Thursday, December 30, 2010

CONVERSATIONS: THE FORGOTTEN CHAPTERS

It was during Christmas. No, actually some days before Christmas. Edna woke me up with a ring.

“Hey beautiful, Merry Christmas in advance” I answered with dreamy eyes.
 “Hi, handsome, how was your night?” she asked.
“Mine was wonderful, I saw you in my dreams,” I was just about to dive into the actual lines of Brad Paisley’s song when she cut me short. Normally, she would have let me finish the first lines.

“Please can we see later today, it’s urgent,” she said.
“You missed me that much, didn’t ya?” I teased. She laughed cautiously.
“You can say that. But, please… this is very urgent,” she said. Was that a shudder in her voice?
“Hey, but I thought we agreed to meet tomorrow?” I asked confusedly.
“Sorry, plans have changed, this is about something else,” she replied. If there was one thing I have not learnt yet, it was refusing Edna’s requests.
“Oky doki, aboki. Your wish is not necessarily my command. But you know I would do anything for you,” I said matter-of-factly.

“Yes I do,” she replied, seriously. She always said that with a chuckle. And my thoughts went into speed mode. That sounded really good. I could only visualize one thing. I remembered father’s words. “No ‘buts’. Be decisive. Still, think it through. Pick your favourite spot. Or better still, give her a surprise. But make sure you do it right. Seize the moment and make her yours. Take a chance," father had told me.
Was that ‘right’ moment presenting itself now?

“Em, it better be good, with you interrupting a beautiful dream and disrupting my schedule today,” I replied with a hesitant chuckle.

It was like the phone went dead. But I could still hear her breathing, anxiously.

“Hey, what’s the matter baby? You know you can always talk to me…” Before I finished, the taps opened at the other end. Edna is never one to cry out loud. But I could hear the hurt in her tears as she dabbed it from her cheeks and sniffed repeatedly. Many times in the past, I have been a shoulder for her to lean on. “Though my shoulders are not so muscular and broad, it would always be here for you to lean on,” she often teased me with that.
“I can’t talk about it on the phone,” she managed to say after she calmed down.

Six hours later, we were together at our favourite hang-out. This was where I ‘officially’ asked her out. Maybe this was our ‘it’ moment. I got there before her just to make sure I saw her come through the doors. She did minutes after I got there, looking all resplendent and as beautiful as ever. Yet, I could feel something was missing. Her smile from afar when she saw me was plastic. On a closer look, there were traces of uncertainty in her eyes. It was so unlike Edna.

“I’ve missed you,” I said as we hugged. The last time we saw was a week ago as she had to travel on official duty. She melted into my arms and held me tightly for a while longer. I could feel her heartbeat. Tensed. Rapid. It was not in sync with mine. Brace yourself, I whispered to Me.  When we eventually sat down, after like ages in each other’s arms, I handed her an early Christmas gift. It was enclosed in a wrap decorated with the love emblem. She hugged me again.

"Thank you so much, dear," she said with a pool of tears welling in her eyes. Just when I was wondering why the emotions were running high, she unveiled a rude Christmas surprise I never wished for.

Approximately ten minutes later, a few days before last Christmas, Edna and I became history.

© ARUKAINO UMUKORO

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 MEMORIES: WOZA SOUTH AFRICA

Most times, first impressions always count. After thirty days across five cities and a thousand and one pleasant memories afterwards, one can confidently say that the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa certainly lived up to its hype as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After a five and a half hour flight from Lagos Murtala Mohammed International Airport, to Oliver Thambo Airport, Johannesburg on Sunday, June 13. At Johannesburg airport, my 2010 World Cup memoirs began. I met with Nigerian music superstars, Alariwo and Sunny Neji, who had also just arrived. After exchanging pleasantries and taking pictures with them, the South African airport cab driver welcomed me to his country with a five hundred and fifty rands (eleven thousand naira) fare for a less than forty minute drive to the guest Lodge situated at Randburg, a prominent area in the heart of Johannesburg. On a later check, I discovered that the fare could have been at least one hundred and fifty Rands lesser. Well, that was my unofficial welcome. The next day, in the company of other Nigerian journalists, I went to get my FIFA accreditation badge at the Ellis Park stadium. The process was smooth and it was less than five minutes, a different scenario to Nigeria 2009 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, where the accreditation process in most of the centres left much to be desired.

With all the news about the rate of crime in South Africa plus the unfortunate experience of some foreign journalists’ just days to the World Cup kick-off, I deliberately refused to go into the city alone until three days after my arrival, when I visited the Supermarket and went sight-seeing to get used to my new environment. With that, the fear factor was effectively silenced. My Nigerian colleagues took a cue and also were bold enough to explore Johannesburg beyond the now routine private taxi shuttle between the guest lodge and Ellis Park stadium.

Reliving any World Cup experience could make a book series. So, let’s just stick with some highlights of the good, the bad and the ugly. Of course, the memorable experiences were more numerous - meeting honest, hardworking Nigerian professionals, discovering a Nigerian restaurant where one could get weekly doses of eba, pounded yam and egusi soup or vegetables, travelling to watch the Super Eagles play in Bloemfontein and Durban, meeting current and ex-football stars, international media icons like CNN’s Pedro Pinto and ESPN’s Gabriel Marcotti, networking with people across the world, getting Arsenal and Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas to sign an autograph, exploring South Africa’s social life and the popular FIFA Fan Fests, having an exclusive chat with the renowned Danny Jordaan (the mastermind behind the success of South Africa 2010), daily witnessing how much football ignited passion, inspired patriotism and united a multi-racial and cultural society, 
witnessing the heroic reception accorded the Black Stars of Ghana on the streets of Soweto, and of course watching the 2010 World Cup matches live, including the Spain versus Netherlands final in Soccer City - these were some memorable experiences. I also met a lot of friendly South Africans and amazing football fans from across the world during my stay, including one football loving American who had attended five successive World Cups starting with USA 1994.

The good thing about South Africa was its cultural, organisational and infrastructural delight. Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban or Capetown was almost as good as being in any of the notable European cities; organised traffic, twenty fours electricity (except for the few hours cut I witnessed once due to South African Power company ESKOM’s bid to manage high electricity consumption rate during the World Cup), the speed of internet browsing, and ease of shopping and transportation. Although, every country has its vices and law breakers, South Africa, unlike Nigeria, is a well structured and regulated society. On numerous occasions, fellow Nigerians lamented when they saw the level of organisation in the South African system and way of life. After further trips and experiences, it was a depressing to admit that Nigeria, acclaimed giant of Africa, had a lot of growing up to do if it was to catch up with South Africa in terms of infrastructural development.

