Friday, 31 July 2009

The right to die?

Should the elderly and the terminally ill who still have the mental capacity to decide whether to end their lives have the right to do so? In recent days there has been an overflowing on the airwaves here of a plethora of viewpoints on the subject. The views range from those who are completely in support, including those who have actually aided either directly or indirectly relatives and friends to commit suicide, to those who are dead set against a change in the UK law that makes it a crime punishable with imprisonment to assist the suicide of another.

There are very ill people for whom death is inevitable and not in the very distant future. At least, not in as distant a future as it appears for many of us who currently enjoy relatively good health. Those who are terminally ill or are suffering from degenerative illnesses which get progressively worse, with the prospect that as the effects of the disease worsen the suffering is increased. Do these people not suffer prolonged agony as doctors strive to prolong their lives with the full knowledge that the patient will inevitably die in the end? What are the benefits of prolonging the suffering of a terminally ill person? Is it humane to let dying people linger in their suffering? Even ordinary animals are routinely "humanely" euthanized by veterinarians in order to avoid prolonged suffering for the animal. Why should the same principle not apply to humans, especially if the person concerned actually desires it?

With the traditional approach of prolonging life at all costs, the process of dying is long drawn out and the dying person suffers unnecessarily for an extended period. Helpless relatives are forced to witness the suffering of their loved one, which causes untold harrowing anguish for the relatives themselves, whereas in the end the inevitable death must still occur. Would it not have been more humane for the ill person, while still of sound mind, to have had the opportunity to ask for his life to be ended voluntarily, thereby avoiding the suffering for himself and the anguish for his family, who will then be able to carry on with their lives in the knowledge that their loved one did not suffer?

One of the counter arguments is that to allow assisted suicide is to create a slippery slope, down which many people will slide including those who will become victims of the greed of others. It is feared that some relatives will seek to get rid of ill relatives from whom they wish to inherit property, persuading them by whatever means to choose the suicide option. Another powerful argument is put forward by disabled people, who fear that their lives will become devalued and that there could be psychological pressure put upon them to consider ending their lives. Further, it is strongly argued against assisted suicide that the emphasis should be on the improvement of the quality of palliative care for the dying, i.e, to focus on the provision of care that alleviates the pain and the suffering.

While I do not oppose the idea that efforts at improving palliative care should be pursued, the right to avoid the suffering involved in the dying process should not be denied those who wish to avoid it. Improving palliative care for everyone does not seem to me an expedient use of resources, since ultimately the terminally ill person will inevitably die. I previously shared the view that all human life is sacred and that we should not have the right to make the decision regarding when we should die. But having carefully considered the arguments for and against, I am persuaded that giving people who are old and infirm, those who are terminally ill but still of sound mind the right to choose when to die, is the civilised and sensible thing to do. Those who wish for their lives to be ended should be allowed to die, provided they meet certain strict criteria. If there is concern that unconscionable relatives might try to take advantage of a system that permits assisted suicide to knock off relatives who stand in the way of their inheritance, this is one of the more important aspects on which the legal minds tasked with drawing up the legal framework should focus. It is important for assisted suicide to be tightly legally pinned down, offering a good dignified death to those who wish it, while at the same time protecting the vulnerable from relatives who might wish to get rid of them.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Garuba 12

Garuba didn't think it was proper for me to leave all of the arrangements for tonight's party to Abu, Ukpong and her friends. He prevailed on me that it was his view that I ought to be playing a more active role in the preparations. So although this quite displeased me, after leaving Usman's place we drove back to my house. I admired the way Garuba got involved immediately with Abu who was busy butchering the goat. "Those two get on like a house on fire", I thought, as I settled in, peeling and chopping onions, not really happy that I was back at this house, since I'd hoped that Garuba's arrival earlier would mean escape, and that I would be spared having to do this. I didn't find it at all funny when Ukpong's friend, who by now I'd learned was called Jumoke, passed me a tray of even more onions to be peeled and chopped, while she went on to light a charcoal fire in a makeshift fireplace that was specially prepared for the cooking for this party. After lighting the fire, she placed a large wok-shaped vat over it, into which she emptied an entire 4 litre keg of vegetable oil. They had brought the kitchen table outside to the back yard and it was there that I sat carrying out this odious task.

