PUSH ME, I PUSH YOU

Aja in the okuko's shadow...

Aja in the okuko’s shadow…

Some years ago, on a hot summer day in the fourth year of Obasanjo’s terrible second reign, when home internet was but the preserve of the Dangotes and Ibrus of this world, Esco decided to arise and take a journey to the neigbourhood cybercafé to do some browsing.

It was a Saturday like any other – NEPA had struck, and generator noises played the soundtrack to the story of Nigeria in the background, male agama lizards and the female ones doing shakara played ‘hide and seek’ in the cracks of the walls of the houses in the street, open gutters festered in the sun with the putrid smell of hot stagnant water and piss, and a bus conductor’s aggressive voice added to the medley as he barked his advertisement “Ojuelegba! Stadium!! No change o, make you hold ya side!!’

 

I got to the cybercafé, bought a ticket and logged in. The cybercafé was very full. There were all sorts of punters there – some youngsters who came to check JAMB and exam results online; then there were a few pervs who were staring at pictures of scantily clad chicks on dodgy websites; there were the perpetual scroungers who used the web to pester their relatives overseas to send the money, then there were those who typed emails by pressing one key at a time with one finger until they exhausted their credit without finishing the email.

I was a bit crestfallen when I opened my inbox messages and there was not a new message to be had. My spam box however did not disappoint. I had various ones – one for abuna enlargement; another email announced that I had just won a lottery for $5million dollars. Wait, won’t I need to have played it first before I could win?

The last email was from some dude named Anthony Prince asking me to send 5000 dollars so that he could pay the inheritance taxes to enable him withdraw his late ex-minister father’s balance from a Swiss account. He promised to share the largesse with me. As if I would ever trust anyone with a double barreled English name like Anthony Prince. By the way why do 419 and yahoo yahoo swindlers choose ridiculous oyibo names like Prince, Don, Peterpaul, Wilberforce, Vitalis, Felix. The runs men of the 80s were money doublers.

Normally I replied 419 email by reprimanding the sender saying something like “419 is a sin o” but that day I decided to let it slide. Plus key “4” on the keyboard was broken.

I was debating whether to log out, and save the credit on my ticket for another day, when commotion broke out. Alas it was between a dude and a lass just a row across from where I was seated. They were trading insults. Remember that these were the days before YouTube.  I decided to chill and observe. Kai, where is popcorn when you need it?

Apparently the chap has been browsing when his phone rang. He left his folder on the table and stepped outside to take the call. A lady in her late 20s, had just purchased a ticket, and saw the spot empty. She then shoved the chaps folder aside, and restarted the pc, logged in, and starting surfing the web.

When the dude came back, he tapped the lady on the shoulder and tried to explain that he had been there before. The girl would hear none of it, despite the fact that some people seated around there were corroborating his story. The guy explained that he would have forfeited the space for the lady but he had an urgent email he had to send to his brother who was a business partner. He was also irritated that the lady had shoved his personal belongings aside and re-booted the PC.

Before long, a heated exchange ensued between them, and the lady started getting really abusive:

Girl: “The computer is not your personal property so why should I stand up. Abeg abeg..”

Guy: “I never claimed that it was my property. Now please stand up, as I don’t have time for this.”

Girl: “If I refuse to stand up, what will you do? Infact I am not getting up from here. Do your worst!”

Guy: “This can’t be serious.  E be like say you dey find wahala today. If you see am, you go run o”

Girl: “Wetin you fit do? If you have ten heads, touch me and see what would happen.”

This was the era of the hipster  for women. Imagine a really curvy size 16 lady in bright colored hipsters, a belly chain with hips and bakassi  that would make Toolz Oniru look like Fido Dido. She was heavily made up with her nails done like Wolverine.

Every other person in the cybercafé also quit momentarily and started watching. They seemed to be willing the parties to resort to angst-filled violence like Olisa Dibua versus the staff member of that radio station; like Jim Ikye versus the world…What is it with us Nigerians and violence?

As she argued, she stood up to tower over the guy, while showering him with expletives and spittle. From outside, the both of them looked mismatched like Julius Agwu versus Eniola “Gbo Gbo Biz Girls” Badmus. The guy held his ground, and held the arm of the chair, while wedging himself against the table, to prevent the girl from usurping the space.

The girl also held on to the headrest part of the chair, as she continued her verbal tirade: “If you are a man, try me na. I will finish you today. Shebi  na Lagos we dey. Dey here, your mates are erecting mansions in Lekki and Ikoyi, you are here paying 50 naira to browse for 30 minutes and fighting over chair. Idiot!”

The guy wiped his face, as he snapped “You are stupid for that statement. You don’t know how foolish you look wearing this undersized trouser with a tight belly chain. You look like pure water tied with rope.”

With that the girl started free-styling insults. She attacked his manhood, she abused his clothes, she said his shoe was so worn out, that the heels had chopped and had a slant like a Bobby Brown hair-cut from the 80s. She insulted the man’s handset, saying that he just carried a unit without a sim-card in it. All this while waving her hands in his face and standing over him. Her 40DDD boobs were pointing in his face like howitzers.

The man decided he had enough, so he grabbed his folder, and shoved her aside out of his way like Joseph did to Potiphar’s wife. She immediately dove to the ground, like she had been struck by an assassin’s bullet from Colonel Dimka. She started screaming and screwing her face in pain as she writhed about, with her facial expression like Davido when he sings.

“Osanobua! You have killed me o. Ah, see my face. Why did hit me. How dare you put your filthy hands on me? You are finished today. My uncle is a local government chairman. My brother-in-law’s cousin’s husband is related to a police commissioner in Edo state. You will sleep in a cell today. It will never be better for you!!”

The guy started sweating like Charles Okafor in a Nollywood film. He looked both amused and confused at the same time.

Everybody’s eyes shifted from the girl on the floor to the guy like, it is your move now.  Some people were arguing that he should have relinquished the chair to the girl. One woman was visibly pissed and gave the guy a piece of her mind for ‘hitting’ the girl. Public opinion seemed to berate the guy for putting his fingers on the girl. Like short man devil wey only get power when him see woman.

There are 3 instances when a woman can render a man defenseless in the court of public opinion. One is if she accuses you of beating or physically assaulting her (sadly, this rule may not apply in all the states of Nigeria). The second is if she accuses you of rape, whether or not you really had consensual sex. The third is if she abuses you about your lack of sexual prowess or stamina. I mean what come-back is there when an ex calls you “2 minute noodles” or “water pap.”

Silence is the best answer for a fool like you.

There are those who believe that verbal sparring with a woman is allowed as far as you do not put your hands on her in any way (including  a shove). I believe that even if you must have a verbal exchange, one way not to do it, is the way it was done in a scene in “Wild Chicks 2″ the Nollywood blockbuster   starring Tuface Idibia’s better half. Check out the action from 16.50 on the time-scale.

Meanwhile, with all the commotion, I decided that it was time for me to beat it, before EFCC would swoop on the café and arrest everybody present, and then announce on NTA’s 9’O clock news that they had busted a yahoo yahoo syndicate. I made slipped away and made a run for it like Alameisegha.

What are your opinions on what happened? Who was wrong between the two parties?

 I met a woman plus a lady that was sweet and unique/
She was no trick or no tramp, she was no freak off the street/
I was amazed, looks and attitude, I spoke of gratitude/
She wasn’t stuck up and rude, and we became cool/
From then on we leaned as friends, then as lovers/
You could be my girl, I’d be your man just forever/

 Daz Dillinger (Only For You, 1998)

Shant’gree Birds

It is the thought that counts - action is overrated anyway

 

We are in the season of love. Valentine’s Day is upon us, and its yet again that time of the year when we celebrate the loves in our lives, the sugars in our teas, the fish in our stew, the ones who take our breaths away. It is that time of the year when we celebrate the special sombori.

But Esco is not in the mood for any jagbajantis celebration of love. I prefer to go the other route and talk about those nonsense somboris who make us gnash our teeth, or cringe at their behavior. I want to talk about dangerous women in a man’s life who have caused him pain, grief and almost a certain death. All men have had that sort of woman at least once in their lifetime. I am here to talk about poisonous girls, or ‘angry birds’ as they are known. Seeing that majority of my readers are female, this post would not be popular. Heck, I may only get one or two comments.

I will be handing out this categories of girls, hibiscus flowers that I plucked from my neighbors bushy backyard. Here goes:

  • Girls who show you only one side of them, and then flip one day totally throwing you off balance. I once dated a chick who was the epitome of style and grace – to me. All my friends couldn’t stand her. Their nickname for her was ‘madame’ and that was because they said she had a nasty streak in her. Thing was, I couldn’t see it. She took proper care of me. If my car had a problem, she would come get me.  She would drop me off at night and watch me walk across my landlord’s perfectly cut lawn into my BQ, before she sped off. She typed my school project – all 5,000 words of it on her dad’s dusty Fujitsu PC. When she learned that I loved pancakes, she brought me some every morning for a month! Esco was getting fat.

 

She soon took over every aspect of my life. Esco was getting sprung. Soon, I was giving her my money to hold, and she was giving me pocket money. She was First Bank/ first lady/fair lady. And I was fair game.

 

But I noticed that other girls were scared shit-less of Madame. When I first started going steady with her, a friend of mine cried begging me not to. I couldn’t understand it. I noticed that my circle of female friends trickled until I was stuck with Madam only. I later found out that most girls were terrified of Madam and her circle of intimidating friends who were a powerful clique in the girl’s hostel. They threatened, and even once beat up another girl who was flirting with one of their fellas. This clique called themselves “The Powerpuff Girls.”

