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.

Race, Ethnicity, Prejudice, and Attitudes

Race

When the first strains of light filter through my curtains, my mind leaves my dreams to form coherent thought. I do not think of race, I rarely do.

I am aware of the colour of my skin. How could I not be? My foundation is a blend of mocha and caramel, my blush dark rose, my lipstick red, because I can pull it off. I am aware of the colour of my skin. How could I not be? I hug “white” people loosely and blow three kisses on either cheek, so I don’t stain them with my brown powder.

But when we get down to work and play and life, beyond enunciating my words with care and observing cultural nuances to accommodate the diversity in my world, I am Timi, a person with much to offer from the height of my intellect to the depth of my experience, and the width of my achievements.

Nigeria has at least 100 ethnic groups. In the state where I grew up, the evening news was broadcasted in four local languages, but I listened to the official English version because I didn’t understand any Nigerian language. My parents hail from two different minority ethnic groups and my friends from the unity school I attended reflect the federal character the federal government emphasized—Amina from the north, Ronke from the west, Chidinma from the east, Asabe from the middle belt, Onome from the mid-west, Ibinabo from the Niger Delta.

So, I did not wonder about race or racism when I moved to The Netherlands. Neither tribalism nor sexism in Nigeria, had clipped the wingspan of my dreams or that of my mother before me. We had defied the boundaries of other “isms” with who we are and what we believe, that excellence would eventually inspire people and remove barriers.

Since language, ethnicity, and race bonds people, and language in particular is like Super Glue, I sometimes find myself on the outside looking in. The English, Moroccans, Surinamese, Dutch, Africans, Turks, Americans, etc, live and socialise within their enclaves. Among the Africans, subdivisions exist for people from south, north, east, or west Africa. More subdivisions based on country, and even more subdivisions based on ethnicity within a country exist. People tend to gravitate to what is familiar and comfortable and inadvertently perhaps, exclude others.

On the other hand, many have moved beyond these confines and discovered that diversity makes for a rich tapestry and the threads of that tapestry are equal in value no matter their colour or ethnicity.

I suppose expat life abroad insulates one from common racism both in the way it is meted out and received. Once I was with a friend who drove a car with diplomatic licence plates when the police stopped us. I watched as she answered the police, with the slight arrogance of one who has options.

I am aware that underneath the bridge that connects me to my better life lie the souls of men and women who died constructing the bridge. I am grateful that although Twelve Years a Slave makes me uncomfortable, after the credits, I can shiver, shrug, and enter my normal life. Racism is real, but it is not my default setting. I choose not to see it in every slight.

Prejudice has lived in human hearts for so long it has become a gene. I remember when I drove my son and his playdate home after school. They stumbled into this conversation after falling in and out of several others.

“My mum says I can play with black people, but I can’t marry them.”

I spied her cute blonde bangs from my rear view mirror. The longer locks framed her oval face and cascaded down her shoulders. I gripped the steering wheel tighter.

“But I don’t want to get married now,” my son replied.

“Oh good,” her giggles light like feathers, carried no malice.

I relaxed my grip as I realised it had never crossed my mind to date a white man. It was the unspoken taboo. Everyone in the town where I grew up knew that only certain types of girls did.

Often when people speak of racial prejudice, they talk as if it is unidirectional, forgetting the prejudice, which also lies in the hearts of its victims so that if power changed hands, new victims would emerge. Is this the real fear that makes one race dominate another—get ‘em before they get us?

Knowledge and courage may be antidotes to prejudice. A desire to investigate the world beyond our nose and the guts to live in peace in it.

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

p.s. My blog sister Holistic Wayfarer, who has written several eye-opening posts on Race, inspired this post.

Forgive me Motunrayo, I Want to Sin

night

Sola remained quiet even though it was her turn to speak. As each second ticked away, I adjusted my expectations from support to understanding.

 
“It’s not done. Bimpe, it’s simply not done. Blood is thicker than water . . .”

 
“But we are not related by blood—”

 
“Who said anything about his blood? I’m talking about Motunrayo, your younger sister!”

 
She hissed the way our mothers used to. The way we said we would never do.

 
“Have you?” Her voice was soft. Her eyes were hard.

 
“No o! What kind of person do you think I am?”

 
“I don’t know. Love makes people do stupid things.” She spat the word love as though it was bitter kola.

 
“Well, I haven’t!”

 
“Keep your legs closed and run as fast as you can.”

 
I tried to make her see that love could be sweet like chilled ripe mango slices. For two hours her eyes remained hard, the way my father’s and mother’s had been two days ago.

 
Finally, Sola shook her head and said, “Bimpe, love is not enough. Are you forgetting where we come from?”

 

 
I returned to my flat at 10 p.m., took two tablets of Paracetamol, and whispered for sleep to come. My phone rang.

 
“So, what happened?”

 
“Segun, it didn’t go very well.” I fluffed my pillows, sat up, and took a deep breath. “She said I was there to look after my sister not look after her husband. That it might even look like we conspired to kill her—”

 
“God forbid! I’m sorry . . .”

 
“I’m tired.”

 
“We can’t let other people dictate our lives. What we have is real.”

 
“Is it?”

 
“You don’t mean that—”

 
“I don’t know again. I still think it’s too soon. She just died six months ago!”

 
“How long do we have to wait? One year, two years, ten years? What if they never come round? I survived cancer. I narrowly missed that plane crash. I survived the accident. I feel like I’ve cheated death ten times. Bimpe, life is short.”

 
“Hmmm . . .”

 
“Say something . . . please.”

 
“Some days I feel good. Some days I don’t. If Motunrayo is looking down on us, would she approve?”

 
“We’ve been through this a million times! She wanted me to remarry—”

 
“But did she want you to marry me?”

 
“Life is for the living. She wanted me to be happy. I’m happy. Aren’t you?”

 
“But everybody can’t be wrong!”

 
“Who is everybody? We don’t have to stay here. I told you I have an offer . . . we can move to—”

 
“Didn’t you hear my mother? She said it doesn’t matter where we go, bad luck will follow us and blow us like wind; we will never have roots!”

 
“Please stop crying.”

 
“I can’t. My father threatened to disown me! You don’t know what it’s like. Your parents are dead and your uncles worship the ground you walk on.”

 
“I’m sorry.”

 
“Let’s wait. I have so much to lose . . .”

 
“That’s not true.”

 
“Really? Listen to how it sounds, ‘He married his late wife’s sister’. Okay, what of, ‘She married her late sister’s husband’?”

 
Segun sighed, “Okay. How long?”

 

 
We waited another six months during which time, my father spoke to me twice, scowling as he did. Segun took the job abroad and relocated. I convinced him that we should cut off all communication to test the strength of our love. He did not like my gamble, but I needed to know if grief had masqueraded as love.

 
I waited for my feelings to go away. They left and returned with gale force. His absence made me weaker, made my love stronger, and my resolve tougher, so that when we finally reunited, l threw myself at him and he kissed me in the hotel lobby, not caring if any of the people shuffling through life might recognise us. I felt their eyes when I kissed him back. We broke away as we became conscious of their whistles.

 
He took my palm, “Feel my heart, it’s racing for you.”

 
I took his hand, “Feel mine too.”