Although there are many hard working and respected Nigerian professionals in South Africa, there were still some whose actions greatly malign the image of the country. But like is common with humans, some South Africans make the mistake of assuming most Nigerians are scammers, 419ers or drug peddlers. Before one of the matches at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, I had an interesting interaction with a cheerful South African family. The moment I mentioned that I was Nigerian, the man quipped, “Oh, do you have pills (drugs)?” And the daughter blurted out “Daddy!” in a bid to reprimand his sarcasm. But, ‘Daddy’ was not done yet. He continued, looking at me slyly. “I will tell you anything you want to know, but I won’t be giving you my bank account details,” That got me. I had to ‘rebrand’ him about Nigeria being a great nation and Nigerians being good people. In the end he made me see understand that, although South Africans unfairly generalise Nigerians under the tag of 419ers and criminals because of a minority group, the Nigerian government seems not to be doing much to publicise or showcase the good things about the country to the rest of the world. “Your government should talk more about these good things so that the world would see your country differently. See what the World Cup has done for the image of South Africa,” he pointed out. I totally agreed. Afterwards, we threw some more banter and took pictures together. Dora Akunyili should have been there to watch me ‘rebranding’ Nigeria for good.

The bad news was that the crime stories were not fabricated. During a stroll with a friend outside Ellis Park stadium, we sighted a suspicious looking man monitoring our movement. Luckily, a policeman was around the corner. So, I walked up to him and explained my fear. “Don’t worry, he cannot get near you. We Johannesburg police carry arms,” he said smiling, as he showed me his weapon and then continued with controlling the traffic to the stadium. Although, the South African police and security operatives should be commended for their efforts, the reported crime rates were as real as the thieves who stole the photograph equipment and laptop of an American journalist in the media shuttle; as real as the passengers who robbed a Ugandan journalist of his accreditation badge, expensive phones and a sizable amount of money on his way home; and as real as the touts who tried to rob me at Johannesburg Park Station, on my way back from the Germany versus Spain semi-final match played in Durban on July 7. On alighting at Park Station, I decided, on intuition, to pull off my accreditation badge. Just a few minutes later, two park touts came from nowhere and blocked my path. They both asked me to give them a hundred Rands each for ‘drinks’. I was miffed. I brought out all the coins, cents, maybe about 10 Rands in all, handed it to them and made to proceed. They stopped me on my tracks and one threatened to shoot me if I didn’t give them more money. My laptop, digital camera and other essentials were in my bag. So, on a second thought, I channelled my anger to my feet, shoved them off and dashed into the closest building, a supermarket. From afar, they watched me while haggling beside other buses. When I explained what happened to the Indian owner of the store, he was understandably annoyed. “You should have punched him in the face,” he reasoned. 
Luckily, I got the store’s security guard to escort me ten minutes to the nearest taxi station. “They are just lazy, hungry black men who don’t want to work to make decent money,” the security man said. Out of appreciation, I handed him ten rands. He hugged me grateful. At least, there were still honest, hardworking black South African men out there in crime-infested down town Johannesburg.
Although South Africa’s crime rate looked indeed scary, but it was not the prediction of doom and gloom that most of the Western media projected for the World Cup. “Many of the countries who raised this issue actually came to me to apologise personally, to say that, ‘you know, we were wrong about a lot of things in your country, because we had a wonderful time here. The people of the country have been wonderful, warm, embracing and celebratory, and just made us feel so welcome,” Jordaan told me days before the final match on July 13. Making sure South Africa hosted an excellent 2010 World Cup had been his mission for the past sixteen years and he handled it not only professionally and productively, but patriotically as well.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Sani Kaita certainly qualify for the Ugly. For reasons best known to them, they denied Nigeria a chance of extending their stay at Africa’s first World Cup. The next day after the match against Greece, there was much talk in the South African media about 1,000 death threats to Kaita. It made cover headlines in some South African newspapers. Peterside Idah had to clarify the issue with the international media a day to Nigeria’s make or mar match against South Korea. It was a tense press conference atmosphere. “In Nigeria, when someone says, ‘I go kill you oh,’ it does not literally mean that he wants to kill you. That person is just trying to tell you that he is really angry with you,” Idah tried to explain to the bewildered international media and FIFA officials. 
Everyone in the hall had a good laugh about it and after the Eagles’ press conference, the joke was now on Nigerian journalists present. As we walked out singularly or in groups, the foreign journalist would look at us and go “I go kill you oh,” and another round of laughter followed. But, Yakubu Aiyegbeni’s blunder in front of goal (arguably the miss of the tournament) the next day June 23, the joke was all but lost. As a result of the Eagles’ ouster, many of my Nigerian colleagues made up their mind not to stay a week longer in South Africa. But I vehemently refused every Kaitastrophic or Yakubutrocious happening from spoiling my World Cup party. Eighteen days later, I was live in Soccer City on July 11, lapping every bit of a golden World Cup experience as Spain lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy for the first time. 
It's certainly a privilege to be part of the pages in the golden books of history.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

MTV AFRICA MUSIC AWARDS SET THE STANDARD

Renowned as Africa’s biggest music award, the MTV Africa Music Award (MAMA) which held in Lagos recently, lived up to its hype.
     
On December 11, 2010, the New Expo Hall of the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos, witnessed a spectacular transformation like never before when it hosted the third edition of the MTV Africa Music Awards, otherwise known as MAMA. And with the high level of efficiency and deft organization on display, the organizers seemingly gave their Nigerian counterparts an intensive study lesson in sound arrangements, choreography, stage craft and lightning, choreography and camera works. Most importantly, MAMA lived up to its reputation as Africa’s biggest music award with its excellent organization.

Probably the most visible lapse was the delayed start of the event, which started one hour late. When the night eventually opened up, it was worth the wait; with an explosive performance by US hip hop superstar Rick Ross, which got the crowd caught up in musical rapture. US hip hop diva and actress Eve didn’t help matters when she later made a spectacular entrance onto the stage as the host. Later, she also performed alongside Sasha and other African acts. MAMA’s Pan-African nature was also in full display. The collaborations among African artistes and the infusion of different styles of music from around the continent were major highlights; from Nigeria’s Tuface Idibia’s afro Hip Hop fusion with the sound of South Africa’s rock band Parlotones, to Fally Ipupa’s Congolese dance moves and the up tempo beat of South Africa’s Jozi. The other memorable performance was the scintillating ‘African remix’ of Banky W’s Lagos Party which featured Barbara Kanam from DRC, Carbo Snoop and Paul G (from Angola), as well as South Africa’s trio Big Nuz. Another highlight was when Nollywood diva Genevieve Nnaji and music superstar Dbanj came on stage to present one of the awards, only to stoke the fires of their rumoured love affair.

