The Feast of the Goat


I like the word “feast.” The sound of it, the upper teeth touching the lower lip. I like when it is used in titles of things. I want it when it comes like this.

Mario Vargas Llosa was one of the first writers I knew their names and work, back in 2011 when I was beginning to take interest in literature, Googling writers and books. Here’s a story about him that stuck with me: In 1976, five years after publishing his doctoral thesis titled Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Story of a Deicide, Llosa punched his friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Mexico City, and their friendship died. Another story: in 1990, he ran for president in Peru and lost. And the story most people know: he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010, “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.” Still one of my favourite citations.

So Saturday night, while reading Junot Diaz’ novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I stumbled upon this accusing clause, in one of that book’s many in-text notes:

Appeared as a sympathetic character in Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat.

The person in question, Joaquin Balaguer, was racist to Black people, an apologist of the Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo’s genocide against Haitians, and ruled the Dominican Republic thrice, unleashing “a wave of violence…death-squading hundreds.”

I am fascinated by book titles, movie titles, song and album titles, find them inspirational, and back then in 2011, The Feast of the Goat, triumphantly titled, was the only one by Llosa that I liked. Back then when I had no access to books of that kind.

So Saturday night, I asked Google and received a copy of The Feast of the Goat. And with it a Book Excitement I don’t always feel these days. It is told from three perspectives: a woman’s, the Dominican Republic dictator’s, and the Dominican Republic dictator’s assassins. The sentences strike me, his articulation of things I want to write but presume might be uninteresting, his flourishing of things I want to write but haven’t found the vocabulary for. Or haven’t bothered to. In a way, I feel a kinship with his words here.

By the way, I really like, maybe even love, all the covers of the book that I’ve seen.



Image from

Between Short Stories and a Novel, My Creative Shutdown and Transitioning



This is only half of the story.


My third idea for a novel came in June 2013, one evening as I was starting a short story. At that time, the manuscript of my short story collection, You Sing of a Longing, was still in its earliest incarnation, on course to be a very different book from the one I eventually finished.

There I sat, facing a yellow wall, the sole window of the room above me, trying to find a shape for a short story but already thinking of a novel. Unlike my first two ideas, this one came in full—the plot, the characters, the setting—and I wrote down the full synopsis, believing I had something special. The collection would take years to be completed, I knew, years of focus that a 19-year-old would have to learn, and still I couldn’t stop thinking of the novel, couldn’t stop thinking of completing the collection so I could hop into it, and because I couldn’t stop thinking, I began writing it, the first chapter, the starts of a few more chapters, drawing an outline, titling the sections.


After completing what I decided was the collection’s final story in August 2016, I decided to take a few months off from writing, partly to celebrate and partly because I was emotionally worn out. But things happened that overhauled my life for worse, the first my own doing, the second the kind that people would call “God’s Will.” With the collection done, I was itching to move onto a novel, had programmed my mind that I wouldn’t write another short story if I didn’t finish the novel, that everything must be channeled into the novel. But there was one “problem”: the ideas didn’t stop coming. I had, I felt, reached a creative peak where every observation morphed into a story of its own. To continue indulging this, to continue collecting the ideas into more stories, would be to never start that novel.

Looking back now, at what I thought I knew, how much I thought I could control, it is easier to forgive myself for treating that continuum of short story ideas as a “problem,” something about which another drastic thing needed to be done.


It is artistic arrogance for a writer to believe in the infinity of their creative powers, to believe in their presumed power to negotiate with it, when it comes, how it comes. I had that belief, and due to it I did something stupid: I shut myself down. I suspended the very thing that made me a creative, the thing from which I’d drawn not just my ability to write but my other abilities to draw, carve, paint: I suspended my imagination, closed off all channels of observation and immediate analysis. For someone whose life is one of heightened sensory awareness, it was a creative coma that I put my mind in. If I hadn’t done it to myself I might have doubted that it was possible. But so was my arrogance that, within weeks, when it became clear that it worked, when the ideas disappeared, when I began to see a raindrop no longer as some metaphor but as a simple raindrop, I was happy. It was, for me, one more example that, at this point, I could do just about anything.

The shutdown was meant to be temporary, a sabbatical from the intensity that writing fiction was for me, because I wanted to breathe and let my breath be just air in my lungs rather than some avenue to start thinking of life in the human body. Without it, the ideas would have continued coming and I’d have remained in my fiction-writing mode, and worryingly—yes, worryingly, stupid of me—I’d have been writing more short stories and would never have started the novel. And so I thought that whenever I was ready, I would turn myself back on, slot back into that mode.

But the thought was as silly as the action that caused it.


If I knew what would happen the following month, I would not have done what I did.

Someone I love died.

It was an implosion I survived partly because of my friends and partly because I had been there before.

