Thursday, December 15, 2011

Awa Naa (je eniyan) [We Too (Are somebody)]…

Madam Risi buka (“mama” as she is fondly called) is in a corner on Adio Street, just around New garage, an area in Bariga. The Buka is located at a short distance from the local government council, right opposite Prince Akinlaja Newspaper stand. Her shop is known to open Mondays to Saturdays from 4:30am to 12:00am and Sundays from 2 pm to 10pm. 

She has a strict routine which all her 12 employees have to live by. The day starts with a 30 minutes devotion during which they all have to recite Psalm 23, sing praises, and give testimonies. After the devotion, the shop opens for business with Rashidat frying the fish, akara and dodo just outside the door of the buka to entice its customers.

Mama’s buka is one of the most popular buka around the Bariga axis. Located in an uncompleted building, many
are surprised at how the buka stands the envy of all the restaurant owners around, even Bimpe’s “Brotherly food” that is opposite the Apostolic Church at Jagunmolu Street. Bimpe’s husband, who works for Skye Bank, invested a lot to make her restaurant amazing and giving it all the perks of a modern buka. It felt new, and always had that smell of lavender. The sitting area, furnished with white plastic chairs can also boast of  three standing fans and table mats. All her employees wore blue and white uniforms. Bimpe’s shop was usually full during the church’s convention. It is only during that period that her restaurant has considerable traffic. For the rest of the year, the restaurant was empty and usually stayed the attraction of only Bariga’s “high-end” earners: drivers who work in one of the Oil Companies on the Island/white men, church owners and the children of big landlords. The common earners would troop into the simpler structure and enjoy the company of mama. 

’s buka has two sections both with un-cemented floor. The main section, which covers over three quarters of the floor space, is sparsely furnished with six wooden benches and tables for customers. On each table was a plastic white bowl and blue stripped kettles for washing hands. The other section partitioned by a small wall with a narrow entrance was the make shift kitchen. As plumbing had not started the kitchen traffic (to include receiving water from the hawker’s wheel-barrows or disposal of waste) was done through the extremely odd looking 62 x 72 inches window overlooking the back of the house. Right next to this section, you will find the exit and a seat for the makeshift cashier. Next to the main entrance you see a small seat and wooden box (which doubles as a both table and cash box) for the cashier.

Mama is one woman who has aged so well. You can tell the obvious signs of beauty in her face, but her eyes tell stories of one who has done a lot of pondering. 
She has had to ponder on
burning the candle at both ends to send Risi to Primary and Secondary School up to Osun State polytechnic, where Risi is to study Marketing;
Her thoughts are sometimes lost wondering which action to take against Risi’s irresponsible
uncle Remi, who always seem to come up with some of the most outrageous money making scheme to get money out of her;
Sometimes she cannot help but worry about conniving employees, witty artisans and crafty sellers who seem to strive more to outsmart her rather than do the job they were employed to do;
 But most of the time, her thoughts are in her native home, her place of birth, where she spent the
first 25 years of her life.

Never the less, she is a still a beautiful woman. Her hair is thick and in signature cornrows, usually wrapped in Ankara scarf. Her buba sits well, but
the bottom of her iro is never proportionate in length due to mama’s old fashioned method of storing money. Her money is always stored within the bulge formed by the layers of her iro around the waist. For her fiftieth birthday, Risi bought mama a waist pouch. “Mama, you so gats to upgrade” she says in her “American” (thanks to DSTV) accent. Mama’s response to her was “omo mi, aso yi lo ran e lo si ile-iwe, bosi wu mi maa fi se iyawo fun e" (“My child, this cloth that sent you to secondary school, and if it pleases me I will celebrate your wedding in it”).

After the rush from 5:30am to 7:00am, mama leaves the buka
, under the care of either one of her most senior employee, Famous or Bose and then off she goes to the market. She makes every effort to get back before 12:00pm and return to her post as the cashier. In the buka, it is around this time the day ripens; then the commuters arrive from the east trying to avoid the chaos of Oshodi,  and the people who work in the Bariga axis, the drivers, bricklayers, and the bus drivers all have one place destination; “Awa Naa” [which translates to mean “We too”].

Who nam
ed the buka “Awa Naa”? 

As the story goes, the name to her buka “Awa Naa” was a result of a move by the spirit during its dedication. It was held according to her Christian religious rites. These rites dictate that a pastor blesses anything you have, names it (based on the name you decide to give) and dedicates it to God. After which there is a small celebration with feasting. But the story of the name “Awa Naa” actually started before the dedication; it started when mama (whose real name is Toke Ajisafe) came to Lagos State. 