 

But Madam was very meek and submissive around me. If we had an argument, she would back down, and never raise her voice. Then she would massage my male ego my tenderly urging me: Babe please come to bed.

Soon Madam had Esco wrapped around her finger. Or so she thought.

 

Then one day, after we had graduated from school, she came to my place to visit me. We chilled in the crib for a bit, then it was evening time. I decided to see her off to get a cab. We strolled to a major street to hail a cab, and stood there trying to look for an empty taxi passing.

 

Then a cab was passing but it had a man and a woman inside it. Madam then muttered something under her breath, as the cab passed us. The cab had gone down the road, then stopped and now did a U-turn and started coming towards us.

 

It stopped a few meters from us, and the woman inside jumped out, just as the man she was with was trying to restrain her.

 

The woman bellowed at Madam in alatika English: “Young girl, repeat that statement you just made now. What was the statement you just said, when we were passing.”

 

I was perplexed. I looked at Madame, then looked at Alatika, and then looked at Alatika’s bobo who looked like he too was spoiling for a fight.

 

I was going to try and shield Madame, but she shoved me aside and confronted the woman head-on, eyes-bulging like Segun Arinze: “What did you hear me say? Is your ear blocked.”

 

In fact Madame was so angry that she had a vein popping on her forehead. You know that vein that sticks out on your forehead when you are sucking a dry orange hard?

 

Chukwu a julu! Was this my normally calm girlfriend. The two lasses started a hot exchange there, almost coming to blows. I was trying to calm my chick the fuck down, but she wouldn’t listen. She was really cruising for a bruising.. It was becoming like that scene from Jenifa Part 1 where the Gbo-Gbo Bigz Girl crew took on the Runs Girls crew.  People started gathering, including some people from me yard and street, along with okada riders, abokis, maigaurds, neighborhood hangers-on. The whole parole was beginning to smell one kind like badussy (butt+ ——y)

 

In the heated exchange, the truth came out. Apparently Madame had called the woman an “ashewo” when the cab was passing.  For.no.apparent.reason.You know females are blessed with 50/50 vision and ‘blue-tooth’ ears. The woman had read Madame’s lips (don’t ask me how), as she muttered the words under her breath, and the woman had ‘commanded’ the cab driver to do an ‘automatic 360’.

 

Now there was more trouble – the woman’s oga was also now spoiling for a fight. With moi.

 

I was non-committal, like bros, if they sent you, tell them that you didn’t see me. Besides I only fight people whom I can see the top of their head. I cant see yours, so I wont (cant) fight you.

 

Some of the hangers-on there, managed to diffuse the situation. But me and Madame were never the same again. I had seen the other side of her, she had desperately tried to hide from me, and she probably felt exposed. By the next month, we had decided to cool things off.

 

Madame, here is your hibiscus flower.

 

  • Girls who refuse to be friends with you because you cannot date them. Mami, some girls eyes de chook now o. This used to be a male problem before. Guys only befriended girls to see if they could sleep with them. In fact I was like that once. I only kept a girl as a platonic friend, only if I wasn’t attracted to her at all. She had to be terribly ugly before I could relax and be chill with her. But I have matured over the years. I realize that not all relationships with members of the fairer sex need be sexual. There are other forms of relations to be had, except the physical, and now I have tons of hot friends, that I have remained cool with on a pure level. They are not that many, but I will get there.

However now, I find that it is girls who have that nasty streak of ‘all or nothing.” I know some girls want to marry or get a steady date quick, but this Oliver Twist behavior has to stop. I once had a female reader contact me directly, and we chatted a bit over a few days. Then she started asking for my photographs and contact details. I warned her if you see Esco, you nor go like am o. I wor wor o.

She begged me to send her a bb picture of myself. I write a blog, so my penmanship represents me. I sent a bb picture of my finger, and she got upset. Soon she got the inclination that I was wanted us to be friends, she cut me off immediately. I felt used. It is not fair o. Here is your hibiscus flower.

  • Lasses who have unrealistic expectations of men.

 

Sometimes, girls, and boys, but since I am talking about girls, then some girls need to ask themselves if they are emotionally mature to date or marry. No I am not asking if they have now sprouted boobs and lumps to be fondled, or if hair has now cascaded their armpits. Marriage is 80% about trust, friendship and perseverance, 15% about romance and 5% about sex. Money and in-law problems have a huge share somewhere there.

 

Please ladies, chill with your expectations from your significant other this Valentine season. Don’t be mad because you expected a box-card ( I have never understood why they fell trees for this waste of a thing), and your fella gave you miniature card. It is the thought that counts. I personally prefer sending E-cards. They are environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and then most of all I get to choose the wordings. And I am a skilled poet, so I can compose an ode to serenade my love interest.

 

So what if you wanted White Diamonds by Liz Taylor, and he gave you Malizia Uomo instead?

 

 I would now have to love you and leave you with an exchange between Richard Pryor’s character “Sugar Ray”  and his girlfriend played by Berlinda Tolbert  in the 1989 Eddie Murphy-produced movie “Harlem Nights.” See what happens when compromise reigns supreme:

 

Girlfriend:  Are we going to talk about your son all night? Or are you going to make love to me?

 

Richard Pryor: Why don’t we make love……and talk about my son in the morning?

 

 

 

Girlfriend:  Well…What if we made love all night……and then made love all morning? And all afternoon?

 

 

Richard Pryor:  What if we made love real hard for 10 minutes and drop off into a deep coma-like sleep? Meet me halfway.

 

 

Girlfriend: l’ll give it a shot.

 

 

Scene fades….

 

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

 

No Vex

Yawa!

Sometime ago, my cousin who lives in England, received an official correspondence from a professional organization that I am affiliated with, addressed to me, because I had used her address as a forwarding address. It was a copy of a replacement certificate of membership which I had ordered from them at a cost off course.

Unfortunately, when my cousin was trying to open the envelope to see what was included in the mail, she mistakenly tore the upper part of the certificate. The next time I saw her, she handed over the torn certificate with an apology and a cheque for 25 pounds for me to order a replacement certificate. I looked at the cheque, and dreamed of all the things I could do with it –  purchase a new bottle of cologne (Emporio Armani Diamonds by Armani, which was new at the time); squander all of it on kebabs and chips and a bottle of wine, buy a pair of slip-ons from Clarks, load my mobile phone and call Naija, enter Poundland and buy 25 bucks worth of candy for people in Naija who were waiting for ‘Janded’ stuff; sow (or sew) it into someone’s life in Nigeria; blow it buying 2 packet shirts at the NEXT clearance sale on Oxford street; renew my subscription to 442 magazine; buy a kpanjo phone without camera from Phones 4 You, and use it as a spare phone to put my MTN sim-card; ‘repatriate’ the 25 pounds back to Nigeria and utilize it on next summer as forex.

As you may have noticed, none of my thoughts went to ordering a replacement certificate. But deep down within me, I knew I could not accept the 25 pound check from my cousin. No be her fault say the certificate tia (tear). But I was amazed at her willingness to take responsibility and attempt to make amends by apologizing and handing out payment for a replacement.

Many people in Naija would label her a mugu, and me a bigger mugu (maga) (the superlative term for mugu is maga) for rejecting the free-fall cheque. In Naija, many people fail to take responsibility for their actions. They just gloss over their wrong-doing, offer lame excuses and throw an abject apology towards the victim if he or she persists for too long. I have even seen where someone apologized, and when the victim insisted on compensation, the person retorted “Fuck you jor”.

The above example is a simple illustration but study our national life. Hardly do you see somebody hold up his/her hand and accept that he or she has erred.

Have you heard of a guy called Lawrence Anini? You have? Okay, what about Monday Osunbor? Maybe or probably not. Do you know why the name Anini would forever live in infamy in Nigerian memories? He was the Jesse James of his time – a reckless armed robber and car tif (thief). He terrorized the old Bendel State, robbing, killing, looting and pillaging. Osunbor was his side kick, and the muscle of the operations.

When they got caught, Anini the ‘strong-man’ of the Bendel State criminal underworld was singing like a tolo-tolo. A forgettable memory of the period following the capture of that infamous gang is NTA news footage of Anini begging for forgiveness from the Nigerian public. This dude who had slaughtered many innocent victims, swore that he had turned a new leaf since his capture, and would be a model citizen if released.

This nigga is talking now about turning a new leaf. But what about people you and your blood gang murdered and robbed. The difference between Anini and Osunbor, is that while Anini was pussyfooting trying to curry public sympathy, Osunbor manned up, and was ready to face the consequences. In fact Osunbor last words were for a message to be delivered to the youths of the time to shun crime and fast money. Today, the name ‘Anini’ is the definitive word for thief or rogue or ole, the same way Indomie defines noodles, Maggi means all kinds of stock cubes, once it is blue detergent powder in Nigeria, it must be Omo (much to the chagrin of Elephant Blue Detergent).

Osunbor is just another Edo surname, confined to the subconscious of Nigerian people’s memories.

And it is not just criminals in Nigeria who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. The ordinary man on the street just wants to gloss over his wrongdoings. And why won’t he? He watches our politicians lie, squeal and tell half-truths, get caught and blame it on the work of saboteurs. No Naija politician has ever resigned out of disgrace or scandal. In fact up to 2004, and I stand to be corrected, Ebitimi Banigo, a former Minister of Science and Technology is the only Nigerian politician to have ever resigned on a matter of principle. Catch a  Nigerian politician on camera with a Ghana-Must-Go bag filled with cash with his pants down being fellated by a ‘runs’ girl in a dingy Abuja hotel, and he would swear that it wasn’t him, and blame it on photo-shop.