However, Africa’s biggest music award night belonged to Tuface and Fally Ipupa, who carted home two trophies each. Tuface won for Best Male and Artiste of the Year, while Fally won Best Francophone Act and Best Video for Sexy Dance. 20-year-old Mo Cheddah became one of the youngest winner of a MAMA when she picked up the trophy for Brand:New, a category which recognizes rising stars tipped by MTV for success. Considering Mo Cheddah’s vocal intelligence, very few would disagree with that assertion. Sasha emerged the Best Female in a category that included 2009 MOBO Award winner Nneka while P Square picked up their third consecutive trophy for Best Group. Cabo Snoop became Angola’s first MAMA winner as he emerged the Best Lusophone act, while Kenyan Gospel artist Daddy Owen won the inaugural Best Anglophone award and also became the first gospel artiste to ever win a MAMA. It was two for South Africa as the South African pop/R & B group Liquideep won the Song of the Year category for their enchanting 'Fairytale'. Big Nuz went home with the newly introduced Best Performance award. The prestigious Best International act was won by Eminem who accepted the award via satellite from the USA.  The MAMA Legend award, won by the late South African songstress Miriam Makeba, was presented by Public Enemy founder and hip hop pioneer Chuck D. Guest presenters and celebrity guests included Nneka, Daniel Amokachi, Oluchi, Julius Agwu, Genevieve Nnaji, Ba Ponga, Dama do Bling, and fashion designer Lisa Foluniyo. 

The 2010 edition closed with a memorable performance by US Hip Hop star T-Pain and the rendition of ‘Win’ featuring T-Pain, Rick Ross, Da LES and Tuface. When other artistes came on to join them on the stage, the crowd made their own curtain call by chanting the names of both Rick Ross and T-Pain. The 2010 edition of the MTV Africa Music Award was sponsored by Airtel in association with MasterCard.  Other partners supported the event include Arik Air and the Lagos State Government. “Tonight’s MTV Africa Music Awards with Airtel was a joyful and uplifting celebration of African youth culture and music. It brought together the best talent from across Africa to showcase the incredible music that Africa has to offer to the world,” noted Alex Okosi, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, MTV Networks Africa.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

TRIBUTE: GONE TOO SOON; But OREVA…4EVER

Five months ago, she wrote on her Facebook wall, “Life is beautiful, how many see it thus? Full of energy and opportunities,”… Maybe that was what defined Efemena Orevaoghene Benedicta in some ways. She was beautiful in every sense of the word, charming and so full of life. Her energy and enthusiasm was so contagious and she unlocked opportunities, with her gift and effervescent personality. Oreva was simply an amazing woman.

I can’t exactly remember my first meeting with Oreva. But I can certainly recollect the impression. She was one with a special gift and exuding so much passion for life. I remember the joy of her laughter, the way she relishes her every infectious and heavenly smile. I remember the way she bobs her hair and turns her head… “It’s a like a dream. And we are moving through the motions. Oreva has acted her script and has exited the stage of life,” wrote Fome, her elder sister on her Facebook wall. She’s not alone. Someone please wake us all up.

I remember one of my many performances in WLCF. This one was special for many reasons. One, it was one of my very outstanding acts, two, it was so full of energy, inspiration and impact. Three, it had Oreva, along with Ivie Onakpoya,. They were the major reason for the other two. I needed backup vocals for a gospel rap I was to perform that Sunday and couldn’t find one then. So I called up Oreva. Despite the short notice, she made out time from her studies, minstrels schedules etc to rehearse the chorus with me. The rehearsal was brief, because I was dealing with a pro. She walked, talked and lived music. When we did the song, the finesse, skill and richness of Oreva’s (and Ivie’s) voice doing the chorus came through like Alicia Keys on Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind. Only that this was a God State of Mind. Oreva was the cream. Ivie was the sugar. Both combined to make that gospel rap performance a hit that many asked me later who did the original. Funny, that was the original. Oreva and co were simply divine and original on those chorus lines. Oreva was special. Like she always was in every other performance. In every ministration. In every song. In life.

It’s all coming back to me now. I don’t have the tape anymore, but it plays vividly in my memory now. All I can hear now is Oreva’s silky hooks, dynamics, lines and vocals. I called her our own Lauryn Hill and she would laugh (Alicia Keys wasn’t really famous then). After that performance, I listened to the recording many times on end, beyond my rap verses, to hear the richness of her silky, beautiful chorus lines. … “I know I can. Be what I wanna be. Do what I gotta do. Go where I wanna go….” Dear Lord. She’s gone now. Oh, the wonderful memories…

Oreva was gifted. She was amazing. She was truly special. The way she sings. The way she shed tears of reverence in the throes of leading undiluted, unbridled worship to God the King at ATSCAN Hall and many others across the nation. The way she danced, bobbed her hair, turned her head, totally enveloped in Heavenly praises. The way she literally lifted people with her energy, finesse, skill, passion and power while leading praises, singing with the WLCF Minstrels or doing a solo…

Ah Oreva! You could have given a cue.

On Peak Talent Show audition, where she sang Asa’s Jailer, that was Oreva at the least of her vocal prowess. She was one of the most gifted and passionate female vocalists I ever knew. Maybe her unexpected exit is a wakeup call to those others whom God has so blessed with such amazing gifts to rise up to the calling and music of the Kingdom. It was all that mattered for Oreva. She was consistent, focused, independent, so much passion for God, her calling and ministry, passionate about life and people. Passionate about making things happen. Despite not being an official member, I remember when she joined Publication Team on one or two Sundays, just to help ‘market’ WLCF bulletin… she just wanted to be involved, to contribute her quota to Kingdom cause. As programmes director, I remember how she just literally wanted to make things happen. She loved taking chances, seizing opportunities with both hands, trying new dynamics; she desired much for herself, as well as for others….

It’s a call for us to live better lives; lives that God and Heaven would be proud of, every inch of the way, every moment of our stay here on earth.

