These Nigerians In My Office Sef

Who are the kinds of characters that make up a typical Nigerian office? I have drawn up a list, and I must remind you that all the incidents reported below really happened, but the names of the characters have been doctored a bit. I guarantee that everyone who has worked a 9 to 5 would be familiar with at least one of the types of characters below. Enjoy….

  1. THE FORM ACTIVITY CHARACTER: This person loves to act as if he (or she) is carrying all the workload in the office or as if he is always super-busy to have time for his mere mortal co-workers. He normally moves at a 1000 miles per hour, making photocopies, punishing the keyboard by typing very loudly and talking loud on the phone to clients. Even a simple personal task like getting water from the water dispenser is done with much ceremony, like he is Moses about to part the Red Sea.

Yep this character loves to “form activity” but actually lacks any substance or depth to his persona. He usually gets found out at meetings where suggestions or reports are required. This is the type of dude to show up fully suited up with a big yellow tie which stops on his midriff on TGIF Dress-down day. He did get the memo/email to dress down, but his own akproko is too much.

I once worked with a Form Activist for a start-up firm somewhere in Lagos (won’t tell where). One day a higher-up was making his rounds in our department, as he was supervising some people working on a major project for a big Abuja investment firm. Mr. Form Activity was not involved in the project, but he was sitting in the corner typing away on his computer, making loud noises like it was an old Olivetti typewriter from the 80s and not a Dell PC. He was also flipping paper stacks and acting like he was drafting a new constitution for Nigeria or compiling a dictionary for Hon. Obiahiagbon. The co-workers in the office were looking at him like, what the hell is dude up to. Apart from the few guys working on the Abuja project, it was not a particularly busy day. Mr. Form Activity was acting up because the higher-up who was top director was around, and he wanted to look like an effico employee.

The director didn’t even seem to notice the effico guy as he was standing behind two of the guys working on the project, dictating what they should type and edit in the report they were preparing. They then tried to print the 1000 page report but the printer connected to the PC they were working on was jamming.

The director then uploaded the report onto the company database, and then without warning walked over to Form Activist’s desk so he could print from that computer which was connected to another printer.

Form Activist’s PC was switched off.

It could have been worse. He could have been nabbed playing Solitaire.

 

2.     JEZEBEL FEMALE WORKER: Woe betides you if this brutal female is your boss or supervisor. The female co-worker from hell is a staple of every office environment. If she is a spinster, her work becomes her life and she is impossible to work with. But wait it gets worse: if she is in a relationship, she brings all her marital baggage to the office. On the day her hubby slaps her, she comes into office and slaps every one with impossible tasks.

I once had a female Jezebel boss. All the workers were scared shitless of her. She  addressed a meeting where she announced to 20 anxious male lawyers and 2 cowering female ones: “Some of you are not pulling you weight in this organization. I have initiated Operation Shelltox. I will weed you out like I am pulling jigger (a nasty parasitic insect) from a villager’s foot. Everybody gulped – including the hard-workers. Banks were also laying off, you see.

I later realized that Jezebel boss’s husband was mighty frightened of her. He was a very meek looking geeky dude. The guy looked like he only went near her physically whenever it was time to procreate. He was a software engineer or so. He swung by the office sometimes to bring her things she had requested or to help with minor IT issues with the company servers.

There was a day he had come into the office and was working on a mainframe computer some desks away from me. We were the only ones in that section of the office as most of my co-workers were at clients or in the other section. The Jezebel Boss was in her office which was on the 2nd floor in the other side.

Then the telephone situated near the boss’s hubby started ringing. He refused to answer it. It rang like 7-8 more times, but dude ignored it. Then my own office line rang so I picked the phone up: “It is Esco. Who is this?”

It was Boss Jezebel on the line. She inquired without greeting “Esco is this how you greet clients when you answer the phone. Okay remind me to get at you later for this. Is Mr. Jezebel there?”

I replied in the affirmative. She then barked “Then tell him to pick up the bloody phone!” I placed the handset on the receiver.

Then suddenly the other phone started ringing again.

I looked at the hubby sitting next to it. He glanced at me with beads of perspiration and terror in his eyes. I had to break the bad news to him: “Kind Sir, it is your wife calling. She says you should pick up.”

Dude looked like I had just asked him to swallow a spoon of Worm medicine.

He picked the receiver with his hands jerking like he was about to disarm a Boko Haram bomb. This message will self-distruct….

3.  THE SOCIAL OLOFOFO: In every Naija office is some prick who treats office life as the epicenter of his/her social existence. This olofofo organizes the TGIF small chops and rice, or helps buy and distribute aso ebi material for any co-worker’s weddings or ceremonies. This olofofo even attends every single event from condolence visits to bereaved colleagues to house-warnings and naming ceremonies.

Fair enough, but what used to irk me is that the olofofo feels hurt if anyone was not on the same page with him. I know a dude who used to wait in the office after he had finished his tasks for the day “to soak in the environment and socialize with people from other departments.” Err, sorry that’s why it is called a 9 to 5. Left to me, it should be 7 to 3 because I would rather arrive early and leave early, but it is what it is. By the way GEJ is there any chance that you could sort this out. Maybe I should move to Spain.