Our everyday life is based on passing the buck. You are stuck in traffic on a hot summer afternoon on a busy street in Lagos, and someone upends your car, cracking the bumper into 2 and smashing the brake-lights.

The person gets down from his car, assesses the damage and puffs out his gorilla chest as he mutters: “Sorry o” and he dangles his keys impatiently. Some people do not even cut out their engine, when they come down to inspect a damage that was their fault.

And to him, ‘sorry’ should be the end of the matter. If you persist that you and he exchange insurance papers (if you are brave enough for kasala) or that he pays for the damage, the idiot may further throw you the only apology in the world that sounds like an insult “Sorry na!” Pscheeeww!

If it is a bus or okada driver who wrecked your motor, he may even try to prostrate, and bide his time until back-up arrives. Then you would be royally fucked.

And you are like, dude, the last time I checked, sorry never fixed a Mercedes Benz rear grill. Or a Kia Rio one for that matter.

I was in a car once with my friend’s older brothers, and we were driving into a paid parking lot on Marina when a man in his 50s was backing up from a lot and crashed into our slick Honda vehicle. The man got down, ‘begged’ and tried to convince my friend’s brother to forgo asking for a repair. The gash was really bad, and the car door couldn’t even shut. The man said that he had just come to distribute some wedding IVs for his daughter’s wedding. He then asked us to forget about the crash, and shoved some IVs into our hands, inviting us to the wedding as ‘special guests’ to come and eat, drink and be merry. The wedding reception was at Onipanu that Saturday. We were all weak.

I mean, we like red party jollof rice, but not that much. Please fork out money for our  car repair.

This happened to me, and as the guy kept on saying ‘sorry’ it was really beginning to piss me off. His ‘sorry’ just made me madder like Samuel L. Jackson’s character in the below scene from the 1996 classic Pulp Fiction. I double-dare you to say ‘sorry’ one more time

So what is it about our national psyche that makes us reluctant to bear responsibilities for mistakes or wrong-doing? I remember reading an edition of Island News where this 45 year old carpenter was arrested when neighbors caught him sleeping with his 12 year daughter, Can you believe that this brute tried to put up a defence? He first said that he only slept with her after their mum died and he needed ‘companionship’, and he only did it once. He even tried to blame the girl, by saying that the girl was dressing provocatively?! Your own daughter?  This dude should have had a stone put around his neck, and chucked off 3rd Mainland bridge, so he could swim with the fishes.

Or did you guys hear about the LASU dudes that raped a girl. Never ever once where they apologetic for their crime. Please peruse their explanation in this link, and see if you can trace any ounce of remorse or sense of responsibility in their confession.

The part that irked me most was one of the rapist’s cry that “I regret everything because it has landed me in big trouble. Unfortunately, my father is not alive to bail me out of this. Please help me beg Sandy to forgive me.

Note that he does not regret the pain and anguish he had caused the rape victim. Bail you out? We need more fathers like Mutallab’s own.

The Nigerian psyche and cultural inclinations are to think that apologizing profusely, throwing one’s self on the floor, and passing the buck to Satan, claiming that it is the devils work, shows remorse. Someone takes responsibility and doesn’t try to shirk the blame is seen as a hardened criminal. Bystanders would remark ‘This man dey very wicked o’

In boarding school, a Form 3 student was caught stealing a box of Golden Morn and a tin of Nido powdered milk. His modus operandi was that he would wait till it was time for student’s assembly, then scale into the dorms, and break into people’s lockers. The guy was caught by the house captain and taken to the school captain’s quarters where he received a thorough beating from some prefects.

As the thief sobbed uncontrollably and begged for mercy, the school captain asked him” Next time, when you see someone else’s belongings, what would u do?

He replied as he swallowed huge tears “I would run in another direction.”

The school captain further inquired as he brandished a huge scratcher (a cane made up of twisted metal hangers) “What direction?”

The thief answered “The opposite direction!”

He was released with a warning and not forwarded to the house-master for suspension, as was customary.

Another guy was caught stealing a few weeks later. The prefects gathered and flogged him, but he didn’t shed a tear or ask for forgiveness, not even once. As they thrashed with scratchers and belts, dude manned up and didn’t show any emotion. He was beaten to a pulp and then suspended.

It even starts from childhood. A kid was caught stealing meat from a pot of egusi soup, and he denied an intent. I was just checking the temperature of the soup.

Recently, my friend and his wife and kids came over to my place to visit us. His 3 year old son, Rasaki, was a bit of a brat. Remember my 40-inch Sony Google TV? This boy kept trying to climb the glass TV stand, and hold on to the television set. He tugged at it once, and it looked like it would heave over and smash. My girl was gracious and smiley, but I wasn’t finding it funny at all as I swallowed. If that TV got smashed, you could bet your bottom dollar that the boy’s kids would not offer to replace it. Their defence would be ‘Eiyaa, sorry, but he is just a child.”

I had to act fast by tempting him away from the telly. So I called out “Rascal kid, Rasaki, come and take biskit (biscuit).”

He ran towards me….and away from the TV. It worked.

 

 

To the families, I never meant to cause no pain/
I know the truth, but if you want, then I shoulder the blame/

Puff Daddy (Pain, 1997)

Andrew’s Kpali

Over-seas, under-g


One of the enduring memories of the early 80s was that grim ad where a guy named Andrew wanted to check out of Nigeria by all means due to the SAP induced economic hardships. In the advert, he was advised not to do so by another older Nigerian, but to remain and contribute his quota to national development. If only Andrew were living in these present times, he would find out that he could not ‘check out’ on a whim as was easily possible during those times.

Now, first he would have to fork out a king’s ransom to obtain an E-passport from the rowdy Immigration Office in Ikoyi. He may also have to bribe some unscrupulous agent to help him get the privilege of getting an interview date that is not sometime in 2090.  Then he would find himself queuing on Walter Carrington in V.I, after paying an arm and a leg in visa fees, only to be given a 10 year ban for sneezing during the interview. He may need to write an English test before being allowed to do his Masters in Jand. In fact, people who plan to ‘check out’ nowadays for good or for school, do not tell anyone outside their immediate family of their plans, until they are safely on terra firma in Heathrow/Gatwick/JFK airports. Some bad bele people dey beef travelers for Naija.

Some people equate leaving the country with a golden ticket to utopia. There are people who believe that once you cross the border or our hemisphere, you are welcomed to a land filled with milk and honey. You can see it in some people’s actions, though they try to act ‘normal’. I remember some years back, when I went to the British High Commission in Lagos for my student visa interview, I ran into some girl I  recognized from university. I and this girl never exchanged a word back in school because our paths never did cross like that. The girl saw me across the waiting room, and gave me a golden wink, like so Esco you are planning to Jand, eh? Me too oh.

She was called for her interview before me so she walked into the waiting room nervously. I looked around me in the waiting room, and people’s faces looked nervous and anxious, because Naija people dey fear visa interview officers.  One guy was biting his nails and cracking his knuckles as if it was a doe or die affair, and that if he was not granted a visa, his world would end.

Then the girl I knew from school, walked out of the interview room, pumping her fists in triumph. I felt embarrassed for her. The look on Nigerian people’s faces in the waiting room of embassies is always priceless. Some people hissed, while a few looked enviously at my former schoolmate, like “You are going to Hollywood baby.”

There was time at another embassy interview, that I saw someone I knew after coming out of the interview room,  and he was gesticulating widely with his palms like ‘did you get it’

It is not about the size (or length) of the visa, it was what you do with it.

Then you have the boastful loudmouths who brag or show-off about their travels on Twitter, BB or Facebook updates. I know this lass whose Facebook updates always go like this “Dubai state of mind” or “Jetting off tonite“ Like who cares?

For a good while, for many Nigerians, travelling abroad entailed either going to England or the U.S. Now there are many more popular destinations, as the world is now connected as a global village, and now almost anybody can go ‘away’ – Ghana, Canada, Southie (SA), Dubai, China, Germany, Italy (work visa program) – in fact anywhere but here.

Even the ordinary man on the street equates travelling out with easy dollars. And this ridiculous belief is shared by people who should know better. I had this place I used to go cut my hair in Lekki. It was a barber shop, with 4 barbers who usually engaged in banter with the cutting public. One of them in particular was a really flamboyant dude – he grew dreadlocks which looked more dada, he always wore some white sneakers like that, and liked playing Lil Wayne videos on the salon DVD. This guy was obsessed with Lil Wayne to a fault. He used to try dressing like Lil Wayne, even with the dreadlocks (dada), white wife-beater vests (shimi), and the bling (dog-tag). He ended up looking like Denrele instead. He even started grinning and laughing like Lil Wayne. Ha! He would rewind and play the ‘Lollipop’ video a million times and marvel at the stretch hummer, the girls and the champagne and fantasize about relocating to Yankee, where he heard that cash was easy, and that barbers earn a fortune. He usually grilled the rich people’s kids whose hair he cut for information about their summer trip to the States.

He wasn’t the only one obsessed with ‘checking out’ of Nigeria. There was another of them, a light-skinned barber called Osa. Osa usually cut my hair, because he was a better barber than the Lil Wayne impersonator, and I preferred him because the impersonator was always miming the Wayne’s songs close to my ear-drums, which is really irritating. Major Payne.