Toke is lady from Aba Adi, a small town not too far from Osogbo in Osun State. She was the daughter of Late Chief Akin Ajisafe. He like his father was a cocoa farmer, who, due to longstanding deals with the chocolate making companies like Cadbury, had made a lot of money which he used to purchase his chieftaincy title, married three wives and had sixteen children. 

Everyone thought she was a princess due to her naturally sweet smile, the complicated plaits on her hair, and the red beads she always wore. During the annual Osun-Osogbo festival along the River Osun, she always does the “mystical dance of the sacred forest”. It was during one of the festival celebration that she met Risi’s father (who she never married) while he was still a driver for some multinational
company. He brought some oyinbo men for the festival.
Daleko Orisa, (Risi”s father) is an Ibadan man who told her all about Lagos. He spoke about the wide roads, the big buildings and the fashion style. As he had lived in Osogbo before, he frequently brought tourists from Lagos interested in visiting the attractions around their region. This brought him to their town frequently. Toke lost herself to this mysterious and charismatic man who spoke with the air of one that has seen the world. 

She got
pregnant with Risi when she was 25 years old. It was upon receiving the news from her mother that her father vowed to publicly disown her as his daughter, a statement that led her to flee and run to Lagos. That was the last time she ever saw her father alive; she was present at his funeral.

She moved in with Daleko to his “face-me-I-face-you” apartment in Ebute-Metta. A year after the birth of Risi, the joint income they earned was able to afford them a self-contained apartment in Bariga where she lives till date.

For a long time after moving to Lagos, Toke could not get a job or a decent means of livelihood as she had no significant formal education or vocational skill. So she sold akara and fried yam. Daleko was out of town most of the time, leaving just enough money for her to cater for herself and the growing needs of Risi. She used some of the money he gave her to purchase a bigger “agbada” frying pan, spoon, and a big jerry can of vegetable oil. Because of her good nature, the mallams that hawked on her street became her friend. She used this friendship to purchase yam on credit. As business grew, she started visiting the market to buy beans and cooking condiment. With the money they made, she and Daleko were able to maintain a pretty simple home for themselves.

But alas, disaster struck. Daleko, became a tanker driver for an Independent petroleum marketer. He lost his life in a tanker fire incident along the Benin-Ore express way. Risi was only 3 years old. With the N500,000 received as compensation for the loss of her husband along with support from her few friends, she started a small poultry on the single plot of land in Bariga that belonged to Daleko, which was a stone throw from where she lived. The poultry expanded, but her efforts towards expansion reduced when Risi resumed secondary school. She decided to close shop shortly after a major incident in Risi’s final year. An outbreak of “lorun-lorun” (head twisting) disease killed almost all the chickens. Mama, worn down by the stress of managing the poultry and supporting her daughter in secondary school counted her losses and sold off what was left of the poultry. She added to the proceeds, her fifteen years saving ‘ajo’ money, and chose to invest in what she loves doing best, cooking.
The buka started as a simple shed made out of what used to be the poultry. It had mama doing all the main cooking, assisted by two workers. Mama’s “jara” (extra) and liveliness made her the talk of Bariga bus stop. Not long afterwards, the shed became too small for the boom forcing her to create the structure she has today. She still dreams of the day when her buka will compete with the Mr Biggs Village Kitchen in Bariga and the class of Mama Cass.
The small ceremony held on the ground of the buka hosted her church pastor, some of her friends and about a handful of customers. Mama had never been good with English. Risi had spent the day coaching mama on her speech and an agreed name for the buka “Manna of life”.

The dedication ceremony for the buka began with the pastor giving a short sermon to extol the virtues of mama. He later called on mama to give a short speech and the name of the Buka for him to bless. 
Mama upon hearing the speech was filled with flash-backs and thoughts raced through her mind “Se emi naa ni? Emi ni Oluwa ranti ? Oluwa e ma se o” (“Is this me? Is it me that God remembered? God thank you.”)
As these thoughts filled her mind, she was lost for words and became tearful and overwhelmed with emotion. What rolled out of a tearful Toke’s lips was the Yoruba song “
Awa naa re Oluwa , Awa naa re Oluwa..a wa dupe ore atodun modun….. 
She hummed the song on and on, crying all through, with her daughter holding her. The pastor, who had seen Toke through all her struggles, was visibly touched and so was the crowd.