Oreva. You embodied excellence for God’s Kingdom. I wished I had kept in touch and let you know that I felt so excited and proud of you when I read your interview piece in the Punch newspapers. I wished I had called to let you know that your performance on Peak Talent Show was awesome and that you could certainly do much better. I only told you on Facebook. I hope you read my post and saw that I was proud of you, and how consistent you were with using your God-given talent to reach out and bless people.

I screamed in delight when I saw your interview in the Punch http://www.punchng.com/Articl.aspx?theartic=Art200904250342957 and watched you on Peak Talent Show audition. Now it all feels so numb. So many questions. But who are we, mere mortals, to question the I Am That I Am. Who are we to question His Omniscience? God knows best why He had to let you go now when we thought you had finally come to lay your rightful claim to the music stage for Him.

Ah Oreva! Gone too soon. But, yes you are Oreva4ever, for the melody of your beautiful but painfully short life would forever play in many hearts. From Delta, Ekiti to Lagos and beyond; in the lives of those you touched and influenced with the sound of your music, your gift and personality. God, who loves you more, knows why He let you go at this time of your life, just when you were poised for more impact. If there is any solace in this, it is that another glorious angelic voice has departed to join Heaven’s chorus.

“Sweetheart, you ran with all God placed in you. You exuded so much life! May the Lord comfort your family and friends. It's so hard to believe. May your soul rest in peace even as the Lord says to you well done, thou good and faithful servant. Longevity has its place but when you impact lives the way you did, we can berest assured knowing you are happy in heaven. Keep being an awesome minstrel. Much luv Oreva,” wrote Alero on your Facebook wall. I would like you to know that your name is beautifully engraved on the walls in the chapel of the cathedral of many hearts.


Oreva. For the impact you made. We will always remember.Yours was a celebration of life!
Oreva4ever. It doesn’t matter how you died. All that matters was how you lived. Rich. Full. Special. For God. For humanity.

Rest in peace. And may the Lord comfort your family and friends.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A FLOOD OF PAINS & GAINS



Although the recent flooding in Lagos and Ogun states have been linked to climate change, it highlights the deplorable state of the affected communities and also raises questions about the government’s ability in tackling environmental problems.

Like many others affected by the October 2010 flooding in some parts of Lagos and Ogun states, Seun Opoadini, has been having uncomfortable nights since the Ogun-Osun River Basin Authority discharged excess water threatening its Oyan Dam. The young man has been forced to sleep just below flood waters threatening to completely take over his bed space in Odo-ogun, one of the communities in Ikorodu affected by the floods.

Apart from the widely stretched devastation in most communities, including Owode, Agiliti, Agboyi-Ketu, Ajegunle, the flood has also affected other communities in Ogun state that in areas like Denro and Ajuwon, people have to pay N20- N30 to cross wooden bridges constructed to ease movement. The pathetic Olambe-Ijoko road linking about 26 communities in Ogun state to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway have also been flooded, thereby cutting off a large chunk of commuter transport to these areas. “I have not experienced this kind of flooding since I’ve been here,” said Opoadini, who grew up in Odoogun. A conservative estimate put the number of houses displaced in Ikorodu alone at over four hundred while tens of thousands have either been affected directly or indirectly by the floods in both Lagos and Ogun states. Apart from displaced persons, there has also been reported loss of lives and damage to property.

Although the Lagos state government has lived up to its promise of evacuating displaced persons, some residents are still stuck in between. As at Tuesday, October 19, 2010, the number of people in the displaced persons’ camp located at Agbowa, on the outskirts of Ikorodu, has also risen from 200 to 1,000, including 357 pupils whose schools were affected by flood. These schools include the Anglican Primary School, Idowo, Itowolo Primary School, Odoogun Secondary School Ajegunle Junior and Senior High School and some private schools in the affected areas. Omolara Erogbogbo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, acknowledged that some pupils were yet to show up at because their parents refused to go to the Agbowa relief camp. People like Segun Abogun may fall under this category.

57 year-old Abogun, who has lived in Odo-ogun town all his life, used his retirement benefits to build his uncompleted house partially submerged in the flood waters. “My father was born here. I can’t leave this house because if I do, it will collapse. If the government wants to help us, they should come and tackle the water that comes from the river,” he said, while adding that Odo-ogun, like most communities affected by the flood, are swampy areas which are naturally prone to flooding annually, especially during the months of August, September or October. This fact nonetheless, some environmental analysts have been quick to identify the recent happening as one of the effects of climate change. But, more importantly, the flood waters have raised issues such as the deplorable state of these affected communities which helped to worsen the situation, and the poor response of government to tackling environmental problems. Although the Lagos and Ogun state governments made provisions for resettling displaced people afterwards, while the federal government responded through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide relief materials to victims and address the plight of the population in these communities, there was nothing that could be done to cover up for a general failure in providing basic infrastructure such as good roads and drainage systems, proper housing, and other social amenities for many Nigerians in the affected locations.

“We cannot fold our hands and assume every disaster to be due to the effects of climate change. All hands must be on deck to find a lasting solution to the problem,” noted Mohammed Sani-Sidi, Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA. While he commended the efforts of both state governments in tackling the disaster, he noted that the Lagos and Ogun scenario may have been aggravated by environmental factors and problems in dam management as well as insufficient warning to the people. For Abogun, who is semi-literate, human activities such as the long standing practice of digging sand from the Ikorodu areas could also be blamed for the recurring flooding. “These tippers (sand trucks) make about N200,000 a day shipping sand from here. Maybe the problem of flooding of the area could be controlled if these practices are effectively monitored by the authorities, he said.

While the government and the people count the cost of the flood, it has been different strokes for many in these areas. While petty traders and shop owners struggle to sell their wares in these affected areas, as the deplorable traffic situation has made it difficult for people to come from far areas to patronize their wares; profits have jumped up for mainly bus drivers and motorcycle (popularly known as okada) riders, as the cost of transportation has risen in the past few weeks. ‘We spend more hours to get out of the traffic because of the water,” said one happy bus driver, explaining the price hike, while the tell tales signs of resignation was mirrored on the face of the meat seller across the road in Ajegunle as she could only manage a weak smile when asked if business had been good so far.