Osa said that he was just deported from Sweden about 3 months back, and it was his life ambition to return to Europe even though his passport was stamped with the deportation order.

Sweden? Before then, whenever I thought about Sweden, my mind went to Volvos, Abba, Ace of Base, beautiful blond women, Dolph Lungdren action flicks and IKEA furniture. Apparently they have a free tertiary institution scheme, which has attracted Nigerians there in droves.

Apparently Osa had travelled to Sweden on one of those schemes, but to hustle. He didn’t attend school, but hung out with some Nigerian dudes who had been resident in the country for years, and were into ‘business.’ They painted the town red, bar-hopping and going to clubs. They were at a club one night, when some people got into a fight and a girl was stabbed. Before anyone could say ‘Jackie Robinson’, the police had arrived and sealed the premises, and were checking every patron one by one. Osa was drunk, but he sobered up quick. The police didn’t buy Osa’s story that he was a student at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was booked and later deported. He had only been in Swedo for 4 months.

Back in Nigeria, he took up barbing in Lagos. He said that his family and friends in Benin had no clue that he had been deported, save for his sister. He was too ashamed to go back home and face people who were expecting ‘big things’ from him. Daft, I know.

Osa moaned about suffering in Nigeria and wanting to travel out every time I went to shave or cut my hair. I tried to advise him to try and get some education or try a business or develop himself and make the most of Nigeria. He was not interested. Bro, if you are a barber, try and be the best one you can be. Nigeria needs your talents more.

Then one day he met a white girl online at a cyber cafe. They started chatting everyday on yahoo messenger. Then the gist turned to love. The girl was originally from Ireland was living and working in South Africa, with the World Health Organization as a nurse.

Some weeks later, I was at the barbers when Osa told me that the girl had told him to come over to SA for a visit. First of all, I thought it was a scam, but he showed me the girl’s pictures, some texts and and an email he had printed out. Not entirely convinced, and fearing that it might be the work of scammers fronting as a girl to entrap mugus, I told him to wait and see if the person would ask for money or a kind of financial inducement. But nothing of the sort.  Southie nurse was as real as Yvonne Chaka Chaka..

Osa was happy. He said “I no fit believe say I would soon be in South Africa. I would go and visit Mandela.” He did not tell any of his barber co-workers about the impending trip, as in his words, make them no go jazz me. He only told the nail file worker in the girl’s beauty department, and the chap begged Osa to bring him “Umqombothi” from South Africa.

The next time I came to the barbers, Osa was looking depressed, cutting a customer’s hair. I had half a mind to stay out of what was bothering him; besides I had just barely come out of a 2 hours Lekki traffic and the smarting Lagos sun. But Osa kept hissing and sighing until it became criminally impossible to ignore him. He had gone for a visa interview at the South African Embassy some days before. And, yes you guessed it, he had been denied.

I asked him what supporting travel documents had he taken for the visa interview. He said he had taken his passport, an invitation letter from the girl,  a letter of employment from an computer sales shop he did part-time work in and a ‘souped up’ bank account statement.

So why was he not granted the visa? Wait for it, it is the daftest reason, I have ever heard. After grilling Osa on how he met the girl, why he was making a personal trip, what he does for a living, how he met the girl (to which he lied that she had come to Nigeria for holidays some months back), the interviewing officer still looked dissatisfied. The offer looked at his application, and asked him one final but irrelevant question: “ You said, you speak to the girl on the phone every day right? What is her phone number?”

Osa faced dropped, as he drew a blank. The interviewing officer ended the interview, and stamped Osa’s passport with a huge red ink. Denied.

When I heard this, I was so pissed. I told Osa that he was a moron. In this day and age, who the hell remembers anyone’s number, especially an international number off-head. That is what a cellphone’s address book is for! And due to Osa’s ignorance, he didn’t have the confidence to stick it to the man. The officer just played on Osa’s intelligence (or lack of). Some Nigerians fit fall someone hand sef.

Osa said the girl cried when she heard he was denied, and swore that she would come and visit him in Nigeria soon. But Osa discouraged her, because he wanted to leave the country instead, and besides he didn’t have money “to take care of this oyibo” if she came here.

When I came to the barber’s two weeks later, Osa had some anxious news. Apparently, the girl had insisted on coming, and was arriving in a week’s time. Osa was anxiety personified. He worried about how she would cope with NEPA, what she would eat, where she would sleep, what she would do for entertainment. In fact he worried about how he would get the cash to foot all the bills for the above.

He said that some of the “Lagos big boys” whose hair he had cut at the salon had heard his story and promised to help. One said he and the girl could lodge at his hotel for a week. Another told him to come and collect a car (Honda End of Discussion) from his fleet for his use during the girl’s visit. Another told him to come and lodge the girl in his big house, but at a price – so that they could ‘sandwich’ the girl. Osa had politely declined the last one.

I knew what it was all leading to – a plea for cash from me, but I didn’t want to indulge his crassness. According to him, he needed more money to “buy Indomie noodles, cartons of sardine and Uncle Ben’s rice, and also cash to take the girl go Silverbird, Shoprite and Alpha Beach.”

I told him: “I don’t have silver or gold, but I would give you a gem of an advice. Make you no go bankrupt yourself say you wan dey impress your oyibo girlfriend. When someone comes to visit you from outside Nigeria, the person would be more interested in eating our local cuisine and going to our own local joints. Carry the girl to places like Olaiya to eat designer rice. Take her to Kuramo beach and buy her cowrie shells. Or go to Lagbaja’s Motherland or Fela’s Shrine. You don’t need to spend beyond your means. After all she knows that you are a barber so you are not well off.”

Osa was nodding repeatedly, but I could see that my words were going in one ear and exiting the other, because he was nodding faster than I was talking. Ok o.

A month later, I came to the barbers and Osa was there. The girl had come and had left some days before. She had refused to sleep anywhere but in  Osa’s house, and made sure she ate all the Nigerian food. She especially loved guguru and epa featuring boli and made Osa buy it for her every evening. She even convinced Osa to take her to see his cousin in Benin. He showed me pictures of them together on his phone. She looked a bit like Kelly Osbourne before she had lost weight.

How had she coped with NEPA? Osa said that he would get up when NEPA took light at night and fan her with a huge raffia fan, ignoring his own sweating, until she cooled down and fell back asleep. She still sweat buckets though, but there was a night he fanned her for 5 hours non-stop.

Wow! So I asked Osa, do you love this girl? He became evasive. Later he confessed that he liked her as a person, but more importantly she was his ticket to South Africa, then Europe. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This guy is an incorrigible imp.

I did not visit the salon for almost 2 months as work took me outside Lagos, and the next time I was there, Osa wasn’t there. One of the barbers and the manicurist then told me that he had quit his job and travelled to SA. Armed with pictures of he and the girl from her trip here, the girl’s bank account, and another letter of invitation, Osa had this time crammed the girl’s number and had reapplied for a visa. He was successful this time, and quit his job, by pointing to a sharpened Wahls clipper and telling his boss where to stick it.

This just showed me first-hand how vital some people see travelling out of Nigeria.

About 3 months later, I went to Ikota Shopping Complex to do a few things, and as I was driving by, who did I see? It was Osa looking very tore up. If his situation was bad before, it looked worse now. I stopped the car, and wound down my window. He tried to duck when he saw me. What had happened? He had been deported from SA. I didn’t even want to hear the full story, as the thing tire me sef. Some impatient drivers were honking behind me, so I told him that I would see him later. His situation looked like he was back to minus one.

Nigeria is a tough country no doubt, and I believe everybody is free to travel and reside wherever they please. It was even commanded in the bible, and in fact, the one-time human beings tried to stay in one place (the Tower of Babel), they were dispersed by God. What irks me is the mistaken belief or fantasies of some naïve people that the living abroad automatically solves all their problems, or that they wont need to work hard to make it when they get outside Nigeria. Desperation sucks as well.

THE END

Esco – Now writes a blog about Nigerian life, which has now clocked over 50,000 hits. He still drinks water directly from the bottle without using a cup, watches reruns of Jersey Shore, and still dreams of owning his own online newspaper.

Lil Wayne wanna be – Still works as a barber, but suffered bouts of depression when he heard that Lil Wayne got sent to prison. He would have emulated Wayne but thought twice when he remembered the difference between Rikers Island Correctional Facility and Kirikiri Maximum Prison. He was distracted by a Lil Wayne performance at an award show on TV, and mistakenly gave a Lagos Big Boy a bald patch while cutting his hair. He received an “Olisa Dibua-esque” beating.

Manicurist – Was promoted to a barber after Osa left. Still thinks Nosa is in South Africa as is still waiting for his Umqombothi.

South African nurse – Met a South African man at the airport on the day of Osa’s deportation, and they later hooked up for lunch, dated for a while, and are getting married next month. They are planning to come to Lagos for their honeymoon!

Osa – He is abroad, but not yet in Europe. I hear that he was among the Nigerian guys held and nearly killed by Libyan guerilla fighters recently. He was disappointed because he had one more border left till he hit Italy.

For the sake of your name, oh Lord/
may we break away from the chains abroad/

Nas (Ghetto Prisoners, 1999)

****N.B: Cheer up T.B

 

The Jungle

Laws are a vital part of society. Without the rule of law, and the respect for it, society becomes a free for all – a wild west country with people usurping each other’s rights, and people converting their neighbors properties. No one would be safe, and there would be psychos strapping C4s and dynamites to themselves and going on murdering sprees blowing innocent people to bits, and greedy Gregs misappropriating public funds. Sounds familiar? Happens already? Nigeria much?

