My Random Thoughts

Location: United Kingdom

A Naija Guy living (and loving) in the UK.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Ghana to pay the price of beating the USA at the world cup...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Nationality and Sport

The Identity of French World Cup Team
Aba boy has written an excellent piece on why black people and immigrants would identify with the success of the French Team. The French team that started the match against Spain on Monday had seven black players in its starting line up. Of the eleven players who started, nine had parents who were not born on the French Mainland and were either first or second generation immigrants. Thierry Henry & William Gallas have parents that come from Guadeloupe while Lilian Thuram was actually born in Guadeloupe, Patrick Vieira's roots are Senegalese and is a naturalized Frenchman, Sidney Govou's parents come from the Republic of Benin, Florent Malouda was born in French Guiana, and Claude Makelele was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The French Manager has also stoked controversy by claiming that his team were subject to racist chants by Spanish fans before the match. This in addition to the awful comments the Spanish Manager Luis Aragones made in relation to Thierry Henry. Nkem at African Shirts said we are all Ghanian now, and yes early on Monday evening I was Ghanian, but from 8pm I became French.

On representing "your country" in Sporting Tournaments
Many Africans move to Europe and North America in search of a better life and many settle down in these places to raise families. The children of these immigrants then grow up as indigenes and for those who turn to sport may then end up representing these countries in whatever field they specialise in. An example of this is Freddy Adu, the teenage football prodigy who moved to the USA from Ghana at the age of eight. Barring injury or a totally unexpected dip in form, this teenager will probably be the Star of the 2010 world cup in South Africa while he represents the USA. (imagine my suprise in typing 'Adu' into google and the first entry is relating to Freddy? What happened to the global phenomena that is Sade?).

Other sportspeople face more complex decisions when choosing which country to represent as they may have moved to another country as an adult professional in search active support and development. Emmanuel Olisadebe represented Poland at the 2002 World Cup scoring for his adopted country while Nigeria failed to qualify for the second round of the tournament as we stuggled to cope with the aging talent of Nwankwo Kanu.

Francis Obikwelu born in Nigeria and after representing his country of birth in a couple of World Championships made a decision to run for Portugal because of neglect by Nigerian sports officials when he was injured while representing Nigeria. In the 2004 Olympic Games he won the silver medal in the 100m final for Portugal. When I watched that final I experienced complex emotions, pride for his acheivement, shame that he wasn't able to represent Nigeria and embarassment that I was 'claiming' a success that now belonged to Portugal.

In 2003 the BBC asked Does the Flag Matter? as many African athletes were representing and winning medals for other countries during the World Championships; Wilson Kipketer (800m) representing Denmark, Nigeria's Gloria Alozie (100m hurdles) for Spain and Sierra Leone lost silver medal winning heptathlete Eunice Barber to France.

Salomon Kalou was born in Cote d'Ivoire and moved to the Netherlands at age 17. Earlier this year he sought accelerated naturalization as a Dutch Citizen in order to play for Holland at this World Cup. This bid failed and he never got to play. Strangely enough the Netherlands and Côte d'Ivoire were allocated to the same group in the first round. If Kalou had become a Dutch citizen and was selected for the Netherlands, he could have played against his native country. Meanwhile in a case where reality is almost stranger than fiction his older brother, Bonaventure featured for Côte d'Ivoire in Germany. If the Côte d'Ivoire had the striking talent of the young Salomon perhaps they would have been the second African team in the Second round.

What is the future of African Sport when its best and most talented stars now choose to represent European and North American Countries? Should they retain a sense of patriotism despite the odds and continue to wave the flag of their countries of origin?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Quick Post: Promiscuity and Nigerian Society

Promiscuity (definition courtesy of Wikipedia) is the practice of making relatively unselective, casual and indiscriminate choices. The term is most commonly applied to sexual behavior, where it refers to sex that is not in the framework of a steady sexual relationship, or occurs in multiple, simultaneous sexual relationships.

