Friday, June 27, 2008


I forgot to blog about an experience in Lagos last weekend. M and I were at Jade Garden, a good Chinese restaurant on Isaac John in Ikeja. At the next table, La Soyinka was dining with two companions. The problem for him was that there was a never ending procession of people wanting to meet and talk. Every few minutes, one or a group of people would walk to his table, just to see him up close and be acknowledged. A prominent banker approached with his entourage. Then, a funky young woman in dreads bravely went up and introduced herself. She asked if she could ask him a question. He said, somewhat briskly, "No, I'm afraid you can't." For the hour and a half we were there, people kept on coming, as if for the wafer and a blessing.

Really if this is what its like being Wole Soyinka, it must be a joy to be out of Nigeria at regular intervals. The sage has no peace to enjoy ordinary events like breaking bread when out in public. I hadn't realised quite how much his iconic status in Nigeria made him quite so very famous.

It reminds me of a similar experience last year, when John Fashanu came to our house. The gatemen/drivers in the yard fell about gawping, as if Jesus had popped by.

Perhaps its because there are so few positive role models 'on ground' that people like Soyinka and Fashanu are subject to adulation.

Imagine a Nigeria where there are scores of public intellectuals - the next generation of Soyinkas and Soyinkettes - making noise in the press, agitating for change. Imagine Jade Garden full of them: inspiring legions of people for the cause of agitation while munching on pak choi and supping jasmine tea. Now that would be something.


Anonymous,  6:36 am  

So few positive role models? I don't know that Nigeria lacks positive role models. Maybe you mean to write that we have a people who glorify money over values - but the role models are there for those who have eyes, ears and a brain. Off the top of my head, I can reel off a list of 20 inspiring Nigerians who are excellent role models for sensible kids.

Anonymous,  8:35 am  

Ok i like this posted till I got to the lack of positive role models. and John Fash role model!! LOL! u killed ur own point with that one


AlooFar 8:56 am  

Soyinkettes? Very funny. Who coined that word?

Anonymous,  9:01 am  

Anon 6.36 If you can reel off a list of 20 inspiring Nigerians, lets start doing so that people like us who struggle to think of 5 will have others we can reference. Please start making that list (and I beg let that list not include bankers and business people or politicians!!)

Such a list would be very helpful.



anonymaus,  10:57 am  

I don't know of that many role models, but I wonder if Dr Oluyombo Awojobi (of Eruwa, Oyo state will get a mention).

Here is a link to the account: Under the caption of "Renaissance man of Africa"

I was impressed by this account of him. People like that really impress me in light of the difficult circumstances one can face in Nigeria. What a guy, "big ups to him"!!!!!

Anonymous,  11:09 am  

Jeremy,wetin do u? John Fashanu (Flash John) a role model??? You wake the wrong side of bed this morning??? You no take your medicine???

Anonymous,  12:34 pm  

Did I miss something here? When did Fashanu become anyone's role model?

Anonymous,  1:18 pm  

Sorry no. People are always excited to be in the presence of greatness... certain cities like NY leave celebrities be, but generally people tend to show their excitement. it can be rude and sometimes annoying, but its what people do- ask for autographs, acknowledge stars. Soyinka should actually be flattered that he who is (in the grand scheme of todays world that worships and assigns star status to the likes of paris hilton and wayne rooneys wife (are they married yet?) colleen mccullough, a minor celebrity [hey! dont shoot the messenger...its not my ranking, its the "celebrity".obsessed world we much would a tabloid pic of The Bearded One fetch in todays world?. Sure WS trying to enjoy dimsum and conversation at lunch, but im sure a side of him is secretly flattered. Especially at the yummy dreaded(no pun intended) interruptor

as for "celebrity", okay okay, he is a celebrity John Fashanu: my comment is this..would you like to pick up that name you just dropped?

Kandy,  1:50 pm  

In 1999, death threats were made against Alfred Wasike, a New Vision reporter, over a story about how UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, John Fashanu, was allegedly involved with Mrs. Jovia Saleh (President Museveni's sister-in-law) in extorting money from a former Congolese general, Philemon Barimoto. (Refer to "The Monitor" 17th April, 1999).

In Uganda, John Fashanu was known a lot more for his shady deals than his football. At the time, these allegations were published, the media got very upset and started digging up lots of dirt on this British Nigerian who seemed so influential that Alfred, started recieving death threats.

