Hurricanes. Cuba is where you go when you don’t want to be found or you’ve knocked up the daughter of a Los Zeta chief. It’s as far from Lagos as righteousness is far from a bordello. But then most people planning a vacation are not me. Most people have good sense. I do not. Especially when I’ve dragged my beauteous wife along with me.
Recently, the missus and I attended a B1/B2 visa interview at the US Consulate in Lagos. While we are not unfamiliar with visiting the Consulate, it had been 10 years since we attended a US visa interview. We’ve always used the visa waiver programme or “drop box.” Until Nigeria’s village people went to work.
Turns out that in 2016, per widely acknowledged reports like this, 12,043 Nigerians overstayed their US non-immigrant visa.
In 2017, the number rose to 19,676 people.
In 2018, the number strapped on booster rockets and soared to 30,000.
That’s close to 62,000 Nigerians who decided not to come back to Nigeriana. Clearly, all these folks were loving it in the US like a Big Mac.
Also, between 2017 and 2018, Canadian authorities reportedly intercepted 7,600 Nigerian asylum seekers at its unofficial land borders. Over 6,000 of them had valid US non-immigrant visas.
The US had become a jumping-off point for Nigerians seeking a better life in Canada.
So, I’ve seen Top Gun: Maverick. Man, I missed my calling!
See, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. Zip across enemy lines and leave napalm in my wake. Every 1 October, I run onto the streets to wave at the fighter jets streaking across the sky. I saw myself one day in one of those jets. But somehow, I ended up in Brand Management. Yet my father was good to our village people.
Now, I don’t want to hear the tosh that I have a gift for writing and my gift will make a way for me. First, that Scripture is always quoted out of context. Second, let me ask you: have you been privileged to see me in a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II? That’s right, you haven’t. Because no one sees me coming! Swoosh and your base is cinder.
So, I was on a sabbatical from Netflix and enjoying the company of myself, when the children of men besieged me for my opinion of Blood Sisters. My first thought was to flee from anything blood. Blood money, blood moon, Bloody Mary. But I was bewitched by the ask. What do you know: some people do value my movie reviews! So, I decided to watch the Limited Series.
I say ‘decided’ because I’d been weighing whether to continue writing reviews of Nollywood movies or series. I suspect I was developing a loathsome reputation as a Nollywood hater. A delusional romanticist that judges Nollywood productions through a Hollywood lens.
This hurts my feelings. You should never mock a man’s condition. Delusion is not contagious. And it is curable. I am taking my meds. Besides, I like Nollywood.
Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t enjoy most Nollywood movies. Not because I’m too critical – OK, I am – but Nollywood hurts me time and again. It knows I love movies and it sets about denying me that pleasure. Its weapon of abuse is poor screenplays, poor production design and poor acting. But I’m not unmindful of the progress the industry is making. From the middling days of Domitilla and Ta lo pa Chief, it’s now Nollywood 3.0. Suave, spiffy and a pocket-full of cash. So, I return to my abuser. I will make this relationship work. However, on the sword of excellence I fall! I will duel with Mediocrates till he slays me or I slay him.
So, what do I think of Blood Sisters? Let’s start with Entertainment Value, which is what a movie is all about.
1. Entertainment Value – 7/10
A movie or series must be entertaining. That is its only job. It must not be a waste of your time. It could make you cry, make you laugh, educate you or make us reflect. By whatever vehicle it chooses, it must justify its existence by being entertaining.
And Blood Sisters is entertaining. I needed something to put me to sleep so I chose it. It was a bad idea. I stayed up to finish it. Obviously, being a 4-episode series helped but each episode was stacked with enough grist to see the next. Not one, long-winded and insufferable moment. I appreciated that. I’m an impatient guy. Well done, Aunty Mo! Blood Sisters is just atonement for Chief Daddy 2. I accept the offering.
2. Plot (Storyline) – 7./10
Your husband-to-be is an abuser. But you are still going ahead to marry him. Your family is indebted to his family. His family is powerful. The mother detests you. Justling for company headship, your brother-in-law-to-be hired an assassin to knock off your beau. Then you and your girlfriend kill him by accident. On your wedding day. You both flee. There’s a manhunt. You get caught. Your coked-up, lascivious sister-in-law-to-be saved your behinds (and they have big behinds). Turns out your mother-in-law-to-be had also knocked off her husband to conceal her adulterous affair. Oh yea, there’s a decent amount of intrigue in Blood Sisters to keep you watching.
Plausibility is the key requirement of a plot. That means the movie should be plausible (believable). Note that the plot doesn’t have to be rational or logical. It only has to be imaginable. As far as we know, there is no alien race called the Omaticaya, or an element called Unobtanium. But in Avatar, and on the planet Pandora, it was plausible for such existed. Similarly, in Tunde Kelani’s Ti Oluwa Ni Ile, we could believe the premise of the movie – if you sell land that belongs to the gods, there will be fatal consequences.
It may be me and my asinine love for dramatic endings, but I expected the bride and her friend to die. You live by the sword; you die by the sword. It’ll make for a stronger ending. After all, we are all involved in the suspension of disbelief when we watch a work of fiction. But as my wife often chides, ‘Thank goodness you’re not the scriptwriter! Everybody but you love a happy ending!’
Yen, yen, yen.
No Country for Old Men. The Harder They Fall. Queen & Slim. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. That’s how you end a movie. Bad things happen to good people. Ask Pumbaa and Timon.
3. Characterization – 7/10
The characters are the main reason why a movie is enjoyable or not. Identifying with a character is a common reason people love a certain movie. When a character mirrors reality or is probable, we connect with it. We can understand and sympathize with a villain like Thanos. We instantly loathe Warden Norton and love Red in The Shawshank Redemption. We can understand the conflicted Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart and the aggrieved Eniola Badmus in King of Boys. Characters make a movie.
The characterization in Blood Sisters is not too shabby. Uncle B (Ramsey Nouah), the henchman. You could count the number of words he spoke in the movie, yet you knew what he was about. The Ademola couple (Gabriel Afolayan and Kehinde Bankole). What libidinous pair! These randy duo can shag in front of an altar! What vixen of a wife Kehinde Bankole was! Her dialogue, appearance and questionable morals were credible. The small physical frame of Gabriel Afolayan and his unremarkable presence matched the character of a weakling. Even I won’t make him head a company of ants.
On many occasions, I got angry with Sarah (Ini Dima-Okojie). How can she be that clueless and weak! You felt she was going to screw up everything. And that was precisely who she was meant to be. A lost person without Kemi (Nancy Isime) who was strong for both of them.
I hear this Nancy Isime chick bench presses 100kg easy. Bet she can lift me up before the LORD.
Now, here’s a peeve. Whose idea was it to always dress Uduak Ademola (Kate Henshaw) for the Met Gala? Even when she’s in her house? Come on, guys! Don’t strain our credulity. Yes, there is such a thing as creative license. But there is also such a thing as good art direction. She can look wealthy without looking like a prize idiot.
I also have a bone to pick with the character of Blade, the assassin. My, you could make out the guy from a mile away! He was manifestly a goon, angry and artless. Thankfully, I have never met an assassin and hope never to, but I bet you never see them coming.
That unseemliness arose because of untidy and weak scripting in the arc. I suspect that because the writer wanted Kola Ademola(Deyemi Okanlawon) to make out the assassin in other to duel with him, thereby showing the former’s physical ability, he wrote to make the assassin obvious. Come on, amigo, you are better than this!
4. Art Direction/Craft – 6.5/10
One of the reasons we enjoy Hollywood movies is their attention to details and craft. If a head is decapitated, even if you have not seen a decapitated body before, you’ll believe the effect. The fight sequence in the Jason Bourne movies was gritty and involving. The sinisterness of Paranormal Activity will tingle the hair on your neck. Because effort was put into making everything credible.
How I love the shack set ablaze in Makoko! Simple and credible. The fire burns on Uncle B and the gash on Sarah’s thigh were very well executed. Kola also got into a waiting helicopter and the helo lifted. It was convincing even if in fact there was no passenger in the helo. I am stoked at the attention to detail and improvement in craft Nollywood is exhibiting.
But I must dock Blood Sisters points for some careless lapses.
Can anyone explain to me how Kola Ademola’s fila didn’t fall off while he fought Blade? The fila was snug right on his head. What are you, Steven Seagal?
‘Oh, snap, we missed that.’
Yes, you did, Mr. Continuity and Art Director.
Also, I don’t know about ya’ll but my voice mail stopped working since 1869. So how come Uduak and Sarah are able to leave voice mail messages? MTN, Airtel, Glo, is there something they know that I don’t?
You might all think I’m nitpicking. No, I’m not. The problem is my eyes. Despite my efforts to restrain them, they can’t unsee these things. It’s why I wear glasses.
5. The “It Factor” – 5.5/10
What is the “It Factor”? It is simple. It’s when a movie is unique, groundbreaking or blazes a new trail. It could be in the form of cinematography, directing, editing, effects, sound design or scale of the production. Remember the monochrome visual style of Sin City? Or the eclectic music score of Django Unchained? The Harder They Fall? Bet you didn’t expect to hear rap music and a Fela track in a black-oriented American Western set in the 1800s. That is “It Factor.” It’s going above and beyond. It’s notoriously difficult to achieve, even in Hollywood. Therefore, it is perhaps unkind to expect a Nollywood movie to rate highly on it. But still, I’m hopeful. It’s Nollywood 3.0.
The indices by which a movie is appraised are as subjective as they are varied. So, feel free to toss this review on the ash heap. I’ve not gone into technical details, because let’s face it, audiences don’t consume cinema like movie critics do. They don’t go ‘Oh, I love the story arc and suspension of disbelief of the movie.’ Only party poopers like me do that. The only feeling audiences feel when they watch a movie is whether they like it or not. But I was minding my business when you children of men asked me for a review. So, deal with it!
I’ll probably not watch Blood Sisters a second time. But it is enjoyable. There are very good moments in the series. It’s been a while a Nolly flick made me feel some emotion. Sarah and Kemi did. Bravo, yous two!
And now that EbonyLife has set the stage for a sequel, it’d better be better than the first!
Let me tell you all; the GTCO Food & Drink event is the best brand event in the land. It is the best brand event for two reasons. One, he who brings food brings life. Two, he who brings food brings life.
Now, I don’t care much about GTCO or any other bank one way or the other. Of course, I wish the bank well and hope it prospers. But my relationship with any brand is transactional. However, since GTCO has gone out of its usurious ways to help me gorge on Amala Skye, nkwobi and pan-fried dumplings in one location and over three days, I am open to giving love a chance. GTCO has laid a table before me in the presence of my enemies. And the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
In marketing sponsorships, we talk a lot about ‘affinity pillars’. The consumer interests or ‘passion points’ a brand hitches to so the consumer can remember it, consider it and ultimately buy it. Music, sports, movies, and fashion are a few of such popular affinity pillars. Coke and Music. Heineken and the UEFA Champions League. By the way, what a harrowing result last night. Liverpool 3, Villareal 2. Seventh Champions League final! What will it take to stop this infernal Liverpool?
I digress. I was talking about affinity pillars.
Judging by the huge turnout at every GTCO Food & Drink event, it is obvious that food is a strong affinity pillar. I was at the event with my kids on Day 1 and Day 2 of the event. You struggled to find a place to sit. Yet you were not mad at the organizers. You still managed to get what you came for: an epicurean delight.
As a brand person, I can appreciate the hard work that went into putting the event together. The justification to executive management. The fight over the budget. Quarrels over vendor shortlist. Master Class tutors. Branding and set up of the venue. How to gather and what data to gather for post-event evaluation. And the event has to be better and cheaper each year. Right from when the excos greenlight the event and budget, it’s sleepless nights for the bank’s communication unit. Murphy’s Law haunts your sleep. It’s the sort of project that gets people promoted. Or fired. The team acquitted itself well.
But I have a big bone to pick with the team on an aspect of the event; the high price of food.
Remember when GSM mobile telephony came to Nigeria and a Sim card sold for N30,000? That was how I felt buying a bottle of Coke and water for N500 apiece. This is not Disney. It’s an open-air celebration of Naija street food and snacks. There is no justification for a bottle of Coke and water selling for N500. Neither should a small ogufe – goat meat – at Amala Skye go for N1,500. I got a small plate of pork chops and fries for N5,000. I mean, it’s a pig, not a white-horn rhino.
Of course, I’ve heard of ‘Island price,’ the extortionate price folks who live on Lagos Island pay for things. Well, eat your heart out: I’m a Mainland boy and we buy Coke in traffic for N150.
Look, I’m not a cheapskate. You can gouge me for bluefin tuna and wagyu beef. But not for street food and everyday staple.
Especially when the vendors don’t pay a farthing for space at the event. GTCO selects these vendors and gives them a platform to reach a wider customer base. While the vendors should turn in a decent sale, I wasn’t expecting robbery at spoon point. Right in front of my kids. Cotton candy for N1,000? How much is a box of cotton wool and a pack of sugar?
When I was waiting to buy amala at Amala Skye, two young girls came to the stand. They were cleaners. They looked at the amala with desire but baulked at the price. They left. I was pained. Wished I’d called them back and bought them the food. These were the good folks keeping the venue spic and span. But if they were to buy three spoons of amala and one ogufe, it would set them back some N2,100. Add a bottle of Coke to that and it’s N2,600. Amala should not be that intimidating.
Many vendors were too greedy. They want to make quarterly profits in three days. To the detriment of the consumer.
But GTCO can help. If a great customer experience is important, then it needs to ensure prices are reasonable. And it can do this with ease. It can ask the prospective vendors to share a price list of their food and insist on reasonable pricing. What is ‘reasonable pricing’? It will be the average price of the item on the streets, both ‘Island’ and ‘Mainland.’ Then they and the vendor agree on a middle ground. It won’t be an exact science, but it’ll be a good guide. And it won’t require extra hands than they already have. They can enforce price compliance through spot checks and mystery shoppers. If a vendor charges above the agreed prices, he is thrown out or misses out on the next events.
Or maybe there’s no problem with food prices. Maybe it’s only cheapskates like me whining. Well, I’ll encourage GTCO to have feedback boxes at subsequent events. I’ll wager high food prices will rank first, followed by limited sitting areas.
But I like GTCO Food & Drink. Good food, good vibes, good atmosphere. It reminds me of the power of finding the right affinity pillar and executing it well.
Today’s young men suck at wooing women. So complain the single ladies I work with. They say these guys can’t toast a lady if you gave them a room full of bread and a Deville toaster. They’ll carbonize the opportunity. Horribly. And by being such Dufuses at dating, they’ve left me with angry and frustrated ladies to console. That’s not part of my job. But sharing the same gender with these bungling blokes disempowers me from being apathetic. A man sins. A man atones.
Now, when I say ‘today’s young men’, I mean any unmarried male between the ages of 20 and 34 years. Hardly young, those lot. But if you’re pushing the golden jubilee like I am, everyone younger than 35 years appears young.
These young Turks. I don’t get them. Youth is the time you took risks. It is the time you say what you feel like saying. The time you wear your passion on your sleeves and tell the girl if she was a Transformer, she’d be Optimus Fine. You never accept ‘no’ for an answer because it may end up being ‘nobody told me you were this sweet’. The wooing was a rite of passage.
A few weeks ago I was strolling along Twitter boulevard when I came across an intriguing dare. Some dude was on a quest to prove that ‘juju’ or ’jaz’ did not exist. As busy-body Lagosians were wont to do, I stopped by to see what was going on.
This derring-do fella did not believe in the supernatural. He worships at the feet of empiricism, logic and the immutable laws of physics. He thus challenged any purveyor of juju to a public demonstration of juju power. He named a day, venue, time and backed his challenge with a N2.5m reward.
Oh, the comment section was hilarious! Nigerian Twitterati pointed this fella in the direction of certain towns and villages where he should proclaim his challenge. Town and villages where Merlin and Maleficient will be apprentices. Our man only needed to sign a waiver on his right to life should the existence of juju be, er, fatally affirmed.
Friends, if you ever go to Kenya, there is one thing you should never do.
You should never get into an argument with a lion, leopard, hippo, or even a beetle.Even if the animals called your mother a prostitute and your dad a bastard, you’ll do well to walk by.
That’s because the Kenyan government takes sides with its animals.
You dare not snigger at these animals or insult them. And heavens forbid you step on a buffalo. It will hop on one foot and cry to the government. Then your goose is cooked. Which is another crime, a cooked goose.
Let me tell you about one of my favorite philosophers, some bloke called Mediocrates.
You may wonder what a Greek philosopher has to do with Chief Daddy2. But I assure you, Nollywood worship at the feet of this bloke.
You see, Mediocrates is the Patron Saint of Mediocrity. If you were stuck in an evil vortex of excellence, Mediocrates has the hack to break you free and set you merrily on your way to Humdrumville. I’m positive your eminent self has been a student of Medicrates at various times. I know I have.
Some of the deep wisdom Mediocrates bequeathed us is expressed in time-honored maxims like “whatever,” “it is what it is,” and “it is good enough.” One of my favorite maxims from the bloke is “if the minimum wasn’t good enough, it wouldn’t be the minimum.”
Proper bloke, this chap. He is not hypocritical like the horde who condemn him. You’d usually find him drinking palm wine from 6 am with his chums Idiocrates and Moronicus. It is what it is. It’s probably why nobody talks about him and why you’ve never heard of him.
But Nollywood has. And oh, how they lap up his philosophy! The only status worth aspiring to is the status quo. It is Latin and exotic.
You see where I’m going? Chief Daddy 2 may well have been produced by Mediocrates.
I call a piece of creative work mediocre with a deep sense of humility. Because myself, I’m in the creative business. Be it writing a TV commercial, a song or a book, creative work is a deeply personal and emotional affair. You are creating something that doesn’t exist. And there is no guaranteed formula for success. As such the process is often attended by dollops of anxiety and fear. Will the reception be great? Will the reviews be kind? Will it make money? Will the financiers be happy? Obviously, if you are Mo Abudu and Ebony Life, your angst and fear quotient will be lower. This isn’t Aunty Mo’s first rodeo. Or second. Or third. She’s a big name in TV and movies. Still, a lot is riding on the name. No matter how objective we claim to be, nobody likes criticisms. It bruises our pride. I am therefore not unmindful that my criticisms may not have understanding ears. Still, I choose to fall by that sword.
Besides, let me remind you all that Jide’s Life Matter too. Seeing that movie cost me something too. First, I have to pay for an expensive unlimited internet plan. Second, I must pay for a Netflix premium subscription – which I should stress – is more expensive than my Amazon Prime and Apple TV subscriptions. Then I have anticipations – an emotional investment – about the movie. I look forward to it, raising my endorphin level. Last, I have to make out time to see it, ignoring some important stuff in my life. So, you see, Aunty Mo and Netflix, I have skin in the game too. It’s my money, my time and my emotion. And I am not pleased.
I’ll spare you all the technical details. I’ll summarize my review of the movie in three metaphysical sentences.
It is all sizzle but no steak.
It is heavy-metal sound but no music.
It was a script going somewhere but it forgot where.
I’m not hating. Just saying.
The characters and performances were underwhelming. Assembling an A-lister cast should add oomph to the story and not be a hollow shortcut to mass appeal. After drawing us in to watch, the stars should sustain our interest. But that didn’t happen.
I am not against big names in a movie. I am against big names in a movie for no reason.
The only character I found entertaining in the movie was the Stormzy wanna-be Famzy. Man is laughable.
The dialogue in the movie was corny, the plot and story arch unconvincing and production design meh. Guys, if you can’t simulate an authentic crowd scene in a stadium or an arena, don’t insult us with the pathetic attempts often on display.
In all, I rate the entertainment value as 4/10. The “it” factor would be a 2/10.
And what is it with Ebony Life selling us Dubai at every opportunity? Yea, we get it, the emirate put down some cheddar. But enough with the cheese! You don’t see 007 brushing his teeth with Heineken or wearing Aston Martin boxers.
I know that sequels are notoriously hard to pull off. Even Marvel has to think carefully about sequels, or prequels. I understand Netflix needs to mitigate risks by plopping behind known assets like Chief Daddy, Castle & Castle, King of Boys or How To Ruin Christmas. Africa after all is still a developing market. You’ve got to hedge your bets. I get all that.
But what I don’t get is why Netflix isn’t rigorous about the quality of the script, ergo, the story, it finances in Nigeria.
The biggest problem with Nollywood is the quality of scriptwriting and screenplay. It is usually bereft of nous and imagination.
I refuse to countenance that Netflix is kosher with a minimum viable product in Africa. I don’t know about you, but if I’m putting down serious cheddar on a project, I’d be interested in its quality.
I maintain that the added value Netflix must bring to Nollywood is to raise the quality of scripting and production. It is not to populate our screens with half-wit Nollywood movies. DSTV does that already.
Now, if you are the perceptive reader I know you are, you can and should challenge my assertion about Nolly’s scriptwriting being bereft of nous and imagination. Is it really? Or snobs and faux connoisseurs like me have unrealistic and unjustified expectations?
But how can I not demand the sky when I see Fireboy DML ft Ed Sheeran rack up 13 million views in nine days. Wiz Kid sold out the O2 Arena for two consecutive days! I know that the dynamics of producing a music video and a movie are different and not comparable. But what I see in our music industry is the desire to best one another. To be the biggest hit. This spurs them on to have quality productions and associations. The industry is so competitive, that the words of Mediocrates are drowned out by rhythmic beats.
I don’t see this desire in Nollywood. Yet it has been around long before Naija’s hip-hop sauntered onto the scene.
But here’s a thought: maybe whining people like me are not Netflix’s bulls-eye audience in Nigeria. If Netflix’s emphasis in Nigeria is on Nollywood, I can’t be. I don’t subscribe to Netflix to watch Nollywood. I subscribe to Netflix to watch The Harder They Fall, The Power of the Dog and The Dig.
I’m not disdainful of Nollywood. No. I want Nollywood to get onboard a rocket and go intergalactic. But I am frustrated. This adolescent should be eating goat-meat pepper soup by now and drinking Gulder. But it is still clinging to its mother’s bosom and sucking breast.
Get down boy and be a man!