I came across a random piece of research into sexual behavior in Nigerian Society. In a study of 1000 young people in higher education institutions in Ilorin, Nigeria, it found casual sex to be more than 5 times more common among males than among females. What does this research actually tell us? I would probably infer that the Guys are being more truthful than the Girls. I showed it to my girlfriend who thinks that it means that there are a minority of girls who are letting the side down. Well methinks they are doing a good job of it as if the statistics are to be believed it means promiscuous girls are having five times as much sex as promiscuous guys (actually does 'promiscuous guys' qualify as tautology?).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Spirituality and Soccer

In the 1999 European Cup final featuring Manchester United Vs Bayern Munich in Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium, Man Utd chaplain Rev John Boyers prayed to God for a miracle so his team could win. Anyone who has been watching the World Cup over the last couple of weeks will also be familiar with the joint squad prayers before games, the hands clenched and the look towards the heavens when shots are saved or go wayward and players who cross themselves before taking penalties.

Other avid watchers of the game will remember the stunned silence from German television commentators after the Brazilians knelt down together in a circle and prayed after winning the Confederations Cup. Fellow Nigerians will remember 'Brother' Taribo leading the Eagles in prayer before games in the 1998 World Cup. It has become a recognisable part of the sport with South American and African countries being particularly involved in collective prayer before and after games. Other football players have regularly attributed their success to prayer, while some when interviewed have admitted to praying before important matches.

In our everyday lives we pray to seek divine intervention in our human endeavour be it seeking good health, wealth, success in exams, improvement in the circumstances of an individual, group, country etc. In the majority of cases these interventions are for the advancement of an individual or group and not at the expense of another. The issue of prayer in Football is one that baffles me as if both teams are praying to the same God then surely one side will end up saying their prayers were not answered?. Isn't this selfish? I guess it would be okay if the prayers are seeking that the individuals involved perform to the best of their potential but when it comes to sport most of us believe its the success that counts and thus pray for the win.

The issue of prayer in sports was such a significant one that it was refered to the United States Supreme Court a few years ago where the Justices had to decide whether public school students should be allowed to lead prayers over the public-address system before football games.

UK residents will also be familiar with the antics of its tabloid newspapers regularly asking the nation to pray for intervention in the many football games or for the quick healing of someones metatarsal. In Mexico, Churches are leading their parishes to pray for the success of its team in the World Cup. Are we right to pray for success in football games? Surely God has more important issues to deal with.

Anyway I've blogged enough for one day, I'm off to bed now but must remember to pray for Ghana to beat USA on Thursday first though.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Brazilian Wax

Brazilian waxing (definition courtesy of Wikipedia) is a type of waxing involving the bikini area. This procedure involves the complete removal of hair from the buttocks and adjacent to the anus, perineum and vulva (labia majora and mons pubis). It can be thought of as an extreme form of bikini waxing. Most forms of Brazilian waxing leave a small line of pubic hair above the vulva, commonly known as the "landing strip". Waxes that completely remove the pubic hair are either termed 'Hollywood' or 'Sphynx' depending on the salon visited. Sometimes the term Full Bikini Wax or FBW is used. While mainly associated with females, the practice is engaged in by males as well (though less often). It is named for Brazil, the country with which it is most often associated with.

I had a not completely unwelcome suprise last night (well it was actually a very pleasant suprise if I'm honest). I won't go into the details but I'm sure you can guess from the topic what I'm talking about. I'm touched (and slightly worried) that my girlfriend went to these lengths to spice things up between us (I guess she needed to do something to take my mind off the football now I have a TV set and have paid the licence fee). But I've certainly started looking at her in a different light as having it done sounds like one of the most painful things on earth not to mention the obvious embarassment factor of exposing your bits to a stranger that isn't a doctor.

How to do the 'Brazilian'

It takes about 30 minutes for a thorough job to be done. There are quite a few beauty salons who do this 'procedure' in London but it may be pricey. An alternative is to go for the private waxers but you may have to find them through references from friends etc.

You will need to remove all clothing including underwear and lie on a table with clean paper or sheets. It is possible that you could be provided with a paper thong, but chances are you won't.

