Falling From Lofty Heights

Timi Yeseibo on Loss

We are all dust passing through the air, the difference is, some are flying high in the sky, while others are flying low. But eventually, we all settle on the same ground. ― Anthony Liccione

To reinvent yourself in your late-thirties, you work with a job coach. She will turn the years you spent chauffeuring your children to and fro school and swimming, and ballet, and football, the months you spent volunteering to cut out hearts and read poetry to classes of fidgety children, and the days you spent  hosting meetings for a diverse group of women, into credible examples of leadership and teamwork. On paper. A resume that she has to work on you to believe.

You believe. And you can tell every interviewer about yourself, stitching the holes in the years between your first degree and the present in a perfect line.

Still I did not get the first job I applied for. Or the second or the third. Each time I finished strong as a close second, I vowed to eliminate the words consolation prize, if I were God for a day. The ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm is what Winston Churchill described as success. I did not feel like a success, but I tweaked my resume and wrote more cover letters.

With bills mounting, I prayed, “God, anything. I will do anything, even hospice care.”

Then one day while waiting at the bus stop, I saw a woman I used to know in orange overalls with the insignia of the town on her chest and back, using a pick-up tool to clear rubbish—empty cans, funnel-shaped cardboards with remains of mayonnaise and patat, and a lone pink mitten—from the road, trash bag in tow.

It was not the harshness of the sun that kept her head down, spring was just emerging from winter; the sun had not yet roused itself properly. It was shame. She had lost her former status just as I had. She could not and would not raise her head to say hello, even though I no longer had a car. Had she not seen that my coat, fraying at the cuffs and hem, was one from a few seasons back? I looked at my bus pass as though there was information on it that I had not yet read, and I let her name die on my lips.

I was no longer so sure about my prayer. “Okay God,” I prayed, “not just anything.”

I landed a clerical job, which I would have rejected when I graduated with honours fifteen years earlier, a mindless job that did not even require the kind of critical thinking I used when I played Mahjong Titans.

One evening, I took a file full of reports to my boss, a woman in her mid-twenties, whose jawline was just discernible from her neck. Colleagues whispered that she was a casualty of one of those expensive diet plans. She barely glanced at the reports before signing. She had come to trust my work, and she commented on my level of accuracy.

“You’re better than this,” she said, looking at me, searching for my story as if I had written it behind my eyes. “You should find another job.”

“I know,” I whispered, as if it was our secret, “it’s just a matter of time.”

I no longer worry about bills and I use my brain to do the things I love. I saw a man in his fifties begging for alms. His pale blue shirt tucked neatly in navy trousers, set him apart. Although his eyes were weary, he stood as though he had steel in his spine.

I am seldom asked, who are you, but I am always asked, what do you do? It is easy to confuse the two.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/levitation-young-woman-in-the-air-1884366/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

January, In Retrospect

january-time

From my window, the strains of a fight enter my room. I have never enjoyed boxing, the punches too violent for me to stomach. I do not look out of my window, but I know the fight will not take place when I hear, “Do you know who I am? Hold me! Hold me before I slap this idiot! I say do you know who I am?” The ruckus dies shortly, and I smile. They say the time to quit is before you wish you had.

I have heard it said that time is faster in retrospect than in the present. Not for me, not in January. My January ran like a cheetah in the Serengeti, fast and focused. Projects that involved what I love, making sense of words, made me think of quitting something else I enjoy, making sense of words—blogging. As my days turned to nights, and nights, days, I thought I would surely arrive Sunday with empty hands, no blog post to show. January seemed like a good time to quit.

In Lagos, there is a choreography to a fight you do not want, your true intent masked by halting forward motion. The aggressive advance to your opponent’s eyeballs, the flexing of arms, legs too; and most importantly, the words that shrivel your opponent’s courage and makes him, and you back down; words, more effective than punches.

I had promised myself that in January, I would do my best writing. The promise, a noble thing, naively made at the cusp of a new year, looked undoable just a few days into the year. Work overwhelmed me. I had put my heart and soul into writing Love is a Beautiful Thing, for which, I received praise, and I thought, if I quit now, I will be quitting while I am still ahead.

Few people want to brawl on the street, tearing shirtsleeves and rolling in the ground, mixing sweat with dust and grass. Or else, why throw words in the air, heightening tension, for a boxing match that is not pay-per-view? Why not just fight? 

I fantasized about quitting blogging last year. I had not anticipated the upheaval that moving would bring to my routine and the loss of my support group—people like me, who wow over language and the chemistry of words. But then, ideas would come. Starting a series or surprising myself with beautiful prose would mesmerize and energize me, reminding me that writing is my core. In January, my notes—observations about people and places hastily scribbled on my phone—rescued me. From them, I crafted the stories you read.

I realize now that the fight that did not take place had only one voice. Why was the other man silent? Is that what cowards do to end a fight? What if the crowd had not mediated with, e don do, abeg, e don do? Maybe he was sizing up the aggressor to determine the cost of peace. I should have looked out of my window.

I saw a quote that said: if you get tired rest, don’t quit. January was busy; a blessing in an economy where some people can only siddon look. Someone remarked after reading one of my blog posts that writers lead the most interesting lives. We do not. We have just learned to make sense of words. I am glad I did not quit. Come quick, February.

———————————-

E don do, abeg, e don do – an appeal to stop
Siddon look –  do nothing, in this context, because of the recession

———————————

© Timi Yeseibo 2017

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/time-past-watches-timepiece-1897986/

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Much Ado About Something

lagos-airport-night

The man seating across the aisle from me is what Nigerians call Kora, which loosely means that he hails from somewhere in the Middle East—Lebanon, Syria, Israel.

“Excuse me, excuse me,” he calls to the flight attendant. “Can I use the toilet over there?”

He gestures to the business class section, which will be cordoned off with curtains after the airplane takes off and reaches cruising altitude.

The flight attendant says, “There is a toilet over there,” and points down the aisle.

The man and I are seating on adjacent sides of row 11, immediately behind the curtains that define our class; those seats with a little more leg room and no trays.

“But that means I have to go to the back.”

He speaks with a Nigerian Pidgin accent. I place him as Lebanese. Many Lebanese families have been in Nigeria for generations.

The flight attendant is quiet, his expression stoic like a doctor.