This brings me to the question "who is a role model?"

I like Wole Soyinka, I have read some of his works and Im crazy about his book "Set Forth the Dawn".

I like the fact that he is bold enough to talk openly about the problems of this country and profer some solutions.

I guess, I agree with Jeremy when he says there should be some soyinkas and soyinkettes. Kind of reminds me of the kokolettes, lol

ainehi 2:33 pm  

To Anon 9:01

"People like us who struggle to think of 5."

I wonder why....

another,  3:32 pm  

Jeremy, are you serious? John Fashanu? Role model? For your child or whose? Please... If you want us to know you know the guy, fine. But, please, don't include him in the same paragraph as Soyinka.

And it's alright for people to be fascinated by Soyinka. He's a Nobel Laureate, remember? Didn't you read about Doris Lessing's complaint on getting no respite since she got the Nobel? It's not necessarily about a lack of positive role models in Nigeria. It's just that the Nobel in literature commands a lot respect ANYWHERE. It's alright to showcase Nigeria's failings like you always do and nobody can blame you for that. But please, do make some sense.

Jeremy 3:55 pm  

You people you are too predictable sha. Whether we like it or not (I suspect most of us don't), Fashanu is a role model for lots of young Nigerians. We have to distinguish two senses of the word 'role model':

1. Somebody in society people collectively agree SHOULD be looked up to
2. Somebody in society who actually IS looked up to.

There is a world of difference between the two. In Nigeria, the reality is that a lot of people may fall into the second sense of the word, while not actually being wholly legitimate enough to fall into the first category!!

Anonymous,  4:14 pm  

Na lie. Define 'young'. Many Nigerians under the age of 25 don't even know Fashanu. Why not mention Kanu and Okocha?

And he certainly isn't a role model to those between 25 and 45. They would rather have Mike Adenuga, however reprehensible. Didn't Fashanu dine with the devil, Abacha? Abeg... No be 'ought' or 'is' issue. He IS not. Take a poll.

Anonymous,  4:22 pm  

Bims asked the first anon to reel of 20 inspiring Nigerians. We are still waiting. It seems to me that we are quick to say we can reel off, but when asked we actually can't. I admit my own ignorance that I cannot reel of 20 inspiring nigerians who are living in the country, but perhaps others who are located in the country can do better.

I remember one of Jeremy's post a while back about what is there to be proud of and how we should come with a list, aside from us complaining and abusing him, we actually didn't come up with much. Lest anyone ask why we should pamper to the request of some white boy, this blog is beyond Jeremy and is read mostly by us Nigerians, and I think it would be useful if the first anon post something even if it is just 10 and maybe other's can follow him.

A question to you jeremy, can you list from the top of your head 20 inspiring Britons? If you can, then we should be able to. I know I can reel of 20 inspiring Britons, but I can't say the same about 20 Nigerians. I admit, it is to my own shame. So please help here.

Sandrine 5:20 pm  

Hi Jeremy,

I think that what you are mourning is not the lack of good role models in term of behavior.It is the lack of fame and recognition for intellectuals.You need to separate the two issues; career models and behavior models.I agree that it would be good for kids to have examples of intellectuals that they would look up to and want to emulate in term of careers.
I also agree that nowadays it's hard to find famous people that are good role models in term of behavior.However, in my opinion (I value behavior more than career), I don't believe a person has to be an intellectual to be a good role model. A role model to me is a person who conducts himself/herself in such a manner that is compatible with the values the kids need to learn.Values such as love, respect, tolerance, kindness etc.Role models don't even have to be famous.Role models can be anybody in the kid's surroundings.
And Jeremy "you people"...I can not even believe you had to go there : )
Take care.


Anonymous,  6:16 pm  

Jeremy, you're kinda off on this one... lack of positive role models is not what is responsible for the fawning-over that Soyinka gets. That's quite absurd an argument. So what would you say of England or America, with their vicious paparazzi culture, and the kind of supercelebrity-culture that Nigeria(ns) can only dream about...

You make it sound as though its only "positive role models" that get that kind of attention... what happened to the drug barons and the thieving politicians and the TV personalities and the "Men of God"...

what you might (should?) have said was that Nigerians have a culture that does not particularly respect private spaces... we are gifted at invading people's private spaces, incapable of realising that they might not particularly find it pleasing...