As far as market segmentation goes, I understand if I’m not the primary target audience. But I’m dying to know who is. Almost all my colleagues and friends don’t care much for Nollywood movies on Netflix either. I mean, they do watch Nollywood movies on Netflix but only out of curiosity and recommendation. They don’t cartwheels or do the chicken dance because A Naija Christmas is coming to Netflix. I obviously can’t generalize for the market based on my own viewership behavior. At best, it is anecdotal evidence. But I am intrigued to know the psychography of the segment Netflix is after in this market. I’m eager to know the viewership pattern for Nigeria. What is the amount of viewership hours Nollywood commands? Is the viewership of Nollywood movies highest amongst Nigerians in Nigeria or Nigerians in the diaspora?
Maybe it is time Netflix tried existential mood pieces in Nigeria. We’ve seen the attempts at comedic drama. They are not funny. Maybe it’s time to experiment with different themes and genres.
My money is on Ayo Makun (AY) joining the Netflix family in 2022 with his “30 Days In…” and “Trip To…” franchise. Right up Netflix’s alley.
Sigh. It is what it is.
Anyway, Happy New Year everybody! I pray beautiful things happen to you this year.
If I could go back in time and pick an era in which I’d loved to be married, I’d pick the days of the Old Testament. Those were the days! A man’s life was easy. Because I have no recollection of Adam helping Eve zip up her impossibly tight dress for Abel’s christening. Or Ruth belching rage because Boaz forgot their wedding anniversary. Jezebel was the slay queen, but Ahab could still recognize her with her make up. Sarah even arranged a side chick for Abraham! Can you believe that?
“Baby, I’m tired of all these skank, no-fleek chicks throwing shade at me coz I’m old and I ain’t got no kid. I mean, who are they to disrespect me like that? I’m the wife of the father of many nations! I’m all sizzle, no fizzle. I’m bougie. Abe! Are you listening to me? Look at me, Abe. Look at me! I’m talking about us here! About the promise. And you are there milking that goat. That goat is not more important than what I got to say! Anyway, I was saying…what was I saying again? You’ve made me forget my thoughts. If only you were listening to me! I was saying…you know, I’m not even gonna let these li’l girls mess up my self-esteem. So, here’s what I’ma do. I’ma hook you up with my girl Hagar. She got nice, child-bearing hips and all that. You gonna knock on her tent and knock her up. Get your baby-making game on. Do what you gotta do. I don’t care. I just need a child. You feel me, Abe?”
I bet Abraham’s eyes lit up and was like “Word, babe?You is the best!”
Yea, I imagine that’s how the story will go in the New Revised Pervasion Translation.
Yup, Hebrew women of yore were sistas after a brother’s heart. They didn’t need their husbands to help choose a dress from a possible ten. Or remember birthdays. They allowed their men to be men. You know, drink wine, have concubines and not worry about raising the kids. Little wonder homeboys were living till 600 years!
But wives these days? If you try to help your wife zip up her dress and somehow snapped the zipper, boy, you are toast! If you escape the daggery criticism, you won’t escape buying a new dress. Which is an injustice because you were minding your business before being corralled into outfitting service. Men are no tailors; what do we know about zipping dresses? We are only experts at unzipping them. It’s like asking a doctor to also be a plumber. He plumb hearts not drains. You’ve get to let us do what we are good at. Which is being left alone. Why do you guys buy clothes you can’t get into easy anyway? A skinny jeans is called skinny for a reason.
Another evil I have seen under the sun that weighs heavily on man-kind is wives lambasting husbands for being “unromantic.” Utterly meaningless! It is a chasing after the wind.
I’ve been married twelve years and fifteen out of those twelve years, I have been batted over the head for not being “romantic.” “You are as romantic as a door knob,” she says. “You understand any language but love language.”
If love has a language, what are its alphabets? A Gucci bag is not a language. It’s a bag.
I blame Hollywood and the West for its thoughtless influence over Nigerian wives.
Open the car door for her.
Pull the seat for her.
Buy gifts for no reason.
Pay attention to her rambling even if Liverpool vs United is on TV.
Do this. Do that.
It’s a worrisome state of affairs. While I was immersing myself in profound and intellectual text like Asterix & Obelix, my wife-to-be was being indoctrinated by Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins. It’s a catastrophic failure of our educational system. Who is censoring what these women read? Now, that ridiculous The Bachelor and Bachelorette are on TV seeding all sorts of ludicrous ideas.
By the way, it’s a treasonable felony to watch Zee World in my house.
Let me tell you; the idea of a “knight in shining armour” is a silly concept. First, in Africa, we have hunters, not knights. And our hunters aren’t jobless. They don’t go around looking for damsels in distress to save. Or sit around tables discussing dragons or witches. They go out there and kill a wildebeest for the family to eat. How is that for romance? Feeding your family. And what idiot goes around wearing a suit of tin in the African sun anyway? What are you, a tin of baked beans?
But I’m not against romance. On the contrary, I’m full of romance like a fool is full of himself. Cupid comes to me for ideas. Check this idea out: instead of giving your missus a bouquet of flower on Valentine’s Day, turn the flowers into two glases of zobo and both of you drink to love.
Yea, I’m dope like that.
Another evil under the sun is women requiring the guy to make a drama of a marriage proposal.
Here is the heart of the matter: we both know we are going to be Mr and Mrs. The cat knows it. The dog knows. Everybody knows it. So why do women require so much drama with it. I mean, it’s a sombre thought spending the rest of your life with someone. The least you ladies could do lighten the burden of the sentence.
The first time I proposed to my wife, she said no. For apparantly, no one proposes reeking of tobacco, without a ring and to TuPac’s Me and My Girlfriend. I couldn’t understand it. I mean, it was a starry night, we were alone in the car and Amaru was dropping serious bars. “All I need in this life of sin is me and my girlfriend.” What could be more romantic?
Look, I was not a Joe or R Kelly type of guy. Still not. Back then, I swore by rap. 50 Cents, Game, Eminem, Jay-Z and a host of sonorous crooners. Way before then, it was ‘Pac, Biggie Smalls, Snoop Dogg, DMX and other soulful brothers. I don’t know care for these wacked John Legend “All of Me” and Ed Sheeran “Perfect” dirges.
By the way, here’s a joke I heard about 50 Cents. If 50 Cents was hungry and he ate, what do say about him?
Not bad, eh?
Back to the missus. Ire subsided, she made me realise that it was expected of a guy to propose with a ring. And preferablynot reek of tobacco while doing so.
Yes, ma’am. Got it.
So I asked her where to buy the ring. And she flared up again. She got down from the car and told me to ask my mates where they get rings from.
Which was a head-scratcher. Because when I spoke to my homeboys about a ring, they asked if I was Bilbo Baggins.
Well, I did manage to buy a ring and then proposed to her. Again. This time without TuPac. She accepted and here we are, two prodigious bairns after. Who one day may also lampoon their husbands for being unromantic.
I’ll tell you one way you don’t propose with to a Nigerian woman. You don’t propose to her with your dead mother’s wedding ring. You know, like you see in Hollywood. Don’t do it. Nigerian women don’t like used stuff for marriage. Or some cursed family heirloom. For every wife knows her mother-in-law is a witch.
My wedding anniversary is coming up and I’m supposed to plan something. Something romantic. Something unique. Which proves that wives don’t read the Bible. If they did, they’ll remember what Ecclesiastes 1:9 says:
“What has been will be again, What has been done will be done again; There is nothing new under the sun.”
There’s nothing new. If I decide to buy her a yellow, 20-tonne, never-before-seen diamond, I bet some bloke out there has bought similar for his wife. So why bother? I’d rather use the money to buy her that new washing machine she wanted.
So, I’ve been thinking. In light of the explosive revelation that the NASCO Group may have financed terrorism in Nigeria, if I was starving and NASCO cornflakes were the only edible thing around, would I eat it or not?
You bet your butt I would!
Unlike you lot, I’m capable of separating the sin from the sinner, the man from his product. If some bloke kidnapped school children but makes the best nkwobi, man, I’m buying from him. He may even be my best friend if he also made a mean isi-ewu. It makes no sense to be hating on grub. Grub is just grub. It didn’t ask to be made. So, it can’t and shouldn’t be held responsible for the transgressions of its maker. It’s like refusing to spend blood money. It’s money, people. A legal tender. If you used it to buy a car, the car will not wake up in the middle of the night and strangle in your sleep. Duh.
You guys know I’m joking, right? It’s satire. You can sheath your broomsticks and erasers. I don’t like terrorist-funding organizations any more than I like terrorist sympathisers. We should all take turns in kicking NASCO in the groin if their alleged transgression proved to be true. All 200 million of us. I’d like more than one turn.
By the way, do you know that if you eat the two goat eyes in isi-ewu at the same time, you see the last thing the goat saw before it died? Which of course will be Chijoke coming at it with a cleaver.
I don’t eat NASCO cornflakes. Not since I grew up and started making money. But NASCO biscuits and NASCO cornflakes are familiar brands. The cornflakes stood by me in my trying days at boarding school. It didn’t mind if I had it with milk or water and sugar, or if I crunched it in my mouth with despair. It understood. It was loving like that. But I am that kind of dude that forsakes the wife of his youth for some chic damsel. I don’t care if Kellogg fluttered her eyelashes at me only when I started having money. Nobody wants to date a broke smart guy. Love me and take my money.
I have nothing against NASCO cornflakes though. I haven’t had it in over 27 years. But I can eat it if I have to. It may not be “the brand for me,” but I’m not averse to trying it again. My memory of it was not of a terrible product. Only as I grew up, my palate changed.
The point of all this drivel is of course not NASCO cornflakes or the veracity of the company’s alleged perfidious past. The point of this piece is about the impact of scandals on brands in Nigeria. If scandals can and do, in fact, affect brand sales in Nigeria.
In general, I’d say no. Misbehaving brands get an easy pass in Nigeria.
Nigeria is not the US or Europe where folks wear righteous indignation like a jacket in winter. In Nigeriana, morality and principles are heavy baggage. Nobody has time to log them behind him. It slows you down from thriving.
If the NASCO Group were a company in the UK or US, it’s not inconceivable that some employees would resign. What they stand for, they’ll argue, is at variance with the company’s actions. Suppliers could even stop doing business with the company. Regulators and government agencies will be all over NASCO like chicks over WhiteMoney. A consumer boycott is expected.
Fat chance of that happening in Nigeria. No thanks to poverty and limited choice.
But these oyinbo people are crazy.
I was amused at the videos of dudes in America burning their Nike sneakers when Nike ran the Colin Kaepernick ad.
I mean, these dudes buy a pair of Nike kicks – not some Chinese wookies – and then set it on fire. It’s the most ridiculous thing. It’s like setting a $100-bill on fire. Rage at Nike, boycott Nike; I don’t care. Just don’t burn stuff you bought with your own money! If I came home and saw my wife emptying NASCO cornflakes in the bin, I’m getting a side chick!
But I digress.
There are two frameworks under which a scandal can affect a brand. The analytic and social frameworks. I’ll explain.
The Analytic Framework
Here, situations like (a) brand strength and consumer affinity, (b) the medium where the story breaks, and (c) how the scandal personally affects the consumer impacts reactions to the scandal.
Brands with strong affinity will weather scandals much easier than smaller brands. Brands like Indomie, Coke, MTN, Dangote, GT Bank, Guinness Stout and many others have bulwarks against scandals. These bulwarks are made of perception of quality or responsibility and consumer trust. They are built over several years. I’m more likely to trust Coke much more than Bigi Cola, for instance.
Second, if the news of the scandal breaks on social media, it’ll likely reach more people than if it broke in a newspaper. That’s because it’s easier for people to ‘share,’ the story thereby giving it more fuel. Most brand fires are ignited by social media.
Finally, if I perceive that the company’s wrongdoing has a direct effect on me or people I know, I’ll likely take it more seriously. In NASCO’s case, it’s about funding terrorism, which has claimed the lives of many Nigerians. I’m justly pissed. Unchecked, it’s a matter of time before it gets to me.
Again, let me stress. This is not about if NASCO is guilty or not. This is about brands and scandals.
The Social Framework
The nature and attitude of a people matter in how they view company wrongdoing. I haven’t done a sociological or psychological study to prove this theory, only relying on anecdotal evidence. So hold your horses!
The values and the types of society a consumer lives in influence how that consumer processes company misdeeds. In an accountable society, individual or company wrongdoing attracts revilement. But in a society like Nigeria burdened with corruption, injustice and lack of accountability, folks get inured to company or government transgression. They stop caring about what is right or wrong. They may even accept some form of wrongdoing as ‘normal’ to doing business in the country.
Plus we are a forgiving people. Which is great because the missus should have thrown me out long ago. I get exasperated when she asks me to help her zip her dress.
A question: why can’t women buy dresses they can zip themselves? What if the dress catches fire while they are in?
Anyways, Nigeria is a great place for brands to do business. We’ve got no consumerism and we are satisfied with a minimum viable product. And there is a gazillion of us.
It stands to reason that in a country where life expectancy is 55 years, every minute counts. And I’ve just wasted 128 minutes watching Swallow. So, if I die before 55 years, look no further than Mr. Afolayan and Netflix. Both have conspired to abbreviate my life through the malicious purloining of 128 minutes.
Look, I’m pissed. Really pissed. I had high expectations. This was no random guy making a movie. This was Kunle Afolayan. The Kunle Afolayan. The guy who gave us The Figurine, Irapada, Roti and October 1. I don’t care what you lot think, but he is the best storyteller in Nigeria in the modern era. His plots are riveting and his appreciation for craft is unmatched.
And he teamed up with Netflix. The Netflix. The Two Popes, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Roma and Marriage Story. That Netflix. You can therefore understand why I expect Swallow to be awesome.
I was quite excited that Swallow was not going to be a series. I don’t like series much. The first series I ever saw was The Crown. Followed by The Queen’s Gambit. Since then I’ve seen Amend, Lupin and Clickbait. I can tolerate limited series if the first two episodes pique and sustain my interest. But multi-season flicks? Ain’t nobody got time for Downton Abbey.
But the purported joy Swallow gave by not being a series, it took away by being a miserable sop.
For emerging markets like Africa, Netflix tends to shun existential mood pieces. They tend to favour comedy, action dramas or remakes of proven hits. You know, hedge their bets. So I found it curious that they went with Swallow. I suppose the brand equity of Kunle Afolayan persuaded them to bite. Their teeth must be on edge now.
Is Swallow that bad? Yup. I don’t know about you, but the reason I watch a movie is to be entertained. Or be confronted with new perspectives. Swallow isn’t the least entertaining. I might as well watch Arsenal.
Kunle Afolayan is the master of the thrilling plot. Of riveting twists and turns. The plot of Swallow is however so linear a ruler probably drew it. Yea, people swallowed cocaine in the 1980s, so what? We know there have been reported cases of the cocaine wraps bursting in the bellies of carriers. We know about the danger of that trade. But Swallow doesn’t take us further. It gives us no new information, neither does it strum on the cords of our heart as we would expect a cocaine story to. There was so much foreplay yet an underwhelming climax.
There is, of course, the subplot of misogyny and female sexual harassment. The scene between Mr. Salako and Tolani (Niyola) was more comical than anger-arousing. Mr. Afolayan tried to draw a line between sexual harassment and drug trafficking. It’s an unconvincing line.
And Niyola can’t act to save her life. Well, as far as creative license goes, you can’t fault the characterisation of a movie. But you can fault the performance. And the performance was dreadful in many places. I know the movie was trying to situate Tolani and give us proper context. But I’d question if the characters of Mrs. Durojaiye (Eniola Badmus) or Mama Chidi (Chioma Akpotha) added any substantive value to the story.
I suppose there’s always something good in every bad happenstance. For Swallow, it is the production design and cinematography. Production design is creating the look and feel of a movie. It is creating the physical world of the story. Put in other words, it handles all the visual elements of a movie. Production designers work with props, costumes, set, locations department, and cinematographers to create a credible milieu for the movie.
Kunle Afolayan excels in this space. He tried to recreate a Lagos and Osogbo of 1985 and he executed it rather well. From the danfos, molues and taxis, to the rooms and offices. From the costume to the temperament of the period, the production design was brilliant. The icing on the cake would have been to see a bottle of Tandi Guarana or Green Sands Shandy.
Oh, I did see a plastic telephone in Mr. Salako’s office though. That orange rotary dial telephone. Very plastic.
Yea, I’m that type of guy. Art direction OCD.
The cinematography was good too. I like the camera angles. I loved it where the camera moved between roofs and descended to ground level in Tolani’s compound. It was beautiful.
But in the end, Swallow missed the forest for the tree. A movie is not stellar only because of good production design or cinematography. All other elements like plot, characters, dialogue, sound design come to play. The plot, characters and dialogue in this flick were especially weak.
Which brings me to the role of Netflix in all these.
Now, I don’t know the inner workings of streaming services. I don’t know how they license, agree on the copyright or manage creative control. But it seems to me that in Nigeria, Netflix’s role is limited to putting down the moolah. I would hazard a guess they are not as interested in the quality of story and output as they are in producing “content for Africans by Africans.”
If I look at King of Boys 2 and now Swallow, save for the money required to produce those content, Kemi Adetiba and Kunle Afolayan could well have produced those work themselves. In cinematography, sound design, special effects and other artistic nous, KOB2 was not significantly better than King of Boys. Neither was Swallow creatively better than October 1 or Roti. Yet those are areas I’d expect Netflix to bring its influence to bear.
If there’s an awesome cinematographer in Papua New Guinea, strap him in a plane and ferry him to Kemi or Kunle. If there’s a great sound or special effect studio in Berlin, hire them for productions in Nigeria. You see, Nigerian movies are beginning to mint money on their own through cinemas. It’s hard work but the penny is dropping. What we now need are best-in-class production values and compelling stories. Areas of strength for Netflix.
Look, I get it. There’s a limit to the investments Netflix can make in Africa. Subscribers in the whole of the continent are projected to hit 2.6 million by end of 2021. South Korea alone is over 4 million subscribers and Poland has 2 million.
South Africa accounts for the lion’s share of Africa’s subscriber base with estimates of 300K – 400K subscribers. Nigeria is obviously less than 300K subs. An estimate puts our numbers at around 60K. Which is of course laughable.
And don’t come at me with a “since-Nigerian-movies-are-on- Netflix, other-regions-of-the-world-will-watch-it-too” repartee. No, they won’t. Have you seen the home screen of Netflix US, Brazil, UK or India? Nigerian movies don’t figure. You have to search for them. Like Nigerian churches abroad, the only peeps who attend are Nigerians and Africans. I will hazard similar viewership demography for Nollywood flicks outside Nigeria.
Which does no favours to Netflix’s “Made by Africans, Watched by the World” battle cry.
My point in all this is that eyeballs have to justify the investment. Will you spend $2m on a Nigerian production if only 300,000 people are going to watch it? Maybe not. But if Nigeria’s viewership numbers get to say 2 million subscribers, then we can talk about Hans Zimmer. The maths has to make sense and I’m with Netflix on this.
Of course, I may be talking rot and have no clue what goes on between Netflix and Nigerian film producers. You’ll have to humour me. Swallow got to me so bad that I’m seeing enemies in every shadow.
Well, if Netflix can’t give us Hollywood-type production, they can at least ensure they produce only great stories. They have to be interested in the quality of the story. Clickbait wasn’t stellar because of the production values. It was stellar because of the story and plot.
We’ve got a good thing going on in Nollywood. Netflix should take us higher and further.
So, who is this muppet that dares rate our beloved King of Boys 2 a 6/10?
That would be me, ladies and gentlemen.
You see, I’m not blessed with much good sense. Full of myself I am. Zag when everybody zigs. It’s an affliction. But I’ll be delivered of the malaise someday. I will.
However, in the present, I’m insistent on self-immolation. King of Boys – Return of the King is underwhelming. It’s like ordering a prostitute and a nun was delivered.
OK, that didn’t come out right. I’ll have another go.
It’s like waiting all your life to drive a Bugatti Chiron and when you finally do, it drives like a Toyota.
That’s right. Miss Adetiba took me to giddying heights in King of Boys 1 and let out the air in my balloon in King of Boys 2.
Now, hear me. It is not that KOB2 is unentertaining. It is. I only found it dopamine-deficient for a much-vaunted sequel. A sequel produced by no other than Netflix. Nigeria’s first Netflix Original series as it were.
I have the highest esteem for Netflix. They have pixie dust for fingers. I expect that the partnership with Nollywood will imbue our movies with cinematic excellence. You know, give us a real shot at Cannes, Sundance and Toronto film festivals. It’s not asking for too much. Our music is rocking the world like never before imagined. So, my expecatations are not unreasonable. So, by teaming up with Kemi Adetiba, I expected a product that will travel.
Yea, I get it. Sequels tend to be pitiful. Cue Wedding Party 2, 10 Days in Sun City and Osuofia in London 2. But from where I stand, Kemi Adetiba + Netflix should equal Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
That’s a real word by the way. Ask Mary Poppins.
But before I get to my review, a word about appraising creative work.
Creative work is notoriously subjective. Some bloke might look at Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and feel the truth of the universe unravel in his brain. Me, I stood in front of it and seethed. “This is it? I paid €20 for this?” When I also beheld the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I expected Michelangelo’s painting to fill me with spiritual fervour. That I would look up and be bathed in transcendental ecclesiastical enlightenment. But nothing happened. Rather, I felt like eating pizza.
Yea, art is not for me. I know that now.
Johannes Vermeer The Milkmaid
So, while I may regard KOB2 as an average flick, the public sentiment is the polar opposite. People are gushing, oohing and aahing about it. I respect that. However, if I aahed or oohed during the series, it’s because I’m in pain.
Now, to the review. Let me start with what I like.
Acting breaks down into two important elements: character and performance. Identifying with characters and their performance is a common reason we love a movie. Think about your best movies and memories of particular characters jump to mind. ‘Red’, and Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption. ‘Baba Wande’ in Ti Oluwa Ni Ile. ‘Busty’ in the 2010 Omo Ghetto.
I do not have to move in the underworld to believe the characters of Eniola Salami or Odogwu Malay. It also didn’t strain credulity that Waitrose First Ladies may behave like Jumoke Randle.
The characterisation and performances in KOB2 are superb mostly. The corruptible and duplicitous Reverend Ifeanyi (Richard Mofe-Damijo). The Janus-faced Aare (Akin Lewis). The intransigent younger Eniola Salami (Toni Tones) and the insufferable Chief (Taiwo Ajai-Lycett). In hip parlance, they “killed it”. No overacting or underacting.
Except for Ade Tiger (Titi Kuti) and well, Odudubariba (Charly Boy).
