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Three Poems by Yemi Adesanya

musings

Slayed by a Muse

Once upon a heart beating oxygen rich lines

Valves of words and arteries of rhymes

A muse hit the source, it beat too fast

Flooded veins in shock

They got no weather forecast!

Once upon a girl dancing to a broken song

Steps of yawns, her moves all wrong

A trip to Musedale was too much fun

Drank the whole pub

See how far gone she is!

Gushing streams of crimson lyrical richness

Fight to be unleashed in clots of definite dizziness

Sudden letting turns to pooling bytes

All valves are broken;

What an eloquent way to die!

___

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill went off the grid

To pet a rampant boner

Jack came first and spilled his spunk

Then Jill came, trembling after.

___

Special Characters

Awaken from a Comma,

As someone shouted: “His Colon is on fire!”

Saved by a timely Exclamation!

Now he’s gotta live with a Semicolon;

Punched by Punctuation Mark

Who thought he could win an Apostrophe for the move

‘Twas pretty stupid, Period.

The hypocrisy of a Hyphen

Joining two unmarried words

In pseudo-matrimony; don’t Quote me

But I’d say, “There’s a big Question Mark there.”  Wouldn’t you?

What a bunch of Special Characters!

________

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Yemi Adesanya is the author of Musings of a Tangled Tongue, now available on Amazon (Kindle and Paperback), Lulu, and Okada Books. In her other life, she disguises as an accountant and risk manager, in Lagos, Nigeria, where she lives with her husband and children. These poems were taken from the book, with the permission of the author. More of her poems can be found here.

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A Three-Book Review

ReaganBeckel MutoI’ve just finished reading Joe Muto’s An Atheist in the Foxhole: A Liberal’s Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right-Wing Media. It is the third of non-fiction books that I read over the last two weeks. And for some reason, they all happen to revolve around a certain preoccupation: politics, especially in the right-wing quarters of the United States. The other two are Bob Beckel’s I Should Be Dead: My Life Servicing Politics, TV, and Addiction and Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency. They also happen to have notable dissimilarities.

What they all have in common, though, other than aforementioned similarities and that they are all non-fiction – which always gets my attention every time, is that they were all written by people who either are current (O’Reilly) or past (Muto, Beckel) employees of the Fox News Channel, America’s enigmatic but highly successful conservative television channel; a business enterprise of Rupert Murdoch, an Australian billionaire.

Muto’s book details his train-wreck adventure as a liberal-minded employee through an eight-year career in America’s most right-wing media company, a career that ended in ruins when he turned into a mole for the website Gawker in April 2012. More than giving a rare insight, with notable anecdotes, into the working of the media house, its politics and successes, it also portrays a sympathetic image of the employee himself. Like many others in the company, and in perhaps many other such organisations around the country, the writer didn’t start out being conservative or in any way supportive of the employer’s political and business viewpoints. He only wanted a job in a tough economy, and a chance to build a life with his girlfriend whom he had brought into New York from a small town. And through a series of justifiable (and sometimes hilariously contrived) compromises meant to keep him in the good graces of his employers, he worked his way from a Production Assistant to an Associate Producer for the channel’s most highly-rated programme. Then blew it. Publicly. What was to be learnt from reading the book other than how to throw away an eight-year career in the most ignoble manner? Not much, but it was nonetheless a good account that read like a fast-paced thriller. The writer may not be glad about the way his career ended, but he was sure glad to have left as we are of his decision to write the book. He had a keen eye for details, and his observations, especially of his former colleagues, seemed fair and measured.

