Double-faced

Gloria Ikekhide

You kiss my forehead

In the open, under the jacaranda tree

You bring me flowers

Red roses, white roses, yellow roses

Wild with thorns like your love

Image: Babatunde Lasisi

You kneel before me

You buy me gifts

Wrap them, with red bows and hand-written messages

Even though your palms are calloused

And then you give me more gifts

In blacks and in blues

behind closed doors, under garments

Where wandering eyes are blind

Gloria is an English and Literature grad, part time writer and air hostess.

Why do football fans in Nigeria prefer European clubs to national clubs?

John Onwe

I have long been interested in why young Nigerians, perhaps Africans generally, support and identify with top European football teams much more than they do to teams in their national football league. This is completely opposite to what we see in Europe where fans will generally support the football clubs of their hometown. A Bournemouth local will nine out of ten times be a supporter of AFC Bournemouth—AFC Bournemouth was in a way my adopted team when I lived and studied in England. There is however this strong group and individual affiliation to top European teams among football fans in Nigeria, many having no real connections to these teams.

When I speak to such distant fans, including some of my friends, they talk about the organisation of the league, the welfare and quality of players etc as some of the attractiveness of European football. The interesting thing is that the South African Premier Soccer League, for instance, is arguably also well organised but does not have any remote fellowship of that kind despite being aired regularly on satellite television in Nigeria.

Undoubtedly, the English Premiership is far more intriguing and entertaining than the South Africa Premier League. The question is how this entertainment value leads to strong affiliation and identification with teams. I have met individuals who without flinching will choose to watch FC Barcelona or Chelsea FC over the Nigerian national team if the time of their matches coincides.

It is not an easy question to answer but it seems to me that most Nigerian football fans see these football clubs as a way of identifying with the foreign (or the ideal) and invariably as an extension of themselves. It is not uncommon to see young boys who call themselves Fabregas or Messi or Ronaldo. In Enugu, in 2015, when Barcelona won the Champions league, Nigerian fans of the club in that city had a thanksgiving service in a church. In 2016, a Nigerian fan killed his friend following an argument over Messi and Ronaldo superiority. These are behaviours consistent with an “extension of self”. Of course, I must mention here that one is likely to find this kind of fan behaviour among so-called diehard fans because they feel this pure representation or extension of their self-image stronger than, for instance, fair-weather fans.  

Improving fan identification with national league                             

Undoubtedly the country loses a lot of revenue in the lack of fan interest in teams in the national league. Interest in European leagues can go side by side with interest in the national league. The lack of interest in the Nigerian league is due to several reasons. One of these, in my opinion, is the lack of professionalisation in the sports industry in Nigeria.

I shall give a simple illustration. If you go to the Ministry of Justice, it would be headed by a lawyer and staffed mainly by people in the legal profession. Similarly, the Medical Director in any hospital will be a qualified medical doctor. However, when it comes to the sports industry, anyone can be appointed as the Minister of Sports even if such persons’ professional background does not qualify him or her to be in such a position. For instance, the current Sport’s Minister Solomon Dalung is a lawyer and not particularly known for any prior involvement in sport. This is obviously putting a square peg in a round hole.

The first thing, therefore, is to put the round peg in a round hole. This would mean appointing people that have relevant professional experience in sports management in positions of influence. This, in my opinion, is a good place to start.

It goes without saying that to attract a strong fan base, the national league needs to become as interesting as the international ones that most fans already identify with. This can only be achieved with proper organisation of the league, improving the quality players in clubs, and improving the quality of stadiums. But the place to start is round pegs, round holes.

John Onwe is a lecturer at the Alex-Ekwueme Federal University Ebonyi, Nigeria where he teaches and researches sport management

Photo: Coca-Cola South Africa

Cooking is not supposed to be gender-based

Keziah

My parents got married in 1990 and my father was well aware that my mother did not like to cook. I grew up not seeing my mother in the kitchen. We had someone who would cook for the week every weekend and we all came out fine. Not for once did this affect my parents’ marriage; it was never up for discussion, and it was a known rule in my home that mummy does not cook.

Society constantly tries to define what a woman should or should not do, what her roles are, and how she should carry out those roles. This extends to cooking. I have repeatedly heard the phrase the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach; so women feel compelled to be good cooks not necessarily for themselves, but for their men. Cooking has become one of the main criteria for getting married and, sometimes, staying married. 


