On Being Nigerian and the Luxury of Hope

I’ll never forget the day Nigeria’s last military dictator, General Sani Abacha, died. Like many other Nigerians, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news came. I was in the kitchen with my mum when she suddenly dashed out and ran into the street, dancing and shouting with our neighbors. I remember being confused as I looked on from our balcony, watching my usually poised mother dance and sing so hysterically at the news of someone’s death. At the end of that day, we had a dead dictator and a burnt pot of rice (which is a good enough trade, if you think about it). For many Nigerians, that was the end of a painful era that we thought would never end. Finally, we could believe that, indeed, things would get better. Regardless of how unfounded this belief was, we broke through our acceptance of the status quo, we reveled in this change and we collectively believed in something.

Now, 17 years later, Nigeria has given me my Abacha moment. Ironically, this moment has me celebrating a former military General becoming our new President. Nigerians headed to the polls on March 28 to vote for a new President. For many who voted, the choice was tough: a clueless incumbent with zero leadership skills or a former military dictator. However, this wasn’t the only choice we made that day. Nigerians also made a choice between a grudging acceptance of the status quo and hope. You see, hope is something we can seldom afford. We learn to cope with our government’s many failures: the inexistent power supply, the dismal education system, crippling corruption, the stolen girls, a spiraling Boko Haram (to mention but a few). Almost a year after about 200 girls are yet to return from captivity, we’ve learned to say a silent prayer for their return because it’s almost futile to hope in a government that bluntly refuses to be effectual. That’s what we do: we accept, we smile, and we pray through it all. “This is Nigeria”, after all, where the people’s will has historically been symbolic at best. So when elections come around, we wait for power to change hands so that we can go back to our usual business of jaded acceptance.

On March 28, this changed. Nigerians voted for hope, and we shocked not only ourselves but also the world. I never believed that “the people’s will” was something that would ever have any material manifestation in Nigeria. Many of us saw this day as a simple procedure; the incumbent would come back to power and we would accept and keep moving. I sat on my bed in America, thousands of miles from home, watching the election results being announced. I wasn’t the only one watching: millions of Nigerians stayed glued to their TVs for two days, watching and, for the first time in a long time, HOPING. My mother (and many others) crowned themselves election result collators, starting Excel sheets to tally the results and run analyses as they were being called. We tweeted, called and texted each other during announcement breaks as the numbers started to indicate a win for Buhari. Could this be happening? Were we about to unseat an incumbent and the ruling party since the democratic era? No, don’t get too excited yet; this is Nigeria, anything can happen. Let us wait until the final results come in. In the end, we did it. The people of Nigeria did what many, including us, believed to be impossible. Just like that day in 1998, I got to share this moment with my mother. She called me and shouted “It’s like a dream! This is like that day Abacha died!” before she broke into a song of victory. I stayed with her on the phone, stunned for the most part because I had just watched history happen from my bed in Durham, over 5000 miles away from home.

Throughout the nation, people are celebrating this moment and, just like when Abacha died, we are full of hope. Again, this hope might be unfounded but the fact remains that my people believe in something for the first time in as long as I can remember. The road ahead is long and brutal; Buhari and his government have a lot of work to do and we must remind ourselves that change doesn’t come in one day. However, in this moment of victory, I look at Nigerians and I have never been so proud to be part of these people who smile through the pain and get up every time we fall. Nigeria, I am proud of you and proud to be from you.

As my friend said, “the dictator of my mother’s youth is now the president of mine,” and I’m more than ok with that.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 12.05.16 PM

PS: Speaking of mothers, mine just signed up for Instagram and leaves comments on my pictures with words like ” I am y2k compliant”. STRESS!


A Note About Accents

Dear fellow Ghanaian/other African now living and studying in America/other Western country,

I understand that when we come to America we are forced to slur a little in order to be understood by our American friends and so that we can have conversations without having our accents analyzed. But when you are among your fellow people from the Motherland, please please drop your attempted American/other Western accent. And there are a couple of reasons why you should do so.

1) You don’t need to speak in an accent to prove to your fellow Africans that since leaving the motherland and beginning University in *insert name of Western Country here* you have become more educated and have changed. The change we’ve all experienced will inevitably show and you really don’t need to slur every word to prove it. And in any case, we are in America with you so there’s really no need to prove to us that you’ve come to Amurrica.

2) No one is giving awards for who sounds more assimilated and, truthfully, our attempts often sound pretty ridiculous so let’s do each other a favor and speak like we did for the 18 years before we came to Amurrrrrica. Besides, these attempted accents really just stifle our personalities. This is not to say that we shouldn’t learn to pronounce some words the correct way in instances when the version we’ve learnt is plain wrong but proper pronunciation does not equate to slurred and twanged words. There’s a distinction between mispronunciation and slanging.

