Monday, 21 December 2015

Black is beautiful. Bleached is...?


Black and Proud

Dark and Lovely

Black is beautiful

Despite these popular phrases, it seems though that yellow/white is the preferred colour.  What I’ve never been sure of is if this preference is real or imagined.  Do men actually prefer light skinned women or light skinned women think they do? I know men bleach, in fact the number seems to be growing, all you need do is watch a certain TV station and you’ll see loads of them but for the purpose of this post, we’ll concentrate on women. Women in Nollywood actually. Why are women in Nollywood bleaching? Does the camera really prefer lighter skinned women or is it the men behind the camera who do? Technically, my friend who is a cinematographer insists that the camera prefers lighter skinned people. Perhaps. Considering that yellow or white(up to you) is a brighter colour but do the audience really care? In the grand scheme of things, does skin colour help or deter you from achieving stardom in Nollywood?
Let’s think about it for a bit. How many light skinned top rated actresses do we really have? Let’s work with the earlier generation Nollywood.
 
There’s Omotola Ekeinde
Rita Dominic
Tonto Dike
Ngozi Ezeonu
Monalisa Chinda
Rachel Oniga
Eucharia Anunobi
Ngozi Nwosu
Stella Damasus.
 
 Now let’s think about the dark ones. There’s Genevieve Nnaji
Ini Edo
Mercy Johnson
Patience Ozorkwo
Uche Jombo
Nse Ikpe Etim
Dakore Akande
Funke Akindele
Liz Benson
Chika Ike
Kate Henshaw
Stephanie Okereke
Chioma Akpotha
 
It looks to me like the darks have it. This is my argument each time I meet young bleached actresses who insist they did it to stand a better chance in the industry. Lie. You did it for yourself. You bleached because you wanted to bleach.
Maybe light skinned is more attractive, maybe some producers/directors will cast you because you’re light skinned and you’ll pop out on the screen but you cannot sustain a career based on that.
Without the accompanying skills and talent, as one of the marketers likes to say, you'll be headed back to the village.
 
P.S This is an inconclusive list, feel free to add your own names.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Oko Ashewo


This blogging thing is hard. It’s so much easier to tweet. How hard can 160 characters be? But blogging, you have to think and think and think and think except of course, you’re stealing other people’s works. This is not a shade o. 
Since there are so many Nollywood movies these days, I’ll talk about some every now and then. Mostly the ones I like.
So I watched Taxi driver aka Oko Ashewo. By the way, do you people know that at some point Nigeria banned churches from registering two names?  Living Bright Church aka God Will Do Great Things Ministries, Do Not Walk Alone Salvation Army aka Devil Is A Liar ministries. The pastor who told me this said the Government had to intervene before they run out of names. Imagine wanting to start a church and all the names have been taken? You’ll now have to register Bring Your Offerings Here Church or something like that.  But I digress.
Yes, Oko Ashewo.  My initial reaction was what am I doing here? This is a Yoruba film and it was subtitled in pidgin. Pidgin! Who subtitles in Pidgin? Who even reads pidgin? But I got over my initial shock or anger or whatever it was I was I was feeling and settled down to enjoy the film. I read the pidgin subtitles and picked up whatever Yoruba words I could.  I’ve told you people before that I love Yoruba people.
I don’t know if I can tell you exactly why I liked Taxi driver but I did. Perhaps, I was jazzed, you know you Yoruba people like jazz, at least that’s what your films make us believe ( I’m kidding o, don’t be so sensitive, elections are over), I’m not sure what the story of the film really was but it had enough moments and left a good taste in my mouth.
I particularly liked the feel of the film, the cinematography was beautiful but I wished that the film had given us more because it could easily have.  For a film about Lagos night life, we didn’t really see a lot of this life. The streets were practically empty all the time apart from some secret things going on that even the audience weren’t privy to. It also had a rather slow beginning.
The actors did a good job even though I felt Ijeoma Agu was underutilised. She’s capable of so much more than was given to her. And dear Femi Jacobs, you know I’m a fan but your next film choice is very important. If you continue to play these type characters then you’re going to be type cast. Except you’re going to own the type cast and just be the new Tony Umez( who remembers Tony Umez washing I think Liz Benson’s underwear?) if you don’t want that, be careful what role you play next.
Driving home after the film, I started to like the idea of subtitling in pidgin, it was arrogant and I find arrogance sexy, you know like this is how I want to do it, take it or leave it. 
A year or two ago, Nollywood  set up an Oscar qualifying body or something like that. Unlike Nigeria that sets up an award, then proceeds to give more than half the awards to other African countries, Oyibo is not like that.  All you people from all other countries, you’ll be competing under the foreign language film category and your film must be predominantly non-English.  I feel  Taxi Driver could have stood a chance to represent Nigeria  if it’d put in a bit more effort and if its script had gone through a few more drafts what with its dusty feel and predominant use of Yoruba and Pidgin language but alas.
I’d recommend Taxi Driver and commend Daniel Oriahi. He’s definitely a director to watch out for.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

