Language encompasses every nuance of a people’s communication. Slangs that are spin-offs from the intrigues in our sociopolitical arena are the thermostat of a nation. Whether elitist or egalitarian, these ‘idioms’ drape our language like rich velvet. In examining language and tracing its use, we understand a people’s aspiration and disillusionment and unveil the evolution of culture.
Religion: God forbid!
“Mummy, I have a headache.”
“Uncle Lagbaja, I am tired.”
“God forbid; it is not your portion!”
“Aunty Chioma, I can’t finish this jollof-rice.”
“God forbid, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!”
“Sir, is your car covered by insurance?”
“I am covered by the bloooood of Jesus!”
“Madam, your number is not on the promotion list.”
“God forbid! All my enemies fall down and die!”
Welcome to Nigeria, religion is our mother tongue, and someone from the village is always ‘doing’ someone. Constant bedwetting, failure, and prolonged spinsterhood cannot be customary to the human condition; a spiritual force must be responsible.
“Holy Ghost faayaa!” the crowd screamed.
No, we were not taking the kingdom by force, or maybe we were. Nigeria was in a penalty shoot-out against The Netherlands. So, we held hands, and stomped, and shouted, and foamed at the mouth, and shook as though shocked by electricity, while our lips trembled from the force with which word-bullets escaped them. In other words, we prayed as if there were no Christians in The Netherlands. The gods of Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo were on our side. Nigeria won and progressed to the semi-finals of the FIFA World Youth Championship of 2005. Go to a match-viewing centre in Lagos; the Christian, Muslim, and Ifa worshipper, spiritually root for Nigeria in love-like unison.
During the finals, the gods left us and we lost. I no longer pray for Nigeria during football matches.
Dear Nigerian, Paracetamol and rest are good for headaches too. Preparation and hard work win football matches too. God bless my enemies, is a prayer too. Did this incense your religious sensibilities? Good. Dia riz God o!
Tomi Olugbemi @ poetryispeace.wordpress.com
Food: No put sand for my garri o!
When a Nigerian man heads straight home from work, you can be sure his wife observes the saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his belly. When he races through the doors without goodbyes to colleagues; when he zigs and zags through heavy traffic, undoing his tie and buttons as he leaps up to his front door—understand this: the delicious meal he is leaping towards, not only penetrates his heart but also damages the knots that hold his mind together.
And woe betide that woman who forgets that eating by the hand and sweat of a wife is an inalienable right of the Nigerian husband. If she would rather save her sweat for managing construction sites or for running her mouth loudly in court or for writing reports in cosy offices, then, a wise woman who learnt AMALA (African Man’s Absolute Loyalty Approach), on the strength of EGUSI (Executive Grant for Ultimate Seduction Internship), from Calabar campus, shall snatch the man from her.
This ‘wise’ woman’s sweat will make the man lick and suck each one of his fingers. He will smack his lips. Forgetting the wife who refused to be his minion, he will enter a mutual journey of sweats with the wise woman, until he snores into the night with narcissistic satisfaction.
Samuel Okopi @ samuelokopi.com
Time: What time is it? It’s Nigerian Time.
In 1966, the inimitable Peter Pan Enahoro, in his classic book, How to be a Nigerian, observed ruefully, “You invite a Nigerian to dinner for 8 p.m. and he has not turned up at 9 p.m. Do not give up and begin to eat. He is sure to turn up at 9:30 p.m. the next day.” Today not much has changed for the Nigerian.
Time in Nigeria is not fixed. It is a loose-limbed variable subject to the mood of the people. Watches and clocks are ornamental rather than functional. Time is fluid, adaptable, and ballpark.
If Nigerian time were an animal, it would be lazy, somnolent, and unhurried. If Nigerian time were money, the Dollars from crude oil exports would become toilet paper.
Organisers bill events to start at a stated hour prompt but, don’t take the word, prompt, at face value; it is as redundant as the phrase, free gift. You would be better off taking it to mean several hours after the advertised time. This laid-back attitude is often mistaken for a lack of drive. On the contrary, Nigerians are some of the most ambitious people in the world.
Enahoro writes, “In many parts of the world, life is a mortal combat between man and ruthless Father Clock with Father Clock leading by a neck. The implacable resolve of man to battle to the bitter end with time does not attract the Nigerian.” Enahoro is a visionary.
Nkem Ivara @ thewordsmythe.wordpress.com
Music: Ti ko, ti ko-ko!
Deejays at Nigerian nightclubs have since phased out party-starter hits like, This is how we do it, by Montell Jordan, in favour of club bangers from the kings of Nigerian airwaves, Davido, D-banj, Wizkid, Phyno, Don Jazzy, Kaycee, Iyanya, Timaya, May-D, P-Squared, and . . . , the list gets longer by the minute. Nigeria’s Generation Next pledge allegiance to and comply with the instructions of their music icons. Hence, if Iyanya says all he wants is, your waist, you’d better surrender it! If Kaycee says, pull ova, get ready to be handcuffed for not twerking correctly!