My cousin who was a banker nearly got into it with a social olofofo who was always suggesting inconvenient Saturday “team-bonding” events. Seriously, no I am not waking up early again on Saturday morning, driving down Third Mainland to attend some bloody team work retreat about Better Customer Service and Marketing at Badagry Beach of all places. I need my Saturdays to do other things with my life. I don’t want you in my Saturday too.

Social olofofo looked visibly hurt: You have betrayed the circle of trust. And I have already ordered and deposited money for the small chops and paid for the canopies….

 4. THE OFFICE SUCK-UP: This one is always trying to curry favors with management, and will throw anyone under the bus to get a quick rise. They are a bit like the Form Activists except that they are more calculating and dangerous, and have a bit of a method to their madness. And their madness dey plenty.

They may usually snitch on their co-workers to higher-ups. But what gets my goat is that how they “seek perch.”

There was an instance where the Boss had just returned from an official trip to England and brought candy for the ladies and some really smart ties for the chaps. The office suck-up was a girl called Dupe, and she was really on a roll that day. She pranced around looking at everyone’s gifts, and remarking about how the Boss had very good taste, and how he must have spent a fortune. She even said she would not eat her candy as she was touched by the Boss’s kind gesture. Men, if that girl suddenly contracted Lassa Fever that day, she would have tried to touch the Boss’s garment to get healed. Na so her suck-up reach.

The Boss was now joking about his trip, and about the crooked Customs chaps at MMIA asking for egunje and things of that nature. He then said something.

Dupe suddenly burst out laughing loudly, and baring all her gnashers and rubbing her belly. If there was a raffia mat on the ground, she would have even rolled on the floor with laughter sef.

Everyone looked at her like she had kolo-ed or something.  The boss also had a confused look on his face too. Later on, the boss’s secretary came to get him, as he had a meeting.

When the boss was out of earshot, she drew me aside and asked me “What was the last thing he said. I really could not hear the joke.”

I replied “It was no joke at all. He said he lost his wallet with about 700 pounds in it, and he suspects he left it on the aircraft when he disembarked at Murtala Airport.”

Eh? Kilo wi?

5.  THE IT MAESTRO:

You had better be on the IT Maestro’s good side. Depending on where you work (State or Local Governments and “One Man Offices” do not count) the IT Maestro can hook you up with all the new tech stuff like wireless keyboards or a shiny slim PC monitor, or a printer which actually works and does not print smudged ink like Tie and Dye cloth.

If he hates your guts, you may end up with the fat old white computer with the dead pixels. Or a UPS system that works like NEPA. IT Guys have some kind of power in most offices, but they seem more power-drunk in Nigerian offices. Trust us, we like to exert authority whenever we are given lofty positions.

Before Blackberry phones became pure water in Nigeria, I know an IT guy who hooked up a female intern lawyer with access to the office server so that her work emails got pushed to her private phone. This was a privilege only the firm’s Partners enjoyed. I don’t know how she paid back that favor, but she always wore some saucy “push-up” bras to work. I am just saying o. Push me, I push you.

These IT guys always seem to work on a different time-zone from anyone. Late into the office, early out. In some companies, they are allowed to dress down, and their favorite garb are polo shirt, jeans, geeky glasses and a knapsack. They also like oily food.

Don’t let the Steve Urkel get-up fool you. These dudes are more vicious than Bola Koof.

A friend called Remi who was once competing for the affection of a sexy girl named Segi with an IT dude. They took their war to another level, but IT girl went “no-holds barred” when he discovered that Remi had taken Segi for dinner and movies at Silverbird the Saturday before.

The IT guy decided to play his ace-card. Remi was due to give a presentation on Private Equity Law in Nigeria to a bunch of Chinese clients in the office boardroom. Two of the firm partners were also going to be present along with interested workers of the firm, and these clients were a very lucrative account for the firm.

Remi had worked on the PowerPoint presentation for the best of one month, and had finally completed the slides the evening before. He set up the projection apparatus, and then the clients and firm partners came in and took their seats. Okay, educate us…

Err, when Remi tried to locate the files with the slides, they were nowhere to be found. He started to sweat profusely, and the partners looked on embarrassed as he fidgeted with the projector. As Remi struggled in front of everyone, sweating buckets, he looked up and saw IT guy seated at the back. He was not even supposed to be here.

IT guy gave him a knowing wink. Like, I don winch you today.

Remi avoided Segi like Boko Haram States after that.

*Please leave your comments and experiences. What kind of characters have you worked with? I need at least 30 comments o or it will be 30 more months before another article. Haha! You know I love you.

THE SIDDON LOOK CULTURE: JUNGLE JUSTICE & THE BRAVE 4

There is a war out there, and no Nigerian youngster may be safe from it: a secret experiment to drive the Nigerian youth into extinction. More students and young Nigerians have been killed or imperiled this year than I have ever known since I was old enough to know my government name or since I learnt to do a number 2 by myself in the toilet.

