Month: February 2011

Somebody Find Me A Step Daddy!

I lost my father a few days before I turned four. All together now, ‘aaaaw!’ Thanks for the sympathy.

My idea of hell growing up would have been my mother re-marrying and forcing me to call some strange man daddy. Every time I thought about another man maneuvering his way into our lives and tampering with the dynamics of our household, I’d get so angry you would have been forgiven for thinking it had happened. I had a couple of friends who had nothing but horror stories to tell of their step fathers and I’d be damned if I’d let some stranger maltreat me. I used to lie in bed thinking of the many ways I would frustrate the man’s life. Walahi, I was ready for him! 

I imagined each time he greeted me, I’d hiss and ignore him. Stupid man, he should keep his greetings to himself.

I imagined that he would tell me off for doing something wrong and I’d insult his mother, his mother’s mother, his mother’s mother’s mother and his entire family tracing back to his homo sapiens ancestors.

I imagined I would call him by his first name (an ABOMINATION) and when he got pissed off about it, I’d ask him whether the name on his birth certificate was ‘uncle’ or ‘daddy’.

If he had children, the house would be a battle ground. I would make sure we fought every day. I would be the step sister from hell.

I rehearsed my lines, practiced my daggers (sorry, I’m a QC girl) and perfected the art of hissing. I also mentally prepared myself for the many beatings I would inevitably receive from my mother. I was ready for her too.

I would make sure I didn’t cry when she attempted to flog stupid and nonsense out of me.

I wouldn’t eat anything she cooked.

I wouldn’t speak to her unless spoken to.

I would make it known to the whole world that I was miserable at home. Yes, I would paint a picture of her as a bad mother sacrificing the happiness of her children for the love of a man.

I would make her life so unbearable, she would send the man packing for peace sake.

If I’m honest, I was disappointed when none of the above happened. There was no step father for me to demonise, no step siblings for me to frustrate. I’d rehearsed it so much I was gagging to act it out. That my mother, such a kill joy! I suspect that she sensed I for one, would not be up for the whole step father business.

It’s only now I’m older I realise the enormity of the sacrifice she made to provide us with a stable home. I now understand how lonely she must have been and still must be, especially as we’ve all flown the nest. No one to share the burden of raising three psychotic (and that we were) teenagers. No one to give her a hug and ask ‘hey honey, how was your day?’ No one to act love in Tokyo with. Walahi, she tried o!

These days, I wish she would find herself a man. Preferably on that is rich and has no kids. Okay, that’s pretty unlikely but he can’t have more than two kids. The less children we are, the larger my share of his fortune.  He has to be generous too. I’m tired of this suffer head 9 to 5, paying rent and having to save to go on holidays. I need him to sort me out.

So mummy, go on, do what you do best, put me first!

xxx

Waila Caan

Waila Reads: “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Prejudice, particularly of the racial variety, isn’t something I think about often. I am proud of who I am, comfortable in my own skin and not the least bit perturbed by people who have a problem with me. It is their problem, they can deal with it.  That said, racial prejudice has never blatantly stared me in the face so I cannot say I know what it feels like to be discriminated against on the basis of my skin colour. I suspect I will find myself singing from a  different hymn sheet should it ever happen.

Interestingly, no individuals or people are spared the contempt of others. Some white people hate all black people. Some black people hate all white people. Some black people hate other black people. Some black people hate Indian people. The French hate the Brits. Yoruba people hate Hausa people. Hausa people hate Igbo people. The Tutsi’s hate the Hutu’s, the Hutu’s hate the Tutsi’s. Muslims hate Christians, Christians hate Jews. The chain of hate is endless and it permeates every barrier the human mind can erect.  Thinking about it gives me a headache.

Ever so often I read an article or story that makes me seriously ponder the evil that is prejudice. The depths some people sink to for prejudice sake beggars belief. Over the Christmas holiday the Nigerian media was full of stories about Christians in Jos being burnt to ashes by their Muslim neighbours. Some Christians retaliated by killing their Muslim neighbours using equally barbaric methods. It is a sad state of affairs.

On that note, my book recommendation for this week is “To Kill A Mockingbird” written by the legendary Harper Lee. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, the novel tackles the issue of racial prejudice. First published in 1960 it’s an oldie but still very relevant. As always, read and tell me what you think.

xxx

Waila Caan

What Would You Do If…Your Partner Was Unfaithful

Infidelity is not a new phenomenon. It existed in biblical times and it’s done a pretty good job of staying relevant.  Every day I open a newspaper, there’s one more politician that’s been caught cheating on their partner and one more pop star caught frolicking with their backing dancer. I speak to people I know and someone’s uncle’s been cheating on his wife while someone else’s mother’s been cheating on her husband. Someone is always cheating on someone and I pray fervently to God that my name will never be someone.