I have seen many families where the girls are taught to cook complex meals and the boys do not even know how to cook noodles.

A woman is viewed as incomplete if she does not know how to cook. When a lady says she doesn’t know how to cook or she hates cooking, she is automatically judged. I dare say that we sometimes find it unbelievable. The ability to Cook is subtly used to profile a woman as good, homely, and traditional. I have seen many families where the girls are taught to cook complex meals and the boys do not even know how to cook noodles. You constantly hear things like: ‘Can you marry a woman who cannot cook?’ ‘If a woman cannot cook, she will lose her husband to someone who can’. While these phrases might serve as musings of the wise, they are also threats to women. How did my mother survive?

Recently I went back home, and our cook was on holiday; so, I wanted to make something nice for my family. I unconsciously asked my mother if we could go to the market together to buy the foodstuffs and she told me casually: ‘I do not know where the market is; I don’t think that I have been to the market in like 15 years’. This sounds shocking, right? The more shocking thing is that I know how to cook, and I love doing it. She didn’t have to teach me, she hired a chef to do so and paid for me to attend a cooking school. You might think this has to do with economic status but, no, we are just an average family.

Many people also try to praise my dad. They call him a rare man for being able to marry a woman that hardly enters the kitchen. But that is the problem right there—the fact that people think that something is wrong with my mother and my father should be praised for loving her regardless. The fact that her inability to cook is considered a limitation, a disability and not a thing of choice.

Food is an essential need and it will always be readily available. If my mother could find a way around not cooking in the 90s, it must be easier to find a way around it now. Cooking is not a female skill and females should not be judged solely because they do not like to cook. More importantly, females should stop internalizing the guilt that comes with not knowing how to cook. If you can’t cook, own it; you will find your type.


Keziah is a researcher at the Open University, UK.

Art: Woman-ity

By Tunde Lasisi Damilare

When I paint a woman, it is easy to see how much the image of my mother influences my work. I grew up seeing her strive to keep the family happy and what she endured. In this article, I curate some of my paintings on the woman and offer some reflection on the African woman and society.

My art is usually figurative, focused on the human person, but I also try to blend in some level of abstractness. That way the figures that I paint tell a story, and one figure can tell multiple stories depending on who is looking at it. My aim is for my art to speak to the people who look at it; that they see parts of their realities or society in it.

Joys, struggles, and resilience

Ijo ayo (Yoruba: dance of joy) represents how the Nigerian woman celebrates. In my own Yoruba community, there is a party every weekend where there are lots of food, music, dancing and uniforms.

In this second group of paintings, I reflect on the preparation for womanhood using the West African wrapper. My aim here is to show how things are evolving. The wrapper used to be an initiation of sorts into womanhood but not so much these days. Important parts of society are changing—in how people dress, interact, get married.

The wrapper here also covers the figure as opposed to revealing all. Again, this shows the changes in society, such that culturally accepted norms on being fully covered with a garment like a wrapper are slowly being eradicated especially in urban centres. But this revealing of the self goes beyond the dress to what is shared about one’s life, say, on social media. The line between what we keep to ourselves and what we reveal to the public is very blurred on Instagram and Facebook.

Although there has been a lot of advancements that afford women certain civil liberties even in very conservative societies, there are still more that can be done. There are judgements, condemnations, marginalisation of the woman which in turn provoke anger, fear, and resignation.

Here I depict her fears and vulnerability. That point you get to and you ask: what else can I do? I am lost.

In one of the paintings, I painted the woman’s lips in red to depict the Nigerian maxim: “wetin eye don see, mouth no fit talk,” to illustrate the internal struggles of the woman. There is also the recourse to supplication as shown in the penultimate image and the smile women have to put up in spite of challenges (last image).

Strength

Red also stands for courage. This painting shows the strength of many women. There are a lot of strong women out there who are actually making it and are truly smiling. I painted the figure looking back: “now I have something to say, I have something tangible to rejoice about”.

In one popular Rihanna’s song, she sang: “turn your face towards the sun, let the shadow fall behind you. Don’t look back. Just carry on and the shadow will never find you”. Inspired by that, I drew this image. At the end of the day, we all have to face the challenges of society. It is a picture of defiance, of moving towards achieving something. Don’t look back, look forward and everything will be over in no time. That’s how I like to remember all the strong women in my life, especially my mother.

