Wednesday 29 September 2010

Nigeria At 50

I've known Nigeria for 19 years and I still don't understand her. She's a bit too temperamental for my liking.

When I first met her she loved me. I'm sure of it because whenever my parents gave me a little money to buy sweets, Nigeria would make sure that money stretched a long way. Just 5 Naira could buy me a whole bag of sweets and let me not even start on the wonders that 10 Naira could perform.

But then as I grew older, Nigeria's love for me cooled because whenever my parents gave me 5 Naira, she wouldn't stretch it for me and all I could come back with was one measly strip of chewing gum.

Or maybe Nigeria was just concerned for my teeth that's why she kept making the price of sweets go up and up and higher and up. Maybe she loved me after all?

But what about the time when she allowed the bombs explode outside my house. True she said it was an accident but what kind of accident is that? Hundreds of my siblings died because of her stupid accident. Or the time she made my father queue six hours to buy half a tank of petrol True, she said she was working on it but she's been working on it for years!

Please don't think I'm a pushover in this relationship and I just take Nigeria's rubbish lying down. I get angry with her. I rant. I rave. Then she promises she will do better, she even shows me some of the things she's doing to change. Like the time I spent a ten day vacation with her and she showed me the road she's widened to reduce the traffic.

"But it doesn't stretch far enough," I said. "You've only widened part of it and the rest of it is the same. It's still too narrow."
"I know," she said, "I know but I've started and I'm working on it," she whined, "I'm working on it."

Then she showed me a rail road that had been clogged by traders who had built their stalls on the tracks. Nigeria had broken up their stalls and chased them away to make way for her new train system that would revolutionise transport.

"But what about the people that used to work here," I shouted. "What have you done to compensate them?"
"What do you mean nothing?"
"I'm working on it," she said, taking my hand and showing me the tracks that were empty for the first time in years.
"You said I should make progress didn't you?" she said cutting me off. "Well this is progress."
"But what about the people who don't have jobs because you've kicked them out?"
"I'm working on it," she said. "At least say well done for the one I've done."

So on the eve of Nigeria's 50th, I say well done for the one you've done. It is not enough. It is nowhere near enough but it's your birthday so I'll relax because it's rude to point out flaws on a friend's birthday. Come October 2nd, we'll discuss.

Monday 27 September 2010

My First Interview

It was with CNN and it was on the phone and thankfully, it was nothing like Hardtalk. I've pasted the link in case you want to check it out.

:) We thank God.

Sunday 26 September 2010

A Grand Design?

Out of all the things that Christians believe, I think a divine plan is becoming one of the hardest to swallow. I suppose it's because of this growing trend in exalting the random. A trillion random sequences later and there was the universe, a billion random mutations later and there was man and out of a million random sperm, one fused with an egg to form me.

It's easy to buy into this theory of randomness, especially as we don't have the grand perspective. All we see is random acts, random meetings, random bangs but if only we could go a little higher.

Unfortunately, on this side of death, we can only see in part (1 Corinthians 13) because that's all we can handle but we trust the One who sees the whole picture.

I don't know why my Uncle died of cancer leaving a wife and two kids, I don't know why you missed your University offer by one mark, I don't know why your father left home but despite everything, the Master Planner hasn't lost His train of thought where you and I are concerned.

It's not wishful thinking or self delusion that makes me believe this. It's not an unfounded optimism or groundless hope. It's because once you've caught just a little glimpse of the plan, then you clutch tightly to the One who has the map.

I once heard a famous person say, "I believe in God but it's not like I have a direct line or anything." Well, we've all been offered a direct line, through Jesus, and its up to us to choose if we're going to take it.

So if you're worried about a lack of direction or focus in your life, ask God with humility and He'll show you His plan. Not all of it but a glimpse that will be enough to sustain you through this seemingly random journey that we call Life.

Saturday 25 September 2010

MTN Girls

I am a shade that most Nigerians would call yellow. Though I am as brown as the next African, my Igbo heritage has given me enough orangy yellow tints to be considered 'fair.' I put this word in quotation marks because how any black person like myself can be considered 'fair' is beyond me.

Anyways, I grew up surrounded by the mentality that a yellow shade of brown was better than a tan shade of brown which was in turn better than a dark brown shade of brown. Unluckily for me, I am on the cusp between yellow brown and tan brown and I was surrounded by an extended family who soared into the lighter shades of yellow. They would compare each others complexions with conversations like:

"Gosh you are so yellow!"
"No. You are really yallo!"
"No you."
"No! You."