Well most people would complain that we have a lame-duck government. Some would hiss if you said that the government is there to serve the people. This same people swear that our country is a lawless nation with the characteristics of Mad Max country. The truth is that laws have been formulated since time memorial, and if people followed them, things would be much different. Someone once told me, that Nigerians do not break the law, they just bend it, till it becomes their intended. Splendid.

I prefer to look at the following laws recently passed by the various levels of government, and say my fair bit. Enjoy:

  • A Tenancy Law has been passed by the Lagos State Legislature banning 2 years rent. Why this hasn’t been done since is beyond me, but it is a welcome development. Landlords of face me I face you tenements demand 3 years rent at a go, and disappear into thin air without ever doing anything to improve or maintain the structure of the lettings.

When I was in college (sounds better than University), there was these fuji landlord who let out a house which had not even been plastered! It was just a structure of blocks and rods, and barely had any electrical fittings. Students were desperate for accommodation, and rushed in droves. The landlord collected security deposits as well as one years’ rents from each tenant, and then took all the time in completing the house one plaster of cement at a time. The house didn’t have doors or windows, so it looked like Pan’s Labyrinth. The tenants saw the landlord driving past in a newer model Toyota Camry, and he did as if it wasn’t him who owned the building. When they tried to approach him, to come and finish the house up, he got very aggressive and evasive.

  • Spring Bank, Afribank and Bank PHB went down under some weeks ago. Despite all the CBN’s rhetoric and theories, one thing is sure – people will be out of jobs, and customers may lose out. The CBN’s plan is to transfer asset, debts and liabilities  of each institution to a bridge bank to administer in the interim.

This may work out but most stakeholders have adopted a siddon-look stance. My father lost millions in life savings in the mid -90s when one of the quack banks of the time went bust.

It was us kids and those who relied on him for upkeep who suffered. And boy were we many. Nigeria has that umbrella effect, especially Igbos. If your father came upon hard times, it wasn’t just his nuclear family that suffered socio-economic hardship. You had cousins who even cried more than the bereaved, and villagers who drank panadol for your family sickness.

In my house, things changed overnight. Meals were the most affected. We used to have 1-1-1-1. Which is a nice breakie, a huge sumptuous lunch,  a mid-day snack and then a light dinner. Then it became 1-1-0. Then 0-1-0 finally. No wonder some people do 4-1-9 to survive.  From Satis beef sausages and hot rolls from Big Treat for breakfast to akamu (pap) without milk and plenty lumps in it at 11am.  We became vegetarians involuntarily – rice without meat. Have you had stew without tomato or a sandwich without bread? Well I did. The infamous food of champions, Benji (beans and yam in Igbo) became a staple in our house. If I was lucky and had spare change, I could upgrade to Benjamin (beans, yam and mineral). Glory be to God, none of us dropped out of school due to fees. One day I would talk about this phase of my life more in detail. Stay tuned, or buy the book when it is up for sale.

My cousins were worse for it since they depended on me dad for their upkeep.  They used to add water to egg whites and whisk the mixture so that it could go round a family of 4. The whole family shared a bedroom to cut costs. One night while they were asleep, Arinze one of the kids felt someone tugging on him. He thought it was his brother Emmanuel, so he said ‘Emma, please leave me alone, I want to sleep. I am tired.”

Emma replied ‘It is not me o.”

Arinze opened his eyes and saw a huge rat (rabbit) chewing on his fingers. He had gone to bed after eating a dinner of fufu, without washing his hands. The rat had also given him a Tyson hair-cut. It had eaten lumps out of his hair.

Nigeria, eh!  Please let us join the B.A.N.K.S (Banks Are Not Kind SMT) movement to save our economy and jobs.

  • Still on the Lagos State government, I heard something about a proposed Lagos State Ban on flogging which would make it unlawful for parents or teachers to discipline their kids, with a 3 year sentence if found guilty. I know some people who would be doing 25 to Life if that law were passed years back. I mean there are parents who seem to get a kick out of disciplining or chastising their kids in public. Back in Form 1 (JSS 1) in secondary school, it was the final day of a term, and parents were waiting near the school gates to collect their children who were boarders.

As I managed to escape the attentions of a prefect in my dorm who wanted to send me on an errand, I packed my box and dashed to the gate area. Ah, alas utopia – there was my old earth (mum) waiting to take me home. As I dragged my box to where she was standing, another student a fellow JSS 1 student, a really scruffy dude called Gozie was pulling his own belongings – in a wee Jimtex travelling bag. His father had come to get him and was looking irritated when he spotted him (Gozie).

Mother hugged me, and we were about to leave when Papa Gozie started laying into Gozie.

As he was abusing Gozie, he was looking at my mother as if to report his erring son: “This idiot boy is always in the habit of misplacing all his belongings in the boarding house? All he has left is a 2 shirts, his books, and the clothes on his back, all packed into this travelling bag. What have I not done? I even labeled all his things with his name including his uniform and boarding wear. He has lost his mattress, his bucket, his soap dish, his school uniform, some of his textbooks, his iron, his cutlery, but unfortunately he has not lost his head…” and Papa Gozie slapped Gozie venomously on his head as he said the last bit. Gozie (Headmaster was his nickname) did have a massive head that would put Timaya and Noble to shame but that was beside the point. The sound of the slap echoed around the school, and people turned to look.

I and my mum opened our mouths in disbelief. It wasn’t like my mum was a saint. It was just that she did her flogging in private. In fact my mum didn’t always have to flog me or anyone of my siblings. Sometimes she would throw her Jaguar slippers at you if you tried to escape punishment. Anybody who grew up in the 80s would know Jaguar slippers – the shoe of choice won by most Nigerian women. It looked like a cross breed between a Scholl and a Mary Jane pump, and came in all sorts of colors including blood red.

My mum’s own was like a boomerang when she threw it. You would run away from the room as you tried to escape, and bolt down the corridor, and turn left into your room, and the Jaguar slippers will make a left and right turn, and hit you. That should be child abuse now, abi? Then it was discipline and I have turned out okay. Yeah, I was flogged and disciplined as a child, and I turned out alright. I am not dysfunctional or bi-polar as some child psychologists would have you believe about recipients of corporal punishment. Balance is key, of course.

  • I am sure some of you would have heard of a recent Lagos law that if you get a lady preggers and abandon her, you would go to jail. There was an uproar when this law was first announced as critics feel that it is a moral issue which the law should have no part of. Proponents of the law have argued that  the law is there to checkmate irresponsible behavior by those who would want to take advantage of young women. While the law itself aims to do too much in my opinion, I am all for any law that prevents the wanton exploitation of innocent girls.

I mean there are dirty agbaya men in Nigeria who make passes at orange or groundnut hawkers, sometimes even in their early teens by making this sexual innuendo –laced  indecent proposal “ If you agree for me, I go buy all your gra-nut but I no go collect any.”

Or “how much na this your 2 oranges”, as the pervy imp looks down from the tray of oranges to the teen hawker’s cleavage. Imprison them all, I say.

As regards the pregnancy law, trust me the rich and powerful in our society have more to fear as they are ones sowing their wild oats about. On the flipside this may be a lucrative time to be a D & C (abortion) doctor, as this is what this law may promote.

I remember when I was in secondary school, there was this kid whose mum was one of the concubines of a very popular billionaire politician, so the kid took the politicians surname. This politician had fathered children all over the place, but he still provided for his concubines and mistresses and their kids even if they lived all over the country The man must have had over 30 children.

For Inter-house sports Day, the politician was asked to chair the event, and arrived with his huge entourage. The kid escaped the attentions of the security detail, and ran up to the politician greeting “Daddy! Daddy, good afternoon.”

The politician drew back from his embrace, rather embarrassed and confused as he failed to recognize the kid. He whispered as he inquired “Eh, which one is your mummy again?”

Live like the Kennedy’s, above the law/

Big Pun (Boomerang, 1998)

You Chop, I Chop (2)

Food for thought


You chop, I chop/ E no good to chop alone o….

Remember that old school Nigerian jam from way back? I do. Do you recall the message behind it? Probably not. The singer encouraged everyone to live and let live – and to share food or any benefits with your fellow man. You may want to read Part 1 of this particular article written weeks ago, if you haven’t before you peruse the contents of its sequel.

My aunt and uncle came to spend a few weeks with me some weeks ago. They brought a video recording of an event that had occurred in their home-town recently, and one of the things I noticed was that the videographer kept zooming his lens over the kitchen where yam was being pounded, oha soup was being stirred, and a cow was being butchered. He almost even ruined the footage, performing a close up near an older lady who was preparing party rice, and the agonyi woman ended up shoving him away with her pestle. Make you comot for kitchen before you thief meat. He hardly even interviewed or shot the celebrants themselves.

What further broke my heart was later footage of the end of the event showing some kids fighting over remnants, one of them tackling a chicken’s foot until its claw was doing him waka.

How come chicken and poultry products are big men’s or middle class food in Nigeria? Isn’t it a wonder? Chicken in Naija is more of a big deal than meat or fish, while in England or America, it is the opposite. In fact chicken is the cheapest form of meat one can buy abroad, with the battery farms and all. In some Naija events or weddings, if you were given meat with your rice instead of chicken, you felt slighted and betrayed.