In Bob Beckel’s book, one lives through the civil rights era of 60s America through the unlikely journey of a child from an abusive alcoholic home who, in a few short years, became the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Jimmy Carter White House and later the campaign manager of a presidential candidate (who lost 49 out of 50 states, no less). The book details not just the notable events of these times and the author’s personal successes, but also his failings and struggles with drugs and alcoholism, and his eventual redemption. I first knew Bob through The Five, a roundtable political news conversation show at 5pm on Fox where he was the resident liberal against four conservative hosts. His geniality, unconventionality, and resilience as he held his own successfully against the usual misinformation and sometimes just merely surly temperament of his co-hosts was stuff of legends. It was easy to root for him: a lone sane voice in the wilderness. He, of course, notably got just as surly himself, ending up as a butt of brutal jokes when he advocated for the ban on muslims coming into the US, a suggestion apparently not risible enough for Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner to eventually picked it up many years later. Bob’s attempt with this book however is one of honesty and courage in telling a story that is at once self-reflective as it is self-incriminating. The subject is both its conquering hero as its remorseful villain. The reader leaves its pages understanding the causes, cost, and cure for alcoholism and addiction. And, more importantly, gaining sufficient empathy for its victims around us. It is certainly a book to recommend, and I do so, strongly.

The third, a biography of sorts, was Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Reagan which revisits the assassination attempt on the president’s life in March 1981, just two months after he was sworn in. The book details not just the former Hollywood actor’s rise to fame and mythology from a humble mid-western (and liberal) background, but also the effect of the assassination attempt (and his Alzheimer’s disease which was said to have started a little bit afterwards) on his presidency and legacy. Fascinating, also, was his relationship with his wife Nancy (whom he married after the failure of his first marriage to a fellow Hollywood star, Jane Wyman) and who turned out to be his rock-solid companion and shield (and, as some insinuated, manipulator). Not only did she endure the loneliness of his last years when he lost the ability to recognise her or anyone, she also had to live twelve more years alone without the man she had loved for most of her life. It was a well-written story, which introduced the former president to anyone curious about his life and legacy. The book wasn’t without its critics, however: some Reagan loyalists and other reviewers thought that O’Reilly exaggerated the effect of the disease on the president’s performance in office, among other untruths. Bill, for some reason, continues to dominate not just cable news with his O’Reilly Factor but also the Bestseller lists with his Killing series. Like Killing KennedyKilling LincolnKilling Patton, and Killing Jesus, before it, Killing Reagan continues the trend of entertaining (and informing, I must admit) readers through the non-fiction medium, sometimes through dubious or exaggerated reportage, but always with a single-mindedness of purpose.

loudestA figure that stood out of these three books, like a brooding shadow, was that of Roger Ailes, Fox News’ boss. It was he who is reputed to have built the cable channel out of nothing, discovered and made its on-air talents into national figures, and continues to drive liberals crazy around the country with his enigmatic and unapologetic successful conservative persona. But in the three books, Dr. Ailes is a number of different people. Joe Muto’s Mole dedicated a notable space to describing how his micromanaging style, and politics, ensured that all those who worked at Fox took care to either tow the party line as true believers, or fake their way into promotion and prominence by appearing to be as conservative as desired: an image of a paranoid invisible puppeteer. In O’Reilly’s Killing, he was a genius who kept Richard Nixon’s administration television-friendly, thus minimising the damage it would otherwise have got earlier on. He, it was, during the re-election campaign of Ronald Reagan, who (as a hired political consultant) came up with the killer response that damaged the Mondale Campaign (and, by extension, Bob Beckel’s campaign career) in 1984. More than that episode, for Beckel, Roger Ailes was also the man who – after decades of failure and impending ruin – offered a lifeline by giving him a job on Fox News as a contributor, and eventually as a co-host on The Five: a smart but benevolent operator who holds no grudges against former opponents. The portrayal of his genius (or deviousness as the case may be) has now driven me to buy this promising biography of his, written without his support or approval.

These three books were a delightful, and surprisingly easy, read, as most non-fiction works tend to be in my experience. They were worth each cent, and gave me a deeper peek into the workings of the US media, politics, and journalism in general. It certainly delighted the part of my brain that has always wanted to write a memoir or someone else’s biography in the future, though not necessarily the part in search of a clever turn of phrase or some delightful serving of English prose in its literary glory. Still, not a wasted time in the company of lived history.

