Drawing the Line

relationships

I once had a client, a man with lofty ideas and limited resources, whose business was pertinent to the success of mine.

In those days, a Lagos bus conductor who did not have adequate change for his customers, would ‘join’ two or three passengers together by giving one of them the total value of their change.

At their stop, he would explain to them, in between soliciting new passengers and calling out the names of the bus stops ahead, that he did not have enough change. Then he would give one passenger a single Naira note, which represented all of their change, as the bus driver rode away. We understood that as far as change went, our fate was sealed with that passenger and we had to find a way to split the change.

I have walked away from this arrangement—the huddling, the debate, the shadowing the ‘lead’ passenger as he perambulates in search of change, so we would not be duped twice—without my change because time was more important to me than it was to the others.

I felt as though my client was the passenger with our change but this time, the stakes were too high for me to up and leave.

I shared my worries with a friend.

“Get close to his wife. She will make things easier for you,” Ronke said.

I knew what she meant and I recoiled at her words. My client’s wife was a woman with a smile for everyone. Petite and pretty, she remained mum if she happened to be around as her husband and I discussed business, but I was aware that her intelligent eyes took in everything. It seemed cavalier, predatory even, to befriend this angel for the sole purpose of using her to influence her husband as we did not seem to have anything in common.

I endured my client’s belligerence and failed promises, promises he made after I made presentations and shared proposals. At my wit’s end, one night I sat in Ronke’s car for hours and itemized the problems I faced. She suggested, yet again that I make friends with his wife.

Soon after, a chance meeting with my client’s wife occurred. After pleasantries, she lowered her voice although we were alone and told me about a similar project they were undertaking with another publisher. In her words, the wahala nor get end. Sensing an opening, I took the ball she’d passed to me, but I did not run to the goal post. I dribbled until all obstacles were cleared and then passed her the ball to take a clean shot to goal.

“Ah ah men!” she exclaimed, “They don’t understand. Leave it to me. Here,” she handed me her business card, “if you have any issues, give me a call.”

I collected her card without looking at it.

“I’m serious,” she said, stopping me with her intelligent eyes. “Timi, if you have any problems, call me.”

I never had to call her. My client gave me my change and then some.

I’ve wondered about this incident and what I call my moral high horse. I guess because I have been used as a stepping stone in business, I did not want to bathe someone else with gifts and attention and then slam the door not minding if her fingers were trapped in the hinges or not.

But isn’t that what we all do? When we were younger, my siblings and I chose the favourite child, the one whose requests were hardly turned down, as an emissary to our parents. I sometimes attend social events with colleagues, when I’d much rather stay at home in my pajamas, to influence outcomes in the office. Relationships grease the wheels of business and human interaction is fueled more by trust than logic. We trust referrals from those we know.

My client’s wife and I never became chummy. We didn’t share enough common ground and we could not commit the time needed to explore what little commonalities we might have had. I see her once a long while and respond to her smile, the one she has for everyone, without guilt, but with warmth. And I sleep easy at night.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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

 

 

 

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Leave Trash For LAWMA

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

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

refuse disposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madam, abeg leave trash for LAWMA!”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

LAWMA- Lagos State Waste Management Authority.

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

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

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

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.

Flight to Lagos

luggage

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

“What for?” she wonders aloud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Madam, my seat please.”

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

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

“Madam, but your boarding pass—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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

I Hope Someone Calls Them Beloved

 

oworonsoki by Logor

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

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

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

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

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

She pleaded again, “I am sorry.”

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

“I said I’m sorry,” she began again.

The third friend was silent throughout this exchange.

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

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

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

“I’m at home now,” she told him.

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

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

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

____________

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

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

 

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

Photo credit: Owonronsoki by Logor Olumuyiwa

 

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

 

 

 

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.

The Battle of Testosterone

Battle

At the Reunion, I see Emeka for the first time in twenty-five years. We jam shoulders and pat each other’s backs.

“Man, you’re not doing badly,” Emeka playfully jabs the flab on my belly.

“Emeka na you biko! Nna men, you wear forty-six well!”

His clean shave reminds me that my beard is speckled grey.

“I do my best. Lola and the girls nko?”

“They are well.”

You still don’t have a boy right?” His chair scrapes the floor as he moves it to sit.

I take a long sip of my Gulder.

“No boy?” He leans forward in his chair.

I take another long sip of my Gulder. “Not yet.”

