Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heartbreak Kenya

I am heartbroken. Yes, a full grown worldly man as myself feels like going into foetal position and wailing into the night. Yes, that’s right, big boys, even African ones, cry. Where are you from the Stone Age? Of course we cry, we are now in touch with our inner selves after decades of being Oprahted on and McGrawed into submission to our emotional chakras. Honestly, we are now in touch with our feminine side and have profound heart-to-hearts with our inner child over a glass of Cerelac and Jack Daniels. And boy, that inner child sure can talk… and drink! No wonder they are called toddlers. But I digress…, as we were saying, I am broken hearted. No, no, no it has nothing to do with Alicia Keys, we are still going strong – as my delusional Avatar in AfterLife likes to think. By the way will you stop interrupting? You are diffusing my emotional energy and distorting the frequency of my chakra! So as I was saying, it was not a woman. It was a country. It was Kenya. That’s right, Kenya broke my heart.

So as you can already detect, depending on your emotional intelligence level or EQ as Daniel Goleman calls it, this is more of a “Dear Jane” love letter to Kenya than a serious political exegesis of its current political imbroglio. Am trying to curtail the serious policy side of me in this blog, less I blog you to death with highfaluting policy talk, but pardon me should I slip every now and then, sometimes the day job creeps into the night talk…you know what I mean? Yes, so, lets get that clear, this is personal not political. And yes, love affairs do evolve between humans and countries. How, you ask? Well, let me tell you a tale by moonlight: ....“once upon a time”, “…time, time”:

There I was going about my business, writing my report at the top floor of the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi. It was mid-November 2007, I had arrived in Nairobi late that evening and went straight to bed only to wake up early the next morning, open my curtains and before me were the bounteous bosoms of Nairobi. And wasn’t she something? Oh, how ever so curvaceous was her city centre! I could not take my eyes off her, she was the most engaging and intriguing of views. One look at her that morning and that was it. I was hooked. Something in her called my name and I answered and hence began our love affair. From that moment, I woke early each morning with my steaming coffee to watch the sunrise as the streets of Nairobi came alive with swarms of people and cars. It was like watching a lover wake up beside you each morning: the soft flutter of her eyelids, the pursing and subtle quiver of her lips, the gentle opening of her eyes, the half tired, but joyful smile she gives you when she sees you lying next to her and that warm embrace that says “ good morning darling, thank God you are here with me”. Kenya did that to me each morning and it became my morning routine for about two weeks. How could I help falling in love with her? She loved me so well, falling for her was the most natural thing to do. After my break-up with London, for her coldness, moodiness and emotional austerity, I needed a city to love. A city that was colourful, warm and adventurous and Nairobi, Kenya seemed to be it.

You see, Kenya drew me in with her charm, caressed my face and wrapped me up in her soft sunshine, pacifying my fears with her “pole, pole” easygoing attitude and soothing me with her blue skies. She reduced all my defences as her subtle winds constantly whispered sweet things in my ear and even sprung a giraffe to welcome me at the airport – how romantic and it was not even valentine’s day! Oh, that baby thrilled me, she won me over with her up-market cosmopolitan bars, lounges and clubs; her cosy wi-fi enabled cafes, arty bookshops, vibrant shopping malls; her outdoor arts and crafts markets, lovely restaurants tucked in hidden back roads; her jamming night clubs, tapping private parties, fantastic radio stations, engaging intelligentsia made-up of thriving young middle class and the colourful and hospitable folks who seemed to love to “chop life” as much as Lagosians. Being in Nairobi was like being in Lagos with less traffic, less people, more racial diversity, better infrastructure and regular electricity. It was the best of all my worlds merged into one. Lady Kenya had won my heart and though when I left, I had not seen all of her, I knew that I had to return and get to know her better, taking my time to tour the whole country.Now, to be honest, I should tell you that Kenya and I have been flirting for quite a while before all this happened. I have always had a connection with the country and its people right from my days as an undergrad studying African Politics in South Africa. I was inspired by the visionary leadership of Jomo Kenyatta- her father- who led his people to independence and who tried to create what we Africans have not quite got right till date: African unity. Kenyatta, Nkrumah of Ghana and Azikiwe of Nigeria had all tried to unite the continent as they felt that our power as African people was nested in our numbers and the wealth of our shared resources. But as recent events have proven, we cannot unite a continent if we cannot unite a country.

