Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Inspired Twins converge for Christmas at Ifelodun Local Council - Amukoko Lagos

Monday, December 27 2010, at the headquarters of Ifelodun local council in Amukoko Lagos state, there was a unique gathering of over fifty sets of twins and multiple births in an atmosphere of fun, a celebration of the uniqueness of their births and their talents as a reminder of their social and economic value in the society. The event which turned out to be a thrilling spectacle for dwellers of Amukoko was also an opportunity to share the love of the yuletide with people in less focused communities.
The event was put together by Taiwo Akinyemi a business consultant and motivational speaker, in his speech to the gathering of mostly identical faces, he shared his vision to build the organization to be known as The Inspired Twins into a platform for eradicating the culture of begging for alms with twin babies on the streets especially among the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. This vision which he shared with his late twin sister puts the “Inspired twins” in the middle of a conflict of culture and child abuse but he is willing to face the challenge with the support of other prominent twins in the society and the many twin organization in Nigeria that share the same vision with theirs.
Thanks to the good use of social networking site facebook for their mobilization, the large turnout of stakeholders – twins from different fields of professional expertise led to an executive committee being setup to see to the affairs of the organization as they plan numerous developmental programmes for the year 2011. Among the special guests present were singers/models Taiwo and kehinde Campbell who seized the opportunity to share gifts as their way of giving back to the society. In their words “this is the real Lagos, this is the real Nigeria, this is where our politicians should visit, this is where it really hurts”. Nigeria being well known for having the highest natural concession of twins and multiple births in the world, the Campbell sisters called on governments and businesses to look into this unique market and support the initiative to reduce the scourge of child abuse in our society.
A meeting of the executive committee has been slated for January 2011 and fingers remain crossed as the New Year rolls in quickly. For the people of Amukoko, it was a memorable experience and they look forward to more of such events.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

From the workstation

Playing on the workstation monitor here is ariya.tv our baby, coming soon!
© Deuce Entertainment Nigeria

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My prophetic SMVA diary

It took Tywo’s arrival in Lagos during the last week in the month of July 2009 for me to be conscious of the Lagos I had been for a while and the many events going on simultaneously around the mega city. My conscience tells me I deserve to be pardoned for that nonchalance; it wasn’t like I totally lost my sense of socializing but for a very long while I had totally switched from television to books and the internet, and I mean internet with less time for facebook so I just didn’t know one of the biggest events in the Nigerian entertainment industry which I had so anticipated was happening in 2 days! What a boring life he has lived, yea say it.

Grabbing the invite
Friday July 31st in the afternoon, the pre-awards was happening by 10pm and I wasn’t going to miss it; I wanted that break so much, having been in the academia for a while. I put a call across to my friend at Soundcity.
“Hey Denrele how far?”
“pre-awards is tonight you’re asking how far, aren’t you coming?”
The ever happy, jovial and energetic guy is one of those who believe we’ve stayed away from the Nigerian scene for too long and rightly thought too. I wanted to be sure where the venue was but it would be embarrassing to give him the impression that I did not even know that much as I understood many were scrambling for those entry passes. Well we made a plan to meet at the pre-awards, and then we would pick up our Invite for the awards. Perfect plan.

Pre Awards party or concert?
That I missed the Nigerian entertainment mainstream is an understatement; this was our first public appearance in Nigeria in two years since being on stage to model Zizi Cardow’s designs at the “Stars on the runway 2007” a charity event initiated by UK based model and TV host Ronke Apampa and organized by R70 world UK. I had expected to see the typical Nigerian pre-awards party; a night club with loads of young girls in skimpy dresses, funny make-up and hip looking guys with plenty of alcohol, smoke and loud music to go with it. There were a lot of these and even more daring were the skimpy dresses the girls wore here but the unusual was the gigantic stage, heavy lights and sound equipments, large crowd of enthusiastic music lovers and the choice of an open garden to host the event which meant the event could only be called a pre-awards concert and not the pre-awards party or nominees’ party as always been the case. I thought it was a nice idea breaking away from business as usual.

Making our way by the large crowd into backstage where other artistes were and hundreds of shouts, handshakes, backslapping and the shoulder grinding hip-hop hugs came in droves. Finding our ex manager as the event manager also made the night an exciting return to Lagos night life. It was almost 4a.m when I realized I had not sat down all night as we talked the night away with friends, journalists and colleagues like Ajasa, Rooftop MCs, Jimmy Jatt, Artquake, Mamuzee, K-solo and Dr Frabz (both producers we have worked with). The stage remained constantly busy as different acts entertained the appreciative crowd but oh I loved watching MI and enjoyed the funny Alanta performance by Artquake. It took the arrival of Dr Pat the Kondo Olopa man, our good friend and host in New-York for us to finally pull some chairs to relax as the early morning dew fell on us all.

The Awards
Saturday 1st of August 2009, stepping on to the red carpet at the awards, I couldn’t have asked for more than the love shown to Tywo and me by all. I can’t remember how many times we had to answer the questions “What have you been up to”? “What’s new”? And “When did you come?” it was a sort of reunion with special people who had been there for us in the past and some new wave making acts who had looked up to us while building their acts and were glad to finally meet us, and I must admit I missed the hook ups, the lights and cameras, the appreciative ladies, the sometime funny make-up, the artiste craze, the creative ambience and so much more. The organizing from the entrance to the large red carpet that gave enough space to the numerous media organizations to have their interviews and guests to socialize while we took our turns for a share in the limelight made me feel I was at the BET awards, unlike when red carpets would be like walking in between choked pews in an old Anglican church. The grey area was the insufficient seats for guests at the main awards and the chaos at the entrance which made gaining entry difficult even with your IV. All thanks to Nigerians’ impatience and the equally aggressive bouncers.

After waiting a while for sanity to resurface at the door, thanks to Mr Dele Olukoju who led us back stage for the time being, we made our way into the show without missing any part of the kick off, and again, thanks to our never dying African time syndrome which impressively was not more than a one (1) hour delay on the night. I was not expecting the miracle of two vacant seats and I thought we would spend just a few minutes and go home, but right ahead of us was a good friend and big brother, Frank Edoho who was by the way ready to enjoy the show on his feet, so I thought “this place (a place at the back) may not be bad after all”. The show went on seamlessly with Dare the compeer on top of it as usual as the awards were given out most to the approval of the guests. The performances were spot on, evident of good rehearsals and sound check. At least we did not see men running on and off the stage with hammers in their hands.

