The Soundtrack To My Life Story

Can my music be the saviour of my race/ Can you see reality written on my face

Can my music be the saviour of my race/
Can you see reality written on my face

Every stage of my life has been footnoted by a particular song or album. Certain songs remind me of certain periods of happiness, triumph, victories or struggles. I could hear a tune that makes me want to fist pump due to the happy memories it invokes. Then another one would come on that reminded me of a life low. The wonderful thing about music is that sometimes just one lyric or stanza or chorus out of the whole composition speaks to you. That is how I chronicle my life story – based on music I was digging at the time.

Fresh Prince’s “Summertime” reminds me of the 90s, secondary school events, playing Streetfighter 2 with friends all day, sharwamas from Terri’s at 1004 or UTC, house parties, hanging out with friends and going on city trips, summer school lessons and youthful dalliances. The lyrics to “Summertime” are hard and true: Sitting with your friend, cause you all reminisce/ about the days growing up and the first person you kiss/ And as I think back, makes me wonder/ how the smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia/ all the kids playing out front/ little boys messing round with the girls playing double dutch/

In senior secondary school, my childish innocence gave away to adolescent rebellion, as I looked to find my place in a Nigeria that was dithering on the blink of socio-political implosion during the last years of the military. I fell in with bad company, and my crew broke school rules and skipped classes. I nearly got suspended from school, save for my folk’s direct intervention with the school authorities. My dad’s disciplining was hash. Life was miserable, and I  was in a bad place with my folks. I listened  to and was inspired by Biggie Small’s song “Juicy” from his first album: Damn right I like the life I live/ Cause I went from negative to positive/

Fast forward to my adult years – I worked part-time in a high-volume call center handling hundreds of customer service calls from very irate customers who vented their frustrations about one irritation or another.

I would slip my mp3 earphones under the call center headphones, and listen to music on the low, while the customers mouthed off. Sometimes customers took out their frustrations on the call center agents, even making personal attacks. One called my co-worker the “N” word, and banged the phone. Another threatened to come over to the call center and shove the phones down another co-worker’s mouth, because he wanted a refund.

One got verbally irate with me, but I was not fazed. Puff Daddy’s song “Cant Nobody Hold Me Down” was playing in my MP3 player. Can’t nobody take my pride/ Can’t nobody hold me down/Oh no, I have got to keep on moving/

Later, I listened to another customer rant on, about seeing shards of a broken bottle on the floor in our company’s store. I apologized on behalf of the company, but the customer was not satisfied and continued to vent. I blocked out his drama with lyrics from Puffy, which I was bumping: Broken glass everywhere/ if it aint about the money, Papa just don’t care/

When my pops passed, it was the worst period of my life. Jay Z had written a song “Lost Ones” about long lost friendships and the death of his nephew, and a line from that song reverberated in my mind, as I stood at the gravesite during the dust to dust rights. I hummed the piano riffs, as the burial crowd looked amazed:

Close my eyes and squeeze, try to block that thought/ Place any burden on me but please, not that, Lord/ But time don’t go back, it goes forward/ Can’t run from the pain, go towards it/ Some things can’t be explained, what caused it/ Such a beautiful soul, so pure sh../ Gonna see you again, I’m sure of it/ Till that time, big man, I’m nauseous/

Seeing so wonderful a man, shoved and shoveled beneath 6 feet of dirt below, made me realize the brevity of life. Everything is meaningless without love, faith and family. It is worthless to put your hopes in worldly vanities, fortune and fame. Too often we chase after the wrong things in life which have a finite existence. Wealth can be lost during a man’s life to economic circumstances, misfortune and waste. It can be lost after his death to graveyard thieves, lack of maintenance culture, spoilt kin, and grabby relatives.

To help me understand this new philosophy, the lyrics of U2’s Walk On helped thus:

All that you fashion, all that you make/All that you build, all that you break/ All that you measure, all that you feel/ All this you can leave behind/ All that you reason, all that you care/
All that you sense, all that you scheme/All you dress up, and all that you see/All you create, all that you wreck/All that you hate/ You’ve got to leave it behind

All sorrows heal, and broken hearts mend like an agama lizard’s tail. That was scant consolation when I got my heart broken the first and only time in my life, by a cheating girlfriend. I was delirious, but my pal Kola laughed away my matter by suggesting I move on quick to a rebound chick, as he advised “The only solution to woman troubles is new women”

He quoted a song that was on rotation in his tape deck so I could make sense of what he was saying. It was from an old Tuface Idibia feature in a Tony Tetulia tune called “My kind of woman”: Ogogoro be like woman; If you shack am, you go high o.

Hmmm…

Certain songs remind me of periods of good, good, loving. When my missus and I first started dating, we would video-Skype and listen to Train’s “Get to Me”, every evening we were apart with lyrics like: Why don’t you hitch a ride on the back of a butterfly and get to me/ I look around at what I have got, and without you it ain’t a lot/

When my daughter was born, I was there in the theatre as the doctors checked all her vital statistics. I couldn’t believe it – Esco, the blogger, lawyer, now papa? I volunteered to ferry her to the nursery myself so that we could James Bond. As we took those baby steps of new father and daughter together, I prayed greatness over the life she was about to embark on. I did a small father and daughter dance with her, as I remembered Nas’s tribute to his own daughter “Me and You” and I quote: “One day, you will meet the right groom/ and then, you will see your life bloom”

And sometimes when life gets me down, as I think about Nigeria’s problems and the new menace of terrorism and extreme corruption, and ponder if we will ever rise above the depths of poverty, misalignment and corruption, music helps me get through that too. It is impossible to listen to “Home” by Cormega and not be encouraged: If your life isn’t  in order, seize control/Adversity’s a lesson, be composed/Above all spread love hate stains the soul/Those with no purpose are afraid to grow/He who walks in small steps has a way to go/On the road to the riches you exposed to resentment/Everybody wants eat but they won’t do the dishes/My whole view is different since I rose from the benches/The goal was to get it and I showed true persistence/

I leave you be with a medley of songs that have been on repeat in my tape deck a lot these past days, as I build last memories of today for the future. The Sountrack to my essence in 2015. Realize that today is the first day that begins forever.

  1. Savoir Adore – Dreamers
  2. M.I. – Imperfect Me
  3. U2 – City of Blinding Lights
  4. CL Smooth & Pete Rock – Take You There
  5. Nas – Hey Young World
  6. Scarface – Picking Up the Pieces
  7. The Courteeners – Not Nineteen Forever
  8. Train – Following Rita
  9. Whitney Houston – When you are loved
  10. LifeHouse – Sick Cycle Carousel
  11. Cormega – Rise
  12. Olamide – Church
  13. C.L. Smooth and Pete Rock – Take You There
  14. Makavelli – White Man’s World

Ooh Child, Your Friend Has Got To Go

Make yourself at home.... in your own home

Make yourself at home…. in your own home

My street on after-school evenings was like a mini-PDP rally. Children of primary school age would hang out on the street playing “catcher” and “freeze-tag”, until our mums called us in. Fear of gbomo gbomo was real, but so was the fear of an ass whooping for staying out late.