There is something novel about a comely Maxi Priest henchman. But the performance of Ade Tiger was timid. Insipid. His limp body language, speech and disposition belie the authority he wielded. Ladies may like him. But goons won’t fear him. And in Laburu’s world, fear is the currency.
In a similar vein, the performance of Odudubariba was also uninspired. For an overlord of the underworld, his voice carried no power, his mien no foreboding. Just a weird-dressing bandit head. It would have been better if he hardly spoke or spoke through a goon. Or carried out more bloodletting for that matter.
Every good movie must have a heart – the theme. The theme is the movie’s underlying purpose, its premise. For The Godfather franchise, it revolves around “family” and “loyalty”. It’s “revenge” for Wrath of Man. The theme of a movie has to be clear and understandable.
And I like that about KOB2. I judge the theme to be “overcoming”. Overcoming inner demons. Overcoming oppositions. We can relate to “overcoming” being Nigerians.
Perhaps this is not the theme Kemi Adetiba intended. No matter. It only means that the theme of KOB2 works on many levels. And that is awesome.
Don’t you love how Reverend Ifeanyi (RMD) is delightfully duplicitous? How Jumoke Randle demeans?
Dialogue gives performance and characterisation life. And the dialogue in KOB2 did just that. ‘Storytelling’ is a word many use now, even if they don’t know what it entails. Well, it entails good dialogues or monologues.
I thought the dialogue was long-winded and unnecessary in some places though. Felt like they were put there to fill space. But I guess we like to talk.
Cinematography is the creation of the look and feel, mood and actions in a movie. It is the manifestation of visual storytelling. It is both technological and artistic mastery. Lights, camera angle, camera movement, tone. James Cameron had to develop proprietary camera technology for Avatar. Clint Eastwood put mini cameras in rugby balls to capture unreal action in Invictus. Good cinematography is hard work. But it has huge payoffs.
The cinematography in KOB2 isn’t too shabby. Pretty good, actually. The camera angle and movement. The lighting and grading. They all did justice to the mood of the movie. Good picture, KOB2.
SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF: 6/10
In storytelling, “suspension of disbelief” is setting aside our disbelief and accepting the premise of the story as being real. Put it this way, if what happens in fiction is believable to you, you are engaged in the suspension of disbelief.
KOB2 is good because it is not too fantastical. We can bring ourselves to believe characters like Eniola Salami, Odogwu Malay and Aare could exist. To believe the plausibility of the political and criminal intrigues in the movie. Unlike Dominic Toretto driving a sports car through three skyscrapers.
But the suspension of disbelief can’t stretch our imagination too far lest disbelief sets in.
For instance, how can Eniola Salami threaten and speak rashly to the President? The President of Nigeria, by the power vested in the office, constitutionally and unconstitutionally, is one of the most powerful presidents in the world. Even if you made him President, once he assumes power, you best treat him with respect. Or DSS will storm your house at 2 am. Turning into a cat won’t save you.
Second, how on earth can PAs and security personnel be in the room with the Governor when his wife went off on him? How could the PA and security officers be present when the First Lady tried to bribe Laburu with contracts? It must also be a daft First Lady that goes in person to deliver dirt on a rival to a journalist.
This leads to the plot and areas KOB2 should have done better.
The plot is the way the scriptwriter/director creates and organises a chain of events in a narrative. In simple terms, it is the storyline. Purists insist it contains arcane elements like exposition, rising conflict, climax, falling action and denouement.
KOB2 fulfills these requirements. But there are gaps. Big gaps.
For one, it took too long for the series to get going. As of episode 3, I was losing patience. Perhaps it was not unexpected, stretching a movie into a 7h 19m series. Too much talk, too little action. Give me some blood, will ya!
Two, did Boxer betray Eniola or not? And how and when did Eniola parley the resurrected Makanaki, offering him the kingship of “the table”? Sure, it was unexpected. But it also didn’t make sense. I denounce the denouement!
And why is Dapo the journalist so much in our face? The dude should have been nothing more than a side dish. But homeboy is pining for the main course. Insufferable the amount of time he had.
Yea, KOB2 was trying to do too much, fill spaces. You can, er, lose the plot doing that.
SOUND & MUSIC SCORE: 5/10
For a crime drama, I expected to find the sound mixing and design exhilarating. Sound is like the voice of the movie. Through it, we should know if it’s time to be sad, to be happy or frightful. Take our emotions through highs, mids and lows. But the sound design and mixing in KOB2 were humdrum.
Look, I’m not asking for Hans Zimmer to score the soundtrack for KOB2. Just that if you’re going to be doing a 7-hour, 7-episode series, a signature music score would have been great, that’s all. Sound and music score are just as important as the cinematography.
Let me interest you in these iconic music scores. Check out ‘Lux Aeterna’ by Clint Mansell for Requiem for a Dream below. My goosebumps is eternal. And also the Auckland Symphony Orchestra score for Pirates of the Caribbean. Oh, the day we will score music like this!
VISUAL & SOUND EFFECTS: 5/10
Fellas, it’s the Year of our LORD 2021. Can we not create a real gun and explosion scene? Do our shooting and explosions have to be comical? Nuff said.
That’s it, folks. my review of King of Boys – Return of the King. A personal opinion masquerading as objective truth. No matter. If you haven’t seen KOB2, by all means, do. I sense the penny may just have dropped for the big screen in Nigeria. And I’m stoked.
But we must continue to demand excellence. It’s not hate. It’s an imperative if we want Nollywood to put a dent in the universe. If we want our movies to travel like our music.
I read somewhere that Nigerian film producers are miffed at the licensing fees Netflix pays them compared to, say Asia. Something between $10,000 and $90,000. Well, I’ll be writing on that in another post. So watch out for that.
I don’t know about you but I enjoy dwelling in the land of the living. I’d rather not die. But that matter was long decided for me in a garden. It’s what happens when you stop to chit-chat with a snake. Your boyfriend was right there naked and you stopped to tattle with a snake. Not that I hold a grudge.
It’s a snake, for Pete’s sake!
But I’ve moved on. No point crying over spilt milk. Especially when the milk was mine. Especially when someone else spilt it. No, it doesn’t matter that I had the kettle on and the biscuits laid out. Not that I hold a grudge.
So, we are all going to die. No Fountain of Youth. No elixir against carking it. As I cannot, therefore, escape joining the choir eternal one day, I often contemplate the manner of my expiry. How will I die?
Will my death be quick, the phalanges of The Grim scything body from soul in one clean swing? A fatal car accident. A bullet to the head. Death without the chance to say goodbye.
Or will The Grim be devious and cut to the quick, but with the chance to put my affairs in order? Like cancer or ALS. Or will he discard the cloak and the scythe? Turn into a benign Angel of Death and rock me to eternal sleep. A coma. Or dying in my sleep.
There you go again, Jide, thinking these morbid thoughts.
I can’t help myself. Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most. But rest assured that I regard death and dying a serious matter.
I am, of course, a Christian. I believe in judgment after death. In heaven and hell. I believe that after I have cashed in my chips, I will appear before the heavenly host. Before whom my life will be played back in Full HD.
This is why I find it ironic many believe that their dearly departed are in a “better place.” If you are a Christian and believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, then you know that not everybody who dies is in a “better place.” There is such a thing as judgment and recompense. Actions and consequences. I don’t know what happened to Herr Hitler or Comrade Stalin in their final moments, but I’d be mad as hell to see them snug in Abraham’s bosom. I’d pull Pete aside and demand an explanation.
So, about that day. When I appear before the host and my life played back in 8K. Will the play back make for a pleasant and enjoyable viewing? Popcorn, hooting and a rousing applause at the end?
Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share in your master’s happiness.
Or will they cower at the horror show before them and look at me aghast?
Hey, Old Nick, one of yours I believe…
The possibility of spending eternity in the smoking section is hair-raising. That is why a slow death, even if painful, has an appeal. You get a second chance to make good with your maker.
A notion no doubt chagrining to the millions of Jews killed by Nazis in death camps.
I visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 2019. It was the most harrowing place I’d ever visited. I tell myself I could still smell death in the air. My eyes misted at the sight of the empty canisters of the Zyklon B pesticides used in gassing the prisoners to death. I could still hear their screams as they banged and scratched on the door, the deathly fumes asphyxiating them.
I was traumatised when I saw the lab in which Josef Mengele, the “The Angel of Death”, performed his diabolic experiments on the prisoners. He was particularly fond of Jewish twins. He would inject dyes into their eyes — while they were alive — to see if the iris would change colour. Sometimes he would dissect them. Death at Auschwitz was slow.
Will I die a peaceful or agonising death? Only God knows.
As you would have guessed, I have not died before. But I like to think that the last thing on a mind in a slow and torturous death is anything but surviving. Our genes for self-preservation kick in and we fight for life. Think drowning man. Think straw. But still, a half-chance is better than no chance.
I am of course aware that many people are not religious, let alone subscribe to the Christian faith and its notion of heaven and hell. But no one believes they are going to Valhalla, Asgard or Sugar Candy Mountain, do they?
My father was rocked to sleep. He died a quick and painless death. No chance to say goodbye.
He’d been feeling poorly and decided to go to the hospital. It was nothing serious. A cough. A weakness in the joints. He was 71 years old and only needed to see the doctor. So he went to the hospital with my mom.
At the hospital, he realised he forgot to bring along his hospital card. The card was needed to pull up his records.
The house was a shouting distance from the hospital so my mother volunteered to go back home and get the card.
When she returned a few minutes later, my dad was dead.
He had died in his seat in the waiting area. He leaned his head against the wall and was gone. Everyone thought he was sleeping.
I am the first of five children. I got the call a few minutes after he’d died. It was on a Monday morning and I was at the office. A male voice came on the phone.
“Hello. Is this Mr. Jide Alade?”
No. Not if I owe you money.
“Yes, it is,” I replied.
He mentioned his name. He was the doctor. It was a small privately-run hospital. He started to say something but my mother came on the line. She had snatched the phone from him. She was hysterical and incoherent. I only caught “bàbà é ti kù!” (Yoruba language for “your father has died!”).
I asked her to calm down. But unlike the meme, she couldn’t keep calm. She kept blurting my father’s name. The doctor came on the line and gave me the address of the hospital.
Oh, my father!
I drove to the hospital in a daze. Three of my father’s friends were already there.
My mother clung to me and sobbed. If only she had not left him alone! If only she’d been more sensitive. If only…
The body was released to me to take to the morgue. The hospital didn’t have an ambulance at hand.
We put the body in the back seat of my car in a sitting position. Two of his friends sat on either side of him. My father’s head was slung to the side. He looked like he was snoozing. Yet he was dead. It was unearthly. As I drove to the morgue, I kept looking at him in the back mirror. Hoping he would wake up. Hoping it was all a dream.
Then one of my father’s friends said to me “Jide, when it is my time to die, I want to die like your father. A quick and painless death. I don’t want to be sickly. I don’t want to cost my family money or cause them anguish. I just want to go, like that. Like your father.”
Thanks, man. That was sure comforting.
But his words stuck with me. The appeal of a quick, painless death.
Those words would re-echo last year when my friend died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Right before my eyes, he withered, his motor neurons and muscles atrophying. I witnessed the degeneration of his muscle movement. First the speech. Then swallowing. Then walking. I saw the huge burden his sickness placed on his frail wife and on his 10- and 8-year-old sons. They grew into adults overnight.
He had always invited me to his hometown at Christmas to savour some choice bushmeat and palm wine. When I finally went, it was to bury his body.
See you finally came visiting. Told you the bushmeat was scrummy.
The words of my father’s friend would re-echo when my sister died during childbirth and was buried with the unborn child. I was there when they cut her open and brought out the lifeless baby to be interred with her.
Those words would re-echo seeing my father-in-law vibrate uncontrollably from Parkinson’s disease. Weeks ago, he was so distressed, he expressed his desire to die and be rid of the affliction. My wife and sister cried.
I am 47 years old. How will I die? A thousand cuts or rocked to sleep?
A quick and peaceful death is awesome if you are certain of where you’ll be spending eternity. But if you are unsure, you might want to be poured out slowly. Painless, I hope.
How will I like to die? Why, like Jacob, of course!
“When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.” — Gen 49: 33
NB: This post was written for the Medium Writers Challenge with the tag of “Death.”
“Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.”
Robert Heinlein said that. Far from being a masochistic neanderthal, he actually means well for the pickneys.
I’ve got two smart and charming daughters. Pre-teens. Perfect peaches. I dote on them like the devil dote on sinners. They mean the world to me. I’ll hire the Mossad to knock you off if you look or smile at them. If you see them on the streets, walk by without making eye contact. In fact, cross to the other side of the road and run. Then I’ll let you live.
And that’s the problem. I suspect they are developing a brittle spirit being mollycoddled. Ginger prima donnas in a rugby world. That’s my fault.
The other day, the wife asked the eldest one to tidy her wardrobe. The chagrined missy enquired if she was being punished for some transgression. The way she saw it, if she had to do her wardrobe, she must have sinned. The help had always arranged the wardrobe.
A couple of days after, the missus also asked the two to scrub a small section of the house. Again the eldest demanded to know why they were being treated – in her exact words – ‘like Cinderella.’ Treated like a slave. Again, the help had always cleaned the house.
Earlier in the year, one of them told me “Daddy, you have anger issues.”
Well, I’ll be doggone.
They were binging on Netflix and ignored a chore. I’d turned off the TV. They weren’t too chuffed and lobbed my shortcomings at me.
I can’t remember telling my dad his foibles. Not because he didn’t have any but because flogging was a meal in my days. And I was well fed. You develop good sense early.
The younger daughter is the more intrepid. She told me a few weeks ago they’d prefer to spend this Christmas in Dubai. They’d done Christmas in the UK and the US. But they’d prefer Dubai for this year. They like what they see of Dubai on TV.
I am sensitive to words. Their choice of words intrigued me. They didn’t say‘Dad, we’d like to spend Christmas in Dubai this year.’ They said ‘Dad, we’d prefer to spend Christmas in Dubai this year.’
The certainty of choice.
Unbeknownst to me, to my kids, a white Christmas was now a right and not a privilege. Trading down from stroking real-life Rudolphs and hobnobbing with white Santas was now anathema. It seems that any year they spend Christmas in Nigeria, I have to get on my knees and apologise for my failure as a father.
How did I, an Agege and street boy, pulling myself up by my bootstraps, sire such entitled kids? Kids who sulk when forced to settle for Frosties over Froot Loops? Who question why I have a Macbook and an iPad when they have a PC and Samsung tablets?
Oh, I forgot. “They are only kids and just being kids.”
I know you know that’s a load of tosh.
A few years ago, a neighbour’s daughter told me that in her class,going on vacation was not the issue. The country of vacation was. Two of her classmates had got into a girlie fight over bragging rights. One insulted the other of holidaying in ‘ordinary’ Dubai when she had vacationed in London and Berlin. She’d also traveled in Business Class.
These were 14-year-olds.
I suppose I was jealous. I didn’t travel out of Nigeria till I was 30. And I have only traveled in First Class once. By luck. Luck that has not cared to repeat itself.I can count on one hand the number of times I have flown Business Class. I do coach so much I can train Arsenal.
Yup, I’m envious of these brats.
Now, hear me. I am not saying to deprive your kids or to be hard on them without cause. By all means, give them life’s little luxuries if you can afford them. What we must do, however, is draw a hard line between a right and a privilege. Between a need and a want. This line is getting blurred.
Many moons ago, at an Executive Education class in Chicago, we discussed marketing to millennials. We analysed the peculiarities of the millennial. One bloke, a Vice President at Booz Allen, shared an experience. He’d interviewed a millennial for an internship position. When they got to the money part, the lad told the interviewer his mom would come to discuss compensation.The lad was 22 years old.
Well, true, the mom did call to negotiate the offer. She wanted to know why they lowballed her son.
Another coursemate told us none of the millennials in her team wanted leadership roles. They didn’t want to manage anyone. They want to do their job, get paid and go home.
Naturally, we would say “these are oyinbo children jare. They are spoilt.” But many of us are raising first-world children in third-world economies. Not a bad state of affairs in itself. But we must accept the benefits and the burden.
A few weeks ago, our cutesy family dog ate my flip-flops. It was the fourth it was destroying. I threatened to sell the dog to dog eaters. I made for the dog in mock ire. My daughters ran ahead of me and held on tight to the doggo. Their teardrops were as big as cucumbers. They cried so much, the tears would have floated Noah’s ark.
Of course, I wasn’t going to sell our beloved mutt to doggo murderers. But I would have expected them to call my bluff.
An older friend has a 17-year-old son who attends Covenant University in Ota, Ogun State. The friend lives in Lekki. He drives the son to school at the beginning of every semester and drives him back home at the end. I asked him why the boy couldn’t come home or go to school by himself. My friend told me the boy would get lost getting to Lekki from Ota. This lad also doesn’t do his own laundry.
Look, I get it. It’s become a very dangerous country. It wasn’t like in my days when I could board a bus at Oshodi for Ibadan at 10 pm. Now, kidnapping is rife. Around every corner lurks degenerates waiting to take advantage of children. Our morality and values shot to pots. So I get the paranoia about safety. I would do the same.
But it is not lost on me that we are paranoid over our children because we have bubble-wrapped them. There are 17-year-olds who travel from Lagos to Warri by themselves. There are teenagers who take public transport to schools. Why don’t their parents fear the way we do?
In giving our kids the childhood we didn’t have, we over-indulge them. We can’t bear to tell them “no”. We’d feel we are derelict in our duty. Their pleas and cries break our hearts.
No, you are not a bad parent if you deny them stuff! You are the parent.
When we give in to their whimsical demands, we make them brittle children. Children unable to crack on and adapt. Lambs in the woods of hungry wolves. If the wolf – the world – eats them, it will be your fault.
Many of you lot have experienced deprivation. Experienced rejection. Been down on your luck. Trod on. But you got back up. You fought. Became wise as serpents. Seized the bull and rode your opportunities till the wheels fell off.
Yet we bubble-wrap our kids. Make life too easy for them. We negotiate with them when we should put our foot down. Not okay, mom and dad. Because not intending to, we end up raising self-absorbed, indulgent and shatterable children.
On a recent trip to the US, I met a white lady married to a Kenyan. She told me she was reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander so she can better prepare her children for life as a black person.
Me, I’m trying to remould my daughters with Adamantium.Train them to reach for unobtanium. If that entails a measure of tough love, then tough love it is.
Because in this world, they will experience racism. They will experience exclusion and rejection. They will fall down. I would have failed in my job as a parent if they gave up.
By the way, my wife and I whoop our kids. Yup. Good old-fashioned hiding. Nothing devious or abusive. A cane. A wooden spatula (omorogun). You know, any appropriate device fit for chasing folly from a child’s mind.
Yea, I know. We are evil parents. We should be in prison.
It’s been ten days since the Federal Government suspended Twitter. As I suspected, my life has not come to a cataclysmic end. Yup, I’m still here. And so is my mind. A luxury these days.
Now, it is not that I do not care for Twitter or support the government’s brutish machismo. I like Jack Dorsey and don’t mind his little blue bird nesting on my phone. The problem is, I’m not a bird lover. I don’t bird-watch. And I don’t like ceaseless chirping. Which is why I don’t have notification enabled for Twitter. When I get notifications, I want it to be of something really important. Like a 200km-wide-asteroid-is-hurtling-towards-Earth important. Or Man-United-just-signed–Jandon-Sancho-Rafael-Varane-Marco-Veratti-and-Erling-Haaland important. Besides, I’m wary of social media addiction. I’ve seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix. Scared the bejesus out of me.
Where do I stand on the ban? Well, last time I checked, our demonym is still ‘Nigerian’. Not Chinese, North Korean or Iranian. That being the case, I have come to expect a great measure of free speech and liberty to tweet as a Nigerian. So, while I only check Twitter once or twice a day, I am yet filled with a righteous, if hypocritical, rage at this denial of my right to use Twitter.
Mr. Dorsey’s algorithm hasn’t done him much favours though. It should have picked up the IPOB tweets that so clearly violated the much-vaunted Twitter’s Rules. It didn’t. I can therefore understand how the government can accuse Twitter of double standards. I’d be miffed too.
And spare me the drivel that the government should have reported the IPOB tweets to Twitter. OK, yea, maybe messers Lai Mohammed and Tolu Ogunlesi should have reported the IPOB tweets. But so what they didn’t? Social media companies owe society a duty of care to protect us from seeing evil and hearing evil. The burden of spotting violative posts is on them and not on us. The algos have to do better.
But enough of my faux adjudication. What has got under my skin is the role my demography is playing in the ban. I have come across many forty-something-year-olds glorying in the Twitter ban. They cite the ‘disrespectful’ and ‘uncouth youths’ that inhabit the platform as desert. The so-called ‘children of anger.’
‘Children of anger’? For speaking up? For developing allergies to bunkum, tosh and codswallop?
Shame on you lot!
When the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) terrorized the country, it was the youth that bore the brunt of the oppression and malfeasance. Not we the forty-something-year-olds. When that yoke of police brutality was heavy on our necks, it was the youth that mobilised. Not we, the forty-something-year-olds. And thanks to them, we were rid of SARS. We are not the ones struggling to find jobs. They are. We are not the ones who have hardly tasted the good of the land. It is they. It is, therefore, to be expected that they would be the most uninhibited and vehement segment of society.
But how quickly we forget the past. We, the forty-something-year-olds, were once these ‘children of anger.’
We were the ‘disrespectful’ youth that marched when our mandate was annulled in the June 12 1993 elections. The ‘children of rage’ that stormed the streets when the acclaimed winner of that election died in prison in 1998. A few decades earlier, it was the youths that marched against the military power in 1978 in the Ali Must Go nationwide protest. How quickly we forget we once wore this badge with pride.
The only difference between us and today’s youths is that back in the day, we didn’t have social media to amplify our grievances and mobilise. Today’s young bloods do and are using it in very effective ways. We may not always agree with their tactics or language but when has the old and the young seen eye to eye? It’s the circle of life. Hakuna whatever.
I get it though. We the forty-something-year-olds are risk-averse. Age does that. We’ve become the old and lazy cats we railed against when we were younger. The scared lot afraid and tired of speaking the truth to power. I suppose it’s understandable. We have a lot more to lose than these young Turks. Family, security, position, power. Best let sleeping dogs lie. Since it’s a kennel of feral Dobermans, Rottweilers and Pitt Bulls.