“What’s the difference? Is it not the same toilet?” the Lebanese man turns his hands so his palms facing upward, are asking the questions too.

“It’s for the business class passengers sir.”

My view is limited, but the business class section looks empty and passengers have stopped entering the airplane.

“Yes, but what’s the difference? Is it not the same toilet?”

“Sir, you can use the toilet at the back.”

“That means I have to walk all the way to the back. This one is closer.”

The Lebanese man places emphasis on the word all, in a way that reminds me of how petulant teenagers roll their eyes. I peg him at between 47 and 52 years old. His stomach strains against the buttons of his white shirt and his hair is mostly grey with silver highlights.

He looks at me, maybe because I have been following the conversation, but I look away. Although I am fully Nigerian, I have no desire to moderate the debate.

The flight attendant adjusts a bag in the overhead luggage compartment. It seems like a passive way to deal with a belligerent child.

“The toilets in the back are cleaner than those in business class, sef,” the man tacks this sentence to the conversation, like an insult.

It should provoke a reaction, but it does not. The overhead luggage compartments demand so much of the flight attendant’s attention.

He continues, “I have been waiting since 9 in the morning for my flight. You people are just useless.”

My 13:30 flight was also grounded. All Lagos-bound passengers finally boarded this 18:30 flight. I commiserate with him.

Communication is like dance and grouse takes many forms. If a man asks a woman, what’s wrong, and she answers, “Nothing,” he knows that something is wrong. The toilet, business class or economy, is not the problem here.

“I’m very sorry about that sir.” The flight attendant’s voice has a professional inflection, sympathetic but detached.

“Sorry, sorry. Take your sorry. I don’t need it!”

Minutes later the flight attendant demonstrates the safety instructions coming from the airplane’s public address system. Twenty minutes into the flight, the man ambles down the aisle, all the way to the back, to the toilet. The flight attendant serves refreshments. The man gists with his travelling companions in Lebanese.

I am still rolling their conversation over in my mind, intrigued by it because of something I once read: two monologues do not make a dialogue.

What if the man had started out by stating his displeasure over the delayed flight and the inconvenience it caused, explaining his tiredness because of waiting all day in the airport, before requesting to breach protocol, would the outcome have been different? 

But in Nigeria, to be polite is to be weak and to be aggressive is to be right.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo credit: Photo credit: artforeye via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

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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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Saying Yes to Nigeria [4]

Naija in my Blood

Perhaps nothing reveals the spirit of a city like the attitude of its drivers. Do not even speak of the courtesies you possess until you have driven in rush hour on the streets of Lagos, where every hour is rush hour.

“Foolish man, can’t you see I’m indicating?” she cast a sideways glance at the offender. 200 metres later, with one hand on the steering and the other on her temple, she yelled at another offender, “Are you mad?” A minute later, she placed her hands on her horn repeatedly in bursts, peep, peep, peeeeep, “Stay on your lane!” And at the roundabout, looking less confident, she let out, “If you scratch my car, you will pay o!”

I watched her chest heave and dip, heave and dip, as we rode from Victoria Island to Lekki, while she continued her monologue with drivers who couldn’t hear her because we were cocooned in air-conditioned comfort in her car.

“They can’t even hear you,” I said.

“They can,” she insisted, but changed tactics, making me the subject of dialogue. “Timi, see what that driver is doing? That’s the problem with—”

“You’re going to give yourself a heart attack at this rate; can’t you just drive without the commentary?”

“You don’t understand, wait until you start driving.” She was darting in and out of lanes, “You can’t stay on one lane in this Lagos, you’ll never get anywhere . . .”

Famine brings out our worst instincts and the famine in Lagos is severe—lack of good roads, petrol, patience, politeness, empathy, sanity, alternative transportation like trams, trains, or water transport, diligent traffic wardens, and a responsive government.

Driving in Lagos has not changed. But I have. Or do I still have Naija in my Blood 

Read about my former experience, which is still relevant today here.

© Timi Yeseibo 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Saying Yes to Nigeria [3]

Our National Pastime

In his essay on exile in The Guardian, Ngugi wa Thiong’o writes:

Exile is more than separation: it is longing for home, exaggerating its virtues with every encounter with inconvenience.

I do not think I exaggerated the virtues of ‘home’ but I know people who did; people who began or ended sentences using two words, back home, nostalgia trailing their voice—ah the warmth of the sun back home, the friendliness of people back home, the sense of belonging back home, back home I used to …, and on and on.

I put up with whatever inconvenience being a minority in a foreign country brings, not forgetting that the country from which I came also has issues, in some respects, bigger issues. If the grass is greener on the side where you water it, then I did not want to waste my water. I watered my grass in The Netherlands and watered it some more.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s opening paragraph is instructive. He writes, “I never chose exile; it was forced on me.” But the heart plays tricks on even those who became ‘exiles’ by choice. When I arrived home, I discovered that I had managed to exaggerate some virtues and had forgotten about Our National Pastime

Read about it here.

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

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Saying Yes to Nigeria [2]

Naija Movie Night

In his essay for the New York Times Magazine, A Too Perfect Picture, which examines Steve Curry’s work, Teju Cole concludes that:

Art is always difficult, but it is especially difficult when it comes to telling other people’s stories. And it is ferociously difficult when those others are tangled up in your history and you are tangled up in theirs. What honors those we look at, those whose stories we try to tell, is work that acknowledges their complex sense of their own reality. Good photography, regardless of its style, is always emotionally generous in this way. For this reason, it outlives the moment that occasions it. Weaker photography delivers a quick message — sweetness, pathos, humor — but fails to do more. But more is what we are.

I do not own a camera, only words. I’m sharing this story I wrote years ago even though my experience in 2016 is different because it remains a snap shot of who we are. I hope my lenses are strong. I hope they do more. Read about Naija Movie Night …

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Saying Yes to Nigeria [1]

nigeria

Each time I am sure that, in returning to Lagos, I have inadvertently wandered into a region of hell, something else emerges to give me hope. A reader, an orchestra, the friendship of some powerful swimmers against the tide.
– Teju Cole

Several years ago when I was in Nigeria, I wrote a collection of articles about my experiences since I had returned and received feedback from my editor.