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From the Past, with Questions

By Tèmítáyọ̀ Ọlọ́finlúà

Adverts speak. They can tell about a particular period in history. We stumbled on some adverts from the 70s and 80s. They made us ask questions about adverts today. 

Question 1: where are the price tags on advertised products today? When did the prices get unbelievably high?

It was cool to show the price of all the products on the adverts then. And the prices said a lot. Those were much better days. Those were the days when my mother would say that she bought a dining table set for something as ridiculous as N20. Those were the days when the naira had value. Those days when many wore the proudly Nigerian hats anywhere. Sadly, all we—those who belong to the 80s and beyond—know will be these extremely expensive products. Better days were done before we came.

A washing machine, dryer, vacuum cleaner, floor polisher, all under N2, 000!

Question 2: When did the clothes creep out of the adverts? Which is another way of saying when did the sexualisation of products start?

Those were the days when adverts served the purpose of the products, or so it seems. You did not see soap adverts with dancing girls. My Uncle would see those adverts and ask: ẹ jọ̀ọ́, ṣé ọṣẹ yẹn máa n jẹ kí a mọ̀ọ́ jó ni? Meaning “Does the soap make one a good dancer?” Soap adverts had appropriate images. Same with cream adverts. And yes,  it was fine to be covered as a woman, even in an advert. 

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Question 3: Can adverts from the past tell us about dinosaurs of the manufacturing industry? Can they be like museums of the past that we can refer to to have an idea of a particular time?

At least, these adverts tell us about some products and services have gone into oblivion in Nigeria. 

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Question 4:

When will the era of quoting literary greats especially in adverts return? How cool can it be to advertise an insurance company with a Soyinka quote?

Maybe it is time for the world of advertising and literature to kiss and make up. Some lines of Nigerian poetry will make great copy for adverts, don’t you think? A friendship between both industries will be both industries scratching the back of one another.

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Question 5: Where are the adverts that celebrate values as Nigerians? Say all-round beauty in women like this Lotus advert…

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All images were from past editions of Emotan Magazine.

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At the Lagos Grill Festival

IMG_4675IMG_4642IMG_4655IMG_4645IMG_4619IMG_4649IMG_4622 IMG_4629 IMG_4659 IMG_4625 The Lagos Grill and BBQ Festival held on Easter Monday, March 27, 2016 at the Murí Okùnọlá Park, Victoria Island. It was an outdoor carnival of feeding, fun, and festivity. I heard about it just a few days before the event itself, and it sounded like a good idea.

This year’s event had a couple of Nigerian artistes in attendance, and a DeeJay that kept the visitors entertained throughout. The musician Falz and Simi stole the show with their rendition of Jamb Question and Soldier.

The food was diverse, affordable, and delicious. The experience reminded me of the annual Festival of Nations in St. Louis which I’ve attended a few times. The difference in this case is that each food shed isn’t tagged with any country or culture. One could get a barbecue of chicken, turkey, or beef as long as one could afford it.

Palm wine was also in copious supply, which sufficed for those not interested in drinking Jack Daniel that was being sold by its mascots in hot pants.

In all, it was a great event. See more pictures on Instagram and on the event website.

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Memory Lane with Tọlá Adénlé

by Tèmítáyọ̀ Ọlọ́finlúà

Mango, christmas and avocado trees; old houses, some refurbished, others abandoned; line the street that slopes downwards.

“Tayo, please wait for me at the gate with 4A,” she had said on the phone, her English laced with a tinge of Ondo/Ekiti accent and spiced with some Yoruba words. Tola Adénl遗or Mama Tọ́lá Adénlé, as her name is saved on my phone—came to me first in an online article that filled me with the desire to meet her. After some Facebook messages and phone calls, I am waiting to meet her.SANYANhybrid sitting

At the gate, my mind wandered: what will she look like? Will she bounce around like her cheery voice jumped on the phone? When she opened the gate, she had a warm smile, a green top and a pair of cream pants on. I knew she was the one. She needed no introduction—the face matched the pictures. The texture of her real voice similar to the texture of her “phone” voice. She welcomed me into the house.

