Naija Tinz

naija-tinz

1.
It is her loud voice—the confident obnoxiousness of her request and her reference to the economic recession, under which the store attendants cower—that makes me look up from watching the cashier at checkout work the POS machine. Sure enough, she is the one. I call out.
“Timi, is that you; I didn’t know you were in Lagos?” Her open arms stretch her boubou like patterned bed sheets.
I reply, “Yes, I just got back,” and embrace her.
Guilt snakes around in my stomach. I have been in Nigeria for several months. When does, I just got back, become old?

 

2.
The story is told of a returnee riding his power bike in Victoria Island, years ago, before Lagos state government imposed limits on the routes commercial motorcycles can ply. Approaching a red light, he stops causing the eight okadas trailing him to crash into him and one another in a classic pile on. The motorcycle drivers recover quickly. Helmets gleaming in the sun, one grabs his trousers at the waist; another seizes his shirt at the neck. A slap prefaces the interrogation.
Why you stop?” the leader of the pack charges.
“Because of the traffic light.”
Another slap. “You don see okada stop here before?” Another slap. “You nor know say dis ting,” the okada driver wags his hand in the direction of the traffic light, “na for motor?”
He is confused as returnees often are about unofficial codes of conduct and he knows it is futile to argue he is right.

 

3.
“Are you here for good?” is I suppose the logical question that follows the surprise at bumping into me in Lagos. Some people are not in a hurry, so they ask instead, “When did you get back?” before segueing into the question of the permanence or not of my residency. My answer varies depending on the level of interest in the inquisitor’s eyes or the kind of relationship we share. Always, my eyes travel in distance and space, as I narrate a version of the story titled, I don’t know.

 

4.
Hyperbole is a literary device, which refers to exaggerated claims that are not to be taken literally. It manifests in a curious form in Nigerian street speak, where words are doubled for emphasis also.
De house big?
E big well well, well well!
An oxymoron on the other hand is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction. Like this sign on the road:
Buy original Tokunboh laptops
That second-hand laptops aka tokunboh laptops, can be original is beyond oxymoron. It shows how language bends to accommodate the prevalent malaise of refurbished parts sold as (brand) new.

 

 

5.
Nigerians who move back home after living abroad are subject to a subtle game of numbers, which begins with the question, “How long were you away for?” Your answer validates or invalidates your expatriation. Ten years and longer, garner approval like Instagram Likes so that your cluelessness and discomfiture regarding Nigerian culture is overlooked, explained away by your long absence. Those who were away for a shorter time, do well to prefix their answer with just, as in, I was away for just two years and to not speak with a foreign accent like people who go for a two-week holiday in London and return with an American accent. The problem of colonialization is this: long after Lord Lugard and co. left, we are still using their yardstick to measure ourselves by.

 

6.
My dentist is situated on the third floor of an edifice that once showed promise because of the elegance of the architecture, but the building is aging and in need of fresh leadership. I wait in the reception where magazines make the clock tick faster.
“Mrs Timi? The dentist is ready for you.”
In the examining room, the dentist’s assistant makes small talk.
“It’s not Mrs Timi,” I begin, it’s Miss Timi.”
She beams, “You will soon get married, in Jesus name!”
Because her underlying assumption concerning my desires bothers me, I lecture her mildly on the broad aspirations of women beyond Cinderella dreams. “You don’t even know me. Why did you not say, you will soon get a better job?”
“But don’t you want to get married?”
“I do, but—”
Ehen! You will soon get married, in Jesus name!” she ends her prophecy on a high note, smiling as she lowers and reclines the chair for me to sit.
“Amen,” I reply. I know it is futile to explain my point any further.

 

7.
The walls are white as are the rattan chairs arranged in a loose formation for intimacy. My girlfriends and I were sipping our drinks and trying to gist despite the music booming from the speakers. I am convinced that Nigerians are loud because our eardrums are traumatized by music that drowns out our voices. Suddenly a photographer appears.
“No o! I don’t want my photo on Facebook or Instagram,” I protest.
He convinced us that he would email the photos to us and they would not be shared on social media. We posed and posed again. Our photos now grace the Facebook page of the bar. In Nigeria, we say, awoof dey run belle, which loosely means, freebies can kill you.

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

Boubou: a kaftan worn by women.
Okada: commercial motorbike used for transportation.
You don see okada stop here before?: Have you ever seen a commercial bike stop here?
You nor know say dis ting na for motor?: Don’t you know that this thing is for cars?
De house big?: Is the house big?
E big well well, well well: It is humungous.
Tokunboh: A second-hand or fairly used item.