For others, canoe ferrying business was the money spinner overnight. Just before the state government made provision for affected students to relocate to other schools in Kosofe Local Government, Aboi Atiye, a JSS 1 student of Ajegunle High School, and his friend Chidi Nmabowi, a primary five pupil of Towolo Primary School, resorted to become ‘canoe boys’. Atiye and Nmabowi collect N30 each to ferry residents or visitors to their houses. Afterwards, they get some good sum for a day’s work from the adult who ‘owns the canoes. “But I pray that the water goes away,” said Chidi, who looked so keen about continuing his education. Although, Tunde Esilogun, another resident in Ikorodu noted that this was the worst the area has experienced in recent times, he was indifferent when asked if he knew about the effects of climate change. “I don’t know much about it, but I’m not happy with this (flood),” he could only say. Surprisingly, for Atiye, climate change was ‘the name of a society where they learn how to farm and play…’

Climate change, to put it simply, is a change in the average weather condition as a result of several factors; chiefly being the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which in turn has depleted the earth’s protective layer over the last century. Flooding is just one of the effects. According to the 2007 report of the United Nations Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global average sea level rose at a rate of 1.8 millimeters per year between 1961 and 2003. That rate increased starting in 1993, with the sea level rising about 3.1 millimeters per year. “The major contributors to the rising ocean is the expansion of water as the ocean absorbs heat from the atmosphere, and melt water from glaciers and ice caps,’ the report read. For residents in areas such as Ikorodu and other communities bordering water bodies, more flooding is likely to occur unless the government intensifies its efforts in developing these vulnerable communities. In recent times, flooding has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in other states such as Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Sokoto, Niger, Katsina and Zamfara.

© ARUKAINO UMUKORO

Monday, October 25, 2010

ADAMU'S FIFA SCANDAL


By last week Wednesday, the ethics committee of FIFA, the world football governing body announced the suspension of Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii, president of the Oceania Football Confederation. The duo was temporarily suspended as FIFA sought more time to study their case. FIFA says it will meet again by mid November to take a final decision on their case. Until their suspension, the two men were members of FIFA executive committee responsible for deciding the host of FIFA organized competitions. In fact, they were both on the 24-member committee that is supposed to vote on the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Zurich, Switzerland by December 2010.

And as things turned out, that assignment appears to be their undoing. Adamu was caught on video tape by undercover reporters from the UK Sunday Times asking for $800,000 (N120,000,000) to sell his vote for the 2018 World Cup bid. In the footage released on the night of October 16, Adamu said he wanted the money to build four artificial football pitches in Nigeria, but asked that the sum be paid to him personally. When asked if the payment would influence his vote, Adamu had replied, “Obviously, it will have an effect. Of course it will. Because certainly if you are to invest in that, that means you also want the vote,”

Now that is in clear violation of FIFA's rules. Chapter 11 of the rule forbids “Any kind of advantage that could give even the impression of exerting influence, or conflict of interest, either directly, or in connection with the bidding process, such as that at the beginning of a collaboration, whether with private persons, a company or any authorities except for occasional gifts that are generally regarded as symbolic or incidental value and that exclude any influence on a decision in relation to the bidding process; and any benefit, opportunity, promise, remuneration or service to any such individuals, in connection with the bidding process.” Temarii too appear to have fallen on the wrong side of the same rule. He was alleged to have asked for $2.4 million (N360,000,000) to finance a football academy in Auckland.
While FIFA’s ethics committee continue to look into Adamu’s case, the former director general of the National Sports Commission, NSC has also attracted the attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. “The Chairperson of the EFCC, Farida Waziri asked the director of operations to make contact with FIFA. The EFCC is very much interested in the case and we want to find out to what extent, Dr. Adamu is involved. He is a Nigerian, since he has been mentioned in alleged bribery, we have to investigate,” said Femi Babafemi, spokesperson of the Commission, on October 19.
The move by EFCC, although commendable, may have come several years late as some analysts believe that Adamu’s case also reveals the rot in the Nigerian system. This, perhaps explain why Godwin Spiff-Sagbamah, Chief Executive Officer, Hallysports International believes that Nigerians should not be quick to blame Adamu. “I blame the Nigerian system and government because it encourages corruption and supports corrupt people. Once you are able to amass wealth, you can suffocate people and manipulate the system to your advantage that’s what he (Adamu) has been doing. Adamu’s source of wealth should have long been investigated by the authorities or security agencies, Spiff-Sagbamah said.

He added that “All these boil down to our failure in government. If we had systems that had checks and balances, the man would long have been in prison. At several times, athletes have complained about very poor treatment when he was in charge,” says Spiff-Sagbamah. For many keen watchers of the recent developments, the Adamu bribery scandal has also revealed the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria football circles as well as the influence of Adamu. While the Oceania Football confederation swiftly reacted by confirming that it was investigating the matter, the opposite is what can be said of Nigeria as the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF has so far kept mute on the matter. Such a reaction only lent credence to the belief in some quarters that Adamu controls the levers of power in Nigerian football circles.

And there is a background to this. In 2007, then leader of Nigeria Football League, NFL, Oyuki Obaseki, alleged that Adamu was behind the crisis in the organization because he wanted the sponsorship money handed over to him. Officials of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) also made similar allegations against him. Adamu, who is renowned in sports circles as the “Mr. Fix-It,” wields so much power that he could literally handpick or fire anybody as it suits his interest. “Adamu does not deserve sympathy from any patriotic Nigerian who has the interest of sports in mind. He has not contributed to the growth of Nigerian football," said veteran sports commentator, Martins Osaile. Tracing how Adamu managed to get to the FIFA executive committee, Osaile said it can be traced to his relationship with Issa Hayatou, President, Confederation of African Football, CAF. “Hayattou got contracts from Nigeria and when FIFA raised the seat for Africa, Hayattou saw a golden opportunity to pay his friend back. He quickly nominated Adamu for the FIFA executive post. So, if there is anybody that should be bothered with what Adamu is passing through, that person should be Hayattou,” Osaile asserted.

For some sports analysts, Adamu’s bribery scandal was also an indictment on the Nigerian media and the security agencies for not investigating several allegations of corruption against highly placed officials. “Majority of people in the sporting press are on Adamu’s payroll and they sang his praises, saying he was the best thing that ever happened to Nigeria sports, instead of performing their oversight functions of reporting what was really going on. Adamu got careless because over the years, he has been doing these and getting away with it,” said Olukayode Thomas, a journalist. During his career as a sports journalist at the Guardian Newspapers, Thomas’ investigative stories unearthed details that Adamu wanted to stay secret, one of which was his real names. “I discovered in Zuru, Kebbi State, his place of birth, that his real name is Babatunde Aremu. Adamu's father is from Ogbomosho, Oyo State and not Zuru,” said Thomas, who Adamu later sued for libel in 2007 demanding the sum of N500 million. Thomas won the protracted court battle. “Over the years, Amos was busy amassing wealth and running our sports like it was a private company. If he had listened to constructive criticisms and not charlatans who were only interested in his money, he would not be where he is today,” Thomas said.