When it was over, and I tried to hurl myself back into writing fiction, I found that I couldn’t. I could write essays, write creative nonfiction, because those required only parts rather than the whole of me, and so in my mind, in the absence of that blooded link between my brain, heart and fingers, the new fiction I tried to write lacked that vivacity without which I refuse to write at all. Worse: the short story ideas were no longer solid and the novel refused to be written.

To pass time, I drowned myself in querying agents, convincing myself that it was not so much me as it was my situation, that once I got an agent, once they took the collection off my hands, I would be able to write new fiction again. It wasn’t true. I didn’t write new fiction for more than a year. I couldn’t.

I couldn’t turn myself back on, couldn’t turn off the Shutdown.

And I am yet to recover.


But between those two phases of my fiction, in that frustrating purgatory, was the start of the best phase of my adult life yet, and surrounded by friends, I spent it working and talking and laughing, having conversations I wouldn’t exchange for anything. It was during one of such conversations, with JK Anowe, that I realised the first step I needed to take to break free. An idea for another novel had come and I was split between the two, split, but more on the side of the latter. JK Anowe agreed that the second was more interesting.

Then a real factor I needed to look hard at: two of the inspirations for the lead characters of the novel had died in the space of four years, and while their deaths, the force with which they’d hit me, was enough to sustain writing them both, doing so would mean confronting their deaths once more.

I wasn’t going to. Not yet.


By the time I wrote the opening chapter of the newest novel idea in December 2017, I was still unsure if I was writing the right book, if like the three previous ideas I might desert it. But it flowed, the writing flowed gloriously. A few more chapters came, less easily but with promise.

It was at that point that I realised that something was missing, felt missing to me, something about the form being unwieldy, about the chapter transitions not being smooth. Perhaps nothing actually was missing and it was just my worries. Perhaps it was just my awareness that I was working in a different genre, a longer genre, one I’d always insisted was the less strenuous of the two and yet was struggling to transition into.


Much of the debt I owe in writing my collection came not from short story collections but from novels: that short story during which start my third idea for a novel came was itself, its language and mood, inspired by the first page, even the first paragraph, of Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things. However, that several of my stories are novelistic, spanning decades, entire existences rather than just moments in the characters’ lives, is because of my want to realize as much of the characters’ worlds as I could. While it was easy for me to hold their whole lives in a short story, in 10,000-20,000 words, doing the same in a novel, in around 100,000 words, would leave me exhausted, hence my determination to avoid writing a definably cerebral novel, anchored in the characters’ psyche, as I did with some of the short stories—not that the plot would allow me.


Writing a short story collection, having to enter and build several worlds and several sets of emotions one after the other, is more demanding than writing a novel, embarking on this one story with a more coherent emotional system, a river with tributaries. Reading her second novel The Lowland, I suspected that Jhumpa Lahiri, one of my favourite writers, one of the greatest short story writers of the past two decades, resorted to the familiar: crafting the novel as she would a short story,  keeping it contained. My novel came to me a sprawling thing, and in my battle to structure it desirably I was tempted to do what I felt Lahiri did with hers, to pretend that it was merely another, giant short story.

The temptation was not dissuaded by my finally finishing Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, my hope that studying its plotting, different as it is from mine, might provide the spark I needed. But my resolve strengthened when I opened Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, itself sprung from a short story, and after reading its prologue I became determined to do exactly what I wanted with the novel, to never think of an easy way out.


A different kind of writer like Roy just tells the story. It isn’t an easy thing, just telling a story, aware of the requirements of a genre and unbothered by it, just telling the story and knowing that, by its end, everything would have resolved themselves. Writing The God of Small Things, she has said, was like building a house, but writing her second, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, was like building a city. It would appear that those, building a house and building a city, were two of the strands that writing novels fell into. Mine feels like a city, and even when taking literal walks through streets that meander and meet, I am aware of this, am thinking of it, of main plots and subplots.


Which is why, a few days into the new year, when someone who was supposed to be a kind of tour guide on a travel suddenly opted out due to personal engagements, I felt stranded, like I was out on this ocean, standing on a patch of sand. Frantically, I called Arinze Ifeakandu. He called back, and after nearly two hours of me brooding and him saying don’t worry, the book’s path changed. By opting out, this guy made it far easier for me to write within what I knew, where I’ve been. But the change was temporary: Within weeks I flipped back to the earlier, tougher but better idea. Still, that panic I felt had been useful, that temporary change; it had done what it needed to do: recalibrated me.


In writing this novel, I have become aware of so much more, on a more detailed level. I have been thinking of suspense and subplots in a way I have never done before. I have considered doing away with chapters.


On a few blessed days, I think I am feeling my way back into that gunning version of myself. But on most days I know I haven’t fully recovered; I feel like a surgeon trying to regain full control of his hands. The story is moving gradually. The irony isn’t lost on me: that novel for which I almost wrecked myself will not be written anytime soon, not in the coming ten years.


Photo credit: Julio Garcia via Flickr.