Wande Coal’s Bumper to bumper brought some craziness out of the people at the back, then I realized that many of us who were supposed to be sitting among the front row seats, I mean even some of the nominees deliberately came to the back for the liberty of doing the kind of dance Dr Frabz and my brother did. Am sure Oga Frank wouldn’t have had the space to dance and tease like he did if he sat in one of those reserved seats up front, especially knowing he didn’t have all the night to spend; why not enjoy the brief stay with D’banj’s lovely but crazy stage act during WC’s performance, Mo hits award “speech” on behalf of Don Jazzy who was by the way with them on stage, the MI/El dee stage medley, Tu-face live band jamming and Jozi’s effortless performance and many other moments I really enjoyed.

The prophecy
My highlight of the night was the joy of watching Bigiano pick up two awards within two (2) hours while the memories of some of his years of struggle which I witnessed a bit played back in my memory. He was obviously too overwhelmed during his speeches to remember that the awards date was 1st of August as he rightly predicted in the song that did all the magic for him. I hope right now he does not think it was just a coincidence that it happened that way. Call those lyrics a prophecy and I will gladly agree with you. How the things we say in our music matter!

“First of August na the date o,
na so me and my friends siddon we relate o
Say make we gather people come jubilate o
Cos na my success I dey try celebrate o…”

I asked my brother if already painted in that song "Shayo" wasn’t a picture of his possible activity right now as he and his crowd of supporters had gone back to their seats after the second award, he simply smiled and said to me “except God says no or not yet, you can achieve whatever you believe and confidently confess concerning your destiny”. The power of positive confessions can not be over emphasized and I honestly think it goes a long way in shaping our route in life. Even in the midst of our shayo, shepe and omoge songs we can always ensure we confess positive to ourselves, our people and equally importantly our country. The heavens have a way of tuning to the words of our mouth to shape dealings with us, though we all say things at times that we would rather are kept off records in heaven, as I would prefer to be ignored over there when I sing fokasibe; but the question I ask myself is shouldn’t we be willing to make it easy for the almighty to work and walk with us to shape our destiny as we desire in our hearts?

I do not want to start naming artistes in the past who had recorded songs about death only to die not long after, but in my words to Klever J that same night, life is a journey and sometimes it could be a long walk to destiny, in our world of entertainment, it’s a peculiar set up and sometimes when creativity fails to help talent or they both refuse to form an alliance to yield your desired results, there is a power somewhere in heaven that makes all the difference and the way to link up with this is through our seeds of faith, positive thinking, confession, humility and hard-work.

To the winners at the awards I say congratulations and to the other nominees I say congratulations as well. I look forward to the awards next year 2010 and hopefully it will be better than this year’s edition. Well-done Soundcity, 001 Events, GA production! Y’all did a good job. I look forward to the NMVA holding on the 1st of November 2009. I just can not wait. God bless Nigerian music, the artistes – Nigeria’s true ambassadors. Ire o.

NB: This article was written in August 2009, but it is sad that Late Hiphop star Dagrin had to join the list of artistes that sang about their own death and went on to depart not long after. May His creative soul continue to find rest.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

MMI holds second workshop

Though the premises of the university had lost its usual buzz of students due to the commencement of a strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, yet the Debb and Isaac Media technical crew moved in their computers, sound gadgets, printers, banners and other equipments, the few lecturers around moved up and down the stairs to make sure all was well, while facilitators walked in to set up training facilities, and the few chosen students walked in with high expectations, given the testimonies of their colleagues who were beneficiaries of the first edition of the workshop. Friday, September 24 2010 was the day and it was the opening day of the second edition of the Funke-Treasure Media Mentoring Initiative workshop series at the Lagos State University.

The short opening ceremony started with the MC introducing the initiator of the project Mrs Funke Treasure Durodola an international broadcast journalist and top News reader, presenter/producer with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria; in her speech she stated her drive for giving back to the society that gave to her and highlighted the vision of the Initiative for mentoring Mass Communication students in Nigerian universities in the next 3 years. Supported by the initiator’s colleagues who are renowned media professionals in TV and Radio, the quarterly workshops held its first edition in June 2010 with a four day workshop in News feature reporting for both radio and TV students of the university, the September edition however was a 2 day workshop for TV students on Creativity in Production/story telling skills.

Targeted at final year students, the obviously excited undergraduates didn’t have to wait too long as work started immediately and true to the standards of its debut, it was as practical, thorough and learner centered as can ever be imagined. They tried out media skills missing in most Nigerian tertiary institution’s communication degree syllabus and which they never thought they could acquire in their four to five academic year experience, these include scripting for TV, video editing, camera use and shot composition, understanding storyboards, fundamental formats in broadcasting…etc.

With personalities like international producer Lloyd Weaver as Chief facilitator, Ify Onyegbule (Presenter – Woman of Substance on TVC), Bunmi Davies (Producer – Stand Up Nigeria), Keni Akintoye (media/creative consultant and member of the pop group Twin-X) with other thoroughbred media practitioners as guest facilitators and the Host facilitator Funke Treasure bringing their wealth of industry experience and international exposure to train the student and of course somehow their celebrity status to inspire them. The initiator’s dream was obvious in the general training approach as the focus was rather on the students’ status and needs to develop practical workplace productivity to make them employable and build their capacity for self employment.

