Thursday, April 07, 2011

Book Review: "Little Bee"

I picked out Chris Cleaver’s “Little Bee” from the bookstore because it said #1 New York Times Bestseller on the front cover, and also because it said on the back cover, “We don’t want to tell you WHAT HAPPENS in this book. It is a truly SPECIAL STORY and we don’t want to spoil it…. Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens….

Dear friends, this is what happened:

     Little Bee a young Nigerian girl, and her sister had witnessed the ambush and massacre of her entire village by the oil company’s men- something to do with the discovery of crude oil deposits. The girls managed to escape but the oil company’s men gave chase and caught up with them on a certain beach where there happened to be an English couple who just happened to be vacay-ing in Nigeria. The couple could have saved both girls if they were both willing to cut off a finger each from their respective hands, but since it was just the wife who had the courage (and the humanity to make a sacrifice for a strange girl) to do so, only Little Bee of the two sisters lived to tell the story.

     Anyway, years later the paths of the couple and Little Bee (“LB”) cross in England, where LB is an illegal immigrant. Man of couple kills himself on seeing LB (he can’t live with himself knowing LB’s sister was killed due to his cowardice), woman of couple invites LB to live with her and her litttle son, LB later gets deported, woman of couple follows LB back to Nigeria, where LB gets picked up by the Nigerian government’s soldiers. End of.

A truly special story this isn’t. I’ll admit, I was sold on the promised intrigue, and it is fair to say that the first half of the book delivered. After that though, it just started to drag, and I couldn’t wait to get it over with (and not in a good way). My first thought was that this is a story that could have been better told by a Nigerian (think Chimamanda Adichie). While it is pretty standard for people to tell other people’s stories, this particular effort wasn’t convincing. Although it is a work of fiction loosely based on factual events, the problem is that the supposed actual events did not and could not have happened like that, and there are enough people who know that or who can figure it out.

First of all, a company massacring a village where oil deposits have been discovered does not exactly equate to obtaining an oil prospecting licence or oil mining lease from the government. It beats my imagination how the oil company could have thought that sacking a village was all the permit they needed to drill for their oil. It is true that there are always disputes between governments, big oil companies and the indigenous peoples, but a sponsored massacre by an oil company is not something that I believe has ever happened, or could happen. The government, possibly! (Odi killings etc). But the oil company’s men? I think not.

Something else I found puzzling was the events that occurred after Little Bee returned to Nigeria. Why would the Nigerian government send soldiers after a young (sixteen year old) girl who was denied immigrant status by the UK government, many years after the atrocities of the oil company’s men? What kind of threat could she pose to them? How did they even know about her?

I won’t even go near the finger-for-a-life barter.

After concluding to myself that the book is riddled with inaccuracies in addition to not finding the story convincing in any way, I wondered whether The Kite Runner a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, could be another such book, guilty of taking liberties with actual events. It turns out that I was not the only one comparing Little Bee and The Kite Runner; the Library Journal, one of the reviewers of Little Bee said, “book clubs in search of the next Kite Runner need look no further than this astonishing, flawless novel …” There is a teeny weeny difference however- Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner is Afghan and therefore should be competent to speak on Afghan matters, or at least can be pardoned for taking such liberties. But when an English man takes such liberties with Nigeria’s story; that I think, is much harder to ignore.

Nonetheless, I may be the only one who feels this way about the book, because the people who know these things had nothing but high praise for the book –

Little Bee will blow you away”- The Washington Post

Immensely readable and moving …”- The New York Times Book Review

Beautifully staged …”- Publisher’s Weekly

Oh, and this one –

An ambitious and fearless gallop from the jungles of Africa via a shocking encounter on a Nigerian beach to the media offices of London and domesticity in leafy suburbia …”- The Guardian (UK)

Plus, the book is *soon to be a major motion picture*. I must not know what I am talking about.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Golf for Dummies

I just realised that my last blog post was sometime in 2009. 2009! That's just wrong. What could I have been up to in that time that I couldn't take time out to  blog? To be honest- a lot. Like... golf. Uh huh, golf. Let me explain.

To put it delicately, I have had some free time, with which I have decided to explore new things (you'll be hearing about how that is going from time to time). My projects had to bring me personal satisfaction, and if they could somehow also lead to world peace, good for the world. How does golf fit into that you would ask. Golf? Really? How bourgeois! And hardly world peace stuff. But, let’s assume for one moment that golf is somewhat important, after all, the richest athlete in the world plays golf, and not football (however football is played where you come from). And like I said, I had the time and the motivation.

So far, soooo bad idea!