The women I’ve asked about infidelity are more likely to be analytical about it, conjuring different scenarios and factors that would affect their decisions. I’ve met some women who have accepted that men will always cheat and as a result have resigned themselves to the inevitability of marrying a cheating man.  The average man on the other hand, is much less forgiving about the prospect of his woman cheating. Every time I’ve consulted a man on the issue, the speed and passion with which they’ve declared the hypothetical marriage over, has been consistent.  

My heart literally (and I mean that) aches when I imagine my partner cheating and I beg heaven every day, that it will never be my reality.  I wouldn’t know what to do. If he was my boyfriend I would most likely end the relationship in a heartbeat but if he was my husband would I divorce him? Would I forgive him? How would I know he wouldn’t do it again? What if he wasn’t even sorry he did it in the first place, would I fight for my marriage for the sake of any children we might have?

The scenarios are plenty and questions even more so.

So tell me, what would you do if you discovered your partner/boyfriend/husband was cheating on you? Would there be any factors that would make you more tolerant of his/her action?

I’d really like to know.

xxx

Waila Caan

Get Ready to Think

Hey guys,

I know it’s only Tuesday but so far my week’s been good. Really good. I’m in good spirits and I pray it stays that way.  

When I posted the blog “Faith or Foolishness? You Decide” last week, I wasn’t really expecting anyone to respond but as I type this, my email inbox is chock-a-block. A lot of people had interesting opinions on the village bride’s actions and your responses have got me thinking about how complex relationships are.  I’m currently single and though I’m enjoying life as a singleton, when the time is right, I’d like to bag myself a hubby, have my two children and live happily ever after. For that reason I think about relationships.  

I’m a thinker and I’ve been known on many an occasion to think things to extinction. I’ve analysed relationships to the point that the thought of being in one is beginning to give me a headache. Being single is so much simpler (I think) but seeing as that isn’t the fate I wish for myself, I’d better start grappling with the intricacies of two becoming one.

Over the next few days (or till I run out of scenarios), I’ll be asking your opinion on some of the popular complexities that people in relationships face.

Stay tuned ‘cause the first question is coming right up!

Love,

Waila Caan

A Bird In Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush

When the principal of my secondary school decided to cancel our prom for fear of having pregnant teenage girls on her hands, I should have taken it as a sign from the gods that for me, prom was not meant to be. I wasn’t having it though, I’d had my Prom dress sitting in my wardrobe for almost a year and I was determined to wear it, come hell or high water. Some equally determined comrades decided that if our school wouldn’t let us have a prom, we would have the prom outside of school. And so it happened that they joined forces with a couple of other schools and a joint prom was planned.

Now I had a dress and a prom to go to but I had no date. I didn’t want to ask any of my male friends as I wanted it to be a romantic experience. My friend Tikka Masala and I began to strategise. We decided she would hook me up with a guy who was a friend of a friend and I could get the romance going before prom. And so it happened that I was introduced to the guy, Alakoba, three weeks before prom.  We got talking and got on quite well.  I’d never met him but I really liked the sound of him and rather speedily, fancied myself in like with him. He knew from the onset that he was taking me to the prom so we talked about it; what I was wearing, what he was wearing, how we would get there, curfews. I really started to like this guy who I’d never met and the mystery made the thought of prom night ten times more exciting.

Prom day came and my friend Agiliga was having a party in Alakoba’s neighbourhood. It was a daytime thing so Tikka Masala and I went to the party and on our way home decided to pay Alakoba a surprise visit… I couldn’t wait any longer. I’d spoken to him that morning and the plans were looking good. When we got to his house, we were told he had gone out. He was supposed to pick me up at 7pm and it was 5pm. We raced home hoping that by the time we got home, he would be home and getting ready. As soon as we got to Tikka Masala’s, I called him and was told he still wasn’t home. I started to panic but Tikka Masala calmed me down. She reckoned by the time we showered and got dressed, he would be back. I headed for the shower and as soon as I got out, called him again. He still wasn’t home. I wore my dress and then I called again. He still wasn’t home. I did my makeup and then called him. He still wasn’t home. At this point, the panic had settled in the pit of my stomach. I was a nervous wreck. Where was he? Had he forgotten about prom? Was I going to turn up at prom dateless? God forbid!  I styled my hair and then called his house again. The person who’d been answering my calls had had enough.

“Alakoba has taken his mother to Ibadan and won’t be back till tomorrow. Don’t call again this night!”