Another reason I connected with Kenya, was because of the pulse of its people. Perhaps it may be the shared British colonial experience, but Kenyans and Nigerians have a similar sense of humour, personal pride and confidence and a keen zest for life and its better things. Put us around a table – with enough music and booze - and the party is on. Like Nigerians, they are very at ease with foreigners and are ready for a good party. I also find that Kenyans are vey cerebral and socially conscious people with very broad minded liberal views- perhaps more broadminded than Nigerians. I remember, that when I lived in South Africa and many Africans there from across the Limpopo river where subjected to xenophobia within South Africa, Nigerians and Kenyans came together to form our own African expats crew and we would hold dinner parties, poolside soirĂ©es and paint the town in all kinds of colours of our national flags. Kenyatta and Azikiwe would have been happy, we united after all, ….well may be not in the way they expected, but hey, we did it anyway. Anywho, though I had lots of friends from several other African countries, my strongest link was always with Kenyans. We just clicked and never stopped clicking. It however took a while for me to really get to taste Kenya in her true beauty and depth. We had brushed shoulders several times on my way to Addis Abba, Ethiopia or Kinshasa, Congo but I never got to say hello or stay longer than a few hours. But as you can see, all I needed was one night with Kenya and she had me. I melted in her embrace and letting go was a struggle.

In this first real trip, I found myself changing my ticket often to travel later than initially planned and staying longer and longer until I never wanted to leave. Thanks to my soul peeps Musonda ( check out her blog-http://musbaibe.blogspot.com), Thomas, Eve, Carole, Brenda, Gladys, Dannie and all those fantastic people I met and hung out with, I felt like I could live in that lovely country. No, actually, I felt like I actually lived there already. Kenya healed the scars of London and made me so happy, I started getting ideas, should I come back and stay? When I returned to London which had been my base for several years, I fell straight into depression – as usual ( after living there for so long I had had it with London’s sterility and cold distance). I missed Kenya like a lover misses the beloved. I could not wait to get back into her arms. So, on my way to Lagos from London a few days later, I routed my trip through Nairobi and stayed for one day that seemed like a week. Being with her again was magical. All in me came alive again and I knew it then. I was in love. I had to come back. When I left this time around, I had made up my mind. I would go to Lagos, pack up and move to Kenya for at least a year. She and I would be together and see if we could make a life together. Our romance had officially become a relationship and everything was going to be beautiful!

But alas, we all know what happens to ‘the best made plans’: First in Lagos, I found out the embassy was shut. The Consul had gone off to Kenya for the elections and no one could issue me a visa to go back. Though I wanted to travel on 31st of December to start the New Year there, I had to wait till the first week in January when the embassy re-opened. I was frustrated and dejected, I wanted Kenya, to touch her, to breathe her, to feel her, to feel the warmth of her embrace once more, to be in her. You see, she gave me butterflies and for an old travelling dawg who has said too many sad goodbyes like me, this was an anomaly. I needed to be with her again. In my forlorn state, as I longed for her, Lagos also made a bid for my heart and unrelentingly courted and seduced me. Okay, fine… I admit, in my weakness I fell for Lagos, but even then, I was still bent on returning to Kenya. But alas, fate would keep us apart. In retrospect, I realise that fate was watching out for me because not long after the elections on 27th December unprecedented violence broke out in Africa’s oasis of peace. The rest is on CNN and Al Jeezera. If I had gone, I would have been right in the centre of it.

Today, as I sit in Lagos and watch the carnage in Kenya, especially Nairobi, in such turmoil, I feel sad and betrayed. Here was this lovely lady who made me feel like she was peaceful, loving and caring. I turn my back and she becomes a warring, fractious and harmful entity. I knew Lagos was a philandering lover, so what happened between us could have happened to anyone, but Kenya, Kenya seemed faithful. Now I look back and wonder if it was all an illusion. Watching CNN and seeing Zane Verjie the CNN reporter shot with a tear gas canister or Eve telling me by text that the protesters where just near her house - which was a quiet and peaceful suburb, or seeing all the places I wanted to go to next Kisumu, Kibera and even Mombasa erupt in violence and destruction made my stomach churn. Did Kenya deceive me?