Ukpong was bubbling with excitement. The excited chatter between herself, Jumoke and Yetunde her other friend was relentless, speaking intermittently in Yoruba and pidgin English. And although I was wearing a long face because I wanted everyone, and especially Garuba, to know that I was not terribly keen on what I was having to do at the moment, I couldn't help eavesdropping on the women's conversation since both are languages with which I am familiar. Probably because I remained silent, the women might have assumed that I wasn't interested in, or that I couldn't hear or understand what they were saying as they carried on with their preparations, Ukpong slicing vegetables and Yetunde washing out the rice. Apparently, neither of Ukpong's friends had a steady boyfriend and both were hopeful that they would meet someone tonight. So it became apparent to me the reason for all their excitement. There was chatter about what each of them would wear and Jumoke at Ukpong's suggestion, agreed to wear that low-cut blouse that showed off her assets. Just then Yetunde cut in sharply with something like, "girl, you've got it, so flaunt it", or words to that effect, and all three of them burst out in a fit of giggling. The chatter was lighthearted and jovial, the mood was lively and even Garuba and Abu too on the other side of the yard across from us, were obviously delighting in whatever it was that they were talking and laughing about. I wished Garuba would take just one look at me, so that he would see that I wasn't enjoying this. But maybe even on purpose, he had turned his back to me. I was livid!

It carried on in this vein for what seemed like hours. After the onions, I had assisted Ukpong with the other vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, carrots and all the other stuff, and I was starting to think that at this pace the food would not be ready before sunset. But I was put to shame when the women dug in and Yetunde assumed command of the huge ladle, with which using both hands she expertly stirred the vegetables and the goat stock into the by now pre-cooked rice. As principal chef, she would shout sharp commands at each of us, "fetch the tomato puree", she would yell at me. Garuba and Abu were long since done with the goat, and they both sat at the other end of the yard, still chatting, Abu cradling a bottle of Heineken. I stole a glance at Garuba and could see that there was a look of mild amusement on his face as he observed the goings on before him. And he was still avoiding looking at me! "I'll kill him", I muttered to myself, sulking. "I wonder what he and that man are talking about!" Ukpong in the meantime was at the second fireplace, in charge of frying the goat meat, which by now had been steamed. This didn't seem too hard I thought, so I offered to help her with frying the meat, even if only to find refuge from Yetunde's tongue. Gladly Ukpong obliged, so I made sure to remain seated in front of the goat meat that was frying, studiously manipulating the pieces of meat in the boiling oil with a wooden spatula, taking my time, slowly, even reducing the heat when necessary, to be sure that Yetunde would be done with her jollof rice by the time I finished.

"I survived it", I exclaimed to Garuba as he entered through the door of my room where I'd gone to prepare for a shower. To my surprise, saying nothing and without warning he came straight towards me, put his arms round my waist pulled me in a tight embrace and kissed me on the lips and again on the cheek. I knew immediately that this was his own way of saying that he knew that I was unhappy about having to come back to the house to join in the cooking and that I'd come back to join the others only because he had insisted. With his arms still around me, he pulled back a little. Looking into his eyes, I realised how truly I loved this man. In all honesty, I realised too that joining in the preparations had indeed been a good idea, because I knew that I'd earned for myself some respect from my housemate. And it was all thanks to Garuba, who now stood before me, smiling into my eyes. Being a little taller than him I had to bend a little, but what came naturally to me at that moment was to place my head on his shoulder, my cheek laying flat on the shoulder and my nose caressing the slight roughness of his Adam's apple and his chin. The maleness of this man, I could smell the man that he was. There was so much feeling between us at that moment as he responded by pulling me even closer and nudging me towards the bed. I stalled. Firstly, I thought, there were too many people about the house to risk doing anything heavy. Secondly, I reckoned that I reeked of smoke from the charcoal fire and was in no mood for anything until I'd showered. So, still smiling I quietly explained why he must absolutely let me go to the shower room, but added that he could join me if he wished..

We did take that shower together, kissing and nibbling as we did so and after a lunch that Ukpong had so graciously served up, we spent about an hour just lying in bed, being close to each other. I said something about missing him in the mornings when I woke up and that it wasn't the same as it was when I'd lived at his house. Nowadays, when he came to pick me up for work in the mornings, I was already freshened up and dressed and I missed those early morning times we used to enjoy together. It was just about dusk and Garuba needed to go to his house to change clothes. He asked if I would accompany him. Well, I wasn't about to voluntarily lose his company, so of course I said yes. As we drove away, Garuba said that Abu had informed him that a DJ had been arranged commercially who was expected soon at the house to set up the equipment. I replied that I thought this was turning out to be a more spectacular event than I had envisioned at the beginning. In my mind I had flashes of Usman and Audu, Garuba and me and I wondered what the reaction of the others at the party would be, seeing as I had no intention whatsoever of letting anyone doubt that Garuba was taken and was not available. At my urging, Garuba and I remained at his place until quite late when undoubtably guests at the party would have been arriving.