3) No one likes the constant feeling of being an ‘Alien in New York’ and so we often try to blend in but when we are with each other and you whip out those accents you are creating a barrier – except this time it’s with your own people. Also, do you really want me to believe that after 3/4 years you’ve forgotten how to enunciate your t’s? Listen to Kofi Annan – after years of working in the UN I can still hear the sounds of Ghana infused in his words.

4) We need to be proud of who we are and where we are from. When you speak with someone from the motherland in these forced accents it sounds like you are trying to hide where you’re from. I’m not sure if you succeed in fooling yourself but you are certainly not fooling anyone else. Regardless of how much you slur, we are all still aware that you are from the Motherland – accept it, own it, and know there’s nothing wrong with that.

Ultimately, accents are really about navigating spaces. Personally, I often really miss home and there’s nothing I love more than speaking with my people in the way that’s most natural to me. So those who insist on speaking in forced accents, please don’t deprive your friends from the motherland a chance to be natural and at ease. Drop the pretense and let us, through the lyrical way we speak and the infusions of our ‘ah’s, beh’s, mtchews, and other sounds I cannot attempt to spell, be taken back to what’s familiar

Written By: Zahra Baitie


Note by MM: I know, I know, I’ve been the worst blogger in the world *dodges rocks and shoes*. Lately, I’ve just been…uninspired… Also, I’m currently working on my thesis, which is threatening to consume me. That’s my official excuse. The unofficial excuse is that I’ve been lazy. But I’m trying this new thing where I take guest entries. So if you have a motleymusings-esque rant about anything and everything, email me🙂 (motleymusings1@gmail.com). I’ll be back, guys, I promise. Until then, enjoy these rants from these brilliant guest bloggers.

This topic is definitely one that I would have gotten to. Spent my Christmas holiday in Nigeria, and it was like I died and woke up in the Fake Accent Olympics. Like, sister, you said you study in Ukraine, right? So why do you have a BritAmerican accent? And why does your Nigerian accent slip in there like an unannounced visitor? Something doesn’t add up…


Dear #BandAid30: Yes, We Know It’s Christmas in Africa

I mean, we own calendars. We are all quite aware of the fact that December is coming up. We are also aware that Christmas happens in the month of December. It’s basic knowledge, so I don’t know why BandAid seems to think otherwise.

Here is the situation:

Bob Geldof *extreme side eye* and a group of musicians just put out a remake of the 1984 classic—”Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

It starts off with footage of an Ebola patient being carried out of his/her home (gotta get that shock factor in. You know how Westerners love them some starving or dying Africans). The next scene shows the stars of the song on some sort of red carpet, waving at flashing cameras, laughing, smiling, hugging…the whole shebang. With this level of camaraderie and good cheer, one would think it’s the Oscars. But, no, they are there to sing a somber song about dying Africans. I don’t know why the producers of this video thought these two scenes went together. I mean, really?

Here are some of the winning lyrics from the song:

And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom”

First of all, most of us don’t even use Christmas bells. I’m pretty sure that’s a purely Western concept. Clanging. Chimes. of. Doom. Really, Band Aid? Even after 30 years and COUNTLESS think pieces, you still don’t see what is problematic with this imagery?! This “here” versus “there”, “us” versus “them” binary does nothing but create an inverse through which the plight of some Africans can highlight the good fortune of Westerners. We don’t exist for your personal introspection, we are not some grim, sobering example that makes you relish in how good your life is. We are real people, with real personalities and real complexities, not a faceless mass that you can use to tell yourself “look how good we’ve got it”.

And then, OF COURSE, you have Bono. The self-appointed Patron Saint of African Calamity. Poster boy par excellence for the “white savior industrial complex”. Basically the African Jesus, if Jesus wore oddly tinted sunglasses. OF COURSE he is here; nothing gets his engine running more than swooping in, in his White glory, to save distressed, voiceless Africans.

Here, we have African Jesus and his disciples.

Bring peace and joy this Christmas to West Africa”

Sigh. How many times are we going to go over this? Adding the “West” to “Africa”, is not any less totalizing than referring to all African countries as “Africa”. Granted, I understand that singing “bring peace and joy this Christmas to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone” might not have been gone well with the song. But the song is crap anyway, so adding a bit of geographical specificity to the lyrics couldn’t have made it any worse than it sounds.