Unfortunately I could not join in with these fun dialogues because it would have gone along the lines of this.

ME: Gosh you are so yellow!

The strange thing though, is that all this never made me want to become lighter. My complexion has never bothered me. I have never gone out of my way to preserve it or augment it like some of my 'fair' companions often do. There are many face washes, secret recipes and 'creams' that can make you lighter but I have scoffed at them all. Why would you want to regulate the colour of your skin so closely, I thought. Why?

Then a few years ago, someone I had not seen in a long while said something along the lines of, "You used to be so yellow. What happened to you?" There was shock in their voice, disgust that I could let myself go so, in other words, as a result of my complexion darkening, I was somehow worse looking.

The problem is, I took this comment as an insult, which was how it was intended but really, I should have known better. I had grown darker, it was a fact and even though it was meant as an insult, this didn't change the fact that it was only a fact and not an insult.

I know better now, thank God. Being lighter doesn't make you prettier. 'Fairer' skinned girls are only trying to make themselves feel good. Being darker doesn't make you prettier, darker skinned girls are only trying to make themselves feel good. Being pretty, makes you prettier.

And that, whether 'fair' skinned or darker skinned ladies and gentlemen, is the hard and inconvenient truth.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Going Natural And Taking A Thousand Heads With Me

Ever since my eyes were opened to the strangeness of permanently altering your hair with toxic chemicals, I've become a natural hair street preacher of some sorts. Repent, for the death of your follicles is near, is my new waking, sleeping and eating cry.

Not surprisingly, my friends have grown a little irate over my zealousness.

"It's my hair."
"I like it straight."
"Natural hair does not fit everybody."
"It's not that expensive.'
"I'm not trying to be white."
"My hair is too hard to go natural."
"Leave me alone."
"I'm glad to be enslaved by Western ideals of beauty."

Some of these are a few of the retorts that they have thrown in my well meaning face. Recently, these so called friends have left the defense and moved to the offense. Whenever I try to warn them of the dangers of the sodium hydroxide chemical found in relaxer, they assume attack position immediately. First, they start every sentence with "Since you are going natural," then they launch into the demolition.

Since you are going natural:

"Why don't you wash your hair with juices and berries?"
"Why don't you make your coat from ankara?"
"Why are you wearing trainers? Let us buy you leather sandals from the North?."
"Why don't you brush your teeth with chewing stick?"
"Why do you wear a bra?"
"Why do you speak English?"
"Why do you go to school in England? There are good Universities in Nigeria."
"Why do you go to the cinema?"

On and on the barrage continues.

I don't understand the antagonism. It's not that I want them to stop perming their hair. I just want them to start thinking about what they're doing. If you were going to permanently alter your nose, you would think about it. If you were going to permanently alter your mouth, you would think about it, but most people I know don't even think about what they're doing before they permanently straighten their hair with dangerous chemicals.

So you see my dear friends, it's not just that I want to convert you to the 'fro brigade. I just want you to think about the social and cultural reasons that make you feel the need to permanently alter your hair.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

There Comes A Time

Back in the day, Panam Percy Paul, or P to the power of 3, (as I sometimes called him in my head) was the stuvs. I danced to his androgynous high pitched voice, I sang to it, I washed plates to it. It''s not surprising that a lot of his lyrics have stuck in my head over the years. A few days ago, I found myself singing this one:

There comes a time in everybody's life,

There comes a time in everybody's life,

When you've got to make up your mind,

When you've got to make a decision,

You've got to choose who you will follow,

You've got to say who you believe in,

This past year, I've spent a lot of time questioning what I believe, weighing it, measuring it, going back on myself, sifting through the minutiae of the doctrines I follow and I'm glad I went through this period. However, as P to the power of 3 crooned, there comes a time that you have to make up your mind. At some point after you've fully confused yourself, and fully unravelled your thoughts and fully tied yourself into knots to untie them again, you have to say this is the way and I will walk in it.

I've chosen now and I'm glad.

I will follow Jesus, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

I couldn't find the video for this song so I put the link to another one of the vintage Panams.


I don't understand the dancing baby either.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

All Is Revealed

My name is Chibundu Onuzo. It's actually Imachibundu but everyone calls me Chibundu. Imachibundu is never used, not even when I am with trouble with my parents.

I'm the youngest of four. My parents are doctors, my oldest sister is a barrister, my oldest and only brother is a financier, my sister is an engineering student and I'm a History student at Kings College London.