“Please don’t be like all those sabi sabi oyibo Nigerians who come from abroad and tell us what’s wrong with our country; they won’t stay and solve problems only talk talk talk,” she said and handed my manuscript back to me.

“We know what’s wrong with Nigeria, we live it every day. We are looking for escape in comic relief. If you must tell us, satirize it, and make yourself one of us. Like this story here,” she collected the manuscript from me and leafed through it. “This one is good. This one,” she shook her head, “not good.”

I did not agree with her assessment regarding the articles she claimed were not good. They were reflections based on my experiences. Moreover, I couldn’t infuse humour or irony or both in every article, could I? Maybe I could, I am Nigerian after all.

I read Teju Cole’s book, Everyday is For the Thief, years ago. I recall feeling hectored by chapter after chapter about a Nigeria with little redemptive value. My patriotism reared its head. Could he not find many more events, which were ‘normal’ to write about? Of course, I recognized the narrator’s experiences. Some were mine too, but such truths in black and white were painful to swallow. Then I understood what my editor had been trying to tell me.

African writers in the Diaspora have been accused of writing poverty porn— stories of disease-ridden, war-torn, aid-dependent, poverty-rife, corruption-infested, and patriarchal Africa—to sell their books to audiences in the West. While these aren’t the only narratives of Africa, as far as Nigeria goes, some elements are inescapable; even in choice neighbourhoods, evidence of poverty rises to the nose from the open drains that surround electric fences.

Returning from years of living abroad, your brain functions in constant comparison mode, not only of currency and exchange rates but also of culture, infrastructure, organization, and leadership. Stories are everywhere. But, does a writer have an obligation to be an ambassador of hope if he finds none?

Recently, a friend and I were discussing relocating permanently to Nigeria.

Holding his British and Nigerian passport in each hand, he said, “Nigeria, nah.” Placing his British passport on top his Nigerian one, he said, “I can only do Nigeria in measured doses.”

Without shame, I realize that another five years outside Nigeria has almost made me one of those Nigerians. If I were to review, Everyday is For the Thief, today; I would not be too harsh.

Every time I return to Nigeria, it is not with joy; a certain coercion draws me to her. Nevertheless, I leave better for having stayed. My patriotism is sometimes shaky, needing comfort to support its grid. If I returned with resolve to build a better society, the fuel queues and sweltering heat are melting it away. Perhaps time will help me tell a different story.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

Photo credit: http://www.inecnigeria.org/?page_id=373

 

 

Leave Trash For LAWMA

“Stop, stop,” I urged the Uber driver.

He obliged and I came out of the cab with my phone to take a photo of the signpost. 

refuse disposal

“Why did they put up the sign,” I asked the driver, shaking my head as I returned to the car and put on my seat belt. “Do you think people will obey?”

“The first problem,” he said, “is that the people that it’s supposed for can’t even read it. When they see it, they will think it’s about 419.”

I nodded recalling the caveat emptor signs commonly seen on buildings and plots of land: This Property is Not For Sale; Beware of 419.

But, I was not sure if he had correctly estimated the literacy level in Lagos, Nigeria, because I was using the people in my circle, who can all read and write, as a gauge for the rest of society.

“Hmmm do you think it is fair for God to dirty their lives if they can’t read the sign?” I chuckled at the image in my mind of an angry God with smoking nostrils, waiting to rain trash on dissidents.

“I don’t know why they have to bring God into this matter. This thing is simple.” He went on to describe the current system of refuse collection initiated by the local government authorities.

“See,” he slowed down and pointed to a refuse heap, “they can throw their rubbish here . . . but only those who have paid, those that have cards.”

I have written about voluntary compliance before, marveling that Nigerians need the brutal arms of uniformed men to coerce compliance out of us like malu congo, yama yama congo—a derogatory chant that I cried out as a girl. It was aimed at cows being driven with a stick by a herdsman intent on the cows doing his bidding.

But as the driver and I exchanged ideas about efficient systems of refuse disposal and the role of government and religion, I observed that humans in general, were wild at heart, bucking at authority and searching for short cuts. That if law and order seemed to prevail in the western world, it wasn’t so much the result of “civilization”, but the result of sophisticated systems of policing—a speed camera mounted on a busy street ensured compliance without invoking the wrath of God.

I asked the driver what he thought people who aren’t able to pay the fee for refuse collection should do with their garbage.

“I don’t know o. Na wa! Only God can save this country!”

He had come full circle and now embraced a premise he had earlier rejected, why bring God into this matter? He (and I), had done more thinking about a social problem than we normally would have and that was not a bad start.

He brought me back to the present by interrupting my thoughts with a double entendre.

Madam, abeg leave trash for LAWMA!”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

LAWMA- Lagos State Waste Management Authority.

Abeg leave trash for LAWMA– ordinarily, in this context, Pidgin English for: please allow Lagos State Waste Management Authority do their job.

(Abeg) leave trash for LAWMA– a hashtag on Twitter, the result of feuding between two Nigerian music producers. It has morphed into a slang that means (among other things), please talk about something else.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

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Flight to Lagos

luggage

A KLM flight to Nigeria begins at the baggage weighing scale at Departure Hall 2. Several passengers drop their luggage on the scale, take note of the weight, nod, and walk away with sure steps. She is surprised that some passengers even weigh their hand luggage.

“What for?” she wonders aloud.

She lugs her first suitcase on the scale. A frown appears. She lugs the second and her frown deepens.

The night before, she had weighed herself, then carried each suitcase and reweighed herself. Then she had repacked and reweighed, repeating this process a few more times, until each suitcase weighed just under 23kg. She had expected a difference between the weight of the suitcases at home and at the airport. But 33kg and 29kg?

She would whistle if she knew how. Instead, she moves her suitcases to the repacking section at the corner and then whips out a folded Ghana bag from her cream handbag. She shakes it lose with one big motion so that the Ghana bag quickly assumes its rectangular shape. She hisses as she kneels on the floor and makes deft work of 16kg, filling up the Ghana bag.

In all her time at Schiphol Airport, she had only ever seen Africans ‘sweating’ at the repacking corner. The problem of course was that expectations—shoes, bags, clothing, and electronics, for family and extended family—carried a lot of weight.