From the Mubi 40 to the Aluu 4, and running through a thread of sad instances (the Sosoliso air crash), then the incidents involving NYSC corpers in the Boko Haram North to the recent Dana Air mishaps, we have mourned enough members of Generation Y-Not (those born after the oil boom years of 1977 and beyond) to declare a genocide watch in Nigeria.

My heart is heavy, especially after the recent Mubi and Aluu deaths, and before I speak on it, I would enjoin every one of my readers to heed this:  Try and preserve yourself as much as you can while we gang-plank walk this contraption that is the Nigerian experiment.

Every Musa, Mezie and Moyo with access to social media has heard and given their opinion about the sad deaths which occurred at Aluu community, where 4 UNIPORT students were tortured and murdered in cold blood by an irate mob bent on dispersing their own warped version of street justice. Per chance you have not heard because you have been residing in Bagco super-sack in a remote Zamfara outpost, or if you are hustling in the diaspora doing a menial per hour job, you may catch up by visiting Linda Ikeji’s blog or any gossip/news site in blogosphere.

With all the curses, abuses, accusations that have been leveled against Loco Haram (the Aluu mob),  the saddest thing in all this is that people in the mob stood by and did not intervene in any form to stop the horrible act. Members of the community stood with folded arms, or seemed to wash their hands off it like Pilate, and a MOPOL soldier even stood passively even though he was armed with a rifle. To serve, protect and collect 20 naira from bus drivers.

This gruesome act took place in a country where the average person does not mind their business. It is weird that we Nigerians do a lot of olofofo but do not know when to intervene. The same amebo neighbor that would count the number of cars you have parked in your compound, as well as memorize all the license plate numbers by heart and even know that you used Sacklus paint on the building, all from looking over his wall and listening to neighborhood gossip, even though he has never spoken a word to you, should not cower in silence and switch off all the lights in house, when Anini’s disciples pay you a visit in the dead of the night. Every good neighbors owes you a 911 call (or whatever Operation Sweep’s number is) to the police if you are being robbed. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Nigerians must know when to intervene and when to be passive. I mean this is a country where if you were driving a vehicle with a flat or limp tire on a public road, passer-bys or other road users riding on okadas would not hesitate to bang on your car boot or bonnet as they overtook your car to alert you about the tire. Some would even honk their horns loudly. At this point, we are ready to drink Panadol for another person’s sickness.

Nigerian is a country where a ‘good Samaritan’ will help a female driver change a flat tire if she is struggling with it. Or help a driver jump start a faulty car by helping to push it. But no one may assist the same female to the hospital if she had been hit by a stray bullet because robbers were operating nearby. Or if a stolen article mistakenly fell into her purse at the market, and attention was drawn to it by town-criers.

Are Nigerians now aloof and more interested in self or ‘tribalistic’ preservation? Could not one on-looker in Aluu speak up or tell that stick wielding moron to fall back, and leave the students be, before it was too late? So amebo people in Nigeria would rather comment or offer unsolicited advise on another person’s weight, or inquire why you and your spouse have not had children 3 years after marriage (as if you the couple married to just stare at each other), or prod you about why you are still a spinster or a bachelor. But they would not intervene or call the police if they see you being lynched by an irate mob. They may however break out their mobile phones and take a picture with the grainy one mega pixel camera.

Many people have blamed the Blackberry phone (why, I would never understand) and the Brazilian/Peruvian/Mongolian/Guatemalan hair weave for the spike in materialism, narcissism and every manner of social ill in this country. I know that this joke is old, as I cracked it in my previous piece on Blackberrys (look for it on this blog if you have not read it) : The Blackberry is not to blame for Nigeria’s social problems – don’t shoot the, err, Blackberry messenger.

I believe the camera phone has changed Nigeria forever. Just as the “happy slapping” phenomena enveloped England some years back, the average Nigerian has become a camera phone – olofofo. Many would rather take a picture of an accident/incident victim than help. I wonder why we don’t have more war correspondents or people willing to infiltrate Boko Haram with a secret camera to get us breaking insider information. There are 2 sides to the kobo. Social media has helped bring the Aluu and Mubi incidents exposure and may well bring about a reaction from our siddon-look government. However, if the camera phone kpakparazzi had tried to help the victims instead, rather than play Christiana Amanpour or Picasso, the brave four may still be with us today.

How did we get to this stage in Nigeria where people have imbibed the cold-bloodedness and unrepentant independence of Western culture but still kept the barbaric, repugnant customs of yester year? Marry the willingness of unsophisticated people to implement wicked customs, to a selfishness and unwillingness to speak up for others, and that becomes the makings of a society that is failing.