So, here is the obvious: the youths are going nowhere. With or without Twitter, you can’t gag them. And they are coming. Over 70 million of them. Oh, they are coming!
It was once our time. It is now their time. Best get with the program.
Once upon a time, the animals got together and started a school. The influential animals decided what the best measure of intelligence and ability was. It was running, climbing, swimming and flying. All the animals must score an A in the four subjects.
The duck was excellent in swimming; in fact, better than his instructor, the kangaroo. But he made poor grades in flying and was pathetic at running. Everyone laughed at him when he tried to run. So he dropped swimming and stayed after school to practice running. This caused his web feet to be badly worn so that he became average in swimming. He was happy as a duck in Arizona, frustrated he couldn’t be good at swimming and running at the same time.
The rabbit started at the top of his class in running. Everyone had a hard time catching up with him. His instructor reprimanded him for not being a team player and quick to dash off. So he slowed down and focused on the other subjects. Sadly, he developed muscle spasms in his legs because of many make-up classes in swimming and climbing. It affected his ability to run. Now the snail mocks his speed.
The squirrel was excellent in climbing. But he encountered constant frustration in flying and swimming classes. He was instructed to understudy the duck and the eagle. He didn’t like the instruction. His fur would get wet and he would be cold. And besides, doesn’t eagles like to eat furry little treats like him? The instruction drove him nuts. He would scurry up a tree and seethe.
The eagle beat all the others in flying classes. In fact, one time he climbed to 15,000 ft in 40 seconds. Soaring came natural to him. And he loved to stay up. But he was often threatened with expulsion for having his heads in the clouds. He needed to stop being a show-off and be grounded. So he comes down and joins the others on the ground. His teacher asked him to befriend the rabbit if he wanted to pass the running class. Soon his feathers began to come off because he was getting caught in the thicket following the rabbit.
Well, yea, I added my own colourful spin to the story. But the central idea remains – don’t try to be like everyone else.
Be who God created you to be. Someone with specific skills and abilities.
If you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid that “you can be anything you want to be”, put that sugary baloney down right now. No, you can’t be anything you want to be. Bet you can’t multiply 7089 by 9681 in your mind in 10 seconds. Or have an uncanny way with words. Or is exceedingly great at influencing people.
You can only be anything you want to be in the area God has gifted you in. You can win the Nobel Prize for Physics or head NASA if science turns your crank. You can sell more books than J.K. Rowling if you have exceptional imagination and love to write. You can be these even if you are from the backwaters of Africa. All you have to do is stay in your lane. In your area of giftedness.
Come to terms with the fact that you can’t be as good as others in certain endeavours. I’ve come to terms with that in my career. I’ve stopped focusing on the things I’m not very good at but rather honing my strengths and skills.
You can be King Kong in your sphere. The mistake Godzilla made was fighting Kong on land.
Know your ability. Develop it.
“Do you see someone skilled in their work?
They will serve before kings;
they will not serve before officials of low rank.”
On Sunday, Manchester United’s home match against Liverpool was cancelled due to fan protests against the Glazer ownership.
I was pained the match was cancelled. United is in such fine fettle. Sunday was an opportunity to drive kryptonite-tipped and plutonium-coated nails into Liverpool’s ‘Top-4’ coffin. Condemn them to wallow in the Europa muck with Outer Mongolia FC and Borat Kazakhstan. They dodged a bullet. But the bullet has their name. It’ll home.
We have a lot to be aggrieved about. The greedy Glazer family for one. These geezers see Manchester United only as a nest egg. When they bought the club in 2005, the club had zero debt. Fast forward to 2021 and we are in a debt of £526m. This is after paying over £500m in interest. These blokes haven’t put a nickel of their money in the club. All they do is take. Recently, they paid out £122m as dividends to their apparently penurious selves.
Look, I get it. The Glazers bought United as a business, not as a football club. Trophies mean diddly squat to them.
The problem is, United was an attractive acquisition for them in the first place because of the ginormous brand equity and successes of the club. We had and still have a huge (and monetizable) global following. Our consistent success on the pitch led sponsors to beat a path to Old Trafford. We have the biggest club stadium in the country. In essence, United minted money. This inevitably became our undoing because the glitter attracted marauders from outer space. But I don’t understand it. The Glazers are plundering and killing the golden goose. It’s either they are incredibly dumb, or they are secret agents of Liverpool.
Billionaires can’t be dumb, can they? So, that only leaves Liverpool.
And there is Ed and his cohorts. Commercially savvy, Ed Woodward. The bloke can sniff out a penny faster than a bloodhound. But that’s all Ed cares about. The business side of things. He probably can’t tell the difference between a left and right-back. “Remind me again, Ole. Why can’t Maguire be a striker?”
We are also aggrieved because of the gradual but visible descent of Manchester United into mediocrity. The last time we won the league was 2013. The last time we were in the semi-final of the Champions League was 2011. Worse, we were alive to witness Liverpool win the Champions League again in 2019 and finally win the league in 2020. Now, Manchester City is a dreaded adversary and is boasting more trophies than the devil has sinners. It’s pathetic.
You might ask what gives. Why the cudgel against the Glazers now? Didn’t they buy United all the way back in 2005? Since then, hasn’t United won significant trophies? Five league titles. One Champions League. Four FA Cups. Six EFL Cups. One Europa Cup. And one Club World Cup?
Well, let’s just say we like to hug the brownie. We’ve lived so long on Olympus, we’ve forgotten what it is like to be afflicted with human frailties.
However, the real fodder for Sunday’s protest was, of course, the club’s membership in the doomed European Super League (ESL). The Glazers were supposed prime architects.
What an implosion!
Even Mr. Bean could not have orchestrated a more resplendent disintegration.
Heineken joined in the derision.
The idea behind the ESL was more prosperity for a few elite clubs, the twelve ‘Founding Clubs.’
Considering that the owners of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal are Americans, I can see how the notion of ‘Founding Clubs’ can appeal to them.
But I digress.
The idea behind the ESL was lucre. The big clubs complain UEFA isn’t rewarding them enough. Yet those clubs pull in the global viewership and money UEFA clutches. No offence to my homeboys in Armenia but nobody watches Real Madrid vs Ararat-Armenia because of Ararat-Armenia. They watch the match because of Real Madrid. Yet Real Madrid does not get appropriate compensation from UEFA.
And because UEFA is steeped in European social-democratic philosophy, it shares the proceeds of the TV rights with football administrations across the continent. So, when Man City plays Real Madrid in the finals of the Champions League, the Faroe Island, Malta and Armenia FAs partake in the TV proceeds. One for all, all for one.
Capitalist America cannot understand this. What? Is Bernie Sanders running UEFA? Servants upon horses while princes walk as servants upon the earth? Look here, boy, he who does not work, neither shall he eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
So, they got together and came up with a brilliant idea.
How about we start our own league? A big-boys-only league. Playing each other weekly. It would be eye candy. Broadcasters and sponsors will fall over themselves for rights. It’ll be guaranteed riches for the founding clubs. Money to buy elite players and build infrastructures. Think about it; the money to buy Haaland, Mbappe and Pogba in one season. Sure, we’ll throw in bottom feeders like Arsenal for a semblance of inclusion…
So JP Morgan committed over £4bn to the project. Each of the ‘Founding Club’ would receive about €350m to join the ESL. Then as the competition enters its third year, that sum would be tripled.
Say what, JP? €350m? Here, hold my beer, where do I sign?
And so, on 18 April 2021, the ESL was announced with twelve founding members. Six English clubs, three Spanish clubs and three Italian clubs. Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspurs, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan. Bayern Munich and PSG declined to join.
The backlash across Europe was fierce. Aleksander Ceferin, UEFA’s President, called Ed Woodward a ‘snake’ for joining the ESL despite assurances that United would not.
The hostile response was fiercest in England. Fans besieged their grounds. The English FA, pundits, players and the press denounced the new-fangled league. Boris Johnson said the government would “look at everything that we can do with football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed.” France President Emmanuel Macron welcomed French clubs’ refusal to join the ESL.
So fierce was the backlash that by 21 April, all the six English clubs had withdrawn their participation in the ESL and apologized to their fans.
Tail tucked beneath its hind, the ESL scurried away to announce the ‘suspension’ of the competition.
72 hours was all it took for the house of cards to come tumbling down.
But what happened? How and why did the ESL collapse so spectacularly?
I’ll tell you why.
It’s because football is not only a business.
It is a people’s way of life.
It is profit + fans + tradition + emotions, all jostling for prominence.
It is culture.
And culture will eat £4bn JP Morgan-breakfast all day.
You’d hear many people say that football is a business and money must rule the gamut.
That’s a load of bunkum from a constipated bull.
Football is not like other businesses. In most businesses, if the line manager has a fallout with a subordinate, the subordinate is toast. In football, a coach is toast if he falls out with Messi, Ronaldo or Pogba.
Football also buck common sense economics. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Borussia Dortmund insisted on €120m for Jadon Sancho to transfer to Manchester United in the close season. Ed Woodward brought out his micro-economic charts and economic-outlook decks. But Dortmund didn’t budge. €120m is the price. Erling Haaland will probably cost upwards of €170m if he moved this season.
It’s madness. But it’s football.
Remember Assem Allam, owner of Hull City? In 2013, the man had Hull City registered as Hull City Tigers. The next year, he planned to register them as ‘Hull Tigers.’
Hull Tigers. How sweet. How about Hull Chihuahua?
Of course, fans marched against the name change. “City till we die” their placards proclaimed. The FA sensibly rejected the name change. The club is still known and registered as Hull City.
In football, the fact that you own a club does not mean you can do with it as you please. You may be the largest shareholder but you are not the only stakeholder.
Grounds, jerseys and names mean something in football. They are artefacts of history and emotions. I’ve travelled from Nigeria to watch Man United a couple of times. Not because Old Trafford is a fantastic stadium but because it is the Theatre of Dreams. I travelled to see the statues of George Best, Dennis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton. I travelled to experience the atmosphere at the Stretford End.
It’s probably what JP Morgan and the American owners of United, Liverpool and Arsenal missed. Football is not a spectacle like the NFL or Major League Baseball. In Europe and South America, football is steeped in rivalries, history and raw passion.
When Luis Figo did the unthinkable and moved from Barcelona to arch-rival Real Madrid in 2000, there was incredulity, rage and disappointment in Barcelona. On Figo’s El Classico debut, thousands of Barca fans waved white handkerchiefs in the air. It was a practice borrowed from bullfighting that meant the bull should be killed. A Barca fan threw the bloodied head of a pig onto the pitch where Figo was about to take a corner kick.
Fans commit suicide because of a match. Bill Shankly summed it up well: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
Football is not just a sport. It is life.
I don’t delude myself that fan power solely aborted the ESL. Those behind the ESL didn’t become wealthy bowing to the demands of people or governments. Perhaps legal challenges from individual FAs, UEFA or FIFA were also strong factors.
And I do have a sneaky feeling we’ve not heard the last of a breakaway league. After all, Florentino Perez, Chairman of the ESL and President of Real Madrid merely said they were ‘suspending’ the ESL.
Whatever the case, I’m glad football won this round.
Somehow, ‘Arsenal’ and ‘Tottenham’ in the same sentence with ‘elite club’ doesn’t sound right.
So, Burna Boy and Wizkid win Grammys and everyone is losing their mind. Not me. It is a tough time in Nigeriana right now. If you lose your mind, whoever finds it may not return it. Finders keepers. Or if your mind has a smidgen of value, you’ll have to ransom it. My mind is all I have. So, I’ll be keeping it very close.
Young Turks have lost their marbles on the Burna-Wizkid-Grammy win. They are at each other’s throats on whose Grammy is more legit and who is the greater artiste. These bambinos need to get a life. Everyone knows Genevieve is the most talented singer in Nigeria…
Awards and praise-singing fuel the ego of artistes. It’s hard for it not to. You’ve become primus inter pares. A silverback. Earned the right to pound your chest and bare your canine.
But Kong-sized ego and being prima donna make artistes lose out on lucrative sponsorships.
When marketing teams make decisions on celebrity endorsers, we consider hard and soft attributes. Hard attributes are things like match with brand image, target consumer appeal, online followership, previous and current endorsements, cost and the like. Soft attributes are issues like reputation, character, and the ease of working with the celebrity. I’ve seen celebrities lose out of brand endorsement deals because of soft attributes. Painfully, these celebrities don’t even know they were being considered for the opportunities.
Know this: a lot of important decisions about your career happen behind your back. You might not see them, but decision-makers are always watching.
Most folks think managing artistes is easy and fun work. What heresy! Managing Nigerian artistes can be harder than landing men on the moon. I mean, how hard can it be strapping three men on a 2,800-tonne rocket requiring 203,400 gallons of kerosene and 318,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and traveling at 9,920km/h?Compared to getting Eedris Abdulkareem and 50 Cents to fly together on the same jet, that’s easy peasy japanesey.
Marketing teams don’t like artistes/celebrities that are difficult to work with, perceived or real. We don’t want a celebrity that’ll show up at 1 am for a 10 pm performance. Or a celebrity you’d pray and fast for before s/he shows up for a commercial shoot. It’s hard enough fighting Sales and Finance over pricing and SKUs. I don’t need to add some supercilious navel-gazers to my headaches.
Let me regale you with some episodes. I’ll shield the artistes names to protect their faded reputation.
When I was at Arik Air, I’d struck a deal with Viacom for the 2016 MTV Africa Music Awards. Arik Air would fly Nigerian artistes and celebrities to Johannesburg for the awards. In return Viacom would give Arik Air advertising spots on its network. It was a good deal for both of us. Advertising spots are perishable inventory as are airline seats. Once the plane flies, an empty seat is a lost inventory. Our seat load factor on the LOS-JHB route was about 65-70% at the time. I might as well punt the unused seats for some advertising spots.
A week to the event, we’d been ferrying MTV-designated personnel and celebrities to Johannesburg. The flight leaves Lagos at 1:30 pm to arrive Jozi at about 7:30 pm.
On the day of the event, I got a call from a guy who introduced himself as the manager of two of Nigeria’s biggest hip-hop artistes of the time.
One of the artiste came on the phone. In a lordly voice, he introduced himself. He then proceeded to make the most outrageous request. He said they were running late and asked if the flight could be delayed for them!
Yup. You heard right. We should hold the flight for them.
His Majesty impressed it upon me how important it was for them to be in Johannesburg for the event.
If it was important for your butts to be in Jozi for the awards, you should have been on time for your flight!
Of course, I didn’t tell them that. I told them I would have loved to help but couldn’t due to protocols beyond the airline’s control.
The second artiste then came on the line and reiterated the importance of their presence at the awards. Now I was going to lose it! But I managed to keep calm. I told them I would try my best.
I didn’t. It was a no-brainer. It was not as if they were going to South Africa to fight apartheid. Would they have dared made a similar request of BA, Virgin or South African Airways?
But lucky geezers. The flight was delayed. So they made it. They won too.
I called the artistes’ manager to ask if they made it. He asked who I was. I introduced myself. He cut the phone.
Right. Another one bites the dust from the list of future endorsers.
Back in the days at Guinness, there was this budding artiste begging for support. He’ll give us his CD to listen and give feedback. We tried to support him as best we could. We’d collar event organisers to get him to perform at our events. Everyone needs a leg up, don’t they? Suffice to say this dude was most humble and beseeching.
Then, he ‘blew.’ One of his songs became a sensation, gloryfying in internet scams. He was sought for every show.
What do you know, this dude transformed like Optimus Prime. More like Megatron actually. We couldn’t talk to him. If he saw us at events and we wanted to say hi, he’ll rebuff the attempt. In other instances, he’ll avoid us or pretend he didn’t recognise us.
Could be he didn’t recognise us in truth. I mean, those fellas smoke more marijuana than the devil has sinners.
Talking about marijuana, there was this artiste that almost got us thrown out of our hotel in Benin City.
We had taken him and a host of other artistes to Benin for a big event. We put them in the best hotel in Benin at the time. He was in a suite on the fourth floor with his crew.
But once you got out of the elevator on his floor, the smell of marijuana wafted out from his suite and pervaded the whole floor. The haze of the igbo was so thick, you needed air traffic control to guide you to his room. That dude smoked more igbo than Fela and Shaba Ranks rolled into one. The din from his room was embarrassing. There were, of course, other guests in the hotel.
But an artiste like Tu Face was and is marvelous to work with. Meeker than a lamb, that Tu-Baba. Even at short notice, he was accommodating.
When he was the celebrity endorser for Guinness Extra Smooth, we’d taken him to an event in Enugu at Polo Park. I was in the same hotel with him. He made it a point of duty to come and ‘hail’ me as his ‘chairman.’
There was some fine chick I was ‘toasting’ in Enugu. She was hard to get. I managed to convince her to come to the hotel for lunch.
When she came around, I told her I wanted her to meet someone. I took her to Tu Face’s suite. I knocked. The door opened. I ushered her into the room.
That was when I knew Tu Face was a megastar.
This chick who could talk the hind leg off a donkey just froze at the sight of Tu Face!
Tu Face was effusive.
“Chai, my oga don bring him mata come greet us O,” he enthused.
He asked his crew to make way for the chick to seat on the sofa. She looked at me as if she was dreaming. I shrugged smugly. That’s how I roll.
Let’s just say afterward she didn’t think I was a short black ugly Yoruba boy.
Tu Face is something of a Neanderthal in the music industry now but enjoys immense goodwill and equity. Can’t say that of his contemporaries.
So, my advice to Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido, Zlatan, Naira Marley and all other celebrities; be the celebrity everyone enjoys working with.
The last time I thought about collective nouns for animals was last year when my daughter was writing exams into secondary school (high school). She was impressed with my knowledge. Well, that’s what fathers do – know things.
But my esteem was bruised a few days ago when I was writing a blogpost and needed to use the collective nouns for owls. Turns out the collective noun for owls is – wait for it – a parliament of owls.
Like owls voted by their peers to deliberate on avian matters? That’s crazy. Birds don’t vote. Then I made the connection. Owls are supposed to be wise! Parliamentarians are supposed to be owlish. And owls do have a solemn and brooding look about them. Best candidates for feathered parliamentarians.
They probably do a better job than their human counterpart.
Anyway, below are collective nouns for animals. Some you know. Many will knock your socks off.
A shrewdness of apes.
A cete of badgers.
A colony/cloud/camp of bats
A sloth/sleuth of bears (like a private detective bear?)
A swarm of bees.
A gang/obstinacy of buffalo (bullies!)
A caravan of camels.
A clowder/glaring of cats (what?!)
A destruction of wild cats.
A quiver of cobras.
A bask of crocodiles.
A murder of crows (yea, those ones look ominous).
A drove of donkeys.
A convocation of eagles (hope they graduate summa cum laude)
A parade of elephants.
A gang/herd of elks
A cast of falcons.
A business of ferrets.
A school of fish (how come they aren’t smart)
A stand of flamingos
A skulk/leash of foxes
An army of frogs
A gaggle of geese (Listerine or Colgate?)
A tower of giraffes (but of course!)
A band of gorillas (G-Unit!)
A bloat of hippopotami (perfect!)
A cackle of hyenas ( I have a bone to pick with this one!)
A shadow of jaguars.
A smack of jellyfish.
A troop/mob of kangaroos.
A conspiracy of lemurs ( Never take lemurs into confidence then)
A leap of leopards.
A pride of lions.
A labor of moles
A barrel/troop of monkeys.
A pack of mules.
A family of otters.
A team/yoke of oxen.
A parliament of owls.
A claw of panthers (Wakanda forever!)
A pandemonium of parrots (naturally!)
An ostentation of peacocks (show off!)
A drift/drove of pigs.
A prickle of porcupines (of course!)
A herd of rabbits.
A colony of rats.
An unkindness of ravens (What?They were kind to Elijah!)
A crash of rhinoceroses.
A shiver of sharks.
A stench of skunks (expectedly)
A nest of snakes.
A dray/scurry of squirrels
A fever of stingrays (really?)
A bevy/game of swans (if they are in flight: a wedge).
An ambush/streak of tigers.
A knot of toads.
A gang/rafter of turkeys.
A bale/nest of turtles.
A colony/gang/pack of weasels (needed a more cretinous name)
A pod/school/gam of whales.
A pack of wolves.
A wake of vultures (absolutely brilliant!)
A zeal of zebras.
Then there are a couple of funny ones:
A scandal of politicians.
A fringe of lunatics.
A gossip of mermaids.
A blessing of unicorns.
Naturally, those gave me ideas and I started coming up with mine:
A prostitution of whores/politicians.
A sanctimony of priests.
A merry of drunks.
A vanity of celebrities
A bent of criminals
A mammon of bankers
A scrubs of nurses
A faraday of electricians
An acrimony of side-chicks
A fib of marketers
A pity/shame of beggars.
What crazy collective nouns can you come up with? Rather enjoying this!
I apologise in advance that I’m drawing loyalty lessons from football. I know there might be many of you here who do not care for football. I get it. But frankly, I don’t know what you are doing with your life if you don’t love football. It is akin to hating bacon or pepperoni pizza. Your joy can’t be full.
I swear by Manchester United. The club is a special gift to mankind. Back in the days of the hunter-gatherer, life without United was nasty, brutish and short. But the Good Lord saw fit to lighten the sorrows of man and bestow on humanity Manchester United. For your enlightenment, Sirs Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson have had a far greater influence on history than William Wilberforce and Sir Winston Churchill. Sir Winston Churchill won one war. Fergie won a treble. And if Roy Keane had been Prime Minister, Brexit would not have happened. So, it is only fitting that I draw my treatise on loyalty from the admirable folks at Manchester United.
Harry Maguire is a center-back ( central defender) at Manchester United. He joined Hull City for £2.5 million in 2014. Then he joined Leicester City for £12 million in 2017. In August 2019, he joined Manchester United for £80 million, a world-record fee for a defender. In January 2020, manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer made him club captain.
It’s a fairy tale. The type we pray for in our careers.
The problem is, Harry Maguire can’t lead a colony of ants to a sugar farm or motivate a parliament of owls to stare.
Maguire is spectacularly average. When I compare him to previous club captains like Eric Cantona, Roy Keane or Nemanja Vidic, I want to slit my wrist.
This season, under Maguire’s leadership, Manchester United has conceded 56 goals in all competitions. And Maguire has started in all but one match.
This is Manchester United for Pete’s sake!