 
We did not consult anyone after that. For the next three months, we made plans for me to join him like children whispering, “sssh, sssh,” in the dark. The day before I was to travel, I called my mother because she had said, “I don’t approve. If you marry Segun, your father will live as if he has no child left. As for me, I have lost one child. I cannot lose the other. I will always be your mother.”

 
I thought she would weep, but her voice trembled as she said, “Se je je oko mi.”

 
That evening, I ordered room service and pushed the omelette around the plate, then cut it to pieces. Nervous, I stood by the eleventh-floor window and watched ants clear the pool area for the live band. The first strains of the piano reminded me that my feet were cramping. I sat on the bed, leaned back on the headrest, pulled my knees to my chin, and wondered if black was an appropriate colour for darkness.

 
The twenty-four-hour wait seemed longer than the last two months of Motunrayo’s life. One day, when I visited her, I placed my mouth close to her ear as she dragged out the words, “After I’m gone, make sure he marries again. But not someone prettier than me.” I am prettier than my sister is and she grew up in the shadow of my beauty. Did she see Segun’s love for me and mine for him spark, although we did not, during the long days we spent waiting for hope and battling sadness?

 
One night I walked in on him keeping vigil by her side. I noticed how handsome he was and thought how lucky she was to have him. Because I have been unlucky in love, I wondered how it would feel to be loved by a man like him. Was that when I jumped off the diving board into the heart-shaped pool? I fell for Segun while Motunrayo was dying not after her death.

 
Crying, I called my mother again.

 
“Mummy, it’s me. Please soften the ground for me. Tell Daddy I have come to my senses. Tell him I am coming home.”

 
She said, “Ose oko mi!”

 

 
©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

 

Se je je oko mi – be careful my child
Ose oko mi – thank you my child

 

 

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.

 

 

Image credit:
City by Jenifer Cabrera@CreationSwap: http://www.creationswap.com/media/12111

This is How We Do It

queue

Life is a series of waiting. From the doctor’s office to the travel agency, from the dentist to the foreign embassy, we queue, tapping our feet, until we are served. Smart businesses turn waiting into a pastime. Forget glossies and car magazines. Forget coffee, tea, sweeteners, and creamers. Nothing like free Wi-Fi to eat up fifteen minutes of eternal boredom.

Yet, at supermarkets or self-service restaurants, Wi-Fi, and even 3G or 4G seldom come to our rescue for transaction speed is paramount.  We depend on tacit rules of queuing to bear our collective suffering and for smooth passage. For example, the loud disapproval of waiting-weary law-abiding citizens dispenses instant justice to queue-jumpers while attendants uphold the  people’s verdict. Those in a hurry don’t have to be doomed to sighing, hissing, time watching, and eye rolling. They just need to approach the Queue Court of Appeal comprising all or some of the people they intend to bypass.

I returned to Nigeria with this mindset. So, when I went to a fast-food takeout, I ignored the people milling at the counter and joined what seemed like a funnel-shaped queue. It didn’t move. This was what happened: people walked in, went straight to the counter, placed their orders, were served, and walked away. Did they have a smirk as they strode out with their prize or was that my waiting-weary imagination?

Anyway, I queued on in faith, ignoring my daughter’s tug on my wrist. I glared at my son for daring to suggest that I muscle my way to the counter. I counted tiles on the ceiling when I noticed people looking at me as if I had dyed my hair lime green. But, the toughest battle by far was drowning out the soundtrack spinning in my head, “Mumu, mumu. Mumu, mumu. You are a big mumu.”

queue culture

I wore my long-suffering like a green-white-green badge until somehow, I found myself at the counter. Before I opened my mouth, a lady appeared and started placing her order. I expected the attendant to ignore Queue-jumper but she took her order instead.

“Didn’t you see me on the queue? It’s my turn.” I eyed the attendant and Queue-jumper.

“How was I to know that it’s your turn?” Queue-jumper replied, looking at me, and then at the attendant, “add moi-moi, three moi-moi . . .” She faced me again, “You’ve just been standing there slacking; I don’t know what you’ve been waiting for.”

Anger rose slowly from my heart to my mouth.

I went into a tirade about how long I had been queuing and why. I expounded on the demerits of organised disorganisation, dragging the name of the management into my argument and stating that they enabled people like her frustrate the system thereby killing any hope of excellence.

When I heard giggles behind me, I paused to view the effect of my words. Some people were snickering. My son was shuffling his feet and looking at the floor. My daughter was looking at me as if she didn’t know me. I forgave them instantly. What did they know about Nigeria besides the ogbono soup and poundo, which I regularly made while we lived abroad? And the objects of my wrath? One held a bag of fast food, the other, N500 bills, and an exchange was imminent.

Another attendant came to the counter, “Madam there’s no need to shout, if you want something, please just tell us.”

Anger left my mouth and lodged in my heart.

Days later, I saw a real queue in Shoprite at The Palms Mall, people waiting to buy bread. But a friend went to the corner and gave an attendant N200 to jump the queue. Holding his N200 loaf of bread, he winked at me and said, “This is how we do it.” As he sauntered to the till, he bumped into a trolley that crashed into an aisle, causing canned goods to tumble to the floor, while those on the queue shifted their weight, dodging rolling cans.

Is this how we do it?

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Around the web: other perspectives

India: http://junaidkhalfay.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/indians-their-best/

Oh for the love of India: http://sunderv.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/the-ubiquitous-q-crashers/

Britain: http://prettyfeetpoptoe.com/2013/01/09/queuing-the-great-british-pastime/

Australia: http://infographiclist.com/2014/02/19/ever-lose-your-cool-in-a-queue-infographic-queue/

China: Hey! Can’t you see there’s a line here? Wait your turn! by Ryan Ulrich

http://www.globaltimes.cn/opinion/top-photo/2009-07/442510.html

 

 

Photo credits:

http://pixabay.com/en/bar-restaurant-feet-legs-people-238509/

 

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.

Social Critics and the Human Face of Activism

Dennis Brutus poetry

This isn’t about Reuben Abati; it’s about you and me. He is just the ham in the sandwich, the one whose treachery, his becoming a mouthpiece for a government he once challenged, the spotlight’s beam has caught.

What makes a man leak from both sides of his mouth? I pondered this question and found it difficult to throw stones. Pebbles maybe, for I don’t want to excuse actions, but understand them.

So, I imagine that I am a writer with strong opinions who has nailed the art of persuading others with my words. My words are pregnant with love for my country, a sense of justice, and concern for the plight of the ordinary man. When published they give birth to a stream of followers whose voice I become.

This voice makes me a fly perching on the government’s egusi soup, small yet irritating. Knowing that spraying Shelltox is an overkill, the government places another bowl of soup on the table. Enter seduction: moving pleas from emissaries in babarigas and boubous, a call to arms for my country, not with an AK47, but with my words.

This seduction, more pleasurable than a woman’s fingers kneading coconut oil in my loins, causes my heart to race as visions of power, affluence, and a platform for greater influence fill my mind. Thoughts of Babangida’s offer to Tai Solarin surface. Does it matter? I know I will make a difference. I will no longer merely itemise our problems with lengthy editorials.