We drove through the gate, Garuba in a spectacular burgundy Ralph Lauren button-down collar long-sleeved shirt, black corduroy trousers and black pumps, looking gorgeous. I raced to my room, through the small crowd standing around chatting in the living room, holding glasses of bubbly and wine, none of whom was familiar to me. Minutes later, I returned to the front room having changed into a torquoise lace buba, black baggy trousers and black sandals. I thought loose comfortable clothing was preferable in this climate, but being one of the stars of the party, I thought this particular combination was distinctive enough. Garuba didn't drink alcohol, so I found him with a glass of juice in his hand standing with Abu and another man who I thought was rather attractive too. Yetunde and Jumoke were darting about in the dimly lit room, handing out drinks to guests as they arrived and making sure that everyone had what they wanted. There was music too, Victor Uwaifo's 'mammy water', but it was low and predominantly what one heard was the hum of people talking excitedly and the odd laughter now and again. Akin, the gentleman who was standing with Abu and Garuba was introduced to me, then after scanning the room briefly, I returned my attention to what Akin, Garuba and Abu were talking about. I heard Akin say something like, "It isn't very often that people have such a southern style party in Bauchi." And then I understood why Garuba had been excited about this party from the start.

From where I was standing I had a clear view of the front door and I was the first to see the tall imposing figure of Usman as he entered the room. Wanting the honour of being the one to welcome him, I excused myself from Garuba's group and walked across the floor extending my hand as I reached him. Usman flashed that smile at me again and I was annoyed at myself for reacting to him in the nervous way that I did. Behind him was another figure. "This must be Audu", I thought, and I was right. Usman introduced us to each other. I liked Audu instantly. He had lovely eyes, as of someone who is sincere and open and his smile was so engaging. I moved Usman on to where Garuba and Abu were standing, handing him over, then took Audu aside. It was so natural, he seemed keen to get to know me too, since apparently he'd heard of me. In no time, Audu and I were perched cosily on one of the sofas with drinks in our hands engaged in conversation. He was easy to talk to and we saw that we were so much alike and had a lot in common. It surprised me that he thought that I was lucky because I had Garuba. "Well honey, Usman isn't that bad either..if only I'd met him before I met Garuba, I'd have given you a run for your money..." This brought on heartfelt laughter. Audu said he had always wanted Garuba, but that Garuba had rejected him. In fact, it was through Garuba that he had met Usman. He was so gentle and warm and nice, I wondered why Garuba had turned him down. Anyhow, I felt very comfortable with Audu whom I'd only just met. It was almost as if our friendship was made in heaven. As we sat together, I noticed that Garuba couldn't stop staring at us, trying to figure out what was going on between us. I also observed that Jumoke was all over Usman, holding out her bosoms in front of her provocatively. I was just whispering to Audu the joke about Jumoke and Usman, when someone familiar walked in, Femi, and another young man who was even more handsome than he. Having seen the two men enter the room Audu's eyes lit up too, then we looked at each other and smiled knowingly, giving each other a high five, as I left him to welcome Femi and his friend..

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Praising the Lord always..

Lord we lift up your name
With hearts full of praise
Be exhalted Oh Lord, our God
Hossanah in the highest..

Thursday, 23 July 2009

What to do? 2

Firstly, my profound thank-yous to Tamaku, Naughty Feeling, GNM, Rox and Mwistar who responded when I sought counsel. It was at a time when it was unclear to me how to handle the situation I found myself in my relationship. (By the way, all 5 of you guys have something in common with M. Figure it out for yourselves, lol.)

Secondly, let me say that I did listen to what everyone said, but as the saying goes, "who feels it, knows it". I know M, (or at least I think I do :-)), he isn't a monster. And although I do think that he can be insensitive sometimes, in actuality he is a gentle soul, who seems to share my desire for a lasting, meaningful and ecstatic relationship. He saw that I was upset and he came to me on bended knee. We have talked at length and it appears that finally it has dawned upon both of us the potential that exists for the relationship that we share. He has a way of warming his way back into my affections and I've been away from this blog for a few days because I've been so busy getting tickled in all those nooks and crannies that only he knows about.