Because only about a quarter-inch of hair is needed for the wax to grab onto, your waxer will start by trimming your pubic (and anal) hair to the right length.

The best waxers are fast, which means less discomfort for you. The waxer will dip a waxing stick into a pot of hot wax & then spread it onto your skin & hair. She will then apply a cloth strip over the still-warm wax, pressing firmly so the cloth, hair and wax adhere to one another. When the wax has cooled, she will pull the strip off, in the opposite direction of your hair growth, pulling the hairs out by the root.

Most likely, your waxer will tweeze any stray hairs.

Waxing usually starts in the front & moves toward the back. Be prepared to move around in all sorts of odd positions in order for the waxer to do her job (would you rather have some random bloke do this?).

Once the waxing is over, the waxer will spread soothing lotion over the waxed areas. You should ask what to do in case of bumps, redness or ingrown hairs. Your waxer should be trained in this.
Don't forget to get the name of the waxer so when you make another appointment you can get the same person so you don't have to bare all for another complete stranger.

The procedure, like any waxing, can be very painful at first, but I understand frequent visits can cut down on the pain factor. I suggest taking a couple Ibuprofen at least 15 minutes before your procedure. You might want to take a shower first before going in order to ensure all the bits are clean and 'long hard day' funk free.

The major attractions of the full brazilian is that you won't have those clumps of hair sticking out of your bikini when on holiday (we all know Nigerians can be very hairy) and it can also be a major aphrodisiac.

The downside of a Brazilian wax while it lasts as much as 3 weeks, the hair will grow back & you'll have to do it again.

Another downside... hair has to be a certain length before it can sucessfully waxed.
Another down side... you might experience bumps or ingrown hairs.

Anyone interested?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Church Attendance & Football

Last Sunday my girlfriend dragged my lazy ass to church. I moved a couple of years ago and haven't bothered to find a church I'm comfortable with worshipping in, and since then Sunday mornings have just been me time. So Saturday night my girlfriend decides we'll be going to church in the morning (yep I'm whipped and I know it!). Since we didn't know where the closest Pentecostal church was we decided to go to an Anglican Church (Church of England) just down the street. Now I pray for forgiveness if this is blasphemy, but that was one of the most boring services I've attended in my life. I haven't felt so much like falling asleep in church since my pre teens. The sermon was uninspiring and the songs sounded like they were just a biology textbook being recited over music. I really need to find me a Church that has service I can feel. You know with the praise and worship sessions that even if you don't know the songs you can just close your eyes and feel the spirit moving.

The second thing that struck me though was how empty that space was. I'm convinced the church could seat over a thousand people, but I doubt if there were more than 70-80 people in the service. I suppose the only way they could afford to pay the Reverend would be through central church funds. No big suprise that Churches are being converted to housing across the country.

Christian Country
In the 2001 Census, 72% of the population of Great Britain claimed to be Christians. This contrasts greatly with the reported only 8% of the population who attend regular church services. Indeed it is claimed that without the rise of Black Pentecostal Churches, attendance at church in the UK would be actually be falling.

Some Random thoughts & observations
Every week during the football season about 700,000 attend live football games in England (just the Premiership, Championship and leagues one and two) and another 1.25 million also watch the live games transmitted by Sky. This doesn't include the reported 4.5 million who watch Match of the Day. Some may remember World Cup 2002 where some churches put up screens for their attendees to watch the World Cup games on Sunday morning, others shifted their service times altogether to ensure they wouldn't clash with the football!. For those who live in the UK, I guess it will prove no big suprise that the figures suggest that Football is more popular in this country than the Church.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

TV Licensing, Superstitions and Football

I have a confession to make. Much as I make noise about Football and Arsenal Football Club, I am only an Armchair Supporter. I have only been to Highbury once in the last couple of years and that was for a Carling Cup game (which we ended up losing by the way).

Any follower of the game will know that last season was a poor one for Arsenal domestically. By the end of November last year, the team had lost more games than my blood pressure could handle. By Christmas when the losing trend hadn't abated I decided I couldn't handle the heat anymore so I gave my TV to my little cousin for his bedroom room and I cancelled my TV license. I'd convinced myself that by doing away with the TV I would no longer have to sit through Match of the Day and the frustrating action replays of our back four conceeding needless goals. I could also make positive use of my leisure time and enhance my social life.