When Love Stops Happening

Last month, a friend told me about her failing marriage. Ten years, two kids and just like that; it’s over.  They are no longer compatible, her husband says.

I've been trying to wrap my head round this since. Trying to understand this thing they call love.  What does it really mean? How does it happen and how does it stop happening? How does love go from I’ll love you always and forever to I’m sorry there’s someone else. I need to get this.  Is it something the other person does, or just time, or chance, or life?
There are a million books about how to find and keep the right man or woman but who offers advice on how to get over a heartbreak.  My friend said she felt worthless, like she was no longer a woman.  

How bad was she that he would walk out, not just on her but their children. She was sure it was  something she’d done.  So she begged him, promised to change, to be exactly as she wanted her to be, anything at all to stop him from leaving.  But the same way you feel you can’t live without someone when you first fall in love, is probably the same way you want desperately to live without them when you’re out of love.

My friend’s husband has always been responsible and hasn't changed. He’s promised to keep paying their rent, school fees and more but what she wants the most, she’s lost to another woman.  He’d always been a faithful husband, if he ever cheated , he was very discreet . She had absolutely no cause to be suspicious till three months ago when he dropped the bombshell. He was leaving her and yes, there was someone else.

My friend is very beautiful and very good natured, she wouldn't last too long if she put herself back on the shelf but this has completely shaken her throwing her into depression. She’s forcing herself to be strong for the kids.  The last thing on her mind is another man.  I’m not sure I can be with anyone else, she says. 

‘I never stopped trying, never. I wasn't a bad wife Uduak or was I?’ I tell her she wasn't. She was someone I envied. She cooked, she cleaned, she kept her shape.  The tendency is often to blame oneself when a partner walks away but shouldn't the primary blame go to the one who couldn't keep promises?


When someone says I love you, what does it really mean? Is it just for the moment? A gamble? Is there a way to make someone stay in love with you forever? Or is forever just an illusion?

Friday, 16 October 2015

When feminists became mass murderers.

I’ve wanted to write about feminism for the longest time but each time I start, it goes on a direction I’d rather it didn’t so I’m forced to stop.  Yesterday however, Emem Isong invited me to a workshop by Champions for Change on sexual and reproductive health supported by Ford Foundation. Champions For Change is partnering with Nollywood to make advocacy films towards improved reproductive , maternal, new born, and child health(RMNCH).

Some of the data put forward reminded me about Adichie’s speech; We should all be feminists.  
According to UNFPA, about 800,000 women are said to be living with Vestico Vagina fistula(VVF). This really upset me. VVF is a totally avoidable condition. It is often caused by Childbirth; when a prolonged labour presses the unborn child tightly against the pelvis, cutting off blood flow to the vesicovaginal wall.  Many girls in the North of Nigeria become mothers between the ages of 11 and 15.  They experience obstructed labour and some unskilled attendants cut through the vagina to create passage for the baby, often resulting in VVF; a condition that leaves the girls constantly leaking urine and faeces. Only 10% of these girls get treated.

Here’s what shocks me. A forty year old man marries a 12 year old child, gets her pregnant, she suffers VVF, loses the child, he abandons her, marries another 12 year old who may just suffer the same fate and the entire nation watches with folded arms. 1n 2015? In a civilized society or is Nigeria not a civilised society?



This is why we fight for gender equality, if the girl child is considered an equal to the boy child, we’ll not have half of the problems we have today. The idea that the girl exists solely to provide pleasure for the man either in the bedroom or kitchen is completely flawed and must be rethought. A girl has full rights; to education, to freedom, to choice, to privacy etc. Why does the society deny her these rights?
To reduce feminism to a refusal to cook, as is most often seen on twitter, is silly and mischievous. There are young girls dying because a culture sees them as a little higher than animals, created solely for the man’s pleasure and not for their own desires.

The man is not better than the woman. The woman is not better than the man. Both exist to compliment and not destroy each other.  Both genders have destinies to fulfill and should be assisted by the society to achieve their full potential.