After paying 200 Euros to check in an extra bag, she clears security and passport control before heading for Gate F. At the departure lounge, conversation rises and falls in English, Pidgin, Bini, Yoruba, and Igbo. She could have been at the International Airport in Lagos. Here, she finds comrades with two pieces of cabin luggage, a regular one and another bag which should not qualify as an accessory. In addition, they each have a true accessory, a handbag, a briefcase, a backpack, or something similar.

The cabin crew greet passengers as they stream into the aircraft. No one jostles for room in the overhead baggage compartments. An easy cooperation reigns among passengers as cries of, “don’t worry, there’s space here,” ring out.

Many passengers are already seated and adjusting themselves for the flight, when Mr. and Mrs. X show up. An air hostess reads their boarding passes.

“20E, this way madam, on the left. 16A, sir on the right.”

Mr. and Mrs. X walk down the aisle, stow their hand luggage, and take their places in 20E and 20F. Not long after, the passenger who had been sitting in 20F returns from the toilet.

“Madam, my seat please.”

A small quarrel ensues and an air hostess comes to arbitrate. When she confirms that Mr. X should sit at 16A, chaos occurs.

“You want to separate me from my husband? It is not possible. How can you separate me from my husband?”

“Madam, but your boarding pass—”

“Did you not hear? You cannot separate me from my husband!”

Mr. X coughs, the only sound to escape his lips. The air hostess persuades Mrs. X to vacate the seat. Mr. X accompanies Mrs. X as she follows the air hostess’ lead, dragging their cabin luggage behind him.

Atink you see this people o? They want to separate me from my husband!”

It is a battle the air hostess should win. The boarding pass says so. But her face is red, every blond hair brushed into place. Her blue suit is devoid of creases, and her voice is no match for Mrs. X’s rising decibel.

The wrangle is drawing some interest, but no mediators. Perhaps it is more expedient to use the time before take-off for selfies and goodbyes. Yes, most passengers are lost in their cell phones and tablets.

The air hostess consults with her colleagues and then they whisper to a few passengers. Before long, they escort Mr. and Mrs. X to a row of seats where they can sit side by side.

Mrs. X declares her victory for all to hear. “Ehen, what God has joined together, let no man put asunder. Ah ah.”

Take off to Lagos begins after this display of survival of the loudest.

She remembers the extra 16kg and 200 Euros and shakes her head. She should have shouted, “You cannot separate me from my luggage!”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I Hope Someone Calls Them Beloved

 

oworonsoki by Logor

There is something about Lagos, about this human chaos, about entering danfos and crawling into kekes and jumping on okadas and pushing against bodies reeking of sweat while dancing between pungent puddles that makes me wish I could read minds.

Not all lives interest me. Some people are just derivatives of other people, stock personalities coming out of the human conveyor belt, uninteresting in the way I imagine I must be. But a few stand out: fascinating humans who compel me to observe, like the three girls who piled into the bus at Obalende and sat behind me on Saturday.

They wore clothing that strained against their youth. One sat and two lapped themselves. One pleaded with another in Yoruba, telling her she was sorry.

“Let us go to Alhaji’s place,” she said.

The friend replied, “You can go, I’m not going.”

She pleaded again, “I am sorry.”

They repeated this sequence as more people hauled their bodies into the bus. I took a bite of Gala and a swig of Lucozade Boost.

“I said I’m sorry,” she began again.

The third friend was silent throughout this exchange.

The reluctant friend finally gave in, “Okay, we can go.”

Who is Alhaji? Why is the need to visit him this strong a few minutes past 6pm? It bothers me that there is a whole swathe of human experience and emotions I do not have access to. It bothers me that this bothers me.

As we sped along Third Mainland Bridge, the girl who had been pleading so she could visit Alhaji received a call and spoke to a guy who, from what I could gather, was expecting her.

“I’m at home now,” she told him.

She spoke in heavily accented English with some hesitation, which shows the speaker has the basic vocabulary for fluent communication in English, but is actively translating from Yoruba in her mind.

At Oworonsoki, the trio started a Yoruba Christian song, the kind that choristers in long robes chant enthusiastically to the rhythm of gangan. There was so much cheer in the girls’ voices, and they giggled intermittently as we moved on to Oshodi. There, I alighted from the bus and took the overhead bridge. I looked down and saw the three girls walk towards Ilupeju.

I hope one day to have the courage to ask these people for their stories. I want their stories told with care and empathy, in a way that will make me see them, as they are, not just as the world labels them. I hope, somewhere at the end of their journey, there is someone waiting for them who calls them Imzadi* in a way that is not predatory.

____________

*In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Will Riker, Deanna Troi’s love interest, calls her Imzadi, which translates roughly, in the Betazed language as Beloved. It is what she called him the first time they met.

Alhaji: a Muslim (man) who has been to Mecca on pilgrimage; often the title connotes that the bearer is wealthy.

 

©Ife Nihinlola 2015 @ IfeOluwa’s Rambles
Ife is an avid observer of life in metropolitan Lagos, which he translates into rich ruminations on his blog. Read the unabridged version here.

Photo credit: Owonronsoki by Logor Olumuyiwa

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Along Came Fences

fences

We lived in a compound of three flats and a boys’ quarter in Ago Okota, Lagos. Ours was a fenced compound, sort of in the middle of nowhere, last on the street and separated from other buildings by an expansive gulf of undeveloped plots of land overgrown with weeds.

A single mother and her three kids lived in the boys’ quarter. Her first son was my age-mate and friend. When I think back to those formative years, I remember the resolute cooperation of two nine-year-old boys who decided to make a bench from abandoned formwork lying about an uncompleted building close by.

For days, we slaved to make a three-legged bench that a parent bought for N10. My friend and I always watched with pride as our siblings and parents sat on the bench in the evenings. We made another, which I marketed to a relative, selling it for N5. I walked for half a kilometre with the bench on my head to deliver it. While making those benches, a rusted nail pierced through my left foot. My mom took me to a nearby clinic to have me treated. The bill was N200.

When we moved to Kaduna, only two houses on our street were fenced—ours and another one down the lane. Our gate was the opaque border bounded by four high walls decorated at the top with broken bottles.

