#TravelOnABudget : Nairobi to Arusha by Road

Sometimes when the travel bug bites you or when you really need a quick sleep holiday to just cool off, and you somewhat don’t have two pennies to rub together like I did a couple weeks back.. what do you do? You hop on a bus to the nearest city outside of 254.

This led me backpacking to Arusha a couple weeks back.

Travel Budget: Kshs 15,000 / Tshs 334,000 / USD 150

I woke up in Nairobi at 4:29am, got ready and hopped into an Über and went to River Road, Nairobi Downtown – the most notorious street in the Capital.

I boarded the Dar Lux bus, and we set off at 5:45am. Cost of Dar Lux is $30 return. Its super comfortable and to my pleasant surprise, left right on time! They don’t provide any refreshments if you pay for the regular ticket like I did, but if you would like more comfort and such, the “business class” side offers it. There is free WiFi on board (although it wasn’t working at the time) and the air-con works. It’s clean and comfy and good value for money.

We drive out of NBO as the city is just waking up – this city does not sleep it seems! I get comfortable and pull out my weekend read – José Eduardo Agualusa’s A General Theory of Oblivion. 

I dozed off a little, and woke up just as we were getting into the border town – Namanga. A gentleman selling Tzs hops into the bus – and I am muse at these “walking forex bureaus” – reminds me of the forex hawkers at Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos. Always so interesting – this unusual group of private money dealers that I have encountered around the continent a couple of times! But no wahalla! You actually get much better rates in the black market.

We got to Immigration Control at about 8am, went through the checks and everything. Took about 1.5hrs. Left at 9:30 and drove steadily into Tanzania. The process wasn’t hectic but again, was not as fast in comparison to the Malaba/Busia borders. This is because when crossing to Uganda, a Kenyan citizen only needs their National ID card. For cross border travel to Tanzania though, a Kenyan citizen has to have a Passport, and this is not in line with the common market protocol that provides for the use of a machine readable national ID for travel with East Africa, but only citizens of those partner states which have accepted among themselves the use of such. I take this to mean that Magufuli’s government has not been keen on this – for whatever reason! It would be nice though, to have TZ on board, in the spirit of Jumuiya.

I was awake the entire time we steadily drove in to Tanzania and marvelled at how expansive Maa Land is. Got into Arusha at about 10:40am. I got off the bus and hopped onto a boda boda. Paid 3000 Tzs – A fee I thought was too high. Destination was the Clock Tower in town. We passed by the East African Community (Jumuiya) offices and the Arusha International Conference Centre. Arusha is pretty laidback and clean. Mt Meru, to my surprise, is strikingly formidable and forms a huge part of the landscape of this town. I make a mental note to pass by the Tourist Info Centre to inquire about trekking fees and whatnot.

I’m starving.

I get into a small café – Africafe, in the city centre, and I order a vegan breakfast and a nice cuppa of African Pride Tea. After, I walk to the apartments where I am spending the weekend, and I feel right at home in this city.

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Major POI: The Arusha Clock Tower marks the exact midpoint between Cairo and Cape Town!

I had booked accommodation via Airbnb and had the most amazing host! Had the entire apartment to myself and paid just about $60 for three nights.

After a most relaxing weekend filled with quality sleep, I boarded Dar Lux Monday afternoon, ready to take on life again.. I decided that the next time I decide to go back to Arusha (to ascend Mt Meru) , I will be behind the wheel! This is soon, and I hope that by then, cross border travel will finally allow us to do so only with our National ID’s!



Kalakuta Republic – Where Fela’s Spirit Lingers {Pictorial}

I just got back from Lagos/Lasgidi/Gidi – The Capital of Chaos! Of course I had to go to Fela’s last home – the Third Kalakuta Republic that’s located on 7 Gbemisola St, Allen, Ikeja.


Fela chose to name his abode “Kalakuta” , a caricature of “Calcutta”, after being imprisoned in 1974 in a cell called “Calcutta Cell” . In this home, he housed his band members and his family as well as his recording studio.



Meet the Curator – Gentleman in the middle, Mr Mallam Abdul

The Resident Curator – Mallam Abdul – is a very resourceful guy who has stories for days! As a teenager, he met and even lived with Fela in the second Kalakuta Republic, and later became a print journalist who worked at Fela’s print company that was housed at the basement of this museum. He takes his time to really give one an insight into Fela’s life and personally, at some moments, felt like I was right there when Fela was alive!