When next you’re attacking feminist for fighting for the rights of the girl child, remember that 800,000 girls are leaking urine and faeces constantly and that this could have been totally prevented. Remember as well that there will be 12,000 new cases this year and the year after and the year after until you and I do something.

PS. For more information about Champions for Change, please visit www.championingchange.org

Friday, 4 September 2015

100 days of Power Supply

My friends say I’m a self hater. They are right. Some of the choices I make are quite mind boggling. Like shouldn’t I be kissing APC’s cheeks, hoping to get some political appointment, or contract but I’m here, still insisting that PMB must do more than use body language to run the country.
I had promised myself not to discuss politics here. My blog is for laughter and encouragement but just this once, let me break the rule.

We’re making a fool of ourselves with this constant rush to defend even the president’s cough.  A few days ago, I saw on Twitter, someone boasting about how through social media, they brought change to the country. What change? Is it not rather early to shout Uhuru?  What major landmark has the president achieved in 100 days? Which of his promises or the promises APC made has been fulfilled? Why are we lowering the bar just because we want to be right?
Okay, he’s declared his assets, that is if you accept that as an asset declaration, but is that an achievement? I’m seeing APC fans jumping for joy, mocking the president’s critics, because he has declared his assets?  Really?

Electricity has greatly improved, at least in some areas, but can this be attributed to the current Government? No one seems to really know. Someone said it was due to his body language. Yesterday I read a report that said Buhari’s orders to operators was the reason for improved power supply, another said there’s been no pipeline vandalism since Buhari came to power.  If this Government is going to claim power improvement, it’d be nice to tell us exactly what’s responsible and how the President made it happen, apart from body language of course, and the plans to sustain it.

APC has been shouting down contrary opinions since 1901. People called me names because I raised questions about Buhari and APC and now they say I’m bitter because I continue to raise questions. We don’t have many rights as Nigerians but at least we have the right to ask questions. It should be our collective responsibility to question our leaders irrespective of their political platform. Language already separates us, and culture, and class, we mustn't let political parties join the list. In my opinion, APC should lose the APC twitter handle, and simply tweet as the Federal Government. Almost every time I read a tweet from that handle, I cringe. You’d think there’s a different country called APC.

We can’t be quiet about Aregbeshola’s inability or refusal to pay salaries but scream with the loudest voices at Fayose because he allegedly asked civil servants to kneel down. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot with this selective criticism. And it will come back to haunt us.
One of the reasons I believe GEJ’s Government didn't perform as well as it should have was psychophants, people patting him on the back when they should have chastised him.  We’re doing the same thing to President Buhari. We wanted change, it can only be achieved if we hold our leaders to their words, not defend them when they break it.


I did not support Buhari during the elections  but I have no qualms about  being wrong. I will personally bake the humble pie and eat it with relish.  For if Nigeria truly changes,  all our lives will change with it. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Mark makes a mark with Hotels.ng




Mark Essien is CEO and founder of Hotels.ng; one of the fastest growing start ups in Nigeria. He recently raised a 1 million dollar investment for his company. In an interview with him, he tells us about the challenges, breakthroughs and the vision for Hotels.ng.

On why he set up his company, Mark says money was never the motivation. He wanted to create something and watch it flourish.  ‘I wanted to build things more than I wanted to be an entrepreneur.’
Mark worked for a few years before he got into university. Those years laid the foundation for what he would eventually become. ‘When I got into university, I supported myself throughout by selling software.’

Hotels.ng is not Essien’s first project. I've tried many things and failed many times, I know it’s such a clich├ęd statement, but if at first you don’t succeed, you try again.’ Mark kept at it till Hotels.ng was birthed. Each failed project was a learning path that eventually led me to where I am today, he says.
‘We started out with research; what was missing in the technology space, and how big was the market? ‘ I believe that the market mostly drives businesses. The online hotel segment was not being addressed so I thought I can fill this space and I did.’

Mark started out in Calabar but has since relocated to Lagos where he says there’s a bigger pool of talent, investors and other tech entrepreneurs whom you can learn from.  His first investor- spark.ng- was based in Lagos and it was important to be close to them. ‘Spark.ng has made a big difference to us and has been one of the key drivers of our success.’

Unlike most Nigerian entrpreneurs, Mark is not reluctant to talk about failure. Buttering his earlier statement, he reinstates that each of his previously failed project contributed to the knowledge he now has which has allowed him to make something successful. ‘ Even with hotels.ng, it was tough at the beginning. I spent the first year just finding lists of hotels online. It took really long before it slowly started picking up. Most businesses are birthed in the minds of founders for a long time before they slowly become a reality.’