I remember when I was a child, we as a family would go to our village for Xmas, and I felt safe even as a 7 year old hanging out in the village square till late in the evening. I could go stroll into any home, from the poshest village villa to the most rudimentary mud hut, and be offered a bottle of Mirinda or Green Sandy (albeit a very hot one) and some Cabin biscuits (usually soft, but not that I cared much – biscuit was biscuit). Okin was a class above though but I digress. Nigeria, with rural life at its core was much more innocent then. Kidnappings could never occur in my village. Every adult was an uncle or aunt, and material possessions were not worshipped as they are now because the community practiced a form of socialism. If you killed a goat, I was sure of one the hind legs and maybe the intestines to make miri-oku ji or ngwo ngwo. (Refer to Igbo Language for Senior Secondary School Book One for the meanings).

There was no fear that a jealous villager would jazz me so that a ritualist could make away with my big head, or that I would be kidnapped so that the criminal could demand a prince’s ransom from my old man. The only men of the night I ever saw back then were masquerades. The village was such a huge family, that I once went to an old woman’s hut to greet her (you had to go and greet most elders once you arrived in the village). She was thrilled, and offered me some refreshment: meat. I knew not to accept cooked food, but I accepted so not to be rude. Besides I had seen a fresh grasscutter slowing roasting over a coal fired grill, so I fancied a bit of that, right? Wrong. The mama reached into her oha soup pot with her fingers, pulled out a wet piece of goat meat, then she sucked off all the soup with her mouth so that the pepper would not make the beef too spicy for me, then she handed it to me.

That was the ultimate gesture of love and sacrifice as many Igbo readers can attest that villagers, especially the older ones, see meat as a precious commodity. But meat featuring saliva and drool? I left her house thankful, and moments later  I left the meat buried deep in the sand some meters away from the woman’s sight, as there was no way I would have eaten it. But that is beside the point.

As a child, I received love from all over the planet. Back then, apart from the occasional gbomo gbomo incident/story, children and youngsters were not subjected to crime. Students and youth corpers also enjoyed a protected status as government property. It was like adults could kill themselves if they wanted to – but children were left out of the mayhem.

Then the 90s rolled in, and that innocence was taken away from Nigeria down to grass-root level. People became occupied to making a quick buck, and coming back to the village to floss. As social ills like yahoo yahoo, 419, ogwu-ego, kidnapping, one chance and armed robbery increased, the government seemed too slow and cumbersome to tackle them. The law of the jungle has now taken over since the system has now become overwhelmed.

Every ill in Nigeria is now done excessively today when compared to the past. Sometime circa 1992, a chap aged 21 was caught stealing in a shop somewhere in Aba called Eziama. A thick crowd quickly surrounded the thief, and they were welding various weapons of destruction – planks, iron rod, boiling ring, fluorescent tube, koboko etc. They started raining blows on the thief and they stripped him naked.

A man was passing by the scene on his way back from work, and waded through the crowd out of curiousity to see what the din was. He soon screamed with hysteria: A nwuona m o! (Mi o gbe o!) (I am dead o!). The thief was his nephew – his brother’s son. He had to think fast.

The uncle quickly approached the leader of the mob who was wielding a huge akpu pestle, and who looked like he was about to break the thief’s head with it. The following conversation ensued in perfect Abia Igbo:

Uncle: “Biko, nne gi a nwu na (Please, may it  be well with your mother). What did this boy do?”

Chief lyncher: “O zuru ohi (he stole) (or he robbed) (or he converted another’s possessions)”

The Uncle looked at his nephew who was now quite scarred and bloodied, and sitting in a heap on the ground. True to word, next to the thief were the items he had tried to fap. Apparently, he had broken into a video/ electronics store, and nabbed a video cassette player and 3 films – Steve Seagal’s “Out for Justice”, Jungle Fever and some Nollywood movie featuring Tony Umez and Sonny McDon. Luck ran out when he was trying to make away, as someone spotted him and yelled “TIF!!”

The Uncle hissed, and shouted as he gave his nephew a thunderous slap: “E wu ezigbo onye-oshi” (You are a super -duper crook).

FOOOKPA!!!!!

The slap the Uncle gave the nephew made him writhe on the floor in pain as he clutched his face. It hurt worse than being smashed with a pestle. Even the crowd was stunned, and looked at the Uncle in surprise. Enyi ele ihe o wu biko?

The Uncle then turned to the Chief Lyncher and explained: “This anumanu (animal) is my younger brother’s son. I will make sure his father deals with him at home. The father is a principal at a seminary school. He has learnt his lesson, so allow me take him to his father for additional VIP treatment”

The Chief Lyncher seemed satisfied, and as he looked to the mob, most of them grunted their approvals . The logic was that since someone who was a close family friend and a member of the community had vouched for the thief, and he had already been humiliated enough anyway, the rogue could be released. Bail was set there and then by the street jury and the crowd dispersed. An Uncle’s slap had saved his nephew from a certain death.

In Nigeria of 2012, people are killed for committing crimes rather than being handed to security agencies. The general populace is full of mistrust for the justice system and some now opt street justice. If Nigerian justice in the judiciary is represented by a white effigy of a blind-folded lass with scales and a sword, Jungle Justice her unruly and infamous cousin would be a Kunkuru puppet figurine wielding a cutlass, a jerry can of  petrol and a mosquito net looking for who to devour. Unfortunately the young and innocent do get caught in the cross-fire.