The atmosphere became laden with mixed emotions. It was as if her words spoke of them, all strangers in a harsh Lagos, lacking the right social structure and struggling to make ends meet;
They were all present in that gathering; bus conductors, okada-riders, bricklayers, shoe-shiners and traffic hawkers;
These are people who the formal economy barely remembers, so they turn to the comforting arms of religion for solace;
These are people so pushed by families, hopes and expectation of a better tomorrow. The song couldn’t say it better….“WE TOO…. are somebody
That was how mama’s buka got the name “Awa Naa”.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My thoughts on Gaddafi

It might be pointless having an opinion about the Libyan crisis given that my country is a mess, and my leaders are morons, but I think it is necessary for my personal sanity to know that the hegemons of this world are fair. I need to be sure I am not betraying my conscience by pledging allegiance to an establishment that has tele-guided me to believe what isn't. I still am not clear this is what 
I should believe, but this is what I have been able of decipher this from all the "noise" over the past 8 months regarding Muammar Gaddafi and Libya.

My opinions on Gaddafi are a bit fluid. He definitely was an ass, but I find it difficult to categorically rate him as an unjust ruler.

Some say he amassed his country's wealth and his sons lived liked playboys, but were Libyan's suffering? Nope they weren't. Isn't that they type of president we are praying for in Nigeria? One that will amass wealth after remembering there is a lot to accomplish?

Others say human right violation, but who doesn't do that? America has Guantanamo Bay and laws that enshrines prejudice towards minorities.

There was a thought I found quite compelling; it was about him not stepping down as Libya collapsed. But I thought about it, who wouldn't do the same, especially if you feel your opponents are not Libyans but Western imperialist in disguises?

Maybe what he did wrong was he didn't build enough Libyan leaders who are able to stand up to him. When I say leaders, I mean people who shared his world view, who had the capacity to organise and also take tough decision. People who shared his sentiments and could have quelled any insurgent before the become conflict. People who could advise him to both step down and remain in control the country from the background.
Maybe then, Libyans would have found a way to address their internal issues without external interference. If that had happened Muammar Gaddafi wouldn't have been killed on the streets and portrayed a common criminal and Libya would not have become the next International Development hotspot.

But contrary to what the NTC and Western media try to frame, I still think he died a solider!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I named him Ini..

Wiggling your arms and legs
Grinning with ur  toothless smile
Touching with your tiny fingers
Boy,it feels divine
I hold you close
With hope to always be there
To guard your steps,
Against life's trials and despair

The bone from my bone
The flesh from my flesh
The fruit from my body
The carrier of my crest
Your actions are innocent
Laddened with love
All new and refreshing,
With energy from above

Your eyes are clear
Sparkling white and bright
Your stares are intense
With hope, joy and light
The possibilities are endless
The roles you would hold
Be still and patient with God
By doing what you're told

Saturday, June 4, 2011

In love for the 10th time

It is always fascinating to watch a movie depicting the romantic relationship between two people. Contemporary media has a very grabbing way of describing how this feeling evolves.
  • It starts out with two seemingly unlikely individuals meeting
  • A mix of stories is brought into play conjuring up circumstances that creates a “spark” or some form of connection
  • Both later share moments that nurtures that spark; it could be an accidental kiss or a discussion in which certain emotions are revealed, or it could be just time spent together 
  • To spice things up, we spin in a twist in which one of the individuals (usually the female) is made to question the love of the other  
  • The other person (usually the male) then comes to the rescue, delivering an intense statement about the moments spent together and how he/she realized that they are standing face to face with the ONE. Their spark is revived with that special kiss (can you hear that soulful and electrifying music in the background?)

After watching for an hour thirty minutes, we are “educated” on new ways in which two people can meet the ONE they dream of, fall in “love”, get married and live happily ever after. Most romantic movies, (with little variation here and there), follow this template; though delivering a story that can make the pattern seem non-existent.
Don’t get me wrong I love romantic movies.
  •  I loved when Tristan danced with Yvaine aboard the thunder capturing ship (in the movie “Star dust”) and she (being a star) glows and giggles. It was magical how she glowed when she asked him if he was tempted by lure of eternal life.
  • Giselle song “How do you know” to Robert, and her last glance at him after the beautiful dance to Jon McLaughlin’s “So close” was, just as the name of the movie goes, “Enchanted”.

But is there a possibility that more and more of these movies re-wire us to think of love in terms of youthfulness and sparks?  Let us face it; very few people in this world possess their own original opinion on issues. Opinion leaders recycle/synthesize other opinions till they arrive at a conclusion that seems to resonate with what they think reality should be. The rest of the world just follows what the main stream says. And when the main stream says we run, we ask how far?

