CENTERSTAGE WITH MS

CENTERSTAGE WITH MS
Everybody calls him MS, not as in manuscript but in recognition of the person of Muritala Sule. He is many things to a thousand suns but he is simply called MS
How did we meet?
Taiwo Obe introduced him to me, by the time he was making waves with his programme I had escaped from the madness that I called Lagos into the rural peace of Akure.
When his book A LIFETIME OF FRIENDSHIPS was published, I read the positive comments of those who have read it. I sighed, as I had a large hole in my pocket so I could not buy the book, but wanted to read it.

Some of the excerpts made me long to read. MS, as we tended to call him, is a strange friend and support at the oddest times. When I sent him my first international novel, he promptly wrote it as a film script and sent it back to me. I was awed. His generosity left me gaping. Blood Contract has not yet been made into a film.
MS being typically his generous self sent me a copy of the book. What did I think?

A LIFETIME OF FRIENDSHIPS is a warm meal served in the inimitable style of Muritala Sule. It is a memoir, anecdotes of youthful escapades of Muritala and his particular friend Godwin Igharo. An honest portrayal of his friends without the effusiveness of a sickening praise writing.
Muritala writes simply, an unvarnished story of his coming of age in Lagos, Igbanke and other places. I learned about the resolute streak of a clear-sighted youth, who dared to follow a dream and stick with it. It is a commentary of parenting, Alhaja, Nollywood, and the drug scene before the turn of the century. I could write pages in a review of this book, but I just want to contain myself as I invite you to share my chat with MS ON CENTERSTAGE
It is my pleasure to welcome MS to CENTERSTAGE.
1. Who is Muritala Sule?
Just Muritala Sule. It’s hard, in my opinion, to describe oneself“…for the eye sees not itself but by reflection by other means” Shakespeare, Julius Caeser. So, my sister, who do you say is MS?
2. A LIFETIME OF FRIENDSHIPS is not the usual run of autobiography, will it be okay to call it a memoir?
That’s what I think it is, in the sense that it merely reflects on a slice of the life I and others have shared. Just a little slice

3. Your friend Godwin Igharo seems to have held a special place in the book, what do you think would have been his reaction to your book?
He’d have screamed on seeing it for the first time in book form and said: “MS, we thank God for everything.” Yet, he wasn’t the religious type. Never went to church; never went to the mosque. But, he always helped me to be a good Muslim, reminding me always of prayer time. While reading the story, he’d also have shed a few tears of gratitude. We’d both re-lived aspects of the story several times when we just reminisced. And always, we normally ended up by telling each other, “We’ve had fun.” That sense of fun was what I strove to capture in the book.
4. I have read the enthusiasm with which the book has been received on the social media but how has that affected your bank account?
Hopefully. The demand shows that I can also do well financially with it. It has been very encouraging. I send out copies virtually every day to buyers. Some responses, too, to the eBook. But, I won’t say it has found massive sale yet, perhaps because I’m still undecided what bookshops to give it to. In a better structure, I shouldn’t be the one worrying about this aspect of things. I should have been back to my desk writing another book. But, it’s self-published, you know, and I have to worry about getting back the money so that I can publish my next book.
5. You made some insightful comments on Nollywood and its economic impact, but what do you really think about the moral impact of Nollywood?
Morality is a delicate issue because it sometimes changes with time. So, I’m largely careful not to condemn what I’m ill-at-ease with. There was once it was immoral for a woman to wear a pair of trousers, even in Lagos, while I was growing up. People would boo and shame you back in the 60s if you did. But, that’s no longer so today, even in the remotest villages. So, I just watch and learn from what’s going on in Nollywood. I feel the pulse of society through it. But, I’m scared by the tendency to gratuitous sex and violence.
6. What are the real partnerships that Nollywood can have with the government?
What all other businesses, too, expect from government, nothing special, just what people call the provision of an enabling environment to work. That’d include: ensuring that the taxes on earnings are not very high; it will include giving access to facilities such as the airports and other public infrastructure that could make our movies feel authentic. A good partnership is already in place, with the Bank of Industries giving loans to filmmakers at a reasonable interest rate. An endowment fund for the Arts, too, should do some good. It can enable us to make important movies that commercial film funders might not be interested in.
7. Since Lagbo Video rested, what has been the improvement on art criticisms and impact in view of today’s art and creative scene?
People have been working. There are so many platforms for that. Dealing in the mass media — now, really, it’s multimedia – environment leaves a lot to the consumer to shape. That was Lagbo Video’s attitude toward criticism, without shirking responsibility for guiding public taste. It is different from academic art criticism. I cannot speak about that, please.
8. The drug scene in the country as a whole has become worse from your youthful days, as an advocate of the impact of the media on the minds of the vulnerable and impressionable, how will you assess the impact of the media on the drug scene today?
The media isn’t doing its job in that regard. They are expected to take a responsible attitude toward the matter, report, x-ray cases and lead in the effort to check the trend. But, alas, that is not happening. Much of what I see in reports is the hailing of the youngsters who seem to promote reckless drug use. You know, these days, reporters admire the people they call “celebrities”. Indeed, reporters are now striving to be “celebrities” themselves. They call themselves “media personalities” and “on-air personalities”. In your days on radio and TV, you were a “presenter”, an “anchor” of programmes and not an “on-air personality”. There’s a difference there.
8. What type of readers do you hope will read your book?
All readers are interested in an engaging story. And that’s what it has been. The young, the old, the intellectual, the not-intellectual. That’s because the story is just about people, about what we feel through our relationships. It’s what is called in mass media parlance a “human interest” story. A story for everyone.
9. Where do you think this book should go to? Do you think it could be a recommended reading?
I don’t think of it essentially as a textbook kind if that’s what you mean. But, people interested in making a career in mass communication can find guidance and inspiration in it. It can also help them navigate.
10. Are you a full-time author?
I do this-and-that in Communication Arts. Write TV scripts, occasional Film scripts, produce, direct, consult and teach. But, I’ve become a publisher. I published Friendships myself. And I’d be writing a few more books and helping other writers to publish theirs.