A song of hope where there is no hope tonight”

Yes, of course, in your bid to raise funds, go right ahead and paint this group of people—the whole of West Africa, if we are to go by your lyrics—as hopeless.  Ever since the outbreak started, countless brave women, men, girls, and boys have come together to fight Ebola in their communities. Every single day, these people are out there on the front lines, risking their lives and helping their communities. But, you glossed right over that, didn’t you, Band Aid? That fact detracts from the disaster porn that you’re peddling, so you ignored it. Africans are hopeless and helpless. That’s your story and you’re sticking to it.

“Feed the world, let them know it’s Christmas time”

I’m confused. By downloading this atrocious, sonically discordant song, are we feeding the starving Africans or telepathically “touching” and curing them of Ebola (à la Jesus, of course. Look at these miraculous Westerners healing the sick from thousands of miles away. What a wonder!)?

“Buy the song. Stop the virus”

True humanitarianism is not an economic transaction through which you can solve world problems by throwing in a dollar here or a pound there. There are no simple answers to these complex, structural problems that you’re trying to solve. True humanitarianism requires you to ask difficult questions about what you’re being incited to act upon. Questions such as: where exactly are the donations going to? Which on-the-ground organizations are they being donated to? What exactly will they be used for? You ask, “does this really matter?” Yes, yes it does. As a do-gooder, you have the responsibility to deeply understand the issues that you are trying to solve and, more importantly, be able to think critically about the adverse effects that arise from your lazy attempts to “help”.

As my friend, Julia, put it: this song is “patronizing at best, neo-colonial at worst, and exploitative throughout.”This use of reductionist tropes, just to get people to “help”, is tired, and we are sick of seeing it over and over again.

And, yes, we know it’s Christmas in Africa. Dammit, we might be “starving and dying”, but at least we can afford calendars. AT LEAST, give us that credit.

PS: No, throwing in Angélique Kidjo as the token African doesn’t make this any less problematic.

Me, in a perpetual state of “can’t”

How Sexy is Ebola?

Apparently, Ebola is sexy. Yes, not only is Ebola funny, it is also SEXY.

I found out this mind-blowing fact on Halloween Day. I searched “ebola costume” on Twitter, because I know that there are morons with no sense of social propriety in our midst. True to form, they come out in full force, fingers tweeting with moronic gusto.

Some were generally excited about nailing this oh-SO-creative costume:

Others were filled with apprehension because, you know, life was standing in the way of their Ebola sexiness #PoorYou #Catastrophe #Tragic:

Then you had the ones that were facing a genuine dilemma because they had some REALLY tough questions that needed urgent answers:

I mean, I don’t know, moron. Here is a very short list of why this MIGHT be inappropriate:

And then, this winner:

People (serious side eye to Americans) have spent the past couple of weeks demonizing Africans for “bringing” (because it’s obviously something you carry in your pocket. Like a pen. Or those fliers that roadside campaigners shove in your face) Ebola to their hallowed soil. And, of course, ALL Africans are guilty until proven innocent because we, all ~1 billion of us, all live under the same roof. “Stop the Africans! Close our borders! Ban the flights! Quarantine those savages!”, people have screamed at the top of their lungs. People have been routinely harassed, dehumanized, and stigmatized because of a deadly virus that rages thousands of miles away.

Then, Halloween comes around, and Ebola is suddenly sexy? It becomes yet another tired “slutty —-” or “sexy—–” costume derivative? What exactly is sexy about Ebola? The fact that over 13,500 people have been infected with this deadly virus? Or that about 5000 people have died from it? The children that have been orphaned? Or the families that have been wiped out? Oh, wait, maybe it’s the fact that children in the worst hit places can’t even go to school? Isn’t that sexy?! Why don’t you incorporate ALL of that sexiness into your costume? I bet that would win you first prize at the costume contest.

Ebola is not funny. Neither is it sexy.

Again, for the kids at the back of the class: EBOLA.IS.NOT.FUNNY.OR.SEXY.

Ebola is not a pun that you can use to score cool points. People’s tragedy is not a costume or a garland to wear around your neck. If you’re headed out tonight with an Ebola costume, I suggest that you abort mission and self-quarantine, because you’re a menace to the people around you. Have some sense, be a normal human being and put on a normal costume about a cartoon character or a superhero. Here is an entire list of them: 55 Awesome Halloween Costume Ideas. You’re welcome.

That Time Jamie Oliver Made “Jollof Rice” #JollofGate


Yes, guys, it finally happened – they finally got their hands on Jollof rice!