And to say John Fashanu's a role model... any evidence of that? lol

Bisola,  7:43 pm  

These are my role models:
Mrs. Nike Ogunlesi
Mrs. Ibukun Awosika
Mrs. Yewande Zaccheaus
Mr. Dotun Sulaiman
Mr. Gboyega Atoyebi
Mr. Fela Durotoye
Mrs. Tara Fela-Durotoye
Ms. Yemisi Olagbaiye
Mr. Yemi Faseun

The list goes on, i'm sure but these are some of the people, not celebrities, who are quietly doing their own thing, making a difference and inspiring me to be a better person.

Anonymous,  7:55 pm  

@ anon 3:32 p.m., the name Nobel in ANYTHING commands respect and attention right away. My advisor won the Nobel in Chemistry just as he got my draft of my Phd. Let's just say I didn't see him for about 3 months afterwards, which sucked for a person desperate to complete her Phd.

Anonymous,  8:04 pm  

@ jeremy, I grew up in the 1990s and although I knew the name John fashanu, I had to google a picture of him. I had never seen him before. For the younger generation of Nigerians (< 25 years), we grew up watchin Amokachi, Amuneke, etc play. We KNOW of the Fashanus, Abedi Peles, Sam Okwarajis, etc, but how many - but the msot die-hard footie fans - can identify Okwaraji or John Fashanu? Of course Abedi Pele has remained relevant, but a man like John Fashanu, let's face it, for the vast majority of Nigerians (and we are a very young country, with up to 55% of us under the age of 25), a man like Fashanu would walk the streets unnoticed. You try getting Taribo West or Kanu Nwankwo to do the same. Rashidi Yekini lived in my town (Ibadan) in the 1990s, and a lot of people looked up to him and admired his talent. That's somebody we are all familiar with. The reason, I suspect, that many Nigerians are unable to recognise our older players or leaders is that NTA has destroyed many of their old tapes and you cannot easily get replays on DVD. I must confess I have no idea how Tafawa Balewa looks, nor indeed how Zik looks, or any of the old leaders except Awolowo, and since I grew up in the SW, that is hardly a surprise. What does Gowon look like? I found out from Google. Shagari nko? Again from Google. Pick any leader before 1980, and I probably saw their face in my Social Studies textbook or on Google. John Fashanu is not recognizable enough to be a role model - I remember asking myself when I read the name on your blog whether he even played for Nigeria or England. (I still don't know the answer because I haven't googled it). As a kid, when folks talked about Nigerian players of old, the names I heard were Okparaji and co. Not Fashanu, who is, apparently, really shady.

Role model ko, role model ni.

gungun 8:06 pm  

Dele Momodu
Jim Ovia (why not; no bankers, businessmen or politicians? ok, Samuel my shoemaker under bridge for Ikeja...)
Prof. grace alele-Williams
Current UI VC
Justice Kayode Eso and co. (SANs)
Fashola (no politians)
and the list goes on and on and on...

You people are very funny, no role models? Life is what you make of it, be it Paris Hilton, Bill Gates, Soyinka or your school teacher. Pray, why is this 'lack of role models' unique to Nigeria?

Anonymous,  8:08 pm  

Don't forget Dora Akinluyi, abi she be politician too?

Kikelomo,  8:34 pm  

It is not difficult to name 20 Nigerian role models. I'll give it a shot (below) - just from names I remember.

I am from Oyo State and lived there until I moved to the US. I imagine that the list will vary with region, with those in the West being more familiar with Yoruba celebrities or role models, East with Igbo celebrities and so on. I have to point out the importance of UI (Unibadan) in shaping me and teaching me that there is more to life than chop-I-clean politics.

1) femi falana (lawyer and unflinching human rights activist)
2) gani fawehinmi (lawyer and unflinching human rights activist)
3) wole soyinka (writer)
4)dele olojede (writer)
5) prof. g.k. falade & prof ogunaike(distinguished professors of petroleum & chemical engineering, UI & U. Minnesota respectively)
6)funmi iyanda (tv hostess)
7)gabriel ogunmola (biochemist, director of Nigerian Science Foundation,foremer director of Carnegie Center at UI, hemoglobin researcher, Professor at UI)
8)ishola ogunshola (writer)
9)jf odunjo (writer)
10)ik dairo (singer)
11)haruna ishola senior (singer)
12)olu akinyanju (director of Nigerian sickle cell foundation, sickle cell researcher, physician)
13)victor olaiya (singer)
14)victor uwaifo (singer)
15)amos totuola (writer)
16) mabel segun (writer)
17)Entire TELL & Newswatch magazine staff of the IBB and Abacha years (journalists)
18)lagbaja (singer)
19)chinua achebe (writer)
20)ben okri (writer)
21)emeka anyaoku (former sec. gen. of commonwealth)
22)prof fatoba (writer)
23)femi osofisan (writer)
24) prof babalola (physicist, former UI professor. Part of UI team that became the first Africans to put an object in space)

