Naija in My Blood

naija

A lot has been written about hazards such as driving in Lagos and on Nigerian roads. I do not mean to flog the issue, but it was this very thing that revealed some needed home truths.

You see, I am not one to allow my blood pressure levels rise over a little thing like another driver cutting into my lane without permission. The lack of simple courtesies that supply grease for smooth driving relations leaves me unruffled. Watching other tense drivers gripping their steering wheels for dear life as they struggle not to be outmaneuvered, provides witty relief from the unending traffic.

These hooligans—both the ones in black suits and the ones sooted from the ash heap of life—have shown me that aggression is the normal way of life here. The proximity of Lagos to the serene breeze from the Atlantic has done nothing to cool the pepper that burns in their veins.

On the roads, tempers edge dangerously close to boiling point, so, loud arguments and disputes settled with fistfights are not uncommon. No wonder I gave up eating pepper long ago, cucumber is more my style. But, I was soon to discover that the cherry does not fall far from the tree.

NAIJA

Nigeria, a place we all call home

Anger that constant simmering over decades of rape

Independence, a cherished hope; the impetus to rise again at 4 a.m.

Jaded after half    a century of promises unfulfilled

Affection, a feeling that continually binds us to the Motherland

Two weeks ago, my driver was going nose to nose with another vehicle. Normally, I would have cautioned him and asked him to yield to the yeye driver, but that day was different. Whether it was the roaring inflation or soaring unemployment, I cannot tell. It may have been the cumulative effect of bumping my head against the car window as my driver navigated one pothole-ridden street after another. Perhaps it was the sinking feeling that yet another con artist promising much and delivering little had swindled me. Whatever, I was tired of being a fool. My redundant aggressive genes surfaced. “Do not give him any chance,” I warned.

Both their countenances showed strong determination. A mad rush of blood had made the veins visible on their hands and temples, a sign that neither wanted to lose this race for survival. As my driver and I struggled to gain supremacy, he from behind the wheel, and me a cheerleading accomplice from the owner’s corner, the inevitable happened.

An ugly screeching sound rent the air as metal kissed metal. I had a taste of nauseating reality as the beat of the ancient talking drums in my head ceased. My driver jumped out, his rage fuelled by the sudden remembrance of his N5, 000 accident-free monthly bonus.

As he sparred with the other driver, I realized that their loud voices were a mere whisper in the buzz of a Lagos that never pauses. My car had finally been baptized with the telltale marks around the fender that speaks of a skirmish or two in traffic. After both drivers traded sufficient insults, they unanimously agreed that the scratches were not worth coming to blows over.

Rhetorical questions swirled in my mind as I tried to make sense of what had just happened. What was it that made my blood boil? How could I have Naijanized so fast?

Back home, my resourceful driver applied a little brake fluid to the scratches and the car looked almost as good as new. I guess it was a little insurance to secure his bonus. It reminded me of the shoddy patch jobs on our roads that are exposed by heavy rains. Yes, Lagos is getting greener on the outside, but true redemption must go beyond skin-deep.

As for me, years on foreign soil only camouflaged my leopard’s spots. The power of Naija, as the large billboards scream, can never be underestimated.

Pride Power Naija

Yeye: a derogatory term used for an annoying person, thing, or situation.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: author- Darwinek
Title: Flag-map of Nigeria
Page URL: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFlag-map_of_Nigeria.svg
Image design: © Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: e.r.w.i.n. / Foter / CC BY-NC
Title: PRIDE POWER NAIJA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eherrera/4950205845/
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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Happy Friday

Happy Friday

There is a man who stands at the entrance of the lift on the ground floor of your office building. He greets you with a broad smile as you approach the lift and lets you know that he has called the lift. “Oga, it is coming down,” he announces, as though looking at the numbers on the display changing in reverse order is a job for him alone.

He wears a pale blue shirt tucked into navy blue trousers with the seriousness of an employee on his first day at work. When he moves his cap slightly to scratch his head, you see that he is bald and his fingernails are long. You wince before you hear the sound and you are surprised that the sound is not as harsh as you expected. He taps his black baton, which hangs by his side, and you nearly forget that both of you have been waiting for a full sixty seconds.

In the lift, his shirt is not pale blue but faded blue, and the cracks which extend for a few millimetres from the buckle holes on his imitation leather belt, remind you of harmattan, of chapped lips in need of Vaseline.

“Oga, seven or ten?”

You are usually among the first to arrive at the office. Sometimes you get off on the seventh floor. Sometimes you get off on the tenth floor.

“Choose.”

“Ehn?”

“You choose the floor.”

His fingers hesitate at the control panel. “Ten sir. Ten, because the higher you go, de more money you go get.”

He smiles and some of the years roll off his face. You think of your late father and swallow a lump.

“Ten it is then.”

You no longer hold your breath when you ride with Joe. The smell of day-old perspiration has grown on you, just as the way his black shoes shine and reflect light, no longer fascinates you.

Joe clears his throat.

“Oga, today is Friday.”

“I know.”

You know because you woke up at 4 a.m. to complete the presentation for your meeting at ten. However, you can tell it is not the response Joe was expecting because he clears his throat again.

“Oga, happy Friday, sir.”

You think it is too early, but the weight of expectation that causes his words to land on your shoulders, the demands of communal responsibility that is thrust on you for earning a certain level of income, and the unspoken rules of this ritual, constrain you to respond.

“I’ll see you later.”

Joe clears his throat yet again. “Oga I will close early today.”

He has taken a gamble and he watches to see where the dice will roll. Only he does not let it stop. “It’s okay oga, I will wait.”

Your irritation vanishes.

“God bless you sir,” he calls as you walk out the lift.

When you close, he is there. On the ground floor. Saying, “Happy Friday,” to a colleague. He monitors you from the corner of his eyes, eyes that fill with indecision as you walk past. He must be aware of the foolishness of abandoning the fish in front of him, to dash and catch you. So he calls out, “Oga, abeg, I will soon finish!”

You almost laugh, in amusement, but check yourself. It is shameful that this culture dignifies begging and elevates it to an art form, complete with colloquialisms—How weekend sir? Anything for the boys sir? Oga we dey here o? Happy weekend, and so on.

An old man. A beggar. A corporate beggar. A beggar cushioned against the sun and the rain. A beggar in uniform. A professional beggar.

He catches up with you outside as you head for the car park.

Breathing hard, he declares, “Happy Friday sir!”

You hand over a couple of notes.

“God bless you sir! Your family will never suffer. Your wife will born plenty children, strong boys. Your children will become great ….”

You do not pay attention as you keep walking. What is his life like? What qualifications does he have? You turn to ask. But, Joe has resumed duty on the stairs leading to the entrance doors, his head bowed slightly and his hands outstretched.

You let your shoulders sag. “Happy Friday Joe,” you mumble, knowing that his praise-singing would have drowned out everything you intended to say.

In the car, before you turn on the ignition, you pull out a couple of notes from your wallet and leave them on the passenger seat. They are for Adamu and the others who man the security gate.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

 

Photo credit: © 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.