So when the media gives a suggestion about what relationship is all about, people act based on their interpretation of what they heard.  If the world continually uses the lens of contemporary media for its definition of what love is, it might affect some relationships in areas of longevity as people interpret the lack of a “spark” for incompatibility.

On a personal note, it has been 3 years since I met her.  It was exciting as we explored each other’s routines and developed our combined motions. Then the thrills of a 1st kiss and holding hands and just getting to understand someone who thought the world about you          (maybe because she didn’t know Marriage, which was a year ago, led to uncharted territory. If I look forward to that thrills of a 1st kiss again, I could be destroying the foundation of a wonderful home and even the mental stability of a role model in the next generation.

Instead our desires should be towards a deeper bond; one that provides the other, the required support for dealing with the pressures of everyday life while maintaining an inner balance. It should be towards understanding each other’s visions and working out ways in which we can accomplish all we hope to achieve. We should be conceptualizing methods towards opening up the pathways to each other’s souls. In this process entangling our minds to a point where they are no longer separable.

And that should be the desire and mark of fulfillment in all relationships. The world should celebrate couples who are able to hold on through thick and thin, because the solid foundation of the histories we treasured were build on people who endured and developed characters under harsh conditions.

I think that should be the renewed focus of contemporary media; reminding people of the joy of falling in love again, even for the 10th time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What I am here for

When I see what I feel is wrong,
I sometimes want to speak
Other times I want to act
But I would be the first to move if I did
And if I am, what does it mean?
The one who stands against what we have learnt to believe
What we have been told is right to love and hate

The elders have reminded the people holding contrary opinions, to shoves those thoughts aside as its hold no water in the scheme of things
So everyone act normal, based on their definition of what being normal is
They have been schooled in how things should operate and strive for perfection in climbing the corporate ladders
In this quest for success, they take actions that stands against what their very essence tell them is right,
Denying who they truly are,
Denying humanity of the beauty they can release from within their soul

The enforcers of how we currently live have forgotten that the current order was birth from rebellion
It was birth by people who questioned the system of things and decided on better methods of doing things
And it is from this travail that civilizations were born
Civilizations rose and were conquered by men and women who decided that normal was not enough
They experienced something within that became such a reality, that contrary circumstance could not convince them otherwise
Such experience made them decide that what they saw much be established

I think I will speak out and give voice to what I believe- Even careless words and questions could be a source of lesson for me and those that listen to my words for inspiration
I think, my actions will be motivated by my convictions rather than peer pressure-My actions may not change the world, but they may inform those who can, to do so
In all, I think I will just be myself-My reward may not be material, but by my actions, I will satisfy that deep longing within my spirit to follow the instruction of that timeless still and small voice
I think I will fulfill what I am here for, as this is the essence of my life

Monday, April 25, 2011

21st of July

It was his only chance to get out alive.
He jumped out the window, knowing the entrance to the flat was surrounded.
….And he ran like he had never run before!
The memories of the event populated his thoughts, confusing his steps as he ran along the streets: destination unknown!
They had ransacked the whole place, collected all that was collectable and tied the couple together in the centre of the room
Solomon's shaking hands aimed and shot at the head a begging man. As the man stumbled, his wife screamed and he shot her too.
The whole thing took about 10 seconds, but that moment, felt like eternity…
The bullet left the barrel with a loud noise “bang” shooting through the air, heading for the target….
He remembered the words of Emmanuel as they planned the attack “the guy is like 32 sha. He lives around Igando. We know commandant for that area, so no be big issue. Tona na your car we go use”
The man had a look of plea in his face, as he witnessed his own death…..
“ No wahala. I suppose take the car go Cotonou go sell after. They say the maga na oil worker. Dem boys gats kishi. If that guy no prepare, he fit get N500,000 for house. Na small job. We fit carry Solo come” Tona added  
The bullet pierced into his skull, tearing open the flesh and blood vessels, lifting up the man from his feet….
“Yeae paripa… I don kill person. Na so person dey die?  Oh Boy I don become murderer! Solo, concentrate na him business jo, I gats to chop! Na these people get money pass, na dem spoil country for us! I gats to chop” he thought to himself
Bang! Bang! Bang! Was the sound of his gun as three bullets were squeezed from the barrel of his gun into the neck of the wife, permanently silencing her
“Solo, our elders say the one that befriends the Cobra and makes him play dead, is the one town crier would call the hero.” Was his dad last statement to him as he departed for Lagos
She slumped on to the body of her husband with no care of her nudity…her body….lifeless
“Solomon, you can’t do this forever! How those babes go dey look us? You no fit dey dey do mechanic work anymore. You pass that one well” was Samson’s luring line to Solo in every effort to entice his younger brother
A visibly shaken Solomon dropped the gun as his thoughts were interrupted by a gun shot, “RATATATATATATA!!!!”
…was the next thing he heard as the glass door (that covered the stairways) scattered next to him
“OPC PEOPLE DON LAND!!” Emmanuel screamed
Even as Emmanuel beckoned on him to wait, Solomon ran straight to the next room, which was a toilet and locked the door; his heart beating like it was about burse.
 He climbed out from the window’s toilet and jumped two storeys down on to the bonnet of a black sedan parked in the drive way.
They hadn’t thought OPC vigilante members would respond quickly,
they hadn’t thought the man would have only N50,000 in the house,
they…in fact they hadn’t thought about a lot of thing.