All the kids old enough to walk came out to hang and play. There were the BMX vs. Chopper vs Raleigh bicycle wars where we raced for bragging rights about which was the best brand. Some of the younger kids played “mama and papa” games where they pretended to be married and made “soup” out of garden leaves, and eba out of sand from the sand pit at the end of the street. That is how I kissed my first crush at 7, a pretty young thing by the name of Felicia.

Our street lights sparked the Lagos night. A few gluttonous kids busied themselves aiming slippers at the ripe almonds (popularly known as “fruit”) hanging from the tree of one the neighbors Mr. Onwubiko the neighborhood sadist. The juiciest fruit always seemed to hide at the top of the tree, out of reach, and out of bounds. He would run out of his house waiving the cane of life and the kids would scramble in different directions, like a babalawo’s cowry shells. On Friday evenings, brutish older kids from the adjacent rougher suburb showed up with catapults which they used to hunt agama lizards almost to extinction. In their own neighborhood, they raced old bike tire rims for pink slips – whoever won kept the loser’s tire rim, thereby condemning the victim to many evenings of dulling. These brutes tried to bully kids from our street, until we met fire with fire with our water guns. It was a medley of childish fun.

However the kids of one particular neighbor Apostle Nimrod never hung out.  They lived in a bungalow at the corner – a family of Apostle and his wife, and two sons and a daughter aged 5, 7 and 11. One would see them moping from behind their fence, martialed by the eldest one, who deterred them from breaking bounds. Some other kids tried to beckon to them to join our din, but they would not dare, even when their folks were not home. Apparently Apostle forbade them from mixing with “those children of the world.”

One day, the middle child out of Apostle’s kin struck a conversation with me, over by her fence. She was my age – a dark-skinned, inquisitive cutie named Modupe. Her hair was neatly plaited in rows of the “periwinkle” style that reigned at the time, with shining white teeth that could make her the poster-child for Pepsodent. She liked my junior parole, and introduced me to her brothers.

Soon, I was chatting with them over by their wall every evening during playtime. I brought over comics, toys, drawings I had made, and entertained them with stories about the latest episode of Voltron, G-Force or the Kunkuru Puppet Show. It was not long before they invited me over. I had a slick mouth as a kid especially when I went on a charm offensive. I scaled the fence, and entered their house.

From what I could see, their parents were strict followers of a Bar Beach based fellowship and had groomed them to be fundamentalists. They were not allowed to watch daytime TV and had never seen Sound of Music, Storyland, Speak Out or Sesame Street.

I made myself at home, and lay on the floor, drawing a Voltron comic on an exercise book I had brought with me, while they watched in fascination.

Then we heard the blare of car horns – their folks were back 40 minutes earlier than usual. Everyone panicked. I ducked and hid under the dinner table. Their dad came in and then he paused. He seemed to sense that there was an illegal immigrant in his home. It wasn’t long before he had sniffed me out from under the table, like the UK Border Agency. As he quizzed the eldest child to explain why he had let me into the house, and threatened brimstone, his attention was caught by a sheet of paper lying under the table. It was a drawing of a robeast. He almost fainted. He tore the drawing into tiny bits of paper, enough to make confetti. He turned to his eldest son, and shook him furiously like a palm-wine calabash, blaming him for flouting the no-visitors rule.

Turning to me, I was declared persona non-grata forever. I did not wait to be told to take an exit. I bailed the hell out of Dodge, grabbing my book of Voltron drawings and crayons, as I breezed pass their mum at the door. Apostle had seized the red crayon. SMT.

The over-strictness and overbearing nature of some parents invariably drive their children into a life of indiscipline, promiscuity or disdain for authority. Some of the most unruly people I know had very strict controlling parents, and they ended up lashing out against the school and then society in their adult years, as way of rebelling against their lack of a fair childhood.

There is also an opposite extreme, where parents over-smother their kids with affection, spoiling them and not giving them a certain independence required for the child to come into its own.

I guess an analogy can be made between parental smothering and the overbearing nature of the Nigerian State. Our motherland has to create a system give its citizens room to breathe and take on the world.

There is a fine balance to be struck between sparing the rod, or putting the child in a vice-grip. My folks were fairly easy going about friends and associate coming over to visit. Their thing was – they had trained me to be a good judge of character, and they trusted me to make the right decisions. Like, it is your house too – if you like, go and invite an armed robber or an axe murderer in.

Travails and Travels of a 500 Naira Note

500 naira

Cash Rules Everything Around Me

My fellow Nigerians, I am a 500 Naira note, with the picture of the late, great, Owelle of Onitsha imprinted on me. What an oxymoron if ever there was one – the frame-shot of political nobility transposed on a worthless piece of legal tender responsible for the blood, sweat and tears of many.

These days I feel quite worthless, and I have seen the inside linings of many pockets, been shoved under the table into strangers hands in exchange for favors not worth the paper I am printed on; I have been bartered for human dignity. Watched governments rise and fall. Seen pretenders betray their moral creed for wealth and fame. In times past, I have watched as friends and family turned against each other in my name and those of my more illustrious peers – Dollar, Euro and Sterling. These days, my worth has been devalued compared to my American cousin – talk about racial, sorry fiscal discrimination. Dollar 1; Naira 230.

Only last night, I was comforting a N20 who has been mis-used and maltreated, changing hands and pockets between buyers and sellers of services in local brothels, meshai joints and street neighborhoods.  N20 said he wish he could end up in the hands of a stingy Ijebu man, as that would surely be the end of his solemn journey. He further reminisced about the glory days when N20 was the apex Nigerian monetary note, and N400 could buy a 504 car. Then corruption hadn’t really taken root into our national fabric.

As a N500 note, I have had a long and fruitful life. I have been in clubs where I was tossed into the air like a new born baby to announce my owner’s baller status, and seen that same owner hold on to me in tears months later when he became broke and destitute, and the well-wishers and gold digger girlfriends were nowhere to be seen. I have been torn apart, shared in court, because his ex-wife wants half of me.

I have been the subject of scorn at fellowships where people mocked me as the root of all evil, forgetting that being infatuated with me in the problem, and not me. People prefer to shoot the messenger – they should attack the root, not the shoots.

I have been sprayed on the sweaty foreheads of new brides doing their wedding dance at ostentatious Victoria Island weddings – one particular bride shoved me aside and kept dancing, and then I fell on the floor where I was surrounded by currencies of every nationality and value – naira, pounds, yen, euros. I was about to speak to a 100 dollar note, when I was blown by the fan to a side table on the left. Then I felt the rubber sole of a brogues shoes on me. I was trampled upon by the  wedding MC, as he hid me to pick later when no-one was watching. And that was how my waka for the day started…

Part 2 coming soon.

I Have Exam Fever

*Confused.com

Failure is not an option; or optional question

My law school final exams are perhaps the most difficult exams I have ever taken. There was so much material to cover, and some of the subjects such as legal drafting and conveyancing were a bit technical.

It didn’t help that the auditorium had been very hot during the classes as the Abuja sun blazed, and many lectures had turned into a fan swinging contest between students. Some hot chicks (no pun intended) undid 3 or 4 buttons on their shirts, as they struggled to cool in the heat, creating a free show of cleavage for some pervs sat some rows above. Those sat below saw bush too.

