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

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ‘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

gingering your swagger without tears

Now that having some swagger has become as essential as having an education, Bellanchi’s tongue-in-cheek tips about how to step up your swagger, will perhaps leave your wallet intact but your sides aching. In his own words, “… Even I don’t agree with some of the irreverent stuff I write, but all in good fun.” Enjoy!

bellanchi

It wasn’t that long ago that Naija was swept by an epidemic called swagger. There were so many Nigerian songs about swagger, you couldn’t listen to a rotation of 10 songs on primetime radio without at least half of them having swagger as their theme. But it was no surprise that after tiring of crooning about girls and champagne, Nigeria’s hip hop artistes turned to swagger. For that opportunistic class that is not known for its creativity, swagger was the next logical thing. Ironically, swagger – an attitude whose very essence is its distinctiveness – almost became commonplace.

I am sure there were people, in the height of swaggermania, who didn’t even realize “swagger” was an English word. It is forgivable (okay, on second thought, maybe not) to have assumed it was one of Nigerian urban culture’s many slangs. Although inspired by its equivalent in English lexicon, the Nigerian swagger…

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The Benevolent Dictator Theory

You’ve done it and I’ve done it too—huddled with friends and turned a debate on which way Nigeria into a prayer meeting. The kind of prayer meeting where one person declares, “Only God can save Nigeria!” and the others inwardly chorus amen. Weep no more; the Messiah we’re hoping for could be closer than we think…

The Chronicles of Chill

When people gather to discuss the future of Nigeria, the consensus is usually 2-pronged. The first is that the brand of democracy we have now clearly is not working. The second is that we are probably screwed if we don’t address our fundamental deficiencies. The third (yes, I know I said two) is that we need a benevolent dictator to set us right.

The mind that proposes a benevolent dictator has probably considered that  returning to military rule would not be a bad option, given how slowly we have moved since 1999. However, that is not a thought that we are allowed to entertain, as constitutional law jingoists insist on drumming it into our heads that “the worst civilian regime is better than the best military rule”.

I think we can agree that the evidence suggests to the contrary. The world’s oldest democracies are in the middle of economic…

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7 Annoying Things Nigerians do on airplanes

So, a friend tells me that on a recent flight from Lagos to Abuja, the pilot said, “We’ll be flying at 35,000 ft to Abuja. The weather is okay. Only light clouds, I will try and dodge them so there’s no shaking.” Is this the ninth annoying humorous thing Nigerians do on airplanes—employing Akpos’ brother to fly the plane? Hmmm….

 

The Crazy Nigerian

sleeping on planesLike me, I bet you’ve all run around with your bathing towels wrapped above your shoulders like a cape and pretended to be Superman (and if you haven’t then it’s never too late!). Ever since I was a little brat I wanted to take to the skies. Air travel is the next best thing and I’m always looking forward to having a glass plastic cup of ice-cold apple juice which always tastes better at 10,000 feet. What could possibly disrupt this moment of long-awaited bliss? Cue the Nigerians… On my recent return trip from New York alone I encountered 7 annoying things Nigerians did on the plane:

1. Securing beds…in Economy Class! There’s a game Nigerian passengers play whenever they’re on-board a semi-full airplane – It’s kind of similar to Musical Chairs…but without the music. Passengers snub the seats assigned to them and scout for a stretch of three to four empty…

View original post 778 more words

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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Something New in October

coming soon

I’m doing something different. I’m focusing on Naija life this October. Okay, don’t roll your eyes and go, “duh.” I know, I write about Nigeria, a lot! According to William Faulkner, a writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others. No apologies here, I’ve got Naija in my blood.

What’s different? I won’t be sharing my posts. I’ll reblog posts that made me laugh and cry and think, posts that mirror you and me and your neighbour and that man you’ve wondered about.

While you’re reading about Naija eccentricities, I’ll be back stage reading the novels that decorate my coffee table and writing a post for November. So, enjoy and remember to be as generous on the other blogs as you are on mine. Biko, share and leave a comment—they write their stuff because of you.

If you haven’t already, read Naija Movie Night, get a preview of what’s in store.

 

Take lemons & make life!

timi signature wordpress

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Sepia Film Strip clip art- http://all-free-download.com/free-vector/vector-clip-art/sepia_film_strip_clip_art_23195.html

design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

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…

View original post 858 more words

By God’s Grace

scams upon scammers

Religion divides; religion unites. Its symbols are seen everywhere here. In the big southern cities, churches clamour for prominence with their dizzying signboards on busy and quiet streets. While the western world wants to send God packing, we have him firmly entrenched in our society.

Having watched God’s role shrink in the west, I embraced his omnipresence back home. But my joy at luxuriating in unabashed religious freedom was marred by incident after incident with religious-sounding people.

Religious clichés form a huge umbrella where strange bedfellows meet. Christian choruses drip from the sweet mouths of juju practitioners and Holy-Ghost-power-wielding herbalists advertise their solutions in the newspapers. But it is in the language of everyday people that these clichés find unbridled expression, so much so that a simple yes or no response is as elusive as constant power supply.