There I was doing my own thing and she came with her emotionally sweet and socially voluptuous self. And just as I succumbed to her enthralling charms, she changed on me. That’s right, my angel grew horns and a tail and lost her wings. Am left here wondering what went wrong; if there was something I could have done but didn’t do? If I could have loved her more, if I should have stayed, if, if, if,….. “Bar tender, bar tender, another round of CJD!...hic.” Ok, more seriously, my sweet babe Kenya had turned vicious in less than two weeks, just as I was about to commit. Now I find that I have to review our relationship and that we can’t be as intimate as we had planned. Now I know we can’t live together anymore. I am hoping we can stay friends but I know it will take sometime to rebuild the trust. It’s a shame that all this happened just as we were getting to know each other, but as Janet Jackson ( with bra intact) said, “that’s the way love goes”.

I sympathise with all the innocent people who lost their lives, loved ones, limbs or livelihoods in Kenya because their leaders failed to lead aright. I sympathise with all those whose hopes and dreams have been dashed by Kenya’s fall. I say sorry to all those who were waiting for me to return into Kenya’s arms if they feel I have disserted them. To Kenya: I know you are hurt and bleeding too darling and I share your pain, I wish there was more I could do from here. But baby I don’t think this can work anymore. I am sorry. You broke my heart when you changed and I had an affair with Lagos in between. Perhaps we didn’t know each other as well as we thought we did. We can’t make that kind of long-term commitment anymore. The trust has been broken, the foundations have been shaken, we can’t build a castle on shaky ground. Do know I will always think fondly of you and remember the great times and dreams we shared. Asante Sanna for those lovely times Kenya. Besides we never know what the future holds for star-crossed lovers. Pole Kenya, Kwa Heri. Sawa sawa, its just another sad love song, this one I entitle: "Heartbreak Kenya".

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Up in Smoke...

SayMama kinda pointed out to me that two of my favourite countries seem to have gone up in smoke. I wonder if it was something I said or some kinda hex I carry in my travel trail! Ok, more seriously Sri Lanka, the Pearl of Asia, has gone back to a full blown war. They have been at this for over 20 years. Even the devastation caused by the Tsunami did not stop the hostilities. This is a country I have toured and been back to several times. I loved it for its overwhelming beauty and the incredible hospitality of its people. Now, they are blowing each other up - the insurgents having been the pioneers of suicide bombing. I just can’t explain why people would like to smear such beautiful places with blood, when they could be sitting on the beach sipping a cold beer and enjoying the many beauties cast before them by Mother Nature. Or maybe they blow one another up just because some are deprived of these luxuries, rights and privileges, while others have too much of it? Or is it because others are detremined to keep the nation whole as opposed to splinters? Anyway, I am sure we will explore these questions of unity, access and equality in more detail at some point. Today, as I draft my next blog, I thought, in the meantime, to share an article I wrote about Sri Lanka ( a country that I loved dearly at some point) in 2004 and it is so sad to see the prediction in the last paragraph came true after all. Its one of my more serious ones, so feel free to nod off. Enjoy the pics above of Colombo from the Holiday Inn on the left and Blue Waters hotel in Waduwa on the right. I took them earlier this year. Also, watch out for my next post “ Heart Break Kenya”.

