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?

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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)

2015 WILL BE OUR YEAR (UNEDITED VERSION)

mass appeal copy

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”  Ghandi

 

Change, and the fear of it, shapes our behaviors. Even in marriage and relationships (sorry to bring up again). The typical man marries a wife hoping she would not change; and that’s why most men are terrified of marriage. Girlfriends and mistresses stay the same mostly. Wives are likely let themselves go or become naggy, grabby, protective, comfortable – stop trying hard etc. Shallow I know. Many females on the other hand go into marriage or relationships with the hope that they can somehow change or mould the man to who/what they want. From an every Friday clubber to a family man.. From someone with Olisa’s dress sense, to a dapper dude who can be This Day Style-worthy. From a mummy’s boy to one who would take charge and intervene if mum insulted the wife. From a lay-about with more business cards than businesses, to a go-getter who would find contracts with little or no contacts. Or vice versa .Hence why females are more likely to marry a chap with “prospects” and guys mostly like “ready-made” hotties. It may be shallow to you, but please do not shoot the messenger.

Why do you think runs girls spend money on plastic surgery, butt lifters, booby holders – it is to hold change captive. Read on, this article is sweet o.

Amidst all the arguments, counters and rebuttals flying about who Nigerians should vote into office during the Presidential elections this year between Field Marshall Buhari and Oga Jonathan (as if those are the only 2 candidates and parties), much has been glossed over. No single man (or woman) can bring change to a nation, if the populace retains the characteristics of a nwamkpi goat – only thinking of a full belly and showing a relunctant obstinacy for quality leadership. It is like the blind leading the blind. Or the one-shoed man presiding over the shoe-less. Secondly, aspirants at the state and local level are just as important and deserving of our scrutiny (or mutiny). It is no good if we appoint a maverick presido, then one’s state governor or local government Chairman siphons public funds like an ex South-South governor whose surname name rhymes with Alarm Blow Likes Geshia. You are better off in that instance with a wicked military despot whose name rhymes with Kafanchan. It is the trickle-down effect of democracy you see.

Nigerians, in fact human beings in general are scared shitless of change. We Nigerians hate uncertainties even though we are a country of wild, frightening uncertainties. A place where who you know propels you faster than what you know.  For a while in Nigeria, the only constant was that pure water cost N5. And even that changed later. Clamour as we want for it, do most of us even completely comprehend the full imports and requirements of social evolution, never mind socio-economic revolution? Or the kind of change which is required to turn this country full circle towards the light (and not just NEPA). There are many who feel that it may require the supreme sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears by everyone to put Nigeria back onto the right path. I remember people walking on guinea fowl egg shells in fright during the early days of the Buhari military regime when you either queued or observed decorum in public places like banks and bus-stops, or you were arrested by WAI corps and queued in front of a firing squad at Bar Beach. Yep, back then you could be whisked away to Alagbon (makes Guantanamo look like Sheraton Hotel) for even being found in possession of a bag of semovita in your trunk, which was mistaken for cocaine.

Are we ready for change? How ready are we for change? Yes we want bread, energy and motorable roads, but are we ready for stringent taxation so that a welfarist state is well funded? Are we ready for the erosion of constitution freedoms that security will impede to fight the scourge of terrorism? Would we be able recognize a credible candidate if we saw one, even though he didn’t come bearing vote-inducing gifts like bags of rice or cockerels, but tried to sell us socio-economic reform rhetoric? How many of us are ready to focus on issues and interests and not positions. On logic, not ethnic. I recently heard someone say she had intended to vote for Buhari until she saw a campaign photo of him without his hat on, and he looked like “tortoise wey wear cap.”Mbanu! That is quite trivial. Besides after seeing our various past heads of states adorn different head gear, like fila, bowler hat, military hat etc, the only hat we need the next president to have on is his thinking hat. Like I always say we will never put a man on the moon, unless we put the right man in Aso Rock. Esco for 2019?

Would a technocrat thrive in charge of Nigeria? Or do we need an fundamentalist chief executive who will make fearless and extreme changes. Like how Murtala used to show up unannounced at government departments and fire late-coming civil servants. Or how Comrade Oshiomole reviewed that primary school teacher’s reading skills and chided her for her errors in pronunciation.

Most Nigerians look at any reformer as an “aradite” or “aka gum”. Or simply “That man is wicked sha”

The fear (or need) for change have driven and shaped events in history – the Arab riots, the first Nigerians coups in 1966 (our national annus horribilis), the rich subjugating the poor in Nigeria, old men refusing to give youth a chance, people wanting to acquire enough wealth to last till Rapture). That way their lineage and generations unborn are safeguarded from change to an extent – poverty and social irrelevance is kept in abeyance. Apparently they have never heard of wicked brothers-in-laws or relatives who wait to usurp your inheritance. Just like the grave robbers in Ancient Egypt.