How (Not) to Compare Viola Davis to Meryl Streep

I wrote this as a comment on a Facebook post that, in discussing a tweet comparing Meryl Streep, Angela Basset, and Viola Davis, suggests that Viola Davis lacks range.

Can Meryl and Viola be compared? I think so—it’s okay to compare careers for positives. But in the way that said tweet did? I don’t think so because the tweet overlooks many things. They’re both Great Actresses. Meryl is regarded as the greatest actress in modern cinema alongside Katharine Hepburn (who disliked Meryl’s acting due to what she said was an overreliance on technique). In the generation after Meryl’s, Cate Blanchett is considered the greatest. Cate may be in Viola’s age bracket but their breakthroughs came at different times. I’m using Cate to illustrate the gap between the breakout of Meryl in the late 1970s and that of Viola in the late 2000s. Nearly 30 years between the two friends’ breakthroughs although they’re 16 years apart in age—Meryl is 69, Viola is 53.

Racism is real in Hollywood, so Meryl, a White woman, can lay claim to far, far, far more roles than Viola, a Black woman. More roles equals more showcases of range equals more recognition and awards. Still, for someone whose first Oscar nomination was in 2009, Viola already has the most nominations for a Black woman (three, now tied with Octavia Spencer) and is the only Black acting professional to win the Triple Crown of Acting: Tony for Theatre (twice), Emmy for TV, Oscar for film. Also the first Black winner of that Emmy for Best Drama Actress.

Where Meryl had precedents on her path to greatness, Viola is a precedent for non-White actresses. Meryl never carried a TV series and made it, at one time, the highest rated drama on TV. Viola did. While roles are always written for women of Meryl’s race, a woman like Viola, someone not only Black but a dark-skinned Black, has had to struggle for roles. So she takes the ones she gets. Note, though, that the lead roles for How to Get Away with Murder and Widows were both written for White women. Rewritten after Viola got them.

While I think Meryl has the greater technique, I think Viola is the more balanced between technique and emotion. Meryl is efficient but Viola transforms the tiniest of moments into lasting impressions.

Viola Davis receives her Hollywood Walk of Fame Star from Meryl Streep. Image from Vanity Fair.

They’ve been in a film together: Doubt (2008), in which Meryl is the lead and Viola has 12 minutes, all spent with Meryl in one scene regarded as a rare moment in which Meryl was outshone. Those 12 minutes alone got Viola her first Oscar nomination, for Supporting Actress.

They’ve contested an award: Best Actress recognition in 2012—Meryl in The Iron Lady, Viola in The Help—and Meryl’s win is regarded as an upset. Over the years, for her excellence and the extraordinary, really extraordinary love the industry has for her, Meryl has three Oscars from 21 nominations. Despite the barriers provided by racism, Viola has one from three. The ratio is (if I still recall my math) 1:7 vs 1:3. Viola’s is higher.

In a 2017 analysis, The Guardian UK‘s chief film critic, Peter Bradshaw, rated Viola in Fences as the greatest ever best supporting actress Oscar winning performance; Meryl in Sophie’s Choice was rated the greatest best actress winner.

Who do I think is a better actress? Give Viola 20 more years and varied leading roles and then we will have that conversation.

I must add, too, that people see Annalise Keating in every Viola role because that character is so iconic and recent. If you lived in the 1980s, you’d know that Meryl was associated with her character in Sophie’s Choice. Also, other modern greats are associated with specific roles: like Helen Mirren is for The Queen.

Game of Thrones Better End This Way


Discussing Game of Thrones is one of the few times random people are allowed to publicly wish death on other people and to invent ways for them to die. If you’ve been paying attention, really paying attention—and I don’t mean memorizing the names of dragons—you’d know now that ONLY  a woman will sit on that damn Iron Throne. One of the marvellous things about the show, which isn’t easy to spot beneath all the nudity and violence, is how it set itself up to be a feminist affair: how the focus gradually shifted from the men in the early seasons—Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon, Tyrion Lannister, Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark, Tywin Lannister—to the women now: Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark. Even if Jon Snow is still central.

So here’s how I want the series to end.

Something Happens to Jamie Lannister

I grew really fond of him and was upset that the Emmy for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series that should have been his went to Tyrion Lannister’s Peter Dinklage. Still.

Something Happens to Jon Snow

I’ve never understood how he became so popular. I mean, I understand, but he needs to go for the show to make sense. He already died once, then returned probably to appease fans (although I don’t know what happens in the books), and now he’s done his job. If they insist and keep him as the Ice in “Ice and Fire,” then that’d be rigging.

Cersei Lannister Disappears

The bad ones die eventually: seems to be a mantra of the show. But Cersei has been the person most deserving of the Iron Throne, the one with the right amount of wit and ruthlessness to keep it firmly. She did what she had to do to get here and she’s not going down that easily—for peeps hoping Arya or even Jamie kills her. I imagine Cersei realizing they can’t beat the Night King and cutting a deal with whoever captures or traps her and then escaping—to who knows where. That’d be too easy for her, yeah, but if Joffrey died merely from poisoning after all he did, then all’s fair. Also, she’s actually my favourite character since Season 6.