And Solomon was now an outlaw. He broke entry into a guarded property. He had the blood of two innocent people on his hands!!! 
This is not the life he every planned for!!

He ran aimlessly on the street hoping that he would see someone or something that he recognizes …..
  “BANG! BANG!! BANG!!!!”
Immediately he heard that sound, all the lights went out...........

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Defining Success

“A man who worked as a ticketing officer in a theme park died. When he got to heaven, he was asked to choose the type of heaven he wants to spend eternity in. Since he never really liked his life, his began to explore all the possible heavens he had secretly lusted after through his seemingly (in his own point of view) meaningless life. To help him decide, a presentation was shown of his life. At the end of the presentation, he came up conclusion:
The only heaven where he could make a meaning was to remain a ticketing officer at a theme park”
Source: Unknown

We all have a misconception about what success is. And this misconception spurs from all the information we have been loaded with over the years. The average individual is bombarded with over 8 billion unit of information daily. Like a puzzle, the brain attempts using the information it processes (approximately 250 million of that) as guide to understanding the world, and in developing survival strategies.

In our myopic view of the world, we have come to associate success with things that everyone can associate with; things we love to happen. Wealth and career progression are some of such. And this standard is hidden in the information we process, the methods we apply in drawing conclusions, how we converse, how we develop expectations and pass judgments.

But what truly is success? When can we say a man has become greater than himself? Within each one of us lies than desire imbedded within our consciousness. Once a child becomes conscious of its environment, there is a sparks within (sometimes doused in competition) to aspire above understanding of self within the known world. Because of our mental mapping, we use information available to define what that means; and there lies the root of our problem. A problem because, if success is restricted to only those who are, wealthy, experts in influencing people, excellent sales men, and leaders, then less than 5% of the population would truly live successful lives. The remaining 95% would be locked in a mechanical struggle toward attaining what the society conceives as ‘successful’ (a struggle capable of removing the essence of living from life) especially when intentions/ priorities are wrongly placed; when they don’t align the individual’s true conviction of self.

The degree to which a civilization succeeds is determined by how purposeful it is; how aligned its vision is with the character of the people forged by their fundamental nature. Reason being that purpose remains the greatest motivator and organizer of labour; everyone doing what he is convinced he was born to do. If life is a script, success is playing your part, whatever that part might be. It is in understanding that our individual configurations are different, so our aspiration should be dictated by self and not by standards; by what we internally are convinced summarized our life purpose.

Till we pass on, our central purpose would remain to discover what our purpose truly is, as all we know is what has happened. What will happen is still a mystery that can only be harnessed when we prepare; when we prepare by
• listening to ourselves to understanding what we are made of
• Making our search for all knowledge be about discovering who we are (not mapping out what we should desire).

Friday, February 11, 2011

In the Spirit of a Revolution

One day our thoughts will count.
They will echo along the corridors of kings
Dictating the general orders
and revolting against the establishment that trods upon our will

We will speak of our burdens and all would listen
They will hear our thoughts and would align their actions regardless of tribe or ethnic background
and we will speak in one voice

Our voices will act like symbols,
motivating all to move in patterns they are most conversant with
taking action when they should,
making art if they can
and standing against oppression if they must

It will be the alure of freedom that will motivate
to make men understand that their destiny lies in the hands of whom they give it to
And they are capable of having a belief and sticking to it

Till the right thoughts are formed
I will prepare
Prepare for the day we would change our world!!!

Anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square standing for what he believed.
11-02-2011-he was finally removed after 30 years in power!