Fela’s Bedroom

Apparently, this is exactly how Fela left his bedroom on that fateful day he left for hospital and did not return. This was my favorite part of the tour – I could almost feel his Spirit hovering around!

You also get to see Fela’s personal items such as the guitar above and his huge collection of shoes.


Where our beloved Revolutionary was interred

Another thing I loved about the museum is the art! Such vibrant and colourful pieces on display with Fela’s quotes and song/album titles. See below:


There is a bar at the rooftop that has a beautiful view. I didn’t have enough time to hang out and have a drink. It’s a perfect spot for Sundowners! Imagine that, and Fela’s music in the background. Bliss!

Costs: ₦500 per person for the tour (approx $1.5). There is a merchandise shop available that stocks a variety of branded items.

I left Kalakuta feeling refreshed and renewed! Was a reminder that we all need to carry on Fela’s legacy – to actually walk the talk! His spirit lives on!

Definitely a must visit while in Lagos!

Olomayiana Bush Camp – A Labour Of Love

The Kenyan Camper

Here’s one of the problems I have with the traditional resort – style offering; I don’t know whether its the massive air – conditioning unit chomping away at energy units, the indulgence of a winding chlorinated pool thats the star of the brochure or buffet tables groaning under the weight of kilos of food that encourage us to serve more than we can possibly finish. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking it “different strokes for different folks” and all of that, it’s just so far removed from how we live our normal lives that it’s difficult for me to buy into. Luckily for people like me, we have places like Olomayiana, a place that that wears it’s human-sized heart on it’s sleeve.


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Mountain Gorilla Trekking at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – Southwestern Uganda

Last December, I finally ticked Gorilla Trekking off my bucket list after months and months of postponing this trip.

Here is a chronicle of my journey to Southwestern Uganda.

The Prep

You have to get your trekking permits from Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kampala. The cost of the permit for East African Citizens is 250,000 UGX which is just about 70USD during the high season, but comes down to 150,000 UGX during low season. For good measure, it is advisable to buy the permits early enough because they are on high demand all year round.

Getting There

From Kampala, it’s about 460km to the park via Masaka and Mbarara towns. We however opted to spend the night in Kabale town 18 miles (29km) away from the park on the shores of the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi. This is because there are more accommodation and activity options in Kabale such as canoe trekking. The road network is great – good tarmac all the way. A 4×4 car would be most ideal because of the steep terrain on the road leading up to the park.

The Trekking Day

We set off from the hotel at 6:00am as we were to assemble at the park (via Ruhija gate) at 7:30am. The short drive to the park had its fair share of challenges as there was heavy fog that morning and this slowed us down a great deal. However, the views at sunrise are spectacular – makes you forget the little hiccups encountered during the journey.

We arrived at Ruhija Gate at about 7:20am meaning that we were running a little late but not to worry because upon arrival we still did not have a quorum of eight people needed to embark on a trek.


First thing upon arrival was a briefing by our guide about what to expect ahead. He tells us that we were to track the Bitukura Group which is one of the newer families to be habituated at Bwindi.


You are given the option of hiring a porter at a fee should you wish to. Wooden hiking sticks are also provided, and you later realise how essential these are because the terrain is unbelievably steep and also because the forest is extremely thick and quite honestly, difficult to navigate – you realise it’s called Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for a reason! I don’t think I would have done the trek without the stick.


Our guide tells us that the hike could take any time between half an hour to eight hours depending on where the Gorilla Family spent the previous night. We begin getting anxious at the thought of hiking for all those hours but soon realise that our guide was probably exaggerating about the level of difficulty of this excursion. Anyway, after the brief, we set off and 35 minutes into the trek, we are alerted that the Gorilla Family had been spotted and it was such a relief! It was a lucky day for us.

The Gorillas were on top of a hill, in between a thick bush such that we could not see them but could hear them moving about. We approached them as quietly as possible, making sure that we were 7 metres away from them as per the trekking rules, and ensured that our photography gadgets had their flash lights turned off.

The first peek at them is absolutely incredible. These animals are so fascinating to watch, so human-like. Looking at the silver back, you get a sense of just how powerful they are and yet seemingly gentle. A mother was nursing her weeks old baby and you could see just how protective she was, keeping her baby tightly secured under her belly. Time froze, and for a good while you’re sucked into their reality – their simple nature, in their undisturbed environment – that you forget your own realities. I felt like an intruder!