Something Happens to Daenerys Targaryen

When I started watching this series, I was interested the most in this woman’s story. Somewhere in Season 6, she lost me to Cersei. I like dragons, but she has so much going for her—not that she hasn’t endured her fair share of suffering. Her obsession with getting people to “bend the knee” is curious. Or not, actually. Just puts me off. Keeping her will be the most predictable—and ridiculous—move by the showrunners. I imagine her offering a deal to the Night King as well.

Something (Maybe) Happens to Arya Stark

Her transformation into arguably the greatest fighter in the Seven Kingdoms is one for the ages. While I suspect they’ll take her also, I’d rather she stayed alive as her sister’s bodyguard.

Sansa Stark wins the Iron Throne

She’s remembered more for her naivety than anything else, but nobody is better suited for that ugly sword-stacked seat than Sansa. Born and raised in the North, suffered and learned in the South, twice forced into marriage, abused, abused: I maintain that nobody has suffered more than the Lady of Winterfell, certainly emotionally. But nobody has grown as much, also, not Daenerys, not Cersei—both of whom have grown tremendously. Born with kindness, she learned ruthless calculation from Cersei, learned ruthless politics from Little Finger, and will be learning from Daenerys soon. The Northern elders trust her more than they do Jon Snow. After they are all gone, she will be the only royal blood capable of sitting on that chair. Aside Tyrion.

Tyrion Lannister becomes Hand or Husband to Queen Sansa

Tyrion will survive because George R.R. Martins likes him the most. In ways, the show is his, has always been his, but it’d be too easy to make him king, even with the Targeryean blood. He’ll do what he does best: advise. Maybe he’ll get lucky and marry the new Queen. He’d have made the best monarch in the series, though.


If this doesn’t happen.

TWC Prose Workshop in Nsukka


In December, I was at The Writers’ Community (TWC) in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka for a prose workshop. It was where we started: Arinze Ifeakandu, Chisom Okafor, Ebenezer Agu, Osinachi, Michael Umoh, Uzoma Ihejirika, Festus Iyorah, Adaeze Nwadike, Pius Ifechukwu. Without TWC, there might be no me in the way that I am. I left in 2014 when I graduated, and four years on, it gives me unusual joy to find promise in the present members.

I might be doing more workshops this year.

A Pop Concert by Chance


Sunday nightfall, I’m bored—actually I feel like munching succulent bread and Vita Milk—so Friend and I go to Spar. We are surprised to see a crowd: a concert is on, a #DefendYourVote initiative, and on the poster are Phyno, Peruzzi, and Naeto C. I’ve never seen Phyno live, or anybody I really want to see live; in fact, I’ve never been to a concert. So we stay. On the stage is that MTV Base video jockey, the sanguine guy with dreadlocks who once mispronounced Phyno’s “Isi Ego” so that it meant “head money/capital” rather than “the smell of money.” He’s kinda sorta a fave. He is rousing the crowd, keeping it hot. The DJ spins them, each greeted by jubilation: Burna Boy’s “On the Low,” Tiwa Savage’s “Lova Lova,” Naira Marley’s ‘Issa Goal,” Olamide’s “Motigbana.” Out of nowhere, 2Baba’s “Implication” drops and we are legit mad. It still is the ultimate Nigerian banger. I’m thinking: Naijapop is so rich, a bit sad that pon-pon has come and homogenized things. I step aside to pick a call. I return thinking: Aren’t they the most blessed of us artists, musicians, to have the power to command crowds. When King Monada’s “Malwedhe” lands, VJ shouts, Nobody should fall here o! Still, the crowd of heads mock-bend at the chorus. All around us people—boys—are dancing, or will say they are dancing if asked, most of them doing the same leg thing to every song.

Generally, the songs are hot. Generally, the DJ is bad, doesn’t know when to switch, always chooses the wrongest moments: pre-chorus, mid-chorus. “He doesn’t have permission to play the full songs,” Friend says when I complain.

Then a talking break: Dreadlocked VJ is saying: How many of you have your PVCs? Raise your hand! Not everybody does and I’m worried. Really worried.

When Naeto C appears, my first thought is to try to remember his politician mother’s name. I can’t. We run through his songs: “5 & 6,” “Kini Big Deal,” “Tony Montana (Remix),” “10 Over 10.” I’m thinking: this guy really had huge hits. Not everybody in the crowd is flowing, singing, even moving, and it strikes me that there are people here who don’t feel Naeto C, or don’t know him well enough, or are trying to remember who he is, or maybe, even though they look like adults, just hadn’t been born in 2008 when Naeto was the Next Big Thing. Fine.