For advice, Mark has this to say to young entrepreneurs:  ‘I think that whatever one does, one must do something that challenges and forces one to learn about a lot of things. Building a business requires a broad range of information, and the more you know, the better prepared you will be for the things that will come your way.’

With 250 million naira safely deposited in the bank, Essien is ecstatic. ‘Now we know that for the next two years we can focus on growing the business without worrying about fluctuations in income. We’ve worked really hard but we also got lucky, we met someone who knew someone, who knew someone who was looking to invest in Nigeria. Introductions were made, due process followed- a lengthy one- our business fundamentals were examined before we eventually reached a deal.’  
Essien plans to go international soon but isn't willing to say much about that yet.

Seeing that humans are obsessed with relationships, and maybe rightfully so. I had to ask Essien if there’s a  woman somewhere in the picture or if I could take home the good News to the ladies in waiting.


‘ I am not married but in a serious relationship, so the line is already filled up :-)’ This is his answer.  Sorry ladies, better luck next time. 

PS. Mark grew up in Ikot Ekpene. I told you there's something great about us small town folks. Hehehehe. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Young Shall Grow.



I like the way Igbo people don't pretend. How they don't give their businesses fancy names for better acceptance. The Young Shall Grow. I have always loved that name. Do you want to travel or not? I once worked at a place called; Turn by Turn. Many many years ago. We sold cell phones.  My recent favourite is Ebeano. Now that's an authentic name. Ebeano is one of the fastest growing retail chains in the country. Hopefully I'll feature him here soon. 

Today is International Youths Day. 

I like young people. The vibrancy, positive spirit and so much more. They're the ones who'll take Nigeria to the next level and already they have started. There are so many young entrepreneurs doing amazing things in Nigeria and the world over. Zuckerberg would always be a reference. One hopes that one day soon, a Nigerian would be celebrated for an idea that changed the world. I hear some start up ideas and I go, wow. How did she conceive that? Is she not eating the same Eba I'm eating?

Sometimes I'm angry, people don't seem as hungry for success anymore. But for every unhungry person, there's a hungry one. So I've chosen today to celebrate those ones. 

May you succeed. May the works of your hands be blessed and may you find help at the time of need. 

Happy International Youths Day. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Emem Isong’s rise and rise in Nollywood.


So I promised to bring you interviews of successful entrepreneurs to inspire you.  It shouldn't surprise you that I’m starting with Emem Isong. In case you didn't know, the most famous Nigerian filmmaker is my sister. Yes, we played ten-ten together, pillow-fought late into the night, ate from the same plate and debated the best romantic heroes from the novels we read. Who is famous in your own family eh?
I know several people try to fight the attachment to a popular sibling or parent. Not me. I lap it up, put it to good use, leverage on it, milk it for its worth.
STRANGER:        Hi, I’m Antebullum.
UDUAK:              Uduak. Uduak Isong.
STRANGER:       Isong, like in Emem Isong, the producer? Any relation to her?
UDUAK:             Yep, precisely like Emem Isong, the producer.
STRANGER:      Any relation to her?
UDUAK:            Yep, she’s my  sister.  We all write in the family.
STRANGER:      Wow, that’s awesome.
UDUAK:            I know.
And Antebellum proceeds to buy all my movies because people think my work will be good simply because Emem’s is. They’re often right *snigger*.
So here’s putting my relationship with her to good use. No one’s been able to get her to talk about her marriage. Guess who succeeded?

Entry into Nollywood.
Best known for her romantic comedies, Christian dramas and Ibibio/Efik thrillers, Emem’s been in the industry almost from the very beginning. She wrote and co-produced an Igbo movie titled Jezebel in 1995.
It wasn’t an easy task. This was a largely Igbo and male dominated industry. Movies were made in Igbo and here was I, a young girl who recently quit her banking job, trying to stake a claim where I didn’t belong. But I was determined. I liked what was happening. They were telling powerful stories. I knew it was a movement I wanted to be a part of so I hung on, eventually earning myself the nickname Nwanne Calabar, Emem says. 