Visuals below:


he was looking straight into my eyes. intimidating!


munching away!


a breastfeeding mother and her weeks old baby

It was a rare sixty minutes! I was awed by these creatures that share 99.6% of our DNA. I was astonished by how just that 0.4% difference made such a world of difference!

With good planning, great company, moderate physical fitness and (ofcourse!) a sense of adventure, this is an extremely rewarding adventure. Do it if you can, and when you still can!

Invictus (Unconquered)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

~ William Ernest Henley

The Civil Conscience In Africa Is Dead

One of Fela’s songs – Zombie – that was a reference to the soldiers in the army or the African followers who follow their leaders without arguments goes like this:

Zombie no go go unless you tell am to go (Zombie) Zombie no go stop unless you tell am to stop (Zombie)

Zombie no go turn unless you tell am to turn (Zombie) Zombie no go think unless you tell am to think (Zombie)

Zombie O Zombie

It is a fact that we have come to accept to be true of ourselves – that we can’t be bothered to fight against our enemies – capitalism, imperialism, neo-colonialism etc (even though we know full well that they’re our biggest “enemies”). This is what Fela was referring to. A generation of consciously dead citizens who do not demand answers to the real issues. Instead of dealing with the root cause of our problems such as religion, we spend a lot of time battling the symptoms – corruption, “bad leadership”, poverty. This has proven to be ineffective. It’s time for a Revolution. Let us discuss the socio-cultural exploitation of the Afrikan by the European over the past five centuries or so. Let us discuss the poverty of the mind, the failure of our education system that has brought forth several generations of Africans that are conflicted/confused about their identity. Let us sit down and explore the notion of “power” and debunk the myth that the problem with the Motherland lies in “bad leadership” yet we now full well that it is Western powers that truly control us.

As a Pan-Afrikanist, I am encouraged to see organisations such as Moyo wa Taifa led by the likes of Affiong L. Affiong who are preaching the gospel of the African renaissance although they receive very little or no coverage in the mainstream media. I am inspired by both Continental and Diasporan Africans, those who are with us and those who have gone before us. From our great ancestor Marcus Garvey to Thabo Mbeki. Malcolm X, Thomas Sankara, Steve Biko, Fela, Kwame Toure, Nyerere and the several other Afrocentric brothers and sisters who fought in the Struggle in various capacities.

Perhaps it is high time we stopped pointing fingers at the West even though we still can attribute some of our problems to the Colonial days. Instead, we should blame ourselves for allowing ourselves to be victims 50+ years down the road. Also, it is time for self proclaimed Pan-Africanists to start organising and rallying people to speak out and challenge the status quo, if at all we are to see any real changes. For a while now, in my pursuit of finding my place/my role in the Revolution, I have come to appreciate the role that education plays in the shaping of the mind. I want to Mobilize & Organize. I want to and have to play my part in the Revolution so that it is not said that I was asleep when it was time to go to war. I want to re-define my Afrika.

But the Struggle is real… Alluta Continua. Sometimes, one wishes that we spent our early post-colonial years fostering a national identity. I ask myself, what is it going to take for us to rise.. where are my fellow Revolutionaries at?

I am an African (1996)

The poem was written and read in Parliament by Thabo Mbeki, the then president of South Africa on the occasion of the passing of the new Constitution. Video/Audio clip here

I am an African.

I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.

My body has frozen in our frosts and in our latter day snows. It has thawed in the warmth of our sunshine and melted in the heat of the midday sun. The crack and the rumble of the summer thunders, lashed by startling lightning, have been a cause both of trembling and of hope.

The fragrances of nature have been as pleasant to us as the sight of the wild blooms of the citizens of the veld.

The dramatic shapes of the Drakensberg, the soil-coloured waters of the Lekoa, iGqili noThukela, and the sands of the Kgalagadi, have all been panels of the set on the natural stage on which we act out the foolish deeds of the theatre of our day.

At times, and in fear, I have wondered whether I should concede equal citizenship of our country to the leopard and the lion, the elephant and the springbok, the hyena, the black mamba and the pestilential mosquito.

A human presence among all these, a feature on the face of our native land thus defined, I know that none dare challenge me when I say – I am an African!