Anyway, I just thought I should report back. Things are back to normal for the time being and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. :)

Sunday, 19 July 2009

What to do?

I've been in a relationship for the last two years with M, the same one who on Valentines day in February failed to send me a Valentines day greeting, not even a text message. Of course there were apologies afterwards, but from that time onwards my feelings towards the relationship have been so affected and things have not returned to normal since, five months later. What has been is an on again, off again thing, which has not produced the same level of emotional satisfaction that existed before. At first, I was inclined to put the relationship behind me altogether, but it hasn't been easy because I can't seem to completely forget the joy and pleasure of the good times when the relationship was still going on smoothly.

We have tried several times in the last few months to patch things up, but my fear of being let down again gets in the way, to the point where I'm rather reticent to succumb to M's attempts to make amends. And even on those occasions when I have accepted M's endeavours at conciliation, within a short while things have returned straight back to the way they were when all the problems began. There is a very strong monogamous streak in me that keeps me from straying when I'm in a relationship, but the downside of this is that when things go awry as they seem to be doing with M, there is nothing on which to fall back. This leaves me high and dry, feeling stranded. All of the investment in time and emotion, the commitment and devotion seems to be wasted. And it hurts!

I was thinking about this last night as I lay awake in bed, and I thought perhaps for the sake of my sanity and my peace of mind, it might be best if I just remained alone since it is unlikely that I will let myself down, as has been the case with most of the people that I've been involved with. I really needed someone to share my troubles with over the last few weeks, but nobody in my life at the moment seems to deserve that position of trust. And definitely not M, who is still expecting me to pursue him, and will only get in touch with me when there is something I can do for him.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

To cheer me up

I'm going through a turbulent period in my life, pertaining especially to my relationhip with my professional regulatory body. I woke up this morning needing to be cheered up, but since I live alone, I could think of nothing other to do than to look at these images. They have a way of strengthening me from the inside, just knowing that this man whom I adore exists somewhere on this planet...hehehe, no, I'm not crazy.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Swine flu

The UK government is doing its best to keep people from panicking. On the radio we're being informed that swine flu is a mild illness, only to be informed a few minutes later that the 17th person to die from the disease in the country has just died, and that the person was previously healthy and was not known to suffer any underlying health problems. Then some senior medical person in the government comes on air and tells us that the outbreak of the disease is nearing epidemic proportions in the London area, and that GP surgeries are having difficulty coping with the massive influx of people reporting flu-like symptoms. Then a government minister comes on and tells us not to worry and that we will all be ok. Its all very confusing.

I think that there has been a failure by the authorities to contain the outbreak of the disease at the time when they still had the chance to do so and now they are refusing to accept responsibility for this failure or even to acknowledge it. This is only the summer, its not even the flu season yet. They tell us that the outbreak is set to get worse later in the year and that more deaths are inevitable. But at the same time they tell us not to worry.

My friend in Australia told me of the panic in that country when the disease first arrived there. Relying on what the UK government had been saying all along about the disease, I tried to reassure him that it was only a mild ailment and that he need not to worry so much. That was a few weeks ago. Now with the news reports coming through as to how virulent this outbreak has become in the London area and news of the deaths, (two previously healthy people died yesterday), I'm not so sure anymore. In fact, I've become a bit scared. I'm avoiding shaking hands with people, washing my hands at every opportunity and keeping away from all forms of public transport for the time being.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

On the way to church this morning

I'm almost like a kid who just got a new toy..

How OLD are you?

My boss turned 50 the other day, but I found that I couldn't join my young colleagues who spent what seemed like hours whispering about how OLD the boss is. I just could not accept that 50 is old. How is 50 OLD? Doing a quick calculation, it was clear that I am not too far from 50 myself. Let us assume that I am 10 years or thereabouts from 50. 10 years ago doesn't seem that long ago. I suppose since the colleagues in question are in their 20s, to them 50 is still almost 30 years away. Therefore 50 would seem old to them, but it sure did NOT seem old to me at all!