Despite my love for accessing that side of solitude that engages with written words, the part of me forever enslaved to fantasy fed fat on cartoons and I hungered to bring the adventures scripted in them to life. So, during my teenage years, the call of the streets drew me past our gate, to a circus of street hockey, boris, hunting traps, bangers, suwe , and games of catcher with many other children. As dusk fell, I would reluctantly retreat from the big compound that was our street to the confines of the opaque gate.

In the space of two decades, every house on my street has grown a fence. The ‘big compound’ has shrunk away from the backyards, front yards, and trees, which were common property supporting the imaginative expressions of every kid. The evening bustle of legs and screams have vanished. Moreover, kids have now been tamed by big and small screens that keep nagging them, demanding every bit of their attention.

My village is different. Even today, there are no fences. Solitude is alien and greetings and communal assistance are prized. People do not distance themselves from the identity and stories of others who live around the corner.

Fenced houses and gated communities are the norm in cities. We insulate ourselves to feel secure. However, I maintain the premise of one of my favourite lecturers who is a past president of the Nigerian Institute of Architects: the best form of security is communal and that happens when there is a sense that anyone could be watching a thief from a nearby window.

 

© Samuel Okopi 2016
samuelokopi.com

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Rethinking Motherhood

Rethinking Motherhood

I

She volunteered at an orphanage in Lagos, driven by her need for a baby. It was symbiotic; the babies also needed a mother. She changed diapers, fed, and held them. She sang quietly to them, tears welling up in her eyes as it receded from theirs. The way they hungered for her touch and cocked their heads to make eye contact with her legitimized her hunger for a child. Her time with them pacified but did not satisfy her hunger. She wanted her own child.

As a single woman in her thirties, legal adoption isn’t an option for her. According to the Family Law code in Lagos State, women below forty-five years don’t meet the criteria for adoption. The law is not her only constraint: culture frowns on single motherhood and her religion is negatively silent about it.

She gave up volunteering after a few visits because a couple adopted the child of her heart.  Although she knew they would do well by the girl, she was heartbroken and reported ill at work the next Monday. She spent the day wetting her pillows, stung by the loneliness that comes with being single and the childlessness that compounds it.

She is not alone. There is a growing demography of single women in their forties and fifties who may never marry or may be past their reproductive years before they get a chance at motherhood.  Should marriage or a steady male presence always be the precursor to motherhood without exception?

The absence of marriage does not take away the longing for motherhood. Ask the forty-five-year-old woman who never married and woke up to the onset of menopause or the thirty-eight year old who found out she has endometriosis.  Ask your friend who was married for fifteen years and lost her husband three weeks to their IVF procedure. Ask your grand-aunt who is divorced from a childless marriage and never remarried.

While adoption laws tend to restrict eligibility for single women, assisted reproductive options are more open towards them. For instance, a woman in her thirties can elect to have a child through ICSI or IVF. But often she won’t. Culture and religion make this taboo for her. Should they?

If we dare think beyond what we have always known, even within the confines of religion and culture, we may find space in our hearts for the unconventional mother.

Ideally, children need a mother and father figure to strengthen their socialization, but our world is far from ideal. We wouldn’t think of taking away a widow’s children because they would grow up without a father figure. We applaud the man who raises his child alone because his wife left him. We recognize that their children brighten their worlds.

Why then do we think less of a mature single woman who chooses to be a mother on her terms? Will motherhood through assisted reproductive options make single women lesser mothers or does it challenge our thinking about motherhood and families?

Step back and look a little closer.

Perhaps if these women were to choose between marriage and motherhood, motherhood would trump.

Abiodun Baiyewu is a lawyer and a human rights activist with a strong interest in medical jurisprudence and reproductive health. She is married and the mother of rambunctious toddler.

 

II

From childhood, many girls are programmed for nurture and they role-play motherhood with their dolls and toys. Their maternal instinct heightens as they grow older and wish to have families. Having children is a dream realized which brings them happiness. Anguished longing therefore afflicts the woman whose dream hasn’t come true as the end of her best reproductive years come into view.

But, is the purpose of having children to quiet the legitimate cry of a woman’s womb? Is it to assuage the loneliness that accompanies being a single woman? Then married or single women who have children would have ceased to grapple with loneliness and be living in contentment utopia by now.

In ‘rethinking motherhood’, two words raise concerns: longing and choice. Longing as a precursor to choice can be a shaky foundation. Longing is usually sustained by focus. If focus changes, what then? If we exercise our choice to satiate every longing, where would that leave us? Which yardstick do we validate or invalidate longing by?

Longing ebbs and flows. Longing that gathers momentum and threatens to overflow its banks one day, is the calm river that grants many boats safe passage the next. Like you, I have longed for something or someone until I thought my heart would burst. And like you, I have learnt to live and thrive with longing unmet.

Some have called ours, the ME generation. My life; my choice, are four words, which can be reduced to one: selfie, because the underlying assumption is that I am the only one in the picture. But choice reverberates like ripples. Our decisions have consequences we may not perceive because the time differential between choice and outcome prevents us from connecting the dots.

For example, can we rethink motherhood without rethinking fatherhood? What about the forty-year-old man who wants to adopt a twelve-year-old girl because he could not find a woman to marry and build a family with? Or the older man who wants a surrogate womb to carry his own child? Does maternal instinct trump paternal instinct? Society is evolving and choice experiments, driven by longing are giving birth to what was once considered unconventional families around the world.

Law, culture, and religion have been put forward as impediments to being a single mother by choice in the Nigerian context. Nigerian culture, steeped in patriarchy and communal living, seems to be antithetical to what at first glance appears like an independent and individualistic lifestyle for a woman.

Religion may pose the question: what is the optimal order for family regardless of the conditions that exist in an imperfect world like sickness, spousal death, or abandoned children? It may argue that it is one thing to accommodate a less than ideal situation; it is another to create one deliberately through choice.

In democratic societies, the law of the land is the will of the majority. In a sense, democratic institutions are custodians of choice. Democracy necessitates an educated citizenry for informed choice. This means asking even more questions and researching answers.

Should we rethink motherhood?

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Photo Credit: gilprata/ http://pixabay.com/en/baby-shoe-maternity-girl-child-666355/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hard pressed on every side

To understand Nigeria, you must appreciate how religion colours every aspect of our lives and infiltrates nearly every conversation. There is a god of Nigeria, he is the carrot and the stick, and the final bs, that’s bus stop, by the way.