In the beginning though, I fooled myself and would have fooled you too. My first time at the driving range, I was "winning"! Surely, it couldn't be just beginner’s luck- more like a combination of my tiger blood and Adonis DNA. D'uh! I didn’t even need any more practice. Yawn. On to the next one.

Just the other day though, there I was with my swag on at the driving range ready to do my thing. I even had the golfer's look down to a tee. But, horror of horrors, I couldn’t find my swing. I mean, I was painful to watch. I couldn’t even hit 20 yards (if that). The applause in my head died down instantly. Something like reality started to settle in.

“Mon Dieu”!

“And you are doing this because”?

But then, I calmed down a bit and thought:

“It’s just the Tiger effect, all great golfers have bad days” (as if)

“It must be the sun in my eyes” (at 7pm in October, yeah … right)

And then I hit on the perfect reason why things weren’t going my way. If we are blaming stuff on rain, alcohol etc., might it be that I could blame this one on my boobs? Honestly. Boobs are kind of an inconvenience when you play golf.

So when next my coach’s exasperated voice went:

“Left arm straight in front of you”- My boobs are in the way

“Keep your arms close to you”- Can't. The boobs, remember?

“Keep your eye on the ball”- D'uh … boobs

“Your feet are too far apart”- Are you even listening to me? It’s the boobs!

Thank goodness he couldn’t hear my response- I may have come off as just a little nuts. Or something.

So while I may deserve this little tribulation, don’t judge me too harshly, I still know what you did last summer. *wink*

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Getting A Grip

I'll never let you see
The way my broken heart is hurting me
I've got my pride and I know how to hide
All my sorrow and pain
I'll do my crying in the rain

If I wait for cloudy skies
You won't know the rain from the tears in my eyes
You'll never know that I still love you so
Though the heartaches remain
I'll do my crying in the rain

Raindrops falling from heaven
Will never wash away my misery
But since we're not together
I'll wait for stormy weather
To hide these tears I hope you'll never see

Someday when my crying's done
I'm gonna wear a smile and walk in the sun
I may be a fool
But till then, darling, you'll never see me complain
I'll do my crying in the rain

This song was something of an anthem in secondary school, and I discovered later that it is actually a real song done originally by the Everly Brothers, and sampled by a number of other people since then. Then, the extent of heartache we could have felt was when your 'a-lo-ve' (a fellow girl by the way) stopped loving you [my goodness! it sounds soooo funny now, but I guess it was serious business then). Little did we know that real heartbreak was waiting down the years.

I find I much prefer this song to others of its kind which are admittedly quite more angry and certainly less restrained. This song leaves you some dignity and reminds you that the crying will be done some day.

I'll leave you with the other kind of heartbreak song, just in case it's more your speed:

Till you do me right
I don't even want to talk to you
I don't even want to hear you speak my name
Till you do me right
Only wrong is gonna come to you
Nothing good is gonna come till you change
Change your ways
Until you change your evil ways

Monday, June 08, 2009

Quote of Last Week

I am still Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Head Off.

So, apparently there was this magistrate in one magistrate court like that in Lagos that got into an altercation with ...wait for it... police officers. Anyway, it so happened that the magistrate had granted bail to some accused persons, which the police challenged on the basis that "the matter is serious" (and this here provided my first Laugh Out Loud moment). The bail of course was upheld probably because (and this is more than a suspicion) bail applications are generally not denied because "the matter is serious". The police officers however were not having any of it, and immediately the matter was dismissed, they went out and re-arrested the accused persons.

To cut a long story short, the magistrate got up from the Bench (presumably to enforce his bail order), stepped out of the courtroom, and the next thing he knew "[he] felt all manner of blows over [his] body", many thanks to the re-arresting police officers. [Not excusing the action of the police officers, but someone ought to have informed the hapless magistrate that his authority/sanctity does not extend outside his hallowed courtroom/chambers].

Since that ordeal, the poor man has now opened up to say "now if I want to sleep at night, my heart would be throbbing. Whether it is broken I don't know...".

Broken! Broken!!!


Monday, February 23, 2009

Paternal Responsibility

This post has been a long time coming. I had written a first draft almost two years ago, but lost my train of thought somewhere along the way. It was titled 'single mothers' then. An email I received this morning brought it back and has made the writing easier.

I know a single mom, ... no, make that two of them, … pardon me, I've actually lost count!!! And anyone reading this most probably has a sister, cousin, neighbour, friend, friend of a friend who is in this unfortunate position. Being a single mom is not a crime even though it is as close as it gets in 2009 Nigeria. Would you believe it?!!! Our rigid adherence or obeisance to antiquated cultures and traditions is actually infringing on our compassion.