I'm a Christian. I believe in God; I believe in John 3:16. I also believe that belief without actions is dead.

I sing. I play the piano. I write a blog in my spare time.

I'm 19 though not for long. A few months ago, the thought that this was my last teenage year filled me with dread. Now, I find it absurd that society has grouped thirteen year olds and nineteen year olds into the same category. I mean really. ;)

My novel, The Spider King's Daughter, is coming out Summer 2011, by God's grace. It will be published by Faber and Faber. I am agented by a very nice lady called Georgina Capel and my wonderful editor is Sarah Savitt.

So there. You now know everything.

Check out my announcement on The Bookseller if you want to.

N.B Photo courtesy Jonathan Ring.

I'm An Aunty :)

An entire person has been added to our family and given us all new titles. My sister is now Mother as well as Barrister. My brother in-law has added Baba T to Pharmacist K. My Doctor parents (the only ones with a real title) can now put grandparents on their CVs; my brother can add Uncle to his resumé but it is my sister and I who are most blessed because we have been bestowed with the most venerable of all appellations: Aunty.

I promise to be a good Aunty and buy T-Baby sweets and give her money to buy sweets and tell her how much she's grown since the last time I saw her, even though 'last time' was only last week. This is all I ever wanted from my Aunties so hopefully T-baby will be as easily pleased.

Congrats to my sister for pushing T-Baby out. Ko easy. Congrats to my brother in-law for surviving the labour ward. Congrats to T-baby for recovering from the trauma of being brutally evicted from her home of 9 months and here's to long life, prosperity and good stories to tell T-Baby when she's a teenager and much embarassed by the fact she was once a baby.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

My Cousins in Texas: A Study

My cousins E-girl, E-boy and C-boy have become very American. They are very open with their feelings, they hug a lot and they dispense encouragement and good cheer as freely as a Lagos policeman collects bribes.

E-girl is a little neurotic. She cleans stains as they appear ever on the ready with her anti-bacterial sprays and wet wipes. The middle compartment of her bag is stuffed with medicine from Bonjela to Tylenol to a small resuscitating machine that she has thankfully never had occasion to use. E-girl is also very generous. When shopping with her, quietly sneak off to the till or after the cashier has scanned your goods and just as you are about to pay, she will barge past, push her card into the machine and sign before you get the chance to say Emeka Okeke.

I never really knew E-girl when I was growing up. She was that much taller and that much older than me. It was very nice to re-acquaint myself with this cousin who is now that much smaller and that much shorter than me. I am not surprised that she turned out well, she has good parents, but I'm glad.

Her brothers E-boy and C-boy could not be more different. When he was in Nigeria, E-boy used to be worryingly quiet but thanks to America and her out going ways, he would now be considered demonstrative in many parts of the world.

E-boy was the one who took us shopping and while perambulating through rows and rows of American discount clothing, my sister and I soon discovered that E-boy has an uncanny eye for fashion. We would be trawling through a rack discouraged and dispirited not finding anything but all E-boy had to do was walk past the same rack and he would find at least five fashionable outfits. It's funny because E-boy looks like a man's man's man who wouldn't know nail polish from eye shadow. He is built like an American football player who should be nicknamed The Wall yet he has such a good eye. It's uncanny.

C-boy, I think, is the most like me out of the Texas cousins. He's the last born; I'm the last born. His name starts with C, mine starts with C. He never puts things back where he finds them; I'm starting to learn. As you can see I'm one step ahead.

C-boy used to be very gregarious back in Nigeria. Out of his siblings, he is the only one that America has had a quietening effect on. His explanation for what seems like a sudden change as I haven't seen him in over seven years is that it's cool to be gregarious and loquacious and precocious when you're a teenager but once you hit your mid-twenties and have to become a MAN, then it becomes annoying. Me and E-girl joked that when I reach my early twenties and have to become a WOMAN, then I will suddenly wake up one morning introspective and reserved like C-boy. We'll see about that.

Anyways, I had a great time Texas with all three of them and as they won't accept cash, I wrote this paean to thank them.

Thursday 2 September 2010

I Was Not

I was not born to fulfil some man's fantasy of what the ideal woman should be.

I was not born to help him along to his destiny while mine languishes as I wait for him to glance at me.

I was not born to cook, to clean or wash the dishes.

I was not born to look, to be admired, or to grant him wishes.

I was not born to complete a man.

God made me whole.

I was not born to be thought for by a man.

God gave me a soul.

I was born to reach the destiny that God has set for me.

I was born to be the woman that God created me to be.
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