Ok, I guess you get the point. Growing up under IBB and Abacha, these were the people my parents wanted me to emulate. Not the politicians, or the business men like MKO abiola the ITT, or indeed the madder musicians like Fela Kuti because of his drug smoking ways. More than anything else, I think every educated Nigerian child knows an upright Professor or doctor or lawyer who has not compromised on his ethics but has managed to achieve significant results in his field. Role models do not have to be celebrities and from my own experience, it was the people closest to my family - my parents' professor-friends or doctor-friends or lawyer-friends - that served as a model for me to emulate. There is no shortage of fine, distinguished nigerians in Nigeria, who are blazing a trail withough compromising on their ethics. It is there for those who want to see it. I believe jeremy missed yet another subtlety about Nigerian society - it is not that we have an absence of role models or indeed a paucity, instead we are cursed with a people who worship material wealth, mostly found with the three P's in Nigeria: Politicians, (football) Players and (roguish) Pastors.

There was never a shortage of role models for me when I was growing up, and I would say it paid off - today I am a Princeton-trained engineer, and I will never discount the impact people (like the ones I mentioned above) had in shaping my childhood dreams. I ignored the Adedibus and chose the Soyinkas because I (and my family) can tell the difference.

Kody 6:21 am  

You know what Jeremy, you find me even one from this group of "young Nigerians" who thinks John Fashanu is a role model, and I will become a vegan.

Trust me, he was being gawped at as a familiar face by the people in your compound, the same reaction someone like Bayo or any any other so called celeb (!!) from Big Brother would get.

Fashanu is widely regarded as a shady character who has done absolutely nothing inspirational. He is a failed footballer whose limited 'celebrity' had dimmed in the UK, who then suddenly decided to explore his Nigerian roots to make money. From what I can gather, much of his business dealings are certainly not legitimate. As a young Nigerian, I have no desire to emulate him.

My role models:
Dora Akinluyi, Ribadu (for all his critics, the guy made a difference, however small), Chinua Achebe, Chimananda Aduchie, Ben Okri, Lagbaja, Kanu, Gani Fawehinmi, Deola Sagoe and Soyinka.

Anonymous,  1:09 pm  

Jeremy, you don keep quiet? You better renounce your Fashanu. So, those are the kinf of people you hang out with? Sanctimonious Jeremy. Bet you would have also sucked up to Abacha for a few bucks.

Anonymous,  10:01 pm  

Well, I think by now Jeremy has got the message that most Nigerians do not consider John Fashanu as someone they would want their children to emulate. So I beg, lets not rub it in..

Anonymous,  4:49 am  

This Jeremy dude knows very little about Nigeria. In the past three weeks, he has made the following howlers:

1) 'ECOWAS is useless' claim. many wrote in about their own experiences.

2) 'Open your heart make I enter' song. Rubbish interpretation. A very Western look, I call it.

and now this gbola of all gbolas. Geeezuz!

Kody 7:59 am  

Anonymous 4.49am

As you know, I certainly don't agree with Jeremy's opinion of Fashanu, BUT Jeremy does happen to have a wealth of knowledge about Nigeria and what is happening in the country. Its is one of the major reasons I read his blog -so less of the sweeping statements please.

Re 1) I and many others agree with him, but please lord we don't want to start THAT conversation again!
2) I don't think that can be used as evidence for lack of knowledge about Nigeria. Besides, you will notice that he did ask people's opinions about the accuracy of his interpretation.

Don't anyone please start on any 'Jeremy fan club' accusations -that discussion would just be predictable and boring..

Anonymous,  12:12 am  

@kody, ok so I belong to the Jeremy fan club, and am a card holding member whats anybody going to do about it?

Waffarian 1:44 am  

chei! how did i miss all this? na wah, no week wey u no dey enter kata kata Jeremy! anyway, make i add my own kobo for the matter.

First of all, John Fashanu...the man go don old by now na!u mean say im still dey? we thank God!