Beyond the Peace Process in Sri Lanka

by DO, APRIL 2004

Barring two salient issues, first the political rivalry between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the erstwhile Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and secondly, the April 2 elections which led to the deposing of the latter, the current discourse on Sri Lankan politics has been saturated with the Peace Process and the related negotiations between the predominantly Singhalese Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). As the twenty year internecine conflict between these two parties has claimed some 60,000 thousand lives, displaced about a million civilians, orphaned thousands of children, as well as undermined the country’s economic performance, it is indeed understandable and wholly appropriate that the political spotlight remains firmly on this critical peace process. Peace in Sri Lanka is the fundamental foundation on which enduring social and economic development initiatives can be built to launch a country that is pregnant with enormous potential to the apex of its socio-economic performance. It is also the requisite precursor for political stability and social development in a country, which has for decades tottered precariously on the precipice of implosion. The Ceasefire Agreement signed in February 2002 between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE presents the clearest pathway to peace in recent times and the attendant peace negotiations certainly merits the full attention of all Sri Lankans as well as the international community. However, it is pertinent to highlight that should the country be ill-prepared for the aftermath of a successful peace process and the other challenges that a post-conflict society presents, the peace settlement being arduously negotiated today could be easily undone tomorrow. As such, though the peace process remains a critical priority on the political agenda, there is an equally compelling case for placing analytical lenses on what happens after the process. It can therefore be argued that as Sri Lanka is negotiating its peace, it also needs to commence effective preparation for sustaining this hard-earned peace in future. This article comments briefly on two notable aspects essential for sustaining peace after the (hopeful) successful completion of the peace process.

The relatively peaceful, free and fair democratic elections in Sri Lanka on April 2 2004, indicates increased maturation and a deepening in the culture of democracy in this otherwise embattled polity. Though plagued with some incidents of electoral malpractice and sporadic violence, it is a far cry from the atmosphere of tension and violence that have historically characterised previous elections and thus, the international community is united in rubberstamping these elections as credible and legitimate. However, irrespective of the appreciation of this democratic success for the people of Sri Lanka, it is useful to bear in mind that political stability needs more than just regular and peaceful elections; and democracy should be seen as a process with many phases as opposed to a stand alone event. Social equity and justice are key requirements for political stability, and quite importantly, the institutions and processes that safeguard and uphold them. More relevant in the context of this article, is the reality that this vital journey in the consolidation of Sri Lanka’s democracy can be easily susceptible to derailment if one kind of violence is replaced with another, i.e. the exchange of high intensity intrastate violence for low-intensity, but equally disruptive and devastating violence in the form of crime and civil-military unrest.

As at now majority of the cadres of LTTE combatants, consist of fighters who have relatively limited vocational expertise or education other than their military training. As such, should the peace process be successful and the combatants of the LTTE be disbanded, it is logical to posit that the Sri Lankan society will be awash with thousands of able-bodied individuals with militarised psyches and vocational experience primarily in armed combat only. This will leave an unaccountable lethal military force roaming freely in the streets of Sri Lanka and indeed portends ominous consequences. As a result, Sri Lankan society may have to contend with individuals who are likely to feel dislocated from the wider civilian society; are unable to function positively in a civilian environment; are unable to secure formal employment due to lack of adequate vocational skills and resultantly, highly susceptible to involvement in violent crime executed with military precision. Thus, an increase in violent crime stands as a formidable challenge the Sri Lankan security forces and society in general may have to face after the war. Empirical evidence from the South African experience after the cessation of anti-apartheid centred hostilities proves that an explosion of uncontainable crime is the most likely result of the combination of all the factors stated above. If the language of violence is what the combatants have been trained to speak for decades, little else can be expected from them without making provision for helping them unlearn what they have been taught for several years in the barracks and trenches. Discharged or retired combatants will need training to develop new vocational and civic skills as well as attitudinal postures that will enable them function effectively as regular civilians if they are expected to be peaceful and productive elements in a post-war Sri Lanka. The onus for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the Sri Lankan government and its civil society organisations, preferably working in tandem. Omitting to prepare for this eventuality could result in a reversal of the gains from the peace settlement. The increase in crime could leave Sri Lankan lives and property under continued threat and the concomitant insecurity would stifle domestic business growth as well as reduce investor confidence, deterring foreign direct investment. The combination of these factors will stunt the much needed economic rejuvenation the country thirsts for. In addition, the possible incapability of the security forces to quash military trained organised crime cartels could fuel the formation of ethnic or religion-based militias or vigilante groups which can be manipulated and utilised for political ends, can violate human rights and undermine the rule of law through extrajudicial practices. This is a modest list of possible consequences.