It was with this kind of mindset that a guy called Bode travelled to Scotland, UK with his wife and kids for the first time for his MBA program. Then on his 2nd week there, he discovered a shop called Farmfoods which is a UK chain of stores which specializes in frozen food and groceries. He nearly jumped out of the roof and even kissed the oyibo shopper next to him when he discovered the price for a whole frozen chicken – 1 Great British Pound. No VAT, no gimmicks, no shit. He quickly brought out money he was supposed to use for an important textbook, and bought like 7 packets.

He dashed straight home and summoned his wife for an emergency meeting.

“From now on, there will be changes in this house. See those 7 fowls there? I want you to cook all of them, and include in the children’s diet. My kids must eat chicken from now on.”

And so it was. His wife made chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast? Grilled chicken in a bun or between slices of bread. Lunch? Rice and chicken stew, or efo with diced chicken wings and eba. Dinner? Fried chicken and wedges. His kids also took chicken to school as a packed lunch –chicken nuggets and some veg. Or a chicken fillet sandwich.

And on Saturdays, Bode watched Arsenal lose or draw their games, on Sky Sports, as he enjoyed chicken and gizzard peppersoup with a cold can of Fosters.

Soon the kids and wife got sick of it – they were almost growing chicken feathers and a comb. His youngest one started spitting out his chewed morsels during dinner. Bode didn’t care – it was a case of chop and quench until his Masters program ended.

Ah, awoof de run belle, but na at all at all na him de wound belle pass.

I know someone who loved TFC so much when they first started that he knew the words to the theme songs from one of their TV ads and sang it in the shower every morning. Do you remember the one with the words “We do chicken…”This dude also really likes Maxwell’s “Pretty Wings

But really what is really going on in Nigeria? I have said it a million times but I won’t quit because when I look around, my heart bleeds. You won’t believe how bad things are here –  more than half of our population cannot afford 3 square meals. This was a land of oil palm plantations. We used to grow cocoa, now we export kokolets

The groundnut pyramids have been replaced by square pegs in the round holes who have no master plan to return this nation to agriculture. We have gone from farming to famine. We have a lame government distributing rice to political sympathizers for votes like the Red Cross. Have you seen people at events in rural areas?

First of all, in most villages, before you can do your traditional marriage, pay a dowry or even bury someone, you have to perform some traditional obligations like provide foodstuff or cash for the village elders and kinsmen. And these people also show up at your event and demand their own tent or your event would be torpedoed or sanctioned by the community. You get the impression that some of the rites performed have little to do with tradition and more with economic interest. Have you seen these elders put away food?

At one event in the village, they handed a group of 15 elderly men, a huge tureen of oha soup and a very large slap of fufu. The soup contained more than a 100 pieces of meat, shaki, pieces of dried fish etc. The food was served in a way so that they could all eat together as it normally done in the rural settings to save plates.

These men proceeded to gently and painstakingly removed all the pieces of meat and fish bit by bit from the soup and requested a separate platter so that they could place them there so that nobody would feel cheated. They then divided the meat/fish piece by piece. And you know that it is mathematically difficult to divide 100 by 15, but they did it without a calculator.

They then proceeded to eat the fufu, each rolling a lump, dipping in the soup, and then swallowing turn by turn in a circle. Then one of them while dipping in the soup, found a loose piece of fish which had not been seen earlier. He attempted to hide it in his palm behind the lump of fufu he was holding, but one of the others spotted him and alerted the others.

They scolded him, and he had to forfeit the piece of fish to the platter to be shared! These dudes should be appointed to share our Federal Oil Revenue to the states.

So it is obvious that food is still a problem for most in Nigeria even among the middle classes. Many average people show up for weddings at the reception just to eat, and then they beat it immediately afterwards. They wear their fine cloth and look respectable, but dem no dey write am for face. I have been at weddings where well turned out people were scrambling for small chops on the table. Some people arrive at the reception, find a table, sit down and get busy, and by the time most other guests come, they see toothpicks and greasy plates where the small chops used to be. And the funny thing is that the greedy person would be hiding behind sunglasses, feeling cool and acting like nothing has happened.

My sister went to Aba to stay with an uncle for a few weeks when she was about 9. They went outside to play, and after an hour, my sister came running back in crying. My uncle asked my sister what was wrong. She complained that some of the other kids on the street were seriously abusing her, calling her “Lagos miss road” or “osisi” which means “stick” in Igbo, because she was rake-thin.

Unimpressed, my uncle said “If they called you that, go out and abuse them back. Call them ‘hungry people.’

That was the supreme insult. Forget someone calling you an axe murderer or a rogue; in Nigeria, especially in the East, if they called you hungry, you are finished socially.

When I just came back from England, I travelled to the East for a family wedding event. My father called me to come and meet some friends and relatives who had been asking about me during my absence.

There was one particular man, a red capped older man, who grabbed and hugged me, when I was introduced to him. He asked “Esco, do you know who I am? Can you remember me?”

I tried to think but drew a blank. If you are Igbo, you would probably have been asked this question before by distant relatives or uncles, and they take it personally if you say you don’t remember them. The trick is to say you do remember them, and that they are your uncle or ‘father’s brother.’ It won’t be a lie – every man much older than you is your uncle in Nigeria.

I didn’t lie though ”Sorry uncle, the face looks familiar; but I am not sure..”

The man looked really hurt and looked at me like I had betrayed him. He repeated in Igbo “So imagho onye m bu?” (So you really, really, really do not know who I am?)

I felt like saying “Nope sir…but I am sure you are about to educate me.”  I didn’t.

“Uncle” educated me “ I am your dad’s brother Chief Eugene Onyeora. I am from the neighboring town from yours. You have really grown. The last time I saw you, you were just a little boy of about 3 or 4. So you cannot remember? I came to your house in Lagos on a Saturday morning .You were at the dining table, and you were having sweet akara balls for breakfast.”

Akara balls? This dude even remembered the food I was having when he came to our house in the 80s. I mean really? What an event. He remembered that day for the akara balls. Not because something really important like a man landing on the moon or someone breaking the 100 meter record, or something grand.

From the way he sounded, I am sure he was asked to come and eat as a polite gesture, but he didn’t decline.

Born sinner, the opposite of a winner/ 
Remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner/

Notorious B.I.G (Juicy, 1994)

Wetin You Talk Sef? (2)

Eh? Did you say what?

Here are some more everyday Naija pronunciations of English words, in continuation of the first article on the subject :

  • Paparazzi – Kpakparazee
  • Status – startoose
  • Birthday – bard-day
  • Arsenal – Asunal
  • Engine – In-gin
  • Calcium – Kal-shoom
  • Trouser – trawzis or trawza
  • text – tecks
  • straight – streth
  • Mathematics – matimatis
  • Pounds Sterling – pounce starling
  • Quaker oats – Coker oat
  • Tax – tass
  • Guava – gover
  • Alsatian – Police Dog
Ha ha. We really should take a foreigner and teach them how to pronounce words the way we uniquely do. Anyway enjoy this scene from Mickey Blue Eyes, a Hugh Grant movie where he tries to learn how to feign an Italian mobster’s accent to save his relationship.

Nobody Fit Test Me

AIDs is real. Scientists seem to be uncertain about the true origin of the disease. Some say that the virus may have originated as a result of secret experiment with monkeys or a human being shagging a gorilla. A human being nacking a monkey? How did that even happen? Maybe it is true because on a date with my ex-girlfiend to a London Zoo, you should have seen how the baboons were scoping her out. I couldn’t  blame them though – she was a stunner, even though they were probably attracted to that fact that she had forgotten to shave her legs that morning.

Most people my age may have become aware of AIDs and the menace of HIV either through Magic Johnson’s (that name has funny undertones – there was nothing magical about his Johnson if he got the virus) shocking announcement in the 90s that he had the virus, or by watching the Tom Hanks movie Philadelphia. Then there were those government public health service announcements in Nigerian in the late 80s, one of which spurned a hit duet between Onyeka Onwenu and KSA.

In Health Science class in primary school, our books and our prude teacher Ma Ganiyu only mentioned gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes and unwanted pregnancies as the possible outcomes of irate sex. My older cousin from the village who came to stay with us to write JAMB later told me about other strains like cut cut and the dreaded ibi di gi n’amu. Let me not bother you with the remedies he prescribed for this strains.

The shocking thing about the AIDS epidemic is how much many ordinary educated Nigerians believe that it only exists in South African infomercials and those dodgy self-righteous money-raising ads with the kwashiorkor children sitting in front of thatched African huts. Most people fail to realize that it hits very close to home. That Vera Wang dress rocking, Blackberry pressing, MAC powder air-brushing, Hermes bag elbowing, Swarovski crystal clad, Ikoyi town-house residing, Master’s degree educated, Salvatore Ferragamo shoe fitted lass you are about to shag may have it. No, it is not written on her forehead. No, it doesn’t only happen to people who have names like “Goodness” or “Favour”.

My cousin wanted to hire a maid  to help take care of her 3 kids. She requested that the maid take an AIDS test before starting work. The maid failed it. My cousin was very sympathetic to the maid. She obviously couldn’t hire her anymore to take care of the kids, but she wanted to help the girl so she offered to enroll the maid in a government sponsored support program for AIDS, and assist the girl any other way she could.

The maid bluntly and viciously refused any help, saying that she did not believe she had any disease, and walked away into the night.

It is a no win situation. What would you have had my cousin do? The ordinary Nigerian is scared and mis-informed about AIDS/HIV. Most Nigerians attach a stigma to it, and assume that the carrier must be an ashewo or a mumu for getting it in the first place. Then there are practitioners with names like Chief Nze Mgaebugi Nyereyaogu who take out small spaces in soft-sell dailies advertising a cure.