The World Cup and TV Licensing
When I gave up my TV in Dec 05, it had always been my intention to acquire another one however temporarily to watch the World Cup. I also didn't know whether I would be able to handle not having a TV (imagine all those episodes of EastEnders I'd be missing!). Anyway the loss of a TV over the last few months has been cathartic and enabled me to wake up more alert as I no longer stay up till 1am watching re-runs of the Terminator on channel 4.

By the beginning of this month I had contacted my mate Steve to loan his extra TV for a month and I called TV licensing in a routine call to acquire a TV licence for a month to watch the World Cup. Imagine my suprise to find out the minimum period I can purchase a license for is a year! Awon Ole! After having a go at the Customer services rep at length I decided I wouldn't be exploited and chose to watch the games at my local pub. This obviously hasn't worked as my natural inclination to watch as many games as posible live has now meant I am on first name terms with the 7 bar staff, the manager and about 10-12 of the bar regulars. So today I relented and have called up TV licensing to set up a direct debit.

I have always been against the idea of a TV license on principle as I cannot understand why I should be forced to pay £130 odd just because the BBC can't be bothered to carry adverts and compete with the other commercial channels. One of my friends used to work for the BBC and her stories of the excesses of the senior staff and their charge accounts sets my blood boiling every time I think about it.

Lady Superstition
When watching football especially games I have an emotional attachment to, I have this strange irrational belief that my actions on my sofa can actually impact upon the results of the game. For the Champions league final vs Barcelona it was my fault Lehmann was sent off. I was hungry and Steve's beautiful wife offered me some aromatic and delicious J-Rice, what could a man do? I had to say yes, but I should have known better. I haven't eaten J-Rice during a game since 1998 when my J-Rice eating antics caused Nigeria to lose 4-1 to Denmark. I used to think this was a strange eccentricity of mine but one of my friends, an Arsenal mad Ghanian chick refuses to leave the country when Arsenal have home games as if she does so the team always loses.

Since relenting and buying the TV licence this afternoon (I swear once the World Cup is over I will cancel that Direct Debit and return the TV to Steve, those thieves at the BBC will not get more than the £26 first instalment from me), I went to Steve's place to pick up the spare TV and set it up and within 2 minutes of turning it on saw Tunisia equalise against Saudi Arabia. Now all I have to do is go root out my lucky Nike T-Shirt (which I haven't worn since December by the way) and settle down to watch the remaining 47 games. Perhaps the African countries will do better now as I have also sworn off J-Rice till 10th July.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Six Degrees of Separation

On Blogging
I discovered blogging less than three weeks ago. For those of you who have been at it for a few months/years now go on and say it a la Dr Cox, I am a "newbie". I discovered a couple of blogs, I liked the articles and thought to put up some random observations of my own. My parents are Nigerians who choose to settle in the UK in the seventies and have since reared myself and my siblings in London. I have had the fortune to also spend about 8 years in Nigeria and thus identify myself primarily as a Nigerian. Eva Hoffman once said "Every immigrant becomes a kind of amateur anthropologist" and it is with this dual viewpoint I observe the world around me.

One of the things that has intrigued me in the last few weeks is how similar my views are to some of the bloggers I have chosen to repeatedly visit their sites (I'm not stalking you guys, I promise). In the main the articles have been very well written by amateurs to this trade (apart from a couple of notable exemptions) and I am impressed at how articulate, humourous and intellectual my fellow Nigerians are. So far I have limited myself to blogs from people of the Nigerian Community, but I must admit that in the next few weeks I'm looking forward to exploring other options with blogs around my interests as opposed to just my background (any ideas for how to seek these blogs are welcome guys).