I have no doubt that Harry Maguire is a good chap. He may even be a great bloke. Helpful, fun and great to hang out with. He is also a decent defender. He is in no way calamitous.
But he is no £80 million defender. More like a £35 million defender. That’s no fault of Harry though. He didn’t buy himself. The fault lies with Ed Woodward. For a top-rated commercial guy, Ed is worryingly susceptible to daylight mugging.
Most United fans would prefer Bruno Fernandez as captain. He’s a brilliant player. He is influential on the pitch. And he has passion.
But Harry Maguire is Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s ride-or-die partner. Ole is sticking by him as captain despite our displeasure. If he’s fit, he’ll play every match. Even with his public indiscretion in Greece last summer, he still retained the captain’s armband. Maguire will have to boot Ole’s dad in the groin and stab his mother in the eye before Ole strips him of the captain’s band.
That, my friend, is how loyalty plays out.
Loyalty isn’t necessarily about competence. It shakes out in three ways.
One, it is about saving face. If you made a bad hiring decision, you stick to that hire for as long as reasonably possible lest your judgment is questioned. No manager likes his judgment to be questioned. Especially when you’ve committed the business to a huge investment. Doubt about your decision-making will chip away at your respect and eventually, authority.
Two, loyalty is also about protecting a hire you brought in. I mean, you convinced the said employee to leave his current employment. He joined your company because of you. It is only fair that you don’t leave him high and dry when the storm rages.
The third element is chemistry. The hire may not be the most competent but senses what you want. He understands you. And hearkens to your instructions. He may have a different opinion, but he cedes authority and power to you. Doesn’t ruffle your feathers. Doesn’t bristle at your rebuke. Every manager likes that.
Here is a piece of career advice for you. If your new head of department or managing director brings in a hire that is struggling or not competent enough, be on the good side of the boss. Help and support the hire. Because the boss isn’t going to cut that fella. Nope. He is responsible for him. He’ll protect him at all costs for the three aforementioned reasons.
There’s a lot more at stake in loyalty than competence. Emotions play a significant role. People hire friends. They hire who they know and can trust. And there is also ego, authority and pride at stake.
So, best get with the programme. Ole is never going to ditch Harry Maguire. Not as long as he’s the manager at Manchester United.
Don’t fight with the boss’s hire. You may not lose but you’ll never win.
Picture this. You are on your bed in your boxers. The mood is right. Barry White’s deep sensuous voice comes up on the HomePod. Telling you this. Telling you that. Or maybe Joe is your thing. Or Ed Sheeran. The room is chilled by the air conditioner. The lights are dimmed. Your bonnie lass is in the bathroom. You can smell her fragrance. She comes into the bedroom in a towel. She drops the towel as she walks towards you.
Then your eye catches something in the corner of the room. A silhouette. A male figure seated in the armchair with a glass in his hands. You jump up from the bed in panic and switch on the lights. It’s the landlord.
You are shocked and furious. You shout at him to get the hell out of your room. Out of your apartment. He smiles and says no can do. He has the right to be there. You agreed to his presence when you rented the house. It was in the fine prints. But you didn’t bother to read it. Like the last tenant. And the one before him. And the one before that. All tenants really. But if you are adamant he should leave the room, he will. You’ll only have to move out of the apartment and forfeit your rent. It’s in the contract. In the fine prints.
He pours himself another drink and waits on your decision. He smiles at you the way I imagine a lecher would.
The story above is, of course, a sordid metaphor. An over-dramatization of Facebook’s tracking activities. But you did grant Facebook a front-row seat to your private life when you installed the app on your phone. You didn’t know you did. But you did.
So, here is how Facebook tracking works.
When you use the Facebook app on your iOS or Android device, Facebook tracks what you do on the app. It collects a host of information ranging from device, OS, city, gender, age and many more. But this tracking is not limited to what you do on the Facebook app. Facebook also tracks you across other apps on your phone and websites you visit. It is not content to know what you do on its app; it also needs to know what you do on other apps and on the internet. Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, Candy Crush, TikTok, Tinder, Bumble, PornHub. Name it.
Now, why does Facebook track you across apps and websites?
Why, to know you better, of course!
You see, Facebook’s business is selling targeted advertising. That’s how it makes money. It makes some $86 billion annually selling these targeted ads. Targeted ads are personalized advertising delivered to you based on the data companies like Facebook and Google collect about you. They collect these troves of data about you so they can have a good picture of who you are. That picture is important to advertisers and data brokers who need to reach a specified audience. That, after all, is the vaunted advantage of digital media over traditional media.
These gems of personal bits are not all necessarily available on the Facebook app. There are a lot more things you do on your phone than just scroll through Facebook. You read the news. You play games. You window-shop. You buy stuff. You watch YouTube. You take pictures. You live for the ‘gram. By following you across apps and the internet, Facebook is able to piece together all these activities and paint your demographic and psychographic portrait. Ergo, nail you down to your needs and wants. If you’ve been checking out websites on how to emigrate to Canada, don’t be surprised if Facebook serves you ads on emigration services to Saskatchewan.
So, if you are playing with your side chick’s phone and you start seeing Facebook ads for baby food and diapers, congratulations homie! Facebook probably knows something you don’t.
So, what is the feud between Facebook and Apple all about?
Starting with iOS 14.5, Apple will introduce a feature called App Tracking Transparency or ATT. ATT requires users (you) to give permissions to apps before they can track you across apps and websites.
With ATT, when you launch any app for the first time, you will see a pop-up that informs you that an app wants to track you across platforms. The pop-up will explain what the tracker is and asks whether you want to approve or reject the tracking and sharing of your data.
Which is awesome for privacy.
One of Apple’s brand promises is privacy. The iPhone is supposed to be iron-clad. So iron-clad that Apple itself claims it cannot unlock an iPhone encrypted by the user. The FBI found that out the hard way. Thus, from a consumer and marketing perspective, offering iPhone users ATT is keeping with a brand promise. It helps deepen loyalty. It is good for business.
But not for Markie’s business. Mark Zuckerberg is outraged about App Tracking Transparency. ATT threatens Facebook’s nest egg. When users opt out of being tracked, it means Facebook’s ability to paint a portrait of the user is affected. There’ll be gaps in the picture. A nose missing. One ear missing. Maybe three teeth lost. That is bad for targeted advertising. Bad for Facebook.
Facebook probably suspects that if users have the choice of turning off tracking, many would. I know I would. I don’t want some bot stalking me all over the internet. What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas.
So Markie is pissed. So pissed he is calling Apple its biggest competitor. So pissed he is smearing Apple as an enemy of small businesses and the free internet in newspaper ads. He said Apple is using privacy as a justification to disadvantage Facebook.
Said Markie, “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own.”
Tim Cook has never hidden his disdain for Facebook’s business model and flagrant abuse of users’ data.
“If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform,” said Tim.
Whoa, those are some pretty strong words there, Tim!
However, Apple claims it is not asking Facebook and others not to track across apps and websites. It only requires them to asks permission from users before they do.
That’s like telling a thief to ask for your permission before he steals your car.
You may well ask why Facebook is worried about Apple’s ATT. After all, iOS is only 27% of mobile operating systems. Android rules the gamut.
Thing is, the bulk of Facebook’s $86 billion annual revenue comes from the US and Canada. iOS accounts for over 61% and 52% respectively of mobile operating systems in those two markets. Crucially, North America also happens to be the region with the highest Average Revenue per User (ARPU) for Facebook per the Statista data below.
So, Facebook’s fight with Apple is a fight over ad revenue in the US and Canada. Europe is not an insignificant second. The rest of ya’ll go eat a donut.
Is Apple sincere about privacy claims or only manoeuvring for advantage? Time will tell. We’ll be watching its future actions closely. But Facebook’s history of data abuse and measurement untruths may deprive it of sympathetic ears. At least not from iOS users. They’ll be on Apple’s side. We the iSheep.
And many will also remember the fiasco of Cambridge Analytica, US electioneering, and the upcoming data merger between Facebook and WhatsApp. Facebook always seems to be in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Ingratiating commentaries are profitable. I’m tempted to get on that gravy train. But sadly, it is not for me. By a cruel hand of fate, it turns out I am allergic to bull. I tend to serve my juice without sweeteners. And as everyone with a sweet tooth knows, juices without sugar taste anemic. Truth is vinegary. Bitter, in fact, in many circles. It is why you never see Alomo Bitters or Kasaprenko in State Houses. Only honeyed speeches to soothe itchy ears.
But let me state, in case there is somebody out there willing to buy me a house on easy street; I do not detest being rich. I do not mind farting Chanel and sneezing Dior. I consider it not vanity to take my medicines with caviar and ease my gastric upset with lychee.
I crawled out from under my rock to hear the ruckus about a newfangled men association. Stingy Men Association of Nigeria. Quite unexpectedly, men have come to their senses and will no longer let their phalluses lead them to ruination.
Phalluses, by their unique biology, pay no mind to bankruptcy and good sense.Once in the presence of a nubile female, they demand the master login to the mobile app. Money, after all, is only a means to an end.
Women, of course, are not treating this illiberal fraternity lightly. It’s an affront and a denial of a fundamental woman right.
“How dare men! It is a woman’s right to be feted! It is a woman’s right to help herself to a man’s wallet. In the history of mendom, there has not been a single man in distress. It is always a damsel in distress. Why will men seek to redress the order of nature? But two can play. If the wallets won’t open, then the legs won’t open either. They shouldn’t worry. When a god starts acting out of line, we show it the wood it was carved from. Radarada. Jatijati.”
It’s all chucklesome.
But let me get this out of the way. Unmarried people shouldn’t be bonking. It is a sin. Abba Father says not to do it. Yoruba people, ever the dramatists, have a frightful name for fornication – panságà. It sounds dastardly. If we can’t scare you with the consequence of the word, we’ll scare you with the sound of it. Pasángà sounds like you killed a hundred infants with a panga machete.
Besides, sex is more than physical coitus. There is the intertwining of emotions, and dare I say, spirits.I’d hate to see you bond with Zelda.
You do remember Zelda, don’t you? From Terrahawks?
I forgot; you lot are Generation Zilch.
This is Zelda.
Now, to you, my married friends engaged in cuckoldry. “Stolen water is sweet”, right? “Food eaten in secret is delicious”, ba? Well, here’s what the Good Book says to you:
“Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.”
I didn’t make that up. Crack open Prov 6:27-29 and see for yourself. At any rate, I’m sure you don’t mind someone else bonking your wife or husband. Or do you?
Back to the Stingy Men Association of Nigeria.
The farcical association is topical because of the prevailing poverty in the land. It has become normative that a boo bears the cost of living of a bae. It’s ridiculous. Dubious justifications are advanced.
“A girl needs to look good for her guy.”
“When a girl is happy, she is able to make her man happy too.”
“Providing for your girlfriend is a sign of responsibility.”
It’s a heavy dollop of codswallop.
Spare me the porky pie that you sweethearts buy expensive hair to impress the menfolk. No, you don’t. Because we the menfolk can’t tell the difference between a N300K and a N700K hair. You buy the hair to show off to yourselves.
Several years ago, the missus badgered me into buying her Brazilian hair. I didn’t understand the need. She is from Osun State, the ‘State of Virtue.’ Why does she want to naturalize to Brazilian? Is a Brazilian passport visa-free to the US?
Eventually, I bought the hair. It was a small fortune.
The day she made the hair, I didn’t notice. She tossed her head about like a teen so I’ll notice. But I didn’t. I knew she looked pretty but couldn’t place what was different about her.
She got angry and asked me what I thought of her new hair.
Oh, that was it! The hair!
I said ‘nice.’
She only forgave me five years ago.
So, if the girlfriend needs to wear the hair of fifty horses, by all means, do so darling. We only request you buy it with your own money. If you want to ‘glow’ and buy Beyonce-level cream, grow a large posterior, or slay more than David and Gideon, be our guest. All we ask of you is not to insist the expenses are for our spreadsheet. And why on earth would a bloke buy his girlfriend an iPhone 12 when he uses an Infinix? You think it was only Eve that loved Apple?
Look, I’m not a Scrooge. I believe in gifting. Gifting stokes affection. It’s good for the boo to splurge on the bae now and then. But a dude is a finite being. He can’t be the source of infinite beneficence. The boo should give because he wants to, not because he must.
Well, except the relationship is between a married dude and a side chick.
In such relationships, the side chick has my blessing to ransack, pillage and plunder the married boyfriend. Fleecing and gouging should come with the territory. After all, it is a waste of sin dating a broke married man.
I saw that on a t-shirt.
Any erotic relationship premised on ceaseless material and financial provision is faux love. You are paying for the ‘love’. The way you pay a prostitute for her favours. It’s only in movies that prostitutes develop genuine affection for their patrons.
Most married-men-and-side-chick affairs are no more than prostitution by a more benign name. Or why is a single girl dating a married bloke? Because there are no wonderful single guys around? Because of true love’s kiss? Greed and lust, ladies and gentlemen, are at the heart of it. Those are not traits that will make Pete open the Pearly Gates to you.
Anyway, here’s a good joke for you: if you’re over 30 and still dating another woman’s man, you are a side hen, not a side chick!
So, Burger King changed its logo. Out with the new, in with the old. The new logo had a retro feel that is becoming the new order in recent brand identity revamps.
As marketers are won’t to do, we have been engaged in arcane semiotics about logo revamps like a coven of philosophical witches.
At the risk of being considered a Luddite – which I am not – I have to say I like the new BK logo better. Not because it is an awesome logo design but because it more clearly reminds me of what the company does. Burgers. The Whooper.
Not petrifying felines like Mufasa or Shere Khan. But felines like Garfield and Puss In Boots. Cats have my heart. Sneaky, disloyal and manipulative beauties. I’m particularly drawn to black furry cats. I like the outcast and the maligned.
Why do I like cats? Oh, cats live life on their own terms. They know they don’t have nine lives and so don’t waste their time trying to please you. You are the one who wanted a pet, not them.
Also, cats do not care about titles. Dogs can continue to be ‘man’s best friend’. Cats don’t give a hoot. They are very perceptive. They understand that titles come with responsibilities. You can’t be man’s best friend and sleep and eat all day. You are expected to weigh in with some chores. Like growl or look menacing at strangers. Or go for a walk with the human. That’s an abuse of pethood. A pet doesn’t have to earn its keep. Cats look at huskies pulling sleds in Alaska and hiss ‘suckers.’ And it all begins with a title. Man’s Best Friend. The Cutest Dog Ever. Yea, because dolphins are ‘cute’ and ‘intelligent’, they have to entertain humans and jump through hoops. When they’d rather be fin-deep in a school of fish. Cats don’t care for all that. Responsibilities are for humans and bozos like dogs.
So, yes, you are not going to trick cats into responsibilities with some title. They might chase down a mouse. But understand that it is because they want to do it and not because you expect them to. Back in the day, in the village, my grandma had three cats who never chase a mouse a day of their lives. These beauties just love to eat fufu and efo-riro and chill.Can’t blame them. Egbado people make the best fufu in the galaxy. And my grandma’s efo-riro could make Netanyahu kiss Hassan Rouhani.
But sadly, I don’t have a cat. That is because I love to have a wife more than I love to be divorced.
My wife hates cats. She argues that you can’t trust cats. Cats are gossips. They listen to your deepest secrets and spill them to the neighbours. And they are agents of evil, exposing your home to fiendish influences.
It’s all baloney, of course. Cats are not capable of witchery any more than cockroaches are capable of holiness. But making that point to people who abhor cats is like arguing sobriety with a tippler.
We have a small white wolf in our home. Spin doctors call it a dog. It’s an American Eskimo. But it is a wolf. Only it is smaller and cutesy. Wanders from room to room. It is pampered like William and takes a piss like Harry. My wife and daughters dote on this canine. They feed it before they feed me. Cuddle it more than they cuddle me. He enjoys the attention and then sneers at me.
I’m the one who pays for your welfare and comfort, you ungrateful cur!
This wolf has destroyed three of my flip-flops and pisses anywhere it wants. Which includes on my $1,200 soundbar. On the third occasion of the annhilation of a flip-flop, I told my daughter I was going to sell the damned dog. I made for it in mock ire. My daughters ran past me and held on tightly to this doggo. They cried and pleaded. Their teardrops were as big as cucumbers and plenteous enough to float Noah’s Ark. This sly canine has manipulated itself into my wife’s and daughters’ hearts. They will not allow me mete just deserts. Yet people accuse cats of being the crafty ones. A cat will never do that to me. You don’t even see a cat take a piss.
Do you old geezers remember that old flick, Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell? That German Shepherd bred by satanists? The dog grew up to colossal devilry. Killed the maid in a fire. Possessed the minds of its owner. In the last scene, the frightful demon in the dog came out to perish the soul of the dad. The symbol of a crucifix seared onto the dad’s palm saved him. Dog bursts into flame and is imprisoned in hell for 1,000 years. That movie spooked me as a child.
The title of the movie is instructive. It was Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell.
It was not Devil Cat: The Feline of Hell
Yet folks say cats are the evil ones.
Anyway, I outgrew my fear of dogs. I realise that devil-dog movie was all phoney-baloney. Now, I like dogs. I am going to get me a big doggo soon. Probably a Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound. If only to scare the bejesus out of the frisky wolf in my house.
See how easy it is for people to change? I went from dog-indifferent to dog-liker. So, why can’t people outgrow their abhorrence of cats? What does a cat have to do to get love from Nigerian women? Buy them hair? Help them lose belly fat?
The sad part is the missus has infected my daughters with cat-hate. My daughters started out loving cats. I’d take them to a friend’s house and we’d go with tinned sardines and milk to feed the cats. My girls loved feeding the pusses. They gave them names and were eager to visit.
Once the missus discovered what we do at said friend’s house, she set about cooking our goose. Well, it didn’t help that we purloined her sardines and milk for the visits. But as a good Christian wife, she ought to remember that love keeps no records of wrong. But cats make Nigerian women forget Scriptures.
Or remember it.
The missus proceeded to indoctrinate my kids on the vileness of cats. And once a mother abuses a mind, it is tough disabusing it.
Several years ago at a local bar, I came across some despicable fellows who loved to eat cats.
If you can eat a cat, you can eat a human!
One of these repugnant fellows went ahead to describe how scrumptious a cat was in egusi soup. He particularly relished eating the paw. With a twinkle in his eyes, he described how a cat’s paws clutch the egusi. You then pry the paws open and lick the egusi balls trapped within. He said it was quite a heavenly experience.
I stopped going to the bar
By the way, do you know how cats are killed before being cooked? They put the cat in a sack and smash the sack repeatedly against a wall till the cat dies. At other times, they tie off the sack and proceed to batter the poor thing to death. They argue it’s the only safe way to kill a cat.
How about you take on a cat your size? How about you put a tiger in a sack?
So, what myths and fears are holding you back? What are the long-held beliefs you are going to disabuse from your mind in 2022?
While you ponder on it, check out the two beauties below. A black Maine Coon and a Siamese. Aren’t they gorgeous!
Nigerians have the cruelest humour. We banter and satirize like no other. Pity such creativity seldom shows in our advertising.
In the last couple of days, Twitterverse has been awash with the alleged indiscretion of a bank MD. As expected of senior management, this good sir had spotted promise in a married employee. Since where a man works is also where he ‘chops’, an amorous relationship soon ensued. If we believe the blogosphere, this good sir had even sired two strapping kids from said adulterous relationship. Kids the husband of the unfaithful wife thought were his. Sadly, the good husband has deprived us of his side of the story, having succumbed to a heart attack.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked,” said my homeboy Jeremy.
That is Jeremiah to you.
But how Nigeriana seethed! You’d have thought we were a pious lot. Men wielded pitchforks. Women got on their brooms. The MD has blood on his hands. He has coveted Bathsheba and killed her husband. We want his head on a pike.
I am angry myself. The story rings home. A close friend was in a similar spot several years ago.
But I have a solemn question: what makes a child yours?
We’ll get to that in a bit. First the story about my friend.
We were in our second year at the university and the philandering of my homeboy had come home to roost. He’d knock up a girlfriend. We’ll call her Two-Time.
Naturally, my homeboy, whom we shall call Marvin, denied responsibility. One, he learned he was going to be a pappy six months into the pregnancy. Two, the maths didn’t tally. He knew when last he was with Two-Time. Third, he didn’t have two pennies to rub together. He was so po, he couldn’t afford the other two letters.
So, yea, no way we were going to be a daddy.
But Two-Time swore with her life that the child was Marvin’s. She hadn’t been with any other.
She had allies in Marvin’s mum and aunts.
“What do you mean ‘it is not your child’? You two have been fornicating wantonly before Gomorrah. She is always cooped up in your room like a hen hiding from a hawk. I don’t think you two were studying Efficient Markets Hypothesis in there! And what do you mean the math doesn’t figure? What are you now, an obstetrician? You now know how God works? These things happen, son. Don’t deny your child. Don’t let your child suffer. We have your back. We will all raise the child together.”
Mothers and aunts. They talk a better game than snake oil salesmen.
But to assuage any doubts, Marvin’s mother went to enquire of some prophet. The verdict: the baby was Marvin’s.
Armed with such incontrovertible evidence, the family pressurised Marvin into accepting paternity.
In the end, he did. But he would not see the child until three months after her birth. The child was born in Jos and Marvin lived in Lagos.
Oh, she was a cute she-Marvin. His spitting image. Same ears, same face, same complexion. An angel. We’ll call her Munchkin.
Munchkin lived with Marvin and his mother at their face-me-I-face-you apartment in Lagos. All the fellas hung out in that house. So we contributed to raising Munchkin. The money we should have used to buy second-hand Timbolo (Timberland boots) and fake Ralph Lauren shirts. But she was our child. Marvin took on odd jobs to raise extra cash.
And Munchkin was coming along mighty fine. She was precocious. She called the boys by our nicknames. I was Jydo Weere(Jide The Mad One). Another friend was Junkie. Marvin was Elemu (Drunkard).
In the year 2000, when Munchkin was 7 years old, Two-Time came to pick her for the holidays. Nothing unusual about that. She did that often during the holidays. Only on this occasion, she did not return Munchkin even when the school had resumed. There was no GSM in those days so Two-Time could not be reached by phone.
Marvin stomped to her house.
She had moved.
Along with her mother with whom she lived.
The neighbours didn’t know where they’d moved to.
Houston, we have a problem.
Most of the boys had started working by now. Marvin worked in a bank. So Saturdays and Sundays were the only days available to search for Two-Time.