Tikka Masala and I were in shock. What in blazes was my prom date doing in Ibadan?! Tikka Masala suggested I go alone but I refused…over my dead body! What kind of loser goes to prom alone?!  Did the foolish boy not know he had to go to Ibadan when I spoke to him this morning?!

I had to think fast. One of those friends I had shunned in favour of that Alakoba would have to help me out. After all, what are friends for?!  Aha! I knew who I could ask. He wasn’t going to the prom and I knew he had a suit because he’d been to his own prom a few weeks before. I rang my dear friend Tajie, and gentleman that he is, he agreed to rescue a damsel in distress. Tajie, walahi, your head is correct!

After prom night, I erased Alakoba’s phone number from my memory. I didn’t want to know what his story was and it was just as well because he never called to explain himself.  Just as quickly as he’d appeared, he vanished off my radar. Till this day I have not spoken to him and I still have no idea what he looks like.

Faith or Foolishness? You Decide.

Faith is one of those things one cannot explain, not even to one’s self.

My cousin Dee told me a story I will never forget, not even if I contract amnesia.

******************************

It was the year 2000. A young girl was moved to Lagos from her village in Benin, to marry a vagrant who is my cousin’s cousin. Her husband to be had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and his mother thought settling down and having kids would curb his self destructive ways. The young girl was beautiful by any standards; flawless skin, striking features and a figure so perfect, she looked sculpted. Stunning though she was, the most beautiful thing about her was her disposition.  She had a heart of gold; always joyful, always positive, ever loving, ever forgiving.

Three years into the marriage, her husband, who had managed to hold down a job in that time, in spite of his demons, was made redundant. He decided he’d worked enough.  He’d much rather stay home drinking, smoking and sniffing anyway. Never mind that he had a wife and three young children to support.  His wife set up a little kiosk outside their house and would wake up early, fry akara (bean cakes) by the bucket load and sell them out her kiosk. Business was good.

Her husband on the other hand convinced himself that the only reason she was doing it was to get the attention of her predominantly male punters. Forget the fact that they needed money to survive. Forget the fact that he needed to fund his habits somehow. Every time she came home from the kiosk, he would beat her till the neighbors intervened.  Over a four year period, he broke every bone possible in her body. After each beating, my cousin Dee and her sisters would beg her to run away with her kids.

Each time, she would respond, tears pouring from her eyes, ‘my Jesus will save me.’

They told her there was a difference between faith and madness, she told them she certainly wasn’t mad.  One day, she was sitting outside the house frying a batch of akara over an open fire. Her husband as usual was standing behind her hurling insults she had become a dab hand at ducking.

‘Am I not talking to you? Answer me!’

She ignored him.

Before she realised what was happening, he’d picked up the pot of hot oil and poured it over her.

Her screams could be heard for miles.

The neighbours ran out to find her burning up, her skin and clothes, melting, fusing into one. Convinced he had killed her, her husband fled the scene. She was rushed to the hospital and when my cousins swore they would make him pay for his action, she pleaded through her burnt lips, ‘Please don’t hurt him. Please look for him and tell him I’m okay. My Jesus will not let me die. Please look after him for me, my Jesus will save him.’  She wouldn’t let them have him arrested, wouldn’t let prosecute him.

Everyone was convinced she had gone mad but reluctantly, they did as she asked. It was the only way they could put her mind at ease and at that point, her well being was all that mattered.

Fast forward nine years.

My cousin Dee who had since moved out of Nigeria returned home for a family wedding. She was chatting away with her mother when she noticed an attractive couple walking towards them. The guy was good looking but the woman was stunning, like drop dead gorgeous. Judging by the diamond earrings hanging from the woman’s ears and the cut of the guy’s suit, they had money…lots of money. They looked familiar but it wasn’t till they stood in front of her she realised who they were.  It was the vagrant and his village bride. She couldn’t hide her shock. Her cousin smiled at her and said, his twinkling, ‘He saved me. She was right, he saved me.’

Love, Waila

Dear Friends,

Given my impeccable manners, it would be rude of me not to acknowledge that today is the 14th of February. Only one who is bitter would begrudge lovers openly loving themselves whilst the rest of us gaze longingly on. I am not one of such. I bear no grudge against Saint Valentine, after all, he is not to blame for my current state of ‘manlessness’. 