“Feel free to look around.” And there was a lot to see. Almost every corner of the room was lined with pictures—largely family; hers, her husband, her children, her children and their husbands, and their own children. She calls them the Adénlé clan.  

“Life is about memories. Keeping memories, that is all life is about,” she says.

I get a tray with tea and snacks; then, we settle outside on two chairs. “That’s Dr. Adénl遒s chair,” she says, referring to her husband—hydrogeologist, Dr. Adénlé. It is a good view: trees and houses, in competition. The house on the other side of the fence used to be theirs.

“Either it got too big for us or we got too small for it,” she says.

Then, we settled into the chat, not an interview. She had insisted that it should be as informal as possible. She would email me pictures, so no need for a photographer. I was reluctant to record. It would be just nice to drink from her deep wells of knowledge.

“This will not just be about you asking me questions. I would also ask you questions,” I agreed. She wanted to know why I chose the freelancing route; how I survive; my background. I told her.

It was my turn to know more about her. But not so fast.

“I should give you an autographed copy of Emotan Magazine,” she said “In fact, let me do it right now.” She gets up immediately and returns with the copy. Emotan was the third woman’s magazine published in Nigeria. This edition was published in September, 1977. So, yes, it is a collector’s item.

When she returns, I ask about her urge to get things done “right away”. Is it out of fear that she may leave it undone or that she may forget—a result of old age?

“It is not fear. It is just that I hate to be reminded to do something that I promised to do,” she says. Neither is it a fear of age, as age is a fact of life.

Dr. Adénlé soon arrives, but before he left us, she does introductions. Tells me a little bit about them—how they like things small, even though they are both from large families. He is the son of a late Ata-oja of Osogbo; she is a daughter of a prominent family in Iju, Ondo state, the Adámọlẹ́kuns. Their wedding had under 30 people in attendance at a Cathedral Church in January 1970. Other things, I find out myself: a soft whistle is one of them calling the other; that she is particular about everything—the chair she sits on; the plate she eats from; her daily carbs intake; the number of steps she takes daily; the turquoise of her earrings matches the nail paint on her toes. He does not care much about such particularities. That when she tries to remember something, he assists—like the name of her Editor at Daily Sketch: Sola Oyègbèmí. The Adénlé couple cannot stand chaotic Lagos—they both resigned from jobs there at different times before they met in the 60s. They fit well into each other, ball and socket.  

We talk about other things: writing, publishing and Nigeria. Writing is her gift that she must continue giving. She did not know this initially. She had written a letter to the editor of West Africa Weekly, an old magazine from Florida in 1971. She quotes some lines from the letter. Writer, Kọ́lé Ọmọtọ́sọ́, a PhD student back then at the University of Edinburgh, read the letter and told her that she seemed to have the gift of writing.

“But you will need to read a lot,” she said he had told her.

And that was how she kept honing the skills—from a letter to a magazine; she served at Daily Sketch, Ibadan as a corper; then, she became the Woman Editor at Daily Sketch. She reels off names of her colleagues at the Daily Sketch. She shared a table with Tunde Thompson, who would face Buhari/Ìdíàgbọn’s harsh military rule judgement with the infamous Decree 4. It is interesting that Thompson supported Buhari for president in the last election. It was after the Sketch experience that she started Emotan as a Woman’s Bimonthly. The magazine which was published out of Bodija, Ibadan, had a readership of about 15, 000. It soon became a monthly. It attracted writers, readers and adverts from every part of the country, even from West African countries. Its articles remain relevant even decades after. One subscription page of the magazine reads: when you miss a copy of Emotan, you miss good company. True then, true now. In 1985, after several editions, it was time to rest Emotan.

For someone who moved to Ibadan for the first time in 1966, and has lived there on and off, since then, I ask her what she thinks of the city now.