11. Give your thoughts on what this book will do for the creative scene and art scene
It can stimulate more creativity and inspire other people.
12. What is next for MS?

More books.

13. Please give links where we may purchase your book and if there is a website we

http://bit.ly/ALifetimeOfFriendshipsKobo
http://bit.ly/ALifetimeOfFriendships
http://bit.ly/ALifetimeOfFriendships2
http://bit.ly/lifetimeoffriendships

Interested parties can also reach me directly via Facebook or call +2348033152708
Thank you for chatting with us on Centerstage

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The Tussle

The next morning Babatunde and Tope chatted over bowls of hot pap and akara. Babatunde had prepared the corn pap watched by an amused Tope who made caustic remarks about his brother’s culinary efforts.
The atmosphere was friendly and convivial as Babatunde asked news of home and events. Tope sighed though when Babatunde asked questions about the candidates for the kingship.
“One of them does not look like he is going to get past the first round.” Tope said looking at his akara cake with a frown
Why? Babatunde startled by the comment
Tope was still frowning at his cake and sighed, then shrugged, “I guess I just don’t feel he looks like a king material
“Ifa will decide anyway” Babatunde consoled his brother
“Hmmm.. I don’t always buy into this Ifa thing these days you know. There has been many a king that Ifa has no business approving as kings as they turned out to be unmitigated disasters” Tope spoke with feeling and Babatunde raised eyebrows giving his brother a keen look, “It is not per chance you have a particular candidate in mind do you?”
Tope pushed his plate away and walked to the window looking out into the morning traffic for a few seconds. He turned round and gave his brother a slow smile, “you are not paying attention to me are you? Will you be able to drive me into town? I need to pick up a few things to take home, particularly pesticides for my cocoa.”
“Sure” Babatunde replied and knew his brother did not want to say anything further about the kingship tussle. That tussle had been on for more than six years and he sensed that his brother was bored with the whole thing. Two ruling houses were fighting over who was to rule the town next and that had generated quite a lot of bad blood in the town with rival supporters of one prince or the other. He was part of the inner circle of Ifa and was thus banned from taking sides nor making comments.
The procedure was simple, each candidate was expected to be able to trace his lineage and you could not be installed if your forebear did not have a son while on the throne. Every resident had a right to claim the first king as father but these particular gladiators were determined to lay claim to the most popular deceased king and that had started dissensions. There had been whispers about the paternity of one but no one had been brave to state who started such a rumour.
Babatunde had a different tussle on his mind anyway. It was what type of message he was expected to send to the Ifa circle of which he had been made the young Lion. He had a problem with the timing and date. However he knew he would be the one to find time to go.
He took Tope shopping and drove him to the garage so Tope could return to the village before nightfall.
When he got to the office, Babatunde went to check if the chief pharmacist was around and he was told he would have come back in the afternoon as the fellow was in a conference. Babatunde smiled at the secretary and returned to his office. Ngozi asked after the headache and it took him a minute to recollect what she was talking about.
“Your blank face clearly shows the headache didn’t last long” she laughed and walked away.
Minutes later he was immersed in work and it took a while before he noticed Joke the office girl tapped his desk repeatedly to attract his attention. Babatunde looked up straight into the face of a fairly tall distinguished looking middle aged man
The man smiled and stretched out his hand, “My name is Adewunmi, a friend said I might find you here. I am an accountant, came to make your acquaintance”
Babatunde stood up and asked the man to sit his eyebrows raised. His line of job did not encourage visitors unless they were patients seeking an alternative to a prescribed drug. His visitor didn’t seem to fit into that category.
“How may I help you? He asked politely
“That will be interesting don’t you think”? Sasa’s voice floated in and Babatunde was startled.
He gave his visitor a close look and sure enough he saw the deep blue eyes of Sasa smiling at him.
Babatunde was stunned and stared at his mystic friend, “How did you do that”?