“Like soap that glides through wet hands, we use religion to evade the grasp of accountability time after time. From Aso Rock to Ajegunle, religion is courted, invoked, and brandished as if it is a determinant of GDP and as if, according to Karl Marx, it is the opium of the people!”

Tolu Talabi aka Naijarookie, doesn’t get enough credit for making me laugh. I hope you’ll laugh as well, and if you’re like me, untangle the many levels of ‘spirituality’ unfolding in his tale. Enjoy!

 

Originally posted on Nigerian Newcomer

Most of the businesses in Nigeria have an office gofer. Someone who can run errands for the staff, pick up food, clean a spill, make a cup of tea. Usually this person has an official designation, they might be the security guard or the cleaner. But when they aren’t opening gates, they hang around and wait to be summoned.

The person who does this at my office is a girl called Esther who is always taking days off to write exams. She would say, “I won’t be around next week, I’m travelling to Ibadan to do WAEC.” Or “I have JAMB on Saturday, I have to attend lesson.” You’ll see her sitting in the corner reading Literature-in-English past questions, or squinting at an Accounting textbook. One day it was a Chemistry practicals textbook, I had to ask.

She laughed, “Haha, all these subjects? It’s not for me, I’m doing the exam for other people.”

View original 628 more words.

 

Related Posts on Lively Twist:

By God’s Grace

Your Enemies Shall Never Succeed

Mommie Dearest

Others:

The Business of Worship by Jide Odukoya: It is hard to reflect objectively on the proliferation of Churches in Nigeria. View original photo commentary with 192 more words.

Gods Were to Blame by Samuel Okopi

 

Sango by Tobi 'Leftist' Ajiboye

All the lessons of history in four sentences: Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with power. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small. The bee fertilizes the flower it robs. When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. – Charles A. Beard

 

 

“Who dares Oyo?”

Sango’s fingers quaked as he rose from his seat. A palace guard had come with news that frightened his household but angered him.

“Who dares my beloved Oyo?” Sango asked again with a louder voice, his face squeezed to a frown, his eyes eager to escape the prison that held them.

Everyone in the palace shifted back.

“I will destroy this oyinbo god!” said Sango, as he raced to the skies.

From the embrace of the lower clouds, Sango saw Poseidon, an oyinbo god so mighty that when he moved, the sea swirled around his body like wrapper shaking in the wind. Poseidon held a trident with which he guided the clouds above the sea into a thunderstorm easily uprooting palm trees outside the city walls. He advanced from the middle of the sea, lashing the waters with his massive frame.

Sango trembled. Where did such a god journey from? What does it desire?

Poseidon roared and the earth shook.

Olorun did not mold Sango with fear!” Sango spat out the words through trembling lips.

The upper clouds swirled faster around Sango’s outstretched double-headed axe. As the master of thunder, the knowledge that another being sought the obedience of heaven’s light and sound enraged him. Fear shrunk into a still prisoner bound by the shackles of his rage.

“White god, listen! You shall burn! The waters shall do nothing to stop your white skin becoming like the terrible blackness of night. You shall disappear as ash to the skies!”

When Poseidon’s eyes caught Sango, he roared all the more in the foreign tongue and mounted the sea horses formed of the tidal waves. Soon, he was by the beach. Poseidon had not crossed the palm forests by a man’s twenty paces when Sango swung his axe and struck him with a stream of lightning.

All of Oyo Kingdom and beyond heard the terrible groan of the oyinbo god as he crashed into the sea. Warriors ran into their huts ahead of their wives. Children bumped into themselves as they pursued their mothers’ loosening wrappers. The scent of death had never been this pungent in Oyo.

In the palace, Sango’s three wives, Osun, Oya, and Oba, huddled in the inner chamber, quivering.

“Olorun, spare us and our Kabiyesi o!” said Osun, whose beauty and excellent cooking kept Sango’s deep love for her aflame through all seasons. Wraps of amala she had prepared for him lay on the floor of the main chamber, their roundness deformed to the jaggedness of mountain ranges. The hot ewedu soup she had placed beside the amala stained the floor like stubborn patches of grass.

Every member of the royal household crouched in hiding, counting their heartbeat and the painful seconds before the oyinbo god’s groan would resound. Instead, the faint sound of Sango chanting praises of his exploits in battle, streamed in from the skies.

The palace guards rose first, following the distant sound, shedding their fear with each footfall. They moved into the courtyard and sighted Sango in the clouds, and then they shouted, singing the great victory songs of old. The palace drummer struck the batá twice, swung around, and then moved his hands faster and faster over the batá. Osun, Oya, and Oba’s legs received strength and their hips swung left, right, left, as they chorused with the guards.

 

Who amongst beasts and men can stand the fire in Kabiyesi’s eyes?

Will a god beside Olorun do battle with Kabiyesi?

Ah, Kabiyesi, master of thunder!

The god that brightens the earth with his eyes.

The one that chews iron and bathes with fire.

Our lord with eight eyes guiding heaven, eight more ruling earth.

Our king who makes Oyo people snore in a thunderstorm!

Kabiyesi, master of thunder, Olorun made you perfect!

 

Sango smiled as tributes from the lips of hundreds of thousands dwelling in Oyo kingdom ascended to his ears. He descended towards his people, his brown loincloth swaying in the wind as he danced to the intoxicating beat of the batá.

Midway between earth and sky, the earth began to tremble. Poseidon’s roar arose from the sea and saturated the skies, sucking in the joyful noise of victory swimming in the air. When Sango turned to behold Poseidon, a mighty ball of water hit his frame and flung him towards Egbaland where he crashed on Olumo Rock, the great rock revered all over Egbaland. It shattered at once into boulders that flew out and crushed many houses and people.

From where his swift flight ended, Sango pushed aside the tree trunk straddled across his torso and jumped to his feet.  His mouth was bitter from the memory of his humiliating crash. Seeing Poseidon advancing towards Oyo, even if with a burnt arm, turned Sango into a mad man. Wrath stole his words. Pain summoned his axe. When it came, he stuck it in the air and flashed his iron teeth at the sun.

Thunder knew its true master.

“Olorun! I am the greatest god after you!” Sango said, his eyes aflame as he channelled ten years of thunder towards Poseidon.