Some context for those who don’t know what Jollof rice is: Jollof rice is one of the 7 wonders of Africa. The list goes: Nelson Mandela, Cape Town, Jollof Rice, Senegalese Twists, Lupita Nyong’o, Shea Butter, and P Square. People might disagree with this list (feel free to add your own list in the comments section. Don’t curtly state your disagreement and move on, ok? Don’t be rude), but the point is that Jollof rice is a BIG deal.(Horrible) songs have been written about Jollof rice. Case in point: this god-awful song by Fuse ODG:


Jollof rice has even caused  a diplomatic tension/Cold War of sorts between Nigeria and Ghana over who actually owns this dish (it actually originated in Senegal, but I’m sleep).


In Nigeria, Jollof rice is sacred. It is not just the holy grail, it is also the way the truth and the life. Jollof rice is who we are, it is woven into our social tapestry; if a Nigerian invites you to a social gathering and doesn’t serve Jollof rice, he/she hates you and might have sociopathic tendencies (Listen, I don’t make the rules).  You might find this canonization of RICE to be weird. You might sit there and smugly say “is it not JUST rice?” Well, no, it isn’t. It isn’t just rice, you blasphemer; it is JOLLOF rice!

Now that I’ve given you some context, you can then understand why my Twitter timeline went into an apocalyptic uproar this past week, when Jamie Oliver (yes, THE Jamie Oliver) posted his Jollof rice recipe.

You see, Jollof rice is meant to look like this:

Source: Lohi's Creations
Not exactly sure why this heap of Jollof rice is capped with a  plantain hashtag. People hashtag everything. EVEN rice. Smh.

Jollof rice is supposed to be reassuring in its plainness. You should see a plate of Jollof rice, sitting in its sunset-orange glory, and immediately know what you’re looking at. This is the essence of Jollof rice – its predictability and lack of complication.

However, this is Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice:

I don’t even know where to begin. This, whatever this is, is a sensory overload

Nigerians/Ghanaians were furious!

It all started in the comments section:

Like, this person brought in their ancestors. He/She went THERE. You can see that this is not a joke
Like, this person brought up their ancestors. He/She went THERE. You can see that this is not a joke
This is an actual threat. I told you jollof rice is a diety.
This is an actual threat. I told you Jollof rice is a deity
Even Namibia weighed in. It was a continental emergency.
Even Namibia weighed in. It was a continental emergency


Someone even claimed that Jamie had Iggy Azalea-ed Jollof rice. Yes, it got that tense. Gloves came off.

It was deep, guys. We almost called in Iyanla Vanzant to bully-yell everybody into tranquility. There was basically a Twitter village square meeting, and the Nigerians and Ghanaians were not having it. And for good reason. How can you gentrify Jollof rice to the extent that it starts looking like paella? Sacrilege! We can share our children (Hi Brangelina, Madonna, or whichever latest Hollywood star just ordered their very own collectible in the form of an African child), our animals (for your life-changing, perspective-moulding Safaris), and our head-ties that you re-fashion into “urban head wraps”, but we will not share our Jollof rice *bangs gavel*

On a more serious note, I really don’t know how I feel about this issue. Some people claim that this is a clear case of appropriation, but I don’t know that I would make such an extreme claim. I mean, the guy didn’t claim to make Jollof rice, he openly admitted to adding his own twist on the recipe.

My main issue with this entire situation is that Jamie Oliver (or whoever wrote this) described Jollof rice as a “concept”—of ALL the bland nouns in the English vocabulary, you came up with “concept”? I mean, really???—, as though it is an abstraction that we believe in but can’t see. Excuse you, Jollof rice is as real as it gets! How would you feel if I described Thanksgiving turkey as a “concept”? Perplexed? Slightly insulted? Exactly, thought so.




Image Sources: Lohi’s Creations, Jamie Oliver, The Guardian

Humanitarians of Tinder #PoorPeopleSelfies

I’m sure, by now, some of you think I wake up like this:

This is actually untrue because, on most days, I actually wake up like this (pun very much intended):

And then I go about my day, being ***flawless and slaying everything within a 1-mile radius like this:

My daily slaying regimen aside, I have taken a break from my Orange is the New Black binge to blog about this great website called Humanitarians of Tinder, which is way too amusing to even be offensive. Yes, there is an actual website that curates screenshots of Tinder-ians in Third World countries, smiling while draped in “indigenous peoples”. Of course, because what’s a better accessory than poor people in the Third World? Those picture perfect natives, bless their hearts. It’s awesome, isn’t it? Now, at the swipe of a finger, you can “connect” with singles in your area, and hit it off by trading stories about your mutual affinity for poor people of color. Life-changing technology, this one.

For those who don’t know what Tinder is, Tinder is an app where you can “connect” with people in your area. When you sign in, you’re presented with different profiles, and you can swipe right or left to indicate your interest. If you get a match, voila!, “connection” made.