During the exam period, the campus fellowship was filled to the rafters. People who pre-exam, had spent most of their evenings and nights at the mammy market drinking, smoking or trying to snag chicks, now thronged to the fellowship on exam nights. If you don’t know by now, you will never know.

Then the exams themselves were like a body blow from Bash Ali. I opened the question paper for Company Law, and felt like I had just eaten an expired muffin from Chocolate Royal. Sick to the stomach. The objective part of the paper written earlier had been no better for me, as I played mini mini mani mo, trying to guess the answers. I tried to think of case law to buttress my answers which would incur additional marks, but none came to mind. I looked around at fellow students around me to see if they were seeing what I was seeing. The girl to the right of me, who I recognized from carrying huge textbooks and compendiums, had a dead eye stare of confusion, like they had sworn for her from her village.

I looked to the other side of me, I saw the class wiz-kid writing furiously as he balanced his spectacles on his nose with his finger. I looked across, and I saw one of the examiners looking straight at me like “Today na today; if you try cheat eh, I go put you for corner” Naughty corner.

I looked down at my question paper and blinked; I clicked my heels 3 times, but no answers came to memory.

One of the students who was an older Deeper Life SU type, had even taken off her head scarf in tension. Oh, that is it – lifting the veil to expose the sham. And somehow more answers came to me slowly like a song I wrote. I pulled out my Eleganza biro and started writing furiously, like the Nigerian Senate hurriedly passing bills in the last days of GEJ’s reign. And I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, smiling to myself with pride in my turn around in fortunes. I could feel the invigilator’s gaze upon me, as he wondered where I discovered this new found knowledge and zeal. He even came and stood behind for about 15 minutes, just to make sure I was not cheating somehow. May your blessings confuse your doubters and enemies!

Four months later, I passed the exam. Congratulobia! The call to bar party rice my folks made was redder and sweeter than those who made distinction sef. I declared big time at the mammy market, buying beer and pepper soup for friends and well-wishers alike. Even people who had failed the exams, and had to re-sit the exams, partook of my largesse.

If you are taking exams, avoid the following kinds of people:

Folks who collect extra sheet just to get a rep – this people have no chill like a broken Thermocool fridge. They remind me of overzealous meatheads at the gym, who crank up the threadmill speed and incline, or add on additional weights to the barbells, just to make you feel some kind of way about your own fitness. But the proof is in the pudding, and in this case, the results.

People who want to discuss the answers immediately after the paper. Or go through the question papers, after the fact. Or are miserable after noticing mistakes or answers not written correctly. I dodge them after the exam, like they have been infected with a communicable disease. You see, I am different; I roll that question paper into a ball, and drop it like a hot potato into the trash can, like the Lagos Islanders basketball team. Or I sow the question paper into a junior’s life so he can use it to prepare for next year’s exam. Let that man worry about it. Once I am done, I am done.

People who spend more time getting tactics ready for cheating than they would getting ready for the exam. They painstakingly construct micro-chips, or sitting arrangements, or new tattoos on their limbs containing the answers. They remind of the PDP –  politicians who spend billions bribing electorates with bags of rice, free credit and what-not; rather than using said money or even mere millions for rural electrification programs, scholarships for impoverished communities, an act which is cheaper and would make them favorites for relection. God is watching you o.

Abeg, let me go and prepare for a case jare.

COMMITTING LOOKERY

cheating-black-man

I once dated a girl who was sweet and unique. She was a work of art like a Ben Enwonwu sculpture, with brown skin like Choco-milo and eyes that lit up like a kerosene lantern.  And her figure? Majestic and curvaceous like an Igbo Ukwu bronze pot. And do not get me started on her teeth – she had the most perfectly arranged set of 32 I had ever seen, which looked especially cute whenever she wore her metal braces. The juxtaposition of her teeth against metal reminded me of the most perfect corn cob resting on an iron grill. She had an impeccable personality to boot too – a trifecta of intelligence, quiet determination and an easy going aura. We really fancied each other, and I would drive to my cousin’s estate where she lived, park in front of her apartment block and hunk my car horn 4 times, and she would show up. That was our signal. Once her strict mum showed up with a garri pestle, but that’s another story for another day.

While she absolutely adored me, she could not stand something about my character – I had roving eyes like a Nigerian politician’s loyalty to ideology. You see, I was the type of fella many girls loathed for a boyfriend, in that I liked to glance at other females. It was usually a short peep, shorter than M.I.; Truth be told, it was not like I was interested in these other chicks. It was just tomfoolery. I never meant to disrespect my girl. It was just lookery.

And I never cheated on her with these other girls I was checking out – least not physically. A perfect analogy would be that I was like a Buhari supporter checking out GEJ’s manifesto, not because I planned to switch my allegiance, but because I wanted to see what GEJ was all about. There were just so many hot girls in Lagos.

My girl would usually catch me stealing quick glances at some female in a tight pair of leggings and she would give me a piece of her mind. The worst time was when I attended a Matriculation event with her at UNILAG. And when we went to Zenith Bank’s Customer Service Center on Ajose Adeogun in V.I. There were girls of every shape and color in those places. At the time, I felt like a Senator dulling at a cabal meeting sipping Fanta while other politicians were sharing Ghana-Must-Go bags of cash. I was like a greedy Nigerian at the NEXT annual Xmas sales on Oxford Street in London – I felt like grabbing it all.

I will admit, now that I am older and more mature, I realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side. I try to avoid situations that would make my missus feel some type of way. I also regret that my immaturity made my ex-girlfriend tear up like OBJ’s PDP membership card.

Sometimes we fellas do not realize how much we hurt our partners when we scope other females’ bakassi until we get a taste of our own alabokun. My friend Jide once went steady with a lass who loved to check other men out. It was just her thing – she had the spirit of Potiphar’s wife in her. Even while driving, she once nearly ran into an iron horse (okada) because she was staring at some dude jogging past without his top on. Another time Jide peeped her checking out a plantain seller pushing a huge wheel-barrow full of fruit in the market. She claimed it was the plantain for sale she was interested in. I’m in love with the dodo.

He broke up with her. Why was he so angry – many girls have to put up with this on a daily basis. For guys, our massive egos cannot take it.

Some people handle their “jealousy” in different ways. They are fine if their significant other looks, but does not touch the object of their crush. Their reasoning is that it is easier to control what hand caresses, than what your eyes see.

My friend Toyin is quite loony. She actually encourages her hubby to discuss his crushes or attractions to other females with her. When they are out together at a party or event, she would prod him and ask him who he thinks out of a bevy of ladies is hot, or who he fancied out of the lot. They would then “jokingly” dissect the girl’s qualities and quantities together. “That girl is not all that jor. She is not even pear shaped – she is agbalumon-shaped. You must be blind if you think she is as hot as me. Maybe it is aggro misdirecting you.” By the time Toyin was done, hubby lost some appetite for the crush anyway. Talk about crushing hopes.

There was a time her husband’s friends were planning a bachelor’s eve party for a friend of theirs who was getting married, and they were going to hire pole dancers and raunchy runs-girls as part of the entertainment. Toyin helped them with the booking of the venue. Reverse psychology or perverse psychology?