And so, I resume my new job in Aso Rock. The first thing that slaps me is the ineptitude of those I work with. The second is the indifference of those to whom I am accountable. All my lofty ideas, received with fist pumps, translated into memos that have been circulating in a hierarchical system that bemuses me, have reached the ceiling and died there.

In six months, only cosmetic changes like the framing and hanging of our work ethics in every office are visible. Money is changing hands, but mine are clean so far. I am preoccupied with change and our meeting minutes reflect this even if those that attend, now openly yawn.

Soon, I must sell a policy that smells like dead fish to the people whose voice I am or was; I am not sure for I am losing who I am or was. By this time, my children are in the best private school in Abuja, my wife has a thriving import business patronised by senator’s wives, and I have laid the foundation for my house in the village. My convictions have clashed with duty before, but this time, the stakes are higher.

I do what I must and then I read the outcry on social media. Haba! This longing for heroism, this cry for a saviour, did I put it in people’s heart? This search for credibility, is it because their lives are so untrue? At least, I answered the call. What about them? Useless people firing tweets in between replying emails in some god-forsaken cubicle!

I scratch my belly and the ten kilos I have gained causes it to wobble. I roll my tongue over canines that once drew blood, now blunt from lack of use. Look, I cannot sit on a pile of human praise anyway, such fickle things to base affirmation upon. Hands that tweeted me to the top show no mercy. I am a high-rise set to detonate. Before them, I crumble to the dust.

As elections draw near, I angle myself right. My loyalty may fetch a ministerial appointment. If not, I will offer media houses an exposé with names and lists. In the middle of the Twitter wars and Facebook debates, I will metamorphose into my old skin, a social crusader, a voice for all who forgive and forget.

The government needs human capital to build the Nigeria we dream of. When you are called, how will you serve?

 

I saw Reuben Abati once at a writing workshop where he was a keynote speaker. He must have delivered a good speech, I don’t recall. I remember that he was dark, average height, ordinary like you and me, yes, like you and me.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

The poem by the South African activist, Dennis Brutus, addresses the conflict between love for one’s country and love for a woman. In it, I see also the conflict between heroism and self-preservation. African Soulja reviewed the poem here

Reuben Abati: Journalist and Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Goodluck Jonathan (2011 –  ).

Egusi soup: Popular soup made with melon seeds.

Shelltox: Brand of insecticide.

Babarigas and boubous: Traditional clothing. Used here to denote a custom where elders cajole one’s hesitant feet into a course of action.

Ibrahim Babangida: Military dictator (1985 – 1993).

Tai Solarin: Deceased. Social critic and secular humanitarian. Served as chairman of the Babangida Administration’s People’s Bank, but later resigned in protest of corruption within the bank.

Aso Rock: The residence and office of the Nigerian President.

 

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.

Your Enemies Shall Never Succeed

Your enemies shall never succeed

“It’s a lie! Your enemies will never succeed!”

“So after the prayer meeting . . .”

“Yes?”

“I took the holy water to the office.”

Eh hen?”

“I didn’t take all. I poured some into La Casera bottle—”

“You washed it first—”

“No o! Is that bad?”

“Hmmm, it would have been better to sanctify it, but well, it is well.”

“So, I got to work very early, before people started coming . . .”

Eh hen?”

“I entered my oga’s office and I started sprinkling the holy water. Then his secretary came in—”

“Bloooood of Jesus! She saw you?”

“No. I quickly hid the bottle behind my back.”

“Good . . . good.”

“She asked me if I was looking for the leadership presentation printouts.”

“I said, ‘Yes.’ She told me to check the cabinet and left.”

“Thank God!”

“I continued sprinkling the holy water, on the desk, under the desk, on the chair, on the computer. I even sprinkled some on the pictures of his wife and children. When I finished, I started marching round the desk, then the secretary popped her head through the door—”

“Your enemies shall not succeed!”

“Amen!”

Eh hen, what did she want?”

“She asked me if I had found it. I said, ‘Not yet—’”

“And then?”

“She said she would help me.”

“The water?”

“She asked me what it was. I said, ‘Nothing. Just drinking water—’”

“Your enemies will never succeed!”

“She asked me why I’ve been pouring it around the office.”

“Jesus! Jeeesus! . . . What did you say?”

“I said I wasn’t pouring it. She said I was lying that she had been watching me on the CCTV”

“CCTV ke?”

“Yes!”

“So what did you do?”

“We started arguing.”

“Your enemies shall never ever succeed! Eh hen?”

“Then I got angry and stormed out—”

“The holy water?”

“I . . . I . . . I left it there . . .”

“Sh*t!”

“Anyway, when I stepped out of the office, I saw people gathered round her computer.”

“Who? The secretary?”

“Yes! Someone was saying, ‘Rewind, rewind . . . ’”

“What were they watching?”

Leave mata. I wanted to pass quietly. But she shouted, ‘Stop him!’ Then everybody looked up and started laughing.”

“Don’t worry; it is not the end of the world—”

“That’s what I thought. Until the security grabbed me—”

“What?”

“I tried to struggle—”

“Jesus!”

“The other one tackled me to the floor. Then my oga—”

“Your boss? Where did he come from?”

“I don’t know. He told me not to struggle. That I should respect myself and pack my things and leave.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that. As I was packing, the security guards stood by me. They kept saying, ‘Oya hurry up!’”

“All hope is not lost. God works in mysterious ways. It is well.”

“As I was going to the lift, my oga was following me. He shouted, ‘Wait!’ So I turned.”

“Hmmm, what did he want again?”

“He said, ‘You are not the first and you will not be the last. My enemies shall never succeed!’ Then he pushed the holy water into my hands!”

“It’s a lie! Jesus!”

“What? What? . . . What is it?”

“Your enemies . . .  Osanobua! Your enemies, they have succeeded!”

 

©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.

 

Image credit: curtain vector: zcool.com.cn

font: Christopher Hand by El Stinger: http://www.dafont.com/christopherhand.font

font: Acid Label by Billy Argel: http://www.dafont.com/acid-label.font

design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Cellphomania

mobile phone

I have three mobile phones, so what? Of course, I have all my papers. How could I live and work in The Hague otherwise?

These phones, ah, in Nigeria, they felt neither heavy nor out of place when I laid them on the table in a restaurant, side by side, as if to compare their sizes.

Things have changed since I left Nigeria, they tell me. But I can only tell you what I know. That when my conversation with a friend ended because of network wahala, he called back on another network, blaming the earlier bad connection on heavy rainfall. That when I lived in Nigeria, rain was one reason I had three phones.

So that if rain melted one provider’s “wireless” wires, I could turn to another who might not be that unlucky. So that if lightning set one provider’s telecom mast ablaze, I could turn to others who could get their fire extinguishers ready on time. So that if Sango, thundered against South Africa’s MTN, I could turn to Glo, owned by a son of the soil, who might have been spared.

Network problems are rare here. These three phones? It’s a Naija thing. I am yet to meet any Nigerian at home or abroad who has less than two phones.

My first phone is my “official” phone. Friends call me on this number, as well as my boss, the tax office, the gas company, the police, telemarketers, and King Willem-Alexander. This phone from network operators like Vodafone, KPN, and T-Mobile, suffers one major limitation, which my second phone overcomes.