In a culture where speeches are padded with verbosity and our elder’s words are peppered with flowery proverbs, perhaps it is fitting that our words are wrapped in religious foil and by God’s grace is the heavy-duty foil that covers every situation under our sun!

When I queried my handyman for a firm work commitment, he kept dodging under the grace of God. “By God’s grace I will come and do the work on Thursday.”

When I persisted, in exasperation he declared, “Madam, I will come on Thursday, God willing!”

Then he beamed like a monkey atop a tree that had escaped the canines of a hungry lion, daring me to challenge the will of God.

That he did not show on the said Thursday is symptomatic of a national ulcer.

Civil servants show up at work by believing and trusting God.

Political parties garner votes by the will of God.

The mechanic will fix your car by the grace of God.

Senators, stupefied by the challenges facing their constituents, hold press conferences where they proclaim, “It is only the grace of God that can save Nigeria!”

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!

power of God bus

At the mall, a young man selling CDs from his début album politely accosted me. Recognising a fellow struggling artist hustling for survival, I decided to purchase one.

“What kind of music is this?”

“By God’s special grace, Christian music.”

I nearly walked away, but I kept hope alive. “Are you sure?”

“Of course madam,” he replied without hesitation, “what else would I record?”

“Look I want to encourage you. I’ll give you N300 anyway, what kind of music is this?”

I guess he must have thought that I imagined that he was born yesterday—a whole him—a scammer of scammers. Looking pained, he told of how other buyers had commended his efforts. He painted a picture of struggle and survival, in which the grace of God and the will of God had converged to give him a testimony, proving that no condition is permanent. Moved, I overlooked the shabby packaging and paid for the CD.

Later, I played the CD in my car. I strained my ears through the poor sound quality to make out the lyrics. The chorus rang:

 

Naija is where we are

Naija is where we belong

Naija is where we will die

 

My lips curved slightly as realisation shone through my eyes, of course it was a Christian song!

Since productivity hinges on how God is wielding his grace, I have come to certain conclusions about my day.

Will I go to work today? Ah, it’s in God’s hands.

Will I eat lunch during break? Yes, God willing.

Will I take a pee after lunch? Believing and trusting God.

And finally, can I draft a concluding paragraph for this blog post? By God’s grace!

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

 

Photo credit: dan mogford / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dansflickr/272385799/
Title: scams upon scammers

Photo credit: MikeBlyth / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blyth/152662733/
Title: Power of God bus (Chi Boy)

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.

Our National Pastime

football

Returning to live in Nigeria after nearly a decade away, the influence of another culture makes me observe life through a different set of lenses. Like a black face in a sea of white faces, our national pastime immediately stood out to me. In the past, this hobby did not elicit a raised eyebrow from me since it blends seamlessly with the landscape.

On the streets, behind magnificent edifices, under bridges, at the corner of dream castles, and even in front of crude, hand-painted signs that expressly forbid it, men and women, boys and girls, and goats and dogs all rollick in this pastime. I dare say that you or someone you know has been involved in it.

Being a showy people, we engage in this activity openly, without shame, and no thought of decorum. Have you guessed what it is? No, it is not football; it is urinating in public!

Urine pours like libation all across the land and there is no hallowed ground. Any gutter, wall, bush, or piece of land will do. Smart-looking men disembark tinted-glass Lexus jeeps mid-street to relieve themselves beside school-aged boys turned vendors. Women, though in the minority, refuse to be outdone. Whether standing astride, or crouching low with bunched-up skirts, they contribute their quota to this swelling, smelling river that threatens to overflow its banks.

Are people in such dire need that they cannot wait until they get to a toilet? Does a dearth of facilities fuel this activity?

I observed a security guard having a go on a neighbour’s fence, so I made enquiries about the gatehouse in front of the estate where he worked. There was a toilet and yes, there was running water.

Pray tell, what should I conclude? That old habits die-hard? That the satisfaction derived from relieving oneself in the open is out of proportion to that obtained in the confines of a cubicle? That borderline exhibitionism is pervasive? That, that … the, Do Not Urinate Here By Order-sign, which stands at attention in front of the fence, is an open invitation to do so?

by order

All this has given me a new perspective on handshaking. Fortunately or maybe unfortunately, hugs are more commonplace in my setting. Friends, however, remind me that worse things have not yet killed a man.

Sometime ago, my family and I were caught in traffic occasioned by the Lagos Carnival, for several hours. We missed the warnings about roadblocks thanks to our habit of predominantly watching foreign TV channels. Anyway, we killed time by enjoying a hot but decent view from a bridge on Lagos Island. The heat from the sun was momentarily diverted to my brain when my son asked to use the toilet. I calmly explained that there were no nearby facilities all the while crossing my fingers.

public toilets           lagos state carnival

After trying to contain his distress for a few moments, he approached me again and again and again. With no alternative in sight, I got off my high horse and encouraged him to just do it on the kerb by the bridge. Reminding me of my stand, he vehemently protested. Nature won the battle eventually, and I escorted him to a less conspicuous corner while eating my humble pie.