Ever since I heard about the Aluu incident, I have not been myself as it has hurt me to the bone marrow. That incident is a shame to every single Nigerian as we have failed our sons, brothers and colleagues.

To our brethren who lost their lives in Mubi. I pray God keeps you and comforts your families. And to the brave Aluu 4, who I understand had a music artist among them, rest in peace my brothers – you are now our Nigerian Marvin Gayes.

 

We cross driven, cornered into a life that’s hellish/

Paying our dues with bloodshed, ain’t nothing you all could tell us/

Fellas – mount up, it’s time for battle, it is on now/

Two worlds, colliding armies, riding soldiers, gone wild/

Sometimes I think my glory days was back in my youth/

2pac featuring The Outlaws (As The World Turns Around, 1999)

 

 

Most of us only care about money making/

Selfishness got us following our wrong direction/

Wrong information always shown by the media/

Negative images is the main criteria/

Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria/

Kids want to act like what they see in the cinema/

Whatever happened to the values of humanity/

Whatever happened to the fairness in equality/

Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity/

Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity/

That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feeling under/

That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feeling down/

There’s no wonder why sometimes I’m feeling under/

Got to keep my faith alive till love is found/

 Black Eyed Peas (Where Is The Love, 2003)

STATE OF THE (DIS)-UNION

I have decided to make the Pounded Yam and Pure Water awards (the Poundos to you posh lot) a quarterly affair instead. In its stead, in my acting capacity as the self-elected president of Woah-Nigeria, and by the powers invested in me by honorable readers of blogville, I present to you my first State of the Dis-Union address. The address would analyze 3 recent happenings or current affairs in our dear nation with the usual Esco innuendos and all manners of verbal peperempe.

So how do I start? Oh I know:

Fellow Woah-Nigerians,

It is with the utmost pride and sincerity that I present these memoranda as a living testament and recollection of history in the making during our generation (I have always wanted to say this sometime in my life):

 

1.       JOINT TASK FORCE (JTF)  LANDS BOKO HARAM A CRUSHING BLOW (AND PLEASE STAY DOWN):

Earlier today a combined team of the JTF acted on intelligence had killed two members of the radical Islamic sect Boko Haram, who are believed to be top commanders, somewhere along Maiduguri- Kano road as they were escaping arrest from security forces.

Earlier this week, J-Force had intercepted the command center of the sect, and had made arrests and seized computers, communication devices and bomb-making apparatus.

Wow, most Nigerians do not know whether to laugh or cry at this point. While every one is taking any good news with a pinch of salt, we have to pause as we remember countless people whose lives were lost in various bombing around the country.

These terrorists are something else though. Remember the armpit who blew himself up by mistake (or maybe not) while trying to detonate a bomb somewhere. It is worrying that we have fundamentalists who won’t mind mudding for their cause, in a country like Nigeria that is usually known for selfish self-preservationists who crave the high-life and long life.

I mean this Boko Haram mallam was so overzealous that he blew himself up, and was adamant even on his death bed. Well, good riddance – at least he gets to receive his reward of a 1000 virgins in bomb-blast utopia sooner than later.

Good luck to him. Me, I dey here on planet Earth with the runs girls and aristo babes.

 

2.      KIDDIE MISSION 101

The spate of crimes against children seems to have risen astronomically. In the space of one month, there have been news reports of ritual killings concerning children. There was the brute found with a head of a young boy; and then recently another chap was intercepted by a suspicious bus conductor when he refused to relinquish his luggage to be placed in the danfo boot. His baggage contained the corpse of a child – reportedly his own child. Wow, not even an insanity plea could explain this one.

I don’t care what selfish and wicked adults do, but the Nigerian child must be protected. I remember growing up, there was a case of child cruelty in my house. My elder sister walked into the house-help’s room and caught her drinking my baby sister’s milk. The help would make the milk in the kitchen, then feed the child a few sips. Then when no-one was looking, she would unstrap the nipple of the feeding bottle and down the contents like a bottle of small Stout. She would then wet the baby’s mouth area with some milk to make it look like wee one had fed already. Thank goodness she had only been employed for all of 3 weeks, or the long term effects on my 18 month old sister would have been worse. No wonder the poor baby girl always had that confused looked on her face, while the house-help had been tripled her weight in 21 days. I think my sister is still somewhat affected to this day by the brief period of malnutrition in her early life. She is bad at maths.

By the way, what is it with some people and baby food? It is messy, lumpy and fattening. It also causes a lot of flatulence. Back in boarding school, I always feared people who brought Cerelac and Milupa as school provisions. Baby food is as nasty as plane food and those who eat it.

 

3.      LAWAN FAROUK AFFAIR – UNDER RUG SWEPT?

After all the initial brouhaha and grandstanding that greeted this bribery case when it was first discovered, it seems to have gone unusually quiet. It is the proverbial case of chop and clean mouth – except that it was captured on camera. So where is the footage?