But this got me thinking. There are 50 year olds who look and act 'old'. But there are also those who (like my boss) at 50 still look and act as they did when they were in their mid to late 30s. Similarly, there are 70 year olds who seem really ancient, bent over and can't walk without the aid of a walking stick. While others even at 75 are energetic, youthful, full of vitality and run marathons.

What does this mean? Well, it means that age is just a number. Age is chronological, whereas being 'old' or 'youthful' is a state, not just a number. So how OLD are you?

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Friday, 10 July 2009

Britain to build prison in Nigeria for Nigerians serving sentences in the UK

Jos Prison, Nigeria

I saw this article and I was so moved I just had to say something. Apparently the UK government intends to use taxpayers money to build a comfortable prison in Nigeria, a prison which meets UK standards, so that Nigerians serving prison sentences in the UK may be repatriated to their home country to serve their sentences. The case that the government has made for this prison is that the current conditions in all Nigerian prisons are so appalling that prisoners of Nigerian origin in the UK have been able successfully to challenge their removal to Nigeria on human rights grounds, claiming that sending them to prison in Nigeria will violate their human rights.

Well, this is a perfectly legitimate argument, since the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK's Human Rights Act both guarantee certain inalienable rights to every single individual who is present within the European Union, irrespective of whether he is an illegal immigrant or a foreign prisoner. The right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment is non-negotiable and absolutely guaranteed. It has been successfully argued that these individuals if returned to Nigeria to serve their sentences, will suffer a violation of their human rights. Human rights groups have consistently asserted that conditions in Nigerian prisons are so abominable that the right to the freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment of these individuals cannot be guaranteed. And because these people are currently within the European Union, the European human rights legislation applies to them.

The UK government however seems to believe that the inordinately large number of Nigerians in the UK prison system has caused overcrowding in the prisons and the prisons' resources are stretched. And they believe that building/refurbishing the prison in Nigeria will in the long run be the cost effective option. I do not dispute that there are many Nigerians in prisons here. The majority of them are serving prison sentences after being convicted of the offence of using fake documents (false instruments) to obtain employment, an offence for which a mandatory custodial sentence has recently been introduced. It has even been suggested that some prisoners have been offered financial incentives if they agreed to return home voluntarily.

My thinking was that persons sentenced to terms of imprisonment were required to serve their sentences and then they were deported, or at least the process for deportation was commenced after the term of the prison sentence has elapsed. But it appears that what the UK government is arguing for, is that rather than them serving their prison sentences in the UK, they should be removed to Nigeria immediately upon conviction and sentencing by the courts to serve out their prison sentences in Nigeria. If lawyers then invoked the human rights legislation, the UK government will argue in reply that in fact there exists a prison in Nigeria that meets UK standards and that therefore the human rights of the offender will not be infringed.

But the point is that once this prisoner has left the UK, he is outside the European Union and the human rights laws applicable in Europe cease immediately to apply to him. And the UK has no control whatsoever over the way in which the Nigerian authorities choose to treat the country's prison inmates, regardless of the existence in that country of a posh prison built by the British government. My mind tells me that the Nigerian government is more likely than not to use the prison as a place to detain political dissidents and opponents, rather than as a venue for repatriated Nigerian prisoners from Britain. And that therefore any returned prisoner will serve his sentence in a regular Nigerian prison and this scheme will be a complete failure.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Garuba 11

It was Saturday morning. This was the first weekend after my first week at my new job as a junior at the Attorney General's Chambers. It was my first real job, the first one for which I was working for real pay. Of course, I had done other jobs before while still at university. During the holidays I would take on a holiday job as an office assistant at my sister's husband's factory. Ok, it wasn't a real job because although I got paid, I wasn't really treated like the other employees. My sister too worked there, it was her husband's business and she worked as a manager and I was kind off attached to her as an assistant. But it was all very informal and what I got paid was little more than what I would receive as pocket money anyway. However, it was my first experience of work life, and the only other job that I'd ever done had been the three months of law office attachment at a law firm in Lagos, which was a compulsory requirement of the legal training process. Although that job served as valuable experience for what I was now having to do as a youth corper, I was paid not even a penny. And even though I was fresh out of law school and bristling with knowledge of the law, I was deemed incapable of doing any real legal stuff at that firm, and now here too at the Chambers of the Attorney General in Bauchi it appeared to be the same. I was thumbing through old files to acquaint myself with the procedures at the Ministry of Justice (I was told), whereas what I really wanted was to get involved in the real business of lawyering for the state government, which I'd thought would be the work that I would be doing. And this really upset me! But trust Garuba to calmly explain to me that it was only a matter of time before the opportunity would present itself and that I must be patient.

