I sometimes buy Nigerian ‘Soft Sell’ magazines. Soft porn in words if not necessarily in images, is what they are. If you want to know the low-down-dirty about Nigerian ‘high’ society and the desperately aspirational, it’s on the pages of these magazines you'll find it. They specialise in lurid headlines backed by salaciously vague details. There is room for everything – from sexual deviations to financial misappropriations to the fashionably clueless celebrated as trend-setters to the macabre. Some seriously criminal things are presented as tittle-tattle and the responsible reader is left wondering, 'Shouldn't the police be interested in this?' - see the headline about an Army Captain who allegedly bathed his children in acid ('Hey, I am the law!' the Army Captain would no doubt retort).
Which politicians have taken blood oaths at which shrines, which society ‘Madam’ or ‘Big Girl’ or ‘Big Boy’ (Big Girl/Boy can mean anything from hotshot businessman/woman to banker-sluts - *Naija is the only country in the world where young women become 'celebrities' just because they work in a bank; go figure!* - to glorified prostitute to drug baron/mule to kept man/woman to 419 Fraudster/scammer) fought this Big Boy/Girl over which Big Girl/Boy. Confused? Yeah, it can get like that. Nothing is off limits: ritual murders, which tycoon sleeps with his daughter, the lot. The weird and deviously wonderful. Even would-be Imam/Pastor-celebrities get whole pages to peddle their faiths.
All done in a fawning way that does not actually offend or alienate any ‘celebrity’. Soft Sells love celebrities and the bogusly rich. They are masters of the crude innuendo. Awash with insinuations, often blatantly so. Whenever I want Naija uncovered in all its vainglory, I go to the nearest stockists and get a couple of Soft Sells. Browsing through them on the London Underground, I think how bemused my co-passengers must be at these oddly shaped publications with lurid (sometimes gory) headlines and colours. If I'm feeling shy I fold the cover page away. The Soft Sells are a genre to themselves, and they mushroom by the week... so people must be reading, including occasionally me.
So recently I got 2 Soft Sells, Global Excellence and City People (the latter is arguably the market leader in Soft Sells; lots of women buy just so they can pick out what 'celebrity' style they'll get that Ankara cloth made into for next week's owambe, a serious business that's not to be trifled with). And here are a few picks from the mags...
Take this half page devoted to someone I would call an ‘aspirant celeb’, a lady by the name of Naomi David Gowing who is also known as ‘Lady Blue’. It is rumoured that some social climbers actually pay to have similar profiles written up about them, which explains why you'll suddenly see a whole page on which the 'biggest' lace seller in some market talks about her life and 'success'. Back to Gowing who is said to be a “fashionista and leading fashion merchant” (how it must infuriate true fashionistas to be lumped in the same category as Lady Blue). She relocated from Ghana because, according to her, “Nigerians are more fashion conscious than Ghanaians”. She has a boutique (every self-respecting 'Big Girl' has a boutique, though often the money to fuel expensive lifestyles comes from other, less visible means). Gowing once represented Ghana in an international modelling competition and trained with the ‘Super Modelling School’ in Accra. Or so she claims. There are whispers apparently that ‘Lady Blue’ is a lesbian. The lady replies, “So what?! I can’t answer that. I am not a Lesbian. People are just going about saying what they don’t know. I am married, I am happy, I have a child, so where does Lesbianism come in here? It is mischievous of people to call me names just because they see me hang out with my good friends... Now write this in capital letters, I am not a Lesbian!”
So there you have it. For a woman who proudly goes round with the nickname ‘Lady Blue’, I’d have thought lesbianism need not be the burning question Gowing should have to answer. Judging by her looks, the question I’d have liked to ask is, ‘Lady Blue, how come you look like a porn star?’
And it’s not all about Afrobeat co-heir Femi Kuti’s music when it comes to the Soft Sells. One did a piece on the musician’s ‘new release’ – a baby. Or several, if City People is to be believed. Femi Kuti had 2 kids by 2 different women in recent months. Not surprisingly, Fela’s son doesn’t want to talk about it. “I don’t talk to anybody anymore. I just do my thing and get on with my life... I just do my own thing and God blesses me.” And God blessed Femi with a third baby by a third woman. This latest mother comes with some pedigree. She is Bola Ajala, daughter of Adebisi Ajala, the man immortalised in song by Commander Ebenezer Obey. Remember how it goes?