Because I call family and friends in Nigeria and the African continent from my second phone, the SIM card must come from Lyca, Lebara, Vectone, or Delight, providers that offer discount call rates to Africa. Any smart phone that accommodates Viber, WhatsApp, and the almighty BBM, will do because every Nigerian chats on BBM. Moreover, in Nigeria, exchanging BlackBerry PINs follows introductions and handshakes. Your blue eyes are widening; don’t you know what hyperbole is?

My third phone is the cheapest brand in the market. It’s only purpose is to rescue me. Imagine, if you can, that one day, you are in the Open Market, buying oxtail, shaki, cow leg, and real beef, from of all people, that Dutchman who eats vlees  that you cannot eat, but has a stall where Africans troop.

This inability to acculturate, to do something as simple as buying and eating meat from Albert Heijn after twelve years in The Netherlands is your undoing for you bump into your distant cousin in this little corner of Africa.

He calls you by your Nigerian name, daring you to ignore him. You both register your surprise and long-time-no-sees. You dribble the chit-chat past where you live to you will call him. His protest drowns out the sound of the Moroccan fruit vendor calling, “Bananen, vijf voor maar een euro!” How can he expect you to call him when you are his senior—did you not come to Europe before him? His oyibo neva reach dat level, abegi! He will call you.

You give him your third phone number. The number your mother gives to your secondary school friends because she does not require your permission to do so. The phone that you switch on when you need to make obligatory calls to relatives who think you pick gold off European streets for a living.

My dear, the phones on the table are mine and mine alone. I am not a 419, na so life be. If you still don’t understand, I will explain in the morning. Switch off the light and snuggle close to me, I like to hold you when we sleep.

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Wahala: (Nigerian Pidgin; perhaps of Hausa origin) Trouble or problem.

Sango: Yoruba god of thunder and lightning.

Vlees: (Dutch) Meat. Many African immigrants shun the “flat” meat in supermarkets, preferring the meat sold in Halal shops or the Open Market (oxtail, shaki, cow leg, etc.).

Albert Heijn: Dutch supermarket chain

His oyibo neva reach dat level, abegi: (Nigerian Pidgin) translates roughly to, living abroad has not made him forget his Nigerian roots or culture.

Open Market: Officially De Haagse Markt. It lies between Transvaal and Schilderswijk, districts populated mainly by Moroccan, Turkish, Antillean, Surinamese, and African immigrants. The market reflects the neighbourhood’s diversity.

Na so life be: (Nigerian Pidgin) translates roughly to, that’s just the way it is.

Photo credit: The Reboot / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/70292973@N07/7197724426/

Title: Mobile Phone Hanging from a Tree

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Another Day in Tolerance

another day in tolerance

Now that winter is almost here, I have ditched the bus, tram, and train in favour of my car. Away from Potential Bestfriend, Regular Joe, and Young Generation, music accompanies my solitude. My heated interior obliterates memories of last year’s winter, of waiting on bus, tram, and train platforms, whipped by the wicked North Sea wind. In spite of this, I am still having another day in tolerance. Let me introduce you to the characters on my way to work.

The Nerds

People who drive 30km/h on a 30km/h road. To drive behind people like this is to simmer with the pressure of wanting to pee with no toilet in sight. They do not realise thirty is the new sixty. However, they know what it is to pay a 320 Euro traffic fine. You cannot meet their slow-motion stare as they crawl past, moments after you sped past them and the police flagged you down. After you calculate how to pay the fine and still lead a normal life, you laugh aloud at the idiot who just zoomed past you.

The Jokers

People who overtake you with zeal, and then slow down, forcing you to overtake them. As if on cue, they overtake you again and then slow down again. For them life is a game of chess, they have captured your pawns, knights, rookies, and queen too. You know how to beat them nonetheless. After a couple of moves, you decide the game is too juvenile to play. You slow down until they lose interest and speed off to court the next player.

The Sadists

People who drive slower than you do, so that you are right to overtake them. The minute you exert pressure on your accelerator, indicate, and switch to the left lane, something in them comes alive. They pick up speed to match your speed. Since you are already on the left lane, you increase your speed to overtake them. In turn, they increase their speed so you cannot overtake. Riding side by side, you sneak a peek. They are a study in casual concentration. You know people like this in real life, people who had a deficiency in childhood. Maybe it was potassium or vitamin K. Their motto: if I cannot get to heaven, then neither will you. You take the high road and follow lamely behind them, shaking your head as you whisper, “Life is too short; life is too short.”

The Non-Conformists

Aka the motorcyclists. They sneak up on you in traffic, stealth is their middle name; they love the strip of asphalt between two cars. You would too, if you have been moving at 10km/h for the last hour. They whiz through the narrow space and nearly take your side mirror with them. Your mirror bends to the limit of its elasticity and returns to its place. Your blood boils and refuses to cool until you remember that lottery-winning numbers are yet to be announced. You let your car roll and slap your ear as if brushing away a zizzing mosquito.

The Bullies

Aka the excursion bus drivers. They do not think the signpost that limits trucks to the slow lane applies to them. Maybe they are right. You passed your driving exam long ago. They obscure your vision, not only of the road and vehicles ahead, but also of the sun, the moon, and the stars. As you drive behind them, you wonder when you will see civilisation again. With nothing to do, you read the bus; you read about all the trips the company offers and commit the website to memory. As soon as the road widens, you change gears, enter the fast lane, and forget all you have read.

The Snakes

People who snake from one lane to another as if they have diarrhoea of the brain. Your head aches from watching their spiral, and it’s no wonder, they remind you of boyfriends that cannot commit. Oh, there they go again, searching for the next best thing. You let out a hiss that is longer than a snake’s, “Hisssss!”

The Lions

The Ferrari-like drivers who would rather be on a German autobahn, but a 70km/h road constrains them. They breathe down on your trusty Toyota, lights menacing, as you overtake a truck. The second you inch back to the right lane, they vroom vroom past you, leaving a trail of imaginary smoke in their wake and drag that causes your car to vibrate. When you catch up with them at the red light, the roar of their engine sounds like the bleat of a frustrated goat. The smug satisfaction on your face says it all. There is a god. No matter how rich and powerful some people are, we still shit the same brown shit. All hail traffic lights, the great equaliser.

Recognise any of my fellow travellers? What’s commuting like for you? I bet not as bad as Lucy Martin’s travails in Dubai.

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Image credits: all people illustrations, animes, avatars, vectors by Microsoft

Background: lovely pink and gray card design by VisionMates in backgrounds/wallpaper http://www.vecteezy.com/backgrounds-wallpaper/47521-lovely-pink-and-gray-card-design

design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

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An Encounter with LASTMA

LASTMA

Like Mumbai, Moscow, and L.A., Lagos is well-known for traffic jams. The thorny maze of automobiles, motorcycles aka okada, and pedestrians, inspired the Lagos state government to create an agency to ease traffic congestion. Lagosians hailed LASTMA as innovative until LASTMA began contributing to the bottleneck.

“The fear of okada is the beginning of wisdom, and to avoid LASTMA is understanding,” said a friend, when I started driving in Lagos soon after my return. I had survived reverse parking into tight corners on narrow European streets, but here in Lagos, the challenge was different.