Our music permeates every facet of our lives. Whether Skelewu-ing at weddings, Limpopo-ing at roadshows, and Ginger-ing at owambes, the beat and rhythm inspire listeners to do the head-bob, echo the chorus, twist their waists with mouths half-open as if bad news slapped them, squat, and wobble their thighs as though they’re trying to stifle day-old pee, while marinating in sweat.
Come on, ti ko ti ko-ko, all my ladies, chop my money, I want to be your maga, shakey bumbum!
Nigerian pidgin-pop, a brand where artists infuse pidgin into every track to gain mass appeal and to avoid being seen as stuck-up returnees trying to impress those who have zero chance of travelling in the foreseeable future, has gone global. Remember when former US secretary of state, Colin Powell, danced the yahooze with Olu Maintain on stage? Ladies and gentlemen, the revolution is underway, no need to reinvent the ‘beat’ and ‘lyrics’ of success.
Shey you want to dance? Oya scatter the ground! Ti ko ti ko-ko, ti ko ti ko-ko!
Tonwa Anthony @ thecrazynigerian.com
Football: You no sabi ball jare!
Football is the most unifying factor in Nigeria, but only when the national team plays. Switch over to European club football where allegiances hold sway, and we are a bitterly divided nation that borrows from other cultures and then overcooks it. This explains why many Lagosians are more passionate about Chelsea FC than locals from the Greater London area are. When it comes to football, Nigerian women have no qualms indulging their men. Only a brave woman schedules a romantic dinner for Saturday evening with her diehard Gunner husband, knowing that Arsenal’s match that afternoon could go either way.
Every Nigerian is a football pundit, whether they’ve ever kicked a ball or not, and coaching the Super Eagles is the most difficult job on earth. How do you face 170 million people, many of whom are convinced you do not know what you are doing? Ask Stephen Keshi!
Indeed, football is a leveler in Nigerian society. Citizens may not have ready access to good roads, electricity, or healthcare, but viewing centres, where people watch live football on giant screens for a fee, have democratized access to football like never before. The result? A thriving ‘National Conference’ during football season on Facebook and Twitter, in offices, beer parlours, sport bars, and on the streets. When football is the subject of conversation, only a fool concedes to another’s view. Football arguments inevitably end when one party walks away with a dismissive, “You no sabi ball jare!” or with the parties trading blows.
Olutola Bella @ bellanchi.wordpress.com
Politics: Na wa for our government o!
In Nigeria, politics is the lifeblood of our non-sexual interactions. I suppose it is the result of extensive upheavals in our government for the majority of our existence, first as colonies of the British Empire and then as an independent nation. We have never enjoyed sufficient stability to render us apolitical. When strangers meet at pubs in England, the weather serves as the icebreaker. In Nigeria, we say, “Na wa for our government o!” You could be sitting alone at the bar and if you say it loudly enough, two or three people within earshot will drift over to engage you.
Our political language is fairly militarised, which is unsurprising given our history. Thus, we rarely reciprocate, we retaliate, and politicians blame their detractors for everything from floods to news reports accurately portraying the government in bad light. They call enemies of the state either cowardly or dastardly, while vowing, not to leave any stone unturned in the search for bombers and kidnappers. Visitors to Nigeria, do not be alarmed when you discover that all our stones are flaccid and their stomachs point to the sky!
And in the wake of scandals, suspects are said to be fingered and these suspects in turn, flay their accusers. Meanwhile, every new half-baked policy is a panacea or palliative for the masses. The noun, masses, is never unadorned but qualified with the adjectives suffering, poor, or general. An absolutely delightful lexicon!
Rotimi Fawole @ texthelaw.com
Hustle: No condition is permanent
Repatriates and visitors to Nigeria are often blinded to the power to our industry because they are preoccupied with the failings of the nation-state. But adorning panoramic lenses makes for a compelling view of the coping mechanism within the collective psyche. The average Nigerian attempts to carry on life with poise despite his shredded dignity and applies resourcefulness and resilience, in other words, hustle, to produce an outcome that secures either a self-centered or an altruistic end.
Electrical power failures or NEPA has taken light, is a nuisance that grinds homes and businesses to a halt. The solution: generators, solar panels, rechargeable lanterns, and inverters. The common man hustles to buy one of these instead of hustling to see the day when power supply is normalized. He, as well as businessmen with briefcases full of scam, know that, no condition is permanent.
The jeeps of the rich scoff at potholes on poorly constructed roads and allow them carry on with life at a frenetic pace. The common man defies the cumbersome traffic caused by treacherous roads by biking on okada. He, as well as the activist that lambasts the government on social media, understand that no condition is permanent.
Nigerians work hard at whatever their hands find to do whether moral or amoral and adapt readily thereby stifling any clamour for change. We know that we are next in line for a miracle, our very own share of the national cake, and our hustle shall not be truncated!
Timi Yeseibo @ Livelytwist
©Timi Yeseibo 2014
©Timi Yeseibo 2014
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