They want to give us a surprise, they say, Naeto C and Dreadlocked VJ, they say it again, but instead of a Surprise, we get this beat, really good, this beat, but nowhere around what I hoped for.

Then Peruzzi.

Enter Peruzzi. Jump in Peruzzi. Power in Peruzzi.

Peruzzi has energy, like he set out to conquer the stage, and what seems in videos like an over-featured man all over the place with his artificial swag suddenly comes alive, becomes charisma. Never thought I’d say this: I like Peruzzi. Or, more accurately, I’d like to attend his own concert, with his big voice. But the DJ starts from his least: songs the crowd sings back but isn’t moved by, just singing back, maybe humouring a star. Life returns when his DMW song comes on. “Aza.” You know, the one in which he delivers a killer verse with a sideways dance after Duncan Mighty has threatened to spoil it by screaming, for whatever reason: Ofe nsala! Peruzzi screams it now and it comes out a bit more dignified. I’m thinking: Only “Amaka” can restore the anointing here, his song with 2Baba. But when it comes, “Amaka” doesn’t kick up dust—it comes and is passing like any other song.

“Amaka” is still on when I tell Friend we can go now. “I want to see Phyno,” he says, and I say, “Even me sef.” We move to the left and wait. Someone comes to us: he’s a Facebook Friend, I remember his name even though we’ve never chatted, he’s asking if I’m me, I am. After he leaves, people begin to leave. “Phyno kwanu?” I ask, to the bread-smelling air. “Maybe he was the first to perform,” Friend says. We are walking with the trail of people, out.

6 Things This Week



I have been touring the 2018 archives of African literary magazines for a Brittle Paper project. I resumed reading Miles Morland’s memoir Cobra in the Bath, which is full of humour. But Richard Tarnas’ study of Western intellectual history The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View has been open on the floor for months. I want to read a book that does for African knowledge systems what Tarnas has done here for the European. I am thinking of Molefi Kete Asante’s Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change, which seems to be such a book given what I’ve read about it.


I looooove Sarz’ “Trobul,” featuring Wurld. It is a love song, one of those that make me create videos for them in my head. Little Mix’s “Think About Us” is the first song by the band that I completely like—lyrics, beats, those beats. Post Malone’s “Wow” is the confirmation that he just may become my favourite pop rapper (I really tried for it to be Drake). I like Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings,” although I’m not comfortable about its hip hop sound and flow and appropriation accusations. Other favourites: Jeff Akoh’s “I Do,” Lady Gaga’s “Always Remember Us,” Tems’ “Looku Looku,” Ellie Goulding’s “Close to Me,” featuring Diplo and Swae Lee. Meanwhile, The-Dream says Rihanna’s new album is almost done so I’ve been clearing my mental shelf.


How to Get Away with Murder is back! Good to see you again, Viola! I finished Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart convinced it is one of the two, three best Nollywood films I’ve seen. It is a solid feat of cultural awareness that I hope to write a review on. I am watching Hustle & Flow, a 2004 film about rap with both Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard. I never watched Grey’s Anatomy when the rest of the world started, so last Christmas was my start. I’m currently on its season 2, with 13 more seasons to go. I am also watching Orange Is the New Black’s season 5 and it’s comedy stretches are a bit of a bore for me. And, finally, the Oscars. These are what I want: Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor for Green Book and Glenn Close for Best Actress for The Wife. Fortunately, they’re their categories’ frontrunners. I finally finished A Star Is Born because a friend said it made him cry. I suspect that the version of the film I watched has to be different from what every other person watched. I mean, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga playing a toned-down Lady Gaga, but Bradley Cooper simply crossed my annoyance threshold.


On Sunday, in the Nigeria Premier League, Rangers beat Enyimba 1-0. It was a match I had prepared to go watch, but somehow I forgot about it until I went to Google. I am keen on Gonzalo Higuain fitting into the Chelsea team as smoothly as possible so I’ve been watching videos of him from his Real Madrid and Napoli days, trying for it to make up for this 4-0 thing at Bournemouth.


I’ve been reading reviews of The September Issue, about the making of US Vogue’s September 2007 issue, and thought about watching The Devil Wears Prada again. I have been watching and re-watching Catriona Gray’s “lava walk.” The Miss Universe 2018 is also an articulate talker; I watched an interview with her and liked her bright, positive attitude. I have been checking out the videos on Naomi Campbell’s new YouTube channel.

Social Media

The chaos is continual. When writers are not lowkey campaigning for the current President they are arguing about why they should be allowed to embrace concepts rather than humanity.