The movie, Jezebel, got her noticed but producers weren’t running after her for scripts as she thought they would.  It was a long and quiet year before she produced her first movie, Breaking Point, which was Stella Damasus’ break-out role. Her mother, anxious to see her daughter earn income, loaned her  N50,000.
“It was the break I needed.  A cousin of mine was visiting at the time. Together, we went to Mile 12 market to buy food for set welfare, borrowed clothes from friends and family for costume, and Tunde Kelani of Mainframe Studios – God bless his kind heart - was gracious enough to lend me his equipment at little or no cost. We paid for what we could, and owed the rest”.

You’d think it’d be smooth sailing henceforth but it seemed her troubles had only just begun.  Breaking Point was a beautiful film. At least, so she thought, so, why weren’t marketers offering good money for it? She got offers that didn’t cover the capital, creditors started visiting to her flat. Fortunately, there were no phones so it was a lot easier to hide.  But Emem was determined, so off she went to AIT seeking partnership deals.  After several rides on Molues every other day of the week, a deal eventually came through. Not as good as she would  have liked but a deal was better than none, so she took it. She didn’t make any profit but she made a name. It was a start.

Emem made a few more films - A Minute to Midnight, Untouchable, Ekaette, Hit and Run, et al.
She barely made profit. It was just enough to get by and make the next film but she kept at it and slowly gained people’s attention. One of them was Remmy Jes, a successful film marketer.  He bought the rights to two films she’d just made, Silent tears and Play Boy. Both films starring Dakore, a young girl Emem met at a company, asked her if she’d like to act and a few years later, went to find her and featured her.

Emem’s stories, casting and production values continued to raise her profile but it was Emotional Crack, her first collaboration with Remmy Jes,  that would skyrocket her career.
Emotional Crack told the story of a young woman being battered by her husband. The husband had a mistress on the side, whom  he’d never laid a hand on, but eventually broke up with. The embittered Mistress sought revenge by befriending his wife and an affair ensued – between the two women!

It was taboo. This was 10 years ago. Lesbianism was only mentioned in hushed tones if at all and here was Ms Isong, daring to make a film on the topic. The press loved it, the International world noticed and Emem was invited for her first film screening outside Nigeria. Along with her lead acts, Dakore Akande, Stephanie Linus and Ramsey Noah,  Emem flew to New York where Emotional Crack was screened to a multiracial audience.

We got a standing ovation. It was surreal.  Just as the Bible promised, my work had made room for me, Emem remarks with a nostalgic smile.

Emem’s collaboration with Remmy Jes thrived. They churned out several blockbusters. If you saw her name on a movie jacket, it was a keep.  Games Women Play, Games Men Play, Behind Closed Doors, Private Sin, Girls in the Hood, Promise Me Forever, Shattered Illusions, Traumatised, Men Do Cry, Enslaved, A piece of Flesh, Unfinished Business etc.

“People say I make too many films. My response is often with a question - are they good films? This should be people’s concern. Enid Blyton wrote over 700 books and I think that excludes the ones under the Pollock pseudonym.  Some people are able to combine quantity and quality and I think I may be one of the lucky few.” Her business relationship with Remmy eventually ended but the two have remained friends. ‘He taught me many things, helped plant my foot firmly in the industry and till now, still remains a mentor. I’m grateful for the opportunity he gave me.

“It wasn’t just time to be independent, I felt it was time to give back so I founded Royal Arts Academy where young actors and writers are trained.”

Reloaded was my first movie under the aegis of Royal Arts Academy. It was in conjunction with Desmond Elliott. It was very important for it to succeed and I’m grateful that it did. Royal Arts Academy is also a film distributing company and has several  hit movies under its label. Some of which include Champagne, Kiss and Tell, Memories of My Heart, Bursting Out, I’ll Take My Chances and more.”.

This year alone, Emem has produced three TV series: Losing Control and Lagos Cougars for IrokoTV and Weekend Getaway for CoteQuest.  She’s also produced SpotLight, a film project for the students of her academy and Code of Silence a collaboration with Nollywood Workshops, an NGO.  Code of silence challenges the silence expected from rape victims, the fear of embarrassment to the family while the victim is often ignored.

“I make mostly love stories. If you pitch me a story that has no romance in it, I’m unlikely to be interested. But I’m aware that as an African filmmaker, there are expectations beyond taking people to cloud 9. As well, Nollywood is a huge and powerful tool; there’s so much we can do with it. It’s also given me a voice and I’m trying in return to give people a voice.  It’s on that basis that I produced Code of Silence.’ Code of Silence premieres this Friday, the 7th of August and will screen in cinemas nationwide.