Degrees of Separation
I'm sure most of us have heard of the theory of Six degrees of Separation where everyone on the planet can be connected to another random person through six social acquantances. Its also called the small world phenomenon and there is a hollywood game named after this where you have to go from Denzel Washington to say Tom Cruise in the least amount of steps (Denzel acted in 'Philadelphia' with Tom Hanks who acted in 'The Terminal' with Chi Mcbride who once acted in 'The Practice' with Steve Harris who acted in 'Minority Report' with Tom Cruise - anyone got a shorter connection?).

I would argue that with the Nigerian community the number of steps required to jump from one Nigerian to another halves the number to about three despite the fact that there are over 150million of us. One of the things I've found interesting is how on visiting these blogs I've seen people who will know people I know (in 3 cases I've found my girlfriend or I know actually know the blogger, you might chose to ostensibly remain anonymous but its interesting how much you can reveal the more you say). We all go to the same schools (Buckingham, South Bank Uni etc) we go to the same parties/clubs and visit the same restaurants. Hell one of you guys reading this might have even been at the barbeque I was at in North London yesterday!

My Dilemma
I have spent nine years of my life in Universities in both the UK and in Nigeria. If I am going to include other Higher education such as A levels, Short courses etc I dread to think how high that number could go to. Its interesting that my current job doesn't necessarily require a University degree more my years of experience in the field, but thats another story. The reason I bring up University is that during my first degree, I met one of my closest friends lets call her 'Bola' (who ever said that men and women can't be friends lied). I've known her for over ten years and our 'relationship' has become a bit of a support system. Sometimes we don't see each other for months, other times she's in my place every other day and I'm in hers.

A couple of years ago Bola started dating 'David'. It so happens I knew David tangetially from my masters but wasn't involved in them getting together. Unfortunately Bola and David broke up a few months later and I heard all sorts of awful things about David from Bola that I never previously knew about. I bumped into David at the Bar-b-que yesterday and he practically blanked me. Chei? Wetin concern me inside? I asked one of my homeboys about it later and he reckons David holds me responsible for their break-up. How far? So right about now I'm in a bit of a dillema as whether to pick up the phone and call David (I'm sure I could get his number somewhere) or just leave it all alone. Man life hard O!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Identity Pt3: Language and Accents

A-Z Meme and My Fair Lady
In reading blogs of the Nigerian Community in the last couple of weeks I've come across quite a few A-Z Meme articles. From what I understand its one line questions A to Z which the respondent has to reply to in order to get some insight into their likes, dislikes and nature. Apparently when you have written yours you also need to 'tag' someone else (and no I'm not going to whinge right now about how I haven't been tagged and am feeling unloved, sob). The first item on the list is Accent. What I've found interesting is the amount of people who have either described their accent as 'Nigerian/British' or 'None' (how can you have no accent? none at all?).

An important element of personal identity is the way we speak, what language we speak in, any dialects and our accent. Anyone who has watched 'My Fair Lady' will know that most of us have regional inflections in our speech that may not be obvious to the 'neutral' observer but a trained professional would be able to pick out. It is argued that the 'Upper-class' have regionless accents but my counter arguement would be class in addition to region is another element of accent.Some of us are able to change the way we speak, especially we have had reason to move around from one region or country to the next, but most of us carry at least some trace of our accent and dialect origins with us all of our lives (some of us more than others).

On Faking the funk, Switching and Conc Naija Accents
On my first visit to New York in 1998, I stayed with a friend who had just moved to the states two years earlier. One of the things I noticed was how in speaking to me he would adopt a 'Naija' mode and when we went to shops etc and he had to interact with Americans he would 'switch' to an American accent that I couldn't distinguish from that of a native New Yorker. I asked him why he did this and his answer was he wanted to 'blend' and not stick out. Hmn.

I'm sure we have all come across 'Broda Kenny' who arrived in London last month for the first time and has already started spicing his every statement with 'init though' and 'yer know what I mean'. Why Broda Kenny is trying to 'blend' I have no idea as the Ibadan tribal marks on his face will always ensure that we know where he comes from. I call the Broda Kenny example 'faking the funk'.