Sounds harmless, right? Except, Tinder is chock-full of hormonal, dubious-looking college kids and divorced dads in the throes of a mid-life crisis. This one guy’s profile only had pictures of his van, and I’ve watched enough Law and Order:SVU to know what a van means, Mr.!

(By the way, I only know this much because I once made a Tinder profile. For social anthropology research purposes, of course.) 

I think this is my favorite photo of a Tinder humanitarian:

I mean, what’s not to love about this guy that’s smack in the middle of this sea of “indigenous peoples”? The fact that one can’t tell why he seems to be dressed in the same uniform as the students (seriously, Jeff Gulliver or whatever your actual name is, some context would’ve been nice) or the fact that it seems like he’s looking into the camera and pleading to be air-lifted out of this vortex of swarming Africans? Or the fact that the picture looks very much like this scene from Game of Thrones?:

I really don’t get the point of putting up such pictures on Tinder. Let’s be real- nobody is on Tinder to admire the largesse of your heart or the depth of your character. Nobody. If I wanted to get someone to pick me as the object of their alcohol-induced affection, and I knew the said person had all of 3 seconds to swipe right for yes and left for no, I wouldn’t put up a picture of me sweating, with damp hair and no make-up. I would probably Catfish by putting up pictures of one of those perpetually upcoming, picture-perfect Instagram “models”.

On a serious note, these people that you parade in your pictures do not exist for your personal gratification. They are not a garland that you can wear around your neck, they are not a pin to put on your lapel to show everyone how well-stamped your passport is, or how well-heeled “fortunate” you are. Stop using them as props to capture your fancy conquests; they are not there for your entertainment, nor are they there to sate your desire for social or personal validation. They are most certainly not there for you to use as Tinder “single-and-ready-to-mingle” signifiers in order to capture the attention of potential-serial-killer Larry from 1.5 miles away.

You probably took such pictures while you were “giving back” in a developing country. It is admirable that you gave up your summer of First World luxuries to connect with your inner philanthropist and observe poverty at a micro-level. Really, it is. “The people” thank you for it. However, save your cool tales of self-redemption for your grad school application; Facebook doesn’t care and Tinder most definitely doesn’t care. There is barely any justifiable reason to pawn poor people in exchange for social media validation. Come on, show some restraint.

For those going abroad this summer (or any time in the future), here is a top tip on how to take poor people selfies: DON’T


PS: I realize that I just referenced 4 TV shows in one blog post. Is there such a thing as TV rehab?

Racializing Fried Chicken

For colored girls who can’t enjoy a damn piece of fried chicken without worrying about the racial ramifications of their culinary choices

Source: BusinessWeek

As a non-American, I don’t get a lot of things about America- why chips are called fries; why pickles are an actual thing; why some slices of pizza are almost bigger than a 15″ MacBook Pro; what the ACTUAL rule is for tipping rates (no, seriously, what is it?); why American college kids are so fascinated by alcohol (seriously, those kids don’t drink for drinking sake; they drink to pass out, potentially die, and most definitely lose functionality in their faculties); why some restaurants are open 24 hours (the simultaneously terrifying and impressive fact that you can walk into a store at 3 AM and get yourself a to-go order of a heart attack with a side of atherosclerosis, all under 5 minutes)… the list is endless.

You might be wondering why all my sources of confusion are centered around food. Well, it’s not my fault that America’s social fabric is spun around eating copious amounts of food with potentially lethal portion sizes. For the most part, I’ve been able to attune myself to this culture, even though I don’t get it. I’ve learnt not to be shocked when my friends do Cookout runs at 3 am; I’ve learnt that 1000+ calorie pizza slices are a thing; I’ve come to understand that gluten allergy is an actual medical condition, not one of those made-up diseases that Pfizer commercials try to convince me that I have. By and large, I have gotten with the program.

However, there remains one thing that I consistently fail to wrap my head around: the question of fried chicken and why it seems to be a black people thing. As a non-American black person, I’ve had to learn a lot of things about what it means to be black in America. Coming from a country with 99% (I’m making this figure up, but you get the point) black people, I never really grew up having to be conscious of my race. I mean, I knew I was black, but it’s not something that Nigerians walk around thinking about. When a Nigerian tells you that “you’re black,” they are more than likely referring to your skin pigmentation, not your race. Thus, coming to America, where race seems to be the central theme in any and all social interactions, I’ve had to learn and re-learn what being black in America really means.

One of such lessons is that fried chicken is a racial thing, a black thing, maybe a ghetto thing (smh, America will racialize anything, EVEN chicken). This, guys, has been a hard pill to swallow. Why? Because I LOVE fried chicken. I don’t care about your broiled, grilled, sun-dried, or cold-pressed chicken; the only way chicken should be eaten is fried.