LASTMA
Acronym for Lagos State Traffic Management Authority

An initiative to reduce unemployment and sanitise Lagos roads. Commuters lament the actions of its officers, who are the “reason” for the growing number of ATM machines.

Do not confuse them with the:
Army (green uniform)
Police (black uniform)
Traffic wardens (orange and black uniform)
Theirs is a proud cream and maroon

They are not bad people but a reflection an endemic system.

Motto (of a few bad eggs): To bring insanity to Lagos traffic and lay ambush for mugus.

So, I drove very carefully. Too carefully, annoying Lagos drivers who attempted to terrorise me with their ear-splitting horns, dare-devil manoeuvres, condescending stares, and foul words as they overtook my snail-paced car.

Me? I refused to give them the satisfaction of looking at their faces when they pulled up to my car, moments before overtaking. I kept a straight face and commanded my neck not to turn. I could at least hold one ace, I could relish the silent knowledge that they may have won the battle, but I had won the war.

Once, at a junction, LASTMA officers caused commotion by waving go to adjacent lanes of traffic simultaneously. I drove a few meters and stopped in confusion. Maybe that was the mistake—stopping to make sense of chaos; pausing to take stock rather than forging ahead through the pandemonium. Seconds later, two officers headed my way. I apologised and explained that they had unwittingly caused the mayhem.

They insisted that I let the windows down. I was privy to this trick and refused. When they persisted, I relented and wound down a crack. The officer at the passenger-side window stuck his hand through the tiny space with the agility of a monkey and next thing I knew, he was sitting beside me.

Madam, park for side, you dey cause go-slow.”

I complied and the “usual” conversation followed.

My kids began to cry. My son asked, “Sir is our mum going to jail? Is she in trouble?”

I wished he had not spoken. How much is a child’s distress worth to a LASTMA officer?

Oya madam fast, do quick. See as you don make the children dey cry.” Poking his face in the space between the front seats, he said to my daughter, “Small girl, don’t cry. It’s okay.” Turning to my son whose cries were louder, “Tell your sister sorry. You’re a man, don’t cry.”

My son wailed, “I’m not yet a man.”

“Okay big boy, sssh, it’s okay.”

“I’m not a big boy, I’m only eight!”

Realising that conversing with my son was pointless, he turned to me. “Oya now, madam shake body, so you fit carry dem go Mr Biggs. E be like say dem dey hungry.”

I thought about many things but “settling” LASTMA was not one of them. I folded my arms for a long silent sit-in. With an exasperated hiss, officer one got out to engage in heated dialogue with officer two. I saw my chance and took it.

RAKING

The ability to bluff your way through anyone or anything that threatens you on the streets of Lagos.

Any dialogue that begins with, “Do you know who I am?” or in pidgin, “You no sabi me?” is raking.

A loud voice and threatening gesticulations add panache to the craft.

However, in cases of real emergency, access to a high- ranking military officer is a plus.

The next time I encountered LASTMA officers, my driver was negotiating a left turn on a road with no prohibiting signs. Two officers suddenly appeared.

They insisted that he wound down. I gave the driver a simple choice: your salary or the window, and secured his cooperation. They informed us that left turns are illegal. I welcomed the helpful information and the driver attempted to change direction.

They mounted a human roadblock. “Madam just tell am to wind down,” they threatened.

I assumed my best big man’s wife pose, squared my shoulders, and sat up higher. I was glad that for this all-important trip to Shoprite, I decked to the nines Naija-style with designer sunglasses to complete the look! But the officers didn’t budge. So, I pretended to call my imaginary military officer husband after all, power pass power. They backed off.

What is the purpose of LASTMA, to correct or to collect? I hope things have changed since I wrote this post a few years ago.

lagos state traffic laws

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

You may also like:

When in Trouble . . . Just Yell: http://ofilispeaks.com/when-in-trouble-just-yell/

LASTMA in the Eyes of the People: http://flairng.com/new/lastma-in-the-eyes-of-the-people/

Lagos the liquid wonder: http://bizzibodi.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/30-days-of-lagos-lagos-the-liquid-wonder-by-ferdinand-c-adimefe/

Photo credit: LASTMA website

Image URL: http://www.lastma.gov.ng/traffic_law.pdf

http://www.lastma.gov.ng/

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 Measure of a Man

sorry

An apology that never came changed her view of life.

Bode and Chinyere met on WordPress. While working on his master’s thesis, Bode wrote retrospectively about the 2008 Financial Crisis when financial institutions fell like a deck of cards, one after another. The simple way he explained complex economic theories and the poetry he used to assign blame, in stanzas, inspired Chinyere to follow his blog. At the end of each blog post, he posed questions that drew comments from her. In responding to her comments, he stoked a friendship as though he was tending to embers in the fireplace.

When he wrote that post she didn’t agree with, she thought it best to send a private email. What started in public, mushroomed in private. Forty-four emails later, she knew his favourite food, sushi, the movie he never tired of watching, Schindler’s List, and that both his parents were professors. As they tangoed near the perimeters of their deepening friendship, she moved from being his favourite reader to his dear friend. The first time he referred to her as darling, she danced in tandem, placing a one-eyebrow-raised smiley next to the word sweetheart in her reply.

She imagined what darling would sound like if he said it; she envisioned a baritone, like her boss’s, whom she secretly admired. She felt safe in Nigeria, eleven hours away, from her Toronto sweetheart, Bode, whose handsome face smiled at her whenever she read his blog.

One Saturday, their email exchange, interspersed with LOLs and smileys, over the wonders of touch screen and autocorrect spelling, spanned the evening and spilled into the night. Joking about a political scandal that involved an elder statesman and nude photos of his beautiful mistress, he wrote, “I bet you’ve got a body to die for like hers.”

The half-smile, still on her face from their previous exchange, died and her lips closed into a straight line. Scrolling through the email thread, she searched desperately for it—that email or reply from her that gave him the nerve. She searched again. And again. Finally, she slept with a frown on her face, questions etched on her brow.

She did not reply the next day. Or the day after. She immersed herself in work like a zombie, neither feeling nor caring. How could he have written that? What had she done to encourage him? On the fourth day, he emailed. He had pined for her reply; he had grabbed his phone every time it beeped and driven his professor mad with error-strewn work. He guessed the joke had rubbed her the wrong way, but was it now a crime to joke with a dear friend? He was sorry even though he didn’t know what he was sorry for.

She read his email several times. He had written it in the same simple way he explained complex economic theories, using poetry to assign blame, in stanzas. But, it lacked the sincerity upon which people build great friendships. Two days it was before she fashioned a reply. Discarding the word sweetheart, she wrote:

Dear Bode,

Your joke was in bad taste. I have since evaluated the sixty-three emails we exchanged, and can find no reason why you would share a joke like that with me. Btw, I read your recent post and I agree that the bailout of banks by national governments should be a temporary measure only; it should not be the cure-all. I will share more on your blog later today.

His reply was swift. She had wondered if it would come. She had considered that the curtain had fallen on a friendship that spanned four months and she had already started mourning. Clutching her phone, hope fluttered in her heart and unsteadied her hands.