Image from

Messi, Mbappe, Pique, Pogba: Fantasy Football 101

One evening ten years ago, when I was still a die-hard football follower, I decided I wanted my own team: it would comprise players I would buy if I were a club owner. At that time, my only experience of fantasy football had been on PlayStation, in my reselection of players I liked into different clubs I was playing with. So when I decided I wanted my own team, it felt novel to me to do it beyond PlayStation. I wrote their names on paper, with shirt numbers:

1. Petr Cech | Goalkeeper | Chelsea | Czech Republic

2. Maicon | Right Back | Inter Milan | Brazil

5. John Terry | Centre Back | Chelsea | England

6. Paolo Maldini | Centre Back | AC Milan | Italy [Captain]

3. Ashley Cole | Left Back | Chelsea | England

4. Andrea Pirlo | Defensive Midfield | AC Milan | Italy

7. Xavi Hernandez: Centre Midfield (Barcelona | Spain

8. Frank Lampard: Centre Midfield (Chelsea/England)

9. Ricardo Kaka: Attacking Midfield (AC Milan/Brazil)

10. Lionel Messi: Striker (Barcelona/Argentina)

11. Didier Drogba: Striker (Chelsea/Cote d’Ivoire)

Manager: Jose Mourinho.

My formation was a 4-4-2 Diamond. My manager was Jose Mourinho, who was an easy choice as, back then, I still loved him and he hadn’t gone to Real Madrid to turn El Classico into a death zone. I liked this team badly.

Over the years, I’ve had new favourite players, old ones have dropped out of the scene, retired, and the Team has changed considerably, with only Messi and Pique keeping their places. Today, this is what I have:

1. Thibaut Courtois | Goalkeeper | Real Madrid | Belgium

3. Gerard Pique | Centre Back | Barcelona | Spain [Captain]

5. Leonardo Bonucci | Centre Back | Juventus | Italy

4. Raphael Varane | Right Back | Real Madrid | France

2. Antonio Rudiger | Left Back | Chelsea | Germany

11. N’golo Kante | Defensive Midfielder | Chelsea | France

6. Sergio Busquets | Central Midfielder | Barcelona | Spain

8. Paul Pogba | Central Midfielder | Manchester United | France

7. Kylian Mbappe | Left Forward | Paris Saint-Germain | France

10. Lionel Messi | Right Forward | Barcelona | Argentina

9. Harry Kane | Centre Forward | Tottenham | England

Manager: Pep Guardiola.

It doesn’t at all show that I’m a Chelsea fan.


Individual images of players from Zimbio. Football pitch image from

121 Songs I Really, Really Listened to in 2018


Every year since 2012 has brought to me a different sort of musical satisfaction—I encountered sounds I loved, new artistes I’m watching. But the standout years were 2015 and 2017. To those I may now add 2018. I separated these 121 songs into groups of Constant Favourites, the ones that really swayed me, and Rotating Favourites.

Last year, there were 74 songs I liked the most, and my Number 1 was Shekhinah’s “Suited,” and the artiste I listened most to was Alan Walker. This year, my Number 1s are: Wale’s “Columbia Heights,” which shifted something in me; Geko’s “Will Smith,” which soundtracks my love life at the moment; Chike’s “Beautiful People,”which inspired me visually even though I haven’t seen its video, if it has a video; August Chuks’ “Let Me,” which felt like a finger was poking my insides; and Desiigner’s “Timmy Turner,” my ultimate intrigue. The artistes I most listened to are 6LACK, Janelle Monae, XXXTentacion, and Davido, for whom I found a new appreciation. In some way, all of these songs, these sounds, set me alight.


The Constant Favourites

“Columbia Heights,” Wale feat. J. Balvin

“Falling Down,” Lil Peep feat. XXXTentacion

“Will Smith,” Geko feat. Not3s

“Nwa Baby,” Davido

“Timmy Turner,” Desiigner


“Leave a Light On,” Tom Walker

“Let Me,” August Chuks

“Red Alert,” DJ Bobbi feat. Nyanda

“Moonlight,” XXXTentacion

“Beautiful People,” Chike


“Life Is Beautiful,” Lil Peep

“Malwedhe,” King Monada

“The Big Unknown,” Sade

“Stan,” 6LACK

“Decibels,” Jidenna


“Collide,” Lady Zamar

“Pretty Little Fears,” 6LACK feat. J. Cole

“Motigbana,” Olamide

“Sweet but Psycho,” Ava Max

“In My Mind,” Dynoro feat. Gigi d’Agostino


“Sunflower,” Post Malone feat. Swae Lee

“Promises,” Calvin Harris feat. Sam Smith

“Killin’ Me Softly,” The Fugees

“This Is Me,” Keala Settle, The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Made for Now,” Janet Jackson


“Never,” Loren Allred, The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Fever,” WizKid

“From Now On,” Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Let Her Go,” 6LACK

“Easy,” Anna Wise & Xavier Omar


“The Greatest Show,” The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Let You Love Me,” Rita Ora