After a few weeks, Marvin got hold of the address of a Two-Time aunt. He constituted himself into a proper irritation to this woman. He’d show up at her house every Saturday morning at 6 am. He claims he only went there to ask the whereabouts of Two Time but I suspect he crouched beneath the woman’s window and sang Saheed Osupa and Dauda Epo Kinkin. Drove the woman mad. The aunt eventually spilled the beans and told Marvin where Two-Time was.
Marvin stormed the address and found Two-Time. But Munchkin was not with her.
She was with her real father.
Say what now?
Two-Time told Marvin Munchkin was not his child.
You two-timing, lecherous and treacherous wench!
And she wasn’t going to tell Marvin where Munchkin was.
Over the course of several days, Marvin became suppliant. He apologised for his sins and the sins of his ancestors. He promised to marry her and be the love of her life. He’ll change. They even shagged.
So, Two-Time fessed up. She told him Munchkin was with her real father in Jos. She had got pregnant for the bloke but he’d rejected paternity. She told her mother who then asked her to explore the possibility of foisting the paternity on Marvin. So, she’d turned to Marvin.
We had all been suckers.
All you lot whose mothers go to enquire of some prophet which of your suitors to marry, best tell them to stop. Those prophets don’t see squat!
It all felt like some B-rate Nollywood movie.
Only it wasn’t.
This drama was playing out before our eyes and we were part of the cast.
Now, at the same time Marvin was schmoozing Two-Time to know Munchkin’s exact location, Marvin’s mother had swung into action.
You see, Marvin’s mother, whom we shall call G-Mama, was gangsta. On her own, she had tracked down where Munchkin was. How she did that is still a mystery. She discovered that Munchkin was not in Jos but was in fact in Lagos with an aunt of Two-Time.
Hell hath no fury like a grandma pissed. She barrelled to that address.
She saw Munchkin.
She invoked Sango, Ogun, federal law, state law, Thor, Fadeyi Oloro, MC Oluomo, Voldemort, Osama Bin Laden, the Host of Heaven, Roy Keane, and just about any other peril that came to her mind.
The aunt simply handed Munchkin over without an argument.
There. We have our Munchkin back.
Marvin took Munchkin for a DNA test. The test confirmed what we’d all feared. Munchkin was not Marvin’s child.
G-Mama didn’t want to give her up though. “How could she not be ours?She looks like Marvin! The test must be wrong. Something must be wrong. We’ll fight for her! Lai-lai, I no gree!”
But the emotional toll on Marvin was too great. His life was spiraling out of control. He wanted the drama over with. After a few weeks of struggle, he drove Munchkin to Two-Time and handed her over.
This is the part where you cry.
Then Munchkin’s real father showed up.
Same ear, same nose, same forehead, same complexion.
Munchkin looked more like him than she looked like Marvin!
What witchery is this!
Folks, don’t ever believe that because a child looks like you, s/he is your child! Biology can be cruel!
Munchkin’s father came with his family to apologise to Marvin and to offer compensation. The guy was a good dude, only caught in the web of some jiggery-pokery. Marvin turned down the offer of compensation and told them he was OK releasing Munchkin to them. Only they’d better come good in her life.
Man, I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall when Two-Time went back to charm Munchkin’s father.
“Hey darling, guess what? Remember that your spermatozoa that hit home run? It is now a beautiful 7-year-old daughter in Lagos. I was going to tell you but on my way a meteor hit me and I lost my memory. We are dying to come to you and be one happy family.”
Oh, I forgot. Flies don’t have ears. And even if they do and I heard everything she said, nobody will listen to me. Nobody listens to a fly.
But one thing is for certain; she must have spun a good yarn. I mean, it’s not every day you wake up and realise you have a 7-year-old kid in Kathmandu.
Anyway, the bloke didn’t marry Two-Time. Bummer. He accepted Munchkin but married someone else. Munchkin lived with the bloke’s aunt and grandma. On Munchkin’s account, her stepmom didn’t take to her. She had a torrid time living with family.
Marvin also didn’t marry Two Time. Double bummer. He married someone else and has his own kid now. ‘Own’ kid because he did a DNA test. He passed.
Munchkin is now in her mid-twenties and in Canada. She relocated with her father over a decade ago. Marvin had also moved to the US in the early 2000s. She and Marvin keep in touch.
But she’s pretty messed up. She has a host of psychological problems and is on some serious medication. She’s dropped out of four colleges and amassed huge debt. She now lives in a shelter.
I was with Marvin at his home in the US recently. He showed me a recent convo between himself and Munchkin. A line brought tears to my eyes. She told him: “you’re also still my dad….”
Which answers the question I posed earlier: what makes a child yours?
It is not your blood coursing through the child’s vein or you share DNA. Neither is it likeness in looks or mannerism.
It is belief.
The belief that the child is from your loins. For s/he may well not be. After all, you didn’t do any paternity test, did you?
It is all mind over matter.Your child is your child only because you believe s/he is your child. Blood and DNA are secondary.
So, should you do a DNA test? Only if you don’t trust your wife or you’ve been sowing your wild oats in dubious farmlands.
But what if you do the test and it confirms the child(ren) to be yours? How will your wife feel? Trust is shattered. And when trust is gone in a marriage, everything else is gone.
I guess the question then is: what is trust worth to you?
“For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” – Ecclesiastes 1:18
Absolute bee’s knees, The Queen’s Gambit. Fictitious yet compelling. The brilliance of the scripting was you didn’t have to know how to play chess to enjoy the series. It was about chess but not only about chess.
Because I played a little chess as an undergraduate, I enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit more. Playing chess made me look smart. And when you looked like a gangster, looking smart helped.
The bloke who taught me how to play always rhapsodised about ‘grandmasters’ and ‘gambits.’ He knew more about Bobby Fischer, Capablanca, Karpov and Gary Kasparov than he knew his Fortran. Heck, I knew the Sicilian Defence long before I knew Al Capone.
Picture shows: Prince Charles (Josh O Connor) and Princess Diana (Emma Corrin)
I love movies and the big screen. I don’t mind sequels but don’t have the patience for series. I never saw an episode of Prison Break. Nor know jack about Jack Bauer. Same for House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Empire, Game of Thrones or Money Heist.
Yea, I’m that guy.
But two friends persuaded me to watch The Crown. Pleaded. If I enjoy British flicks and visiting good old Inglaterra, I must like The Crown, they argued.
Well, true. I do like fish and chips and bad weather. But dare I say some prolonged series about a musty institution was not my cuppa. I decided to give it a try nonetheless. One episode only. If it turns out to be a waste of my time, there’ll be blood and feathers.
So, Season 1, Episode 1.
Well, Season 4 couldn’t come soon enough!
Over several weeks I watched all three seasons. 30 episodes, I think.
The picture is glorious and the attention to detail obsessive. The casting and acting are ridiculously excellent.
It was a rollercoaster of emotions. One moment I am at the top of the Hills of Laughter and in the next scene, I’m plunged into the Valley of Despair. I loved the monarchy. Then disrelished them. Then sympathised with them. Then got mad at them again. Then loved them again.
Sigh. This is why I do not watch series. My feelings are fragile, easily yoyo-ed.
I am not a royal-watcher and hence not knowledgeable about the monarchy. All I know about them was that Diana died, William married Kate and Megan ferreted Harry away. End of. So I found The Crown illuminating.
And that is the problem. It is, in large parts, fiction. Critics have accused Netflix of traducing the royals with damning fabricated history. Britain’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, wants Netflix to make clear the series is fiction.
“I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact,” he said. “Netflix’s beautifully produced work of fiction should be very clear at the beginning it is just that”.
Of course, Netflix has said, no guv’nor, we can’t add a disclaimer to a drama, now, can we?
Says them: ” We have always presented The Crown as a drama – and we have every confidence our members understand it’s a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events.”
It’s easy to understand the outrage of monarchists and royal historians. All you have to do is watch Season 4. Chagrin galore. The treatment and disregard of Margaret Thatcher by the royals. The brood’s loathing of Diana. Prince Charle’s serial adulterous relationship with Camilla. Diana’s bulimia. Oh, you’d detest the monarchy I assure you.
Yet it is all fiction. Not until I came across opinion pieces on the show did I realise that.
It is reasonable to believe only a few viewers of The Crown know this. That it is “an act of creative imagination” with a “constant push-pull” between fact and fiction, according to creator Peter Morgan.
And that shows the huge propagandising power of movies and cinema. The lines between truth and fiction become blurred. China and Russia are always villains. Brazil is all favelas. And Africa is one country and we all look and speak alike. A lie travels around the world in seconds before the truth has laced its boots.
What is true, what is fiction?
Damn if I’ll be trusting the TV or social media to tell me.
A couple of weeks back, I wrote a piece on the absence of comparative advertising in Nigeria. You can read the piece here.
A debate ensured on a WhatsApp group on the subject. Several people believe brands in Nigeria do in fact run comparative advertising. The advertising below was cited as an example.
Well, intelligent people of WhatsAppville, hear me. Hear me. That is not an example of comparative advertising. Here is why.
A comparative ad makes an objective claim against a named or unnamed competitor who is meeting the same need.
The operative word here is objective. The claim cannot be subjective or ambiguous. It must be verifiable and testable.
For instance, if Ariel runs an ad that claims 20g of its detergent washes 50 white shirts cleaner than 50g of Sunlight would, that would be comparative advertising. The ad mentions a competitor and makes an empirically verifiable claim.
Or if Honda claims that its 2.0L 4-cylinder Accord is 25% more fuel-efficient than Toyota’s 2.0L 4-cylinder Camry. That would also be comparative advertising.
False advertising occurs when a false or misleading statement is used to promote a product.
This is different from advertising puffery, although a fine line runs through both. Advertising puffery uses ‘puffed up’ or exaggerated language to promote a product. The claim is subjective and a matter of opinion.
Study.com defines advertising puffery as advertising or promotional material that makes broad exaggerated or boastful statements about a product or service that are subjective (or a matter of opinion), rather than objective (something that is measurable), and that which no reasonable person would presume to be literally true.
In this understanding, puffery does not give any express warranty or guarantee to the consumer.
So, when Glo says it is ‘Grand Master of Data’, that is advertising puffery. ‘Grand Master’ in what regard? Speed? Coverage? Market share? Glo doesn’t say. So, no reasonable person is expected to believe that claim. Glo can’t be accused of false advertising because it is merely making a ‘puffed up’ claim.
It is the same for the Budweiser advertising above. Budweiser is displaying puffery. No one will literally believe Budweiser is ‘king’ over Heineken. ‘King’ in terms of what? Taste? Sales? Ingredients? The claim in this particular instance is a matter of opinion.
Enter the perennial Virgin knee-in-the-groin on British Airways. The ad below was from Nigeria. Virgin Atlantic was introducing Upper Class Suite on the Lagos-London route. The defining feature was the length of the bed. It was some few inches longer than the bed in the British Airways First Class cabin on the same route. But saying its bed is 10 inches longer will be unimaginative. So it ran the ‘We are better in bed’ ad. Very Branson.
One of my best instance of advertising puffery is the war of attrition between Mercedes Benz and BMW. Boy, do those two love each other!
In the advertising below, Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes Benz was retiring. He says his final goodbyes to employees. He drives home. Then kaboom! A secret side of Dieter is revealed.
So, good people of Nigeria, I hope I have been able to convince you and not confuse you that comparative advertising is different from advertising puffery.
So, it is that time of the year and I was rummaging on the Tesco website for some Christmas feasting ideas. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of eating jollof rice and fried rice at Christmas. The birthday of my Lord and Saviour is too important for such trite fare. Oyinbo people know how to throw a proper Christmas feast. And they are precisely the folks I’ll be looking to for inspiration. So, to ‘Every little helps.’
Dudes and dudettes of Nigeriana, hearken to my voice! I see flashing clouds and hear the rumbling of thunder. Signs of new rain. And my nostrils doth pick up the sweet scent of dainty flowers sprouting all over the land. What wondrous change afoot!
But we must be careful not to pluck the flowers to make zobo.
What is it about a hairstyle, torn jeans and youth that makes a dude delinquent, a crook or a con?
I’ll tell you what it is. It is because we distrust people who are different from us. People who don’t dress as we do, talk like we do or incline their ears to our wisdom.
It is not a problem only the Nigerian Police has. It is a problem of the Nigerian society. Sometimes it is subtle. Sometimes it spits in your face and insults your father. I’ll share three personal stories.
“What is called Western Civilization is in an advanced state of decomposition, and another Dark Ages will soon be upon us, if, indeed, it has not already begun. With the Media, especially television, governing all our lives, as they indubitably do, it is easily imaginable that this might happen without our noticing…by accustoming us to the gradual deterioration of our values.” – Malcolm Muggeridge
Watch African American stand-up comedy for only a few minutes and you’ll realise it’s not what you watch with kids around. There is no two-minute period without the copious use of expletives. Communication is impossible in that genre without profanity.
Now, I don’t have a brittle spirit. Nor am I pharisaical. I just hate having to explain what ‘coochie’ is to a 10-year-old. I assure you it is no laughing matter.
How many times have you been told “you can be anything you want to be”? Or that “if you can dream it, you can be it”? You may have told someone too. Well, allow me to burst your bubble; you can’t be anything you want to be.
You can only be anything you’ve got the talent to be.
Here I am again thinking about an iPhone. The iPhone 12. I thought I was off that Apple grass. My last iPhone was the 6S. I used it till mid-2018 when I switched to the Samsung S9. Not too shabby, the S9. Good form and function. It’s my only phone at the moment.
But I didn’t switch to the S9 because I love Samsung phones. I switched because I was trying to prove to myself that I can stop being an iSheep.
Sometime in early 2017, I told myself I was capable of not lapping up every grass from the Apple stable. Why? Because an apple screwed up the universe, that’s why. We would still be in Eden kissing king cobras and swimming backstrokes with crocs if not for an apple. But here I am again thinking of inviting Apple to have another rummage in my pockets.
I have never not been an iFaithful. I’ve owned every iPhone from the first one to the 6S. I’ve owned four MacBooks, bought three iPads, and have an Apple Watch and Apple Pencil 2. Back in 2007, I even subscribed to the now-perished MobileMe, the precursor to the iCloud. I loved Apple. Loved Steve Jobs and Jony Ive. I was in London when news of Steve’s death broke. I joined hundreds of Apple fans to leave bitten apples in front of the Apple store on Regent Street.
But it’s a love-hate relationship. I love the company but hate that it had an irresistible pull on me.
When Apple launched the iPad in 2010, I swore to my wife and friends that it was a pointless product. “I’ve got an iPhone and a Macbook”, said I. “What do I need the iPad for?”
I have bought three iPads since those days of ignorance.
Similarly, when Apple introduced the Apple Watch, I knew it was not a device for me. A fitness watch? No, thank you. I run a hundred meters in ten minutes without breaking a sweat. Why would I need a $400-watch to tell me I have an irregular heartbeat? My bank balance does that just fine.
That you can now spot an Apple Watch Series 4 on my wrist is a befuddling mystery. I woke up one morning and found the watch on my wrist. A most paranormal activity. We are in the end times, people.
But I am determined to have some shame. The degree of the common sense of a bloke is directly proportional to the age of the bloke. The older I become, the more I realize that it is infantile to change your phone or gadgets every other year. Mr. Dell does not change his personal laptop every year, does he? If he did, he won’t be, er, Mr. Dell, would he?
So, how did I start thinking about the iPhone again?
It all began the way most great bankruptcy stories begin: with a woman.
It was the missus’ birthday. She would love a new phone. One of her two phones was evidently made in hell. She claims to see gremlins come out of it. So, I decided to get her the iPhone 11 Pro. Go big or go home.
She liked the gift. She asked me to do the honours and set it up for her.
It was a big mistake.
The moment I held the phone, I knew, Houston, we have a problem.
The sleekness. The feel in the hand. The ease of use and intuitive UI.
The memories came flooding back. Of what I had loved. Of what I am now missing.
“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”
The lust of the eye.
Folks, let me remind you of the advice from my big bro Paulo: flee from all appearances of evil!
Not strut. Not jog.
Scram. Scat. Skedaddle.
Don’t stop to chit chat with a snake. I mean, it’s a snake, not your boyfriend.
Well yea, I know I am being actorly. A phone is hardly the delectable Mrs. Bathsheba or foxy Mrs. Potiphar. But Apple and I have a history. It’s complicated. One side gives. The other side takes.
It’s not working, Tim. Can’t we just be friends?
When I held the missus’s 11 Pro, I suddenly realized I have had the S9 for two looong years. Could have been eons. And is that a crack I see on the screen? Only a small crack you say? Nonsense. There’s no such thing as an innocent baby viper. It’ll grow big and spread venom.
That’s it. The universe has spoken. I’m changing my phone!
And what better phone than the upcoming iPhone 12 Pro. It’s absolute bee’s knees. Radical new design. Stainless steel. Bezel-less. 5G antenna. Midnight blue. Awesome iPhoneography.
Shut up and take my money, Tim!
Sorry, what was that? Learn wisdom from the ant? What ant? Ant Man? That dude is a loser. Sneaked into The Avengers via a backdoor.
The lesson for you, my good folks, is that just because you have the power to do something doesn’t mean you should do it. For with great power comes great electricity bill.
You say, “ I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT)
There are those who swear that the greatest human invention is writing.
That is nonsense.
It is tobacco.
So I believed when I smoked.
I’ve been clean nine years now. But I smoked for seventeen years before quitting. I know that is scarcely deserving of any recognition considering a friend’s grandpa smoked till his nineties. He died on his bed with a big smile on his face and a half-smoked cigarette by his side. He was our hero.
I smoked at least five cigarettes every day of those seventeen years. Between 2006 and 2011, I smoked at least twenty cigarettes a day. A result of rising income and common sense; it was cheaper to buy packs than sticks. And as every smoker knows, the more cigarette you have on you, the more you smoke.
My lungs — brave things — were the worse for wear. A medical check I did at the height of my powers reported I had the lungs of a seventy-year-old. I was in my mid-thirties.
Hmm. Lungs of a seventy-year-old. That must explain why I was full of wisdom for my age.
The worst times of my life were when I had to get on a plane for more than one hour. Six hours on a plane without a cigarette was a torturous experience. It is next to waterboarding. I’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty.
So, I developed a love for lay-over flights. I have been known to fly from Lagos to London through Schiphol rather than fly directly to Heathrow. So I could stop over and smoke.
You might well sneer: “But it takes roughly the same hours to fly from Lagos to London as it does Lagos to Amsterdam Schiphol. What’s the logic?”
You simple creatures!
Yes, it does take about the same amount of time. But waiting at passport control takes anywhere between forty to fifty agonising minutes. Emphasis on “agonising”. For your education, it takes five minutes of oxygen deprivation for the human brain to die. I assert that it takes the same amount of time for a chain-smoker’s brain to die without nicotine. It’s only by a colossal miracle that said smoker’s brain is still alive six hours after such lengthy privation. So, I never push my luck. Every minute snatched from privation is an extra minute to live.
By the way, Heathrow is the worst airport ever built. No place to smoke until you leave the terminal building. Thoughtless piece of architecture. Bless your hearts Schiphol, Changi and DXB!
Next to being stranded on a plane without nicotine is waking up in the middle of the night to no cigarette. Situations like that makes people do crazy things.
On one such occasion, I’d got up from bed beside the missus. It was about three in the morning. I needed to smoke. But I had no cigarette in the house. So I got into the car and drove out of the house. 24-hour stores in Lagos were and are still non-existent. Except for a few mallams — lone, owner-run, informal and tiny retail shops that dot the city.
I found one of these mallams open. Different strands of humanity milled around the stall smoking cigarette and cigarette’s elder brother (if you expect me to spell out cigarette’s elder brother as marijuana, you must take me for a snitch).
But there is a camaraderie among smokers that only robbers share. It doesn’t matter if you know the person or not. Once you light a cigarette, trust and solidarity ensues. I and my strange bed-fellows nodded acknowledgment of one another’s presence. We smoked in silence and understanding.
I returned home with my spirit in high spirits.
My beauteous wife, of course, hated that I smoked. I reminded her that love conquers all. Once she resorted to threats and vowed there would be no kissing me anytime I smoked. If I smoked and wanted a kiss, I’d have to brush my teeth first.
What? Didn’t dentists say we only need to brush twice a day? Besides, we’d be spending too much money on toothpaste!
Then one evening.
We were curled up against each other on the sofa watching Father of The Bride. The movie got to the part where Steve Martin handed over his daughter to her heartthrob. It was an emotional affair. My wife casually said:
“You know, if you continue smoking, you may not be around to give Nimi (our daughter) away on her wedding day.”
In those seconds, I teleported to my daughter’s wedding day. Some guy was walking her down the aisle. He was not me. He was more handsome. Richer too. And everybody seemed to like him. He handed my daughter over to the love of her life. My daughter mouthed ‘I love you, dad’. The bloke returned to sit beside my wife. He kissed her on the lips. My picture was nowhere in sight.
I gave up smoking a few months later. On my daughter’s first birthday.
The right message.
The right moment.
Lessons for advertising creatives, planners and media buyers.
Many marketing campaigns are vanilla because they lack a deep penetrating insight. An understanding of motivations. The desire to create iconic campaigns should be first a desire to ferret a piercing truth. It’s painstaking and grunt work. But it has a solid gold payoff.
I’d seen loads of gruesome tobacco ads. They were water of a duck’s back. In my part of the world, with regards to death, you’d usually hear hedonists say “something is always going to get you”. In my case I was content for that something to be tobacco.
But my wife discovered what turned my crank. She knew I loved my daughter. Knew I’d want the best for her and be there at the important moments in her life. She tapped into it. It triggered a flow of emotion. She got the desired result.
Motivations and insights are often understated and creative work overstated. We glory more in the the craft and cleverness of the creative execution. Those elements are obviously just as important as the insight. But what is the beauty of the Aventador if the engine is a Kia?
No disrespect, Kia. Just that, you know, you are Kia.
Derek Chauvin is likely the most popular cop in the world. He will consider himself unlucky. He was not the first white cop to kill an unarmed black man. Yet his name is the one on everyone’s lips. The reason why the country is ablaze. He will curse Gregory and Travis McMichael for killing Ahmaud Arbery. He will swear at Amy Cooper for lying and threatening to call the cops on an innocent black man. He will curse the Corona virus that has everyone strung out and killed more African Americans than any other ethnic group. These four incidences formed a perfect storm that conspired to ruin his life. You could feel some sympathy for the man. No one man deserves to be hated by all the black people in the world.