Every January, I tell myself that that that year would be our year. Maturity has made me realize that we need to self-assess first before we talk of our communities. You cannot build a nation without first constructing your moral character. So I have decided to start the evolution of self, and outlined the areas I hope to address and I enjoin you all to try it with me starting with this year. Every little helps.

  • Have more respect for human life: No, you do not have to be a reformed Boko Haram disciple to make this kind of change in your life. I find that in the past few years the typical Nigerian has become numb from seeing so many barbaric deaths in newsprints – the victims of one bomb blast, accident, mass lynching, plastered on the pages of popular blogs and online journals with their twisted and mangled limbs and innards. Sometimes we just flip the page or click on to the next fashion article just to ignore the horrific site. The face of terror no longer surprises after a while, and it makes for grim statistic that over 15,000 Nigerians have perished due to terrorist acts since 2009. Grim statistic – Boko Haram has killed more people since 2009 than Ebola did.

I am trying to retain my ability to be shocked anew. That is how you maintain your humanity and compassion. If you get shocked enough, you may be able to do something about it. Just might. Every Nigerian life should and does matter. From the most corrupt Abuja politician with an inflated ego, bloated bank account and pot belly to the most destitute beggar scrapping for a living in a remote village in North East.

My other plan is to cut off people who do not seem to respect my safety. Some years ago, before the Lekki toll roads came onboard, I once “boarded” an iron-horse (okada) in Victoria Island and asked him to convey me to Ajah. The okada rider was a speed-demon with the death-wish of a drunk Molue driver reversing against traffic. We took off like a rocket with the rider maneuvering past and overtaking cars at a break-neck speed while narrowing scraping their side mirrors. It was like Super Moto GP. I held on to my helmet for dear life.

Then at full blazing speed, this dude’s phone rings with the most ironic ringtone: “Vrooom, Vrooom!! Fire the ninja! Area father…..” Where did this funky malam download Charlie Boy’s number from to use as a ring tone?

At this point, we were blitzing past Civic center, which everyone know is an accident-prone area where a side road from 1004 flats meets Ozumba Mbadiwe. This blood-clot dude proceeded to reach into his dashiki and attempt to pull out his Nokia, while trying to delicately balancing the handlebars of the cycle with one hand. I cautioned him immediately ”Aboki, abeg no answer ya handset for main road o. Make you face road, biko

Dude did a chameleon-esque 360 turn with his head, as he faced me like the Exorcist while raining insults on me like FFK on crack “I dey craze? Wetin consine me?” Wow, I have never had someone abuse me before in the first person.

Dang, believe you me, this rider was cursing me out and still managing to maneuver through gridlock traffic while turning to face me. My heart sank to my stomach. It stayed there till we got to Ajah.

Key note – stay away from products, services and situations that do not make your safety and wellbeing a priority.

  • Be less selfish: The negligence of our government has made us self-sufficient individual fiefdoms who generate our own power, provide our security and look out for only our own. 2015 is the year Esco decides to take a better and genuine interest in ordinary people you meet in the course of life. I have become notoriously bad at remembering people’s names. As soon as I am introduced to them my mind wanders off. In Nigeria, it is especially important as we usually do not relate to anyone outside our peers on a first name basis, so sometimes remembering a person’s real name may be difficult. You call your boss or senior “oga, egbon, di anyi, sir, your Excellency”. Even when we reprimand, we do not use first names : “Mr. Man, please revise this your stupid car away from here.”

Give to the less privileged. If you are the less privileged, give to the hopeless and downtrodden. If you are the latter, don’t forget to say your thanks. Give to charity. Heck, form a Charity. Does not matter what the cause is as far as it is noble and moral. Like Movement for the Preservation of the Agama Red Lizard. Or, the Say No to Boko Haram Coalition. Or SARGE (Society Against Runz Girls Exploitation).

  • Listen more, talk less. My new thing now is keep your mouth shut Esco. Shine your eyes and ears. Look at physical cues – communication is 90 per cent body language, 5 % verbal, and 5% winch. You will be surprised what you learn when you listen especially in a country like ours where people love to prattle on and get their point across. Listening builds patience and perception and knowledge. One day when NEPA takes power, just switch off your phone, sit in the dark and listen. You will hear your next door neighbor’s true machinations.

While you are at it Esco, write more. Or no?

  • Eat healthy, exercise and stay healthy. Many foodies profess to have a sweet tooth. I have a carbon one, as I LOVE carbohydrates – rice, pasta, yams, pastry. Nigerian food doesn’t help either with calorie content or portions. The average plate of rice served in our country has more grains than the sands of the Kuramo I hear a dieting trick for portion control is to divide a portion into two parts and eat half so that you eat less. Well that doesn’t work for me, as sometimes I buy 2 meat-pies instead of one.