With funding for the project coming from her personal savings, supported by friends and her immediate family and the facilitators having offered their services for free, the next workshop is in December 2010 with another set of student beneficiaries and she intends to continue and expand to other institutions for as long as there are younger people studying Mass communication and truly interested in the media business. Having enjoyed all of the training sessions, tea break and lunch, handouts free of charge; how far this beautiful initiative can survive without corporate sponsorship leaves the faculty and students of the Lagos State University with something to worry about.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My risky Leopard business

Leopards are the large, strong, wild animal of the cat family that has the yellowish brown fur with black spots. They are known to be hunters, but like other wild animals of the cat family peculiar for their solo hunting style. Leopards live in Africa and southern Asia which means we have a few of them around but yet we fear them. Not surprisingly, contrary to normal situations and even my own wildest dreams, my closest encounter and best memories of a Leopard are neither my frequent visits to the zoo as a child nor the memories of watching the National geographic channel on TV but having a one-on-one with the leopard, I live to tell. You may want to think I’m talking about some friend of mine nicknamed Leopard like we Yoruba from the western part of Nigeria hail outstanding people as “ekun” (which means tiger anyways); no I am not and this is not one of my jokes either. I am talking about that same real dangerous leopard.

I met this particular Leopard in one of the wild jungles in South Africa, on one of my educational adventures. We were introduced to each other by Mr. Peter Bamkole – a business development consultant and the facilitator of the meeting. The leopard had been in his custody and they have lived happily together for a while looking at the familiarity they displayed between them, it helped me to believe that it may not be out to have me for lunch after all, even though the way it looked at me the moment it stepped out of its cave seemed to be the opposite and I kept wondering what the leopard had in its home that could be so fascinating that this Mr. Banky was bent on taking me through the nightmare. That was the way everyone referred to him, I was meeting him for the first time too, though seen him around a couple of times before. Let’s call him Banky and his wild cat friend Leo while I remain my humble self Keni.

The first thing I noticed about Leo was its confidence and sovereign spirit and seeing my facial expression betray my thoughts, it told me it became independent of its mother at one (1) year of age, unlike the cheetah that spends 20 months and the lion that spends 3 years tied to their mother’s apron sheets. So it wasn’t about age but maturing on time, building an independent mindset and learning about life on its own. To me that smelt of a bit of arrogance but being in its territory, it was wiser not make such opinion obvious. Leo showed off its intimacy with its territory as we took a walk round the jungle, all the valleys, mountains, caves, the danger zones, the weak and strong trees, it knew exactly how long our walk round would take and even told me my boundaries to avoid trespass. Not only did Leo know everything about its territory, it also had a good knowledge of the resources available at its disposal both the obvious and hidden ones; shelters away from home, ambush points, water, holes… name it. It explained that it spends most of its day time searching, discovering and learning more about the jungle and its habitats as that is the key to survival in the jungle.

After a long walk, Leo became hungry at which point I must confess my heartbeat became faster, but Banky surprisingly remained calm and unconcerned with my plight and I thought that was mean. However, like the biblical ram appeared to take the place of Isaac in sacrifice, it was a miracle when we spotted an unfortunate antelope and I had expected Leo to go for it immediately at least to guarantee my safety for some more time but it didn’t! Rather it moved back to hide itself in the bush, stalking as it moved closer tactically such that the antelope could not see it coming. Despite distractions from us and other antelopes, it refused to loose sight of that one antelope, its tail quivering in excitement and anticipation, yet ready to wait some more. As the antelope moved around, Leo also changed strategies to position itself at the right angle to seize its moment, but by my judgment, I felt the moment to attack the prey came several times, but Leo refused to act and It seemed pathetic “hunting” with the level of arrogance I had seen all day but wisely again, I kept my opinion to myself. I could hear my heart beat as I nervously hoped this will not be his excuse to turn to me.

I thought the actual moment would never come but it did and I almost missed it, Leo now watching from a tree top, pounced heavily with all its well reserved energy and went straight for the jugular with its sharp teeth, suffocating the prey to death without a chance to struggle, fight back or even make a noise. It was pure skill and magic helped by tenacity! Even the lazy fat hyenas watching from a distant clapped their hands. After this, it carefully opened up the dead antelope and removed the intestines leaving them on the spot, he moved the now very light carcass away to its own safe abode where all the now gathering vultures and hyenas would not be able to reach it.

I thought I had understood the reason for Leo’s seemingly sluggish approach, which turned out to show its smartness going by the manner in which it achieved its goal but then, Banky asked me to take another look at Leo as it got busy devouring its lunch and make out a game plan from its example for entrepreneurship! I found out the first thing I need to do is to set clear and measurable goals and not lazy fantasies just as the Leopard will set its sight on that one target - one antelope even if there were hundreds of them at the moment. I owe myself the decision to stay focused on my goals with all tenacity, irrespective of the distractions even if certain people give up on me the way a certain Keni gave up on Leo.

Lack of information and knowledge of your territory and daily commitment to learning about the area of operation which he called market analysis is unforgivable in business development and even a Leopard will never take this for granted! You DO NOT enter a business without research. I need to study the gap to locate the opportunities and find the hidden and obvious resources available for the achievement of my business goal. Looking at the manner in which the Leopard killed the antelope, I learnt the need for precision and to avoid drawing attention to myself by maintaining less noise during execution process. The Leopard even went further to empty the abdominal content of the dead animal and this is for two major reasons. First was to make the real food lighter to move to safety and this simply means “avoid excess luggage”, focus on your necessities alone to make your plan easier. Second is that it went away with the carcass while it left the intestine on the spot as a decoy for its competitors and opportunists who were busy sniffing around for free meal, of course they will miss the location of the actual food. I am taught to wake up to the reality that there is competition and I’m not the only one thinking, so I must protect my business and maintain trade secrets.

Did I tell you that the Leopard is also an expert in Risk Analysis? Oh yes! Just almost half way into the meal, the lion – king of the jungle appeared from nowhere to take possession of the meat. I was so excited waiting to see how the leopard would “defend its territory” against the lion; I had not been a fan of its arrogance all the while anyways, especially when my assumed entrepreneurial knowledge had just been dwarfed by its expertise. Talking about studying the terrain and preparing for changes, Leo knew it stood no chance against the lion and I could not believe my eyes as I saw it surrender the food without even a fight and walked away humbly. I could only imagine what was on its mind “he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day”. Is one meal worth dying for? Definitely not, but it didn’t even fight at all. Is that same meal even worth the injuries it would have sustained from fighting a lion? When there are more meals to take and the lion doesn’t come everyday? NO. The leopard had the foresight to create an escape route when trouble comes. Leo was not as arrogant as I thought after all.