Tunde Lasisi Damilare is an artist based in Lagos, Nigeria. You can find his works on Instagram and Blogspot.

Challenging societal ills through music

By Kingsley Osita (BMan)

My new song Emeka was inspired by events and people close to me. Two of my friends died due to a drug overdose. In fact, I still have vivid recollections of that Sunday morning when a mutual friend told me that our friend had died the night before. I felt I had to do something to help, at the very least, increase awareness of the dangers of drug addiction and abuse.  Emeka was the actualisation of this desire to do something.

BMan’s single Emeka explores the subject of drug abuse

It is easy to lay your hands on drugs on the streets of Lagos; it even bestows some sort of street credibility. You go to parties and there are pills. It’s become so normal such that those who do not take them are seen as naïve and weak. You are sarcastically referred to as a religious person.

I have been asked: “you are doing afrobeats; you don’t smoke; you don’t drink; what is giving you the inspiration?” I reply: “talent is talent”. If one also considers that people are losing loved ones from abusing drugs like codeine and tramadol, the obvious conclusion is that these harmful substances need to be taken off the streets.

The essence of music is to empower

Songs like Emeka are the kind of music that I want to do. They are also the kind of music that lasts. The essence of music is to empower people; music is a very powerful tool and should pass a message.

That is what Fela did before he died, and a lot of people have continued that tradition. But these artistes and kind of music are no longer in vogue. You only need to switch on a pop music channel to see what I mean. It is the same content: ass, boobs, money and cars. This is clearly not the tradition that was left by people like Fela.

I don’t leave the blame solely at the feet of the artistes; the consumers also play a crucial role in this state of affairs. I am not advocating that club bangers or dance music should not be produced, just that artistes should also consider, what I like to refer to as, conscious music. There has to be more to music than dance, pop champagne, and spraying money.

How Cum explores teenage love, pregnancy, and denial 

Reflecting this philosophy in my own music

I try to reflect this philosophy in my own songs by channelling them towards a societal issue: politics, life, women, men. Davido, Tekno or any of the more prominent afrobeats artistes have their own crafts, and while there is nothing wrong with their crafts, it is not the kind of music I want to be known for. Everyone is different and diversity in the music industry is a great thing.

I want people to be able to say: “your music inspired me,” and there have been a couple of stories that show I am on the right path. There was a friend of mine who was being duped. He invested most of his savings in a business with a friend who absconded with the money to Dubai. He almost committed suicide. He told me he listened to one of my songs and that was one thing that made him change his mind. Another friend told me how another song made him cry because he could relate with the experiences evoked in it. 

These are the kind of stories that make me continue making the kinds of music that I do—songs with powerful messages that will make people reflect on their lives.

I have a lot of songs I am currently working on. I am writing one on religion—I am sure when it comes out, it’s going to cause a lot of controversies. I am writing about suicide which is becoming a trend in Nigeria now. Suicide is not an African thing. Africans don’t commit suicide. We fight. But these days I think people are taking the easy way out. I am writing a song about government and amenities. I am writing about a lecturer who is being molested and because he is a married male lecturer, he doesn’t know what to do because no one will believe him. It’s usually the other way around.

On my sound cloud is a song titled Husband Material. I noticed that girls these days do not want any struggles, they want someone who is made. Sometimes, they end up in very bad situations because they follow the guy with the big car, the guy with the comfortable house, the guy who might end up molesting them. The song was inspired by my own personal experience with my girlfriend at the university. The only issue we had then was that she was trying to get married to me and I was not ready. There is the part of the song where I said: you dey shakara, you no know this boy na bigie man o. It is a way of saying to people that the fact that the guy is not rich now does not mean he is not working hard. He can be husband material. You can join forces and do what you want to do together.

Husband Material explores materialism and impatience in young relationships

Early days and the future

I have been in music since my high school days. My first time in a studio was in 2006. I formed a group with a couple of friends in 2007 called the Mouthpiece. We broke the group because of finances—we couldn’t afford studio fees, videos etc. When I got into the university, I met some producers and started recording songs. My first song was a cover of MI’s Africa Rapper Number 1. Since then, I have been getting better at my craft: improved my vocals, harmony with my backups etc.