Emem doesn’t write so much anymore. She sits in on writing conferences. Her role has become majorly supervisory. I think it’s just natural; I’ve come a long way. I work with a team of writers, directors and producers.  Some of them might even be better than me but that gives me great pride. To have imparted knowledge and empowered even if a few, I believe this is the real success.

ON MARRIAGE.
‘I created so many Prince charmings, I think it was inevitable that I would one day find mine.’


No matter how hard I try, this is all Emem is willing to say publicly about her marriage. Sorry guys, I tried. 

Monday, 3 August 2015

Poor or not so poor?

I grew up in Ikot Ekpene. Please don’t ask me where that is. That’s how a popular Nigerian writer, acclaimed gan, asked me where Uyo is.  I told him Gombe state. Hiss. Only Nigerians wear ignorance like an expensive club badge.  Hiss again.

Yes, I know I've told you before that I grew up in Ikot Ekpene but I’m going somewhere.  We were fairly comfortable but at some point , things got rough and we had to ration meals but I have never felt poor.  If anything we joked about it, my mother would ask us to decide if we wanted 101 or 110 or 011. 0 meaning no meal.  But the tough times never lasted as tough times often don’t and we would go back to the luxury of two slices of bread, a tiny spread of butter, half an egg each and what my uncle described as coloured water. It wasn’t a function of wealth, at this time we could afford more but children just didn’t eat full eggs less they steal. The first time I saw someone eat two boiled eggs, I was shocked. Two boiled eggs. That’s gluttony abeg.

My parents were farmers among other things. On many Saturday mornings , we’d gather to peel cassava and in the evenings to separate the weed from the water leaves. It was work but it was also family time.  I had cousins who traveled abroad often but nobody threw their wealth in anybody’s face.  I did not feel like anything was missing in my life. My brother and I were happy to play Names, places and things during holidays. Who remembers the game? That’s how you know you’re old.

Secondary school was different. There was the poor, the rich, the fake rich etc.  We had the Namibean presidents kids in my school, even though thinking about it now, those girls might have been lying. We chopped many lies in secondary school sha.  Despite the many different ‘types’ of people in secondary school, we did not know class. We played together, studied together and chopped cane together irrespective of who our parents were.  So when did things change?
When did Nigeria become so class conscious? Or has it always been this way in the West? When did a child born abroad or one who spends all his holidays abroad become more important than the brilliant and well behaved child? I know families that struggle to pay rent and school fees but don’t miss holidays in Europe or the States.

I believe in travel, I think it’s one of the best things you can give your child but it doesn't have to cost money if you can’t afford it.  Before I visited the States, I knew it.  Same way that I know Australia and Canada even though I've never been there. From books. Most M and Bs were set there and boy, I read those things.  What are young girls reading these days by the way?

My brother and I, we read. We went through so many books in the Ikot Ekpene library. My brother visited the library lately and guess what? The librarian offered to sell him as many books as he wanted at a low price. A librarian, selling off library books!


When did we become like this? It seems as if the second coming has happened in Nigeria but this time, our god became money. Can we fix us?

PS. I wrote this sometime ago, after the your passport is better than mine conversation when I was feeling quite patriotic. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Young Shall Grow.



The young shall grow. I have always liked that name. It must have come straight from the owner's heart. My first job was at a place called Turn by Turn. Yes, I've been around. I've been working for 15 years so why I am not yet rich, I don't understand. Aviation, I've been there, Telecommunications, I've been there. Capital Markets, Present!. And now I'm in entertainment. Maybe after I buy that oil bloc, my fortunes will change.  

It's been a busy weekend. Two Saturdays ago, I was at the British council organised CreativeHustle event as a speaker. One moment, I'm a participant, the next I'm speaking. The young have grown or are growing. I'm learning that if you work hard at something, keep at it long enough; you will eventually make it. 

Talking about hard work, let me preach for a bit. Dear young people, nobody owes you anything. I find that almost every one of these events I attend, people say to me; no one is giving us a chance. Now, the problem is that I am naturally rude. I have zero tolerance for entitled or lazy people. So I usually have to count numbers in my head so as not to lash out. But this attitude is getting quite scary. Nobody owes you anything. Nobody is going to give you any chance, you seek the chance, and you grab it. By yourself and for yourself. 
You need to get your drive on guys, get your drive on. 

End of Preaching. 