Dear Chinyere,

I am sorry. What I wrote was inappropriate and lacking better judgement. I offended you and I am sorry. If you can forgive me, I would like to continue being a friend.

That was not the reply she received; it is the one she wished she had. After two weeks, she knew his reply would never come. As weeks turned into months, she left fewer and fewer comments on his blog. She liked to think that his not responding to her comments did not influence her decision to stop altogether.

Today when Chinyere measures a man, she does not take into account the school where he acquired his MBA or the features that make him attractive. German or Japanese, his car keys hold no lure. It is his apology; the quality of his apology is the measure of a man.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: primenerd / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hiroic/8521967145/

Title: Stranger Nº 5/100 – Robbel

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.

Third World: Where Culture Meets Culture

Urban development

I am a first-generation immigrant caught in a clash of cultures but I do not wallow in identity crisis. Although I know where I come from, the pieces of the puzzle that spell out where I am going are the hardest to find.

I am from Nigeria and now, I am from The Netherlands. In the Netherlands, people ask me, “Where are you from?” It is not because I speak Dutch with a foreign accent.

Waar komt u vandaan?”

Den Haag.”

Ik bedoel het land van uw herkomst…”

“I’m originally from Nigeria.”

There are layers of meaning in this exchange. For me, it is freeing to imagine that I’ve just been asked, “What’s the time?” and then to reply in the same tone and with the same emotions with which I would say, “Three o’ clock.” Chasing rainbows is for kids, adults know that when sunlight and water droplets kiss at an angle, a rainbow appears, but not for long.

Does racism exist? Does the sun shine in winter? I choose to see myself as a person, not a colour. In this way, perhaps people will also see that I am a person first; my colour is incidental. Niggling debates about the brownness of my skin, the flare of my nostrils, the strange hair plaits I call Ghana braids, and the location of my tail, would cease. Yes? Maybe not.

At the same time, Dutch people are tolerant, forgiving even of foreign traditions. They will accommodate you and help you out by quickly switching to the English language. They broadcast American TV series and movies in English and subtitle in Dutch! But until you speak the language and adopt their customs, you will be the stranger on the street admiring their beautiful homes, the view that they allow you see from their wide front windows with blinds drawn aside.

Say what you will schatje, this is as much my country as it is yours. Home is where the heart is, they say—my heart is in Nigeria and my heart is in The Netherlands. You’d better believe it, my heart is big enough.

untitled

The uppity houses in Archipelbuurt and Willemspark, the Halal shops, Western Union offices, and neon signs blinking, Simlock Verwijderen vanaf €5, in Schilderswijk, and the international organisations in Statenkwartier, reveal the multicultural character of The Hague. I cannot imagine living anywhere else; ik voel me helemaal thuis in Den Haag en ik zal hier wonen blijven.

 

I love-hate the sun worship that is the Scheveningen beach craze in summer and the Unox Nieuwjaarsduik Scheveningen 2013Nieuwjaarsduik in the middle of winter is a feat for the brave only. Cycling past the medieval Binnenhof, home of the Dutch parliament, a sense of national pride overtakes me. They say that God created the world, but the Dutch created The Netherlands. From North to South, we have mastered the sea and our dikes laugh at its waves. This to me is the “silent” pride Dutch people wear on their sleeves.

                                                                                  Binnenhof 

Wherever I am in the world, my ears pick out Dutch from a mix of Chinese, German, French, and Spanish, a comforting sound that makes me feel as if I am wearing a black turtleneck sweater over a pair of jeans and orange clogs, and I am holding a cup of tea, watching the sun light diamonds in the snow.

Riding in the tram in The Hague, my ears make out Yoruba or Igbo or Bini. It is also a comforting sound. I feel as though I am at a party in Nigeria, shaded from the sun’s heat by bright canopies. The food on display can feed the entire street and since our conversation must compete with the music, we shout in one another’s ears.

Many times people ask me to choose. I imagine they are holding up cards, and I am supposed to pick the joker. This then is the joker: it is not that one country is better than the other is, but rather one country is different from the other. I exist in my sub-culture assimilating the best of The Netherlands and Nigeria. It is a third world where many immigrants live.

When in Nigeria, my eight o’clock is my eight o’clock. I may have been born in African time, but I have grown in European time. Time is a fixed resource. My value of your productivity and mine plays out in the premium I place on your time. When in The Netherlands, I will not deny you the pleasure of a spontaneous visit to my home. Although your appointment isn’t pencilled in my agenda, I will not open the door a crack and stare at you as though you are wearing a Martian suit.

Here in The Netherlands, I will not snap the biscuit tin shut after you take one biscuit. But, I will also not smoke fish in my oven until my eyes water and the fumes wear the extractor out, forcing my neighbour to call the housing authority and fire service. When I wake up at 5 a.m., I will hum good morning Jesus, good morning Lord, instead of singing with Pentecostal gusto, so my neighbour does not bang on my door.

It is in the marrying of cultures that I arrive at my destination. They say home is where the heart is. My heart is in Nigeria; my heart is in The Netherlands. You’d better believe it, my heart is big enough.

So, how have you found living in a city where the language, customs, and the way you look, expose you for the familiar stranger that you are?

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Nieuwjaarsduik (New Year’s Dive):  An annual tradition in The Hague taken by some 10,000 people into the icy cold waters of the North Sea by the Pier at Scheveningen Beach.

Fast Facts about The Netherlands: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/netherlands-facts/

 

Photo Credits

Title: Urban development
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38659937@N06/6887749481/
Photo credit: Frans Persoon / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Untitled
Author: Bas Bogers
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bogers/4790162426/in/photostream/

Title: Unox Nieuwjaarsduik Scheveningen 2013
Author: Maurice / Haags UitburoOriginal image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/haagsuitburo/8334513758/

Description: Panorama of Binnenhof
Page URL: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AThe_Hague_Binenhof.JPG
File URL: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0f/The_Hague_Binenhof.JPGAttribution: By me (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The ‘Forgotten’ Groundnut Pyramids Of Nigeria

Kitchen Butterfly

I am not a party girl; I’m a food and talk girl. Informal dinners with friends and conversations that go on and on, and on and on, way past dessert and midnight… hmmm, that’s what this post reminds me of, and I’m filled with nostalgia, a bitter-sweet longing.

Okay, so I’ve just romanticised epa (Yoruba for peanut), but that’s what Kitchen Butterfly has done also—weaving tales about how Nigeria was, in between telling us how to boil groundnut. Word connoisseurs, and lovers of history, photography, fine food (groundnut), would enjoy this as much I did.

“The past may hold treasures, still remembered but the future is bound in hope, in belief and in the knowledge that with life, all things are possible.” Continue…  http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com/2013/08/08/the-forgotten-groundnut-pyramids-of-nigeria/

Photo credit: © Kitchen Butterfly

The Volume of Happiness

Nigerians are the happiest people in the world and you can measure the volume of our happiness. Now I know why people here stop and stare at me and my Naija friends—it isn’t because we are so fine! Oh no, we are Nigerians and we are loud.

