In Defense of Satire

“[I]n whatever department of human expression, wherever there is objective truth there is satire.” Wyndham Lewis in Rude Assignment

 

satire cartoons

To write this post, I read about the origin of satire, about Aristophanes (c. 446 BC – c. 386 BC ), a Greek comic playwright, and the Roman poet Horace (65 BC – 8 BC), whose works inspire and form the model for writing modern-day satire. But sha, na dem sabi, I know that I know that I know that satire originated in Nigerian culture. How do I know?

After I ran across a road without a zebra crossing or traffic lights or a pedestrian bridge, just missing that crazy driver who sped out of nowhere, a woman selling oranges by the roadside exclaimed, “You dey craze? You wan kill persin?” so I turned around to look at the yeye driver who’d almost cut my young life short, and then realised she was talking to me.

She could have blasted the government for not providing infrastructure. She could have cursed the driver for failing to observe common-sense speed limit. The irony was that she chose me as the subject of her satire. She exaggerated my role as a potential killer, exposed me to ridicule with her loud gesticulations, and criticized my lack of judgement. And the humour? Well, here I am writing this piece and laughing retroactively, twenty years too late.

You can describe the human condition with white chalk on a blackboard, spacing your letters evenly and clearly, but people may yawn and rub their eyes after a while. You can show how the problems of the world are at once “un”trivialized and brought into sharp focus by employing irony, exaggeration, and/or humour, and people may stay up late to watch the show. This is satire and provoking change, if only in a shift in thinking, is the endgame.

Satire’s overtness, sometimes camouflaged by its subtlety and silent sophistication, is blended into much of what we watch and read, but is often overlooked because we appreciate these works for their entertainment value only. Perhaps the authors want to make people laugh before they make them think.

The #BringBackOurGirls campaign focuses on the serious business of finding and freeing the over 200 girls kidnapped from a Nigerian secondary school in Chibok. While we are still lighting candles for them, questions surrounding the culpability of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the legality of the first lady’s “tribunal” and the state of security in Nigeria, especially in the light of recent bomb attacks, continue to make rounds on social media.

It is the cartoons and videos, not the essays, expressing the general mood of the country that have captured my attention the most. I see these works as satires. Some of the media that zoom in on the Nigerian first lady’s perceived gaffes, have come under attack, because satire can be misunderstood when we view these works for their ridicule value alone. Perhaps the authors want to shock people first and then make them think.

 

“Satire is a mirror where beholders generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” Jonathan Swift

satire in cartoons

Politics and satire live on the same street. However, I cannot imagine that President Obama, or any other president pouts and refuses breakfast because of a political cartoon splashed on the front page of a newspaper. This is not to say that satire cannot be a demeaning and horrifying personal attack, the pendulum can swing to any extreme, but I’m referring to satire, which has as its greater purpose constructive social criticism to further dialogue and/or action.

 

Uneasy the head that bears the crown

politics 101

 

As a child, I had frequent bouts of malaria. At my mother’s insistence, not only did I have to wait until the smell of sheltox faded into the walls of my room, but I also had to sleep under a white mosquito net. Once every few months I would stand in front of her under the dim inquisition lights of our verandah, hands outstretched as she placed three tablets of Camoquin in my palm one after the other.

“Swallow it quickly with your Fanta,” she would goad.

I was never fast enough. After taking a sip of Fanta, the Camoquin would begin to melt in the fizzy oasis that was my mouth. I would shut my eyes tight as I swallowed the mixture. After I swallowed the third tablet, the half-empty bottle of Fanta was my reward. I rushed the orange liquid, willing it to eliminate every trace of the bitter Camoquin. After this ritual, my body would stave off malaria for a few months.

This in my view is satire at its best; mix the bitter with the sweet to move society to a better place. When this era is over and the dust settles, the videos, the cartoons, and slangs coined, will be reminders that truth was once too hard to swallow.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Cartoon credits:

Mike Asukwo

Mike Asukwo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asukwo

Mike Asokwo on Twitter: @Asukwoeb

 

Khaki no be Leather http://t.co/MAWGvUpCeq

Business as Usual http://t.co/90N6BMfUqu

We, the Experts http://t.co/PeuA19Zsmg

The Eagle has landed https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203949665842578&set=pcb.10203949674762801&type=1&theater

JTF-Joint Task Family https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204006243536985&set=pcb.10204006243736990&type=1&theater

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Broken Spell

Broken Spell

When my eyes first met you, my heart asked, “Is he taken?”1 I followed your form as you picked a bottle, read the label, and then returned it to the shelf. You stood in the corner with the display lights softening your features; I knew you were the answer to my loneliness, the catharsis for my emptiness.