I was not taught to give up in the face of challenges but to always weigh my chances realistically and analyze my priorities to understand what is most important. We should always have a backup plan, a plan-B so that the stock market, government policies, economic recession, unnecessary legal tussle, funding, ego, pride…etc do not hold our business to ransom. Every successful person has met his own lion at some point, they will always come but we must be prepared. As I pondered on the smartness of Leo, I remembered Mr. Shogbamu my lecturer and friend back in Lagos State University and our last discussion on the SWOT Analysis for business planning (Strength-Weakness-Opportunity-Threats). I was honestly struggling with myself if to actually believe that a leopard has just practiced SWOT Analysis so intelligently when an angel appeared before me and said “yes son, that was SWOT Analysis” Banky saw and heard her too and replied “thank you very much, please tell him”.

Banky-the super man like Dr. Do-little that knew how to communicate with the wild leopard was my Entrepreneurship and Business Planning facilitator, the jungle was the Shell classroom and South Africa was the Pan-African University’s School of Media and Communication and the angel was a member of my class who expressed her excitement at seeing the SWOT Analysis in action by an animal just before I did. Who was Leo? That was the South African leopard in the documentary titled “The leopard and good careful planning”. I once wrote one of my random thoughts in my song book “No one fails with hard work, confidence, precision, humility, focus and prayers, with these, even our most unrealistic dreams come to life”. I have since then not been the same, I feel the urge in me everyday to take all I am and all I have been to the next level, and the leopard showed me how… but Banky remains the superman, and he left me with these words “if you do not have a plan, you do not have a future”.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lingua Franca

Is it me or something is truly wrong somewhere? Years have gone by and I’m yet to find someone to give me a good reasonable explanation for the belief in some quarters that Nigerian artistes’ delivery of songs in Pidgin English is a sign of illiteracy or better still to put it in their usual word “inability to speak good English”. Even with successes achieved by Nigerian music and musicians in recent years, some people just don’t get it! With due respect to the very many people who earn their living through their white collar jobs across different sectors of the Nigerian economy, I may be right to say only few of them can boast of higher educational qualification than many in the entertainment business and this observation also applies to their general command of the English language. What amazes me however is that when bankers, doctors, advertisers… speak Pidgin English, it is considered a matter of choice, simply code switching or code mixing as the case may be but for an average musician to do the same, he is labeled “razz” illiterate or whatever name you can think of. I don’t get it.

As much as I value speaking right, never wanting to compromise on it anywhere I find myself, I will not be deceived into believing that this is all that defines me, even if it helps to make the best first impression. Without any disrespect to the ladies, I will have to speak from the perspective of a young single and sexually conscious guy. I have met and chatted with many intelligent ladies who struggle with their spoken English, making few errors here and there, what Naija people will call bad English – depending on their “marking scheme” and I’m pretty sure many of us will have few jokes off such experiences too but ladies and gentlemen! Have you met a girl that speaks the entire phonetics in the world but can not maintain an intellectual dialogue for five minutes? The ones that speak bad English with American accent are even worse! Guys you don’t wanna go down there; it is simply injustice to a man!
Ladies please feel free to do the same check and see if you’re not better off with that intelligent guy that speaks that carefully put together English with his Ibo accent than the one with Queen’s or Yankee English but no quality mind or manners or ambition.

I still remember the over blown grammatical blunder of juju musician Sir Shina Peters’ “soonest recover” and the endless issue that was made of it, why then would it be hard for me to truly appreciate the modest eloquence of musicians like Pasuma, Salawa Abeni, K1 and Obesere who’s genre does not even necessarily require the language? As much as I will like to say that being a musician or entertainer is not an excuse for not having a good command of our lingua franca – a language taught in our schools and on which every other subject is taught, rather is the more reason why we need it as music require some elements of poetry, literature and figurative expressions; I am usually forced to come back to the question what really is Nigeria’s lingua franca?

Just the other day I was fixing my car at the mechanic’s somewhere in ibadan, then came along this young – very young boy with a hammer in his hand with which he constantly hit the small wooden box hanging on his shoulder and I beckoned on him to quickly shine my dusty shoes. As his tiny little fingers struggled with the weight of the shoes, I wondered if he had been at this all day or the time being around 4pm it was just another after school work done to support his parents as the child labor thing has always been a common sight in many poor and even average homes – that being a topic for another day. I couldn’t bear the sight any longer and decided to settle my curiosity.

In my usual self I asked “are you in school”?
I got neither a response nor a reaction after repeating the same question twice, then hoping this sounds common, I asked “what’s your name”?
Then he looked up at me, looked back at the shoes and smiled as he continued his task, apparently sorry for a young good looking man showing early symptoms of madness by talking all to himself – my dreadlocks off course did not help matters.

It was already getting embarrassing and not the type to smile about but more of “if ai ssslap you…” but then I still had an idea, I switched swiftly to the famous, wonder working Pidgin English. “wetin be your name”? Low and behold! His vocal cords came to life in a manner that reminds you of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s miracle crusades.
“Dawoudi” he replied in his concentrated northern accent.
“Wonderful! what a miracle” I said to myself, then pressed on “you dey go school”?
“Me I noo dey go” Now feeling a little vindicated, I asked him why
“My phapha I noo get…” and the discussion went on.

It is also common knowledge that an average person from the eastern part of the country even with absolutely no formal education will communicate with you in Pidgin English comfortably. Then I ask myself “does it make sense for a recording artiste hiding under the saying that music is a universal language to make all his songs in total English language and fail to communicate with the larger percentage of his society but please a few misguided minds? That is nothing but a myopic sentiment borne out of regrettable propagandas or perhaps deliberate bigotry on the history of the evolution of Nigeria’s pop music! When politicians want our votes; they go to villages to speak Pidgin English and it works! Now someone wants to tell me “pidgin na wowo language”? Even our Honorable Speaker Dimeji Bankole will not speak his Queen’s English to the people in his constituency! For what now?

This is my point; music is about telling a story, sending a message and if the language that reaches your primary market most widely is Pidgin English or your mother tongue, why avoid it? If Jamaicans had avoided their unique patois (patwa) would it have become so globally accepted that we even try to copy it? Whatever language you speak, make sense. That is music.