“Way,” Falz feat. Wande Coal

“I Like That,” Janelle Monae

“Wait,” DJ Neptune feat. Kizz Daniel


“Make Me Feel,” Janelle Monae

“Django Jane,” Janelle Monae

“Africa,” Toto

“Stand by Me,” Ben E. King

“Fun won Finish,” Beambo Taylor


The Rotating Favourites

“My My My,” Troye Sivan

“Iwa,” Phyno feat. Tekno

“Nkechi,” Attitude

“Supermodel,” SZA

“Feel Good,” P-Lo feat. G-Eazy


“APESH*t,” The Carters

“X Bitch,” 21 Savage feat. Future

“Timmy’s Prayer,” Sampha

“Saint Pablo,” Kanye West feat. Sampha

“Borders,” St. Beauty


“Just Saying/I Tried,” The Internet

“Wo (Spiritual),” Olamide

“Tuwo Shinkafa,” Runtown

“Psycho,” KCEE feat. WizKid

“Kupe,” A-Star

“Fake Love,” Duncan Mighty feat. WizKid


“Kaabata,” Arrel

“High End,” Chris Brown feat. Future & Young Thug

“Chun Li,” Nicki Minaj

“Sicko Mode,” Travis Scott feat. Drake

“Spirit Break Out,” Kim Walker

“Nothing Breaks Like a Heart,” Mark Ronson feat. Miley Cyrus


“Hold Yuh,” Gyptian

“Nani Gi,” Mairo Ese

“Ina the Benz,” Yung6ix

“Hey Baby,” Dmitri Vegas & Like Mike vs. Diplo feat. Deb’s Daughter

“Without Me,” Halsey


“Upon Me,” Kiss Daniel feat. SugarBoy

“Different,” Shekhinah feat. Mariechan

“Come Closer,” WizKid feat. Drake

“Champion (Remix),” General Pype feat. Dagrin, Naeto C & Sasha P

“Move,” Litle Mix

“Déjà vu,” Burna Boy


“High Hopes,” Panic! At the Disco

“No Stylist,” French Montana

“Call the Police,” Orezi

“Fast Car,” Jonas Blue feat. Dakota

“Dip,” Tyga feat. Nicki Minaj


“If,” Davido

“Be Together,” Major Lazer feat. Wild Belle

“Drew Barrymore,” Bryan Vince feat. Wale

“Better Now,” Post Malone

“Beautiful,” Bazzi feat. Camilla Cabello


“Woman Like Me,” Little Mix feat. Nicki Minaj

“Be Mine!,” Robyn

“Bad and Boujee,” Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert

“Cream,” Tujamo feat. Danny Avila

“She Works Hard for the Money,” Donna Summers

“6 Inches,” Beyonce feat. The Weeknd


“My Love,” McDonald

“O Chukwu,” Clay

“DUNK CONTEST (MAGIC BIRD),” Andy Mineo & Wordsplayed

“Fashion Killa,” A$AP Rocky

“Dance to This,” Troye Sivan feat. Ariana Grande

“Plot Twist,” Marc E. Bassey feat. Kyle

“Hey Hey Hey,” Katy Perry


“Bad (Remix),” Wale feat. Rihanna

“Tatashe,’ Percy feat. Peruzzi

“Ayepo (Remix),” Airboy feat. Burna Boy

“FEFE,” 6ix9ine feat. Nicki Minaj

“Thunder,” LSD feat. Labyrinth, Sia & Diplo


“Talk Me Down,” Troye Sivan

“Shallow,” Lady Gaga feat. Bradley Cooper

“BEBE,” 6ix9ine feat. Anuel

“God,” Scarface feat. John Legend


“Africa,” Karl Wolf feat. Kulture

“Wetin We Gain,” Victor AD

“Girls Like You,” Maroon 5 feat. Cardi B

“Kpolonge,” Waje feat. Timaya


“Ijo Wakanda,” Orezi

“Payroll,” Xzibit & Yazz, Empire Soundtrack

“You’re So Beautiful (’90s Version),” Empire Soundtrack

“Love Long Time,” Serayah, Empire Soundtrack


“Watch Out,” Ezri Walker, Empire Soundtrack

“Dino Bus,” Badanamu

“Don’t Need Nobody,” Ellie Goulding

“Miracle Rain,” Frank Edwards

“Babalao,” Angelique Kidjo


“Club Controller,” Prince Kaybee & Lasoulmates feat. Zanda Zakura & TNS

“Need to Feel Loved,” Reflekt feat. Deline Bass



PHOTO CREDITS: Davido from Wap Reloaded, Janelle Monae from Adweek, 6lack from Rolling Stone, Desiigner from Hip Hop DX.

The Feet of Drogba


I was 13 when I fell in love with the whole of Didier Drogba. I had freshly become a football follower, a stubborn Chelsea fan. This was 2007, the age of newspapers and magazines, before browsing phones spread and newspaper stand crowds thinned and KickOff and SoccerStar made way for I was building stacks of football newspapers and magazines, but it was in a politics newspaper, in its sports spread, that I read the first football profile I really liked. It was titled “DD: Deadly Drogba,” and ran with a black-and-white photo of the striker and his braided hair, his left or right foot in pursuit of the ball in the air, his shorts drawn back to reveal his thighs, full.