Farouk seems to be doing his thing, while the members of the House of Rep have swallowed the grenade to hush it all up. The last time I saw this kind of “the more you look, the less you see” was when my teacher in Primary 3 caught me snacking on Nasco Wafers during a class. She reprimanded me as she twisted my ears then seized it, all three-quarters of it, and continued with the lessons.

During our break period, I approached her for my wafer.  She looked at me with surprise, as she marveled at the audacity. She was like: wafers? What wafers?

 

She had chopped the thing and discarded the wrapper. Chop and clean mouth, and the pupils in my class looked like they were ready to back up her story. I was confused – maybe I had imagined the wafers, or had eaten it all and made up a convenient imaginary story. After all I had been known to make up stories for food at parties – Aunty I have not yet eaten. Well, I got good grades for the rest of my term in that class.

Maybe this belongs in the “Kiddie Mission” category.

 

Happy New Year!

Flashing lights....

Happy New Year y’all! Glad we all made it to 2012! Your tracks could have been stopped in any other year, but you are in 2012! To God be the Glory!

Its funny how we take it for granted sometimes that we are in a New Year. The year 2012 itself sounds so futuristic, like a year one would have seen in one of those Sci-Fi movies to denote some cutting edge future where man became half-machine, cars were flying saucers and a robot wiped your ass for you after taking a dump in the toilet. A futuristic world where energy was produced from some kind of atomic water, solving all the world’s energy needs, so PHCN was but a bad memory. A future where people bought shuttle tickets to visit Mars, Venus and other planets, so taking pictures of your trip to Jand and Yankee and posting them on Facebook was as laughable and ordinary as it is now of posting a photo of you posing because you crossed Lagos’s border into another state.

A year where fuel subsidy would be like a bad joke, because fossil fuel was obsolete and petroleum was only used to make pomade, okwuma  and KY Jelly. 2012 would be so far ahead that toll-gates would be damn near impossible. We would be using rockets and jets to propel ourselves on inter-galactic highways in the air, and air is free, right? And it needs no maintenance or any long-term concessions to build. Eat your heart out LCC; I am fast and free.

2000 used to seem that futuristic when I was a kid growing up in the 80s. In fact people like Prince 2000, the Nigerian entertainment anchor who added the year to his name, did so to make it look like he was so ahead of his time. He was – but that was because he also wore sequined shine shine jackets with huge shoulder pads, sported a juiced up Jeri Curl perm with enough oil to fry akara for a small village, and hype the crowd by encouraging it to strike him (Hit Me! Hit Me! Hit Me!). Prince would be kicking himself now, whenever he looks at his name.

And who can remember that 80s movie whose poster featured an army commando carrying the hugest gun ever seen? The movie was supposed to best its competitors Rambo and Commando in the action movies genre. To make sure it did that, it was also given a futuristic, out of this world name: Equalizer 2000.

So we are now in 2012, I am in the mood for merry making, because I made it “back to the future.”

So how were your Christmas and New Year celebrations? Was Santa good to you? If you don’t believe in Santa, what about your sugar daddy? Was he good to you? Even if Santa wasn’t good to you,  at least Boko Haram wasn’t bad to you. That is worthy of praise to the Most High.

There lies the problem with Nigerians sometimes. We either over-count our blessings, focusing on the mundane, ahead of what should really matter; or we do not count them at all. A few days after Xmas, I was chatting with a friend of mine via BB, and I asked him how his Xmas had gone, and he replied “Terrible.”

So I inquired further “Terrible? What happened? You didn’t eat jollof rice, fried chicken and drink minerals at your folks place? Or you didn’t receive a hampa (hamper) from one of your clients? What made it terrible?”

He really couldn’t explain.

I said “ You are alive, and you can piss unassisted – that has to count for something.”

As my pastor used to say (don’t worry, I am not one to quote pastors as the sole authorities on wisdom),  it is a privilege and not a right that when you sleep, you wake up the next morning. Urinating without a dialysis is a blessing, not a right. Being able to walk and talk is not promised to anyone. These are blessings from God. And you don’t know what you have till it’s gone.

Any spirit of non-enjoyment disturbing or hampering (not Xmas  gift hamper o) your joy, I countermand and rescind it (or them) forthwith. Say Amen!

During a class, a teacher of mine some years back opined  that most Nigerians go around grumbling: I want millions and billions in the bank. I want a gigantic house with 20 en suite rooms in Old Ikoyi.  I want the phone numbers of all the top models, fresh girls and red carpet fashionistas in Lagos and Abuja, so that they could visit me for booty calls and ride me all night. I also desire all the LV and Channel bags I can carry in the crux of my elbow, and enough Brazilian weave to put She-Ra to shame. I desire 4 smart phones so that I could be on all the networks – Airtel, Glo, Etisalat and MTN, and never have to switch sim-cards between one phone when any network starts its connection ogbanje. Why was my dad a sucker, who didn’t leave an inheritance for me?

The teacher continued: “Try being sick and you will notice that health is more important than wealth, and your only pre-occupation would be how to get better. All those paper-making plans would pale in comparison.”