However blaming the media for Adamu’s current travails may not be entirely true. “I remember TELL did a story on him before the 2003 8th All African Games in Abuja and his cronies went about buying every copy of the magazine at that time,” said Spiff-Sagbamah. Indeed, the report Spiff-Sagbamah is referring to was titled, “Scandal in Aso Rock: Anti-Graft Campaign Fraud,” and published in the magazine’s June 30, 2003 edition. The report detailed irregularities in the award of contracts for the supply of broadcast equipment for the coverage of the Games in Abuja 2003. Other newspapers and magazine followed up the story citing gross financial irregularities in the handling of the 2003 Games by Adamu, who was the executive director of COJA - the body charged with organizing the games. In spite of the magazine’s expose at that time, the federal government only promised to probe the expenses of the local organizing committee of the Games while nothing significant has come out of the probes till date.

“We are determined to have zero tolerance for any breach of the code of ethics,” said Jérôme Valcke, General Secretary after the suspension of the duo. “It is a sad day for football,” added a disappointed Sepp Blatter, FIFA President. However, this is not the first time that the credibility of FIFA officials has been called into question. The likes of Jack Warner, FIFA Vice-President and CONCACAF President; Jérôme Valcke, General Secretary; Ismail Bhamjee, FIFA executive member and even Blatter, have been accused of corruption in the past. Blatter's election to the presidency of FIFA in 1998 was amidst much controversy and his 2002 candidacy was embroiled in rumours of financial irregularities and backroom dealings, where Farra Ado, then vice-president of the CAF and president of the Somalian football association, reportedly claimed to have been offered $100,000 to vote for Blatter in 1998. Blatter was however cleared of any wrong doing. Would Adamu be found guilty or not guilty?

Adamu, a former university teacher who has a doctorate degree in Physical Education, was appointed sole administrator of the Nigeria Football Association in 1992. He served as Director-General of the National Sports Commission (NSC) for a decade before his dismissal in November 2008. He was also a major factor in the organization of the U-20 World Cup hosted by Nigeria in 1999, the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations jointly hosted with Ghana and the Nigeria 2009 Under-17 World Cup.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PASSPORT IDENTIFICATION: PROUDLY NIGERIAN














I wished I had an international passport with this inscription boldly written on its cover page: “God’s masterpiece. Proudly Nigerian. No apologies”. Nigeria is a powerful global brand worth trillions of dollars, unlimited natural resources, millions of hectares of fertile lands, the third largest economy in Africa, over 250 languages and the eight most populous country in the world, with over 150 million industrious, determined people.

They also say that there is a Nigerian among every four black men anywhere in the world.

As much as trips outside Nigeria gave me pleasure in showing my ‘Nigerianness’ by being an unofficial ambassador for the country; I have also been miffed to hear different tales, from reality, fiction to the utterly absurd, about Nigeria from Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike.

During a trip to Berlin, my Vietnamese friend had to quiz me on the Nigeria portrayed in Tears from the Sun, a 2003 movie starring Bruce Willis. In the film, a bloody coup d'état overthrew the Presidential family, and established the dictatorship of a rebel general. The Northern Fulani Muslim rebels then execute a violent ethnic cleansing, against the Christian (mainly Catholic) Igbo tribes in the southern region. Call it the fertile imagination of one Hollywood movie director, but it certainly did not portray Nigeria in a good light. I had to ‘rebrand’ him, letting him know that my country is far better than that and that Nigeria has witnessed tremendous improvement in different areas of its national life over the years. At another occasion, I took different nationals on a journey as they quizzed me about Nigeria’s complexities. “You should become an ambassador for your country,” one of them could only say afterwards.

Well, I am, unofficially, for now.

On a recent trip to South Africa, I also met a jovial white South African man who took his humour to pit level when he questioned the integrity of 150 million Nigerians. “I can tell you anything you need to know, but I won’t give you my bank account details,” he joked. It was an absolute fallacy to label all Nigerians as drug peddlers, simply because of isolated cases, I told him straight faced. At some other times too, I have witnessed the cruel remarks about Nigerians. One Ghanaian friend once told me bluntly that Nigeria was proudly the home of 419ers. It was one of the rare times I couldn’t put up a convincing argument. The unscrupulous activities of a small majority of Nigerians have unfortunately placed a suspicious tag on hard working and honest Nigerians.

However, the good news is that, for each of the negative stories about Nigerians or Nigeria, there are also, directly or indirectly, ten to a hundred more positive, even great, inspiring stories about Nigerians and their exploits at home and abroad.

Do the math.

All the same, one out of maybe four Nigerians still desire to escape this country’s problems – epileptic power supply, bad roads, corrupt leaders, tribal wars, ethnic confusion, religious intolerance…

But, it really is up to Nigerians to change Nigeria, for the better. And I strongly believe that that great change will come in my lifetime. Yes, for Nigeria and Nigerians, everything good will come, to borrow the title of Sefi Atta’s award winning novel. But, it’s up to us, Nigerians, wherever you may be on the globe, to make that happen.

Because of the country’s myriad of problems, many Nigerians may have been forced to paraphrase a Bible quote at one time or the other; “can anything good come out of this country; despite fifty years of appalling leadership, endemic corruption, broken down value system and general disillusionment with the Nigeria project?”

To these ones, I will answer - a hundred and fifty one million times over, times fifty - YES! YES! Not just good, but great.

Nigerians have not been wholesomely applauded for so many good things, maybe because we may have allowed the rest of the world to ignore it. It’s high time Nigerians celebrated our uniqueness and diversity – in every good way possible. Have you ever wondered why they say that there is a Nigerian out of every four black men in the world? It is because Nigerians were created to make global impact. That is why the map of Nigeria is like a trigger on the map of Africa. Let’s all contribute to making the good count more.

God made you Nigerian for a divine purpose. You owe the world no apologies for ‘being’ one. Just be the best you can be, in whatever way you can. So that the world may know that Nigeria indeed is full of great people and is a great country. Let’s leave a legacy that the next generations can utterly be proud of.

God’s masterpiece. Proudly Nigerian. No apologies.

Happy 50th Independence celebration. God bless Nigeria!