My missus is not that liberal. She simply does not negotiate with the enemy, so to speak. Just like our government tried to do with Boko Haram. My madam’s mantra is this: you do not fraternize with the opposition, you crush all rebellion. She reminds me of Fayose in that regard, though she has more refined diction.

I am not that stupid either. My madam does not care to know who the current object of my fantasy is. If I dared volunteer information like pointing out a girl I was crushing on, she would go haywire. Na who ask you?

Besides things like what Toyin does with her hubby make me quite uneasy sef.  Some things should stay in their lane like BRT Bus. Reminds me of the time that I made out with some chick, and then her twin brother started asking me how it was. I shook him off like a guguru and epa seller seller blows off the peanut shells. That’s how Clifford Orji type madness starts.

Some folks do not even allow their partners have friends of the opposite sex. Especially if that friend was hotter, more popular or more successful. Is it not ridiculous that in some ancient cultures, like Mongolia under the Khans, wives even went as far as selecting concubines for their husbands? Like a Nigerian wife would ever select a concubine for you. Dream on fellas or move to Mongolia. Or to Abuja. Ha ha.

That is even cool. My cousin Benbella and his fiancé  went for a wedding somewhere in Victoria Island. At the reception, he ran into 2 female ex school-mates from University. They were happy to see each other, so they hugged and decided to take a photo which they planned to upload onto their alumni Facebook page later. Benbella posed for picture in between the two ex-school mates, with his hands around their waists and asked his fiancée to take the photo with her I-phone.

After she took the photo, fiancée pulled Benbella aside and gave him an earful. And a mouthful.

She chided “I do not like the way your hand was resting on your ex-school mate’s ass. If it is hungrying you like that, touch my own butt instead.”

Benbella downed 3 shots of vodka after that, no chaser. His fiancée is a handful.

My wife is different – she doesn’t even play all that jazz. In fact the only female in the world she says I have a pass with is Scarlett Johansson, and my wife’s logic is “that is never going to happen anyway. She would never look at you even if you were both the last persons on earth” But I am not the last person on earth…

How do you handle yours? Are you fine with your partner looking? Or are you Mongolian in nature?

But what we have is so realistic/
There’s no forming girl, no film tricks/
I no go chop outside, no picnics/
Cause you and I above the statistics/
It don’t matter if I got ego/
We got something we can build on, Lego/

M.I., One Naira (2010)

I WANT THE LOVE THAT I SEE IN THE MOVIES

From now on, you cease to exist to me

I am an incurable romantic. Like a valentine’s gift that keeps giving, it is all heart with me. All is well in the world with me, when I spend quality time with a lass I am really into, then I can make strong postulations of love, desire and passion. When I am into you, I am really into you, like a Biology practical dissection project.  Weird, abi?

I serenade you like a scene from Romeo and Juliet, except that I envision it between me Esco and my fair (or dark) Nigerian lady. I might hit a lady with some Shakespeare like this:

Esco: Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.

 

Nigerian Lass: Then have my lips the sin that they have took.

 

Esco: Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.

If she is not up on Shakespeare, I might throw this out instead:

Before I met you, I was like Nackson

But now your love dey do me like Michael Jackson

In the movies, lovers always live happily ever after, preserved for posterity by the frame shot of youthful vigor. Yep, romance in film and the creative arts is dynamic and spontaneous depending on the genre and industry the film originated from. Let me illustrate.

In Hollywood, the theme of most movies is clear – good looking actor defeats all odds and shoots down the bad guys with ripping muscles and big guns blazing, and scoops up the pretty girl in the daisy duke shorts at the bar, In the end everybody smiles, as the “actor” and his chick drive into the sunset, with beer cans tied to their back bumper, and the credits roll. Actor no dey die.

I once took a girl I liked to a dance club. When we got there, it was like a Satis beef sausage factory – more guys than girls were present, and the fellas there had their tongue out like wolf looking for lamb. I wanted to leave, but my date said she liked the music the DJ was blasting. We decided to dance, and we were about 20 minutes into the jig with me doing my Esco doo-wop while trying to convince said girl to be down with me, when disaster struck. Some imp decided that it was a nice time to make a sandwich – a human one. He started grinding into my girl from behind, like they were on a Molue queue. I shoved him, and we were both tossed out of the club. I and girl got into an argument, and never went steady after that. I want the love from the movies; just not the action ones. Make love, not war.

For Bollywood, the nerdy guy chats up the girl by dancing circles around her, and singing her into submission. Dus Numberi…When he gets into a position to steal a snog, something always comes up. Either a comet hit the earth for the first time in a billion years and decimates all of mankind, or Boko Haram decides to surpass its last gruesome act. They are sha somehow either interrupted by someone walking in- usually his mother or a mogbomoya friend. Or said actress dodges his lips and offers him a consolation price of her forehead with the big red dot on it to aim at.

It sounds like friend-zoning to me, so once again it is no to Bollywood love.

For Chinese martial arts movies, the sequence of events is simple. ‘A’ opens a kung fu school. ‘B’ comes along and beats ‘A’ to stupor.  After ‘A’ dies, his ward ‘C’ seeks revenge and kills ‘B’. Note how there are no girls involved at the beginning. Later C marries A’s daughter Chun Li. They share a rice noodle.

There are 2 things I do not share with anyone – my me-time, and my Indomie/Dangote Spaghetti, so I will pass on this one.

For Nollywood, the typical love script is more complicated if not absurd. ‘A’ is born in abject poverty in the village. He does either jazz or ‘419’ to make money and moves to Lagos where he lives it up extravagantly chasing promiscuous university ‘runs’ girls. Later on in the film, Jim Iyke slaps a girl, and Patience Uzokwo is an evil mother-in-law. Then Nonso Diobi spends 45 minutes out of the 3-hour movie propositioning Oge Okoye at the beach, where they whisper sweet nothings into each other’s ears, to the chagrin of you the watcher. Credits roll and you see the producer’s vote of thanks to the real owners of any mansions used in the movie. You are also told to watch out for Part 2 and 3 even though the story seemed concluded satisfactorily enough. Ah, the Naija glorified DVD box-set.

Love should have no Part 2, abeg.

The above are valid and absurd examples, so I do not want those. What about certain movies:

  1. In the movies, they sail into the sunset. In Grease, which is my favorite flick of all time, Danny Zucco and Sandy fly take off into the sky in Danny’s greased Cadillac Seville, as they wave to their mere mortal friends at the end of term school fair. In real life, after a good date, you call her a cab, especially after your 2nd hand Hyundai refuses to start. You also call her a cab, if you cannot be arsed to spend the next 300 minutes in Lagos traffic. And I prefer my car firmly on the road, thank you very much. Pot hole is better than turbulence.
  1. Love at first sight in movies is sweet and straight to the point. Boy sees girl, and girl sees boy and everything else is a blur and in slow motion. She flutters her eyes at him like she has contracted Apollo. He waves like Mopol has asked him to surrender. She twists her curls flirtatiously like she is trying to style “periwinkle”. He nods his head at her like a red neck lizard. She slides over in a hot summer dress, flirts and hands over phone number readily by writing her number on his palm. Eh, in real life that bic is likely to refuse to write Besides love at first sight hardly ever moves that first, does it. Shakara has to enter the equation somewhere, before see finish has a chance to take root.
  1. The hot cheerleader always later falls for the geek. Real life is different. The party/runs girls only ever spoke to the nerds whenever it was close to exam time, and they needed the nerd’s notes or coaching. Back in school, I was a jerk, not a jock. And for that I never bagged a hot party girl type. I never had the patience for long persistent chasing or competition with club-boys for her love and attention. I also never stood a chance, because I was a cheap-skate. No really, I was a cheap date.
  1. In Pretty Woman, Richard Gere falls for Julia Robert who plays an agbana. It will take magic for me to marry a runs girl.