I learnt an international organization rated three songs by Nigerian musicians among the best 10 african songs of the past century;
- Water by Fela Anikulapo Kuti – sang mainly in pidgin and Yoruba language
- Sweet Mother by Prince Nico Nbaga – another legendary hit song recorded totally in Pidgin English.
- African Queen the monster hit by Tuface Idibia – the only song of Nigerian origin in this class recorded totally in English language.
Ironically Tuface happens to be one of the pop acts that have been worst hit by the Pidgin English criticism but then “nothing dey happen”.

Here the points are quite clear and obvious, pidgin English is not a barrier to international acceptability as long as we keep it simple and sensible; broken English or your mother tongue in music is not a proof of deficiency in speaking English as stated by a popular celebrity couple in an interview some years back, and let me state and be sure it is also not enough reason to say “Nigerian artistes do not go to school” considering how many of us has tried to go beyond the first degree. However, all said and done, make we too stop to dey misfire; the Nigerian artiste needs to draw the line between a formal and informal setting and learn to speak appropriately. Enough said… I think.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Black stars from the Gold coast

Permit me to make this mistake please, that is if at all it is indeed a mistake, the last time I felt like 100% of the population of Africans in the privacy of their homes felt truly like brothers with fellow Africans in far away corners from the deserts, mountains, forests, cities, villages through the north, east, west and south with no diplomatic stunts intended must have been when we saw a common enemy in apartheid during those dark days in South-Africa. Africa indeed truly united again in my adult years, and ironically it took a certain common enemy called Uruguay or common goal or let’s just say common gold called the FIFA World Cup™ in the country South-Africa again for this unity to come alive. The difference here is that while we won the apartheid battle, we did not win this Uruguayan battle.

We had no flag with which to replicate the African solidarity that was fully in the Supersport studio as displayed and suggested by the analysts before the game, I could not find a single piece of material to use in holding Ghana close to my heart, then Tywo stormed into his bedroom and came back with his three towels tied around his waist in layers such that the three can be visible; they were colors red, yellow and green and there we had the Ghanaian flag with only the black star missing! with a passionate shout “show them Ghana! Do this for the motherland! Looking more like a masquerade from an Ibadan village, we were simply having fun cracking up each other, but we both knew the feeling inside us was more than the laughter, we meant every bit of our actions and emotions. You can bet I made sure the MMS went round the rest of the family within minutes with funny text messages flowing and of course powerful ones from strange sources praying and soliciting for intercession prayers from me. Of note was the half time message from a senior friend and colleague who I think would rather watch an old edition of Project Fame than watch a live football match and it read “keep praying we are nearly there! Lord empower our brothers to defend totally and score 3 more, for we your children!”

When that last second penalty was given, it was like finally the victory was here but for a strange (though not anymore) reason I did not celebrate, a certain image flashed through my eyes and it was that of an Argentine called Requelme – gifted with an opportunity in dying minutes to save his club side Villarreal FC of Spain from defeat against Arsenal in the Champions league of 2006. He looked tense, shaky and nervous and consequently lost the penalty as Arsenal celebrated a victory made in heaven. I could not voice my pessimism, I only prayed that the almighty would give us the day; experience has taught me that the most influential players in the team get the nod to take charge in such situations but they can also be the ones that would falter when it most matters. Asamoah Gyan’s was a different scenario as he looked confident and ready, though not so calm but the result was the same; one missed penalty, two more misses and Africa’s gold coast fails to hit the gold we had dreamt of. What can I say? The deed is done and dusted!

I prayed so much for the game not to add up to my long list of soccer heartbreaks but what can men do? There is indeed a supreme being, for no one can say the Ghanaians did not do well enough to win. We are not laughing, we are not smiling, the tears flowing are obviously not tears of joy, we are not popping champagne, some of us still can’t get over the pain but we will not be sad either because we were not beaten. Suarez may be the Uruguayan hero but Asamoah gyan, Dominic Adiyiah, Kingson, John Mensah and co… all remain icons of African football. Equaling Roger Miller of Africa in this achievement means you will not be forgotten in the history of African football because when Africa needed it most, you saved our already slapped and battered faces (thanks to our different national teams and Football Associations). Please do not despair for you have some good years ahead of you and can only get better making fame and fortune for yourselves and your families, winning the Olympic soccer gold in the process and guess what, you have a chance to be back in Brazil 2014 to win it; yes I mean to win the world cup while my dear country tries to rebuild our own football to be like you “when we grow up”!

Thank you Black stars, thank you our golden stars, thank you Ghana Football Association, thank you true sons of the soil, thank you brave hearts, thank you patriots, thank you brothers. The whole of Africa have seen it, the 24 million from home and your 1 billion supporters from Egypt to South-Africa, Kenya, Liberia, Angola, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Equatorial guinea, Tanzania, Libya even Somalia and my beloved country Nigeria, for unto us great men were born and the future shall be upon your shoulders and your names shall be called “Blessed”. You have shown the African child that irrespective of what our politicians do, whether he is ajebo or pako he can achieve anything he sets out in his heart to do with the true African spirit that never gives up, that never dies, and that believes and says “I can” or “I fit”.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Truth for Nigeria's Super Eagles

I have had to explain my decision to change my attitude towards national team games to many people since I wrote about my soccer heartbreaks sometime ago, and I must say that almost everybody agreed with me, hoping to find their own defining moment and discover the strength to bear such moments. However in the cause of the many discussions my views sparked, I found out how many joyful moments I’ve had as a football lover and national team supporter. It may never be as many as the heartbreaks but the joy of it lingers on and since this is a massive football year, we might as well get the party started in our own little way here. Let’s go 2010 abi? Yeah right.

Going back to the Nigeria versus Tunisia game that ended 2-2 in Abuja, just recently I was chatting with a friend on facebook and he told me how a man died of heart attack while watching the game, as a matter of fact on the stroke of that Tunisian equalizer hitting our net, not an unusual story but never less saddening especially when you know such victims. I was not there when “Odiye scored against Nigeria” in 1977 and made us loose the 1978 world cup ticket but the pain with which those who saw the game reminisce is something else even after over 3 decades. So I still strongly stay with my decision to take it easy with these football thing especially national teams. This has nothing to do with my patriotism as you will find out here but just a precaution. Besides, not many of us can boast of having given as much as our footballers to our fatherland? So, they remain our heroes no matter what, but I just don’t want to be killed by my hero.