“Like Nigeria, Ibadan is chaotic. And it is not because the people are not skilled enough to transform the city. S’e b’oye kilu ma improve ni?” She asks rhetorically.  She says that this “lack of progress” is connected with the maniac rush for wealth rather than ideas that can transform the society.  “It is only here that you ask people what they want to become and they say: millionaire, as if it is an aspiration. Many have fallen into the default mode of most Nigerians—not caring about what they leave behind, only rushing after money.” She laments that this is the reason many do not create things that will transform the nation. Warts and all, Ibadan remains her favourite city.

She does not understand the Nigerian craze to keep acquiring things they will never use. Neither does she understand the reason why parties seem like drugs for people to get excited; take a fix today and wait for the next one to feel high again.

“True happiness should come from within. From doing things that make you happy. Not from organising big parties for people—half of whom you do not know. “Every wedding is now a society wedding; every burial is a state burial,”” she quotes an older Nigerian industrialist’s words from a 1985 speech to the Ibadan Chamber of Commerce. She speaks of her long-held belief in Buhari as the one who can sanitise Nigeria of corruption, a belief that accelerated the birth of her blog, in 2011 as stated in the early posts.

In 1988 during Babangida’s presidency, her family joined Nigeria’s [then] mythical “Andrew” and moved back to the States. Since then, it has been between the United States and Nigeria. She also maintained a column with The Comet on Sunday, and later, The Nation on Sunday until 2011 when she started her blog.

Her love for aso-oke, the traditional Yoruba textile which she fell in love with after wearing it for the first time as a bridesmaid in 1965, led to her developing some categories of the textile on her blog. The different categories became so popular that a book, AṢỌ ÒKÈ YORUBA: A Tapestry of Love & Color, A Journey of Personal Discovery, was published in January, 2016. It chronicles her journey of discovery of Aso-Oke, the textile’s history, Yoruba’s sericulture past, occasions that call for aso oke, modern uses of the textiles and many interesting details of this contribution by the Yorubas to world’s textile technology. The book is laced with several pictures, many of them taken by her husband. It takes one on a journey into the past of the textile and whets one’s appetite about its future. The book will be available on amazon.com, through her website, and on her 70th birthday on April 2.

Having spent seven decades on earth, written two biographies, mothered four amazing daughters, held down a magazine for almost a decade, written a collection of short stories, Adénlé still has expectations for the future.

“One must always have expectations. Or else one dies. May not be physically. There is always a mountain to climb.” One thing is certain, Adénlé will be busy giving her gift of writing to her world.  

There is no slowing down for Tọ́lá Adénlé. She might have been born in the age of the dinosaur, to quote her words, but she uses today’s tools. She whips out her tablet and begins to type. “Let me do it right away.” She had promised to send me an invitation card for her 70th birthday and her picture that accompanies this piece. I wonder about this woman who is from the past yet grounded in the realities and intricacies of today—how many 70-year-olds maintain websites where they curate their work? You can read Adénl遒s work on hers.

She autographs my copy of the first edition of Emotan. I will keep it and show my children. I will tell them the story of a woman who dreamed up a world for other women; of how she came to me in an online article and how her story inspires me to run my own race.

“Do what you like, that is how you make progress. Follow your passion, that’s where your success will be.” Her words will not leave me even as I now advance upwards on a street lined with mango, christmas and avocado trees; old houses, some refurbished, some abandoned.  

_____

TemitayoTèmítáyọ̀ Ọlọ́finlúà is an award-winning essayist who has completed writing and communications assignments for various organisations such as Global Press Institute, Mania Magazine, Saraba Mag and Facebook, to mention a few. Her work featured in various publications, online and in print.

Some of her writing awards include Finalist, African Story Challenge, Technology and Business Cycle (2014);  Second Prize, Peter Drucker Challenge (Manager’s Category), 2014; First Prize Winner, NEPAD Essay Contest, 2013, among others.

She currently curates content for lifestyle website, www.liveinibadan.com that focuses on the city of Ibadan. You can read some of her works here, here, here and here

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