 

Òjògbón

Fans cheer on the Nigerian team during their World Cup qualifier soccer match against Algeria in Ora..You know, I have heard this thing over and again. That Nigerians are the happiest people on the planet. And I’m wondering, really? If it’s happiness that gives us some of the traits which are universally now synonymous with Nigerians, then I would recommend that we take some dose of chill-pill and please calm down! At least, a little!

First off, why do Nigerians shout so much?

I know you have all experienced this. You see an old friend whom you haven’t seen in a while and he screams, “MY GUYYYYY!!!!!! THIS GUYYYY!!!! HOW FAR NAAHHHH!!!!!” The first thing you want to do is, “ooohh..kkk??? what is this serious?” But being a Nigerian, you totally understand and you respond in this same high pitch, “AH! I DEY O!!! WETIN DEY HAPPEN???” Then you would have to endure a huge SLAP of a handshake which usually leaves your hand smarting and red!

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Reinventing Hope

Nigeria-Elekoe Beach

Fifty-three years ago, Nigeria became independent of British rule. Since then, OFN, Green Revolution, MAMSER, Better Life for Rural Women, SAP, WAI, SFEM, Deregulation, June 12th, Privatisation, and The Seven Point Agenda, among others, have come and gone. They made their mark in the sands of our collective consciousness and then disappeared into the bottom half of the national hourglass. But, we have remained like a palm tree, flexible in the wind.

Although we are lacerated by stereotypes, propagated from within and without, and although bloody sweat drips from our brows as we bake the national cake, we have always found ways to sustain hope, to restore hope, and to reinvent hope as we grease the wheels of the nation’s locomotive.

In my post, In the Beginning God Created Nigeria, I wrote:

 It is true that the Nigerian landscape offers many reasons for sober contemplation, but within the dim picture, I found moments of patriotic pride, quiet amusement, and downright hilarity.  Glimpses of our heydays managed to peek through ominous clouds, an indication that lost causes can be found

I found a lost cause. I found hope one grey morning when rain fell at a steady pace.

A man struggled to open his umbrella as he stepped out of his car. Holding the yeye umbrella that refused to fully unfold above his head, he hurried into a building. Ten minutes later, he braved the rain with his spoilt umbrella and rushed to his car. Once inside, he flung the black umbrella in the middle of the road. It tumbled, unfolded properly, and gaped at the sky. He drove off, leaving a water receptacle and a trap waiting to bite other motorists.

Soon after, another man walked by. He looked left then right, and then left again before running to the middle of the road to snatch the umbrella. He closed it and set it neatly on the pavement.

Curious, I invited him into our office for a chat.

“Why did you pick up the umbrella?”

“Because it can cause accident.”

I didn’t need to ask because his shoes, shaved at the heels and curling to heaven in front, revealed the answer. But I asked anyway, “Is your car parked around here?

He laughed. We both laughed.

I nor get car.”

We both laughed again.

“Then why did you….”

He shrugged his shoulders, “It can cause accident. Some drivers will not see on time.”

“Wow. Not many people will do what you did….”

He shrugged his shoulders again, “Make I begin go.”

“Hold on. Let me find something for you. We need more people like you in this country.”

“For what? Wetin I do? Please keep your money.”

“I just want to give you something to show appreciation. If more people were like you, this country will change.”

“No need. Make I begin go.”

When he stepped outside, he gauged the drizzle with the back of his palm, shut his umbrella, and kept walking.

Little hinges swing huge doors.  Change will elude us as long as we only point fingers. When I look for a dustbin to dispose of the empty Mr Biggs take-away pack instead of dumping it on the road, change will come. When I wait in traffic instead of turning the pavement to a fast lane, change will come.

Light a candle of hope with me. Share your encounter with a Nigerian whether in Washington or Aba or Ogbomosho or Manchester, which defied the stereotype that we have come to know. Surely, for Nigeria, the future is still pregnant.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Photo credit: Zuorio / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Title: Nigeria – Elekoe Beach

Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zuorio/282076831/

 

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.

 

 

No Longer a Piece of Meat

Suya by KitchenButterfly

Theirs is a spacious car park unprotected from the glare of the sun and the noisy wind that ushers autumn in. Hers is the silver-grey Toyota Aygo, that ubiquitous city-car that cushions Europeans from the perils of economic recession, road tax, fuel costs, and ah yes, carbon emissions. His is the black Mercedes, that German beast that roars.

Having never seen him before, she wants to say hi, and make small talk, for the benefit of their mutual skin colour, if only for a few moments, so they can put up high walls against the cold and enjoy the warmth of solidarity.

Instead, she walks past him, and quickens her steps, the koi-koi of her heels, lost in the now harsh whispers of the wind, her mind replaying images she had thought long forgotten.

She is ten again and in the country club with her mother, in front of her soon-to-be swimming instructor, who took in her thin frame, and let his eyes linger, then wander, and then linger on the small mounds on her chest, which strained against her one-piece suit.

Her mother followed his gaze. What was supposed to be a conversation about swimming timetable, changed to a conversation about swimming lessons ending. The uneasy feeling that followed her relief and disappointment, which she could not define, she submerged in that room in children’s heads that they do not like to visit. Years later when she understood the term, dirty old man, she remembered the way he had moved his bushy eyebrows up and down in quick succession, as first her mother turned and then she turned to leave.

That thing that was in her swimming instructor’s eyes, she now sees in his. His eyes, they reduce her to a piece of meat. They touch her the same way that women and men haggling over meat in Lagos markets grab the meat from the wooden tables, slap the meat on the wooden tables, and push the meat on the wooden tables, wooden tables with fissures that are smooth with age and vegetable green at the edges.

Reflex causes her to tug at her skirt, to pinch the fabric in front of her thighs and try to drag it down, as though she can turn her mini skirt to maxi, as though her legs are not encased in black tights and boots.

His eyes drill holes in her back. She nearly misses her step. His laughter is low, but to her ears it is as loud as those of the traders who called her Shabba, and tried to grab her hands as she shopped at Tejuosho market long ago, wearing a long skirt with a thigh-high slit.

All the way to the traffic light where they encounter one another again, she thinks of his greedy eyes, his hungry smile, the shape of his gorimapa head, and the shiny darkness of his skin. She divides Africa into four: east Africa, south Africa, north Africa, and west Africa; he resembles her, but she cannot decide where he belongs.

She pulls up slowly beside his Mercedes and stiffens her neck. She wills herself not to look at him. But she does. You see, the force of his gaze, and everything intangible that had transpired between them is like a horse’s bit. His handsome features do not captivate her. His smile does not captivate her.

It is his left hand. The way he raises his shoulder and bends his elbow so his fingers rest on the steering wheel in the 12 ‘o clock position—that unmistakeable way Naija boys with new money driving new cars with shiny alloy wheels, hold the steering wheel—that is what captivates her.

So now, she knows where he belongs.

She begins to laugh and laugh and laugh some more as his brows furrow in consternation. She continues laughing as the traffic light turns green, and he speeds off. She laughs as the cars behind her pull out into the other lane and the drivers stare at her and shake their heads, before they zoom past. She laughs until the traffic light turns red. Then she stops. She is no longer a piece of meat.