The year was 1998 in a beautiful country called France; Nigeria had been drawn in the same group with the then almighty number 3 ranked Spain in the world cup. It was to be our opening group game and the world was looking forward to the massacre of our darling super eagles – the previous edition’s Cinderella team (though not all the way). Spanish football has always been at the top and they were always among favorites in most tournaments they entered for, whether they lived up to such ratings is a story for another day but with Raul Gonzalez, Fernando Hiero and co, then at the top of their game, it was like a suicide mission playing against them. We were scared and were not surprised to have gone behind in the game, before nko? But the spirit with which our darling eagles came back was amazing! Oh Sunday Oliseh you made me shed tears of joy with that goal; It is for me the best goal ever scored by a Nigerian player and I can never ever forget his celebration – from the resolute expression on his face to the wild sprint he ran pointing his finger to the stands! I was down with malaria and totally weak before the game but all my pains disappeared with immediate alacrity! We went ahead to beat the tournament favorites against all odds suffice to say Mr. Garba Lawal single handedly retired the Spanish goalkeeper Zubizerreta and it remains one of my best moments as a Nigerian soccer supporter.

I do not know if the David and goliath fixation is influencing my choices but looking back now, Atlanta 96 semi final against Brazil remains very special to me because of Bebeto’s pre match comments, we were told he said he could take on the whole of the Nigerian team alone and still beat us. Papilo who happens to be one of my favorite world footballers of all time was the hero of the night. It was such fun to see Bebeto stranded and Dosu Joseph shedding tears of joy after that beautifully taken golden goal. The can-do, never give up, die hard spirit of the Nigerian youth made the difference, and if we had lost the final eventually, that semi final performance and victory would have been enough for the MON awards that was given to the players and officials of our one and only Dream Team. Incidentally such a team remains a dream that has not come true for us after years of trying, not even the France 98 team could re-enact that feat despite being a fusion of the best of USA 94 and Atlanta 96.

Like I said, do not expect too many joyous moments to be here, it is only natural because we are talking about Nigeria a supposedly big football nation, many of our sweet victories were expected and that is why they would turn out not to be big deals anymore just after few days of celebration. An example of that is the 3-2 victory over Kenya en-route South Africa 2010; besides the fact that we all knew God became a Nigerian for the day (between Mozambique and Tunisia) in far away Maputo, to be realistic, lets forget this talk about us having average players, only a few coaches will not qualify the Nigerian team for the world cup in that group, even a high school coach with some common sense can do it but we all know we need more than depending on luck, players’ profile and CAF to win away games on the continent. Well, I am just saying the victory in Kenya was a sweet memorable one but we shouldn’t have been in the scary position in the first place, so you find it easy to overlook.

My attention shifts to Julius Aghaowa twice against Senegal in the nation’s cup co-hosted by Ghana and Nigeria in 2000 and Mali 2002. How he managed to pull off those miracles and saved us on both occasions remains a mystery to me. The second one was really amazing because prior to that game I had predicted that it was going to be dejavu and he was going to be the savior again. True to my prediction we were down and the game was winding up only for him to come on and switch the destiny of the game, just like that? The guy was the genius of his time, simple! Ironically I can not remember any spectacular moment outside my national team as being most joyous, I get a lot of joy watching my darling Arsenal FC and I think that might mean “nothing dey shack me again, I’ve seen it all nothing dey dia again”. Maybe, if I’d not been heartbroken by Samuel Eto’o and Belleti at the champion’s league final in 2006, it would have been a night to savor for ever.

I can not forget the players that have given me my many sweet moments in the history of my life watching football, JJ Okocha, Sunday Oliseh at the CAN 2000 final, Kanu Nwankwo in Atlanta ’96 and for Arsenal against Chelsea (of course). Patrick Kluivert, Davor Suker, Thiery Henry, Herik Larsson, Claude Makalele, Zinedene Zidane, Dele Aiyenugba for Enyimba FC… just naming a few. I wont bother trying to acknowledge a particular player that was outstanding in the USA ’94 final match, they were simply a product of tight team work, but I remember being so joyous at seeing Roberto Baggio miss that penalty for Italy to give Brazil the world cup victory, my joy was more of seeing Italy loose rather than Brazil win, so I can say he belongs to this list of special players though in an unusual way.

As for the fate of our super eagles at the World Cup 2010... hmnnn, well lets just say I am willing to enjoy this world cup the way i enjoy watching the premiership, if as an Arsenal fan you're able to bear 5 years without winning a trophy, then it will be unfair to castigate the team if they perform below our expectations, its not like we expect them to go bring the trophy anyways, besides they will be playing at least 3 "good" matches! If they go beyond that, I'll just gladly take it as a bonus to me for my years of loyalty. I dont think any one of us needs the success at that tournament more than the players themselves. For crying out loud, there are many matches to look forward to! Portugal vs Brazil, Cote d'ivore vs Brazil, Cameroon vs Holland, England vs USA... and of course Nigeria vs Tevez, Aguero, Milito, Higuain, Maxi, Heinze, Mascherano, and MESSI... Abeg, where ever you'll be watching from, whether at home, in the bar, the many pako viewing centers or out there in South Africa, just sit back relax grab your drink or vuvuzela and enjoy it. I wish every one of you happy viewing, hoping we find some of those wonderful moments that will live with us for ever. AMEN

The John Terry Near you

The story as I read is that John Terry had a fling with the lady who was ex-girlfriend to Wayne Bridge – a fellow footballer, who currently plays for Man City FC, used to be JT’s team mate at Chelsea and has always been his team mate in the national team. So we can say the young man JT had a fast one with his friend’s woman! Yes, it sounds as terrible as everyone wants to make it sound, especially when we’re made to feel like our opinion counts, what we now have is too many people with worse sins being the first to cast stones. I am not about to glorify infidelity or support cheating husbands here but for me, reading the news of John Terry’s affair with lingerie model Venessa Parroncel, my honest reaction was just not going to be joining the public expostulation and crucifixion that followed it but simply “wetin be my own”?