“Ajala travel all over di world...”
And Femi Kuti is ‘travelling’ too, it seems.
Staying with music, fans of contemporary Yoruba music will recall the vinyl-war between Fuji greats Ayinde Barrister and Ayinla Kollington over Waka queen Salawa Abeni. One of them married her, while the other claimed to have ‘eaten her yam first’ – if you get the analogy.
“Awa la ko j’esu awe o, o dudu kanrin...”
Now who will wade in with words of wisdom in the eternal rivalry between Barrister and Kollington? Why, it’s none other than Salawa Abeni herself. She said, “They should stop the bad habits synonymous with them. I mean, they should stop that rubbish of releasing abusive songs. If they are not ashamed, we are ashamed.” And considering what these two old rascals have laid down on record about Salawa Abeni herself, one can see why she of all people will want them to shut their traps.
To more sober, or sobering, news. There is a piece on the political scandal swirling around the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh, a woman who gives a new meaning to the Yoruba term “etekete”. Though she’s only been in the post a short while, Etteh is alleged to have squandered 5 million dollars of public money to redecorate official houses that were virtually new, acquire a fleet of official cars and lay on an extravagant birthday party for herself and friends in the US. The shit’s hit the fan and she’s been heckled “Ole! Ole!” (thief! thief!) on the floor of the house. 'Honourable' male members in majestic agbadas have fought like motor-park thugs in the house over her. What a woman. Madam Speaker is now said to suffer sleepless nights. What kind of low-rent scoundrel celebs are these? Sleepless nights? Someone please tell Mrs Etteh that self respecting troubled celebrities check into rehab rather than suffer “sleepless nights”.
And with all that wasted cash I hope the woman at least got her Elvis-sideburns waxed off in some exorbitant beauty spa. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Monarchs aren’t exempt from the Soft Sell treatment, as the fetchingly youthful Dein of Agbor has found. Years on the throne of his fathers, and he remains unmarried, somewhat controversially, according to City People. Apparently His Royal Highness must marry a virgin, and they aren’t easy to come by these days. What interested me about this piece is how, in the UK, such an article would function as a way of introducing certain strains of speculation into the persona’s continued unmarried status...
Monarchs aren’t exempt, neither are Nobel Laureates, and there’s an expose on the “four wives” of Soyinka...
Now let’s get downright dirty... The cover of Global Excellence promises a piece (hardly worth reading) in which Nollywood “screen stars” talk about the kind of man they’d like to marry. One of the ‘marrying kind’ it appears, is Cossy Orjiakor, a poor man’s Pamela Anderson who shamelessly paraded her massive jugglers of breasts in Nollywood flicks before the industry and the public tired of her. And with the picture on the cover of the mag, it’s no wonder. To think the woman actually walked around Lagos dressed like this! The image is reproduced here. Take a look at her orange-nippled breasts straining against that cheap white netting and hurl.
But it is the advert for a “Sugar Mummy” published in Global Excellence that really takes the cake. Please note that the ad came with the rough rectangle drawn around “a nice dick”. Some talk about their great personalities and some shout about their nice... whaaat?!
The Super-Mamas who want to hire this guy must not only be HIV free, they are politely asked not to 'flash'. Which reminds me that ‘flashing’ means different things in the UK and Nigeria. In Naija, flashing is ringing someone so they can see your number then you cut the line; this tells the receiver that you want them to use their own credit to call you back. In the UK, ‘flashing’ is a lot more sinister or saucier, depending where you stand. It means exposing your sexual bits to someone, usually a stranger, in public. Come to think of it, this advertiser wouldn’t mind the Sugar Mummies ‘flashing’ in the UK sense...
As for the ad, it has to be seen to be believed (or maybe I’m shocked by this only because I don’t live in weird and wonderful Naija) and so I’ve reproduced it here. Of course I’ve blacked out his mobile number and email address. I’m not trying to get the loser any clients.
His name is Nero. Nero of the “nice dick” - and what do you suppose he fiddles with?
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