Teacher No Teach Me Nonsense

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TEACHER NO TEACH ME NONSENSE

I love all teachers. Teaching is the most selfless profession in the world. Maybe, other than a night-soil man (agbekpo coordinator).

It is fair to say that I would not be the man I am if not for the wonderful teachers I have had at all stages of school life. Let me take you on an odyssey as I remember some of the teachers I have had.

In Primary school, Ghanaian teachers were the proudest with their mini-afros and Safari suits with the huge collars and boot cut pants, looking like they had just stepped out of a 70s discotheque. They also spoke a unique blend of English with some crazy pronunciations “Do yer werk” (They pronounced “work” like “twerk”)

They were also strict disciplinarians too. Mr. Kwame wielded the cane of life, which he garnished with tatatshe and suya pepper until it looked like our Senate President’s mace. By the early 90s, most of the Ghananian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean teachers had returned back to their countries, as economic conditions there prevailed over Nigeria’s. Ghana bread also disappeared from the streets, sadly for me.

There was Mrs. Nwama whose son was also in my class, so she was especially hard on him in other to diffuse any notions of partiality. She would ask a question, and if nobody volunteered the answer, she made him a scape goat. If he gave the wrong answer, she flogged him hard with a cane. If he gave the right one, she flogged him for not standing up to answer on time. I hear he is a psychologist now in Yankee.

Mr. Ganiyu our Primary 4 teacher loved to put the wiz-kids students in the front desks, and place the slower learners (whom he repeatedly called olodos) in the back desks – away from sight. Which has always been weird to me. Don’t the slower learners need more attention in the front? Me, I chilled in the middle rows playing footsie and biro game with my crush Ejiro. What’s up, ex?

Then there was my teacher in primary 3, Miss Otolo who seized snacks from pupils eating in class, and added the food to her lunch stash, a bit like our government did with the Abacha loot. She snatched my Nasco Wafers from me, but I did not bother to forewarn her that I had been licking the cream in the insides. Fufu flavour.

Then there was Mrs. Olaya (not real name) now deceased who was our primary school headmistress. That woman was the epitome of class and grace. She never raised her voice, or her hand. Even when she scolded a child, it was with language that the child could barely comprehend at that age, but that the child would recall years later and weep in remembrance.

Chiding two pupils who had been caught thieving someone’s Math-set, she said “there is no honor amongst thieves.” Oh yes there can be..

On the school assembly stage, she would make the reader of the address repeat the pronunciation of the word “theme” until they got the “th” sound. She could not stand any one pronouncing “theme” as “team.”

And I remember her also reprimanding our football team because they were yelling for penariti (instead of the word penalty). She boxed the goalkeeper in the ear for using the wrong word, and he ended up conceding goals like Rufai at France 98. We thought she was being pedantic at the time, but thanks Mrs. Olaiya.

Rest in peace, Matriarch. You were indeed a Fountain of knowledge, and I wore your school stripes with pride as a youngster.

Then there was Mr. Nnaba the music teacher with the buck-tooth scowl and the thick heavy ruler which he used to smack the heads of any student who did not master the music table or who clapped out of sync during rehearsals. His singing voice was like a rat’s squeal, but you dare not tell him.

Then there was Mr. Ogun who adorned the Father Xmas outfit at the annual Xmas concert which was always a blast and an annual fixture of the local social calendar, attended by pupils of other schools, parents and members of the Surulere community. I remember us chorusing that Yoruba Christmas tune, which feels nostalgic right now “keresimesi tu made o

Mr. Ogun, all 150 pounds of him was a lekpa. For the pageant however, he used stuffed pillows to create Father Xmas’s pot-belly and cotton wool for a beard. The nursery school kids were not that easily fooled as they recognized his toney-red shoes with the Boy Alinco-esque pivot heels, and shouted his name throughout drowning out the performance at the nativity play.

He tried placating the mischievous cretins with Jemka chewing gum and Gogo, but it was like trying to control ants with St. Louis Sugar. It was bribing little children, which is a bad precedent to set at a young age. Kids are the leaders of tomorrow, just not this election or the next or the one after that. Haha

In secondary school I remember Mallam Damisa the Commerce teacher who shelled repeatedly like a trigger happy Boko Haram commander. He pronounced English words like he was spewing bitter kola and mixed up male and female tenses. To compensate for his bad English, he used big words, but ended up brutalizing the sentence. Once he had caught a bunch of students tossing bangers (fireworks) at night. He made them “kneel down and hands-up” as punishement, before he rebuked them publically “How can you threw such an explosion, for the purpose of a joy.” Question for BH, too.

How could I forget Ma Ogunfe the Mathematics teacher who believed that boarders were the scum of the earth, but that day students could do no wrong. Someone had laid a massive ostrich sized egg at the back of the class which stunk the place out. Ma Ogunfe automatically blamed it on the boarders, and made them pack it up, while the day students watched in laughter. Not cool.

By the time I got the University, the game had changed to a whole new level. Teachers, now, lecturers were less involved, more aloof and had more power to hurt your short term future.

There was Professor X who we nicknamed such for his default propensity to fail students by playing tic-tac-toe when marking answer sheets. There were usually lots of x and zeros when he was done. Like Terrahawks.

Then there was Dr. Ajene, the proletariat, who loved to “humiliate” well-off students by picking on them in class, and sending them on errands to do menial tasks like buy his lunch of moi-moi and pap from the old Buka. You did not have much choice in the matter – you needed to take and pass Philosophy class. Man is born free, but everywhere he is in shackles.

Then there was Roscoe Pound, another lecturer who got off catching cheats during exams. He was a sneaky little so and so. He had probing eyes and was as prolific as a rat trap garnished with crayfish. He caught cheat after cheat after cheat – it was ridiculous.  When he pulled out “micro-chips” (a small piece of paper with carefully written answers) from one girl’s bra, she bit him hard in frustration like an ensnared catfish. He wore that bite mark like a badge of honor.

Despite the different characters and personalities of the teachers I have had from nursery school to university, all have played a part in my life and for that I am grateful. Shout-out to the biggest teacher of all, my mum who made me recite the times-table and master counting with table-tops. Look, I made it ma – I now use Excel spreadsheets and pivot tables!

A teacher’s reward is in heaven, but they deserve lots of naira and kobo here on earth too.

There were empires in Africa called Kush/

Timbuktu, where every race came to get books/

to learn from black teachers who taught Greeks and Romans/

Nas (I Can, 2002)

Is Growing Up A Trap?