BY ORDER

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: alvez / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alvez/4697340832/
Title: nigerianos

Photo credit: Darren Taylor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANigerian_fans_at_2009_World_Cup_qualifying_match.jpg

Photo credit: nova3web / Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/niyyie/2212649832/
Title: Ghana 2008: Nigeria Vrs Cote d’Ivoire in Sekondi

Photo credit: shawnleishman / Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawnleishman/2348430420/
Title: Project Nigeria : Day 2 : The Law.

Photo credit: ©Ifeanyi Ukoha Facebook Timeline

Photo credit: Lagos State Government Carnival
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Naija Movie Night

naija movie night

I am at The Palms Shopping Mall, Lagos, buying popcorn and a drink before I proceed to the cinema theatre.  My popcorn, a warm mixture of sugar, salt, and butter, sends my taste buds to heaven with every crunch. This is the preamble to a wonderful evening.

Friendly and professional staff check our tickets and wave us in. We make our way to the last row at the top of the theatre, a vantage spot for viewing pleasure, and sit mid-row. The easy banter of friends, shuffling feet, and polite excuse-mes, set the mood in the theatre before the lights go out.

Panic erupts from my left side. Stampede follows.

“ Rat! Rat! Big rat!”

We scamper in a radius of confusion. Questions hang like clothes left to dry in the sun: “Where?” “Did you see it?” Eventually we regroup at our row. Some people brave the popcorn-littered floor and the “invisible” rats to collect their belongings, while others take our places. My popcorn sits intact in its paper carton, but I decide to donate it to the rats.

We settle for another row of seats. Governor Fashola’s message hits home. Kate Henshaw tells us to park our cars at home and ride the BRT buses like her. Funke Akindele tells us to pay our taxes so green Lagos can extend beyond Alausa.  Eko o ni baje o.

The movie begins. It is fast-paced. I like it. Soon, a bluish light amplified by the darkness, irritates my vision. It emits from the row in front of us. Ping, silence, ping; a BlackBerry in motion. It must be important. Ping, ping, ping. Maybe her mother is dying. Silence at last, but the light keeps harassing my eyes. I ignore the luminescence the way I ignore a stubborn particle in my eye that refuses to leave after a thousand blinks.

A phone rings from the row above us—someone who forgot about silent mode. I commiserate inwardly. My phone has rung at inopportune moments too, like laughter at a funeral service. I imagine him quickly switching off his phone and apologising.

“Tunde! My man, I dey Palms.”

A relaxed conversation ensues, as if he is sitting in his living room drinking Guinness Stout with his mates. I wait for the reprimand that surely must come. Instead, another phone rings from a row several levels below us.

Quiet resumes as the movie draws us into a web of suspense. The actors are clueless. People shout hints so the actors can hear them. I am not perturbed enough to proffer solutions. Don’t they know that the leading actor never dies?

The action scene over, calm replaces the excitement of moments before. A holy hush descends as both the leading actor and all of us recover. A baby’s cry pierces the quiet, followed by a mother’s insistent, “Sssh, sssh!” A baby in the cinema? What were the mother and father thinking? What were the staff at the entrance not thinking?

I expect the Occupy Baby movement to arise. I am not disappointed.

Madam, abeg give de pickin breast!”

Not long after, the baby’s cry teeters to a stop.

I give up watching the movie on the screen. Real life offers colours and sounds that Technicolor and Dolby Surround cannot match. The sporadic flash of cellphone cameras blinds me. Babies protest against the ludicrousness of being in the cinema theatre. Cell phones ring in programmed sequence, one after another, as when you snooze your alarm, it startles you out of sleep fifteen minutes later. I drown in the conversations and debates floating up from below and drifting down nonchalantly from above.

How can I describe the cooing in sync when the leading actor achieves a milestone? This is it. He typifies our lives, the relief that washes over us when we cross difficult hurdles. It is a Kodak moment. We coo without cue, a sound so tender, goose bumps chase prejudice away. The fantasy that we came to revel in for ninety minutes is over. We applaud, burying our irritation underneath a shared experience.

Outside, my friends apologise for the people’s behaviour. I ponder their apology. Dutch people do not apologise for being Dutch. French people do not apologise for being French. English people do not apologise for being English.

I take their advice and return the next morning to watch the film in peace. The theatre is empty save for about ten other people. A man slips into the seat next to mine.

In the dark, confidence buoys his voice, “Wetin dey happen? Wetin de man talk?”

I smile, “Make you come watch for night; dem dey show de pidgin version for night.

I watch movies in the morning. Then I return in the night to watch the same movies again because I cannot get enough of the beauty, the diversity, and the insanity that is Nigeria.

naija movie morning

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

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.

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