Before my head could formulate an answer from empirical data, we were walking along The Seine hands touching occasionally as we drew closer to insulate ourselves from other lovers meandering on the way.

Je t’aime. I love you in French. You say it first because you are not afraid. I repeat after you because now I am sure that one plus one equals one and that I have not dieted in vain. My wedding dress is an hourglass while your tuxedo is white and your groomsmen wear black. The tears on my face have only little to do with the pinch from my stilettos and more to do with my realization that heart, happiness, and home, begin with h.

Dark. Because on our wedding night, the stars do not shine. It does not matter as our love lights the way. The vanilla-scented candles I poached from Efe’s wedding gifts, which I was supposed to guard, make our shadows long and lean, as they became one. I sleep in your arms drowning in your scent and dream of vanilla ice cream. It is your breath, not fluttering butterflies, on my stomach that makes my eyes open as the sun rises to greet our love. Small wonder that we plan for maternity leave so soon after our honeymoon.

Four. The number of children we will have. Two boys and two girls. One of each gender on either arm, yours and mine. But in this economy, where purchasing power can be as uncertain as Russian roulette, two will have to do. His hands will be firm and kind, her hands will be dexterous and warm; our children will mirror the best of us.

A decade or two. We will wait before returning to The Seine. With the Eiffel Tower kissing the sky and glowing in the river below, you will whisper, “Je táime,” and water our love so thirsty branches will bud and grow anew.

When my eyes first met you, my heart asked, “Is he taken?” You cocked your head my way for one second. Blood rushed to different parts of my anatomy. I took my sit behind the counter and looked everywhere but at you. I asked the woman in blue if she would like my help.

I sensed your presence as you filled the space in front of me.

“Miss,” you looked at my chest, my face bubbled like tomatoes in stew as our eyes met and held, “Abe- yi- wa?” you looked down at my name tag again, “Abieyuwa?” Your eyes danced first and then your lips followed so I saw how perfect your teeth are.

I nodded like a yo-yo, my head bobbing up and down. Yes, yes, yes, take me as I am!

“My wife asked me to―”

“Oh shit! Damn!” How could I not have seen the wedding band?

“What? W-h- w-h-a-t?” You looked like a little boy who had lost his toy, stammering as his mother asked where.

“Ngozi, Ngozi! Ngozi!” I gave her the look, “please help this customer. It’s time for my break.”

I went outside and stood in the sun. I let the light breeze flush you from my mind.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

***

This post is the consequence of reading too many Mills & Boon romance novels when I should have been solving algebra in secondary school. Seriously, I started thinking about relationships after laughing at Naijarookie’s depiction of the way men and women think. But when I read the opening verse of Jazilah Ali’s poem, Broken Spell, I knew I had to add my two cents.

 

  1. Broken Spell – Verses About Walking Away From False Love by Jazilah Ali

http://www.lyricaltreasure.com/broken-spell-walking-away-love-poem/

 

All people illustrations and vectors by Microsoft

Design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mutual ExChange

I laughed while reading this post, which without trying too hard, examines the nuances in the way men and women process ideas and think about relationships. I hope you will too.

Nigerian Newcomer

We are driving back from the movies. This is our third time together.
The talk is usually sparse, peppered with jokes, and ending with an ‘I had fun, we should do it again’. So we do it again.
Today the air feels different. The movie, a long drama ending with the sad unexpected death of the main character, has triggered something because we shared that experience.

About fifteen minutes into the drive, she cracks open. She says:
“You know what I am scared of? I am afraid of making the wrong decision especially when it comes to relationships. I see couples, some are happy and some are not. And I wonder, how do you know when to fight for something and when to give up on it?”

She takes a deep breath and continues:
“Even the simpler decision, whether to open up to someone or be friends with them, each…

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Mommie Dearest

mommie dearest

Her eyes opened. Six o’ clock. Panic clouded her brain. She should have already started her round on Ajeleke Street where the drone of generators and echo of the muezzin’s call, did not compete with her megaphone. Into that serene place, Mommie’s voice had boomed nearly every morning for the past two years. She was not careful as she bounded from bed.

In the sitting room, Ejiro, Ufuoma, and Yoma sat with arms crossed over their chests. Their stare reminded Mommie that her head-tie sat on her head at a lop-sided angle threatening to fall. In the corner, Lucky stood like a wallflower not daring to meet her eyes. She smelt sabotage. No one offered her a chair to ease her discomfort. She steadied her head-tie with both hands.

Miguo Daddy,” she addressed Ejiro, her husband.

 

Miguo Mommie,” they all chorused.

 

“This has got to stop. It must stop today!” Ejiro spoke first.

 

“Mommie, we are tired of you embarrassing us with your microphone!” Ufuoma spoke second. She did not observe protocol; Yoma was older than she was.