***

Poseidon’s ashes travelled as far as Timbuktu. The great walls of Oyo crumbled to dust. Not one living thing survived.

“Oloooooruuuuuuuuuun!” Sango cried to the heavens, the fire in his eyes humbled to tears streaking his cheeks.

“Oloooooruuuuuuuuuun!  Olodumareeeeeeeh! Why did you not tame my anger!”

Sango sank to his knees. Osun’s enchanting smile flashed before him and with it came the memory of the sweet-smelling amala and ewedu she had prepared for him.

“Aaaah!”

Sango bowed his head and wept like a man. For two days his knees remained with the ground and his lips did not part. When he stood to his feet, he walked for seven days never stopping until he vanished into the sea.

No god ever saw Sango again.

 

© Samuel Okopi 2014

samuelokopi.com

 

Oyinbo: Pidgin. Usually, a person of Caucasian descent.

Olorun: The supreme god of the Yoruba pantheon in its manifestation as the ruler of the heavens. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olorun

Kabiyesi: Majesty, Royal Highness. He whose words are beyond questioning.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highness 

Batá: A double-headed drum shaped like an hourglass with one cone larger than the other. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batá_drum

 

Image Credit

Sango’s Rage by Tobi ‘Leftist’ Ajiboye

Twitter & Instagram: @leftistxx

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Love for Country and Other Drugs

Love 4 Country & Other Drugs

Because of Nigeria, I’ve been accused of false optimism, “How can you hope for change when we keep doing the same things?” I’ve also been accused of Elitist Patriotic Syndrome, a type of patriotism that conveniently lives abroad and so doesn’t wash its hands in the muddy river of change. But how do you bury love for country? Where are its roots that I may pluck it?

Looking ahead to Nigeria’s Independence Day, three writers and I wonder if hope can be reinvented.

Education is Training the Mind to Think

Desmond Tutu, in one of his stories said, “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” I wonder why we prayed with both eyes closed. And who helped the white man steal the slaves that crouched in the belly of the whale on the way to the plantations in America? Tell me who? The white man has gone and Africans stagger, drunk from the rich red of millions that flowed in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria.

I am glad the white man came to Nigeria and brought education with him1. One day, a friend visited a motherless baby’s home to inform the administrators that he was committed to educating two kids as far as they wanted to go. Starved of funds, they greeted the news with glee and asked him to pick the two kids. As he looked at the kids, his heart ached because choosing one meant rejecting another, but his pocket was simply not wide enough. The administrators chose for him, they chose their brightest two. Two plus two equals eight. Four plus four equals thirty-two.

I have dreamt of the past. Show me the future that I may live the present.

Education can teach us to read and write, appraise and solve, question and answer, and chew and spit. It is why I want to write prose with the eloquence of Chimamanda Adichie and the humanity of Chimeka Garricks, that another generation can read stories of hope and redemption, and pray with both eyes open.

The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant. – Maximilien Robespierre –

Timi Yeseibo @ Livelytwist

  1. “History rediscovered – Emeka Keazor at TEDxEuston” YouTube video, posted by “TEDx Talks,” on February 21, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN3hCjbA_dw 

 

Humans of Nigeria

It was Christmas Eve, and we expected the roads to be free. We drove past Iyana Ipaja roundabout and entered one of those traffic jams that force you to turn off the AC, roll down the windows, and watch pedestrians cover distances you won’t in hours.

Suddenly the traffic began to melt as engines sprung to life. A tall man in combat trousers was swinging his arms and giving directions to relieved drivers. Sweat glued his muscles to his khaki t-shirt and outlined them. He had a broad smile on his face—an antithesis of Nigerian work culture.

On our roads, police officers pounce on naïve drivers who miss one-way road signs or waylay bus drivers for fifty Naira notes. The police are not alone. The prevailing mindset is that no matter how hard we try, we have nothing to gain from our jobs. We work without a sense of ownership, purpose, or dignity. Oga ta, oga o ta, owo alaaru o pe1. Na lie! Our work is a reflection of who we are, and the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

The exceptions are the Humans of Nigeria, like the soldier who volunteered as an impromptu traffic warden and the doctor whose diligence prevented a national Ebola tragedy. They worked with verve and took charge. Like pebbles thrown in water, the ripple effect transcended their original goals. The government may never give them national awards, but they are the reason Nigeria is not a complete hell.

IfeOluwa Nihinlola @ ifenihinlola.wordpress.com

  1. Oga ta, oga o ta, owo alaaru o pe: (Yoruba) whether the boss makes profit or not, the labourer’s wage will be intact.

 

A History of Industry

After World War II devastated Japan, the island country underwent a rapid industrialization that surprised the world. The Japanese Miracle happened because strong leadership inspired a diligent citizenry, the threat of scant natural resources notwithstanding.

Did something else influence this phenomenal comeback?

I discovered that the world’s oldest company is a Japanese construction company founded over 1400 years ago. Japan rules the list of world’s oldest companies, a sustainable culture of industry perpetuated in the soul of a nation for centuries.

A careful consumption of Nigerian history reveals a similar culture of industry. Gigantic groundnut pyramids once drew tourists and business tycoons from all over the world to northern Nigeria. These pyramids were the brainchild of Alhassan Dantata who became West Africa’s richest man. Generations later, his great-grandchild is one of the richest black men on the planet.

Stretching further back in time, beginning from around 800 A.D., powerful rulers of Benin Kingdom in southern Nigeria, successively oversaw the construction of what became the world’s longest earthworks; city walls that reached an astonishing 16,000 kilometres.

Nigeria can bring about her own miracle if we unify the legacies of industry spawned by our various cultures under strong and visionary leadership at all levels.  Moreover, we cannot forget that unlike Japan, we have an unbelievable wealth of resources waiting anxiously for a call to service. Will you give the call?

Samuel Okopi @  samuelokopi.com

 

The List

Four years ago, I moved back to Nigeria with many preconceptions that prevented me from being as happy as I could have been. I know now that I know nothing about Nigeria, but I also know that I know more than I did before and I will know more tomorrow. Everything I’ve learned is in this list, which I will patent as, Simple Rules for Visiting or Returning Nigerians, and Maybe Locals too.