Lust of the eye. Pride of life. Instant gratification. A marketer’s best friend. We love that you have them. We tell you it’s OK to have them. To sate them. After all, you only live once. Humans have had those predispositions since Mrs Adams bit on that fruit. I imagine how the serpent hustled her.
Serpent: Yo sweetness, let me holla at you real quick.
Eve: I don’t know you!
Serpent: But I know you. You are smart and the finest chick on the planet. But you aren’t all you can be. You haven’t been getting all you deserve.
Eve: How’s that?
Serpent: Look, you and Adam are the first bae and boo on the planet. The very first. That’s a very important position.
Eve: I’m listening…
Serpent: But what do you have to show for it? Eating mangoes and cuddling tarantulas all day.
Eve: I love tarantulas. They are cute.
Serpent (exasperated): That’s the point. You need to wake up! You might think the Old Man has entrusted a lot to you. That he’s given you authority and power over all this place. But he’s keeping the most important thing from you.
Eve: What’s that?
Serpent: Information. Knowledge. Knowing what’s up. That’s why he told you not to eat that fruit because he knows that when you do, you’ll be just like him. Gods in your own right. Master of your fate and captain of your soul.
Serpent: And personally, I think you guys will make really cool gods. You rock. You are the mom and pop of all humanity.
Eve: Mom and pop of all creation. That’s what’s up!
Serpent: Yea, sweetheart. That’s what’s up. So, you just go over to that tree and have yourself a snack.Be as wise as God.
Eve: WOW! Thanks, Serp! Yo, Damzi! Where you at? Let me holla at you real quick…
You get the point.
If we don’t have affectations, there won’t be luxury goods.
I recently bought the LG C9 OLED TV. It’s absolute bee’s knees. If you died and wanted your life played back, you’d want it played back on the C9. Glorious picture. Especially with 4K and 1080 content. It was voted the best TV of 2019 by almost all the gadget review websites.
But here’s the rub; 90% of the content I’ll watch on it are in Standard Definition or 720p. DVD quality. That’s what most of DSTV’s content are broadcast in. They’ve got some HD or ‘1080p’ channels but these are few. But no 4K content whatsoever. Yet I bought an expensive 4K ‘UHD’ TV. True, I’ve got some 4K content on Apple TV and on Netflix and have a slew of Blu ray discs. But did I really need an expensive 4K TV knowing it will be underutilized?
Features and aesthetics aside, I bought the C9 because I loved the way it made me feel. I feel discerning when I reel off what it can do to my mates.
It’s not about what you make. It’s about what you make people feel.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the heart of advertising and brand touchpoints. Stimulate interest and desire. Encourage instant gratification.
On a recent visit to the US, a friend asked for my help in picking a ‘designer’ shoe for some government guy in Lagos he was prospecting for contracts. The chap was on the up and up. Someone to court. It was important for my friend not to come across as a cheapskate. So he was going to buy the guy a really nice shoe. Nothing over the top but something nice and with a name. I would help in delivering the shoes in Lagos.
So we hit an outlet mall. Wandered from store to store. We went into the Hugo Boss store. I instantly saw something I liked. A chocolate leather sneakers. Chic but simple. It oozed class. $300. And that was with 25% off.
I’m no seven-dollar-gary. I like good stuff. But pony up $375 for a pair of sneakers? What am I, Kanye?
My homeboy decided the fella was worth it. And the price was within budget. As I was the same shoe size as the guy, I tried the sneakers on to get the size right. Jeez, it felt nice. Maybe I am Kanye after all.
I came back to Lagos with the shoes. I would find time to go deliver to the chap.
A few days later, on my birthday, my wife came into the room and presented the shoes to me as my birthday present. It didn’t sink in. I’d just woken up. I looked at the shoe. Then looked at her. Then looked at the shoe again. Then looked at her. She had a conniving and sly smile on her face. Then slowly it sank. I’d come home with my own birthday present! Picked by no other person but me!
After God, fear women!
She’d reached out to my friend while I was out on the city. She’d got his cell number from another friend. Told him she wanted to buy me a nice shoe for my birthday. Said I was a sucker for big-name brands. She’d given a budget and wired the money. So they hatched the plan together.
My mind went back to the day. How my friend was always on the phone while we were in the stores. He was giving her updates. He’d been longer on the phone at the Boss store. He’d leave my side to make or receive calls. If she was spending $300 on a pair of sneakers, she needed to be sure I liked it. I was never the wiser.
In truth, I like big-name brands. They signify consistent quality, are better value on the long run and they minimize buying risk. You know what you get. But there’s a thin line between liking big brands for their perceived value and engaging in ‘conspicuous consumption’, or doting on Veblen goods.
Conspicuous consumption is the practice of spending money on luxury items and services to publicly display wealth. When you and your boys are “up in the club popping mo-weezy”, that’s conspicuous consumption. At a party when your head is swelling and you are spraying bales of mulla? That’s conspicuous consumption.
A fallout of conspicuous consumption is love for Veblen goods. Luxury goods and services whose demand increase as the price increase. In fact, if their price were to fall, their demand would taper off. That’s in obvious contradiction to the law of demand. With most sapiens like you and I, the higher the price, the faster we bolt. Not with Veblen goods. The fact that most people can’t afford them is their attraction. They are unashamedly status symbols. You know them; a Birkin handbag, a Patek Philippe watch, certain types of wines, diamonds, yachts.
By the way, do you know the top fashion houses burn or destroy unsold clothes in order to preserve their exclusivity? They can’t risk the unsold items making their way to the grey market and sold off at equity-destroying discounts. Burberry was at the center of such storm a few years back.
That is why advertising is incredibly powerful in influencing not only beliefs about a brand but also belief about yourself. Never underestimate advertising. It can be both a tool for good and bad. It’s why you need to, as we say, “shine your eye” or “borrow yourself brain.”
No one needs to affirm you. Your self-worth is not in what you have. It’s in who you are.
Oh, for goodness sake, here comes this retard talking about death in January! We’ve just danced, sang and wined into a new year and this Dufus has to remind everyone we’ll check into the wooden Waldorf one day. Idiot! I shall not die but live to testify of the goodness of the Lord!
Well, I can’t help myself, can I? It must be the harmattan. Besides, what type of friend will I be if I don’t remind you that you will expire one day? I hope that day is a thousand years away, when you are full of years, wizened and lost all appetite to curse me.
After leaving New York, I visited Atlanta, Houston and Dallas. I have homeboys in those cities and looked forward to some R&R. My base on the trip was Houston. I had planned on visiting the Johnson Space Center in Houston, it being the 50th anniversary of mankind’s visit to the moon. But I was sidetracked by a few Naija owambes. On one instance, we drove four hours to Dallas to attend a wedding. Truth be told, it was nice to eat some Naija food after weeks of oyinbo food. But photography-wise none of those three cities were particularly interesting to me.
But NOLA? That’s a different proposition entirely!
What’s is great about New Orleans you ask? You mean what is great about a place nicknamed the “Big Easy” and “NOLA”? About cuisine that is a melting pot of French, African, Spanish and American culture? Vibrant live music, carnivals and costumed parades? Touristy cemeteries and slave plantations? You had to ask that question?
“If there was no New Orleans, America would just be a bunch of free people dying of boredom.” — Chris Rose
“In New Orleans, we celebrate everything. It’s probably the only place you’ll see people dancing in a funeral home.” — Trombone Shorty
New Orleans was the highlight of my trip to the US. I had a homeboy who worked in the city. We both thought it was a good idea for me to visit since I had never been to the Deep South.
I ended up going by bus. I had botched my outbound flight. Somehow, I forgot to book the ticket. To do so on the day of travel was going to set me back some $350. If I hit Ross with $350, I’d dress up my village. So I decided to go by bus, the fare being a benign $40. Seven hours the journey would take. I could live with that. I’d been on the road for about three weeks and got used to keeping myself company. I consoled myself that I would see more of the country. I would fly back to Houston.
It was a great mistake, going by bus. I’ll explain.
See, the eminent state of Louisiana is bordered on the east by the state of Mississippi. Think Mississippi, think ridiculously humongous river. And then the state is bordered in the south by the Gulf of Mexico, ergo the Atlantic Ocean pretending not to be the Atlantic Ocean. In other words, the state has lots of water; massive deltas, swamps and marshland. Huge ridiculous things.
It also turns out that the state has three of the world’s longest bridges over water. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the longest at 24 miles – 38km. It is closely followed by the Manchac Swamp Bridge at 22.8miles – 36.7km. Third is the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge at 18.2mile – 29.2km.
Only when was I well on my way did I come across the information that we would go through one of these mammy water bridges to get to New Orleans. That the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge was the shortest of the those three bridges was no consolation. It’s 29km long!
Look, I’m no Aquaman. I am unnerved by long bridges over water. I am that driver that hugs the divider on Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos. I never drive close to the water. I fear that one of my wheels may come off or someone would rear-end me and I would be, er, swimming with the fishes. Yet, the Third Mainland Bridge is a mere 11.8km. The Atchafalaya Basin Bridge is close to three times that length! Over foreboding waters, vexed cottonmouths and hungry gators!
Why would anyone build such a ridiculously long bridge? It’s not as if New Orleanians would curl up and die if no one came visiting. They have jazz, jambalayas, gumbos and Huge Ass Beers. They don’t need anyone else to have a great time. We must learn to respect people’s right to isolation.
The bus was a double decker. Ignorant of what lay ahead, I had selected a seat on the upper deck, in the front of the bus. The ride over the Atchafalaya Basin bridge was pure torment. The consequence of my high perch in the bus was vertigo and the feeling that the bus was tottering and would fall into the water. My prickliness towards the driver at the bus station in Houston would come back to haunt me as the geezer only drove a few centimeters from the edge of the bridge. I could have sworn the bloke was suicidal.
Lake Ponchartrain Causeway – 23.875 miles (38.442 km) . Picture not mine.
Manchac Swamp Bridge : 22.8 miles (36.7 km). Picture not mine.
Atchafalaya Basin Bridge : 18.2miles (29.2km).
Took this shot from my high perch on the upper deck of the bus.
Check this. There is an 8-mile stretch on the Pontchartrain Causeway where you completely lose sight of land in all directions. Drivers have been known to freeze up during this stretch, suddenly feeling trapped and frightened. I gather it is a common enough occurrence that police patrols are stationed on the bridge to escort those frightened drivers back off the bridge.
I did manage to make it to New Orleans alive. My homeboy was waiting for me downtown. We drove to my hotel and checked in. My survival at the hands of the Atchafalaya bridge was a victory that demanded an epicurean celebration. We drove to Cajun Seafood on Claiborne Avenue. I stilled my jangled nerves with gumbo, crab claws and crawfish.
I cannot come and kill myself.
Now, let me tell you about a food incidence that irked me greatly.
See, prior to going to New Orleans, I had read that a must-do for first timers in the city was to eat beignets at Café Du Monde. So I thought to myself that this beignet must be quite the treat. I therefore made it an expedient matter to locate this Cafe Du Monde and introduce myself to this beignet .
I found Cafe Du Monde. Opposite Jackson Square. It was full of tourists. I eagerly waited to be seated. It was recommended that one orders beignets with cafe au lait. But as I don’t drink coffee, I ordered mine with orange juice. I waited with bated breathe.
When the beignets were brought, they turned out to be…Puff-Puff!
Three pieces of Puff-Puff covered with powdered sugar.
Three Puff-Puffs for $7! In Lagos, ten Puff-Puffs is N100! That’s just about a quarter – 25 cents!
I am never accepting the recommendation of white folks on gastronomic matters.
Cafe Du Monde
The beignet affair aside, the food in New Orleans are simply wonderful; gumbo, jambalaya, po-boy, alligator meat, fried catfish, crabs, crawfish. My advise to you; don’t ever come to New Orleans if you are on a diet!
The ever popular and iconic New Orleans gumbo. Some broth with different sea creatures in which you pour some rice. Never the other way.
“Banana Foster” – ‘Fresh bananas sauteed tableside in brown sugar and cinnamon, flambeed with banana liqueur and rum, vanilla bean ice cream.’
My hotel was just off the popular Canal Street, a stroll from the quaint French Quarters and the carnal Bourbon Street. Only in New Orleans will you find the charming right next to the iniquitous.
Cue Bourbon Street. It is probably the most popular street in the whole of the Deep South. But whatever was historical about Bourbon Street is now, well, history. You don’t go to Bourbon Street to learn the street wasn’t named after bourbon. You go to Bourbon Street to hand over your brains to bourbon, whiskey, rum, vodka, Huge Ass Beers or any other O-be-joyful.
Hustling for customers on Bourbon Street. PS: If the sign doesn’t make sense to you, try watching the Bud Light TV spot below.
In one of the Bourbon Street bars, I ordered a Coke with ice. The sweet bartender asked me “what the hell I was doing in New Orleans if I didn’t drink alcohol”.
But you will also find creativity abounding in and around Bourbon Street. There are numerous spots with bands playing and little known musicians serenading guests at bars and restaurants. I hear the street is quite a thing during Mardi Gras.
There is of course so much to New Orleans than Bourbon Street. There is the Civil War history (not Avengers!) There are the cemeteries and the plantations.
Let’s talk about about cemeteries.
I found it odd that one of the popular attractions of a city would be its cemeteries. But New Orleans has always had an interesting relationship with its dearly departed.
You see, burying the dead in a city below sea level was always going to be a big challenge. Dig a few feet in New Orleans and you will strike water. Early settlers found to their chagrin that coffins floated on streets during heavy rainstorms, unearthed by flood waters. They tried burying the dead with huge stones on the coffin to keep it down against flood. But that also proved useless. Coffins and limbs still bobbed around the city during floods.
The solution decided was to keep the graves above ground, in like manner of the Spanish custom of using vaults. Graves are not dug. The dead are simply put in coffins in tombs that are above ground.
Many of the tombs look like miniature houses, some with iron fences. These rows of tombs give the cemeteries the appearance of a city with streets. This is why New Orleans cemeteries are usually referred to as Cities of the Dead. They are historic as some of the cities well-known personalities are buried there. And well, they look archaeological too.
The tomb of Benjamin Latrobe, the architect of the U.S. Capitol.
By far the most popular cemetery in New Orleans is the St Louis Cemetery No 1, close to the French Quarters. I took a guided tour of the cemetery. Before the start of the tour, the guide introduced us to the concept attachment.
See, people come to cemeteries and leave mementos at tombs of family members. We were admonished never to pick up any object we found interesting at tombs and within the cemetery. Lest we were visited by the otherworldly owner of the memento. We were told stories of people who had to traveled back to New Orleans to return objects they had taken from from the cemeteries. They supposedly had visitations and were haunted.
“Give back me compass, ye mortal! Lest I be wandering lost in the afterlife. Lest ye replace I in on the River Styx.
Joke aside, New Orleans is the voodoo and superstition capital of America.
This is the tomb for Nicholas Cage. He bought the tomb in 2010. This is where he will be buried when he kicks the bucket. “Omnia Ab Uno“, is Latin for “Everything From One“.
The next day, I hit the plush Garden District area. I took the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world – the St. Charles Streetcar – to get there. That old timer has been rattling along since 1835 and is not about to toot its final horn soon. It was all so surreal, taking a streetcar that has been in operation since 1835 to a neighbourhood that is just as old.
That District Garden is some mighty fine neighbourhood. Quaint and ornate mansions along oak-lined streets. You could smell new and old money in the neighbourhood. It is the site of many movies and TV programmes.
On the third day, it was time to for some slave lessons and plantation visits.
There are many plantations in New Orleans. There is the Felicity Plantation where “12 Years A Slave” was shot, the Laura Plantation, the Whitney Plantation, the San Francisco Plantation, Oak Alley Plantation and many others. I chose a guided tour of the Oak Alley Plantation.
The Oak Alley Plantation is about 92 km from the New Orleans downtown. It took about 1hr:10m to get there. Again driving through swamps and on bridges.
Why NOLA, why?
Oak Alley was a sugarcane plantation. 1200 acres. Plantation economy depended on slavery. Slaves were brought to Louisiana from Africa and sold to planters (owners of plantations) until 1808, when importation was banned. After that, planters bought slaves from other planters, or from slave traders bringing slaves from the east coast.
The plantation had its customary “Big House” which was where the owner of the plantation and his family lived. In front of the “Big House” stood a row of majestic Virginia Live Oaks. 300 years old beauties. Dig this: the average age for a Live Oak is 600 years. That makes those oaks only middle aged! There were 28 trees, to match the 28 columns on the “Big House”. The property has been designated a US National Historic Landmark for its architecture and landscaping.
No matter the number of times I see slave or race-related movies, or visit sites of racism and human denigration, I can’t hold back the emotions. The pain, fear and anxiety of the slaves become mine and real. As the tour guide solemnly narrated the history of the plantation and the lives of the slaves, I became grateful for the timeline in history I happen to inhabit.
Hey, let me tell you a funny story.
When I was an undergraduate, on one of those days when the lads and I we were broke, hungry and sharing a stick of cigarette, a roommate had lamented about his penurious situation and the culpability of his ancestors for his famished state of affair. He maintained that he could have been Michael Jackson or any notable African American. We enquired as to why this was so and he proceeded to tell us an intriguing story.
His great great great granddad had been captured on the shores of Nigeria by slave traders. The poor bugger was beaten and thrown into a ship bound for America. After many weeks on the Atlantic, surviving typhus, measles and smallpox, he eventually arrived America. While at the port and being paraded to be sold, the man managed to slip his bonds and dived into the water. He began to frantically swim towards the open sea. He was shot at and even pelted with canon fire. But the chap kept swimming. He evaded great whites, hammer-heads, orcas and water spirits. He was repeatedly stung by box jellyfish yet he kept swimming. He even evaded other slave ships. He swam non-stop. He swam breaststroke. He swam butterfly stroke. He swam furiously. He swam until he arrived back at his village after 120 days. He was treated to a hero’s welcome and a feast declared in his honour. He was made a chief and married five wives. He lived ever happily after.
As far as my roommate was concerned, the man should have been eaten by a shark. Of what use was it that the man came back to Africa he vented.
“How could the bugger run away from America! To come back to this god-forsaken country and condemn me to be Nigerian! He made it to America, for Christ sake! The America! The Land of The Free. Screw his chains! I could have been Michael Jackson. I could have been Usher. But now I’m a broke Nigerian with uncertain future! Because of an idiotic ancestor! Abeg, pass me the ciga…”
Just so you know, it was only cigarette we were smoking not marijuana.
The roommate talked about slavery glibly. But it is humour that many African American will not appreciate. Slavery and it consequent discrimination and segregation doesn’t get to us Africans as it does to our brothers in North America. We were never imports with bar codes. They were. They are constantly reminded of the colour of their skin and their inferior position. Which I must remind you all is a fallout of evolutionary biology beliefs. But don’t get me started on that again!
After such an emotional trip, my spirits needed some uplifting. It was upliftment I deemed only a jambalaya could provide.
On my tour bus were two fine African American sisters. Friends and colleagues. They worked in the academia. I’d struck up conversation with them on our way to the plantations. But they were going to the Whitney Plantation. The bus dropped them off at Whitney Plantation while I proceeded to Oak Alley. We picked them up on our way back, So, I invited them to lunch.
They recommended we eat at Dooky Chase restaurant for a proper Creole cuisine. I had never heard of Dooky Chase. Which was to my shame because ex-Presidents W. Bush Jr and Obama had. President Obama ate gumbo at the restaurant in 2008 and George W Bush Jr had Crab soup and shrimp Clemenceau when he visited New Orleans post Katrina. Among the eminent people who had also dined at Dooky Chase was Thurgood Marshall, the first African American judge of the United States Supreme Court and Dr Martin Luther King.
Emmanuel Dunnand/AFP via Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The restaurant was run by Leah Chase, an icon of the civil rights movement and Creole chef extraordinaire. Her restaurant served as the meeting place for civil rights activists and entertainers. She would feed free both whites and blacks off the frontline of marches for equality. At the time, the restaurant was the only upscale black restaurant in a city with many Jim Crow laws. The restaurant was named after her husband, Edgar ‘Dooky’ Chase Jr., a jazz trumpeter and band leader. Mr. Chase died in 2016 at the age of 88. Leah Chase would later die in June 2019 at the age of 96. I visited the restaurant in July 2019. I never got to meet her. Rotten luck.
So, it was to this illustrious restaurant we were going for lunch. The prospect of dining in the same room as Nat King Cole made the food more appetizing.
But alas! There was no room at the inn! When we got there, there was a queue as long as the Nile. We didn’t have a reservation. The ladies cooed and cajoled but there just wasn’t space for us. Rotten luck raised to power ten.
So, we decided to try our luck at another popular New Orleans soul food restaurant; Willie Mae’s Scotch House. The Food Network and Travel Channel had named it best for “America’s Best Fried Chicken” In 2007. I’m no chicken fan, but if them sisters wanted fried chicken, then fried chicken it was.
Luckily, there was room at the inn. Out of respect for my guests, I pretended to enjoy the fried chicken. I regaled my guests with my jaunt through Europe. Turned out that they had also been to a concentration camp outside Berlin – the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. I told them about my encounter with racism in Poland. They seemed surprised that I was surprised at racist encounters in the world.
“Dude, we are black. It goes with the colour of our skin, even in America,” one of the sisters said.
I disagreed and said perhaps black folks in America needed to do more than wanting to be rappers, basketballers and celebrities. I said I didn’t think African Americans were doing enough to rise above their challenges.
From there, the conversation went downhill very fast.
“How could you understand what black people face in America? We don’t try hard enough? Really? Why would you expect a ‘yes’ when all you’ve ever been told is a ‘no?’ You don’t know our struggles. Your parents weren’t imports. Ours were. You didn’t have to deal with slavery and don’t have to live with racism.”
“You are just so typical of most Nigerians. Arrogant and disdainful of African Americans. You think we are lazy, you don’t want to associate with us. You call us names – akata. Oh, yea, we know you do that…”
Boy, did I screw up or what! I touched a raw nerve. In retrospect, perhaps I spoke ignorantly. I didn’t mean to disrespect or disparage the challenges African Americans face in the US. But I should have been more thoughtful. Even if it is to have an enjoyable lunch. Lesson learnt.