So you can imagine my horror when I learnt that fried chicken was a racialized thing. At first, I was conscious- I didn’t want to be labelled or judged. I didn’t want to be that kind of black (whatever that means), so I’d grudgingly munch on shrimp or turkey while I was out to lunch with my friends. Now, I eat my fried chicken with pride. I don’t really care about the societal markings of my choice of bird. I will eat that crispy bird like it’s ’99, and you will deal. Too many people have toiled and fought for my civil liberties for me to be constrained by the racialization of fried chicken. You can make me drop the Kool Aid and watermelon (actually, no you can’t. I just don’t care for them), but you can’t take away my fried chicken. I have rights!

Anyway, the story is not all gloomy; at least once a year, I get to hop on a plane to Nigeria, where I can enjoy all the fried chicken I want without wondering if people think I’m less “young, black, and gifted” than the next non-fried chicken-eating black person. I leave the country in about two weeks, and the thought of all the non-judgement-inducing fried chicken that will be at my disposal keeps me warm at night.

I have no idea why I’m ranting about fried chicken at 3 in the morning. This is what being on a clean-eating diet does to you- you find yourself up at 3 AM, editorializing about fried bird. In a perfect world, I’d be writing an ode to quinoa and extolling its virtues, the same way I am currently doing for fried chicken. However, this is not a perfect world (if it were, I’d be birthing Idris Elba’s kids. Yet, here we are), and quinoa tastes like pan-seared saw dust.

Off to try and get some sleep, and (attempt to) fantasize about my healthy breakfast the same way I’m fantasizing about chicken.


That Time Adam Sandler Went to Africa

Ok, first of all, let’s get this unarguable fact out of the way: Adam Sandler is NOT hilarious/funny/comical in any way, shape, or form. All his movies are one wackjob after another of epically poor comedy. Somehow, he’s a popular, accomplished Hollywood actor, which is fine. Really, it is; Americans are not exactly famed for their wise choices in whom they bestow the privilege of celebrity (See: Snooki, pre-2014 KardashJenners, Miley Cyrus’ non-twerking rear etc.). So, yeah, I have hitherto let Adam Sandler blur into the mass of white Americans that are famous for absolutely nothing in particular…until now.

So Adam Sandler has a new movie out called “Blended”, starring his co-talentless Hollywood pal, Drew Barrymore. The trailer:

Quick recap:

Adam goes on a karmically bad date with Drew, and they somehow happen to know the same person who has TWO tickets to Africa, this person gives them the tickets and they both go on FAMILY vacations to Africa, where they are forced to live with each other, maybe become friends, maybe screw around a little bit. Blah blah blahhhhhh.

Logical inconsistencies (because I don’t know how two tickets multiply into about 8, but let’s go with it) aside, the entire premise of this film is based on tired, overused, frankly embarrassing tropes about Africa.

First of all, they’re off to AFRICA. Yes, the COUNTRY of Africa, no country in particular. But who cares about details and specificity when it comes to Africa? Who is going to fact-check, anyway? Are Africans going to see this movie? Aren’t they too busy dying/starving to see the movie in the first place? Right, Hollywood?! Americans have bluntly refused to be specific when it comes to Africa. I don’t get it- you can tell me about your vacation in Mykonos, a small island, in the country of GREECE, which is in continent of EUROPE, but you cannot tell me what country you went to in the whole of Africa?! It is downright lazy and insulting. But it’s cool. They are off to Africa. Yay!


They land in Africa and, in true regal fashion, are greeted by the wild animals; the savannah; and (of course) those nameless, personality- and personhood-deficient, singing Africans. Africans in Hollywood movies are ALWAYS singing and dancing; it’s like an endless flashmob. I keep wondering where these singing Africans are, because I’ve never seen them in all my 21+ years of living on the continent. If this singing is really an African thing, those grumpy Lagosians might have missed the memo. Realistically, I don’t even think the combative African heat is conducive enough for carols and jingles. I mean, I don’t see how you can go singing on the streets of Lagos and not die of dehydration, or a heat stroke, or both. But hey, it’s Hollywood, let’s continue.



To be honest, I’m kind of jealous. I certainly don’t receive this kind of welcome when I land in Lagos. Last time I landed in Murtala Muhammed Airport, my mum refused to claim me because I was apparently dressed like a homeless person. But here they are, with a presumably starving, yet unbelievably joyous, choir of Africans to herald their welcome. Life is really not fair.