The question is this: should a mistake (as is the case when a pregnancy is unplanned) define and shape a girl’s life and that of her illegitimate child, for the rest of their natural lives? And this while her partner in crime (after all it takes two to tango) goes scot free? The punishment for single moms is myriad: diminished prospects of having a good marriage, financial difficulty in caring for herself and her child, loneliness, not to talk of the life long social stigma, etc.

I make bold to accuse our laws and lawmakers of complicity in this mess. Why on earth have our laws not been modified to accommodate single moms? There is nothing in any of our laws or procedures that compels a man to be responsible for his child born outside of wedlock. To make it worse, not even one of our female legislators has thought to sponsor a bill addressing this issue. When they are not busy sponsoring a nudity bill to regulate the length of female skirts and sleeves etc, they are probably busy being women i.e. casting aspersion on the single mom; so maybe it is asking too much to expect them to do anything about it.

You see in most cases, it is the woman who reviles against the single mom, and looks at her as somehow being a lesser human. It is the woman who would ask if her son is sure that the child his girlfriend of three years is carrying is his- "after all how are you so sure you are the only one she has been seeing"? It is the woman that will insist that her darling son cannot marry a woman who already has a child by another man - she would rather her prince charming marry a girl with less obvious failings.

It is not too late for our female legislators to get their act together and legislate a solution to his problem. While you cannot legislate and compel a man to marry the woman carrying his child, we can at least compel the man to be financially responsible for his child; after all he is the one that will adorn his flowing agbada and attend all the milestone events in the child’s life in the later years.

Which brings me to the email I received this morning: A former classmate of mine is researching a project on the feasibility of introducing a legislative bill on "responsible paternity" in her country. The bill would require men who do not voluntarily register themselves as fathers on their children's birth certificates to undergo a compulsory DNA test. If the result is positive they (i) must grant use of their surname, (ii) contribute to the cost of pregnancy and birth, and (iii) contribute to the livelihood of their child(ren). The purpose of the bill is to strengthen the protection of children and to encourage mothers and fathers to share in the upbringing of their children.

Apparently, such a law already exists in Costa Rica. And Nigeria needs it sooo badly. Somebody ..., anybody..., do something!!!

Perhaps the next time a female legislator is in search of a cause to make her own, she might divert her mind to this. If not for the single mom who after all deserves every horrible thing that can happen to her for her brazenness, stupidity, immorality…., do it for the child who had no hand in the circumstances of its birth.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Vox Pop Series- II

Girl meets boy,

there is a connection (or so the girl thinks anyway),

several dates have gone past,

mushy things have been said,

lots of physical activity even.


boy has not made any commitment (and almost seems like he'll never get around to it),

and has not officially or unofficially asked that she be his main squeeze/roll with him/be the mother of his children etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

SO ...

Is boy just obtuse, or

Is he deliberately not defining things; and

Should the girl with all the trepidation in her heart and her brain gone to sleep, ask the question no girl should ever have to ask:

“errr….what’s up doc?”

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Writer's Write

It did not start like any other day. That was the first thought that occurred to me right about when Inspector Sai (from his badge) placed the cuffs around my wrists. I remembered how Serah would always say that when your life starts to go wrong at about 11:45am on a Tuesday, you wonder how, when there was no indication earlier in the day that within a few hours, your life would suddenly look like you are reading some unknown person’s biography- ‘It was like any other day’, Until.…

Serah and I went to school together. Not much taller than my 1.5m, she had an engaging personality. I had never had so much fun as those few months we spent together combing the streets of Krix, looking for unsuspecting young men who would fall helplessly in love with us, unrequited certainly! But of course! We were two young women out to conquer men on behalf of all the world’s women. Those were the days. We went our separate ways- I married the love of my life, but that is another story. Serah; I haven’t heard from Serah in about eight years.

But today was not like any other day. I should have known. Or how else would I explain the fact that I did not wake up on the right side of my bed? (Pun fully intended) I never wake up on the left (wrong) side of my bed. I am a superstitious person, and have always been. My mother could never explain how a kid could be so fixated on superstitions. I would wake up on a Monday morning and refuse to go to school just because when I woke up, the first thing I saw was a wall gecko. So, yes, I have always been superstitious.

To make matters worse that morning, my five year old daughter would not stop crying. All my pleas fell on deaf ears. Neither did the cuddles, the threats, or even the bribes, work. I was out of my depth. Jeri is the love of my life, the only child I had for her father, the former love of my life. She was spoilt but well behaved. I did not care. Let all those who think that I have spoilt my daughter mind their own numerous children. I had just one and fully intended to spoil her. On that much, her father and I agreed.