I studied music, joined a local choir and listened extensively to the music of several people I look up to in the industry: Brymo, Black Magic, Burna Boy, Fela. I sang my afrobeats song titled Nothing, I saw the favourable reception it received and how much people loved it. They complimented my sound and my voice texture. I did a couple of songs like that and this became my sound.

Burna Boy”s Heaven’s Gate Cover

 I love music; it is a way of expressing myself. If I don’t do music, I will be depressed. I know that my music is still at the stage of getting my name out there, but I have great hopes that soon I shall be making music with legends like Burna Boy and Wizkid, have my own live shows in Nigeria, the UK, South Africa etc. I look forward to my music being used in campaigns, for instance, against drug abuse and to running my own label that will encourage budding artists interest in conscious music.    

Kingsley Mbilitem (Bman) is an independent Nigerian artiste based in Lagos, Nigeria. His songs, including his latest single Emeka, can be found on his channels: Bmansings (YouTube) and Bman (SoundCloud).          

It matters more to me that Cameroun remains united than Paul Biya being President for the next 100 years

By Michelle Tchokote

One thing that makes Cameroun stand out among other African countries, in my opinion, is its bilingual and bi-jural nature. The country has two official languages—French and English—and practices both civil and common law. But, recently, these have become the roots of disagreements and conflicts.

Cameroun was a British and French colony in the 1900s. Eight of its ten regions are francophone, practice civil law, and comprise 83% of the population while the other two regions are anglophone, practice common law, and comprise 17% of the population. Cameroun has been referred to as Africa in miniature because of this diversity, its rich culture, and its natural resources. Unfortunately, the country has been in a politically stagnant situation for a while now.  It’s president, Paul Biya, who has been in power for 36 years, was recently re-elected for a seventh term. 

The elections which bestowed power on Paul Biya for another seven-year term were unsurprisingly marred by numerous allegations of electoral fraud many of which were backed with video evidence published on several social media. Interestingly, however, the Electoral Tribunal dismissed these reports and refused to annul the elections. I do, however, believe that Paul Biya would have won the elections anyway, irregularities or not. Some people have described the past 36 years of Paul Biya’s reign as ‘political stability’ while others simply fear change.

Political stability, however, does not erase the fact that the country has real problems and that the president spends more time in Switzerland than in Cameroun, usually on health grounds. I am not terribly concerned by any of these—his election or his sojourns in Switzerland—because of the Anglophone problem. The English-speaking part of Cameroun is asking to be an independent country; this has turned violent in recent times. In fact, I was surprised when Paul Biya announced that he was contesting to be president again because the Anglophones have been angry at not being adequately involved in governance: pupils in the English region have not been going to school; buildings have been burnt down; people have lost their lives and their businesses, and there was nothing to show that Paul Biya had a solution.

 I love Cameroun as it is. I have a history with the English part of Cameroun and, in fact, I do not take Cameroun to be two.

The problem is multifaceted—French judges sent to English courts, the government’s response to grievances of political actors in the south, marginalisation etc—and people have tried several solutions. In my own research, I try to find ways for more peaceful solutions, and peaceful solutions are indeed possible! Perhaps the government can do more in terms of creating more representation for anglophone Cameroun in government or making them feel less marginalised.

I love Cameroun as it is. I have a history with the English part of Cameroun and, in fact, I do not take Cameroun to be two. Although I am from French Cameroun, I studied in the English part. I am actually in love with the English culture. There is something special about the way they do things—it’s a lot cleaner, a lot more organised than the French part. But they feel marginalised and I can perfectly understand that because I have lived there. For example, if you say you are from Bamenda, other Cameroonians might laugh at you. If you are called a Bamenda girl, it is like an insult—it means you are local. 

I do not want the country to divide. It matters more to me that the country remains one than having Paul Biya as president for the next 100 years.


Michelle Tchokote is a Cameroonian lawyer and PhD researcher at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston. 

Featured image by J Stimp


            

Needles

By Ezinne Arua

“Please, what’s today’s date?” Nkoli asked the man standing next to her at the counter as she filled her bank slip. The two-day public holiday that followed the weekend had messed up the calendar in her head.

“23rd,”he said. “23rd  March.”

Coincidence? Nkoli smiled to herself. Although it’s been three years, the events of that sunny afternoon of March 23, 2014, are still fresh in her head—as bright and clear as the pictures on her new 12 megapixels Samsung S9. What was supposed to be an exciting, even gainful, participation in a local health initiative had become a turning point in her life.

