June 23, 2012


Pardon my silence. It was not because I had nothing new. It was because my voice was claimed by overwhelming emotion that made words of no use. 

In the last few weeks I have felt pain, anger, fear. Pain especially, for my friends Farida Shehu Kaikai who I lost in the Dana air crash and Ndako who lost members of his family who were enroute Lagos on the same flight, to attend his wedding slated for the following Saturday. 

I wondered how he felt, I wondered what I could say or do to help, I prayed but I knew it was not enough. But I pray still.

The stories of other victims on the ill- fated flight surfaced quickly in the days after the crash and a lifeless manifest came to life as we heard about Rev. Akin of House On The Rock who left behind his small kids, Vivien Effiong, the crew member who was due to get married, Ndako’s elder sister who perished with her cute babies, husband, mother and other family members, Echendu and Jennifer Ibe, the Mother and daughter who were to board a flight in Lagos to India for medical checkup, staff of CIHP, NNPC and CBN, not to talk of the people who were killed when the plane crashed into their homes.

Each seat number and torn building had a story. It quickly became more than just another plane crash as everyone found the human story behind the events of June 3rd. As the stories spread, they were clearly about the human lives abruptly ended by a tragedy. A human tragedy told in many stories by storytellers that evoked our sympathy and rage.

A few years ago, Author Chimamanda Adichie talked about the danger of a single story. A single story is a one- sided account about a person, group or event. She said that the problem with one story is not that it is untrue but that it is incomplete. And it is dangerous when that incomplete story becomes the whole story and defines entirely the person, group or event.

I watched a video of a similar tragic event that had occurred. The uploaded video told the story. A man rode a jeep into the premises of a business enterprise and an explosion occurred which set the building ablaze. It told a single story. Like the plane crash, there were many stories as were many lives lost in this event. Unlike the crash there weren’t many storytellers to tell the human story. So we were sold the story of a building blown and a media house attacked. And we reacted differently; we made no tributes, we held no vigils, and we did not call for donations to assist the families bereaved.

Adichie introduces the principle of Nkali as she makes her case for the rejection of the single story.

So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing over and over again and that is what they become. It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is "nkali." It's a noun that loosely translates to "to be greater than another." 

Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they're told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power. Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person,but to make it the definitive story of that person. 

The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, "secondly." Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story.”- Chimamanda Adichie

I started this post by talking about my friend Ndako. He got married. His story reads a new line- happily married to lovely wife. Now when I think of him, I think of my friend Ndako who I grew up with, as Ndako who is starting a new family with the love of his life.

His life is not defined by one story but by several, with several happy ones to come! To define him by a single story is the greater danger of all.

Congratulations Ndako! I wish you happiness in your new life!

June 02, 2012

Places to go, people to see!

Hey everyone, I am introducing a new feature called PLACES TO GO, PEOPLE TO SEE where i will will tell you about an event you can go to and a person you should know. So the place to be on the 9th and 10th of June if you are in Abuja,  is a promising garage sale (see flier) and the person to meet is friend and brother (from another mother), Ibrahim Suleiman. I love his poems and this one in particular is tasteful, no pun intended. He calls it Holocaust Kitchen...enjoy this offering and see you at the garage sale!

I once knew a terribly good cook
Who very seriously his job he took
He had a ready smile
And a big, hearty laugh
He cooked with panache and style,
Going the extra mile and a half
But he was big as a whale
And oh, twice as mean
And if they could, a horrible tale
Of where they've been
The food would tell...
He guts the fish, without as much as a death wish
Whipped the cream because they wouldn't scream
Like a sergeant from 'nam, he grilled the ham
Knead the dough and beat the eggs
[Oh, if only they had legs]
Stuffed the turkey and plucked the chicken,
All this did the jolly heathen
He roast the beef and without skipping a beat
Went all out and minced the meat
With gusto he pounds yams and mashed potatoes.
Feeling happy and proud down to his toes
He blend the plump tomatoes
He froze the cream [a firm favorite for him]
He put the squeeze on the lemon
Giggling like an impish demon
He racked the spices,
Punishing them for their prices
He joyfully banged the saucepans
Saying they were lucky he couldn't dance
Telling them it was for their sakes,
He tossed the poor pancakes
He sloshed the vinegar
Until it was rather sober
Stuck a large apple in the roast pig's mouth
Because he knew it couldn't eat it!
he was a great cook, believe it
And they always looked good enough to eat
When questioned about his ways
He would laugh loud and say;
"To win the hunger races,
You gotta put the food through the paces!"

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