In the last year I've taken to Naija Hip-Hop in a big way mainly on the back of the influence of my two favorite Nigerian bands Styl-Plus and PSquare. I must admit howver to prefering the music of PSquare as they are unpretentious and don't feel the need to 'blow Fhonee' on their songs (this is obviously my main gripe with some of the new naija hip-hop bands but thats another story).

I once worked for three months for the Employment agency and I worked with a guy called 'Ade'. This guy had one of the strongest Yoruba Accents I've heard on this side of the Atlantic. What impressed me about this dude is that he stuck to his guns and refused to fake the funk. Only ignorant people chose to act like they couldn't understand his English, but I found it no more convoluted than that of a 'Scouser' or a Mancunian. Fortunately he didn't do the Oyo thing where they stick the H in where there wasn't one and take it out where there was one, as in the "Enry, 'elp me 'ook my bra. 'Ook it. Ook it" fashion. Anyway Egbon Ade reminds me of the MC Lyte lyrics " can't be what you're not, so you better start living with what you got..." Nuff Respect!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Hoaxes, Satire and Confidence Tricks

In October 1938, a young and at that point relatively unknown theatre director Orson Welles deceived a nation into thinking that Martians were invading the United States. Whether this was something he did intentionally or not we will never know as in the subsequent furore he did conflicting news interviews relating to his original intentions. The radio play was "The War of the Worlds" a H. G. Wells novel that has recently been made into a film by Steven Spielburg featuring Tom Cruise. The show was presented as a series of news bulletins in a style which perpetuated the resultant confusion. In the climate of fear of the late 1930s in the lead up to the Second world war many listeners were taken in and in the hours following the broadcast there was confusion and panic in parts of the USA particularly the New York area.

I was listening to the radio last night and was fortunate to tune into Down the Line on BBC Radio between 11 and 11:30pm. The show was presented as a real life talk radio, with listeners able to call in to discuss the issues the host raised at the beginning of the show. As the show wore on it became clear to me that something funny was going on. The discussion was about equality and it touched on the issues of female drinking to excess and their ability to give consent when drunk. It finally dawned on me that the whole show was probably a wind up when Felix Dexter (formerly of the Real McCoy) came on in his Nigerian alter ego and asked for all women to be locked up indoors by their spouses. While the host dealt with him as an insane caller the spell was finally broken. Looking at the message board for the show there were loads of people who had similarly been initially taken in and thus felt the need to write in to complain about this act of deception by the BBC. Bill and Grace wrote in to say "This is just dreadful! I have signed up to the message board just to express my consternation. It was clear within two minutes of listening to this new programme that it is a spoof - (not sure of what). It is just very very boring. Have googled it, and it seems the BBC press department have promoted it as real live phone in - which it is absolutely not. I am flabbergasted at its awfulness! What ARE they trying to achieve? Sorry - I'll shut up now. But it really is bad."

Anyway this leads me to Osuofia's "I go chop your Dollar" that I commented about a few days ago. After putting up the article I got a response from Kunle stating the video was part of the publicity for a film called "The Master". This caused me to see if I could find out more information about it and have since realised that the video is an attempt at spoofing the issue of Confidence fraud. Since I came across the piece out of context, I think I should be excused for not realising that its a spoof that was done as part of the promotion for a film . However I suppose a simple google search for "I go chop your dollar would have lead me here. So I apologise, I obviously need to do more research in the future before I form and publish certain opinions. I think my zeal to ensure that Nigeria is promoted in a positive light by Nigerians caused me to lash out. Yes, our beloved country has problems that still need sorting out but if all we do to continue to focus all the negatives - and they are aplenty - then it will become increasingly difficult to attract external investment. Oh and by the way I find I'm not the only one who misinterpreted the video's intentions. See an article from the Chicage Tribune here.

Zadie Smith & the Orange Prize

Its third time lucky for Zadie Smith winning the Orange Prize for her novel "On Beauty". She had previously been shortlisted for her novels "the Autograph man" in 2003 and "White Teeth" in 2000. White Teeth was made into a TV mini series in 2002. The prize is for female writers and is accompanied by £30, 000. Our own Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was on the Shortlist in 2004 and missed out to the excellent book Small Island by Andrea Levy, one of my most recent favourites. I wish Chimamanda all the best with her next novel "Half of a Yellow Sun" which I have already pre ordered on Amazon - its out on September 12.