To say JT is important to club and country is an understatement, that guy sometimes looks like the backbone of both teams, not only is he a very sharp, strong and dependable defender but one of the most psychologically stable footballers playing today, he knows how to score goals and is also hardly injured! He epitomizes what a footballer should be; he is an inspiration to many, a role model and a fan’s favorite. Wayne Bridge is not as popular as JT but he is almost as important to his team as JT is to his. He is second only to Ashley Cole in the national team for the left back position, which also explains why he left the role for the same guy at Chelsea and pitched his tents at Manchester City having proven over time that he is of massive quality despite the low playing time of those days.

The focus of my thought is really not about the two footballers and their roles in the mess but has been the two coaches to whom John Terry owes his loyalty as a professional football player and their contrasting decisions. A certain coach Fabio Capello thinks JT’s libido is a disgrace, maybe to the English culture and therefore he is not worthy to be the captain of the National team he manages while coach Carlo Ancelloti thinks the immorality has nothing to do with his role as captain of Chelsea as long as he keeps churning out his 5 star performances for the team. Of course while most of y’all are busy expressing disgust at the guy that slept with his friend’s woman, Chelsea fans are like “so what”?

Really, why should Ancelloti be bothered about the entire hullabaloo when Bridge now plays for another club – a major rival club for that matter? Every opposing player in the league can be demoralized, injured or even jailed for all he cares, as long as the ones in Chelsea remain psyched up. Besides, the immediate effects of the wahala was going to tell on his own ongoing FA cup, Premier League and Champion’s league campaign, so even if he is the most irritated by JT’s infidelity, he was always going to be solidly behind his man and never go the way of the world– sharp guy! Fabio Cappelo isn’t any better; he had only one thing on mind while making his own decision to demote JT – team selection and success at the world cup. The mood in the dressing room must have been his first worry with Wayne Bridge his next most regular left back feeling betrayed and other national team players (especially outside Chelsea FC) also disappointed in their captain, which naturally could affect the harmony in the team. Even if his decision to take the captain’s band from Terry was going to turn out being an error, good thing is (unlike Ancelloti) he had no match coming up, plus he had 5 months before the world cup to fix things – patapata he’ll call a “reconciliation” meeting; either ways he has the loyalty of over half of the team and still looks like the good wise manager he wants to be seen as. Now with the long term injury to first choice left-back Ashley Cole, hasn’t it turned out to be a good decision? Forget about the current loss of interest, Bridge might just be playing his best ever for England at the world cup, Cappelo deserves it! Don’t worry about Terry; he is just like William Gallas – a fighter! All pains will heal before the world cup, except he finds the love of his wife impossible to regain which as at the last time I checked was looking good.

I won’t be deceived into thinking Ancelloti is on JT’s side or Cappelo now detests him. Ironically they are both Italians, so this obviously also has nothing to do with culture. It therefore irritates me how many people castigate John Terry simply because the British press, their FA and national team coach seem to be disappointed too, because he’s the guy on TV? You don’t wanna start counting how many relationships and marriages are broken or suffering in silence today because a certain boyfriend or husband found out his friend, brother, colleague, neighbour or room-mate once dated, had a one-off or has been chasing his wife or girlfriend. Such bad guys are not crucified but John Terry everybody wants to kill. The usual story; “he should know he is a role model and a lot of people look up to him”. How about leaving the guys on TV alone and by yourself be a role model to your kids and younger ones? Especially those of you that run after every skirt and wrapper and it doesn’t matter if such skirts and wrappers belong to another guy, even your friend and family! Do not expect every celebrity to come shedding tears before a media conference apologizing “for letting you down”.

Well, its not like my opinion really matters in John Terry’s case, Stamford Bridge isn’t my studio and I’m not JT’s fan, I only started liking him after he missed that penalty to gift Man U and new English captain Rio Ferdinand the champion’s league to the joy of us Arsenal fans, so obviously I’m also not a Chelsea fan either and the English team definitely falls behind the Dutch and Nigerian teams for me, and no matter how much we humans enjoy trying to justify our selfish myopic sentiment with some boring tales about being principled, in my opinion, whatever decisions were made by these two coaches has nothing to do with upholding any values or discipline as anyone might want to make me believe. They simply went for their own interest as no one really has the moral rights to condemn the so called “bad guy”. Like Carlo Ancelloti said “he didn’t kill anybody” I say let everyone live his life and free the guy.

My Many Soccer Heartbreaks

I took this red car at Ajah en route Ijebu Ode in Ogun state with a half of me wanting to stay back a bit more in lagos, but then the Okada curfew in the Ijebu ode town meant I would be on my own if I arrived anything after 7pm, putting the distance I would have to cover to get to my hotel room into consideration. I was on the post production team of a reality show and had taken time off to visit Lagos for some personal business but Nigeria was hosting Tunisia in Abuja that Sunday evening when I was supposed to return to location and it was a “do or die game” as the Super Eagles continued their quest for qualification to the world cup in South-Africa. I monitored the game while driving hurriedly home, thanks to Brila FM and it was 1-1 at half time when I got home to pack my stuff and left for the park in a rush. Though a disappointing half time score for a green blooded Nigerian like me with strong passion for my football and darling Super Eagles, I kept hope alive for a better 2nd half in which our “boys” would get the goals that would give us that desired victory. I went for this particular car because it looked quite new and healthy from the outside and the least I expected was a FM radio receiver that could connect metro FM for live commentary. Unfortunately it turned out to be one of those disappointments that you can not turn away from. Not only did it not have a stereo, a lot of the buttons on the dash board were missing and the whole of the interior smelt of Cotonou, I could not even identify what brand of car it was. You know obviously one of those vehicles that travel through the wilderness of Saki, Eruwa, Seme, Badagry… en route Nigeria with many things disappearing on the way including sometimes the driver. If I did not have anything occupying my mind I would probably have been scared of traveling in such a handicapped car, especially for a journey embarked on that late; for my mother's sake.