Though shamefully I had not always practiced it to the letter, I still believe that abstinence is the best and only way to arrest the spread of AIDS. You have to cut out cigarettes to reduce/eliminate the risk of lung cancer, so why is sex different. Many people have agreed that people usually stop using protection or fail to use it sometimes when they are in a long-term or steady relationship, because they now ‘trust’ their partner. Some find it tiresome and cumbersome to break out a rubber in the heat of passion. And buying rubbers all the time can be an expensive business in a long or aggro filled relationship; and no, Gold Circle doesn’t count.

In Nigeria, my friends and chaps I know have noticed that girls seem to be more reluctant to use a condom than a guy would especially when they are seeing someone steady or someone who they feel they love and can marry. They say they want to “feel closer.” Close wetin? You are asking for closed casket o.

Some years back, I noticed an infection on my back when dressing up after a shower. It was like a dark discoloration. A few weeks, later I still noticed it, and it had spread a bit. So, I decided to stop by a hospital not too far from my house, so they could prescribe something for it.

When I got there, I was ushered into a junior doctor’s office. The doc made me take of my shirt, and then he inspected it.  The silence in the room was deafening when he was done. Looking at me straight in the face he said “Esco, I can’t make a diagnosis right now; I may need to refer you to our consultant who is a specialist”

Diag- wetin?!  For just a mere skin infection? What happened to telling me to swallow some pills, and rub a nasty smelling embrocation so that I could go home and watch Entourage on TV tonight?

Apparently, the consultant was stationed in another branch of the hospital so I would have to go see him there.

Some hours later, I worked in to see the consultant, a bespectacled, gruff looking man in his late 50s. He looked at my medical records, and started asking me questions in a quick manner.

Have you had major surgery before? No

Do you smoke? Rothmans, but I have quit…

Do you abuse alcohol? Gulder when watching Chelsea FC play; palm wine is great though..

Are you sexually active? Ermmm…my girl broke up with me months ago. Do wet dreams count?

Do you use protection? I have a baseball bat at home, and I kept my cutlass from boarding school…

Do you have any family history of diabetes, stroke, hypertension or high blood pressure? My father’s blood ‘temperature’ went through the roof when a certain Nigerian bank crashed in the 90s and he lost all his life savings. He subsequently introduced austerity measures in the house, like no sugar with our garri or tea, so nobody caught diabetes thankfully.

Have you experienced any of the following symptoms – fever, excessive sweating or pains in your joints? I sweat well well every night, especially when NEPA takes light, and there is no diesel for the generator.

Are you allergic to any drug? I hate fake drugs.

Doctor ‘Death” looked up at me unimpressed.

He continued ‘The infection on your back covers a large area. This is worrisome to us. So we are going to be recommending you for a couple of tests – an ECG and a chest X-ray”

When I heard the word ‘tests’, I went gaga. I got my Nollywood on: Doctor, dokinta, doc, please tell me what is wrong? I thought it was a mere skin infection? What are you testing me for?”

The doctor kept schtum like he had taken a mafia oath or omerta. He rang the nurse, as he barely answered me: “We will have a better idea after the tests”

I concluded the tests that evening, and was told to come back the next evening for the result.

When I returned the next evening, the doctor told me that the tests had been inconclusive. He advised “We need to take a blood, urine and sperm sample.”

Wtf?! Blood, I could give easily, no problems. I am a full time orobo.

Urine? I ate beans that morning, and had downed 8 big sachets of ‘pure-water’ so my bladder had enough H2O to spare.

Sperm was the problem. Doc, would you be donating one of your nurses to help ‘milk’ me?

The fine nurse of yesterday wasn’t on duty today. Instead, there was an elderly woman with huge tribal marks, and white in her eye.  I quickly ‘re-arranged’ my mind. She drew my blood, and shoved me 2 containers – one for my piss, and the other for my nuts juice.

In Yankee, they would normally hand you a magazine to ‘assist’ you. Here, good luck with asking for a Genevieve, Wow, Mania or any of our magazines. Trouble o.

I asked the nurse, if I could do the sperm test tomorrow instead. Maybe I would be able to make a few calls later to some girls I knew to make it happen.

The nurse declined “No, Doctor says he needs the samples as soon as possible, so we can send them to a diagnostic lab for quick testing”

I hated the way she said the word ‘sample.’

How was I going to do this? I could refuse of course, but the hospital had put fear in my heart. What if this was something serious like AIDS? Ah, the pen is mightier than the sword o.

The nurse stood there watching. She was clearly enjoying this too much.

After the test, I drove home slowly. I started noticing things I had not noticed before. I cranked up my car stereo and could hear every lyric of the song jamming. I noticed every contour on the road which I had passed a million times, I could count all the stars in the sky. I smelled the unmistaken fume of roasted corn from a road side hawker, mixed with spilled gas from a filling station across the expressway.

These were going to be the longest 24 hours of my life. What would be result? Could this be the end for Esco?

The next morning, I walked into the doctor’s office very slowly.

The doctor announced the result “Very positive…”

I slumped into my chair, shrieking “E wo! I am finished…Positive? How can it be positive?”

The doctor looked at me like I was craze was ‘worrying’ me or something “Mr. Esco, calm down. I meant the results are very positive. You don’t have AIDS or any heart ailment. You have a clean bill of health. Congratulations. I suggest you……”

I was not listening anymore, as I was beside myself with joy. So, I don’t have the dread virus. Thank you doctor; may your consultancy always get plenty sick customers.

I was given a prescription list to buy  a very potent anti-biotic ointment and some tablets too. I snatched the list happily from the doc’s hands.

I whistled happily down the hall way to the bursary to pay my bill.  Then the Nigerian in me came out, my bill was almost 45,000 grand. Yekparikpa…

As I argued with the cashier regarding the huge bill, I had a sick smile in my heart.

 

AIDS is real. Get tested and get help. Read up all you can and keep informed. When you strap up, you hope for the best, and must be prepared for the worst.

Maka Why?

Bros, but why?

What has been your most embarrassing moment ever? Have you ever had any cringe-worthy moment where you hoped that the ground would just swallow you up?

I racked my brain, and I don’t seem to have or recall any. Am I weird? Not like I am the king of cool or anything, but I prefer to not get caught up in the rain. I find that I have been more embarrassed for people whose actions or inactions have put them into the circle of shame.

For example, I remember back in university, on the first day of school after summer. Everyone was looking well turned out in the freshest gear. Whether they were rocking England’s high street couture, Yaba bend-down or Ross/Marshall chic, everyone brought their A-game. I and a few of my pals were chilling by the bottom of the faculty stairs, feeling cool with ourselves in our knock-off Raybans (ours were actually ‘Raymans’ – which we had bought in traffic on Eko Bridge). A group of about 4 girls started coming down the stairs. They were in really tight skirts and killer heels.

One of them then tripped over on the stairs, as she miscued while checking  one of my posse of friends out.  Her books went up into the air like those Yankee high school graduation scenes. Her forms scattered all over the place, and she tumbled down the stairs. She ‘planked’ on the dirty, hard floor.

A few people there, including her friends started laughing and covering their mouths. Me, I was more embarrassed for her. I wanted to help her up, but I let her friends do it instead. You know when a toddler trips and falls down and you shout ‘Chei!’ and  try to help  it up, but it usually makes it cry even more. Home-girl was more embarrassed than hurt, and didn’t know where to look as everyone (including player-haters) gathered saying ‘Sorry o; did you wound yourself?”

I couldn’t even look at her myself. I felt her pain and embarrassment too. Well, I told you that she was wearing ‘killer heels.”

Is it not weird that there is someone who know who always catches you wearing the same outfit anytime they see you despite the unfortunate fact that you do not even wear that outfit often at all. I bought a nice T-shirt with a Che Guevara imprint on it, done in a really fly Andy Warhol art style. I wore that tee to The Palms Mall with my Air Jordans trainers, and a really rugged pair of jeans with stains and tears on it. I ran into a friend of mine Kola and his girlfriend Sara. “Nice one” he said, referring to my tee.

A week and a half later, I dashed to the barbers at Ikota Shopping Complex. I hadn’t taken a shower yet, so I just grabbed that tee since it hadn’t been laundered. Guess who I ran into in the parking lot after I had shaved – Kola and his air-brushed, Colombian-weaved, missus. He looked at the tee, wanted to say something, but swallowed his tongue. No need to compliment it twice now, huh? No homo.

Two good months later, I stopped by a house-warming somewhere in Ajah, on my way back from Surulere, and Kola was there. His girl Sara raised her eyebrows at me (like The Rock) when she saw me in that Tee. Kola then remarked ‘Dis your shirt done become “One Nation.”

I replied dryly “Yeah, birthday suit part 2”

What is it with some Naija people sef?

Do you guys remember that “Masters English” textbook or something of that nature; I am not sure whether that is really the name. It was for secondary school students, and had 6 different parts for the 6 forms in schools. Who can remember a story in chapter one of that textbook which was folklore about why babies are not able to speak at birth? Apparently, eons ago, babies were able to talk from birth. But they were tactless because they didn’t know when to shut their gobs or express their opinions much to the chagrin and embarrassment of their parents/guardians. Reminds me of some people on facebook/twitter.

