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Archive for April, 2011

Ibadan Snapshots

A freshly tarred road leading down from the hill that takes you to Bowers Tower, the highest point in Ibadan.

Bodija, next to the train tracks in Ibadan. Women stand on the side of the road, near the quarry, maybe waiting for public transportation.

Red dusty earth defines the landscape here, even from thousands of feet above you can see the red earth clearly. This is an area for selling roadside market deep in the interior of Ibadan

You can braid hair anywhere. A woman does her hair on the roadside live chicken market.

Carrying loads outside Bodija market.

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Three varieties of malt drinks in a Ibadan supermarket called FoodCo.


When I first arrived in Nigeria I attended a lot of parties. Everyone wanted to meet us, hear us greet them in Yoruba and give us food and drink. One drink we received at every party was particularly strange to me, never having drank it before in the United States. This drink is called malt. Malt is a sweet, carbonated, non-alcoholic drink that is served at every function/party/gathering here. It is a dark liquid that leaves you feeling a bit full after drinking it. Made from barley, hops and water, it is essentially unfermented beer. It is extremely popular in Nigeria. Malt comes in many different varieties, each with a slightly different taste. I think the Guinness brewed malt drink called Malta is the best because it is the smoothest and sweetest. Amstel also makes a malt beverage. While I was ambivalent at first, I have come to love the satisfying taste of malt. Try mixing Malta Guinness with Guinness beer, it’s delicious.

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Picture featured in with an April 18th New York Times article headlined: Nigeria's President Wins Election.

A popular Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie, gave an excellent TED Talk about the danger of a single story-a story that shows one side but not the other. When I saw this article in the New York Times that was supposedly about Goodluck Jonathan winning the presidency, I felt appalled at the one-sidedness of it. While the headline implies that it will be about Jonathan winning, it focuses entirely on fighting that broke out in the northern part of Nigeria after he was declared the winner. It is true that fighting broke out in the north after Goodluck won. But hundreds of polling places around Nigeria saw nothing but peace and cooperation during the vote. Fighting in the north is not the only story to Nigeria’s 2011 election.

It is true that shocking stories about violence and agression sell papers–– look at a Nigerian newspaper and you will almost surely see gruesome pictures that show people bloodied after fights. People usually don’t care to read that “all is well and the people are happy.” In a case like Nigeria’s current election, reporting on the fighting and not the peace completely negates the possibility for people outside Nigeria to see the progress in this election. Not enough positive reporting has been done abroad about the election when there really is so much to say about how hard Nigerians are working for peace and how far this country has come. The New York Times printed two news articles about Nigeria’s election, one on April 22nd titled, Election Result Fuels Deadly Clashes in Nigeria and on April 18th titled, Nigeria’s President Wins Re-Election. Even most of the pictures on BBC’s Nigeria Elections homepage depict violence. These stories are valuable but it is vital to report the full story. Nigeria has a pretty bad reputation abroad from all the 419 scam emails, tales of militants kidnapping in the Niger Delta and pictures of fighting between Christians and Muslims in the north. We need to tell Nigeria like it is, the bad and especially the good.

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We eat butter

There are two types of people in Nigeria , those that eat butter and those that eat cassava. In modern day Yoruba, we call the former grope the ajebota and the latter, less fortunate group the ajepaki. The literal translation of these two word is “we eat butter,” and “we eat cassava.”

An ajebota (pronounced ah-jay-butta) is someone who lives a privileged, pampered life. In Nigeria, a spoiled life means having a driver to endure the hours of traffic and bad roads while you sit on the phone chatting on your BB. It means hardly minding the electricity outages because of the trusty generator that kicks in whenever NEPA happens. The term ajebota carries a negative meaning sometimes, that the person is not just spoiled, but insensitive and out of touch to realities of the world. I think the title ajebota for this type of lifestyle arose out of the fact that butter is rare in Nigeria. Most families eat one of the many unhealthy varieties of margarine. So those who eat butter and have the means to refrigerate it continuously are among the elite.

An ajepaki (pronounced ah-jay-pah-kee) is someone who lives a life with hardships and struggle. It means walking with your bucket to fetch water to take your bath every morning, spending long hours in the dark whenever the light goes. Calling someone an ajepaki is saying that person must work hard for the little he has. Paki means cassava in Yoruba. To those foreign to the plant, cassava is a tuber (in the potato family) that grows abundantly in Nigeria. Nigerians grind it up, add cold water and drink it as a snack called garri or add hot water, turn it and eat it as a meal called eba. It has a sour taste that took me a long time to get used to. Cassava is extremely cheap to buy so those who don’t have much must get by with garri and eba.

These terms are not official. They don’t have a deep meaning in the Yoruba culture and I have never heard anyone call himself an ajebota or ajepaki. They are modern day slangs that friends to make fun, tease or describe one another.

That being said, my mom from America arrived in Lagos last week. She is here for three weeks to visit me and walk in my shoes. We are having an incredible time together, and I apologize for not posting more but I have been a bit distracted. We were in Lagos for a few days and had quite an ajebota experience. From VIP tickets to Fela on Broadway, Chapmans at the News Cafe in Lekki, to air conditioned cars, my mom and I had a great time in Lagos. She is most amazed by the way cars share the roads with hawkers, wheelbarrows, and bikes weaving in and out. Even as we are back in Ibadan now her senses are on overload, taking Nigeria in. I could not be more excited that my real mom is visiting me in my new home.