Another critical issue is the need for the transformation of the Sri Lankan armed forces to modify their doctrine, posture and budgeting to respond positively and effectively to the new needs of a post-war Sri Lanka. In attempts to quell the Tamil secessionist insurrection spearheaded by the LTTE, major expansions and increased expenditure have been witnessed over the years in the areas of military personnel, weapons systems, military hardware procurement, equipment and personnel maintenance and also in funding military operations. These towering expenditures have eaten deeply into the national budget at the expense of other pressing areas of public need such as the health and educational sectors as well as the provision of other essential public services. For Sri Lanka to emerge from the stifling socio-economic weight of the war and catch-up on the lost years, defence spending will have to be reduced, the sector downsized and other pivotal sectors of social economic development will have to be placed at the front-burner of the political agenda while they also take centre-stage in the national budget. Additionally, should the strength of the army be downsized, as is likely to be the case should the war officially end, thousands of soldiers will be left without gainful employment. Idle armies or ex-soldiers without engagement in psychologically and financially fulfilling activities or vocations remain perennial dangers to democracies - the many coup d’etats witnessed in Nigeria’s politico-military history between the seventies to the end of nineties serve as good cases in point. The government will not only have to ensure the adequacy and security of military pensions and provide welfare support, but will also have to invest in the retraining of service women and men through effective vocational training programmes. Again, civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will be instrumental partners here.

As the international focus and goodwill for the consolidation of peace in Sri Lanka reaches its apogee, the government and people of Sri Lanka have to seize this auspicious moment in the country’s history to courageously ensure the successful completion of the peace negotiations with an emphasis on birthing a sustainable peace. This is best done by factoring into calculus the extra steps that are needed to consolidate the hard-won peace through a parallel process in conjunction with civil society organisations, to prepare for life after war. To this end, the development of effectively designed demobilisation, demilitarisation, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for combatants on both sides of the trenches are of utmost importance. The armed forces will have to alter their posture and readiness for peacetime activities such as national infrastructure development projects (as the Japanese army have done for years); emergency disaster relief; supporting other government and international agencies in post-conflict reconstruction efforts and possibly in peacekeeping operations in other war-torn countries. Furthermore, there is much benefit to be gained from the cross-fertilisation of experience and best practice through comparisons between the Sri Lanka experience and those of other conflict affected regions in Africa (for example), which have been able to successfully transform their war-affected countries into stable polities, vibrant economies and peaceful societies.

After over twenty years of conflict and destruction, the Sri Lankan people deserve a stable and peaceful foundation on which they can begin to rebuild their economy, heal the social wounds inflicted by decades of conflict and harness the many resources of both the rich land and its people. A country with such great potential should be given the opportunity to achieve these crucial imperatives by its political leaders with the full support of the international community. However, without taking the critical steps to sustain and safeguard the peace, all the above could remain aspirations as opposed to realties and another generation could be plunged into new dimensions of conflict.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

RETROJIVE: “So do your family back in Nigeria live in huts?”

RETROJIVE*: “So do your family back in Nigeria live in huts?”

After thirty minutes of scintillating conversation about global politics and the evolving dimensions of democracy, with an American undergraduate student I happened to sit next to on the London subway, she proceeded to exit the carriage with a parting question: “So do your family back in Nigeria live in huts?” Ordinarily I should have felt insulted but I was not. I was shocked. After the kind of intellectual conversation we just had, it was hard to believe that such a brilliant young lady could still hold a view of Africa that connoted primitiveness in our existence. No, my family does not live in a hut, we live in a six bedroom house in a nice suburb like other middle-class Americans. No, we are not the only ones and yes, we do have skyscrapers, shopping malls and multiple lane highways amongst others things, but you may never see these on television. It’s more sensational to show pictures of starving children with swollen bellies being rummaged by flies than that of an Africa that is starting to lift itself out of poverty into prosperity. We are not told that economic growth rates are doubling, nor do we see the modern side of Africa with a thriving middle-class of ‘Afropolitans’ living qualitative lives. All we see is poverty and conflict. Though, this is a huge part of Africa’s reality, it is only one side of a multifaceted continent. Professional news reporting is balanced news reporting, but this is a right Africa is hardly afforded. Most international news agencies cover Africa in a manner that projects the continent’s poverty and not its wealth; its failures not its successes; its weaknesses not its strengths. All we see is the constant assailing of the global populace with chilling pictures of the Conradian Heart of Darkness, where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: death, famine, war and destruction ride roughshod through Africa with reckless abandon. Is this all Africa is about? No, its not.