At some point, some excessively enthused African man (another staple of Hollywood African movies) shouts “Is everyone ready to see the REAL Africa!” He then proceeds to take them on a Safari where they ride on ostriches (such fun, I wonder why they don’t have this attraction at the Lagos zoo. Does Lagos even have a zoo?); watch lions devour an animal (lions eating- only in Africa, people); and take leisure air rides across the vast African savannah (again: take notes, Lagos). The REAL Africa, he says. Of course, don’t we all ride ostriches for fun, and have pet lions? Oh, and who cares about buildings, roads, and other markers of civilization? The real Africa inextricably means animals, and endless dusty roads. No human beings in sight, by the way.

tumblr_m86fo0ddiX1rwcc6bo1_250 tumblr_mr0znjbDRP1se6humo1_400 tumblr_ml0lw1nvMI1rgbokpo1_500

Who cares about humanizing Africans, who cares about highlighting some humanity in these Africans? Hollywood manages to humanize African animals more than it does its people, it’s fascinating to watch. No, I lie, it is downright pitiful and I’m so over Hollywood’s lazy storytelling when it comes to Africa. I mean, it’s bloody 2014. The depiction of this mythical country of Africa is tired, the horse is dead and the world needs you to stop flogging its cadaver. We’re collectively over it, ok?!

Sadly, in some way, this depiction mirrors real life when foreigners visit Africa. Africans are just the backdrop, the faceless blur, the nameless entities that seem to interrupt while foreigners find meaning and existential truths in their interactions with African beasts of the wild. When they say “going to Africa changed my life”, they really mean “staring at a lion from my Safari caravan changed my life” or “taking a Facebook profile picture with some kid I found in a shelter got me many Facebook likes.”

It’s summer time in America, which means it’s that time of the year when my college Facebook friends “give back to Africa” by changing their profile picture to highlight the deep understanding of humanity that they gleaned from talking at interacting with a nameless African kid for all of 2 minutes. I mean, it’s great that coming within 3 feet of an elephant can radically change your outlook on life. Yay you, and yay the elephant. It’s great that going to “Africa”, spending time in hotels and barely speaking to any actual Africans panoramically enhances your world view. Go on, tell me more stories of how your 3-week trip made you a better person. I’m eager to listen. No, really, I am.

I shall be here, judging every last one of you with ALL my might.

In (not so) other news, I’m tired of people.


On Bride Price and Wife Material

I hate marriage talk. I swear, I do. But being Nigerian, it’s something that one can’t avoid. It’s like a rite of passage; the minute you turn 18, that’s all anyone around you talks about- older aunties gather around to trade marriage anecdotes so that the “younger ones can learn”, people advise you to drop certain behaviors so that you’re seen as “wife material”—one time, this woman told me that I should stop reading so much so that men wouldn’t be scared off. Good times—, people caution you about choosing certain career paths because your marital clock might tick, tock and die while you labor away in some high-powered career that’s not “suitable for marriage.” It’s marriage-talk-o’clock every damn minute, and I’m sick of it.

I’m sick of the emphasis placed on marriage in Nigeria. I’m sick of people acting like marriage is the sole factor that legitimizes one’s achievements as a woman. I once heard someone say “if you like, get a PhD. Your most important degree is an MRS”. (Yes, really. To make matters worse, she felt so clever with her dead joke). Nigeria is a society in which a woman’s essence is predicated upon her being adjoined to a man. You can cure cancer, you can go to the moon, you can eradicate malaria and Nigerians would still ask where your Mrs. tag is. It’s ridiculous. We should know better, yet the entire social fabric of Nigeria is built on such stupid ideals.

The process of marriage itself is another part of Nigerian culture that I fundamentally disagree with, especially with the issue of the bride price that is paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s. This can range from 1 Naira (as a symbolic gesture) to millions of Naira. I’ve always found it an absurd tradition. Why should there be a price paid for the bride? Why does the price seem so arbitrary? Doesn’t this bride price give the groom the upper hand in the marriage; won’t he feel like he bought her and she’s indebted to him? In many instances, I’ve heard of husbands shutting their wives up by saying “shut up, I paid your bride price!” (I have sonneted, memorized, and rehearsed my retort for the hapless man that dares to say this to me. No, seriously, I have). It’s a useless tradition that puts a bounty on women’s heads and vests a sense of ownership in men. In my opinion, if we are to maintain this tradition, it should be merely symbolic (1 Naira?) and not as exorbitantly monetary as it is in many cases.