I turned around in the bed, not in a hurry to get up. The previous day, as had been our routine every afternoon since the week began, Garuba had picked me up from work. We had driven to his office where he'd finished off his work that remained to be done, while I waited sitting quietly in his office. Last evening however was different. On the other evenings we would drive straight to my place afterwards, I would put together a meal and we would sit down at the kitchen table and eat, chat and just enjoy being together. All of the evenings had ended with us getting into bed together, careful not to make too many noises so as not to arouse Ukpong's curiosity. And then Garuba would have to leave, although the parting was difficult for both of us each time.

Ukpong had kept pretty much out of sight. She and I had said only a few words to each other since the last Sunday when I moved in, and everything we'd talked about was to do with the oncoming housewarming party. I had come to realise as the days went by that Ukpong wasn't that bad after all and that perhaps my first impression of her was wrong. Oh yes, that party! Now I understood why I had this foreboding looming somewhere at the back of my mind. Last evening, from Garuba's office we had stopped over at the NYSC hostel in town. Luckily, Femi was in when I turned up unexpectedly at his door and he seemed genuinely pleased to see me. I told him of the party and he said he'd be glad to come and then asked if he could come with his friend. Yes of course, I said, the more the merrier. And as I was leaving, Femi saw me out to the car where Garuba had been sitting waiting. When I introduced them both, they seemed to take to each other instantly, and as we drove away Garuba asked me if that was the nice guy I'd told him I met when I visited the NYSC hostel last week. I nodded in answer, quietly wondering why Garuba still remembered I had told him of a nice guy I'd met all those days ago. As I lay in bed now, I missed Garuba and I wished he was near me. But strangely, thoughts about Femi were running around in the corner of my mind too. That firm handshake, the rough feel of the palm of his hand, the way he seemed to inflate his chest whenever I was standing in front of him. I was scared that this strange feeling that I had about Femi would reveal itself at the party tonight. I was even slightly worried..

I didn't get the chance to linger in bed for as long as I would have wished, because there was a knock at the door. It was Ukpong and she was telling me that she needed help to shift the things that had just arrived at the front of the house to the yard at the back. Really, in my mind I thought Ukpong was making too much of this housewarming party thing. I mean, there was a whole live goat to be slaughtered, butchered and cooked and then all the other bits, the spicy jollof rice and stuff that is expected at any celebratory social gathering in Nigeria. She seemed to think that all of this was normal and she dug into it rather enthusiastically with two of her friends who had come to join her. Apparently, these two women had come all the way from Jos this morning with Abu, who Ukpong said was out picking up more things in town and should be back soon. I was glad that being a man she hadn't expected me to join in the preparations. I really enjoy cooking, but certainly not when I'm surrounded by three excited women who are preparing for a party! And the slaughtering and butchering of that goat I would gladly leave for Abu to do, this party was their idea after all. So I got myself busy tidying up the front room, which by now had two second-hand sofas and a carpet, but not much else. Ukpong had made sure that I contributed exactly half of what it cost to buy the food, so indeed I felt that I was a real part of what was going on.

I knew Garuba would soon come calling and I wanted to be ready to go out with him once he arrived. I just didn't feel in the mood to hang around during these preparations for tonight's event, with all the excitement in the house. My only guests would be Femi and his friend. Garuba more or less was already a member of this household. It was pretty clear to me therefore that this would be Ukpong and Abu's party and most of those who will be here tonight will be their friends and people they know. Ukpong had hinted at something in the region of 20 people. I'm not one for crowds, as I've got a not very pleasant tendency to shrink and clamp-up when I'm surrounded by lots of people. So I wasn't half as excited about tonight's party as Ukpong and her friends seemed to be. I knew that Garuba too was looking forward to the party and I was happy that I would have him to cling to. And Femi, well, he would be here with his friend, whoever that was..