My mom and I at Eko Hotel in Lagos to see Fela the Broadway musical, which was amazing!

My mom and I with our host in Lagos, Charis Onabowale, better known as Mama Cass. Here we are at a wedding.

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Compared to the previous two democratic elections, Nigerians came out in massive numbers Saturday to press their thumb print on the paper ballot and vote for the next president of Africa’s most populated country.

Even though the number of votes reported for Saturday are small percentages of the total number of registered voters in some states, voters at the polling places are saying the turnout is much bigger than previous years. People I spoke with at the different polling places inside University of Ibadan said they didn’t even vote in the 2007 or 2003 election because of the rampant rigging.

The smooth, peaceful operation of the National Assembly vote last Saturday, April 9th was a message to people that this year, the election process would be different–every vote would actually count. Students and adults inside UI made sure their votes counted by watching the INEC officials count each and every vote in the ballot box out loud. Many recorded everything on their camera phones.

The mood at every polling place was almost unanimously in support for the incumbent presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan. The official numbers are not completely in yet, but we should know by Monday who Nigeria’s next president will be. Nigerian politics (of the past) is overwhelmingly party politics and not about the candidate, but on Saturday people voted for Jonathan and not his political party PDP. Everywhere I went I heard people talking about Goodluck. “I need Goodluck for my country.” “We all want Goodluck.” I only heard people saying PDP while the INEC officials counted the PDP votes at each polling place. (Remember, on the ballot you put a thumb print next to the party, candidates names are not present.)

Everyone in Oyo state, the state I live in, is highly anticipating the upcoming gubernatorial election on April 26. It will be a true testament to Nigeria’s departure from party politics when we see if the PDP candidate, incumbent Alao Akala retakes the throne.

I am currently uploading a video about Saturday’s presidential election but with the slow pace of the internet, I am not able to upload it today. Look forward to it ASAP.

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I love this song. It’s by Asa (pronounced Asha), a popular Nigerian artist who lives in France now. I love the beat and decided to translate it to Yoruba for non-Yoruba speaker listeners who like it also. Enjoy!

Bimpé n ba mi wi Bimpe is mocking me
O f’owó sinu business mi She’s meddling in my business
Èmí re kò lè gbe She can’t handle me
O kan saájú mi bímo ni She just had a baby first

Mo gbó pé o mo mi loju I heard you glared at me
O n nla gboa nipa business ni You’re gossiping about my business
Òrò èmí rè kò le ni You can’t take me
Ègbón rè fé mi ni It’s your older brother who wants me
Ègbón rè tó n fé mi lowo ni o Your older brother is the one who loves me
Mo tí ya fún I’ve chosen
Ègbón rè, ègbón rè haa Your brother

E ba mi so fun baby yen Tell this babe for me
Fún baby yen For that babe
Tó n wole yen Who is coming in
E ba mi kílò fún Warn her for me
E kílò fún ya Warn her

E ba mi so fún sisi yen Tell this chick for me
Fún sisi yen For this chick
Tó kun atike Who wears talcum powder
E ba mi kílò fún Warn her for me
E kílò fún ya Warn her

Bimpé rí mi fín Bimpe disrespects me
O n huwá omo laisimoyé She’s behaving like a child without wisdom
Mo ronú pìwàdà I’m thinking deep about this
Omo inu mi lo n ba mi wi That a younger person is talking to me this way
Ilé ana mo re l’Oyó
Wa kúkú yen si mi
Irè ò l’aponle You don’t have appreciation
O de fé ki ènìyàn fe e silé And you hope someone will marry you

Ègbón rè tó n fé mi lowo ni o Your older brother is the one who loves me
Mo tí ya fún I’ve chosen
Ègbón rè, ègbón rè haa Your brother

E ba mi so fun baby yen Tell this babe for me
Fún baby yen For that babe
Tó n wole yen Who is coming in
E ba mi kílò fún Warn her for me
E kílò fún ya Warn her

E ba mi so fún sisi yen Tell this chick for me
Fún sisi yen For this chick
Tó kun atike Who wears talcum powder
E ba mi kílò fún Warn her for me
E kílò fún ya Warn her

Ègbón rè tó n fé mi lowo ni o Your older brother is the one who loves me
Mo tí ya fún I’ve chosen
Ègbón rè, ègbón rè haa Your brother
E ba mi so fun baby yen Tell that babe
Fun baby yen to n wole ye That babe who is coming in
E ba mi kílò fun Warn her
E kílò fun yeah Warn her

E ba mi so fun baby yen tó gbomo pon, tó ku atike Tell the girl who backs a baby and wears makeup
E ba mi kílò fun, e sòrò fun yeah Warn her, tell her

E ba mi so fun baby yen Tell the babe
Kó fo sòké, kó fi mi le She might as well just jump up and down, and leave me alone
Ti kò ba wo, kó la rí mo lé She can smash her head against the floor [go to hell]
E ba mi kílò fún Warn her
E kílò fún yea Warn her

E ba mi so fún baby yen Tell the babe
Kó fo sòké, kó fi mi le She might as well just jump up and down, and leave me alone
Kó rin lòfá She should walk away
E ba mi kílò fun Warn her
E sòrò fun yea Tell her

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