She’d attended an NGO programme that was offering two weeks of free medical counselling and tests in the local government. Everything seemed normal at first. She went to the eye-care team as she was experiencing some discomfort in her eyes and then afterwards went to the HIV testing tent. She aced all the general questions on HIV awareness and knowledge.

“I just came for the test; I know all these,” she said, rather confidently, to the middle-aged man in charge of the unit.  

“It’s good you know,” he said, smiling.

It was easy and fast, just a prick of her index finger. She watched as the blood spurt out, almost reluctantly, as though it were shy. At least it wasn’t the needle, she thought. She hated needles. How people could calmly watch a needle slowly dig into their veins and suck out blood like a vampire was one of the few things that confounded her. A prick of the fingers was bearable.

She watched as queasy patients waited anxiously for the results of their tests. There was a lady in the corner pressing her palms against her chest like she expected her heart to pop out any moment. She smiled.  There was nothing to fear, she told herself.

Although she had a few sexual relationships here and there, she wasn’t reckless. Ejike was her campus boyfriend and she knew he was not that type of person. Anthony was smooth but he always used condoms, “for peace of mind”. And it happened just once with Anayo. So, she was calm.

A few minutes passed and the medic said they could check the result together. He explained that a single-line meant the test was negative and she did not have the virus; a double-line suggested more confirmatory tests, however.

Side-by-side they stood as she saw the double-line that redefined her life.

“Oh, no. It can’t be,” she blurted out in a mixture of shock and utter disbelief.

“Well, it may not be,” the medic said.  “Even if it were so, you yourself have acknowledged that there are treatments now, so it will not be the end of the world.”

“Are you sure the kit is not expired?”

“Calm down, Miss,” he said with a warm reassuring smile. “You will undergo another test, this time in a proper lab. That one will tell.”

“Okay,” Nkoli muttered holding on the shred of hope this offered. She looked around the room as if to check that no one had seen her results. It was eerily quiet. The young chatty medic was now pensive as he scribbled on a paper and then handed it to her.

That evening, Nkoli underwent another test at the hospital. She grimaced as the needle tore into her flesh, watched helplessly as the dark red blood surged out, this time more courageously. It was an excruciating wait for the results. Days of fear and anguish and then, finally, the results were out.

She was HIV positive.

***

It has been three years since and nothing has changed. From all she had read, nothing would have changed yet whether or not she took medications. But it would not stay so forever unless she took the medications. That was why she did, still does and will continue to do.

Just like her father, every day now she swallows her medications; just that her father took his to keep his sugar level normal. Unlike her father, no one reminds her of it. They both just wanted to live a little longer.

Her results read negative now. It has been so for almost two years now. Her nurse Rachael explained that the virus was suppressed. Toosuppressed to appear in test results. Too suppressed to be passed to someone else.

She was honest about it to Okechukwu but that didn’t make him stay. She understood. Gabriel too. Steven knew and he was still there. One day, she might call his phone and he wouldn’t answer too and she will understand again.

On days that she remembers, she stares at herself in the mirror—young and bubbly, full of flesh. She bears no semblance to the ghoulish and emaciated figures that she had seen on Google Images. She looked no different from Abigail, her youngest sister, or Ngozi, the loquacious office mate, or even Buchi, her neighbour, whose Gospel music could be heard every morning even before the cock crowed. She looked no different from the young lady at the counter who processed her teller with an exaggerated sense of seriousness.

They cannot tell that she lives with HIV, neither can she tell of them.

“Thank you for banking with us,” the security guard at the door said.

“Thank you,” she said as she extended her palm to him in a handshake, leaving a two hundred naira note in his.

“Have a nice day,” she greeted as the man’s face lit up, more alive than the perfunctory courteous smile he had on earlier.

It is warm and sunny as Nkoli walks rather briskly to her neatly parked Golf.  She has to be quick to avoid the heavy afternoon traffic. She takes a moment to look at herself in the driver’s mirror. She smiles. The past three years have been better than she could have ever imagined. She should treat herself to her glass of wine in the evening, she thinks. She grins, almost excitedly, at the thought.

Ezinne Arua is a writer based in Nigeria. She blogs at ezinnearua.com and her debut novel Shades of Us is expected in December 2018.

Featured Image: Jacinta LLuch Valero.