I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt the great expanses of the beautiful Cape – they who fell victim to the most merciless genocide our native land has ever seen, they who were the first to lose their lives in the struggle to defend our freedom and independence and they who, as a people, perished in the result.

Today, as a country, we keep an audible silence about these ancestors of the generations that live, fearful to admit the horror of a former deed, seeking to obliterate from our memories a cruel occurrence which, in its remembering, should teach us not and never to be inhuman again.

I am formed of the migrants who left Europe to find a new home on our native land. Whatever their own actions, they remain still, part of me.

In my veins courses the blood of the Malay slaves who came from the East. Their proud dignity informs my bearing, their culture a part of my essence. The stripes they bore on their bodies from the lash of the slave master are a reminder embossed on my consciousness of what should not be done.

I am the grandchild of the warrior men and women that Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the patriots that Cetshwayo and Mphephu took to battle, the soldiers Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane taught never to dishonour the cause of freedom.

My mind and my knowledge of myself is formed by the victories that are the jewels in our African crown, the victories we earned from Isandhlwana to Khartoum, as Ethiopians and as the Ashanti of Ghana, as the Berbers of the desert.

I am the grandchild who lays fresh flowers on the Boer graves at St Helena and the Bahamas, who sees in the mind’s eye and suffers the suffering of a simple peasant folk, death, concentration camps, destroyed homesteads, a dream in ruins.

I am the child of Nongqause. I am he who made it possible to trade in the world markets in diamonds, in gold, in the same food for which my stomach yearns.

I come of those who were transported from India and China, whose being resided in the fact, solely, that they were able to provide physical labour, who taught me that we could both be at home and be foreign, who taught me that human existence itself demanded that freedom was a necessary condition for that human existence.

Being part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion, I shall claim that – I am an African.

I have seen our country torn asunder as these, all of whom are my people, engaged one another in a titanic battle, the one redress a wrong that had been caused by one to another and the other, to defend the indefensible.

I have seen what happens when one person has superiority of force over another, when the stronger appropriate to themselves the prerogative even to annul the injunction that God created all men and women in His image.

I know what it signifies when race and colour are used to determine who is human and who, sub-human.

I have seen the destruction of all sense of self-esteem, the consequent striving to be what one is not, simply to acquire some of the benefits which those who had improved themselves as masters had ensured that they enjoy.

I have experience of the situation in which race and colour is used to enrich some and impoverish the rest.

I have seen the corruption of minds and souls as (word not readable) of the pursuit of an ignoble effort to perpetrate a veritable crime against humanity.

I have seen concrete expression of the denial of the dignity of a human being emanating from the conscious, systemic and systematic oppressive and repressive activities of other human beings.

There the victims parade with no mask to hide the brutish reality – the beggars, the prostitutes, the street children, those who seek solace in substance abuse, those who have to steal to assuage hunger, those who have to lose their sanity because to be sane is to invite pain.

Perhaps the worst among these, who are my people, are those who have learnt to kill for a wage. To these the extent of death is directly proportional to their personal welfare.

And so, like pawns in the service of demented souls, they kill in furtherance of the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal. They murder the innocent in the taxi wars.

They kill slowly or quickly in order to make profits from the illegal trade in narcotics. They are available for hire when husband wants to murder wife and wife, husband.

Among us prowl the products of our immoral and amoral past – killers who have no sense of the worth of human life, rapists who have absolute disdain for the women of our country, animals who would seek to benefit from the vulnerability of the children, the disabled and the old, the rapacious who brook no obstacle in their quest for self-enrichment.

All this I know and know to be true because I am an African!

Because of that, I am also able to state this fundamental truth that I am born of a people who are heroes and heroines.

I am born of a people who would not tolerate oppression.

I am of a nation that would not allow that fear of death, torture, imprisonment, exile or persecution should result in the perpetuation of injustice.

The great masses who are our mother and father will not permit that the behaviour of the few results in the description of our country and people as barbaric.

Patient because history is on their side, these masses do not despair because today the weather is bad. Nor do they turn triumphalist when, tomorrow, the sun shines.

Whatever the circumstances they have lived through and because of that experience, they are determined to define for themselves who they are and who they should be.

We are assembled here today to mark their victory in acquiring and exercising their right to formulate their own definition of what it means to be African.