© ARUKAINO UMUKORO

Monday, August 9, 2010

CONVERSATIONS - NIGERIA ON MY MIND (2)

I pondered on Otunba’s words for a minute and met a brick wall. “So, what do you expect me to do for a country that has not exactly done any tangible thing for her youths” I asked. I wanted to test his patience.

“Build your character in every way. Leadership is not Nigeria’s biggest problem. Character is. It is the only leadership quality we must have; character and capacity. If you have capacity, capability and character, and then if you have the opportunity, you must succeed. A lot of Nigerians have opportunities but they don’t have character or capability, so they can’t cope. Some people have character and capability but no opportunity. Once you can get somebody who has capabilities, character and opportunity, he will make a difference,” he said. My pulse was racing. Suddenly, anger, pain, passion, hope, redemption all welled up inside me; the nation into which I was born was causing my blood to boil.

He must have felt it because, then, he looked at me intently and touched my hands in the gentlest way. “Dare to be different. Do what you can with what you have where you are. Lead where you are. Change starts with you,” he added coolly.

On the way back home, I was speeding on a free lane. Usain Bolt wouldn’t even catch me on this, because I was racing on a future Nigeria fast track. Otunba totally convinced that Nigeria can be great again. I was rethinking Nigeria’s future and it will largely be built on what our generation does with the opportunities, no matter how small, presented us today.

Although our past leaders of Nigeria may have plundered the country’s wealth and resources; they may have raped many Nigerians of their right to decent living and good infrastructure. They may have left the country battered, bruised, naked and ashamed. But enough is enough. Wolves in sheep’s clothing should no more be allowed to continue feeding on Snow white’s inheritance. Nigeria’s future must be protected by the enlightened generation of youths. We must rescue Nigeria from the grip of charlatans masquerading as leaders; not just in the political space, but also in the church, in the mosque, in the market place, in your neighbourhood, on the streets, at your workplace, everywhere. Nigeria must rise up and say no to corruption, religious violence and jungle justice. We should join hands together to build a new Nigeria that everyone can be proud of.

“Salvation lies in true self-character development. When that seed of change and true character grows in you, the ripple effect is felt elsewhere outside you,” I remember my father telling me when we debated about the essence of salvation and how some have abused its meaning with contradictory lifestyles. When I briefed himr about my encounter with Otunba, he had something more to say.

“I agree with your friend Otunba. The failure of leadership is the root of Nigeria's problems. And it stems from the loss of true character. If Nigeria must get it right, then change must begin from inside. May I ask, what are the future leaders doing today?”

“Many things. We are holding mass rallies and sensitizing youths across Nigeria about issues that need to be addressed,”

“Okay, great. It's fine for you to have your youth rallies, mass movement actions and roundtables on the way forward for Nigeria. But truth be told, change begins from self - character development. Each person can make a difference, by visiting the future and contributing to the present. Don’t expect a seventy year old man to do that for you. Only the youth can,” he answered.

“This is our chance of redemption; of which this enlightened youth generation will play a major role. Nigeria is in your hands. Release it to the Potter and let him show you how to get involved in recreating a new Nigeria that you, us and our children’s children can be proud of. The world is waiting for your manifestation,” he continued

“We keep saying that Nigeria is the richest in terms of human and natural resources, Nigeria is the giant of Africa, and all the big clauses we use. But rich nations are envied. Powerful nations are feared. We say we are full of intellectuals. Intellectual nations are admired. But we have failed to be trusted. Only trusted nations made up of people of character will be trusted; if people of character must be trusted. That’s why I say we must go back to the future, today. And this is You, Youths,”

“I concur, dad,”

“By the way, did you know Obama met with some young African leaders recently?” he asked.

“No. What was his message to them,” I asked.

“Yes, YOUTH can,” he replied. Otunba’s wise words came back to me in full force. Don’t give up on Nigeria. Change starts with you.

The Revolution has begun.

(c) ARUKAINO UMUKORO

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

CONVERSATIONS - NIGERIA ON MY MIND (1)


When elders speak, even the forest animals pause to listen, says an African proverb....

...Well, I’m African. And proudly Nigerian, even though sometimes I feel pushed to describe her as my other country... But frankly, no matter where I go around the world, Nigeria will remain my country. However, I must confess to you that I still feel the Andrew’s rush of blood... I’m fed up of this country. I want to check out, man! ... Although time has refined my thoughts... But really, Naija sucks, man.... the system don’t seem to be working.... I mean, what has this country really done for me so far?

“Oh, bulls...t. Stop kidding yourself, young man. What have you done for your country?”

“Wait, who....what!?” Was it now possible to read people’s minds in a five star hotel lobby these days? My friend, Toyin, forgot that he was in a public place. We turned and saw a towering man staring at us with burning gaze. Toyin almost melted. The man, wearing an expensive lace outfit, looked fifty, or sixty.

“Forgive the interruption. But, you were speaking so loud into your phone. I thought I should let you know that you might be disturbing the guests,” Now, he said this with a smile playing on his lips. Toyin looked confused, like someone who was unsure whether if he should take the man’s words to heart or hand him a piece of his rage. He cut my thoughts into pieces with his next statement.

“Who knows the future? But I know that Nigeria has a future. I can understand your pain and frustration with the system. But this country will always be your fatherland... or motherland,” he smiled again.

“Eh, may I know your name sir,” Toyin asked. His face suddenly looked familiar. Again, he smiled, this time like a father who, two minutes ago, just met his prodigal son.

“I won’t tell you my name since you might want to interview me further. But just call me Otunba,” That made me laugh. Yeah, right.

“Nice to meet you, sir, em, Otunba...sir,” In turn, we both shook his hands and sat down. Just then, one pretty hotel attendant walked up to him.

“Your luggage will be down in a few minutes, sir,” she said.

“Thank you, Juliana,” he replied her. Then, the impression clicked. I must have seen him on TV... or met him at a function.

“I understand there are millions of disillusioned youths all over Nigeria,” he continued when the attendant left.

“Sorry Otunba, with due respect, I am simply angry at the system,” Toyin said politely.

“But of course, that is expected, with the poor leadership the country has suffered over the years. Despite the current situation now, please don’t give up on Nigeria. You don’t have to live this life complaining about Naija all the time, because if you’re the complaining type, there is a lot to complain about,” he said.

“Of course sir, with all the corruption and many other problems that...” Toyin was cut short by his laughter.

“There is a lot you can do by way of constructive participation. That’s why I’m saying what your generation and all of us need do now is to look into the future and ask ourselves, what is the future of this country, what can I do to make Nigeria better? The future of this country depends on the younger generation whom we must nurture,” He noted.