Garuba surprised me that afternoon. When he came for me, I was already dressed in my buba and sokoto with a fila to match and those expensive soft leather moccasins that I'd splashed out on as a graduation present to myself. My dressing seemed to have a profound effect on Garuba, since hitherto he'd seen me only in western dress, jeans and t-shirts and the black, grey and navy blue suits that I am required to wear to work. As we drove away from the house he commented on my clothing and then said he wanted me to meet someone, his close friend Usman. Usman was in his 30s, a well connected businessman, Garuba briefed me as we drove along. He was from a Hausa family in Kano but had lived in Bauchi all his life. They had been friends since childhood, although Usman was quite a bit older than Garuba. Well, I had practically lived with this man for three weeks and he hadn't even hinted at the fact that he had a close friend. I was annoyed at first, but I was even more curious to meet this person. Usman had married and had two lovely daughters. Oh, but he has a boyfriend too, Garuba whispered at the end, and I became curiouser than ever. So it was for Usman's house that we set course that afternoon.

Usman lived in an exclusive gated estate on the outskirts of Bauchi, just off the Azare Road. From the outside what one saw from the road was a high wall with a profusion of bougainvillea topping over it and the flat rooftop of a white building behind the wall. There was an electronic device by the gate requiring visitors to type into it the number of the house they wished to visit. A voice crackled over the speaker and words were exchangd in Hausa between Garuba and whoever it was who had answered and suddenly the gate flung wide open all by itself. I was mesmerised by this. I mean I'd seen things like this occasionaly in Lagos, also on those rare occasions when I'd had the opportunity to travel to Europe and South America on holidays and in the movies. But frankly, this was way beyond my expectations for Bauchi, which before I arrived here I'd thought of as a provincial backwater. There were eleven houses altogether in the estate and Usman's was the largest, at the far end of the private road that ran from the entrance gate. It was a lovely estate with wonderful gardens surrounding each of the houses, green grass lawns, which as soon I saw them it struck me that I had not seen such lush green grass anywhere in Bauchi town until now.

Usman was drop dead gorgeous! He was tall and he was very dark and he was very very handsome. And when he smiled at me and shook my hand I felt weak instantly. Garuba must have told him about me beforehand, because he had that expectant look on his face, as of someone who had been eager to meet me. He had a powerful presence and carried himself with a confidence and self-assurance that made me feel small. I never knew that I would ever sit in the same room with such a man as this. It was obvious that Garuba and he were close, the way they talked and laughed. Usman asked someone in the house to fetch us orange juice, which I was thankful for, although I really felt like something stronger to steady my nerves. They spoke in Hausa much of the time and it dawned on me that in this macho alpha-male dominated culture of northern Nigeria, I would have to learn what my place was, and get used to taking a back seat when in the presence of men such as these. And so I just sat quietly and spoke only when spoken to, taking in the massive and very expensively furnished split-level living room.

After about an hour as we left Usman's house, he shook my hand again then said words to me to the effect that we shall meet later on. I wasn't quite sure what he'd meant, so in the car I asked Garuba about what Usman had said about meeting later on. Garuba then confirmed that he had invited Usman to our housewarming party and that Usman had said he'd be happy to come with Audu his boyfriend. This came as a surprise. I hadn't realised that this was the subject of their conversation since it had been almost entirely in Hausa. But suddenly it became apparent, this promised to be a very interesting and exciting evening indeed..

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The Way

The way you love me baby...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

What is it about poetry?

I know, I know, I'm the odd one out, but let me frank about this. I know that poetry is supposed to touch us in a special way, to be interpreted to mean several things; meanings are often read into words and their construction that the author/poet himself had never intended. Of course, I studied Chaucer and Milton and Keats and all of that. And I passed those horrid exams, even quite enjoying Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' and the 'Olde Worlde' English that he employed. I loved Milton's 'Paradise Lost' and the vivid imagery of hell and its angels. But at that time, poetry was to me just a part of my 'A' Level English Literature. It didn't matter if it was English or African poetry. For me poetry was just a task to be completed, an exam to be passed. Poetry was 30 marks out of 100, the remainder being made up of drama and prose. I really loved the prose part. It was fun and straightforward and it captured your imagination in a way that poetry could never succeed in doing. The stories led your mind to far-off places and distant climes and times. Drama too wasn't that bad, especially when we got to do the acting and played the various parts. (I will reserve my comments about Shakespeare). Poems on the other hand leave you to work things out for yourself, and this for me just isn't cool.

Many of my friends write poems, on their blogs, in emails that I receive and so on. I often pretend to enjoy what they've penned, but not because I understand a single thing that the poem is supposed to mean. I never seem to know what to make of poems. Please, please somebody, how do I go about appreciating poetry? I feel as if I'm missing out on something that so many people derive a lot of pleasure from.