I stumbled onto an app called BridePrice and, given my reservations about marriage in Nigeria, I was ready to be enraged. How dare they make an actual app for this archaic tradition that subjugates women and makes them chattel for men to trade and haggle over? By digitizing this tradition, they were basically telling us that this tradition isn’t going anywhere. I ventured onto the website with my latent anger boiling under, waiting to implode. I turned out to be a satirical simulation of the arbitrary calculations that go into deciding a bride price. Metrics such as the shape of a girl’s legs [Sexy Bow Legs (Beyonce)/Okocha/Straight]; facial beauty [Just Fine/Normal/Complete No Try]; Skin Color [Half Caste/Lupita/Whitenecious]; Residency [Nigeria/The Abroad]; Education Level [PhD/Masters/Bachelors]; Cooking Skills [Calabar/Indomie/Boiling Egg] are included.

It all seems like a joke until you look at the figures beside each option. Why should fairer skin come with a higher price premium over darker skin? Why should a PhD come with a 100,000 price deduction (which hearkens back to a culture that says a woman can be educated but not too educated, else she intimidate the man), why should a woman’s facial features being more Eurocentric attract a higher price valuation than more “Afrocentric” features? This app is telling of a culture that valorizes certain characteristics over others, and dictates to men and women alike what’s desirable in a wife and what’s not. It is indicative of a culture in which we tell girls that they can never be too domesticated, too light-skinned or too beautiful, but there is such a thing as being too educated. It is indicative of a society that tells girls that their prime achievement is tied to a shiny piece of jewelry on their ring finger and what they can toss around in a pan. It is indicative of a culture that tells boys that they are perfect just the way the are, but holds girls to impossible superficial ideals. Despite its flippant nature, this app highlights some of the wrongs in a very pervasive yet extremely normalized culture. It starts a conversation by simulating the superficiality that we, as a culture, are subjected to. One way or another, Nigerians are complicit in this ridiculous culture. This app is us, wether or not we choose to admit it.

ANYWAY, in case you were wondering what my bride price is, after consulting with the elders, it came up to *drum rolllllll*:


That’s right, ladies, gentlemen, haters, lovers, friends, well-wishers and under-g bad-belles, I am of PREMIUM status in this bride price game. Nobody believed in me, but I made it! I am wife material, cord lace (whatever that is) to be precise! I should send this image to all those aunties that have secretly (and overtly) banished me to a life of spinsterhood. “Who is smiling now????”

Excuse me while I burst into some celebratory dance moves

#LookMamaIMadeIt #TeamPremium #AhNeverEsperredIt



Home (2)

I was going to hate Lagos, and I was going to be miserable. However, somewhere along the line, my hatred betrayed me. I found absolute joy in the little things around me- the luxury of my mum waking me up every morning and asking me “what do you want to eat?” (seriously, my house is a fattening room), the joy of having my not-so-baby brother gleefully recount his run-in with area boys (street thugs that harass people for money), the convenience of having a Mr. Biggs around the corner (their doughnuts are trash, but I can’t stop eating them. Blame nostalgia). I even started to find joy in the grossly grammatically incorrect Nigerian-isms such as “on the gen”, “have they brought light?”, “is Madam on seat?”, “let me flash you”, “reverse back”, “turn your hand! cut your hand!” etc.

Along with all of this came a feeling that I’ve never had in Lagos, or anywhere else for that matter- a feeling of being grounded, belonging to a place. The feeling of driving past Silverbird and remembering illicit meet-ups with childhood boyfriends I could swear I was going to get married to, or past a certain intersection where a popular movie star threatened to to “fuck up” my 11-year old friend because she flipped him off from the back of the school bus, or running into family members and old friends that told me long-repressed, embarrassing stories about my reckless childhood self. These people knew me, and they loved me for me. That feeling of having people who see right through your bullshit, through your determined efforts to re-brand yourself, who call you embarrassing pet names derived from your childhood indiscretions, people who love for who you were, who you are and who you’re going to be. With them, I could be the worst version of myself, or the best version. It really didn’t matter. All of this started to grow into a tolerance for Lagos. I could still hate the city, I said to myself, but I loved the people and they loved me back and that was all the home I needed.

However, somewhere along the line, I even started to love this city, every bit of it. There’s no city like Lagos in this world. Lagos has a particular character that makes it unique. Where else would you find someone frying and selling akara right outside a billionaire’s palatial mansion? Where else would you be able to buy breakfast, lunch, dinner, clothes for work, furniture for the house, and a puppy for the kids, all while sitting in traffic? Where else would you find a vulcanizer dutifully spreading tiny sharp objects on the road, so that unfortunate drivers can “need” his help? This is Lagos, which has managed to find the sweet spot between absolute chaos and sustained disorder. This is my city, and I love-hate it.

In fact, at the end of the three months, I got on a plane and felt homesick for the first time in over 5 years. I sat in my seat, and cried, longing for this city that has become my old-new home.