I woke up this morning with a false sense of hope.  Sometime during the night, while my brain was off duty, the powers of the night hijacked it and filled it with nonsensical notions. How else would you explain the urge to robe myself in fine garments this morning should a gentleman friend want to wine and dine me after work? How else would you explain my turning up to work this morning expecting to find my desk crumbling under the weight of the flowers resting on it? Wicked powers they are, wicked! They almost succeeded in their mission to send me into depression but the forces of good intervened.  Just as I began to wonder if anyone loves me, I got a text message that read ‘Happy Valentines Mother!’ How my heart leapt with joy!  Oh to be loved by someone besides my mother who is obliged to do so lest the traumatic hours she spent in labour be in vain.

Yes, my son remembered me on this day! Such a simple message but so unexpected and sweet.  It pleased me so much that I have decided he ought to be rewarded for his impeccable timing and intuition.  He will be the recipient of the jacket his heart has long desired. ‘She has a son?!’ you wonder.  I do indeed.  I did not conceive him though, I would not dream of ruining my fine figure. He is the product of the union between my Uncle Tee and his wife. Some would call him my cousin but that is their business.

This year, Valentine’s Day took me by surprise.  Apparently, love (along with dust, germs and bacteria) has been in the air but I hadn’t noticed. Mayhap it is because I have been otherwise occupied and have not visited the malls or high streets recently. Yester night it suddenly dawned on me that the day was aye upon me and I found myself rating my memories of the day set aside for love.

Last year my dear friend Stinkus and her gentleman friend T-Baby turned up at my flat with a heart shaped mug filled with little chocolates and a packet of cocoa. I was deeply gratified by their thoughtfulness although I suspected foul play. Perhaps they were trying to motivate me to enter into a union of my own? I suspect their patience with my aloneness is wearing thin.

My second favourite memory was the year my mother gave me a silver necklace with a heart shaped locket. The locket held a picture of her cradling my infant self in her arms. It’s the sort of gift one treasures and passes on to one’s offspring. Alas, I lost it!

My favourite memory features my brother G, who when he chooses, can be delightfully saccharine. I forget how old we were but we were in primary school at the time. We were trying to decide on whom to bestow our titles of Valentine.  We concluded it ought to be people we loved. He said he loved me and asked if I loved him. I said I did. We saved our pocket monies and went together to Park n Shop to pick out presents. I remember not what he bought me but when he handed over the gift bag, he leaned in and gave me a peck on the cheek. Romantic or what?!

It is with these memories I warm myself on this cold and rainy day.

A Happy Valentine’s Day to you.

Love,

Waila

Waila Reads: “I Do Not Come To You By Chance”

Every other day (that’s no exaggeration) my English colleagues, SugarDaddy and Teddy, receive emails from Nigerians desperately needing their help. Last week SugarDaddy received an email from a man called Nuhu Ribadu from the EFCC asking him to invest in a billion dollar project to fight corruption in Nigeria. On a $300,000 investment, he was guaranteed a return of $1,000,000. Yesterday Teddy received an email from an elderly Nigerian woman battling breast cancer. She had $35,000,000 tied up in an American bank account which she needed to offset her medical bills. Problem was the bank wouldn’t release it to her unless she paid a $3,000 admin fee.  She promised Teddy that should he be compassionate enough to hand over the admin fee, he would be rewarded with 10% of her tied up cash.  Do the maths.

Each time a 419 (fraudulent) email find its way into SugarDaddy’s inbox, I hear a chortle followed by a shout of ‘MEE, your mates are at it again!’ SugarDaddy is notoriously politically incorrect. Plus, we have the sort of relationship that gives him the right to take the piss out of me, no holds barred.  When the story of Tobechi Onwuhara went viral, I had to show it to SugarDaddy. I needed him to know that some of my ‘mates’ were professionals at what they did. They weren’t all ‘bloody amateurs’ as he likes to call them. We had a good laugh reading the article and it wasn’t till I got home that night that it occurred to me to feel bad for further tarnishing the image of ‘my mates’ in SugarDaddy’s eyes.

Luke O’Brien who wrote the article for CNN (http://bit.ly/dLOUsW) did a fantastic job.  The article reads like a Nollywood script directed and produced by Martin Scorsese. My friends cast Don Cheadle in the lead role but I reckon he’s a wee bit puny.  Chiwetel Ejiofor on the other hand, has the kind of swagger needed to make it thunderstorm. It is the best-written article I’ve read in ages.

A few years ago, I met a guy who had 419 inscribed on his forehead.  I go to know him quite well and was surprised to find he wasn’t a monster. He was actually a good friend…kind, thoughtful, considerate, warm and generous. Very generous. His generosity was what ended our friendship.  Every time I let him buy me a pizza or a cinema ticket, my conscience wouldn’t let me forget where the money came from. My refusals to let him pay for anything became an issue. He wanted to know why and I didn’t have the guts to tell him it was because he was a thief. I avoided him and eventually, he stopped calling.  A mutual friend of ours thought I was crazy. Why on earth would I let what he did get in the way of our friendship? According to her, as long as he didn’t involve us in his activities, we had nothing to worry about. I wasn’t convinced.