I wish I could say that it began with that profile, that photo, but it began months before, in late 2006. My classmates had spent the previous year talking about and talking down on this team with loud, uncouth supporters who thought they could buy players and buy their way to trophies. Afterwards, by chance, I had watched a Chelsea match and seen Frank Lampard and began calling myself a Chelsea fan, and then, because my classmates kept talking about him and didn’t like him because he scored against Nigeria in that year’s African Nations Cup, I took faint interest in Drogba. It must have started then. Early 2007, maybe March, maybe April, I remember a senior whose nickname was Drogba coming into our class, standing at the door, arms raised, a wide smile on his face, saying, “Drogba na, Drogba won, Essien came second.” I didn’t like Senior Drogba; I really did not like Senior Drogba, but in that moment that he stood there, the joy in his body radiant, I was infected. Afterwards, I saw a newspaper report of his role in negotiating the end of the civil war in his home country of Cote d’Ivoire: that in October 2005, after Cote d’Ivoire had qualified for the 2006 World Cup, he picked a microphone in their dressing room and knelt down, surrounded by his teammates, and pleaded with both sides to lay down their arms. He was larger than life. That might have been when I fell in love with the first person I didn’t know personally.

Watching Drogba on the pitch, watching him move and run, him jump and nod, watching his control of the ball with his chest, his perfection of the “turn and shoot” technique, was a drug. The loudest thing I liked about him was that he was brutal, beastly. Before him, the only other footballer I’d seen instill such fear, exert such dominance of defenders, was Ricardo Kaka, in the two legs of his AC Milan’s Champions’ League semifinals against Manchester United: I’d watched Kaka’s killing laughing, fearing, laughing because it was Manchester United suffering and I didn’t like Manchester United, fearing because AC Milan might be meeting Chelsea if Chelsea won their own bout and I didn’t think Chelsea could survive them. It didn’t happen: Chelsea fell to Liverpool and I watched Drogba walk off the pitch annoyed. It might have been that annoyance, refined now, rechanneled now, that he wore on his body like grace when he tore into Liverpool the following season, 2007/2008, scoring twice at Stamford Bridge to take us into the final. But in that final, against Manchester United, we fell short. I didn’t watch the match: I was in SS1 then and didn’t fancy scaling our school fence at night to watch it in some bar surrounded by palm wine and the wining of men. But it was glorious, I felt its glory, because my classmates who watched it came back bedazzled. Drogba slapped Nemanja Vidic and was sent off. John Terry, captain, leader, legend, took the fifth penalty that would have been Drogba’s and slipped and the ball hit the post. Nicolas Anelka missed his and we lost. I felt sore for Drogba. The English media were on his case: would he leave Chelsea? To AC Milan? Real Madrid? Would he rejoin Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan. As the speculation grew, I worried: could I still remain a Chelsea fan if Drogba left? Because my love for Drogba was stronger than my love for Chelsea.

He stayed.

In 2009, Barcelona beat us in the Champions’ League semifinals and, because we were robbed, all those injury time penalty calls none of which were given, Drogba faced the camera and said, “This is a fucking disgrace,” and was banned by UEFA for some matches. I had begun to like Barcelona then, Lionel Messi in particular, but I was angry. WTF! In 2009/10, Drogba won the Premier League’s Golden Boot, his second, and among his 29 goals, I remember and enjoyed most his battering of Arsenal, that winless club whose fans, with their ability to faithfully endure in the absence of a confident future, I’d always been intrigued by. In 2010/2011, Fernando Torres came, and flopping followed, and Drogba stayed. In 2011/2012, he was back to his beastly best. Napoli fell in the Round of 16, and Barcelona in the semifinals, and Bayern Munich in the final. Drogba powered in the 88th minute equalizer and scored the decisive penalty. It was his crowning moment. It was my sating moment. Chelsea had finally won the Champions’ League.

After that year, my watching of football waned, partly because I had found a new interest, literature, and football, the first in a line of interests that would make way in my life for another, took a back seat.

There was my liking of Drogba’s suits, his shirts, jeans, the way he dressed. The way he spoke. His natural charisma. His exemplification of that quality I instantly like in people: drive. Drogba did not have the natural talent of many of his peers but he worked hard, becoming one of the most effective freekick-takers of his set. He was CAF African Footballer of the Year twice, for 2006 and 2009, and I think he should have further won for 2007 and 2010—the first going to Frederic Kanoute because, as reports rumoured then, CAF officials had called to congratulate Drogba but, due to commitments with the Cote d’Ivoire team, he sent his wife rather than show up to the ceremony; the second going to Samuel Eto’o.

Weeks ago, Didier Drogba retired from football. Watching him had been one of the joys of my life. There has been no other like him. There will be no other that I will love with the same enthrallment—his feet, his head. He’s bald now and I love it.


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