On Beauty is a very well written story of two academics who are bitter rivals, one the white, English and liberal Howard Belsey, the other Trinidadian right wing academic Monty Kipps. The book is about family relationships, dealing with spousal infidelity, an exploration of affirmative action and academia. Its not as funny as White Teeth but I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for an exploration of the issues of class, race and relationships.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

There ain't no black in the Union Jack...

If you live in London then its unlikely that you have missed the Cross of St George that has been hanging out of about 5% of the Cars on the Roads since the beginning of the week (my estimate based on a sample of made up of all the cars going down Streatham High Road last night in a fifteen minute period, yep I'm officially crazy!). By Saturday evening some of these cars will have an accompanying soundtrack (the Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land chant of the football supporter) hopefully celebrating a win over Paraguay in that tournament that will shortly be starting in Germany (my girlfriend says I should try to reduce the amount of times I mention its name) .

There has been a lot of writing about the ubiquitous nature of the flag in the last few weeks, Asda alone expect to sell a quarter of a million flags by the end of the tournament and Tesco recently had to do a U-Turn after previously banning their delivery drivers from displaying England Flags in their Cabs. Meanwhile in a recent survey of adults in England aged 18+, a whopping 80% did not know when St Georges Day is (April 23). Imagine this happening in Nigeria, this many people not knowing when independence day is? Uncle Sege would personally take out all the failed respondents and flog them himself. What Nonsense. However perhaps a more useful test for me should be to stop all the white van men and ask them when St Georges Day is. Will the percentage increase I ask myself?

Anyway I raised the issue of buying a flag to put on my car (as a sign of solidarity of the efforts of the English lads in Germany) with my girlfriend and she was dead set against it. Her feeling is that the flag has been too closely associated with the BNP for her to ever feel comfortable with flying it. I however pointed out that this was the Union Jack (the UK flag) and not the St George's Cross (the English flag) but she refused to accept the distinction. Now in 2002, I purchased a Nigerian flag (Bedsheet size) and draped it in my living room during the world cup -oops sorry darling it just slipped out - I only stopped short of putting it in my window as I feared getting my windows smashed (if you remember England played Nigeria that year). So I definitely consider myself patriotic. Unfortunately the Super Green Eagles are not in the tournament this year so I am having to realign my affiliations.

During my sojourn on Streatham High Road yesterday I only saw one black man with the England Flag and even he had his white girlfriend sitting next to him. So I guess it got me thinking how many Nigerians will be flying the England Flag over the next few weeks?

Oh and yes I know I've cheated with my title. The article is predominantly about the St Georges Cross and I've stuck up a title that refers to the Union Jack but I just couldn't resist it. "There ain't no black in the Union Jack" is the title of a Paul Gilroy book into race relations in the UK in the eighties, but before that it was used in a racist chant of the National Front in the 1970's.

Timothy Garton Ash of the Guardian in an article titled In our search for Britishness, we should put out more flags - or none argues that the Union Jack left him feeling cold and he discusses his resentment of what it represents to him but then goes on to argue for increased use of flags in the UK. So what is it like for Nigerians living in the UK? Should we feel unpatriotic for wanting to support England or if we are choosing to stay here for a long while should we be playing a part in reclaiming the flag from those that resent our very presence on these shores?

PS: I've just heard on Radio 4 that even Tessa Jowell (British Minister for Sport) has just put out a flag on her official car.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Identity Pt2: Race and Religion

I once attended a training course where the ice breaker asked all the delegates to describe themselves in seven words or phrases ie fun-loving, creative. Of the ten delegates all three black delegates chose to mention 'black'. None of the white delegates used their race to define themselves in the exercise. The one asian female in the room included 'muslim' in her description. Everyone mentioned their gender. Of course people said party-animal, mother-of-three etc but thats not really the area I'd like to focus on here. It was interesting discussing the results with the group and finding out why each of the elements was important to each of the individuals and why all the elements that make us minorities came up. I subsequently discussed this with a friend who is from eastern Nigeria and studied in the University of Lagos in the nineties. He said while in University he thought of himself as 'Igbo' but since living in the UK he has increasingly considered himself black.