Last Saturday too, Afriville had its first outdoor catering service so EFCC may not be coming for us after all. Business can get really tough making you question yourself. Like, who sent me? 
When things got really rough, I searched for stories of successful Nigerian entrepreneurs who'd been to hell but made it back, for inspiration. I could hardly find anything. People don't like to talk about failures here. But fail, many of us have, and share our stories, we must. So I have decided to bring you interviews from successful entrepreneurs who are not afraid to tell you how many attempts it took before they eventually made it. I'm nice like that. 

So watch this space. 



Thursday, 2 July 2015

Who runs Nollywood? Girls, Girls.

I know I said I will be here a lot more but have you guys seen the drama on Twitter lately? Mehn, I hope that platform doesn't drive Nollywood and Telemundo out of the market. Enough drama to last a thousand years. 

The recent hashtag BeingFemaleInNigeria inspired this post. No doubt, it's really tough being a woman in this country and maybe everywhere else. I don't know why men were getting agitated, no one was hating on you guys, at least not this time. It was simply an acknowledgement of facts. Women shared their experiences. A recognition of stereotypes women suffer, not just by men, but by women. Like female circumcison, Is it a man who cuts of the clitoris? Mosty fathers in law are cool but mothers in law.....hehehehe.  The world has always been tougher for women. Remember the story of the adulterous woman, the story says she was caught in the act, meaning there was a man with her, but they brought only the woman to Christ and ask that she be stoned. They probably asked the man to go and sin no more. Or was he even considered a sinner?

But that's not what I came to say. I came to tell you about the amazing women doing amazing things in Nollywood. 

1. Emem Isong. Of course I will start with her. One of Nigeria's biggest producers. 20 years and getting bigger each day. Ever setting paces. The premiere of Reloaded was the beginning of several premieres in Nigeria. 

2. Blessing Egbe. Lekki Wives. Whether you hate it or love it, you'll agree that it was ground breaking. A huge risk taker and tired of advertisers playing ten ten with her money, she wrote, directed and produced 26 episodes of Lekki Wives and put it on DVDs and they sold out! Everyone was talking about Lekki Wives. After Checkmate, Super Story, Lekki Wives may have been the next most successful Nigerian soap. Blessing also produced Two Brides And A Baby and released it on DVD. Inspired all of us to move from VCDs to DVDs. 

3. Chinwe Egwagu.  Producer of Mr. and Mrs. I tell her to show me where she washed her face. One of the most loved Nigerians films. It hasn't stopped selling. Even in my small shop, we're always restocking on Mr. and Mrs. 

4. Funke Akindele. Producer of Jenifa. Jenifa is reported to have sold more than half a million DVDs.  A record since  Living in Bondage. And the character Jenifa will live with us forever. 

5. Peace Anyiam-Osigwe.  Through her AMAA awards, she forged a relationship between Nollywood and filmmakers from the rest of Africa. And the world actually. A bit of a shame that you don't find Nollywood in major festivals round the world. Peace is changing this. She also reached out to the younger talents, encouraging and harnessing them.

6. Mildred Okwo. Female directors are few. But Mildred came, saw and conquered. Her film, The Meeting was an immediate hit. We won't forget Clara in a hurry. Mildred is more than a director. Fondly called Aunty M, she's our go to person. With a strong desire to see the growth of Nollywood and young filmmakers, Aunty M is ever willing to advise, scold, and encourage.

7. Chineze Anyaene.  Not till AY came and beat her record with 30 days in Atlanta, Chineze's film Ije was the highest grossing Nigerian film at over 50 million naira. And this was in the very early days when we had even fewer cinemas. Chineze is also founder of Xandria Productions.

8. Chioma Ude. Convener of Afriff. Arguable Africa's best and biggest film festival,  Afriff screens several African films, hosts seminars , and rocks!

So yeah, it's tough being female but females are tough too. These women have made marks against all odds. Many thanks to the late Amaka Igwe and Emem Isong who have been in the industry from the beginning and whose tenacity and consistency made room for the rest of us. 

PS. 

My list is in no particular order. If I have left out any names you feel should be here, please feel free to add them in the comments section. 


Sunday, 21 June 2015

This is not about Yoruba boys.

I could say it was luck, or my father's love but I've only known great guys.  And I don't mean know in the Biblical sense, you people should renew your minds.

Most of my friends are male and they are all just plain awesome. Not to talk of the hubby; a wonderful man, that one. He has to be, to have stuck with me these many years.

Because I've been showered with nothing but love since childhood from my dad, I've come to expect nothing but love from men, and usually, that's what I get.

Actually, I did have a not very nice experience and guess what? He was Yoruba. Lol. Have I joined the Yoruba boys' slander?

Happy Fathers day!