Emeka whistles. “Are you guys still trying?”

We exchanged emails about twelve years ago. I’d expressed frustration about not having a male child to carry on my name. Twelve years ago! What gives him the right to poknose now?

Emeka fiddles with his BlackBerry. I stare at nothing as I tap my feet to the beat of Fresh by Kool and the Gang. We have both done well in our careers, why is a male child an additional index of success? Emeka shows me photos of his wife, two sons, and daughter.

“My last son is ten.” He says it as if he won gold at the Olympics.

I shrink in my seat and hum, conversation is going round people talking ‘bout the girl

“So, how do you keep in shape? You look really good.”

I look at his muscles rippling beneath his fitted t-shirt. I signal to the waiter for another bottle of Gulder.

Emeka pats my arm, “Lola is really taking care of you. She’s goo—”

“I run seven kilometres every weekend.” I brush lint off my shirt as if that’s the reason I’m annoyed. What’s the difference between three and half and seven?

“Really? Why don’t we run together this weekend?”

Four bottles of Gulder makes me say yes and give him the route in Victoria Island where I run.

I arrive early on Saturday and start my warm-up exercises. Emeka parks his Range Rover Sport under an ebelebo tree and promises the boys washing cars some money to look after his car.

Nna, ke kwanu? Good day for running,” he says looking at the sky.

I mumble and nod.

He looks like Usain Bolt and starts like him. I think this showmanship unnecessary but keep my thoughts to myself.

After about 700 metres, Emeka picks up speed. “Come on!”

I match his pace.

“I know someone.”

“What?”

“Someone who can help with your problem.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“No need for all this oyibo, na me Mekus, your man.”

Gini?”

“There’s this guy in Oworo. He has a powder—”

“Emeka, what in god’s name are you talking about?”

“To increase the Y chromosome na.”

When I was younger, my mother told me to be careful when I got angry because my yellow skin became red around my ears. “Remaining small and they will catch fire,” she would warn.

The fire spreads from my ears to my chest, and then down to my legs. I pick up speed.

“Man, slow down! Na so?”

The fire burning my legs gets hotter, but Emeka sails past me like a gazelle while his laughter stays behind to mock me. I feel more heat on my feet. Grunting, I overtake Emeka and try to maintain my pace. We pass the three-kilometre mark.

Emeka draws level. “I’m only trying to help because I care.”

He gives me a slap on the back that makes me lose balance. I steady myself and look ahead. Emeka resembles Leonardo Dicaprio in Catch Me if You Can.

“Sh*t!” I spit and the wind blows my saliva back on my face. The fire in my chest is hotter than the one in my legs. My mouth feels dry. I tuck in my head and draw from my reserves. Emeka’s yellow singlet is the prize.

Each time I near my goal, Emeka antelopes away.

Oga small small o!”

I ignore the meiguard carrying jerry cans in his wheelbarrow. My honour is at stake. My legs begin to give first. I stretch my hand to catch Emeka. I touch something soft.

“L . . . Lola?”

“Sssh . . .”

“How?”

“Ssssh . . .”

“I was only trying to help. There is no shame in this matter.” Emeka’s voice seems distant.

“He has always been stubborn,” Lola says shaking her head.

I struggle to sit up.

She laughs and places her hand on my head, “Lie down.”

She motions to someone. The meiguard looks down at me and smiles. Kola nut has stained his teeth like blood. I remember Dracula. He lifts his gourd. Someone tugs at the waistband of my tracksuit bottoms.

“Where am I?” my voice is weak.

“Oworo,” Lola whispers, “Stop fighting, let him apply the powder.”

“No o o o!”

 

“Wake up, wake up! Lower your voice. You’ll wake the children. You’re dreaming.”

The glow from Lola’s bedside lamp shows how rumpled our sheets are. I wipe my clammy forehead as I make out our beige curtains and mahogany chest of drawers in the corner. My heart pounds as I reach down to feel it. Her hand is there. I slap it away.

I sense her confusion as she reaches again and says, “What?”

“Traitor,” I mutter, grab my phone, and jump out of bed.

I check on the girls. The even rhythm of their breathing greets my ears. I go to my study and search for the reunion email. I type a few words and hit reply. I lean back on my chair; lift up my waistband, peek, and then pack. I close my eyes and vow never to attend a reunion until I die.

©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.

 

Urban Solitude: Eko o ni baje o!