With that, the teacher suddenly looked up, and caught a late-comer student trying to sneak into the class from one of the back doors. He exclaimed “Get out of my class, you big fool! In fact what is your name? Ajayi Bembem? Okay you have minus 20 marks from your total to pass this course.”

By the way, that was my Philosophy lecturer.

In 2012, pay a visit to any Nigerian hospital, especially the ones in less high-brow areas. You would eat your heart out, after you have cried it out. That bridge you drive over, barely stopping except in traffic, you need to pay a visit to shanties under it, and see how poorly some people live in this unequal country. Sometime one needs to see how it is on the other side, so that you can get some perspective and be thankful for this New Year.

2012 is a new beginning, and gives us 2012 reasons to pursue our dreams 2012 per cent. So help us, God.

Happy New Year, my fellow Woah-Nigerians.

 

Say goodbye to the brainwashed/
Say goodbye to the young kids who are not smart/
Say hello to the one world…/
Say hello to the sky, something’s out there watching you and I/
..I might be old fashioned, stuck in my ways/
But nothing make me more happier than seeing today/

Nas (New World, 1999)

One Chance

Lets go back to December 31st of 1999

What would you do differently if you had the chance to start life from scratch? If you could rub a lamp (or rechargeable lantern) and make a wish, or if you were given an opportunity to change some of your previous life choices, what would you do? If there was a time travel scientist called Doctor Who Sai, and he offered you a chance to travel in his time travel telephone box (not operated by Nitel o), where would you travel to, and what would you change? Would you go back to 1950 and beg your popsie to complete school and go to Uni, so that he would succeed so that you can have a better chance of being born with a silverspoon in Ikoyi?

Or would you go back to 1914 and slap Lord Lugard into a stupor to prevent him from amalgamating the Northern and Southern protectorates to form Naija, and thereby save us all this anguish. Or perhaps you would travel to 2005 and invest your hard-earned salary in 1st Bank and Nigerian Brewery stocks and shares, instead of Transcorp, Finbank and Intercontinental Banks like you ended up doing and loosing your life savings. Maybe you wouldnt have married that girl – you have now found out that she was too good to be true. She claimed she was a virgin and had never seen man, and did not let you ‘violate her’ but on the wedding night, once you straddled her, you almost ‘fell inside”. Now a sex video of her planking different Alhajis has now gone viral. You have also become viral from her infections.

Or would you rather time-travel to 2003 to major in music in school, rather than banking and finance? I mean Tuface and Don Jazzy are cleaning out almost as well as the Jim Ovias and Pascal Dozies of these world (key word – almost). Or you may choose to go back to 1992 to buy 20 plots of land in Lekki Phase One and Wuse, when these were worth half-a-penny. My uncle was offered land in Banana Island in 1996 for 2 million. He decided to invest in Festac instead, and now his house has appeared in many Nollywood movies, as opposed to Fortune 500 or MTV Cribs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I prefer not to dwell on mistakes I have made, or wrong choices when I was younger .Whatever happens has happened, and what  is done, is done. People espouse that philosophy of life where you look forward and regret nothing including past mistakes, writing them off as life experiences. It is even embodied in the French term “Regrette Rien” which means “Regret Nothing”

In Pidgin English parlance, it is called ‘E don happen” so why you wan kill yourself?

However, sometimes, you do reflect on your journey through life, and  try to imagine how much different your life would be if you had passed the right or left fork on the road, and had gone straight instead. Here would be my choices, if I could start again:

  • I would have become an engineer. I was a proficient Lego brick builder as a youngster. I may have made a good civil engineer though a civil child I was not.  In Junior secondary, I was initially great at Introductory Technology, but the teacher put me off because he was always hitting students with the T-square.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the legal profession but there are too many insincere jerks and old school monuments dogging the institution. Besides try watching one of those World War or invasion movies – lawyers are always the first ones to be killed or imprisoned in concentration camps when a dictator takes over a nation. Doctors and lawyers are spared because they can provide anciliarry services.  Nuclear physicists are spared too because of their technological prowess. But lawyers don’t have anything to offer because their talk talk is too much. I put it to you that you cannot kill or imprison me. I will invoke a wreath of Habeus Corpus and have you reprimanded forthwith. 

Even people who studied Yoruba Education in school have a better chance of surviving in an invasion or dictatorship than a lawyer. They could prostrate and plead for their life: Ejo o, e ma bi nu.Ma pa mi, iku mi o wulo fun e (Please o, don’t be angry. I am useless to you dead). The person would be more successful with his plea, if he impersonates Jide Kosoko’s facial expressions.

The worst people are those who studied Philosophy. They would try to rationalize with the arresting soldiers by applying logic: You arrest and kill some innocent victims. I am an innocent victim. But it does not mean you have to kill me.