Friday, 19 June 2015

Does cooking make you a better bae?

I got you with the title, didn't I? No, this post is not about baes and cooks biko. There's enough of that on twitter.

You guys totally need to see Spy. Some rib cracking stuff in there. Miranda Lambert has or used to have a program on BBC called Miranda about herself. You should see that too. No one does humour like the Brits.

But that's not why I came here. Remember I was telling you about fat America. Well, there's something really small about them; their shorts. Everyone, I mean every one wears bum shorts and you're thinking didn't they have enough material to make it slightly longer but here's the great part, no one seems to notice or care.  Come and wear bum shorts and walk past Yaba. You go know something.
They are also very stingy with in flight service. On a two hour flight from Houston to Indianapolis, they served me a tiny bag of peanuts with not more than 15 grains inside. 15! When I was a cabin crew, we served Eba in flights. Yes, Eba.

On the flight back to London, I get a bad headache. I've suffered headaches since I was a kid and often carry painkillers around but on this flight, I've got none. What I have in my bag, instead is a bar of chocolate.  So I ask a crew member for paracetamol. He tells me I don't need one, that he's flown many pharmacists and they say paracetamol only ruins the stomach. I'm thinking better a ruined stomach than a ruined head but before I get the chance to say so, he grabs my two hands, starts massaging somewhere between my thumb and my index finger. What therapy is this?

Do I feel better, he asks? I nod slowly. I don't but he had such a kind face and hopeful eyes, I couldn't break his heart so I risked breaking my own head enduring the headache for the remainder of the flight.  And guess what, Michelle Obama decides to follow me to East London on same day. It takes nearly three hours to get to my abode. Sometimes life is hard.

But that's also not why I came here. I wanted to show you what I cooked. Considering that I'm Ibibio and I run a restaurant, you'd think I love to cook. Fire. But I cook, for many reasons. And quite well too, I think maybe those of us from that part of town were all born with wooden spoons or something. 

There's another skill they say we were born with. But that's a story for another day. 


PS. The picture has refused to upload. Sowie.




Thursday, 18 June 2015

Becoming an Americanah

I first went to the States, two years ago (yes, I know some of you were born there, duh!) after I'd just read Americanah. I was going to write a post : Becoming an Americanah which would have been my experience both in the country and with the book but I never got round to it. It's too late now but I decided to still keep the title. 

Five cities , two weeks,  and an empty bank account later;  I’m back home. 

My mum doesn't understand my wandering spirit and even though I’m nearly 40, I’m still afraid of that woman. How do I tell her I’m traveling, alone, and for no just cause? Fortunately she doesn't pick the phone, but my happiness is short lived; she calls me back right after.

Mama:  How are you?

Me:        I’m fine. Errrrrrm, I’m at the airport.

Mama:  Doing what?

I’m tempted to be sarcastic but I decide I might not be able to handle her come back. My mum owns sarcasm.

Me:      I’m going to the States.

Mama:  To do what?

Me:      Holiday

Mama:  Aren't the kids in school?

Me:       Yes, they are. I’m going alone.

Mama:  You say?

Me:       My flight is boarding now, we’ll talk later.

I’m temporarily saved. She probably thinks I’m running away from home. I know she’s going to call the hubby next. I do not envy him. I went to study just after a year in marriage, my mum said it was a crazy idea and that I’d return home and one Nkechinyere will open the door asking who I am. It didn’t happen. Perhaps Nkechi left just before I got back.

I love London. It’s one of my favourite cities in the world so even though this was a US  trip, I stopped by London just to run after trains and listen to unruly teenagers fling swear words about. How do African parents cope in the West? This race for trains and buses is probably why you hardly see fat people in the city which is how I’m welcomed to the States: Everything gets larger. From meal portions to roads, to humans, this is one Fat country.

I will never understand why Nigerians affect the American accent. I insist that the Nigerian accent is way cooler. Warer. Really? Which is one of the few reasons I liked Ifemelu, her conscious effort to retain her Nigerian accent. Let me quickly add that I love Chimamada Adichie. She can do no wrong in my eyes. I think she’s one of the best things to happen to Nigeria except when she said they couldn’t find anyone good enough in Nollywood to play Kaine. Then the movie bombed and I got my pound of flesh. 1 – 1 girl. Evil grin.

There are many things that shocked me about America, for one, they do not have malteesers but I’ll tell you more about my experience in America later.  Let me go cook so that my mother’s nightmare doesn’t come true.


Welcome to my world.