They wanted to pay for their meal, but I insisted on paying. They humoured me and thanked me but I could tell they were still miffed.
All in all, I absolutely loved New Orleans. I’m coming back and spending more time. This time, I’ll come back with the missus. NOLA is too good to enjoy alone.
And yes, I flew back to Houston. No way was I going to subject my feeble heart to the torture of that bridge again.
Few cities are as iconic as New York. When you think of America, you might actually be thinking about New York. Yellow taxis. Lady Liberty. NYPD. Manhattan. Hustle. The American Dream. But New York is more than iconic places. New York is an attitude.
“Most cities are nouns. New York is a verb” – John F Kennedy.
You see, New York makes you feel little. And I’m not talking about skyscrapers. Your sense of belittlement comes from the realization that only you knows you are in New York. No one notices you. Sure, if you owe an NY loan shark, someone will know you are in New York. But other than for that lack of gumption, you’ll be just one in the 60 million that visit the city every year. An indistinguishable bee in a mammoth hive. But don’t take it personal. New York doesn’t hate or think little of you. It’s just too busy racking up $840bn in GDP. After all, it is the seat of American capitalism and that beast must be fed.
And New Yorkers? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it? Everybody’s got things to do and places to be and if you get in their way, well, you’re gonna know about it. One time, my wife’s cousin, a Brooklynite, had visited us in Maryland. She couldn’t wait to get out of Maryland. She said everyone was too slow and she was losing her mind.
This was not my first visit to New York. I’d been here a couple of times. But I can never get enough of the city. In New York, interesting encounters can happen to you without warning. Once at Times Square, my wife and I ran into Beyonce a few years back. She’d stopped to watch same street performers we were watching. Some guys who were doing a Michael Jackson routine. We were no more than ten meters from her. I tried to record a video of her but one of her bodyguards was on to me like a broke cousin.
Slow down, Thanos!
I’d flown in through JFK. I’m ambivalent about JFK. It’s neither a great nor poor airport. It processes you out without a human touch. Very few smiles. Look, I’m not asking for hugs or kisses. Just some human touch. At least at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, the airport personnel smile at you and cajole you for money. That’s human touch. Personal interaction. Even if your wallet is going to be a few notes lighter afterwards.
With some of my country folks, approaching a US Custom and Border Patrol officer calls for spiritual back up. Since a visa merely allows you to travel to a port of entry and then seek admittance from a border officer, and CBP officers known to deny entry to travelers (ATL, I’m looking at you ), many Naija travellers approach these officers with meekness. At that moment, we realise we do not wrestle against flesh and blood and must summon angelic assistance. So don’t be alarmed when you see us muttering under our breath or talking to ourselves. We are engaged in spiritual warfare you best stay out of.
The CBP officials who attended to me liked my camera backpack and National Geographic carry-on. I suppose they made me look like a serious and celebrated NatGeo photographer. When I later traveled to Atlanta, A TSA officer had also complimented me on the backpack and carry-on and thanked me for all the good stuff we bring to their screen on NatGeo. I smiled demurely.
There, all you haters! I’m a National Geographic photographer!
A few mundane questions and the CBP chaps welcomed me to the US.
Ah, New York City! It’s always good to be back!
I hailed a Uber to Brooklyn. My AirBnB was in Brooklyn.
Oh, I love it in Brooklyn!
You see, Brooklyn is kind and real and can be anything you want it to be. It can be upscale. It can be “hood”. It can be homely or it can be distant. Brooklyn doesn’t take sides. Everyone is right in Brooklyn and everyone is wrong in Brooklyn.
And Brooklyn is not a black borough. It is over 44% white and about 34% black. But you find most racial colorations in the borough. Arab Americans enclave, Jewish American enclave, Latin American enclave. Even Russian Americans. Little Russia and Little Odessa around Brighton Beach.
Fancy that. “Russian American.” I suppose there would be American Russians too.
Hey, anyone knows the number of American-North Koreans in the world?
But back to Brooklyn. Brooklyn is getting gentrified however. Richer folks and more middle-class people are moving into the borough making the prices of houses soar. Often beyond the reach of most Brooklynites, especially African Americans. It’s a source of constant angst and anger. But mostly, Brooklyn loves. I feel safe in Brooklyn.
A Brooklyn encounter from many years ago.
It was my first trip to the US. I’d traveled with the missus to New York. We’d just been married and I wanted to meet some of her cousins and other family members. There were only eighteen people at our wedding and not a few family members on either side were upset at the non-invitation. So the trip was a peace-making mission. We would stay with the uncle and cousins in Brooklyn.
On our way from the airport, I had espied a Dunkin’ Donut a few blocks from the house. The next morning, I woke up early and like a good in-law proclaimed I was going out to get some breakfast for everyone at Dunkin.’ After all, America runs on Dunkin.’
Truth was I was aching sorely for a cigarette. I hadn’t smoked in over twenty four hours and was dying slowly. I could feel my spirit bidding farewell to my mortal body. I needed nicotine and tar quickly.
Those days I chain-smoked. I was that guy that woke up at 2 am to smoke and jumped into the car to go buy a cigarette when he realised he was out of smokes. And that guy who opts for a stop-over flight instead of a direct one so he could stop over and smoke. I was that hopeless. Kicked the habit now. Nine years since I last lit a cigarette. Surprise, surprise, I haven’t died yet.
So I was saying…
I hurried out of the house with my pack of cigarette in pocket. I walked about three blocks to an intersection and lit a cigarette. I took deep joyful drags and exhaled slowly. It was like air after being waterboarded.
Then this black dude bounced up to me. Unkempt afro, dirty gold teeth, jeans hanging from his butt and fake bling around his neck.
“Hey man, can I have a cigarette?”
I was a little afraid. This was my first time in America and I had preconceived notions of Brooklyn and crime. I hesitated and processed what my action should be. But the dude didn’t sound or look threatening in any way.
“Just a stick, bruh. Help a brother out. You know I’m sayin?”
Yea, dawg. I know what you is sayin’.
I offered him my pack of Rothmans. He took out one stick. I encouraged him to take more.
He took two more. He asked for a light. I gave him my lighter. He lit the cigarette and took rapid puffs. Happy, he gave me a vigorous bro hug that nearly dislocated my shoulders.
“You ain’t from around here, is you?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Where you from?”
“Yea, Africa. I ain’t ever been to Africa. Adon’t like it in Africa.”
Of course, you don’t, you bonehead.
He gave me another bro hug and bounced off.
My first friend in Brooklyn. I’m really going to like it here.
And there is so much creative energy!
Fulton Street, Brooklyn
Saw this dude at the Broadway Junction station. Probably the first African American Sioux you’ll ever see!
Whereas my jaunt through Europe had been about history – an ignominious history at that- I was coming to America to eat, sleep and take pictures. It’s been nine months since I was bitten by a radioactive photo bug and I’ve been honing my photography powers. I’m seeing improvements. A lot of my compositions are still rushed and I’m still way behind with post processing/editing. But I’ll get there. You will hear of me!
Oh, wait. You already heard of me!
My US jaunt encompassed New York, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and the “Big Easy” – New Orleans. With the exception of New York, I was visiting the other cities for the first time. I was particularly looking forward to going to NOLA – New Orleans, Louisiana. The food! Lord, keep me safe till I get to NOLA!
So, what was there to eat in New York?
Let me tell you about people I have serious beef with.
I don’t care much for anyone who maligns food like pizza, burgers and hot dogs and label them junk food. How can food that gives joy be junk? How can two large lemonades be evil? I’ll tell you what is junk. It’s broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower, lettuce and brussel sprouts. Those are the food responsible for most of the unhappiness in the world. Dig very deep and you’ll find those veggies caused WWII. No one who eats bacon, cheese and pepperoni wakes up to bomb another human being. Companies like Shake Shack and Joe’s Pizza are spreading as much joy around the world as the Salvation Army.
Needless to say my meals in New York were mostly those poor maligned food. They didn’t do my waistline any favours. But be reminded that calories don’t count in heaven.
I had not eaten ‘pepper’ since I left Nigeria two weeks earlier. So I sought to reacquaint my palate with the taste of home. Off I went to Festac Grill off Atlantic Avenue. White rice, ofada sauce with boiled eggs and dodo. Stiffed out of $20. But no point quarreling with food you already paid for. I enjoyed it grudgingly.
Let’s talk about the New York subway for a minute.
Let’s get this out of the way. No other subway in the Milky Way come close to the New York subway in entertainment and pleasant surprises. I haven’t been to Neptune yet, but I’m betting they won’t have Maroon 5 performing in their stations.
I recorded the young hustlers below myself.
I’ve been on a couple of trains and trams in Europe. Boring affair. On the London Tube, everyone might as well be studying for an exam. In France, commuters are too polite to look you in the eye. Not in NY. Those trains may rattle along and be anachronistic, but there’s no knowing who might be sitting next to you. Captain America. Houdini. Keanu Reeves.
Ah yes, my pictures. What have I got to show for the camera slinging across the city? A few decent photographs. But a few people ooh and ahhed over a few of the pictures, though I suspect it was more to encourage me than appreciation. It’s a journey. I’ll get there.
Saw this spot as I walked on the Manhattan Bridge to the Brooklyn end of the bridge.
Colours of New York. Manhattan
The Oculus. Downtown Manhattan.
The towering skyscrapers of Manhattan banded together to whisper. They looked down at me as I looked up at them with my 18mm wide angle lens. Gotcha!
Brooklyn Bridge Park.
DUMBO here is a must-have in the portfolio of any photographer who visits New York. It is always teeming with photographers. On this day, I had to wake up early to hopefully have DUMBO to myself. I got there at 6 am. I met three photographers! We were considerate to one another.
What I really enjoyed about my trip to New York this time was the fact that I was alone. Didn’t come with the family. No friends. So I was pretty much left to my own devices. Ate what I shouldn’t. Walked distances family wouldn’t and didn’t visit Saks Fifth Avenue. Freedom.
After four days, it was time to bid farewell to NY. Time to head to Atlanta to see friends. Nothing special about my visit to Atlanta though. Same with Houston and Dallas. Staying with friends. Visiting other friends. Shopping for the family. In essence, not blog-worthy visits. I did discover a wicked milk shake shop in Houston though. Right under my nose! I punished myself appropriately for not discovering it sooner by visiting it daily.
Sometime in 2018, I watched CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interview Ronen Bergman on his book, Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations. In the interview, Bergman talked about how the Mossad, the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security organ) and AMAN (Israel’s military intelligence) went about aiding perceived enemies of Israel cash in their chips early. Bergman explained that Isreal’s strong hand on its perceived enemies was borne out of centuries of Jewish persecution, the Holocaust and the Talmudic mandate:
“The Talmud says: ‘If someone comes to kill you, rise and kill him first.’ This instinct to take every measure, even the most aggressive, to defend the Jewish people is hardwired into Israel’s DNA.”
Bergman talked about a particular incidence. On the instruction of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Air Force had scrambled two F-15s to blow up a chartered plane thought to be transporting the hated Yasser Arafat. The F-15s circled the plane waiting for final confirmation orders to shoot it down.
Turns out it was not Yasser Arafat on board but his brother, Fathi Arafat, a doctor. He was escorting thirty wounded Palestinian children to Cairo for treatment. The intel was wrong. The strike was called off.
It was a gripping expose.
I was filled with righteous indignation. But it turns out that on no less than five different occasions had F-15s and F-16s been scrambled on the instruction of Ariel Sharon to shoot down commercial airliners thought to be ferrying Yasser Arafat. Only internal sabotage by military officials — galled by the order and fearing war crime charges against Israel — ensured the missions failed.
By the way, when you pray for luck, pray for the the Yasser Arafat-type of luck. Given how badly Ariel Sharon had it in for the man, that he died of natural causes is nothing short of a miracle. As we Yorubas are wont to say, his mother wasn’t dozing in heaven.
I have always loved spooks stories. So after watching the interview, I went out and bought the book.
Two words: don’t be an existential threat to Israel.
OK, that’s seven words. What I meant to say was: mind blown.
How the Israeli government allowed the book to be published beggars belief. The book gave details of many of Israel’s covert operations and the names of principal actors and agents, many of whom are still alive!
Assassination through poisoned toothpaste. Assassination of enemy nuclear scientists. Car bombs. Letter bombs. Sidling into hostile and friendly countries to eliminate, abduct or blow up targets. All in a day’s work.
The book was a scintillating read. However, I doubt that families of the many dearly departed on account of Israeli bullets, knives or bombs would find it so. Not if you learned your beloved was dumped into the Mediterranean from 30,000 feet.
But the book sowed a seed in my heart. To understand a man you only need to understand his past and his fears. So, I thought to myself: what if I visited some of the historic sites of Jewish persecution in Europe? Understand what haunts Israel so badly?
It was a very entertaining thought. I already had a US vacation planned and was going to fly through Europe. Why not stop over for some gulag history and haunting memories on the way to divine cuisine in New Orleans? And since I had recently been smitten by a photography bug, I could take some interesting pictures.
Oh, I liked the sound of it. I liked it very much. So, I planned the trip and off I went.
Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Budapest and Krakow. Six European cities in 9 days. Then I skipped over the Atlantic for some R and R. New York, Atlanta, Houston and New Orleans.
You can’t be broke if you don’t check your bank account.
Since many human beings suffer from the grand delusion that people are dying to read whatever drivel they write, I am sharing memories of the trip in separate posts. The links are below. Maybe it might inspire you to have some sense and not travel, the consequence of which is some seriously expanded mind.
Hopefully, not from visiting coffee shops in Amsterdam.
Please click on the cities below for account of each trip.
If you are reading this blogpost, chances are you probably read the earlier post that led to it. However, if you didn’t or haven’t, it might be a good idea to. The link is here.
Amsterdam was the first port of call on my European jaunt. I had never been to the city although I’d flown through Amsterdam Schiphol on several occasions. I’d heard a lot about Amsterdam. Its diversity. The Red Light District and legalised prostitution. Coffee Houses that sell no coffee. The canals. Rijksmuseum. Tulips. The Amsterdam Arena and Ajax football club. The ‘Venice of the North was the stuff of myths. I was therefore looking forward to seeing the city.
So, on the wings of the Flying Dutchman I flew into Amsterdam Schiphol. I have always loved Schiphol. It has an easy and laid-back feel I find pleasing. Either arriving in Amsterdam or transiting through Schiphol, you do not feel harried or anxious. Cool Runnings. By the way, do you know our own Murtala Muhammed International Airport was modeled after Amsterdam Schiphol? We only decided to stop at one terminal.
After arriving at Schiphol, I took the NS train to the city-center Amsterdam Centraal station, or “Centraal” as the natives call it. The Gothic-styled station is the biggest in Amsterdam and the second busiest in the Netherlands after Utrecht.
What’s remarkable about Amsterdam Centraal station? Why, the double-decker trains, of course! I have never seen one. So you would understand my excitement when one pulled to a stop in front of me. I jumped in. I couldn’t care less if the train was going to Fallujah. I had to get on a double-decker train. Upstairs seating would be fine, thank you.
The hostel I booked was across the River IJ and Centraal. I arrived in Amsterdam in the wee hours and supposedly would not be able to check into the hostel until 3 pm. Eager to make the most of my two-day stay in the city, I opted to take a shower in a facility at the station so I can hit the city immediately. €18 that luxury cost me. A mugging, especially since the hostel checked me into my room at 8:30 am.
No justice can be done to exploring a city in two days. Budget and my time constraints notwithstanding, there was no excuse for treating iconic Amsterdam with such levity. Apologies Amsterdamers, I shall be back!
But what were my first thoughts of Amsterdam?
Why, the bicycles of course!
There are close to 900,000 bicycles in the city. For a population of 1.1m people. It’s ridiculous.
And what dexterity too!
I am convinced Amsterdamers cycled right out of the womb and are born with wheels instead of legs. Folks around here probably ride a bicycle from the bedroom to the toilet.
I chose to walk. I will not embarrass my ancestors among such aces.
And what is Amsterdam without its canals? It’s the only reason it is called the Venice of the North. I must have walked by or gone over 50 canals but I understand the city has over 160 canals and over 1500 bridges. That’s preposterous! Amsterdam, you take liberality too far!
You can’t miss the diversity in Amsterdam too. It is pleasantly a multi-racial and diverse city. Only 49% of Amsterdamers are Dutch while 50% are of foreign ancestry. Folks of non-Western origin account for 35% of the city’s population and over 170 nationalities call the city home. Which was great because I loathe finding myself in a back street with ultra-nationalists. I am concerned about racism when I travel. But I needn’t worry. Black lives seemed to matter in Amsterdam.
If I was to describe Amsterdam in one short sentence it would be “a cosmopolitan city that still managed to remain a little town.” You get the feeling you could walk the whole city in a day.
So, why did I come to Amsterdam?
Amsterdam held a special interest to me for two reasons. One, its light-handed treatment of topical moral issues is fascinating. Prostitution is legal and unionised in the city. And so also is recreational marijuana use. The Dutch reckon that if people are going to pay for sex or smoke ‘weed,’ there’s little you can do to stop them. So why not allow and regulate the activity instead? The city is famed for its Red Light District and places that sell marijuana are euphemistically called Coffee Shops.
Coffee shops that sell no coffee. Quintessentially Dutch.
By the way, I never visited the Red Light District. See no evil, think no evil.
So yes, the Dutch believe morality should not be legislated. Live and let live. Which sounds all nice and dandy. But where do we draw the line? Next stop bestiality? Paedophilia? Incest?
The second reason Amsterdam held special interest to me was its long tradition of welcoming the persecuted. Catholics and Jews found respite in the city during very difficult times. The city welcomed Jews from all over Europe when everyone else was throwing them out. They gave them a home and put their business acumen to use building the city. It was also why the city was also referred to as the “Jerusalem of the North” on account of the big Jewish population in the city at a time.
Stories of Jewish persecution in Amsterdam will inevitably lead to the story of Anne Frank and the Anne Frank House. Which was one of the reasons why I was in Amsterdam.
That and food and photography.
Let’s talk about food, shall we?
Many white folks gush about the street food called herring.
“Oh, you must eat herring when you are in Amsterdam.”
“Herring is a Dutch institution. It is delicious and healthy.”
“You can’t go to Amsterdam and not eat herring”
Oh herring this. Oh herring that.
So I went looking for this herring and tried it.
My advice to you: never listen to white folks!
As a matter of fact, never listen to anyone who finds raw fish, pickles and onions tasty.
But I did like bitterballen (which is not bitter at all), stroopwafel and some of the Indonesian cuisine.
And cheese! What is Amsterdam without cheese?
I visited the Henri Willig cheese factory in Zaanse Schans outside the city. I have never seen such varieties of cheese! Baby Gouda, Goat Cheese, Sheep Cheese, Baby Goat, Baby Cheese, Herbs & Garlic, Pepper, Red Chilli Pepper, Fenugreek. My face lit up like a Nigerian politician at the sight of lucre.
And eat I did. I was shameless with the generous free tasting. Deride me all you want. He who brings cheese, brings life.
One of the pleasant cheese maids proceeded to teach us the right way to pronounce ‘Gouda’. It is pronounced ‘hak-ouda.’ You pronounced the ‘ha’ as if you were summoning phlegm from your gut.
OK ma’am. Just let me have the cheese, thank you.
And the weather!
In terms of the worst weather on the planet, London has kith and kin in Amsterdam. If your life depended on it not raining, you will die. Because it will rain in Amsterdam. In winter. In fall. In summer. In spring. I hated that about Amsterdam.
Right. To Anne Frank and the Anne Frank House. One of the reasons why I was in Amsterdam.
If you don’t know the story of Anne Frank, allow me to summarise.
Jewish girl Anne Frank was 11 years old when Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940. Anne lived with her father, mother and sister in Amsterdam.
As Jewish people began to disappear all over Europe, killed by the Nazis, Anne’s father, Otto, began building a secret annex in his office to hide the family from the Nazis if things came to a head in Amsterdam.
It did. In 1942, when Anne was 13 years old, the family moved into the secret annex. They were joined by four other people. It was very cramped in the annex.
They lived there for two years until they were discovered in 1944. Rumour has it they were ratted out. The Nazis deported the family to the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Poland (Which I was to visit).
Anne and her sister, Margot, were later moved to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Condition at Bergen-Belsen was no less bad than at Auschwitz. The prisoners were overworked and many died from sheer exhaustion. Communicable diseases were also rife in the camp and Anne and Margot contracted typhus to which they eventually succumbed.
It broke my heart that they died in February 1945. British forces liberated the camp in April 1945.
Sweethearts, if only you knew help was around the corner. If only you could have kept going for two more months.
Peeps, no matter what, hold on. Persevere. Find a reason to hold on. Victory might be 24 hours away.
Anne’s father Otto was the only survivor from the secret annex. Anne’s mother had also died at Auschwitz.
But while Anne was in the secret chamber, she kept a diary. She wrote about life in the secret annex and her hopes and aspiration. She wanted to be a writer and a journalist and had intended to publish the story of life in the secret annex.
The diary somehow escaped the clutches of the Nazis. Otto Frank was moved by her daughter’s story. On encouragement, in 1947 he published the diary into the now popular novel, Het Achterhuis (The Secret Annex). He hoped that readers of the diary would become aware of the inherent evil in discrimination and racism.
The book has since been translated into over 70 languages. The house in which Anne and her family hid is now a museum, the Anne Frank House. More than 1.2 million people visit the house every year.
That was some summary, wasn’t it? You really can’t summarise agony.
I had intended to visit the Anne Frank House. But due to the frazzling of cells in my brain for no apparent reason, I forgot to book the guided tour of the house.
You see, tickets to the Anne Frank House are sold out up to 2 months in advance, especially during summer. And this was summer. A limited amount of tickets are released online at 9 am every morning on each day of visit. But the queue of people waiting to snatch them up stretch from Amsterdam to Babylon. I am not especially endowed with patience.
I kicked myself over and over again. How could I have forgotten? How could I have been careless?
Well, I was in Amsterdam anyway and I might as well make the most of it. I set about taking pictures. I wandered around the city. The Joordan, De Pijp, Amsterdam-Noord. I visited the Rijksmuseum, Zaanse Schans, Inntel Hotel at Zaandam. I should fare better in Berlin, my next stop on the jaunt.
But it rained. My two days in Amsterdam were cold, wet and overcast.
1-0 Amsterdam. You win this tie. There will be a return leg. You will not get the better of me again!