So engineers are indispensable. They have the pick of the choicest positions and benefits. When I worked at Nigerian Breweries as an intern, I once overheard a manager sigh as he guzzled a huge mug of Harp “The most important people in this company, and the only ones immune from sacking are those who oversee production – the lager engineers. All you analysts, business administrators, interns are on borrowed time here”

Dude, we are all on borrowed time. Nor be you papa company na.

Engineers have all the advantages. There are different kinds of engineers – civic, petroleum, mechanical, electronic, marine,, aeronautic etc etc. There are only 3 kinds of lawyer in Nigeria – charge N bail, baby lawyer and the erudite ones (Gani, FRA Williams, Babalakin etc). Aim to be among the last category.

Engineers rise to the top of their professions, and get to wear jeans and nice yellow helmets even in corporate settings. They use terms like “rig, petroleum, platform,  crank, production.”

Lawyers rise up in the profession, but always usually wear a black wig and gown in a hot court-room. They use words like “adjournment, frustration, lapse, laches, statute of limitation, I put it to you, sue,  please be advised..”

Anyway  I still ended up being an engineer regardless – I am a social engineer, building blocks of hope.  My bic is my spanner. In fact sometimes I introduce myself as Architect Esco at public gatherings. At one recent gathering, the other person looked at me interestingly as I introduced myself as an architect. He was one himself, so he inquired further:  “Interesting stuff. What buildings or projects have you designed.”

I wanted to reply “Motherfuck designing mansions in water logged Lekki, I help rebuild and rehabilitate people through the medium of blog satire”

Instead, I pretended like I had just received an international call, and excused myself “Ehnn, sorry Joe, the line is breaking. What time is it now at Singapore? It must be MTN’s network, please let me go outside for better reception. Please excuse me, Architect Dagbaru”

  • I would have made better choices in my relationships earlier on. I would have bitten the bullet, been bolder and hooked up with Chineze. I would not have stood up Damola on Valentines Day to hang out with the lads. I would have treated Oyin differently and not have taken her for granted. I can remember taking a train all the way from Borehamwood to Swiss Cottage to meet Oyin who was meeting me all the way from Edmonton for a movie at the O2 center. After a huge meal at Weatherspoons, I embarrassingly fell asleep during the movie. Don’t blame me, it was already around 8pm, and besides the movie showing had musical bits in it. It was Gerald Butler’s “Phantom of the Opera.”

Oyin was pissed that I dare fall asleep during our date, even spilling our popcorn all over the place as I shifted in my snooze. My excuse was let me sleep, so I can dream of you.

 Oyin, I apologize. I am also sorry for taking you to my new girlfriend’s house and making out with her in front of you, because I stupidly thought you were over me. Now that I am older and wiser, I realize that girls have a secret radar and no chick would like to see her ex with another hotter chick. Sorry, I meant another chick equally as hot. Please accept my apologies for 2011.

  • I would dance with my father one more time, if I had the chance. He passed away a few years ago, and now I realize that all the life lessons he taught me are gems for living.  I recently caught a glimpse of myself in a shop window, and I could see my father’s features creeping in a little. His mannerisms, his modus operandi, his figures of speech are all engrained in me. Miss you Dad.
  • I would have started a business a long time ago. I guess it is never too late, but I am inspired by the life stories of self -made men like Richard Branson and Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs who started really early in life. The former had a paper route when he was barely in his teens and the former was a record company “A and R” by his early twenties, and formed Bad Boy Records when he was just 23.

On a side note, a friend of mine wants to start a clothing company, and has started importing tee-shirt printing and embroidery machinery. He hired me a design consultant because he felt I had a creative spark. His vision was for a urban wear line  with designs that could make a statement, sort of like those Che Guevara revolutionary tee-shirts, or Doc Marten boots with grunge or punk rockers, or how Ben Sherman shirts were popular with U.K chavs, or how college kids like Abercrombie and Fitch and snap back hats. Or like Hawes and Curtis and pudgy Nigerian bankers.

He wanted a line of tee-shirts with a range of designs peculiar to the Nigerian hip fashionista. It had to be cool, but distinctively naija.

My first few suggestions were wide off the mark, and I am sure he is seriously thinking of asking me to resign.

I suggested a T-shirt with an inscription “I am the bomb”. He looked at me like I was crazy. Ha, make Boko Haram catch you.

What about a shirt with the PHCN logo, and then the phrase “I got the power…Not”

I wish I had learnt a special skill. Like I had taken up lawn tennis classes, or learnt how to play the piano, or the Yoruba talking drum. My father really wanted me to learn how to play tennis, as he felt it was a good form of keeping fit and networking for life. I really always wondered what the racket was all about. Besides there were few places to practice in Lagos. I am Igbo, and imagine the ill looks I would  get if I waltzed into the Yoruba Lawn Tennis Club. I wish I could play chess as well as draught. I am a champ at Ludo though. When I throw the dice, I am fairly proficient at getting 2 sixes. Siki one, siki two…oya carry ya seed.

 

And for all the nights and all the fights/

That I had for all this money over all these dice/

All my cars and homes and all my ice/

If I could do it all again, I’d do it all for Christ/

 Mase (From Scratch, 1999)