The Constitution whose adoption we celebrate constitutes an unequivocal statement that we refuse to accept that our Africanness shall be defined by our race, colour, gender or historical origins.

It is a firm assertion made by ourselves that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Black and White.

It gives concrete expression to the sentiment we share as Africans, and will defend to the death, that the people shall govern.

It recognises the fact that the dignity of the individual is both an objective which society must pursue, and is a goal which cannot be separated from the material well-being of that individual.

It seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall be free from fear, including the fear of the oppression of one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment of one social echelon by another, the fear of the use of state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights and the fear of tyranny.

It aims to open the doors so that those who were disadvantaged can assume their place in society as equals with their fellow human beings without regard to colour, race, gender, age or geographic dispersal.

It provides the opportunity to enable each one and all to state their views, promote them, strive for their implementation in the process of governance without fear that a contrary view will be met with repression.

It creates a law-governed society which shall be inimical to arbitrary rule.

It enables the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means rather than resort to force.

It rejoices in the diversity of our people and creates the space for all of us voluntarily to define ourselves as one people.

As an African, this is an achievement of which I am proud, proud without reservation and proud without any feeling of conceit.

Our sense of elevation at this moment also derives from the fact that this magnificent product is the unique creation of African hands and African minds.

But it also constitutes a tribute to our loss of vanity that we could, despite the temptation to treat ourselves as an exceptional fragment of humanity, draw on the accumulated experience and wisdom of all humankind, to define for ourselves what we want to be.

Together with the best in the world, we too are prone to pettiness, petulance, selfishness and short-sightedness.

But it seems to have happened that we looked at ourselves and said the time had come that we make a super-human effort to be other than human, to respond to the call to create for ourselves a glorious future, to remind ourselves of the Latin saying: Gloria est consequenda – Glory must be sought after!

Today it feels good to be an African.

It feels good that I can stand here as a South African and as a foot soldier of a titanic African army, the African National Congress, to say to all the parties represented here, to the millions who made an input into the processes we are concluding, to our outstanding compatriots who have presided over the birth of our founding document, to the negotiators who pitted their wits one against the other, to the unseen stars who shone unseen as the management and administration of the Constitutional Assembly, the advisers, experts and publicists, to the mass communication media, to our friends across the globe – congratulations and well done!

I am an African.

I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.

The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria is a pain I also bear.

The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.

The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.

This is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned.

This thing that we have done today, in this small corner of a great continent that has contributed so decisively to the evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes.

Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace! However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!

Whoever we may be, whatever our immediate interest, however much we carry baggage from our past, however much we have been caught by the fashion of cynicism and loss of faith in the capacity of the people, let us err today and say – nothing can stop us now!

Thank you.

Source: Wikipedia 

Economics of Brain Drain (Or Gain?)

 Brain Drain

This subject matter has made several roundtable discussions regarding policy and foreign aid in developing countries. Coined “the new slave trade”, brain drain has resulted in the loss of much needed human capital as thousands of Africans leave the continent every year in search of a better life. It is defined as the abandonment of a country in favour of another by a group of people with a high level of education following the promise of better pay and better working conditions (Grubel, 1994).

For the longest time, this phenomenon has been viewed in negative light by governments who spend billions of dollars (most of which is ODA money) every year in appointing Western “experts” to carry out tasks that would otherwise be done by locals at a much cheaper cost. The stats are indeed troubling, especially in the healthcare sector where, out of the 47 SSA countries, a staggering 38 fall short of the minimum WHO standard of 20 physicians per 100,000 people. It has been argued that African governments incur huge losses when workers decide to leave the continent (although the counter – argument is that the remittances outweigh the cost of training these workers).

William Easterly and Yaw Nyarko in a recent paper argue that Brain Drain could actually have some net benefits. They put forward three main arguments: i) The African brain drain is not large enough to have much effect on Africa’s skill gap relative to the rest of the world ii) The gains to the migrants themselves and their families who receive indirect utility and remittances more than offset the losses of the brain drain iii) Brain drain has a positive effect on skill accumulation that appears to offset one for one the loss of skills to the brain drain.