Monday, 6 July 2009


I appeared before the Immigration Appeals Tribunal this morning. I mean, I always knew that there were black, even Nigerian judges at these and other Tribunals. But heck, I never thought I would have an encounter where not only is the judge a Nigerian, but the Home Office presenting officer too, (sort of like the prosecutor), a very very smart lady indeed. Then my client too is a Nigerian. And then me. And I was like wow! Whats going on here?

Instinctively, when you look at the Tribunal's list on the notice board and find that your judge is an African like yourself (and your client), the first thing is to think that, "hey, my client stands a good chance..." But then it transpires that your opponent too is a Nigerian, just like your client, and all thoughts that your client will find favour with the judge go straight out of the window. The case goes ahead, all of us acting as if we don't even notice that we all are from the same land. Let me put it this way...there was no spring in my step when I finally left that building. My client f**ked up while giving evidence and that Home Office woman was so damn good, she had him cornered and spun him around in circles. My poor client kept looking to me for rescue, but even I was helpless to save him from that woman's talons. Poor man, his case was so bad though...

Thursday, 2 July 2009

On Michael Jackson

The initial shock of Michael Jackson's death has started to abate. So now there comes the chance for us to sit back and reflect on the deeper meanings of his life. The circumstances of Michael Jackson's life and especially the last few years of it, provides us with plenty of opportunity to ponder the state of his mental health, which was fragile to say the least. What were the causes of his delicate state of mind? Are we his fans partly responsible?

It is clear that Michael Jackson did not embrace his blackness. I am sane enough to be able to accept the reality that this man, who many of us were proud of because he was a very talented and successful black entertainer, went to great lengths to erase his African genetic heritage with surgery and chemicals. Many of us remain unconvinced about that 'skin condition' story, with which Michael attempted to explain away the alarming change in his skin colour. It wasn't only his skin, his hair too became transformed, from the tightly curled bush of the African, to the limp, flat oily mop that he wore on his head towards the end of his life. And of course, the description of Michael's transformation will not be complete without a mention of that famous nose, which started out flat and broad. But by the time his surgeons were done with it, what we had was a caricature of a white nose. Even the three children who Michael was proclaimed to be the father of, do not seem to carry any African genes.

Michael's music was rooted in African-American soul. He was a product of Motown for heaven's sakes! His success was hinged upon the fact that he was the most astounding member of a group of brothers, African-Americans who wowed the world with their talent. Michael's genius was weaned on this background, and he was as successful as he was not only because he was extremely talented, but also because he was black. And those of us who adored him are hurt by the fact that our idol seemed to reject the very identity that had brought him success and fame. He started his career as a very handsome black boy, and ended it looking like a not very pretty white drag queen.

Michael was never going to be able to age gracefully as many of us eventually have to do whether we like it or not. Of course most people want to cling to their youthfulness for as long as they can, but Michael took this desire to impossible extremes. Hence we see Neverland and the recreation of Peter Pan's fantasy world. Peter Pan is the boy who never grew up and Michael bought into this and had the money to make it happen literally. Neverland was conceived as a place of eternal youth, where time stood still. But time is that one thing which none of us can hold back. Not even Michael Jackson. So as Michael got older he must have got increasingly tortured as the years went by. The downturn in his financial fortunes would not have helped either.

There are other stars who have been able to cope with ageing by finding inspiration in new material, new forms of music. But Michael Jackson was Michael Jackson. The 50 concerts planned for London this month were intended to revive a waning career and reinvigorate his finances. Tickets were sold out in minutes, people queued all night. But these fans were not queuing to see a 50 year old man singing about a long lost love! No, they were expecting to see the Michael Jackson of 25 years ago, the Michael Jackson of Thriller and Bad. But the reality was that Michael was that much older, and therefore understandably that much more challenged in being able to perform to the standard that had come to be expected of him. And 50 concerts too!

So should we his fans have expected Michael to be the same Michael we grew up with? Most of us are not as energetic as we were when we strutted to the pounding rhythms of the tracks on the Off the Wall or Thriller albums. Was it fair for us to expect that Michael Jackson would at 50 still be as energetic as he was when he was 25? Although these concerts were themed "This is it", meaning that these were supposed to be the final performances of his career, it isn't difficult to form the view that anxiety about these concerts was a contributing factor in Michael Jackson's premature death. Does the public have a hand in the demise of Michael Jackson?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009