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A LETTER FROM LONDON

TITANIC CENTENARY: For the past one hundred years, the Titanic story, though a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, had become a sort of intriguing delight to students of history. The centenary of the accident held here a few days ago. Though romanticised by the film of the same name, the fact of the matter was that the Titanic hit an iceberg at 11.40pm on 14 April 1912 and finally sank at 2.20am on 15 April. More than 1,500 of the 2,208 passengers died. And it was its maiden voyage. Did someone utter the words that doomed the ship? That it was unsinkable? And that, wal iyazu bilLah, even God could not sink it? For a whole century, that had been subject of great debate. Suffice to say that God Himself had warned mankind in the Qur’an to steer clear of fitna which engulfs even the innocent. Poignantly, we were reminded that ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ was the tune the Titanic’s band kept up as the vessel went down one hundred years ago.

NIGER DELTA: Thank you London! Thank you Britain! (No comparison with Thank You Nigeria for agreeing to be fleeced, get it?). Your correspondent couldn’t resist the temptation of visiting the court that shamed Nigeria and its three leprous branches of mis-governance: the stealers, the abettors and the accessories (up to you to apportion titles). That London court has sent one little thief (who, to drive the knife fully in for extra effect, was once a lowly supermarket cashier or similar in London in the past) to more than a decade in jail whereas, where he home, he would have been at the convention of the ruling party a free man. Oh, sorry, I promised no comparisons.

BOKO HALAL: London Metropolitan University is banning alcohol from parts of its campuses. They have already given the order to shut down a student bar. Yes, you read right. A University in the heart of London is banning alcohol. A great debate is now ensuing. Interestingly concurrently, there is a hearing going on in the British Parliament about effects of alcohol. Many researchers and professor have been speaking. You need to hear what they were saying. Attempt to say that in our Mammy Market-infested country! You will be labelled all sorts of names!

GYM TRUANCY: Now, I have told you elsewhere, haven’t I, that since the One-At-A-Time bank door fiasco I had shamefacedly enrolled in a gym. But since they gave us New Year Holiday, I have not resumed (I admit). But here in London, I have given back everything I owed the gym. I think so far I have covered one hundred kilometres in brisk walking, though unintended and unwelcome. Tough life!

LONDON MARATHON: Last Sunday, I fully participated in the annual London Marathon, all 40 kilometres of it. Live on television, from the beginning to the end. And I was compensated by the fact that Kenyans won both the male and female categories. And the marathon owes me 60 kilometres (see last paragraph).

LONDON OLYMPICS: In three months’ time, London will host the world to the 2012 Olympic Games. I saw this interesting ad on the Underground; runs something like: ‘If your Mum was visiting your flat, you would tidy it up, yes? Now our flat is London and our Mum is the whole world visiting us for the Olympics this Summer. Help us tidy our flat. Make our Mum proud.’ Londoners are voluntarily sprucing up their city. And it can be done.

THE LION KING: What a spectacle! For two and a half hours, we were held spellbound by the mesmerising theatrics of the actors who play the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. This is the drama version of the popular cartoon, rendered beautifully by an almost-wholly black troupe. Sadly, this is an African story that plays only in London and New York, as far as I know. How one wishes it would come to Abuja one day (though assurances must be given that the lights at the airport would stay on when their plane lands – sorry, no comparisons.) But do we even have the theatre to provide the venue for the play? And the cheapest ticket was about £50, all of N13,000!

“BORIS MAKES ME LAUGH”: Early May, Londoners elect a new Mayor. The incumbent, Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party, is facing, among others, former Mayor Ken Livingstone of the Labour Party. Known as Red Ken for his leftist ideology, Ken lost to Boris in 2008 when Labour was in government. On his campaign trail recently, many Labour supporters told Ken to his face that they would re-elect Boris. Asked why, they said: “Boris makes us laugh!” People with stressed up lives such as Londoners need a dose of Mullah Nasruddin once in a while. And Boris, the ebullient, swashbuckling One-At-A-Time Mayor, laces his speeches with humour, mirth and jokes, so makes life bearable. And now, please, don’t I make you laugh? Comparatively.

ABU QATADA ‘RENDERING’: They have an Abu Qatada in London, and they want to deport him (‘render’, it is now called) back to his original country of Jordan. They accuse him of terrorist sympathies and tendencies, though he had lived in Britain for a long time. The British Government so messed up the extradition process and both parties are now before a superior European court to determine the appropriateness of the whole rendering process.

BARCELONA WAS ALSO HERE: It is now history. FC Barcelona was here last week to play against Chelsea. And despite possessing the ball for 72% of the time, Barcelona lost to Chelsea in London. Chelsea went on to Camp Nou and inflicted the decade’s soccer miracle by qualifying for the UEFA Champions League Final. Barca is so enamoured it is even called FIFAlona, or UEFAlona (after FIFA and UEFA by many who accuse the governing bodies of messing for Messi). Wonder why I know so much? The truth is painful, but in my own home I have a Chelsea supporter, a Barca supporter, an Arsenal supporter (remember that Gunners’ towel), and a Real Madrid supporter. I happen to be the only one in the family supporting Kano Pillars, now on top of Nigeria’s Premier League. Up Pillars!

…AND THE FLIPSIDE: London is terrible! Rain when you need sunshine. Squeezed in the Tube (not unlike Close Up) when you need space. Muggers and other baddies still prowl the streets. Everything is over-expensive. And the Queen is still not giving chance to Charles.

GOING ALONE?: And no, I didn’t go to London alone. I went with the children. And you should have seen your correspondent shepherding six boisterous, energetic children through crowded Covent Garden on the way to watch the Lion King. But it was fun. Kids never give one high blood pressure, init?


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