Firstly, it is agreed that individual freedoms must be acknowledged, and thus the migrant worker’s decision to migrate is respected because he/she is certainly entitled to enjoy higher living standards wherever they deem best. Secondly, of course remittances play a significant role, especially now that there seems to be a shift from the traditional aid model. Remittances offer an alternative source of funds for governments and has since surpassed Western aid in the recent years. World Bank estimates indicate that remittances to SSA stood at $32 billion in 2013, which was a 3.5% increase from 2012. This is expected to reach $41 billion in 2016. The argument presented here is in light of the bigger picture that must not be overlooked by governments and individuals alike – Africa is only going to realise its full potential if i) a proper mechanism of retaining its skilled workers is developed and ii) there is an ideological shift from aid to trade so that we can expand our revenue sources and not solely rely on ODA and remittances.

I think that some of Easterly’s arguments are far-fetched. His argument that migrant workers have a positive effect on politics and institutions from abroad is highly unlikely, given that most if not all countries in SSA are grappling with serious corruption challenges. Building strong independent institutions has to be done from within and not without and thus only those who are directly involved in the everyday business of nation-building can have meaningful impact.

Given the amount of time and resources that has gone into training workers, it is only imperative to encourage the migrant workers to return. More than ever, Africa needs expertise in order to develop so as to catch up with the rest of the world. Hopefully, it can take advantage of the favourable economic conditions that it is currently experiencing. My opinion is that something has to fundamentally change so that we can really see changes; there is no denying that we are worse off without our best workers. Brain Circulation and Brain Gain are without doubt advantageous but they are outweighed by the negative aspects of emigration. Brain drain therefore cannot be good for Africa. It can’t be so when we are facing a severe shortage of medics and are unable to deal with epidemics such as Ebola. Not when our education system is in shackles and cannot produce enough skilled workers for the ever growing population. And certainly not when we are not only losing skilled workers, but the best skilled workers we produce. The long term solution is indeed making the economic conditions favourable so that there are higher incentives for these migrants to return and use their new ideas and skills that they have accumulated to generate high incomes.

It is encouraging to see African governments that have for a long time expressed little concern on this issue launch campaigns to encourage diasporans to return to the continent. Repatriation efforts may however not succeed on a grand scale unless the push and pull factors of emigration are addressed and dealt with effectively.

Binyavanga – We Must Free Our Imaginations (mini web series)

I have pestered and cajoled several people to watch this six part docu not only because I am a huge fan of Binyavanga’s work, but also because I believe that this is a message that a lot of people who are stuck in the maze of life need to hear and understand.

Binyavanga is basically ranting about the collective lack of imagination that plagues our society, and says that we are “scared of imagining”.. this of course aided by our education system which doesn’t encourage creativity and critical thinking, which we desperately need. The backdrop of this release was timely. Wainaina had just come out as a gay man in an essay titled “I am a Homosexual, mum” first published in the Chimurenga Chronicles. He makes fun of those who think homosexuality is “UnAfrican” and laments about how quick we are to judge things that are unfamiliar to us, simply because we do not understand them.

His jibes on the Pentecostal movement that gained traction in the 90’s has received a backlash and in classic Binyavanga rhetoric, he spares no one. Blaming the movement for making people “lose their heads” in the early nineties to his jibes at “demonology”, he has been criticised by some for dragging religion into his rants but one cannot ignore the effects that religion has had in our society (especially the fanatical type). I don’t think Binyavanga went in on puritans just for the sake of it, I think he brought it up because of the religious angle that the discussions (more of noisemaking) on homosexuality in Africa has taken. Besides, this is a subject that would attract all sorts of backlash in a society such as ours, so it’s nothing surprising.

Bottomline, he is basically urging us to be creators, non-conformers. This is a conversation starter, a chance for us to really think and ask ourselves hard questions in order to propel ourselves forward. I was personally challenged by it, and I hope more people will be too.

