Madame Bovary, Miss Havisham and a February ending.


Miss Havisham

“Before she married, she thought she was in love; but the happiness that should have resulted from that love, somehow had not come. It seemed to her that she must have made a mistake, have misunderstood in some way or another. And Emma tried hard to discover what, precisely, it was in life that was denoted by the words ‘joy, passion, intoxication’, which had always looked so fine to her in books.” Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

And so February, the month of love (amour as the French will say), the month of affection and disaffection ends, with me reading Madame Bovary (text for a MOOC art class) – that classic tale of love gone awry, of the pursuit of the fickle, non-existent, ‘happily ever after’ love, that is, no matter how Romantic we pretend to be, rare in life: Chocked out by the hum-drum; by life itself.

Madame Bovary may have been written in the 19th century but two hundred plus years later, February, 2013 sees Valentine, soured by allegations of boyfriends killing girlfriends, of Madame Goldie – that sensual, ‘heart-on-the-sleeve-love’ apologist – dying so suddenly, not even Tarantino could have dreamt up a plot so obscure and spectacular. Her life deserves a movie: not the regular Nollywood fare, but something better, more dignifying, more artistic.

For Nollywood, the industry is stuck in a time-warp. Like Miss Havisham, who stops the clock, nay her life, at the exact time her groom disappointed, Nollywood is stuck in the 1970’s, the decade of The Village Headmaster. And that is why, with the death of any of the legends from that era, the cry gets louder. The cry of anguish and pain seemingly, but truly the cry of dearth: dearth of talent, dearth of growth, dearth of genuine new stars to replace the old guard. This time the Headmaster himself, Justice Esiri, has passed on to join his ancestors and his peers.

And while we reminisce on a bygone age, a Jack Nicholson gets a ‘bit’ part at the Oscars, playing a minor role in presenting Best Film to Argo, the story of the Canadian caper. And while Argo is a great film which I thoroughly enjoyed, I wanted Lincoln to win. I first read the story of Abe as a kid and gleefully fell in love with that All-American story of the most famous US president in history: The story of the poor little kid from the log house who studied hard and literarily pulled himself up by the bootstraps to rule the States and help free the slaves. A realist and modernist, he was very much unlike Emma Bovary with her illusions.

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February always hosts the Oscars but February 14th – Valentine’s Day – 2013 will forever be associated with Oscar Pistorius. The whole world awoke on that memorable day of love to the most horrifying, most unbelievable, most dramatic story, that Oscar Pistorius, the Blade Runner, Paralympics champion, national hero and human icon, had murdered his girl-friend. When I first saw the headline my initial reaction was that it was a valentine prank, akin to the April fools foolery. But alas it was true and denial turned to indignation and the inevitable chorus of whys? Somebody on Twitter described it as the perfect girl nightmare: killed on Valentine’s Day by your boyfriend. The script reads like a B-Grade Hollywood film that would never win an Oscar.


The case has been charged to court and Mr. Pistoruis has denied all charges but a New York Times Magazine piece on Oscar from 2012 reveals that he owned a 9 mm pistol (Miss Reeva Steenkamp was shot four times with a 9mm handgun) and was an excellent shot. Oscar, arguably the most recognizable South African athlete, was born without a fibula in his legs – a congenital anomaly – and had both legs amputated at 11 months. Since then he has been wearing artificial legs, learning to walk at 17months and at 17 years lining up at the starting block of the Paralympics 100m T44 finals. He was also an avid boxer, tennis player, water polo and rugby player in his teens and made history by running against able-bodied athletes at the London games. An inspiration to disabled people, he was a poster boy of the Paralympics for many years and made a fortune from endorsements. Predictably, immediately the murder story broke Nike, the sportswear company pulled down an Oscar billboard advertisement and so did all the other corporate sponsors of his. Sounds familiar? The story seems to echo the fall of Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong: of acclaim turning to ashes, commendation to condemnation, and ovation to opprobrium. The lesson we learn from these stars, celebrities and icons is that all that glitters is not gold.

Obviously, I must mention the sudden death of Goldie, the Nigerian pop artiste, who died of pulmonary embolism. A 30 year old woman, Goldie became nationally famous when she starred in the Big Brother Africa of 2012. Practically nobody outside of the Lagos scene had heard of her until she appeared on the reality TV show where she put in an eclectic performance responding so poorly to the pressure that the organisers were rumoured to have put her under suicide watch. Whoever put Goldie in the BBA did not know her and put her health and career on the line. I am not a doctor, neither a psychologist, but I watched Goldie for near 3 months and she wilted in that House. Pulmonary Embolism has been fingered and there is a link between PE and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which usually occurs in long flights. L. A. is far but the autopsy result should not be farther.

Adieu, Goldie. You were not the mother lode but surely there was a dash of gold dust in there.


Love Poems at Valentine




It’s that time again,
When Cupid gets his bow
And havoc wrecks on mortals:
Spreading love on the saint’s day.

It’s that time again,
When I remind myself
That you are no mere earthling,
But Aphrodite reincarnated.

It’s St. Valentine’s again
And though the Holy See and patron saint resign
My love will always burn fierce
Like the eternal flame at Delphi

Dedicated to She of the fair disposition; a modern day Nightingale.


Miss Honeybee

Miss Honeybee,
Fluttering and waltzing:
You’re full of sweetness,
Sweeter than nectar
Finer than a rose petal:
Miss Honeybee.