 

“We are not saying you cannot preach,” Yoma relaxed his hands as he spoke, “but surely there must be a better way.”

 

“Hmmm, I see.” She folded her arms over her chest, spreading her legs.

 

The men knew when to retreat, but Ufuoma continued.

 

“Mommie, you are the wife of the honorable chief judge. We live in Effurun GRA. You drive a V-boot. You are supposed to be a society lady. Carrying a loudspeaker and preaching on the streets makes you a common, common—”

 

“Common what? Say it, I am waiting.”

 

Yoma looked at his mum who was now standing at akimbo and then at Ufuoma whose chest was rising and falling rapidly, “What she means is—”

 

“I know what she means! My ungrateful family! Ejiroghene when you wanted a promotion, you asked me to pray to the God that you are now ashamed of. Now that you have arrived, my serving God is an embarrassment enh?”

 

Ejiro pushed his glasses higher up on his nose. He regretted allowing the children persuade him to confront their mother.

 

Turning to face her only son, she spat out her venom. “Ogheneyoma who prayed and got you out of trouble time and time again? Who prayed until you finally got that Shell job?”

 

“You did.” Yoma sighed and stretched, he’d never liked waking early. He wished he had not come home for the holidays.

 

“Mommie, stop it. Stop it!” Ufuoma had had enough. “This isn’t about us!”

 

“Ufuoma, you, you? You of all people. Where do I even begin? Should I start with that useless boy Richard your—”

 

“Look, look, this is all getting out of hand. Mommie what we want to say is that we admire your fine Christian character, you are truly a virtuous woman; none would dare disagree. Your aggressive proselytizing with that thing,” Daddy gestured at the megaphone lying at Lucky’s feet, “only serves as a noise pollutant at a time when people are stealing the last vestiges of sleep. This militant evangelistic style coupled with your emotion-laden sales pitch is rather old. We are just saying that it’s time for new tactics.”

 

He stood and placed his hand on her shoulder, “Mommie, bikó.” Taking her right hand in his, he softened his voice, “You cannot browbeat people into accepting our faith since it is a work of grace, and grace is never more clearly demonstrated than in our actions. As Francis of Assisi said, ‘Preach the gospel all the time, and if necessary, use words.’”

 

“Ssssss! I thought you were going to say something constructive!” Mommie pulled her hand away and glared at him, “Ejiro, I don’t know which Bible you read that it has become our faith. The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent taketh it by force. The day that Muslims stop calling for prayer, Hare Krishnas stop dancing on the street, Jehovah’s Witnesses stop knocking on doors, and Cele start wearing shoes to church, that is the day I will stop preaching!”

 

She marched over to Lucky.

Miguo Mommie,” he curtsied.

Vre-ndo Lucky. Doh my pickin. Is everything set?”

“Yes Mommie.”

Let’s go!”

 

Lucky handed her the megaphone and followed behind.

 

“Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!” Mommie’s voice rang out startling Lucky as he turned the lock and lifted the latch to open the gate. She looked at him with a half-smile, “Charity must always begin at home.”

 

Once outside the gate, Mommie began to lecture Lucky. “We must forgive our critics. The Bible says that a man’s enemies will come from his own household . . .”

 

Lucky turned and followed her eyes. Surprise registered in his. Richard was escorting a girl to the junction that led to the bus stop.

 

“Ufuoma! Ufu-oma o! Come see your boyfriend dey carry gonorrhea!” Aiming her megaphone in Richard’s direction, Mommie cried even louder, “Repent! If you die today, will you make heaven? Turn from your wicked ways!”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

p.s. Happy Mother’s Day to you. After many false starts, I wrote this caricature, which isn’t about us, because the places I had to go to write the post I wanted seemed too far; the emotions, too raw, bleeding as they did only yesterday.

***

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Image credit: curtain vector: zcool.com.cn

font: Christopher Hand by El Stinger: http://www.dafont.com/christopherhand.font

font: Acid Label by Billy Argel: http://www.dafont.com/acid-label.font

 

design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Forgive me Motunrayo, I Want to Sin

night

Sola remained quiet even though it was her turn to speak. As each second ticked away, I adjusted my expectations from support to understanding.

 
“It’s not done. Bimpe, it’s simply not done. Blood is thicker than water . . .”

 
“But we are not related by blood—”

 
“Who said anything about his blood? I’m talking about Motunrayo, your younger sister!”

 
She hissed the way our mothers used to. The way we said we would never do.

 
“Have you?” Her voice was soft. Her eyes were hard.

 
“No o! What kind of person do you think I am?”

 
“I don’t know. Love makes people do stupid things.” She spat the word love as though it was bitter kola.

 
“Well, I haven’t!”

 
“Keep your legs closed and run as fast as you can.”