I thought I heard uh uh from the middle aged man who covered his face with a newspaper at the other end.

“But where is the environment, Otunba?” I asked. “So how can Nigerians constructively participate, when we all know that it is a broken record to say that the Nigerian system has failed to empower the youths. Our educational institutions have crumbled. There are not enough jobs for graduates,” I argued.

“I agree, shame on our leaders. But, this is your time. Don’t let them push you to the wall. Push back, with the force of your intellect and character. Yes, the so called leaders have failed. Yes, the past generation may have failed to build the right structures for the present. But please don’t you fail the next generations after you. If there are fifty million disillusioned youths and you can find one hundred willing ‘change’ agents, that’s good enough to affect the country’s future for the better. Be a significant part of the one hundred. Do something. By developing your character and skills, the force of you would be a ripple effect that will affect millions out there,”

This man must be on drugs or he really knows what he is saying.

“The older generation (of Nigerians) may have lost the 20th century. We must not allow the younger generation to lose the 21st century. This is your chance, our chance of redemption. Nigeria is in your hands. Release it to the Potter and let him show you how to be involved in recreating a new Nigeria that you, us and our children’s children can be proud of,” he continued.

“Maybe we should just all pray, I think, Nigeria needs deliverance,” Toyin said.

“But of course. And you, my young man, can be one of the deliverance ministers,” Toyin looked at me quizzically. Otunba laughed.

“What I mean is, your generation has a great opportunity of rethinking Nigeria’s future today. Don’t give up on Nigeria. Sometimes life begins at fifty, you know,” he said, smiling.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

CONVERSATIONS:THE MILES BETWEEN BEING STRESSED AND STRETCHED


In the rush of the day’s work, In the rush of the day, I missed eight phone calls. At 10pm, after filing out from the beats of the Lagos hustle and flow – my workstation can always pay for a remix - I was rescued by the still of the night to return three; one, to my old boss, and two others, to close friends of mine. The rest I sent text messages; the airtime ran out because the first three calls took thirty minutes. I use an.... mobile line.... I refuse the temptation to use my Facebook note to give free advertisement to any network. They have taken enough of my airtime. Anyways, I will return the other calls tomorrow. I wish Steve Jobs will create an application called Flashercatch. That way, one would be able to tell when someone was actually calling or flashing (Naija-speak). Just then my phone rang.

“Hi boyfriend? I have been trying to reach you for like, forever, hey?” The number was an unknown one. But even on drugs, I would spot out that voice from among a thousand similar ones. “Hi girlfriend, why is your number hidden?” I asked. Laide always called me from her phone.

“Oh, sorry!” She hung up. I was about dialling sleep when my phone rang again. It was Laide calling. Well, she seems to have fixed the network problem.

“Sorry, I guess my niece mistakenly edited my call settings earlier when I loaned her my phone,” she said.

“No probs,” I replied.

“But why have you not been picking my calls?”

“My apologies. I’ve had a breeze of a day and I’m still trying to catch my breath,”

“Hmmn, that’s my poet speaking.”

“And that’s my phonetic diva speaking,” I replied. We both laughed. Laide had a complicated accent. She could do American today and tomorrow she goes all British or both at the same time. It must be the effect of frequent transatlantic flights.

“So, how was your day?” I asked

“Stressful. This job’s a bitch,” she replied.

“So what happened to the big fat accounts, exclusive dinners at five star hotels and the juicy contracts?” I asked. Laide works in a bank. But her passion resides in fashion designing.

“Banking was just an escape route for me. If I had to choose, I wouldn’t work as an accountant,”

“But, it tallies with your course of study,” I queried.

“Yes, but I’m not fulfilled anymore here. By the way it’s too stressful and becoming boring with each passing day, or is it just me?”

“No, dearie. Maybe you need a change of location or you’ve been hit by the Big Real,” I said.
“What?”

“The Big Realization,” I answered. “Where your true passion lies. After all, Stretch is always better than Stress,” I said.

“How do you mean?”

“Stretch is a better word than stress, because when you're stretched, you don't remain the same, cos then you work in tune with time and have access to a pool of unlimited creativity to maximise your potentials. But when you're stressed, you work to burn out time with less creativity that might limit the harness of your potentials. A stressful job always demands more from you than you could give. A Stretchful job is also demanding, but it helps you realise that you could actually do more than you think and so builds your capacity to grow. How much does your job do for you? Does it stretch or stress you?”

“Hmmn,” she replied. I could feel her ears stretching through the earpiece.

“Find your passion and work it out into a career or get a job that suits your passion. However, if you still want to stay in your present job despite it not being in your line of passion, then you must learn the art of reverse application – applying your passion into any job, whether you like it or not. That means you must find new ways of doing the same thing, so that normal routine will become more exciting again. In that way, you get the best out of any ‘stressful’ job. Doing the same thing over and over again is never fun. But hey, there’s always a ring out of routines, you know?”

“Hmmn. Yummy. Your words feel like chocolate to my senses. Where did you get that from, baby boy?” She said with a wink. I could feel it through the earpiece.

“My father,” I replied.

“Should have known. By the way, how come I’ve never met your father?”

“You never said ‘yes’,” I chuckled.

Laide laughed. “But then, I was not ready and by the way....”

The silence triggered laughter from both ends. We both understood this scenario; this road has widely been travelled. We were history together. The end was scripted years ago.

“There was a time I would have given the world for you,” I brought out a lid to close the reminiscences.

“Darling, I had a lot of issues then. I was confused and then my heart was not big enough to contain you then,” she said exasperatedly.

“Okay, I know. But you know I could have requested for an expansion from the Big G, if you allowed me to,” I teased further.

“Whatever,” she said with a tone of resignation and that American drawl. I replied in kind. That thawed the building ice.

“That doesn’t mean I cannot go the whole nine yards for you,” I said.

“Of course, I know, sweet!” she laughed “You, my poet, will always have a special place in my heart,”

“Yeah, thanks,”

“You too, thanks for sharing. You have done my world a whole lot of good. I’m inspired to reinvent myself and my career. Whoa!”

“Glad to hear that. Stay inspired, girlfriend,”

“Sure, boyfriend!” Laide laughed heartily. “Do give my love to Edna,”

“Yeah, sure,” Afterwards, I talked her into making me an outfit. Laide: banker at day, fashion designer by night. I smiled.

(c) ARUKAINO UMUKORO