As I emerged from the annals of London’s subway and walked down its cobbled streets, I thought to myself, of course, I should not be surprised that my young American friend asked me that question when that is all she has been fed for years by the media. Not long after this experience, I debated a very popular rock star turned social activist with a penchant for Africa, and he proceeded to tell an audience filled with two hundred people that he had no respect for Africans and that if Africans had done anything to fix their continent that people like him would not have invest his time in helping us sort our problems out. Yet, he is one of the media’s preferred spokespeople on African development issues. I proceeded to tell him, amongst other things, that he could not genuinely help those whom he does not respect and he cannot cry more than the bereaved. I remember that, a few years ago the Economist magazine published a special issue on Africa with the headline Africa: The Hopeless Continent. Hopeless? How come suicide rates are lower in Africa than in the West then? Ever heard of an African suicide bomber? We don’t blow ourselves up , because though life may be difficult, hope is all we have. We are a resilient people, we trudge on no matter what. Hope is our elixir. Late last year, the highly respected talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, in a recent show on fraud, insinuated that all Nigerians were crooks. I always liked Oprah until then, but perhaps she had too many diet pills that day and of course she must have been reeling from the discovery that the head huncho at her school in South Africa, was taking care of the children in her school, well, a bit too much. That’s, right she went afondling , while she was meant to be teaching and protecting them. Oh, wait a minute, if we were to apply Oprah’s fuzzy logic, maybe all Oprah’s staff are child abusers? She did not highlight the fact that there are over a hundred and fifty million Nigerians , being Africa’s most populous nation, and this same country has the highest number of internationally trained professionals and PhD holders in sub-Saharan Africa. Surely they all cannot be crooks. Does Africa need people like this to speak for us? No, thank you but they always will, for as long as we keep quiet or muzzle our own spokespeople.

All the above only reflect an infinitesimal number of the examples of how a continent of 700 million people is misunderstood, misrepresented, misconceived, constantly berated and undervalued by large numbers of opinion makers in the international realm. The issue however is not necessarily about agonising about what people think of Africa and Africans, but how we can ensure that Africa is not just reactive, but proactive in making itself better understood. How can Africa reveal its strengths, its resources, its capacities and its successes to the world without denying its challenges and it weaknesses? How can Africa be better represented in global trade, media, politics, and the ever evolving phenomenon of globalisation? How can Africa better analyse and articulate its challenges in a manner that ensures not only better understanding by global stakeholders but also increased options for effective problem solving?

Africa needs to create platforms for international dialogue and cross-fertilisation of views and ideas on issues ranging from politics to culture, to art, to global security to human development etc. Africa must sit with the world and the world must sit with Africa on the roundtable of collective dialogue, based on mutual respect, in order for the kind of constructive engagement that can yield sustainable solutions to shared problems can be created. We cannot solve problems we do not understand and we cannot be partners with people we misunderstand. Dialogue is the only way to better understanding. By the way, our hut also has air-conditioning and my donkey is called Mercedes, surname is Benz. She galloped here all the way from Germany.

*RETROJIVE: This will be a regular feature in this blog, where I tell stories and share experiences from the past.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Seduced by Lagos...

Two weddings & a coupla gigs later...well, may be more than a couple, um...actually, I think I have lost count, what day is it? Where is my money....?

Its been a while since I last blogged, don’t be surprised. Lagos keeps you so occupied that there is little time for sober reflection and cerebral pontificating. When do you get the time to do any of that philosophical stuff when there is a wedding, an engagement party, a birthday party, a pre-wedding party, a bachelor’s eve, a beach party, a pool party or a ‘thank God we have oxygen to breathe’ party! Ah, and don’t forget that during the daytime you are worn out from scrumming your way through traffic and dodging manic Okada ( commercial transport motorcycles) to get from place to place. But what’s tiredness got to do with it? The show must go on, there are parties to attend! Something is always happening somewhere.This is Lagos, we love it!