All five men in the car with me including the driver were watching the game before getting on the road and desperately wanted to get the update as the second half was commencing in few minutes. The onus fell on me to make something happen for us all, suffice to say football is our best unifying factor. I loaded my phone with enough airtime to enable me monitor the game while on the road. Rather than an acknowledgement of my generosity, it was more like torture for my new friends each time I had to tell them the score was still a goal apiece, like I was the one responsible for their team not scoring. They kept probing as I stupidly made the calls over and over again but not against my wish, “we never score?” “wetin dey happen?” “Osaze injure?” “who is playing better?” “We dey press them?” Kanu don enter?” “time still dey?” “How many minutes remain?” If I wasn’t in a car, I would have thought it was drizzling with the millions of tiny liquid blowing towards me. The tension rose really bad as time ticked fast and no goal came.

The game was reaching its end and Just while I was asking for how much time we had left, Eneramo! Eneramo! Yeeeeee!!! The voice on the other other side went wild calling for a beer, and I replicated the mood in the car, goal!!! Ope o!!! The driver hooted the horn in excitement and that was when I actually noticed that the horn worked, a passenger sang “Ose ose o ose o, o se baba” while I stayed on the phone to get the description of the goal and how thankful we should be to Mikel Obi the prodigal son of the team for being the architect of the goal. This time I put the phone on speaker, Low and behold the bragging started “today na today!” “dem suppose chop like 3-1” “game just start, goal still dey there”… Now with more calm only interested in knowing who the scorer of the third goal would be, I made my next call after the goal and the voice that gave me the good news just few minutes ago now spoke with lethargy “omo won ti equalize meen, this is terrible, idiot l’awon boys yi…”, within 5 minutes of going ahead, we were back to square 1, the game was 2-2. My screams,What?! How come?! Oh my God!... were all needed for everyone in the car to immediately get the message.

It was at the point when he helped break the air of silence that engulfed the car after we heard our chances of making the world cup shattered by a determined Tunisian’s goal I noticed that the guy on my extreme left had been quiet all the while. He said he had been a victim of so much soccer heartbreaks before just like me, and made up his mind never again to put his hope in any Nigerian team anymore and this was his reason for never celebrating any victory until the final whistle is blown. It was even more painful that we had that much needed victory in our hands but just could not hold on to it. Why? I thought of the efforts I made to make it home to watch the game, the airtime waste, the risk of traveling late in an “abode Cotonou” all for the game and asked myself if it was worth the risks and troubles.

The memories of such heartbreaks from the past came back to make this harder to bear, the USA ’94 loss to Italy after leading all through the game, Nation’s cup final loss to Cameroon in the year 2000, lossing to Sweden after scoring first in Korea-Japan 2002, the away victory over Algeria in 2006 that was rendered useless by Uganda’s dying minute loss to Angola on the last day of the Germany 2006 qualifiers and many more. Ok let’s say those were games in which our teams played well and we took solace in their heroic performances. Shouldn’t I have been smart enough not to put my hope in this one considering the performances lately and the regression of Nigerian football? I remembered the 2008 nation’s cup opening game versus Ivory Coast that I stupidly watched spotting a Nigerian shirt in company of eight Ivorian men in downtown Atlanta and how they made fun of Tywo and I most annoyingly in French after that Solomon Kalou mesmerizing goal, the loss to a 10 man Ghana team in our quarter final elimination, the drab show and consequent draw in Maputo and all the failures when it most matters. Keni why do you keep doing this to yourself?

I have tried for many years not to let my emotions get the best of me anymore when it comes to football, especially since the semi final loss to Ghana in Senegal ’92, the tearful end to USA 94 staring Roberto Baggio, 3SC’s loss in the 1996 CAF champions league, the Eagles’ home loss to Cameroon in CAN 2000 final and Arsenal’s Champion’s league final loss to Barcelona in 2006, these were all occasions on which I wept and rejected food plus so many other heartbreaks that killed my joy but only spared my appetite. I just couldn’t help myself on any of these occasions; maybe I have needed psychotherapy or something more serious since then but just failed to face it. What my fellow traveler offered on the night was somehow simple but seemed to be all I’ve needed. On getting to my hotel room that night, thanks to a nice guy that offered to bear the risk of arrest for me, I made up my mind all over again to never put my heart into the unpredictably mean game of football anymore but to simply support my teams 3SC Ibadan, Arsenal FC London and most especially any Nigerian national team with only prayers and some healthy hype. I never get a share of the match bonuses now! Haba! but something inside me kept saying I would forget my decision again prior to any next crucial game but I kept hope alive, unbelievably I did forget.

Then came the under 20 world cup in Egypt featuring Samson Siasia with the boys and the miracle of their qualification for the round of 16, the hope of dry bones rising again, a “stammerer finally saying the word baba without stuttering”, the ability based on the records of the coach to make something out of nothing, and the reality of other underdogs doing the unthinkable in the same tournament. Hopes were raised and I found myself at the edge of my seat watching the game against Germany on TV, as we led twice and lost the leads immediately! Dejavu! It was four weeks earlier in Abuja with their senior brothers! Oh no! Not again! But there must be a winner tonight and we will win this in extra time; thank God we have a one man advantage and a good coach too. Just like in times before, few seconds to go, our usual wrong judgments, loss of concentration and carelessness, we gave the ball away and they scored! The game was truly over and we had lost everything! I pulled my dinner closer with my left hand as I listened to callers on Brila FM, enjoying their analysis and expression of sadness; some wept on the phone, some abused Haruna Lukman, Big Larry blamed Obiora for not going for “Jam-body tactics A.K.A 10-10”, but I finished my plate of rice without any conscious efforts and grabbed some cake from the nearby table with some cold drink to go with it. I spoke to Iya'beji on phone, switched channels to look for something more exciting on TV, watched a drama on STV and went to sleep.

I woke up the morning after to hear people still yelling over the same game on Brila FM and I did not understand what their problem was! It was at this point that I remembered my vow and knew I have been delivered from the shackles of soccer heartbreaks, at least the ones caused by national teams. What a time to achieve it, it was just four days to their heartbreak big brothers’ damage control game versus Mozambique, and also the Champion’s League season… Damn! Gunners! Another dying minute goal?! Anyways, nothing do me, me I am free at last! I want to live to see my children.

Hapum like dat!