On that note, my book recommendation for this week is “I Do Not Come To You By Chance” by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. The central character is a young man who finds himself drawn into a life of fraud.

As before, read and tell me what you think!

xxx

Waila Caan

A Whole New World

I was 11years old and leaving home for the first time. I’d been home alone with my mother for two years and I envied my brothers their independence. My mother and I turned up at my new school with my two bulging suitcases in tow. The prefect at the check-in desk had a check list as long as my face and efficient mother that I have, I wasn’t missing a thing. Not even the twelve dozen handkerchiefs they insisted I bring.

Parents of new boarders were allowed into our dormitories to help us settle in. Most JSS1 girls cried when it was time to say goodbye to their parents but I didn’t. As soon as my mother had helped haul all my property to my dorm, I gave her her matching orders.

“Don’t you want me to help you unpack?” she asked in surprise.

“No mummy, I’m fine, you can go now.”

The seniors laughed at me. “You had better let your mummy stay as long as possible because as soon as she goes you will start crying.”

Cleary they didn’t know me. I smiled at them politely and then sent a frown my mother’s way.

“Mummy go now!” I moaned.

“Okay,okay, I’m going.”

As soon as she left I unpacked my bags and made my bed. I couldn’t wait to tie a wrapper round my chest, bra straps on show, and lie in my bed like everyone else was. I could taste the freedom…and it was sweet!

I’d been there twenty four hours when I had my first run in with a senior.

“MEE, take this bottle down to slabs (the taps) and fill it with water for me.”

“No.”

As soon as I responded the entire dormitory went silent. I was confused. Had I done something wrong?

“Why not?”

“I don’t feel like going downstairs.”

She smiled at me and patted her mattress. “Sit down.” I sat.

“Let me explain how things work around here. I’m a senior and you’re a junior. When a senior asks you to do something, you do it.”

 “What if I don’t feel like doing it? It’s not by force is it?”

“It is by force. If you don’t do it, she will punish you and believe me, you don’t want to serve punishment.”

“What kind of punishments can they give you?” I didn’t get it. Only my mother, aunties and teachers had ever punished me.

“They can ask you to kneel down and fly your arms. Or pick pin. Or hang from a bunk. Or if you really piss them off, they can beat you.”

“Beat me? I will beat the person back!”

At this point, all the seniors in my dorm had gathered round us and were listening in awe. The laughter was deafening.

“Don’t worry, you will soon learn. For now, take the bottle and go and fill it for me.”

I obeyed. I wanted to go and visit my cousin to explain this foreign concept to me and the slabs were en-route.  When I replayed the conversation to my cousin she laughed herself to tears.

“Thank your stars that the senior was nice to you. Anyone else would have punished your life out.”

“Please this punishing business, how does it work? You mean any senior can just punish me if they feel like it?!”

“In a nutshell, yes! I suggest you do as you’re told if you don’t want to land yourself in trouble.”

I stared at empty bottle in my hand, thanked her for her advice and headed to slabs. I wasn’t ready to be punished, not just yet. I knew I would be at some point though. There was no way I was going to spend all my time running errands for people. Some of them would just have to accept no’s from me but until I figured out which one’s I could afford to defy, I smiled politely and said yes to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Waila Reads: “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives”

Someone’s been doing an awful lot of reading lately. I’ve always been an avid reader but over the last three months I’ve been averaging two books a week. I feel like I’ve entered a reading competition only I’m not sure what the prize is. It’s probably just a phase but while it lasts, I’m making the most of it.

For my fellow readers, I thought I’d recommend a few books for you to read. One at a time though; I don’t want to bombard or bankrupt you.

I considered reviewing each book on my list but I thought I’d keep my opinions to myself. Some of them are brilliant reads and others somewhat lacklustre but I’ll let you make up your own minds.

Consider this an online book club of sorts and please, don’t hesitate to recommend any books you think I ought to read.

The first book I recommend is ‘The Secret  Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.’  It is written by Lola Shoneyin, a poet and novelist I recently discovered. If you have any thoughts on this book, please post them as comments on this entry. I really want to know what other people think of it.

Go on, get reading!!

xxx

Waila Caan

p.s.

I love all three covers but my favourite is the one on the right, which is the Nigerian cover. The one on the left is the US cover and in the middle, the UK cover.