By the way, just in case you forgot something at home while rushing out in the morning, don’t worry. Even if you forgot to wear clothes, by the time you go through what I call the MRS – Mobile Roadside Supermarkets- you can buy yourself not only a full attire with matching underwear, but also a shaver, a briefcase, books to go in it and a hairpiece in case you are bald. I hear that the MRS of the future may provide cosmetic surgery on the go. You’ll be able to get a tummy tuck between Third Mainland Bridge and the end of IBB Bridge (…ok, fine, I made that up,but you get ther idea). But Lagos shows you free enterprise at its best! From dawn to dusk and beyond, you can buy anything, at anytime if you know where to go - or nowadays you can even have it delivered. You just need to find a Mama kin sun (mother never sleeps). The West needs to learn from us, surely this is the land of freedom and liberty. In Lagos, anything is possible.

Talking about possibilities, is it possible that Lagosians never sleep? I don’t know how Lagosians do it, but they are at every gig till day break, at work early each day ( if not, they can conveniently blame it on traffic), in church on Sunday and mid-week service on Wednesday and in traffic the rest of the time. When does Lagos sleep? That’s simple, it doesn’t! When do Lagosians sleep: ah, Watson, that is the question. How about : never? Why would you want to sleep when you could be having an endless blast at parties where you don’t need to take your own bottle of wine and instead get drowned in champagne till you plead for water. I predict that soon MOET may become a swear word. Can you hear it? : “Get the MOET outta here!!!”

Lagos is a seductress. Like a vain courtesan, she demands your attention. She cannot be ignored. She bats her eyelids at you, lifts her skirt and entices you, pulling you in into her ethereal light promising pleasures never known...at a cost. You must shower her with expensive gifts and copious attention lest her deeper beauties remain hidden. It not rocket science though, that soon you will be broke and she will be done with you. Eko o gba gbere ( Lagos takes no nonsense). Nontheless, the truth is that no matter how travelled you may be and how serene and lush your suburb in Sussex or New Jersey may be, you know only too well that the god of enjoyment resides in Lagos. As a matter of fact s/he carries a green passport too. When you take your nose out of the air and bother to see the real essence of Lagos, it is lovable. It is the mirror of the diverse facets of humanity in modern times. Lagos is great fun despite concerns about security, perennial power cuts, roads with craters and ghost (stalled) trucks that suddenly appear in the centre of the road just when you are changing to gear six and whistling to Asa’s sultry serenading or Two-face’s localised internationalism. Lagos is a social candy store that never closes.

As I sign-off today, I should mention that one of the two weddings was that of my baby baby baby sister who while I was on some plane to somewhere or buried in some book in some bookstore decided to grow up, become a woman and even decide to get married. I remember clearly taking her to school and picking her up just yesterday and next thing you know she is someone’s wife! Well the wedding took three days: one day for the wedding engagement party i.e. traditional wedding ( about 500 hundred guests); the formal wedding and reception ( about a thousand guests) and the third day, the thanksgiving service and reception in Ibadan, Oyo State. It ended with a thousand fully inebriated guests dancing their way into the New Year. It took a few days for me to recover fully from all the ‘jollifications’. I must say that my sis was a such a beautiful bride. If you don’t believe me I have placed the evidence here. The second was my childhood friend, who eventually got hitched. Thank God he did, cause that’s where I met my first Nigerian fellow blogger: http://saymama.blogspot.com/

Finally, I really have to say something about Asa. She is Nigeria’s new voice and my my my is she good or what? She is like a cross between Sade, Amy Winehouse, Tracy Chapman, Erika Badu, Nora Jones and Nomvula, yet still original. She has this sultry, serenading yet awakening voice that commands and stirs things within your soul you didn’t know was there. Provided you have air-conditioning, she makes an afternoon drive from Victoria Island to Oregun and to Ikeja seem like a wonderful road trip. Yes, she has that magical quality. For example she sings in Yoruba and makes it sound romantic. Now that’s a feat! There is no doubt that this lady deserves a wider global audience and if she does and the world is fair, I see Grammies raining down upon her head like jacarandas. She is a must hear and her CD is a must own. See Funmi Iyanda's interview with her http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhguS-q8OY8. On that note, its Friday night and Lagos beckons. I will hop into my silver wagon and foray into the bowels of Lagos while listening to Asa. Who knows what I may find? Its Lagos, anything is possible.