Sasa grinned and sat down crossing his legs elegantly. “I have to learn how to do this you know. Something is coming up and this fellow whose coat I quickly borrowed will be visiting you in say two hours and we felt it was best to warn you ahead.”
Babatunde stiffened, “Who is this fellow?”
Sasa coughed and wiped his mouth mimicking the mannerisms of a rich spoilt man, “eh he fancies himself as the next king” Sasa gave a mocking bow, you know we have gone so far away from seeking the truth that any type of dross gilded over with yellow paint might be confused as gold”
Babatunde laughed out not so much for Sasa’s expression but the look of disgust Sasa had on his face. Then he got serious giving his friend a close look, “Your eyes will give you away you know if you try this stunt with anybody else. Africans don’t have deep blue eyes you know.”
Sasa retorted with spirit, ”You haven’t seen all Africans Fancy pants”
They both laughed.
“I am intrigued, really. I never thought this was possible. Used to read about our forefathers being able to take up skins and do what is called magic but this is new on me” Babatunde said
“You are actually on a different level you know and your experiences are thus different. The best Babalawo may never achieve what is possible or be able to experience this kind of conscious level you know. Real healing is not just about herbs alone but a combination of all the possibilities open to the human spirit. By the way, spirit is the key word. You are wearing a coat that depicts you Fancy pants but it is not your real yourself, you know that”
Babatunde nodded and stared at nothing in particular as his thoughts swirled and Sasa watched him. He sighed and gave Sasa a smile, “so what am I supposed to do when this prince comes in here?”
Sasa dipped his hand in his pocket and brought out a soft stone wrapped in animal skin. “Let him talk as much as he wants but give him this at the end”
Babatunde was mystified and stared at the stone lying in the open palm of Sasa. He stretched out his hand to lift it out of the palm of Sasa and was shocked that try as he might, he could not lift the stone. Sasa gave a soft laugh, “fancy Pants, your education is making you really soft. You know you do not lift things from me without giving me respect”
I…
“You must lift the stone with the skin”.
Babatunde did that and he held the stone but almost dropped it in shock when Sasa mentioned casually that the skin was from the past king. Sasa explained that it was held together by the thoughts of the people.
What do you mean thoughts?
Sasa groaned and looked out, “well it will soon be time for our friend to come in, your office girl is about to have a heart attack because she thinks Prince Adewunmi had already come in here. We will continue this conversation later and oh Prince Adewunmi is not really a prince but has the qualities of one”.
Sasa stood up and adjusted his coat as he walked out. A minute later, a very agitated and puzzled office staff was hesitantly asking if Babatunde was free to receive a visitor again.
Since everything was still a puzzle to Babatunde simply nodded as he quickly slid the object in his hand to a drawer.
The man came straight to the reason for his visit. In very precise tones he mentioned his name and what he had come. He wanted to ask for Babatunde’s support in his bid for the throne of the town. Babatunde listened patiently and smiled. He explained to his guest that he was not the one to make the choice but must follow the dictate of the oracle .
Prince Adewunmi made a cynical gesture and brought out his cheque book, “Look my friend, let’s not flog the issue. I understand the price is ten million and because , the way I heard it, you are the chief priest as it is, I will offer fifteen million. That can set up your pharmacy.
Babatunde clenched his fist and slowly rose to his feet when he heard Sasa’s sharp cough. He sat down as slowly taking deep breaths. Then he gave a gentle smile and pulled out his drawer and brought forth the stone wrapped in the skins.
In the same gentle manner he invited the prince to lift the stone, explaining that there was no need for the money, that if he could lift the stone, the prince was assured of the kingship. That stopped the prince as he stared at the stone saying nothing. There was some silence as both men stared at the stone which seemed to gleam. Babatunde spoke softly, ”being king is a good thing to aspire to and Ifa chooses what the thoughts of the people have chosen, why don’t you find out for yourself what that choice is. We consult the oracle not to thwart but to confirm what will best serve the people, just lift the stone and I will be sure if you are potential candidate”
Prince Adewunmi stared at the stone for more seconds then stood up abruptly and slammed out of the office.