 
I tried to make her see that love could be sweet like chilled ripe mango slices. For two hours her eyes remained hard, the way my father’s and mother’s had been two days ago.

 
Finally, Sola shook her head and said, “Bimpe, love is not enough. Are you forgetting where we come from?”

 

 
I returned to my flat at 10 p.m., took two tablets of Paracetamol, and whispered for sleep to come. My phone rang.

 
“So, what happened?”

 
“Segun, it didn’t go very well.” I fluffed my pillows, sat up, and took a deep breath. “She said I was there to look after my sister not look after her husband. That it might even look like we conspired to kill her—”

 
“God forbid! I’m sorry . . .”

 
“I’m tired.”

 
“We can’t let other people dictate our lives. What we have is real.”

 
“Is it?”

 
“You don’t mean that—”

 
“I don’t know again. I still think it’s too soon. She just died six months ago!”

 
“How long do we have to wait? One year, two years, ten years? What if they never come round? I survived cancer. I narrowly missed that plane crash. I survived the accident. I feel like I’ve cheated death ten times. Bimpe, life is short.”

 
“Hmmm . . .”

 
“Say something . . . please.”

 
“Some days I feel good. Some days I don’t. If Motunrayo is looking down on us, would she approve?”

 
“We’ve been through this a million times! She wanted me to remarry—”

 
“But did she want you to marry me?”

 
“Life is for the living. She wanted me to be happy. I’m happy. Aren’t you?”

 
“But everybody can’t be wrong!”

 
“Who is everybody? We don’t have to stay here. I told you I have an offer . . . we can move to—”

 
“Didn’t you hear my mother? She said it doesn’t matter where we go, bad luck will follow us and blow us like wind; we will never have roots!”

 
“Please stop crying.”

 
“I can’t. My father threatened to disown me! You don’t know what it’s like. Your parents are dead and your uncles worship the ground you walk on.”

 
“I’m sorry.”

 
“Let’s wait. I have so much to lose . . .”

 
“That’s not true.”

 
“Really? Listen to how it sounds, ‘He married his late wife’s sister’. Okay, what of, ‘She married her late sister’s husband’?”

 
Segun sighed, “Okay. How long?”

 

 
We waited another six months during which time, my father spoke to me twice, scowling as he did. Segun took the job abroad and relocated. I convinced him that we should cut off all communication to test the strength of our love. He did not like my gamble, but I needed to know if grief had masqueraded as love.

 
I waited for my feelings to go away. They left and returned with gale force. His absence made me weaker, made my love stronger, and my resolve tougher, so that when we finally reunited, l threw myself at him and he kissed me in the hotel lobby, not caring if any of the people shuffling through life might recognise us. I felt their eyes when I kissed him back. We broke away as we became conscious of their whistles.

 
He took my palm, “Feel my heart, it’s racing for you.”

 
I took his hand, “Feel mine too.”

 
We did not consult anyone after that. For the next three months, we made plans for me to join him like children whispering, “sssh, sssh,” in the dark. The day before I was to travel, I called my mother because she had said, “I don’t approve. If you marry Segun, your father will live as if he has no child left. As for me, I have lost one child. I cannot lose the other. I will always be your mother.”

 
I thought she would weep, but her voice trembled as she said, “Se je je oko mi.”

 
That evening, I ordered room service and pushed the omelette around the plate, then cut it to pieces. Nervous, I stood by the eleventh-floor window and watched ants clear the pool area for the live band. The first strains of the piano reminded me that my feet were cramping. I sat on the bed, leaned back on the headrest, pulled my knees to my chin, and wondered if black was an appropriate colour for darkness.

 
The twenty-four-hour wait seemed longer than the last two months of Motunrayo’s life. One day, when I visited her, I placed my mouth close to her ear as she dragged out the words, “After I’m gone, make sure he marries again. But not someone prettier than me.” I am prettier than my sister is and she grew up in the shadow of my beauty. Did she see Segun’s love for me and mine for him spark, although we did not, during the long days we spent waiting for hope and battling sadness?

 
One night I walked in on him keeping vigil by her side. I noticed how handsome he was and thought how lucky she was to have him. Because I have been unlucky in love, I wondered how it would feel to be loved by a man like him. Was that when I jumped off the diving board into the heart-shaped pool? I fell for Segun while Motunrayo was dying not after her death.

 
Crying, I called my mother again.

 
“Mummy, it’s me. Please soften the ground for me. Tell Daddy I have come to my senses. Tell him I am coming home.”

 
She said, “Ose oko mi!”

 

 
©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

 

Se je je oko mi – be careful my child
Ose oko mi – thank you my child

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Image credit:
City by Jenifer Cabrera@CreationSwap: http://www.creationswap.com/media/12111