 

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43 thoughts on “Naija Tinz

  1. I was scrolling through my feed and found you’re blog. It is beautiful! I love the set up of your blog and everything about it. And this post is absolutely wonderful. I love short stories, even though I write chapter books. Sometimes, though, you only need a paragraph to tell a story.
    By blog is actually about me as a writer, if you want to check it out 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great as always. Indeed we use ‘Lugards yardstick to measure ourselves’ the mix up of accents also confuses me. Number 6! Everyone is a prophetess on Nigeria, it’s something I have come to accept 😔

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “Ehen! You will soon get married, in Jesus name!”

    I got a good laugh out of this one. The confidence with with Nigerians try to convince you about what they believe is good for you is always astounding.

    I am convinced that Nigerians are loud because our eardrums are traumatized by music that drowns out our voices.

    This thing is a problem and I’m tired of complaining and looking like a weirdo. We. Are. Too. Loud.

    This whole post is apt because it’s December—official IJGB season. Right now, somewhere in Lagos, a returnee is confused and frustrated and exasperated all at once.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not only do Nigerians try to convince you about what they think is best for you, they argue with you about what they think they know about you.

      “Really? You’re Yoruba?! That’s not true, you don’t look like one”

      “Oh, that’s you in the picture?! Issalie, it can’t be”

      That part about traumatized eardrums also got me laughing.

      Timi, this piece is a true portrayal life in Nigeria.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. @ Not only do Nigerians try to convince you about what they think is best for you, they argue with you about what they think they know about you, ha ha ha 🙂 The stories we could tell! 🙂

        Like

  4. Timi. It’s quite a thing keeping quiet cos I know it’s a futile journey. Back and forth kind of thing. I always prefer to save my breath. Am this I quotidian in conversations with the “everyday people” – Cab man, bike guy, gate man, recharge card vendor, aboki with the kiosk. Most times I laugh at these seeming conclusive summarising assumptions.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. As much as cultures are different, Timi, there are always similarities. A certain pride goes with living in an area for a long time. Newcomers have to be around for awhile before they are accepted into a community. I cheat a bit in southern Oregon. “Oh, I was born here.” Which is the truth— and it gives me great credibility. So what if my parents moved out of the area when I was only a few months old. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 3 people

    1. @ Newcomers have to be around for awhile before they are accepted into a community, perhaps the community is waiting to see if the newcomers blend in.

      I guess it helps to identify with the community in some way- language, culture, birth. Good that you have credibility in Oregon. 🙂

      Like

      1. Street creds, Timi. 🙂 I can also point out that my grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandparents are buried in the area.:) That is really unusual in America. And given my wandering ways, almost incomprehensible to me. –Curt

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I feel like the answer to the question of when ‘I just got back’ becomes old is implicit in the other experiences narrated in 1,3,5 and 6, i.e. what one believes is the benefit of offering a detailed explanation vs the cost (in time and energy) of doing so.

    Number 7 has me so intrigued, I feel like I should go on to Facebook and painstakingly trawl through all the pictures posted on bars and clubs pages.. But then cost v. benefit…. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @ benefit v cost of detailed explanation, true. It’s funny when people who have been back for two years, say, “I just got back.”

      @ number 7, lol. I should save you the trouble and name the bar, but where’s the fun in that? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. To am onlooker, the typical Naija thought process to your beautiful face and classy demeanor is , “Man, her husband must be so lucky o! She is so WAPA!” or “I am sure she is an Allan Poser, why is she not yet married?” I echo the cashier’s response to you Miss Timi, “You will soon get married to a guy who is worthy of the sweet essence of your soul. May you continue to get the right jobs that will fulfill your God-given potential. Most especially girlfriend, may your days be filled with laughter and years with joy. May God in his grace continue to give you the pen of a ready writer so that you can continue to warm our souls with words that inspire and encourage us to show up as our best selves. You are dearly loved.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lol @ Allan poser! XD

      In a society that views marriage as a woman’s ultimate achievement, prayers will always be offered on single women’s behalf for marriage.

      Thank you for your kind wishes. I wish you the same.

      Like

  8. I guess everyone at this point (except maybe three undiscovered tribes living in South America) has been touched by other cultures–some dominant and some not so much. With all the bad that comes from a dominant culture overrunning another–something done since the beginning of time–there’s also technological benefits like modern dentistry and laptops.

    My ex-husband used to be judged all the time back in England for having become a “Yank.” Even I received similar questions to the ones you write about when I moved back from the city only 10 miles from my hometown. People are funny. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Number 3. It is a change from the other one of constantly being asked “so when are you coming back for Christmas?” Lol. You are finally there and now have to explain why and for how long.

    Original tokunboh laptops is funny really. The thing about language—the Nigerian type of English— is how much original is related to ‘not Chinese’. Well in this case, they probably meant ‘ functioning second had laptops’ , but funny how many people could be uttering this without giving a thought to how impossible it is for something to be one and at the same time, two.

    ‘This thing na for moto’ is a scary statement

    Liked by 4 people

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