 

Postscript

Chaos defines her Mondays, but the chaos lights her fire and adds purpose to her steps. The only thing that halts her fall is her desk, which is behind her. She feels its edge cutting into her thighs as she stumbles backwards for safety and support. Her gaze meets his and holds while they shake hands. When Ben gestures to another employee and whisks him away, Ben’s words hit home. With vast experience in mergers and acquisitions, he comes highly recommended from J.P. Morgan. He is her new manager.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

If you loved the photo of the suya as much as my post or more than my post (how dare you?), if you miss suya and live where you can’t buy it, if you’re adventurous, if… if …, whatever, okay, read Kitchen Butterfly’s post about suya.

Photo credit: © Kitchen Butterfly

Original photo URL: http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com/2010/07/15/how-to-make-nigerian-suya/

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.

Running in the Airport

well designed signage

I came to your house out of a sense of duty. Although I told you I was late, you brought me a plate of beans, fried plantain, and chicken stew. While you shouted Sade’s name, and looked for change so she could buy cold coke from mama Kunle, I quickly made a phone call to Sista Kemi:

“Sista, e ma binu, I can’t eat it. You know I’m travelling—”

“Femi, just try. You are like a son to her.”

“Anything else. I will drop 50k for her instead of 25—”

“After everything I’ve done for you ….”

With those six words, Sista Kemi sealed my fate. I did not refuse a second helping of your beans because you cooked it with a little sugar and plenty onions. My big sister had slaved to send me to school in the U.S., so, I ate after I protested and you laughed.

I finally boarded my flight at 9:30 p.m. and dozed off shortly after take-off. I woke up to the smell of coffee and croissants, which I munched hungrily before we began our descent.

At Schiphol, jet-lagged passengers sprawled out on the black metal seats in a small lounge. Drawn like a magnet, I sat beside a striking lady with a small afro who was shaking her phone, tapping her phone, assembling her phone, and disassembling her phone.

“Hello, let me help?”

“Oh, do you know what to do? It fell and it won’t start—”

And just like that, we moved on to talk about our lives, our work, and our passion. My flight to Maryland was four hours away. Her flight to New Jersey was three hours away.

Her eyes glowed as she talked about the non-profit where she worked. Just then, the contents of my stomach lurched. I stylishly shifted and sat on only one bum. This attempt at bowel control thrust me forward, and I hoped she did not think I was trying to get a better view of what lay beneath her V neckline. I bit my lip and silently commanded my tummy to settle. I don’t know whether she paused or I imagined it. But I carried on talking.

“My company encourages employees to get involved in community service by giving donations to worthy causes and staff bonuses for participation. I see a win-win here.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” I replied, crossing my legs and shifting my weight to my other bum to stem the tide. I leaned backward. Her V neckline was high, not that I would have seen anything if it was plunging, for thoughts of white porcelain toilet bowls beclouded my vision.

I masked my pain by contorting my face in concentration. Her voice sounded farther and farther away, as if she was at one end of a tunnel and I was at the other end, stooping and shitting. Now and again, I scanned the lounge for the toilet icons, pretending to observe the passengers who were dragging luggage and crowding the seats. Then I returned my gaze to her face and flashed what I hoped was a charming smile. I don’t know whether she paused or I imagined it. But she carried on talking.

“So, let’s make it happen. How can we take this to the next level?”

“I need the toilet.”

“What?”

“Nothing. What did you say?” I blinked several times, and then moved so that both cheeks of my bum were in full contact with the seat. Now that the word toilet had escaped from my mouth, the pressure on my rectum doubled. I pushed my chest forward, the way I used to as a lanky teenager, and prayed that the noise in the lounge had muffled my words.

She frowned and watched me.

My anus took the heat.

“Okay go.”

“What?”

“Go to the toilet,” she said calmly, pointing the way.

He that is down, need fear no fall. I chucked mortification away, buried it in the recesses of my mind, and tried not to run. As soon as I turned the corner, I picked up speed.

Five men queued outside the toilet. I eyed the vacant women’s toilet. Dare I? I asked a cleaner if there was another toilet nearby.

“Downstairs, turn left, after about fifty metres.”

I started to go when I saw a young girl pushing an elderly lady in a wheelchair purposefully. I followed the trajectory of her eyes and changed my course. Nearing the doors of freedom, I saw the cleaner and began to limp.

I hit the toilet seat just in time. And finished after pushing twice. But I sat there. Because I heard the commotion at the door. The real disabled people were waiting and wondering aloud. Shame, hot and sharp, overtook my relief. Oh, the smell was one thing, but I was too embarrassed to “limp” out of the toilet.

As I moved my feet to alleviate the pins and needles, I heard directions being given. Then the voices receded.  Satisfied, I opened the door slowly and looked in either direction. Although no one was there, I felt compelled to limp.

“Are you all right?” Miss Afro looked alarmed as I approached.

“Yes,” I corrected my limp, pushed my chest out, and walked tall.

“No, I mean your tummy?”

“Fine.”

Humiliation covered me the way caramel sauce covers ice cream, slowly, gradually, until I could not meet her eyes. But I sat like a real man, legs ajar and arms resting lightly on my thighs.

“Please write your number?” She dropped her card on the magazine which lay between us.

I patted my shirt pocket and shook my head. She frowned as she brought a silver fountain pen from her bag. When I finished writing, I handed her the card. She didn’t take it. Instead she used her white hanky to snatch her pen.

“Femi right?” she said as she stood, “why don’t you call me?  It’s been a pleasure meeting you. I have to board.” She ignored my hand.

I smelled myself after she left. What was I sniffing for? Body odour? Beans? Shit?

I looked at her card. Busayo. What if I married her? What if you came to visit? What if you cooked beans, fried plantain, and chicken stew? What if I ate it? What if I went to the toilet twice at night? Would she tell me to face the wall while she slept with her back towards me at the edge of her side of the bed, like a lone matchstick in a giant matchbox, stiff like a bag of cement?

Nonsense! I tore the card to small pieces. Who cares about corporate social responsibility and employee participation in meaningful community development projects? I tore the small pieces to even smaller pieces, hurled it in the trash, as I limped to the disabled toilet for the fourth time that morning.

And now, you are calling me at 3 a.m. local time, asking why I am not yet married. Aunty e jo!

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Photo credit: rhodes / Foter / CC BY-SA

 

Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhodes/2181258/

 

Title: well designed signage

 

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.

A trip to Kaduna

A walk down memory lane… Love for my country and other drugs! I like the way ‘Dare recollects his Service Year and captures the freedom and optimism we feel as we stand on the threshold of hope and possibilities. I think you’d like it too…

 

'DARE AKINWALE

I want to take a trip. In my mind, to places in a city l left three years ago.

I want to visit that big compound at the end of the street where I lived, in Abakpa, where the ancient locomotive chugged loudly in the morning, as I walked out to buy breakfast.

My regular breakfast was kosi or akara. I always called it akara, because I thought kosi was too bland a word to capture the delicious essence of the hot spongy brown akara. I remember how the lady would serve it out of the hot oil and package my usual fifty or sixty naira worth of akara into old newspapers and nylon bags. I was a regular customer, and I had earned her respect because of my almost daily patronage. Sometimes, I was rewarded with some extra balls of akara, other days, I was offered koko or pap…

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