1) No one wants to hear you complain

If you have a sob story after a month’s stay, how many sad stories do you think people who live here have? Twenty, fifty, uncountable?

2) You don’t have the magic solution

People who begin their sentences with, “You know what the problem with this country is . . . ,” make me roll my eyes. No I don’t know, eminent genius, tell me what the problem is!

3) You can’t be tired of this country

Nigeria has problems. You proved that by leaving. Don’t throw your hands up at every challenge you face. Remember when your mother embarrassed you in public and you thought, oh God, I need new parents? How did that work out for you?

Here like elsewhere in the world, your task is not complicated: be a decent person and be decent to other people, whether in molue or presidential motorcade. Good leaders come from caring people, and I now know I belong at the starting line.

If you find the list above disagreeable, you can opt for the Babalawo1 Price List (medicine man’s potions):

BUSINESSMAN  PACKAGE                              ₦60,000

Super Business boom

No double cross*

Success job contract

No more promise and fail

*Stops people from double-crossing you. Does not prevent you from double-crossing.

 

LANDLORD PACKAGE                                    ₦50,000

Command tone / Do as I say (tablet, grind into water or dissolve in mouth)

Win court case

Reveal enemy+

Silent Rich

+Only reveals enemy, does not destroy them. For complete, also buy Destroy enemy from A LA Carte menu. Can combine.

 

ROMANCE PACKAGE                                    ₦35,000

Love only me (potion)

Go all night

Easy to satisfy**

Avoid divorce***

**Do not combine with No more promise and fail.

List continues here

Tolu Talabi @ naijarookie.wordpress.com

  1. Babalawo: (Yourba) an Ifa priest, who ascertains the future of his clients via divination. Loosely used to refer to native doctors.

 

 

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Love Languages of Nigerians

Love Language Nigeria

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.”

“God forbid!”

 

“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

 

TalkLikeaNigerian

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Image credits:

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In Defense of Satire

“[I]n whatever department of human expression, wherever there is objective truth there is satire.” Wyndham Lewis in Rude Assignment

 

satire cartoons

To write this post, I read about the origin of satire, about Aristophanes (c. 446 BC – c. 386 BC ), a Greek comic playwright, and the Roman poet Horace (65 BC – 8 BC), whose works inspire and form the model for writing modern-day satire. But sha, na dem sabi, I know that I know that I know that satire originated in Nigerian culture. How do I know?

After I ran across a road without a zebra crossing or traffic lights or a pedestrian bridge, just missing that crazy driver who sped out of nowhere, a woman selling oranges by the roadside exclaimed, “You dey craze? You wan kill persin?” so I turned around to look at the yeye driver who’d almost cut my young life short, and then realised she was talking to me.

She could have blasted the government for not providing infrastructure. She could have cursed the driver for failing to observe common-sense speed limit. The irony was that she chose me as the subject of her satire. She exaggerated my role as a potential killer, exposed me to ridicule with her loud gesticulations, and criticized my lack of judgement. And the humour? Well, here I am writing this piece and laughing retroactively, twenty years too late.

You can describe the human condition with white chalk on a blackboard, spacing your letters evenly and clearly, but people may yawn and rub their eyes after a while. You can show how the problems of the world are at once “un”trivialized and brought into sharp focus by employing irony, exaggeration, and/or humour, and people may stay up late to watch the show. This is satire and provoking change, if only in a shift in thinking, is the endgame.

Satire’s overtness, sometimes camouflaged by its subtlety and silent sophistication, is blended into much of what we watch and read, but is often overlooked because we appreciate these works for their entertainment value only. Perhaps the authors want to make people laugh before they make them think.

The #BringBackOurGirls campaign focuses on the serious business of finding and freeing the over 200 girls kidnapped from a Nigerian secondary school in Chibok. While we are still lighting candles for them, questions surrounding the culpability of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the legality of the first lady’s “tribunal” and the state of security in Nigeria, especially in the light of recent bomb attacks, continue to make rounds on social media.

It is the cartoons and videos, not the essays, expressing the general mood of the country that have captured my attention the most. I see these works as satires. Some of the media that zoom in on the Nigerian first lady’s perceived gaffes, have come under attack, because satire can be misunderstood when we view these works for their ridicule value alone. Perhaps the authors want to shock people first and then make them think.

 

“Satire is a mirror where beholders generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” Jonathan Swift

satire in cartoons

Politics and satire live on the same street. However, I cannot imagine that President Obama, or any other president pouts and refuses breakfast because of a political cartoon splashed on the front page of a newspaper. This is not to say that satire cannot be a demeaning and horrifying personal attack, the pendulum can swing to any extreme, but I’m referring to satire, which has as its greater purpose constructive social criticism to further dialogue and/or action.

 

Uneasy the head that bears the crown

politics 101

 

As a child, I had frequent bouts of malaria. At my mother’s insistence, not only did I have to wait until the smell of sheltox faded into the walls of my room, but I also had to sleep under a white mosquito net. Once every few months I would stand in front of her under the dim inquisition lights of our verandah, hands outstretched as she placed three tablets of Camoquin in my palm one after the other.

“Swallow it quickly with your Fanta,” she would goad.

I was never fast enough. After taking a sip of Fanta, the Camoquin would begin to melt in the fizzy oasis that was my mouth. I would shut my eyes tight as I swallowed the mixture. After I swallowed the third tablet, the half-empty bottle of Fanta was my reward. I rushed the orange liquid, willing it to eliminate every trace of the bitter Camoquin. After this ritual, my body would stave off malaria for a few months.

This in my view is satire at its best; mix the bitter with the sweet to move society to a better place. When this era is over and the dust settles, the videos, the cartoons, and slangs coined, will be reminders that truth was once too hard to swallow.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Cartoon credits:

Mike Asukwo

Mike Asukwo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asukwo

Mike Asokwo on Twitter: @Asukwoeb

 

Khaki no be Leather http://t.co/MAWGvUpCeq

Business as Usual http://t.co/90N6BMfUqu

We, the Experts http://t.co/PeuA19Zsmg

The Eagle has landed https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203949665842578&set=pcb.10203949674762801&type=1&theater

JTF-Joint Task Family https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204006243536985&set=pcb.10204006243736990&type=1&theater

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.