As for Soyinka, na so life be, im self don turn to celebrity...why im no chop for house? dem send am message? see im mouth like chinese!

Ehen, role models...I no fit name celebrities because dem no affect my life for kobo...most of my role models were always people that i could see around me...all those big names were always too far away and too distant to hold on to...even now, my inspiration is always close to home.

We all hold on to whatever HOPE we can...and yes, sometimes it might be a footballer or an artist...I am betting there are lots of small kids in Warri thinking they can be the next "i go die" is as simple as that.

Anonymous,  4:29 am  

@kody, Jeremy is great at describing the things he sees in Nigeria. Coming up with a novel idea as to WHY these things are happening, however, is where he typically falls short.

No, you are not in the jeremy fan club. Let's Nigeria-ize it; we Nigerians don't have fan-clubs: we have praise singers. So, how good are you with the drums?

Anonymous,  2:07 pm  

Kody, 'yawn'

Anonymous,  3:40 pm  

@anon 6:16

"what you might (should?) have said was that Nigerians have a culture that does not particularly respect private spaces... we are gifted at invading people's private spaces, incapable of realising that they might not particularly find it pleasing..."

This is SO false it is, frankly, stupid.

All the paparazzi here in London and in Paris and everywhere else - do theuy respect any private space? Have you seen Angelina jolie in a place and people filing to her while she's having dinner? Everywhere they invade private space of celebrities - you people always looking for some negative quality in Nigeia should really get your faces out of your asses.

And Jeremy,

you did say John was a POSITIVE role model so stop dancing around trying to defend it., you put your foot in your mouth in your bid to drop a name - now pick the name up, and with it, your foot.

me,  3:51 pm  

Jeremy is a white (British) guy that writes about Nigeria.

Kody don't you get it? That's as far as some people are ever going to see.

I say sideline these people and continue to enjoy Jeremy's blog for what it is.

Kody 8:26 pm  

I am so done with this stupid discussion now so I will move on to a point (not relating to the original post) that will no doubt stir even more (predictable) controversy.

I have found since returning to Nigeria that the more exposed (to other cultures) people are, the more accepting they are of arguments for what they are - an exchange of differing opinions as opposed to discussions that degenerate into an exchange of insults, flexing of egos, and point scoring.

People are just so bloody defensive about everything in Nigeria as if any opinion contrary to our own is a deep personal attack. Is one of the reasons we find it difficult to progress in this country.

We can argue 'for Africa', and if we argue, somebody must get the last word in or receive an apology or conceed defeat.....from my experience there is no such thing as agreeing to disagree in Nigeria, and God forbid, one of the parties should be a foreigner.

omidanbellafricaine 9:27 pm  

PSTEEW! much yawa about nothing.... I dont know much about Fashanu but i remember him to be a man of style which is a quality i admire in anyone.

Y'all just want a let's piss all over Jeremy Weate party which i believe is a monthly affair

Anonymous,  12:52 am  

@ me, 3:51, yes a lot of people will never see past the fact that Jeremy is white. Folks like you - who suddenly start to drool the moment they see white skin.


Bolum Ujoo,  12:55 am  

@kody, if you quit the slavish boot-licking, I'm sure nobody will pick on your comments.

ababoypart2 12:14 pm  

Observing the reaction this weekend of a large number of kids who had just spotted Everton's Andy Johnson on their patch(Priory Court, E17) goes to show that maybe we lack role models all over the world.

nosa101 4:41 pm  

if he can't cope with the celebrity then he should go fuck himself

i preferred things fall apart anyway

....and Fashanu is a traitor fucktard that doesn't deserve the pres[ect I would accord to a steaming pile of shit/

me,  11:01 pm  

Anon 12.52, why are you even here?
Surely there's a Tardis waiting to take you back to the Stone Ages.......

Anonymous,  8:31 pm  

Well, I really think that our own individual approach to life matters. Talking of Role Models, I believe tthat the likes of Dr. Oluyombo Awojobi should be mentioned. Come to think of it, the man must have touched the lives of many more Nigerians that some of our politicians put together. The beauty of it is that he is not loud about it. God bless him. - Ademola Agiri

Anonymous,  7:26 pm  

Soyinka is a celebrity of some sort than a writer. He must go through hell all the time. I think people from good homes are aware that it is rude to talk to people as you wish, all the time! Those people were all ill mannered and shameless.

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