Miss Honeybee,
Wishing and hoping:
I crave your love,
Sweeter than nectar
Smooth like the honeycomb:
Miss Honeybee.

Miss Honeybee,
Beautiful and charming:
Near, yet beyond reach
Bitter like the after-taste
Alas! bear with a poor drone:
Miss Honeybee.

My Lover, my muse

Your eyes shimmer and shine
Suggesting pools of serenity;
Your lips, a duo,
that resonate happiness and laughter;
Your skin so smooth and rare
like the goddess Ebony’s.
The trunk of the finest Iroko
can’t match the straight strength of your legs.
Ancients would have willingly gone to war,
at the sight of your twin towers.
You define epitome
and walk with great refine;
shaming royals with your allure
and monks with your charity.
For the poet, you are the muse,
For me: my lover.


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90 minutes in Jo’burg, 99 years of Nigeria


For a country perennially beset with mistrust, mutual hatred and blatant ethnicity and nepotism, the pure glee and national unity displayed anytime the Super Eagles play is indescribable, indiscernible, miraculous and mind-boggling.

For 99 years the people called Nigeria have distrusted each other, developed negative stereotypes to frame each other and at unfortunate times fought and killed each other. But from since the days of the Red Devils (the former name of the national team), when the famous Dan Anyiam, the national team captain, and his team were fabled to have played against the English national team barefooted in London, the entity called Nigeria has always stood united when it comes to football; prayed together, cried together and celebrated together.

On Sunday in Johannesburg, we all go to the temple of the ‘god of soccer’ and like the holy books advocate, we cast away our differences, hold hearts and hands together and support our team. And even though the team is 80% Igbo nobody cares or notices and all prejudices are swept aside as we all chase the golden trophy in Egoli, the legendary place of gold.

Next year marks 100 years that Lord Fredrick Lugard amalgamated the North and Southern protectorates to create the largest black nation in the world. After 100 years people still wonder if Lord Lugard was a genius or a jester. But come Sunday in Jozi, when the national anthem is played, when the referee tosses the coin to decide which side kicks off between the Eagles and the Stallions, the North and South will fuse into one; one team, one people, and one nation. And for 90 minutes at least, Lord Lugard’s dream will be perfected.

It is nearly two decades since 1994, when the Eagles last soared above the crags. I wish the ‘Big Boss’ and his boys all the best of luck.

Come on you Eagles!

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Is Reuben Abati losing the (social) media war?


“I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan…” (2 Sam 1:26A)

The Nigerian social media ecosystem had an eventful month this January. Though not on the scale of the dizzying heights of January, 2012 when Twitter and Facebook was galvanised to literarily force a policy somersault over petroleum subsidies. January, 2013 saw the Jesus tweet saga, the “wicked stepmother” quote went viral and Reuben Abati had an article he wrote in 2011 criticizing the then acting President Jonathan for his slow pace and tagging him the “ultimate pacifier” resurrected. That resurrected article spread faster than the flu virus that Dr. Abati was forced to go on the attack, immediately labeling the administration’s opponents “yesterday’s men.”

And that brings us to the crux of the matter. The President’s social media strategy is at best inexpert, reactive and still stuck in web 1.0 mindset. Having Twitter handles and a Facebook page is just scratching the surface. This is not a social media course (I doubt if such a course is taught anywhere in our tertiary institutions), but does the FG have a YouTube channel? Does the FG creatively engage Nigerians using the various social media channels? Does the FG have a well thought out New Media plan?  I ask because the theatre of war (Yes, politics is war. Ask the Americans and their aptly styled campaign “war-rooms’) has ostensibly moved away from the traditional media: from the NTA 9 o’clock news, the Radio Nigeria, 7 a.m. bulletin, the state-owned newspapers or the press releases in The Guardian, Daily Times and their ilk. Rightly, the traditional media is not dead – its stories are still more authentic and reliable (even though a national daily was accused of erroneously attributing the Jesus tweet to Mallam El-Rufai instead of just the ‘crime’ of retweeting) – but its impact is flailing, circulation figures are downhill and the agenda-setting function is firmly in the court of ‘citizen journalism.’ It is absurd, but a Tontoh Dike’s ill-choreographed, amateur, 4-minute video can garner more views than NTA’s flagship network news at 9 p.m. in this age of satellite TV with its ubiquitous midweek European football, YouTube and its many cat videos, podcasts, Instagram, Pinterest, Google +, Twitter, Facebook, Nairaland, BBM, the blogosphere etc. Add the lack of power supply and NTA’s “60 Million viewers” (best said in characteristic Cyril Stober voice) belongs firmly in the Jurassic age and The History of Mass Media class.

The President’s men, or Jonathanians as some have labeled them, must step up and come to the party. I know Dr. Abati is an old media acolyte, but he must learn the new weapons of political discourse, and that speedily. To be fair to him, he is treading uncharted grounds, being the first presidential media assistant to come up against a fully evolved social media. The youths and the middle class, both largest, most vocal, electoral demographics must be engaged, must be pitched to and preached to, must be convinced that transformation is taking place. He must not act like Saddam Hussein who came to engage the Americans in the Gulf War banking on the old ‘desert warrior’ mindset, and his army was blown away by weapons his troops never saw.

Web 2.0 is alive and well, and it is social. It is also a tough and mean arena. In the old way one had the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame; in the new media, fifteen minutes is enough to start a revolution.