Mainland Bridge Danfo

Hasn’t it always been this way? Isn’t this the drawback of metropolitan cities? That they teem with busy people who bury their conscience in the fortress that earphones and smartphones provide? Agitated people with tired eyes that look past others to admire the moving vision of success. Rush-hour people who hold their bodies tautly to avoid brushing against each other as if touch is an infectious disease.

Lagos is Nigeria’s biggest cultural melting point, a land of opportunity where I hope to make it big if I hustle right (not everyone returns to Nigeria with excess Pounds and Dollars). In spite of all the promise it holds, people warn that Lagos can be a dangerous place. I feel safe in our flat and the office, but the streets scare me, crowded as they are with worker ants motivated by the fear of poverty and beautiful homes on The Island.

At 04:45, my internal rooster crows and I use warm water to flush traces of sleep from my eyes. I leave our flat with my handbag and a waterproof bag that contains my office shoes, my feet in rubber slippers for the morning jostle on the streets.

“CMS, Lagos CMS, CMS!” the bus conductor’s call rouses the streets.

The driver whisks us away from The Mainland to The Island, where we’ll run laps chasing dreams, luck, and money. At CMS, Victoria Island beckons. Behind the bus stop, the ripples on the sea glitter like diamonds under the rising sun, while container ships dock at Apapa Port.

My jewellery lies scattered in crevices in my handbag. Unadorned with shiny objects, I am an unlikely target of pilferers. I hold my bag tight under my armpit as I board the bus to Victoria Island. I have not spoken to anyone since my journey began. My hair rests on the window and my eyes feast on luxury cars. One day, I will ride in one of them.

The day’s work is hard and my journey home long and silent. Small puffs of dust rise from where my flip-flops slap the earth. In five minutes, I will enter the haven of high walls and still warm air trapped between three-storey buildings that is our flat.

Ahead, a car burns slowly at first, and then with a feverish rush that epitomises the pulse of Lagos. I mean to walk past, but the fire is a magnet that draws others and me. I mean to just look and shrug and stand at the edge, as I am sure the others will do too, but this victim of sudden misfortune tugs at the heartstrings of calloused street people.

We pour water and sand alternately on the burning car. The fire mocks us; its flames lick our concerted effort. Commands fly left, right, and centre as raindrops escape from the sky. Unable to surmount the singleness of our vision, the fire sucks its last breath when a fire extinguisher emerges.

Smoke clouds shaped like ghosts sail across the sky. We, and our ghosts, our resurrected conscience, shout for joy. The rain plasters my hair to my skull and dripping water teases my ears. Eko o ni baje o, Eko o ni baje o, now, I believe the streets still hold promise.

protected helmet

When I open my bag in our flat, my purse is gone. Disappointment strikes blows at my gut as I calculate what I have lost. I embrace urban solitude, the definition that at first made me laugh because I thought it was relevant only in London.

“Don’t acknowledge fellow passengers or sustain eye contact beyond two seconds. Please respect urban solitude.”

And why not? On the streets a kind deed breeds mistrust that quickly turns to scorn. Asking for directions or providing them is a chore weighed with suspicion, and if death nearly claims a soul, the body that houses the soul stands no chance; it will be mangled in the stampede to “arrive” or survive.

This city bustles with life, yet there are fewer strangers to talk to. I long for human contact, not the obligatory type I receive when I walk into a shop, but the disarming type. The unexpected touch from a stranger whose smile meets my upward gaze as he hands me something that dropped from my bag, or the kinship in eye contact with a stranger, after a silly advert on a giant billboard has amused us both.

Eko o ni baje o!

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Eko o ni baje: (Yoruba) Lagos will not spoil.

Read more about Lagos? These are snippets with photos worth seeing:

1. Yellow. Bright. Happy. Memories of Lagos:

KitchenButterfly memories of Lagos

http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com/2013/12/23/yellow-bright-happy-memories-of-lagos/

2. Eko The Musical

eko the musical@crea8ivenigeria

 http://www.creativenigeriaproject.com/ 

Credits

1. Beyond The Rules (Danfo on Lagos Bridge) by Kosol Owundinjor (Photo by Lagos)  http://photobylagos.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/beyond-the-rules/ 

2. Protected Helmet (eko oni baje helmet) by Kosol Onwudinjor (Photo by Lagos)  http://photobylagos.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/protected-helmet/

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.