Book Review: You Must Set Forth At Dawn


The title is coined from his poem:

My soul has grown deep like the rivers

Traveller you must set forth 

At Dawn

I promise marvels of the holy hour

I picked up this book over Christmas after coming across an excerpt from it about Fela Kuti (my long time obsession that will probably last a lifetime). In the excerpt, I learn that Prof Soyinka is a first cousin to the Ransome-Kuti’s and in this book he briefly writes about Fela upon reflecting on his death in 1997 (when he was in exile abroad fleeing General Abacha’s regime) This is a brief summary:

How would one summarise Fela?  Merely as a populist would be inadequate.  Radical he certainly was, and often simplistically so.  Lean as a runner bean, a head that sometimes struck me as a death-mask that came to life only on stage or in an argument – more accurately described as a serial peroration, since he was incapable of a sustained exchange of viewpoints, especially in politics.  Only Fela would wax a record jointly according heroic virtues to such an incompatible trio as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Sekou Toure of Guinea and – oh yes, indeed, Idi Amin Dada the terror of Uganda.  It was however sufficient for my cousin that, at one time or the other, they challenged, defied or ridiculed an imperial power – any voice raised in denunciation of the murders of a western stooge, CIA agent and imperialist lackey.  There were no greys in Fela’s politics of black and white.”

This description of Fela is nothing new really, as I have learned a lot about the Original Black President from listening to his records over the past few years. A fierce and unapologetic Africanist who had no kind words for Western Imperialists and their sympathisers.

“…Fela loved to buck the system.  His music, to many, was both salvation and echo of their anguish, frustrations and suppressed aggression. The black race was the beginning and end of knowledge and wisdom, his life mission, to effect a mental and physical liberation of the race.

This is what set me going on this extraordinary book. It is basically a political biography of Nigeria, with glimpses of the author’s personal life though not much. I expected much more seeing as this was a memoir but then considering what happened between the period he published Aké: The Years of Childhood and 2006 when he published this book, one could easily see why his subject matter would be Nigeria’s political troubles. Perhaps the most one gains insight into his personal life is when he talks of his friendship with OBJ – Olufemi Babington Johnson (and their mutual love for good food). He talks of one time he had visited Femi’s house for lunch saying: “…this is where I first knew that food was more than simply getting something down into the stomach as fusslessly as possible, that eating actually involved a self-surrender that rendered homage to Opapala, the deity of hunger.” His relationship with Femi in this memoir touches mostly on matters that did not involve politics (Femi was a successful insurance magnate based in Ibadan) and he pens a moving ode to his friend in an entire chapter.

Spirituality (from his Yoruba heritage) also plays a very big role in his life and he often refers to his personal deity Ogun, whom he refers to as the “..god of creativity, guardian of the road”. He often refers to the different deities and it is very clear that he possesses a deep understanding of Yoruba Spirituality. While in exile he found himself in a village in called Bekuta (a variation of Abeokuta – his hometown) in Jamaica, where Yoruba descendants had settled many years ago. Soyinka offers a gripping account of his visit to this slave settlement and says that “his mind took refuge in Bekuta” amidst the chaos that had erupted around him..and is clearly astonished to find his Egba people settled in a distant land but yet keen on preserving their culture, cuisine and of course the celebration of the seasons of the gods.. Obatala, Sango, Ogun..

Professor Soyinka is a man who has been through it all when it comes to the terrains of African politics. From dining with the heads of states from across the continent to taking on a diplomatic role in mediating between his troubled Nigeria and the outside world, one simply cannot deny that he indeed played (and continues to play) a vital role in Nigeria’s political landscape. He quite literally put his life on the line for the sake of his country, often splurging his time and resources in causes that would help in getting rid of the oppressing military regimes of the time (including a huge chunk of his Nobel Prize money). Prof narrates in detail conversations that took place decades preceding publishing this book, which made me wonder how that is possible but then again, that is part of what distinguishes him from the masses. Humorously, he narrates how he sometimes found himself in places that he had no business being in in the first place, as a writer that is. Such as the time when he found himself trying to broker a deal between Chief Buthelezi and the ANC. He never quite saw himself as a politician per se yet ironically, he would constantly find himself right at the centre of the murky waters of politics.

It a recommended read for those with an interest in the history of Nigeria. I think it is an important text as it is written by someone who was involved in the struggle yet at the same time did not hold any political office. He offers a sober narrative and leaves the reader to decide for themselves what side (if any) he/she would lean towards. In the beginning, Soyinka includes maps of Nigeria from the year 1955 through to 1991 showing how the country has been divided to the 36 states it currently has. It is a good visual aid for readers and is a useful reference for when he talks about the secession war (Biafra) and the geographical divide mainly between the Igbo and Yoruba.

I personally found myself infuriated and very much frustrated by the happenings in Nigeria then and even more, now. However, it is better to have to read and learn from an insider’s perspective as opposed to having to “learn” from an outsider and this is what makes the book even more important.