In response to the first article, Sola Baale said "the Jews, over the years and centuries have lived in several places (Russia, Germany, Britain, everywhere in short), yet they tag themselves as Jews and perhaps prefixing with the place they live in e.g (Russian jew) to reflect influences and sense of belonging". Thus it seems they are Jews first and Russians, Britons etc second. Malcolm X opined in his autobiography how from visiting Mecca he had a sense of brotherhood with Muslims irrespective of their colour or place of origin. These sentiments have been echoed by some of my friends who are muslims who have stated they think of themselves as Muslims first before their nationality be it Pakistani, Indian or British.

The one-drop rule was developed in the American Southern States where even a single drop of "black blood" makes a person "black". It was initially conceived as a racist means of classification and also to ensure that the children of slaves by Slave owners would still be slaves. For African Americans, the one-drop system of racial classification became a tool for ethnic solidarity uniting blacks and people of mixed race background under the umbrella of Black. In South Africa during apartheid the population was classified into four groups: Black, White, Indian, and "Coloured". The coloured group was for people of mixed racial parentage and due to the flawed system of classification members of the same family could find themselves in different race groups. The term 'coloured' continues to be used in South Africa in the post-apartheid era. Over here in the UK some British people consider the term Coloured to be pejorative or, at least, out-moded (everytime I've been called coloured its been by someone over seventy who still believes they are being liberal). There is a collection of writing on some of the internal conflicts that take place within people of a multi-racial background who are more prone to being asked to choose which aspect of their cultural history they would mostly like to identify with. The term "identity crisis" was also coined to describe this internal conflict.

In the midst of the madness of my last 100 words I've been trying to explore how we think of our selves and how the world we live in perceives us. I remember recently when the BBC were exploring the results of the Macpherson report they were seeking an images that would portray black people as a visual with the narative as a backdrop and they used visuals of various club events. That really worried me as I'm sure if the researchers had even tried they could have come up with more positive images of black people (come on doesn't anyone go to church as much as black people!). Any Nigerian male that has been to clubs in Northern UK will be familiar with being asked if they have any weed for sale, Nigerian females tourists in Spain will probably be familiar with being followed in stores by the store detectives or being taken for prostitutes on the streets. We are probably all familiar with being expected to know all Bob Marley song lyrics 'jus cause we is black'.

To what extent is our appreciation of ourselves impacted upon by social stereotypes, how do the media depictions of 'black' culture impact upon our desire for equity, what is the effect of the corporate packaging of black culture as being hip, what image do we see when we look at ourselves in the mirror and would this image be different if we lived in a different country? All these questions and more are just running round my head right now and I just don't have enough time to put them all down.

Friday, June 02, 2006


I got up early this morning and chose to use the time before I had to depart for work looking at some videos on You Tube. I came across the Osuofia video above called "I go chop your Dollar". A friend tells me the video has been doing the rounds by email for a while so forgive me if you have seen it before. Osuofia for those who aren't that acquainted with him is the stage name for Nkem Owoh a Nollywood actor, reportedly one of the Nollywood crowd with the biggest profile outside of Nigeria, mainly due to the success of Osuofia in London which has been shown repeatedly on BEN TV and other external Nigerian TV stations.

The Video is attempting to be a hilarious look at 419 scams (Confidence fraud) from the point of view of the fraudster recognising that in the main people who are taken in are the greedy and the stupid. Personally I think its socially irresponsible for such a high profile Nigerian Celebrity to wade into this debate on the side of the fraudsters. At this critical time in our nations march towards progress and remarketing itself as a place to do business, its really the last thing that is needed. The scams are called 419 after the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code that covers Fraud. I'm suprised that Uncle Sege (alias Baba Iyabo) hasn't had him picked up already.