 The straw which broke the camel’s back was when a baby advised his uncle who had just come in from the farm to go and take a shower as he stunk like a soak-away pit. That’s a bit rich coming from a tot who poos on itself and can’t even change its own diapers. The sensitive uncle was not impressed and complained to “the gods” who then boiled yam (in folklore heaven o), cut a huge slice and jammed it down every baby’s throat from then on out. So apparently that is why babies cannot speak/misyarn at birth, but rather spew some whitish substance from their mouths instead. Oh and this whitish substance has nothing to do with residue from breast milk, colostrum, Similac or ogi (akamu). Abeg jor.

Anyway, this yam business, as ridiculous as it sounds, was not a bad idea (not that I believe it or anything). Some people learn to misyarn from childhood, and some people’s kids can put them to shame with ridiculous observations.

Mummy, mummy I saw daddy and Ekaete wrestling on the bed.

Some kids choose to embarrass their folks when visitors are around. There are those ‘longer-throat’ ones who stand akimbo, looking at guests with begging eyes when drinks and food are served to guests. Normally the child’s mum would have an eye signal to warn the child to leave the sitting room and stop hanging around. Some kids ignore the sign; some even voice out in anger: mummy, why are you winking at me?

Why do kids start moping at the guests like they have never seen food before.

But it isn’t just about food. I recall a time, I and my mother went to see some family friends The Okonjis. They had a seven year old by the name of Darlington (I hate the name too). He was no darling though, the cheeky bugger.

We were all seated in their living room. Mr. Okonji was boasting about his latest financial conquest, when a huge cockroach strolled majestically from one corner of the room and was walking, in fact strolling past the middle of the living room.

The way this insect strolled, you could see it was very much at home in that house. You know when roaches start moving their antennas about? And this was in broad daylight.

I was embarrassed for them. My mum too saw it and buried her eyes in their photo-album, like she hadn’t seen a thing (haha, boring wedding photos from the 70s). Mrs Okonji almost turned red with annoyance but acted like she had not seen it. Mr. Okonji continued his speech, while silently praying that the roach would do its thing quickly, finish its tour and leave in peace (if not in pieces). I made a mental note not to take another sip of the refreshment served, and also to reject anything from their kitchen.

There was moment of brief awkward silence, as the roach stopped suddenly, as it saw a tiny morsel of food on the floor. The nasty bug retraced its steps like a human being would do if he noticed a special dish on a buffet table. This roach had swag.

Then the couple’s kid Darlington then exclaimed in bewilderment  as he pointed at the roach, and broke out in song: “ The roach, the roach, the roach is on the floor. We don’t need any Baygon; let that cockroach crawl. Crawl, crawl, crawl….”

Mrs. Okonji almost fainted “Darlington would you shut up and go to your room and do your homework. Ekanem! Ekanem!! Please bring a broom and come and kill this cockroach.”

Turning to us, she apologized “Our neigbours are filthy people. They have a huge roach problem…”

The above examples have nothing on this Shan George jam below here. Peep the way she keeps repeating “baby” from 3.02 minutes. A national embarrassment, if I ever saw one.

Friend Or Foe

A former work-mate Jay was giving me the low-down about something that happened to him recently.

A while back, he had attended an awesome Halloween party, and had decided to go as a traditional masquerade. Ingenious right? The last costume party I attended, I had gone dressed as a Navy Captain. I came away with a few girls’ numbers at the end of the night. Maybe, some mistook me for a rich former Chief of Naval Staff. My uniform did come stacked with my rank and many badges of honor. Ok, too ‘many’ information….

Jay brought the mask back home after the party, and hung it as a decoration on his room wall. It was a really grotesque mask – just imagine the alien’s face in the movie Predator. I chided him for hanging up the mask in his room, as it stuck out like a sore thumb, spoiling the overall décor of the place.

Fast forward, a few months later, he pulled this really hot chick when he met at a wedding in Ikoyi. They spoke on the phone for days, and then she promised to come visit him one Saturday.

Jay got the place ready for the lass’s visit. He tried to make the pad ‘condusive’.

He took out the sofa from the room, so that the girl would have to sit on the bed.

He turned down the thermostat on his split unit AC so that the place was very chilly, in case his female visitor required ‘warming’.

He ‘arranged’ rubbers at every nook and cranny of his pad, to be ready whenever or wherever it went down. He put one on the bedroom dresser, put another under one of the pillows, one on the window seal, another in his pocket, two behind the television unit.

He warned the gateman not to leave his post, to prevent a mix-up.

He did some push-up, pull-ups and bicep curls with really heavy weights. Then he showered, dressed up and sprayed a healthy dose of Pleasures for Men by Estee Lauder.

The girl finally came around 2pm (African time), wearing a really smart tank top, some skin-fitting jeans and some really nice shoes. Jay was like wow! Jay said that she had a figure like a palm-wine keg. 

They chatted a bit, dug into some take-away that Jay had sent his house-boy for, and even watched a bit of the rom-com “Notting Hill”. By the time the part of the movie where Hugh Grant and Julia Robert’s characters climbed a wall into a garden came, Jay and his date had started snogging.

They were making out just fine, almost heading for a technical knock-out, when the girl looked up and noticed the mask.

Jay said that the way this girl flew out of his arms and bed was like a scene from Matrix where Keanu Reeves did a limbo type movement to dodge a bullet in slow motion.

Her voice trembling, she shreiked ‘What is that? Is that ojuju?”

Jay tried to explain calmly “Nah, love. It is just a simple Halloween mask.”

The girl was not convinced. She moved towards the door “What is a grotesque mask doing on your wall? What is it? There must be something wrong with you”

Jay tried to explain to this chick and allay her fears. She nor gree o. The die was cast – she even refused to finish the movie. After a while, she received a ‘phantom’ call from her bestie, and said she had to meet her cousin in Ogudu. She bounced out of the crib like she was running from something.

Jay was left with a bruised ego and the damn mask on the wall. He took it down from the wall, and hung it in his living room instead. Let it bother uninvited guests now instead. Like the landlord and his agents.

In Nigeria, people dey fear. And most tragedies are usually blamed on one’s perceived enemies. If a politician got caught in EFCC’s net for misappropriating public funds; he would usually blame it on perceived enemies who are ‘intimidated by his profile.’

A neighbor’s son got caught with stolen car parts. His ma threw herself on the floor, rolling as she cried ‘My enemies have finally gotten me. Mo ti ku o…”

And at that point, I felt like defending her so-called enemies. I could swear I never saw anyone else with her son, when he living it up, blowing money fast. Even his friends would have been weak.

There was a program on TV sometime recently where a guy said he had just recovered from an ailment. According to him, he had ‘stepped’ on poison which had been an entrapment by his ‘enemies’, and had fallen ill. And I am like, wait a Nigerian minute (which is long by the way if you add African time), which one is ‘step on poison’ again? I never knew people could actually ‘step’ on poison? I thought they just put it in your food or beer, when you stepped away briefly to the loo. Or is there Wi-fi or Bluetooth poison now? But it made me realize how Nigerians feared their enemies.

Sometimes in some quarters, if a person bought a new/used (or tokunboh or Belgium) automobile in Nigeria, family members would gather and make professions, pouring libations on the tires to ward off enemies.

May you trample over your foes with these big-ass 17 inch rims.

May you never ride shot-gun while your enemies are handling the steering wheel. If it is my Bentley, I don’t mind actually.

May you see your enemies in your rear-view and never with your head-lights.

May your enemies be forever in your boot, but never in your bonnet? Don’t say amen here o. Some Ferraris and Lambos have their engines in the trunk instead.

Someone even prayed: May you never go backwards as you drive this car. All well and good, but you still need to reverse out of this tight-ass parking lot after these prayers end.

At church you could see members of the congregation tapping away on their blackberry or catching 40 winks or scoping flesh lustfully, but as soon as the pastor starts prayers binding ad destroying enemies, everyone springs to attention with the chorus of a resounding amen. And why not; you enemies may park behind you on the church car park, and be no-where to be found after service ends to start with.

If every person has enemies, then that means everyone is somehow an enemy to someone right? Then who are the good people then? Am I someone’s enemy even though I wish no man any evil? Haba, na wetin? My take is that everyone who has a village must have enemies.

Think well. Your enemies checked your SSCE, NECO and JAMB results before you did. They are the ones you hid information from when you got a visa for Jand (even the 3 month one).Your enemies were the last to know when you were interviewing for that choice job, but were the first to know when you landed that lucrative contract. If there is a way to trace your facebook page visitors (like Hi-5 used to have, and Linked-In does), you would see that your enemies check on you 24/7.

If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, should I really be hating and cursing him too?

All these postulations and theories are giving me malaria, abeg. As I go to cool off with some tender cow-leg pepper soup (okay this too is hot), let me pray for each and every one of my dear readers as you begin the 2nd half of the year:

May your pain be champagne.

If you are Fanta Chapman just out of the fridge, your enemies would be Limca in a 23cl ‘solo’ bottle straight from the crate.

If you are a Mercedes ML 500 from a V.I. dealership, your enemies would be a Daewoo Racer old model (without AC) with a “For Sale” jerry-can on it.

If you are a Hollywood blockbuster starring Johnny Depp, your foes would be a Yoruba movie with wrong English subtitles and gold tooth alatikas.

If you are a Celebrity poker game on ESPN, your enemies would be a local game of Ludo with 2 of the red and green seeds missing and the glass broken.

If you are a packet of Chivita juice, your enemies would be an agbalumon seed spat on the ground.

If you are a Transformers (movie), your enemies would be NEPA transformers with the mercury missing.

* Just joking, but I wish you all well. God bless.