Penguins

IS GROWING UP IS A TRAP?

When I was in my early teens, I could not wait to grow and discover if pots of gold were at the bottom of every rainbow. I felt trapped by the flower of youth, restricted by the thorns of adolescence. I rubbed all kinds of methylated spirits on my face as I willed my chin and cheeks to sprout side burns and beards till I looked like Oliver De Coque. I crashed my dad’s Datsun into a gutter trying to drive it before my feet could properly reach the clutch. For that, I received the beating of life; the beating of my life.

At age 15, I fretted because my voice did not break on time, and I sounded like Helen Paul when trying to chat up girls. Excuse me, can I get to know you…

I longed to be able to earn my own Naira so I could blow it on Playstation video games, sharwarma from Terri’s, rap music CDs and Timberland boots. I also wanted the independence of never answering to anyone. Or anything.

Now that I am older, sometimes I wish I could back-track like a PDP to APC defector.

You see adult life is not what it is all depicted to be. Apart from being caught in the cycles of bills, work and responsibilities, as well as the scary thought that I am eligible for jail time I commit a crime, rather than a juvenile warning, some other realities have hit me like a Prince 2000 chant.  I have discovered that the earth is round, but that the world is flat, so that what goes around, comes around, like an infectious strain of apollo. That all the power and wealth in the world is concentrated in the hands of a very privileged few, and that greed and lust for control of the world’s resources is the bane of human life. I have discovered that Nigeria cheated me off a bountiful childhood, and may also rob my grandparents off the peace of a pensioned old age.

I grew up when I turned 30 faster than at any stage during my life. My father got sick and passed within a space of 6 months, just after I had hit the big three-oh, putting me in a situation forcing me to be a man, just when I was learning to stand without a helping hand. I needed to mature fast enough to husband my mother and father my siblings. And be a twin to my own self.

And there are physical and emotional changes from age.

Now when I climb a flight of stairs, I feel the creak in my bones like a 3-wheeled Keke Napep negotiating a pot-hole filled with potopoto. I can no longer get away with an unhealthy lifestyle as it shows in my torso, so that is goodbye to eating suya burger or Indomie featuring fried plantain late at night. I am more at peace with myself these days– less keen to impress people I do not care for. Keener to caress those that I care for. I no longer shed  tears every birthday like I used to, as I see my life anniversaries as milestones on the journey to middle life.

My fashion choices are slightly more conservative these days – more age appropriate. I see garments as more of a shield to protect me from the elements and save strangers the humiliation of looking at my shriveled cock, than as accessories to show my affluence or comeuppance in the world. I realize that I look ridiculous in vest tops or basketball shirts, and am less likely to buy them, as I say no to looking like a market butcher. Heck I am less likely to buy or rock a football jersey. Nylon and polyester are the most unflattering fabrics ever especially those made by Puma. I also go past the torn or ripped jeans aisle these days, as I would rather not look like Milli Vanilli. I look more to quality classics rather than the quantity of fads clothing.  Corduroy pants do not look so bad now, and sandals were not the fashion suicide I thought they once were, once paired with good traditional brocades. I probably won’t wear a camouflage shirt, or overalls or an NY fitted face cap to cover my ogo. And I rock my Talab Abass gorimakpa with pride.

I am less critical of my parents and their generation – they had to revamp their lives several times – first, after British colonialism gave way to Pan-Igboism in the early 60s, then live through a civil war, then restart with 20 pounds in their pockets (no mule and no 40 acres). Heck my mum got married with a mango leaf branch for a bouquet, but she is the rose that grew from concrete, in my eyes.

Now that I am older, I admire my late father’s achievements, putting all his kids through school. No, we did not attend Eton or Harvard or Atlantic Hall or American International School, but nobody ever carried a desk on their heads to school. Fees were paid as and when due, and I was never called to the assembly ground for not wearing a clean pair of white socks. How the hell did he do that – manage all his responsibilities so remarkably well. Daddy, teacher, disciplinarian, financier, protector, parental advisory mechanism for inappropriate media content, provider, koboko dispenser, default setter etc. Judge, jury and executioner, if you flouted his house rules.

These days, I do not care to be right all time. Or beef and feud all the time. These days, I am more about peace, than winning arguments. Or building and maintaining friendships and relationships. Forgive me for my sins; forgive me for my lies.

I am more aware of my place in the world, and of the roles I am designed to play in the food chain of life. I have “opened eye”, and I saw one of the best philosophies etched on the back of an Ekenedilichukwu luxury bus: The downfall of a man is not the end of his life.

Was it all simpler when I was a young and wild and free? Maybe, and sometimes I do feel that my glory days were back in my youth – when I was 21 and all was well in the world, as I had that patriarchal umbrella and the mischievous swagger of a miscreant with a catapult and a pocket full of stones.

Yes, sometimes I do wish I could grow down. Not to reverse physical aging, as it is not vanity or insanity that drives me. Oh to see the world through the again through the innocence of a child’s eyes. Through my daughter’s eyes.

I drop my daughter at daycare on weekday mornings. What amazes me, is that she always says hi to the lady at the helpdesk, who I must admit usually wears a frown harder than an Argungu mask. But my daughter no send o. In her friendly and outgoing nature, she would walk up to the desk, and greet “Hi! How are you doing?” while beaming her dimpled smile at the grumpy woman. A typical adult would not bother with greetings after a while, if they noticed the receptionist liked to “carry face”. But not my daughter. She once offered the lady her sandwich. I later give my daughter a warning about giving food to strangers. Some people deserve a sand-winch instead. Haha

If you are also going through these motions, I recommend one of my favorite tunes “Not Nineteen Forever” by a band I like called The Courteeners. Check out some lyrics from that song:

You’re not nineteen forever, pull yourselves together
I know it seems strange but things they change
Older woman and a younger man
Both of them doing all they can

 

Suffering and Smiling – Everything Is Going To Be Alright

lion king

I was 13 when my family fell upon hard times. My old man had invested his fortunes in a string of ventures which ending up hemorrhaging funds, akin to fetching water with a raffia basket.

The change in our family lifestyle started with the disappearance of certain perks we used to take for granted.

Holidays disappeared from our calendar. Christmas visits to the village stopped too. We had watery beans on Christmas day one year.  My father was a nervous wreck, and had an irritable temper whenever it was time to pay school fees.

My baby sister Kpomkwem, oblivious to our predicament, asked my pops as he sat on the bedroom floor sorting through piles of bills and financial statements in the red “Papa, when are we travelling for vacation. I want to go to see London Bridge”

Papa should have replied “The year 2000-and-never; besides have you finished helping to pick the beans in the kictchen?” but being the wonderful father that he was, he reassured her saying “Very soon, Kpom-Kpom, very soon…”

Very soon never came.

Now that I am older, I realize that what people classify as hardship is all relative. Your present lucrative lifestyle of champagne, luxury whips and a mega crib in Lekki Phase One, which you celebrate as having arrived, might be the worst nightmare of an Adenuga, Dangote or Warren Buffet. At that point in time, compared to the way of life I had been used to, the changes forced upon my family at 12 constituted economic sabotage.