The plan was never for Beni to be the former love of my life. I had never entertained thoughts of divorce, but how was I to know that after 5 years of marriage, you would wake up one morning and look at the man lying beside you and then wonder? How was I to know that we would both grow up to be individuals with irreconcilable differences? What does ‘irreconcilable differences’ even mean? I don’t know, but it is what Beni told the judge presiding over our divorce. And since the judge bought it, I must have been the only person who did not understand ‘irreconcilable’. Little matter: I got Jeri- life was always bearable. Beni would get her on the weekends. It was an arrangement that worked for everyone, except Jeri of course who couldn’t understand the new status quo. I give her a couple of years. She will.

So back to my unlike-any-other-day day. I dropped Jeri off at school and came back home to start arranging my day. You see, I do not have a job. Somewhere in the years I was married to Jeri’s father, I put aside all that I had planned on achieving when I was still a fresh-faced prize-winning graduate student. I was going to be Professor of law, Attorney General, Chief Justice, and Senior Advocate… and why not? It was the 21st century; all the motivational speakers said you could be whatever you wanted to be- just think it! And think I did! Needless to say, I am nothing I planned on being except mother to Jeri. Was I satisfied with that? Sometimes. Most times in fact.

I settled down to continue writing my third novel- two had previously been published and my publisher was so impressed he gave me a contract for 5 more novels within two years. I was busy. The plot was one I enjoyed- a legal cum romantic thriller. I had somehow found a way to put all the law I learnt in school to use, along with my romantic streak which the divorce did nothing to change. My mind was very clear this Tuesday morning, the 5th of September 2006. I had just the final chapter to go, and was so proud of myself.

I did not hear it at first. But it must have gone on for a while because by the time I made it downstairs he was already in his car about to drive off. “Beni!” and then, “…is anything wrong?” Nothing was wrong. He was in the neighbourhood and thought he should check on me and see how I was doing. “…Mighty glad you came”. Why would a line from Lionel Richie’s ‘Stuck on You’ come to my mind at this time? Your guess is as good as mine.


“I want you to meet someone”.

“Ok ….”

“I’m getting married again…Jeri is getting another mom…I got that job…in Antarctica… (We had always dreamt about that job- Beni and I) I want Jeri with me…We leave in a couple of hours…”

I am actually amazed about how people even conceive these ideas. Like I’d ever give up Jeri. I’ll kill him and the bitch first.

And then,

“Say goodbye to Jeri”.

Then, I looked in the car and saw Jeri in the arms of a rather nice looking lady, much as I’d have liked to describe her as a hag, and sucking happily away on a Tisto.

Hell yeah…

I rushed into the house, came out with my semi-automatic, put one in his head, and one in her head…

Inspector Sai (from his badge) was cruising past, saw everything, and without so much as a scuffle, read me my rights and put the cuffs around my wrists…

And then I snapped out of my reverie…what a cheesy ending!…writing a bestseller ain’t easy after all [sigh!].

It’s back to work, and a more original ending for my book.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


The couple ...

of the Vox Pop Series I ...



Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Vox Pop Series- I

A colleague’s friend is in a dilemma:

Dude met and fell in love with Girl.

Under normal circumstances Girl would be wearing Dude’s ring on her finger by now.

Instead, Dude is applying the brakes.

Because sometime around 2BD (2 years Before Dude), Girl dated a married man.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Won the Lottery

Last weekend, I won the lottery to see the Nations Cup final in Accra, Ghana.

A couple of things about the trip:

I got on a propeller plane for the first time. I wasn't even aware initially that I ought to have been scared. Until, a couple of less trusting people gave me 21 reasons to be. And then I got just a tad apprehensive.

Can anyone figure out how someone wearing this much metal got through Airport security and got on board a plane??? I am imagining the ruckus when he went through the scanners. Reminds me of the Kanye West video: All Falls Down- where he himself eventually had to be sent through the scanner!

And no, that is not from inside the plane that he is hanging o! I know they say Nigerian aircrafts are like being inside molue, but it's not that bad...yet.

And then this welcome sign. What's the deal? Like where should the pedophiles go? To Ghana's friendly neighbour Nigeria maybe?

Did a little sightseeing ...

But the football game was the highlight of my trip. Saw Eto'O working out the kinks in his calf muscles just before the game.

And even though I sat with the Cameroonian supporters club and screamed my lungs out, fat load of good it did me or them, no thanks to Rigobert Song.

Eventually, the weekend ended and it was time to go, and the Ghanaians cheerily waved us on our way.

Is that good riddance to bad rubbish...?