You know how many people have a minted Uncle, who helps, pays school fees and gives them pocket money if their own folks cannot afford to? I never had one of those Uncles. My father was that Uncle, as he was the first and only one to escape the cycle of poverty my extended family had labored under for generations. I had palm-wine tappers and rural farmers for uncles/aunts, and the only freebie I ever enjoyed from them was a sack of boiled groundnuts, during their frequent visits to harangue my pops for money. My father was the support system for not only me, my mum, my siblings but also a whole multitude of relatives, hangers-on, in-laws, leeches. So when he crashed, the food chain burned. Until they found a new mugu.  Adebayor, I feel your pain bro.

Then one year there was a majestic drop in the family fortunes as steep as the sides of Olumo Rock. My father called a family meeting in his room, during which he read the riot act. Mum stood in the corner of the room sobbing, while my eldest sister took notes as the designated family secretary. Kpomkwem stood there, chewing the comb off a chicken head, with snot running down her nose.

“Going forward, there are going to be major changes to how we use resources in this house. Nobody should cook more than two cups of rice per mealtime. Mama Esco will monitor the quantity with a measuring cup. Do not use sugar for anything other than akamu. Do not use sugar to drink garri. In fact, no-one should drink garri at all, as it should only be utilized for eba. In fact, we are no longer buying sugar in this house – the Federal Ministry of Health warns that sugar causes diabetes and other health problems.” What about honey?

My old man was not finished: “No more big name brands for groceries. Dano, Nido, Pronto, Ovaltine are now non-grata in this family. All allowances have been discontinued. Elder siblings hand the younger ones your old clothes. Youngsters, if you outgrow your trousers, cut them into shorts.”

Esco was a younger one. Sigh. I need new baffs na.

We kids, looked fearfully at each other, as we pondered about this new economic order, just like some politicians are dreading Buhari’s reign. My mum was still sobbing into her handkerchief, like Mama Peace.

My dad adjusted his wrapper knot, and twisted his chewing stick, as he changed gear to a higher speed.

“Two slices of bread per person only. No more margarine, except Sunday morning breakfast before church. Moi moi is now a vanity project as it wastes beans. Try not to invite your friends over if you know they have longer throat…”

Things really got worse. We had sustained periods where NEPA disconnected us for owing. I frequently had to do the 0-1-0 involuntary diet plan because there was just enough money for one meal. Our home fell into a state of disrepair, with ceilings leaking water when someone had a bath. I became a video technician because I couldn’t let my VCR die on me. I and siblings became like crabs in the bucket, competing for food, benefits and comfort.

Pressure builds character. Hardship is life’s greatest onye-nkuzi. People handle strife in different ways. Some of my siblings struggled to adjust, while a few took to the change like a cattle egret to rubbish dumps.

My first sister, who used to be a fashionista discovered how to get bargains from bend-down clothing at Yaba Market and still look sharp. I learnt how to eat, be dissatisfied, but resist an Oliver Twist bang on the head from asking for seconds. I found ways to make the darkness from a NEPA outage my friend, by reaching deep into my thoughts to cool and entertain myself as I lay there in the blackness of still night with the intense heat. I learnt how to jump Danfos/Molues from one end of Lagos to another, with the dexterity of a California surfer. I rode the iron horse (okada) like the Biker Mice from Mars and became a connoisseur of street food. I nearly learnt the art of not paying the bus conductor, but the fear of lynching overcame me. Learnt how to be a have-not, and not be envious of those who had bastard money. How to feel dignified in lack, and not to cower in insecurity. Suffering and smiling is a delicate art.

I also became a mathematician, as I learnt to subtract fake fair weather friends (air-conditioned love) from those with unconditional love. And divide my resources so that it stretched like a catapult.

An ex-schoolmate’s pops went bankrupt in the mid-90s, when N55m deposit got swallowed up in a failed bank. They moved from their house in VI Extension to a 2 bedroom flat in Aguda. His children changed schools from St Saviors Ikoyi to a jakande school somewhere around there. I visited my friend once after his brother had survived a mishap, almost falling into the neighbourhood well, when trying to retrieve a fami. They were feeling sorry for themselves because they went from oil wells to water wells. Their dad used to fly first class, now he was flying Chisco night bus on the weekly. He never recovered his fortune, suffering a massive stroke from worry a few years later. Very few of their old friends from VI came to see him.

In Nigeria, success has many friends, but poverty and struggle are orphans and outcasts. Our country does not operate a safety-net system or a welfare initiative like certain western nations. So everyone, no matter how well-off presently, is just one miscalculation away from poverty. There’s no middle ground, a shrinking middle class, and no parachute support from government to save one from middling penury in your time of need.

The first pain of a child is seeing struggle etched on the face of its father. However everything I went through back then made me resilient, defiant and humble. I have endured two major tough periods in my short life. The first prepared me for the second. The first was as described above, and then the other was in my adult years – a 3 year funk, during which nothing seemed to work for me professionally or personally. I appeared to have a huge monkey on my back, the size of a Bagco Supersack. My blog was born in that period of difficulty.

If you are going through a tough time right now, believe that it is only for a moment. I hope I can encourage you somehow:

  • Keep on keeping on. When you are struggling, it seems easier to go into hiding. Nah, put yourself out there; stay striving and keep networking. Keep your head up, like a plantain seller balancing a tray. Distribute your resume, share your business proposal and continue shoving your business cards into people’s hands. It will bear fruit, as all seeds do. Except for an agbalumon seed ravaged by a local champion.
  • Resist acts of desperation. It is imperative that you get your mentality right, because there is no force more unclean than an act done in desperation. Life owes you nothing; you have to work hard for your success. Shun bad influences like an ill wind that blows 2nd hand smoke. I remember a philosophical gem scribbled on a bus: The downfall of a man is not the end of his life. You will soon rise again, like the rate of the dollar against the naira

Lord willing, you will be up and running in no time. One Love.

 

Some get a little and some get none/

Some catch a bad one, and some leave the job half done/

I was one who never had and always mad

Naughty By Nature “Everything’s gonna be alright” (1991

KING OF MY COUNTRY (WHETHER RESIDENT OR LIVING ABROAD)

Independence Day

Independence Day

Man is born to be fast and free. Free to roam the earth and lay his head wherever he pleases, like an agric fowl. Socio-economic and political barriers sometimes prevent or inhibit those freedoms, like having a green passport or no kpali.

The one time humans all over the world tried to congregate in one place, build monument taller than Olumo Rock called the Tower of Babylon under the rule of a man called Nimrod. God scattered them, and instructed them to spread around the earth. Lord Lugard tried a similar tactic in 1914 amalgamating several kingdoms, ethnicities, races and peoples of over 250 languages and rich cultures into a geographical yam-pottage called Nigeria, no doubt pissing off my Okoro great-grandfather greatly.
In a country of over 300 million people (and that amount has to be more, because I personally know more than 5m people, and they all have relatives, friends, well-wishers, haters etc.) why would we all cram ourselves into one country – a third of which is arid desert, scorching Savannah, or covered by jungle and swamp? Imagine if all the people in the diaspora (I hate that word) all returned to Nigerian, and half decided to settle either in Lagos or Abuja… infrastructure and resources will be short like that Seyi Shay dress.

There are foreign or immigrant communities in many countries and cities around the world, from German, Italian and Irish communities in Texas, New Jersey and Boston which have been there since the mid 1800s, arriving USA via ship through Ellis Island where they passed the Statue of Liberty. Nigerians have been arriving England through Gatwick airport in the same vein, flying over and pointing to landmarks like Mama Cass restaurant in Burnt Oak.
Immigrant communities have divided parts of Britain or Yankee into their own tiny fiefdoms. Indians love Harrow. Brazilians like Willesden. There is a thriving Jewish community in Golders Green. Likewise Nigerians, formerly ogas in Peckham and Woolwich, have since taken a shine to Kilburn and certain parts of North West London. By and large, one’s ethnic origin influences their area of settlement, especially in Yankee.
Igbos love Houston, Dallas and Baltimore. Yoruba folk tend to prefer Chicago and New York; while Bendelites have this fascination with California (water nor get enemy) and Calgary, Canada (ice is a form of water). Shout out to our brethren in Malaysia and Cyprus though.

There have been so many arguments and counters about whether Nigerians who reside abroad are selling out by “abandoning” their country at its time of need. Some resident Nigerians believe that those abroad should “abandon menial jobs and a lackluster social life” and return to Nigeria to help build the nation. Returnees have also been caught in this cross-fire.

Some other accusations are:
• Nigerians who reside abroad are 2nd class citizens in that country of domicile, and are doing so at their peril.
• The standard of living is somewhat lower since you get taxed more abroad (N.I contributions, income tax, Medicare, 401k deductions etc.), have less disposable income and buy everything on credit. On the other hand, in Nigeria, whatever cash you make is mostly for your pocket as FIRS has nothing on you. Apparently, there are lots of juicy contracts growing on agbalumo trees in Abuja.
• There are more opportunities for career growth for a Nigerian in Nigeria – you are more likely to be made a CEO or reach the pinnacle of your career.
• Returnees have a “Yum-Yum potato chips” sized chip on their shoulders.

The above statements are unfair or unsubstantiated, as wherever you set up shop is your home. One exception to the first point is if you are illegal in a foreign country – but being illegal anywhere is an awkward business. Besides have you seen the Nigerian Immigration Service nab an illegal alien before? I was at the passport office in Ikoyi one time, and NIS officers were interrogating illegal Chinese nationals who had been busted during a factory raid near Alaba “You these Indomie people sef. We done catch una today. Una must to deport commot from Nigeria today.

I do not buy the 2nd class citizen rhetoric because there are many who feel underrepresented in many spheres of our society. Being a 2nd class citizen is not only a measure of skin color or nationality – there are class divides, disenfranchisement, social stigmatizations and economic class gulfs too. Driving through Maitama and Old Ikoyi and seeing the bastard money on display, it is easy for Nigerians outside the ruling classes to feel like economy-class citizens sef.

The menial job accusation is also ridiculous – our inbred sense of entitlement and get-rich-quick arrogance makes us look down on the dignity of labor. What counts in all instances is ambition and self-belief. Kukuruku newsflash: the world owes you nothing. More middle and upper class resident Nigerians need to stack shelves in Ebeano Supermarket to appreciate the beauty of a come-up.

Not every Nigerian is built for living in Nigeria – nothing wrong with that. I know some resident Nigerians who hate the idea of residing abroad due to its processes, unfamiliarities, weather, social independence which can lead to feelings of extreme loneliness. On the flipside, some prefer the chaotic nature of Nigeria where anything can go. Or come. And where your family and friends are in your business 24/7. I always miss the suya and Gulder most when I am abroad though.

Returnees from abroad show different degrees of ease integrating back into Nigeria seamlessly. It has nothing to do with how long you lived abroad. You do get used to certain patterns of living no matter the tenure of your “exile”. When I moved back from Jand some years ago, the hardest obstacle to my adjustment were not trivial things like NEPA taking light (I copped a I-better-pass-my-neighbour generator), or the crazy traffic (I whipped out my MP3 Walkman which was stacked with jams for days). It was the following, which for some weird reason I have forgotten and got used to not worrying about:

• People being tardy with time…your time!
• Folks not acting on a promise they had sworn their grandfather’s life on; or people always trying to get one over you like you have mugu carved on your forehead.
• The fear and realization, which I had never taken cognizance of, that in Nigeria no one is really safe or sacred. Anyone can be killed or locked up or can disappear without big questions being asked. That realization made me very uncomfortable and sad. And paranoid. I made our gateman buy a big padlock for my gate. I also slept with a big cutlass under my pillow.
• How people leave every single thing entirely to faith without putting in the hardwork or sowing any seed. Industry not just church will transform Nigeria.
• The decibel levels. Chai, my ear drums took a harsher beating than a Yoruba talking drum. The sounds of generators, Molue horns, the din of rush-hour traffic all created a cocktail of noise that felt like someone was chewing chin-chin in my ear.
• I did not have a car for 4 months, and in that time I had to ride the iron-horse (okada). Hustling for my daily Agege while being ferried in the cockpit of a sedan is a much more comfortable proposition than relying on public transport where the Lagos sun fries you. Those few months really tested my mettle. Some nights I cried like a learner, after the day’s frustrations.

Returnees should not all be tarred with the same toothbrush. Not all speak Lekki-British or “I just got back” isms. True, there are a few who took advantage to break into Nigerian entertainment or the corporate world, and then there are those who wear their “abroadness” like it is chieftaincy title which should bestow them special treatment. Guess what – there are resident Nigerians who indulge returnees this preferential treatment or even resident cousins/friends who encourage the returnee to show off. However I have seen many returnees settle back in quietly put their head down and make successes of the transition. Not every returnee is interested in painting the town red on their return or playing the club scene. Some just want to be changing their dollar into naira small by small, fly under the radar, and thrive.

Being a Nigerian anywhere in the world is no mean feat. Our green passport earns us the treatment of a pensioner waving a tally-number at an old generation bank. Wherever you reside on Chineke’s green earth, become an influence. Nigerians have been living abroad since the Oba of Benin sent foreign emissaries to Portugal in the 16th century. Italians in 30s New York formed a power bloc to influence the election of La Guardia as Governor of NY. The time has come – we Nigerians have got to expand our whole operation. Distribution, industry, space-travel. From Lagos, Aba, Ewekoro to Toronto to Chicago. We have got to set our own market and enforce it.

Nigerians should be out there conquering the world with our greatness and our boisterousness. I feel a hint of envy when I see other cultures who have entered the mainstream – do you that as recently as 60 years ago spaghetti and pizza were not staples in the American diet. See how popular Indian culture and eastern philosophy with western tourists flocking there for pilgrimages. My village could do with those tourist dollars.

Everyone who is Nigerian by birth does have to reside in the country, but we all must be good ambassadors. If you have good disposable income, why not plough that into Project Nigeria. She needs help from all her kids even the prodigal ones. Start small, like buying land in Nigeria. Form an NGO or kick-start pet project. Heck, pay someone’s school fees. Do something.

E never tey wey Lizzy travel go America
And then I realized America was very far

Ice Prince, Whiskey (2013)