I formulated another trick lately. This is where you eat the healthy fraction of a meal and discard the other part, so you do not feel you are missing out on what you love. It is more sustainable. For example with Gala, I eat the beef filling and throw away the canda (pastry). Same with a plate of pounded yam and Affang soup, I just eat all the meat, fish, periwinkles and soup, and disregard the poundo. You should try it. Nigeria needs you healthy and functioning for 2015 and beyond.

Exercise. Trek instead of using your car when you can. Exercise caution too. Not everywhere is safe for trekking.

  • Learn something new, that takes you out of your comfort zone. A new software or computer program no matter how difficult. Or a different language like say Abiriba Igbo or Tiv or Norwegian or Mongolian. Or Lekki-British. Take a module or course or subject that looks difficult or would otherwise disinterest you, like Further Mathematics, or Philosophy 101. Visit a new clime. Like Ewekero or Afikpo or Ugbomiri, or your mother-in-law’s maternal village. Travelling abroad? Opt for somewhere rather than the typical Nigerian staples of Canada, USA, Dubai or UK. Even if it meant like my friend suggested, spinning a globe and stopping it with my finger and going where it landed. Do not heed if it points to Isiala Ngwa, Chibok or Syria or Potiskum. Nigeria needs you alive and healthy for 2015 and beyond.

Break the cycle of monotony. Embrace new cultures and new ways of doing things. This is the year we try to escape living a lifeless ordinariness. I have often heard that you something annually that scares you. Scratch that – try something that scares you anally. Last year I overcame my discomfort with public speaking. I just focused on the huge forehead of a front member of the audience and avoided eye contacts like crazy while gesticulating with my hands wildly. I also didn’t field questions from hecklers. Yep I ignored critics like Doyin Okupe.

I, Esco will do something this year that bloody frightens me – something not unlike confronting my flaunting local government chairman about the source of his wealth even if he rolls with armed MOPOLS. Or fly Bellview airlines internationally. Or take up Nollywood acting classes to learn Jim Iyke’s method acting. Or undertake a road trip through the 36 states of Nigerians ala the Bako family in that famous Primary School English textbook (but after the election, and depending on who wins), or set up a soup kitchen in an economically disadvantaged city. What will you change about you this year so that you become a better Nigerian?

May Nigeria and its citizenry thrive beyond 2015 and beyond!

If your life isn’t  in order, seize control

Adversity is 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 are exposed to resentment

Everybody wants to eat, but they won’t do the dishes

Cormega, HOME (2014)

Follow Follow

Do follow me on Twitter @EscoWoah. I am really enjoying using twitter these days. I never did get the concept and used to think that it was a waste of space. Yes I am several years too late but who cares. I want to get more connected with y’all this year. So send me a tweet when you can – let me know your cares and fears, or how your day is going.

CHEERS!

I DON HAMMER ONE MILLION DOLLARS O!!

My time is prime like Keke / stay jeje making my pepper...

My time is prime like Keke / just jeje making my pepper…

 

A few good years ago in Jand, I and a couple of workmates decided to form a temporary lottery syndicate, pool resources and buy lottery tickets each, to increase our odds of winning a 30million pounds lottery jackpot.

Normally, I do not send the lottery, as I have always felt that I would have better odds fetching water with a basket, or purchasing an electric cooker because I had belief that NEPA would come good rather than let me starve, or buying a Terry G single for the lyrics. Heck, there are better odds misappropriating Nigerian Pension Funds than winning the lottery at 40 billion to one than winning the lottery. Least I could enrich myself at the public’s expense; worst case scenario, even if I got caught by EFCC or an anti corruption body, I could use connections to get off with a 750000 naira slap on the wrist.

However, this case was different, and I had a reason for playing the lottery .  Some months back, a couple in their 50s had won a record 161 million pounds, which was the highest payout in Britain at the time. The newspapers went crazy when the husband, 65, proclaimed that “they were now as rich as the Beckhams.” True, the Beckhams were worth  about 165 million pounds then.

Wow! I remembered, switching off the TV after I heard that boast, and thinking to myself –  well fuck me, if I won 161 million pounds, I would  scream out from 3rd Mainland Bridge “I am richer than my ex-state governor! I can now afford to hire graduate drivers and pay then 500,000 naira per year to move my trucks on Naija death roads; I can have my convoy of German luxury cars pick me from the tarmac of Murtala Mohammed International whenever I arrive, even though it endangers other commercial flights. Chei, I can have noisy owambe parties and block off major roads and bridges, and inconvenience other road users. While I am at it, I can import runs girls from the top private universities for threesome orgies in my VGC villa. Choi! I could even contest for Senate and win the election without stepping a foot into my constituency….”

In the UK or Yankee, lottery winners are usually inundated with attractive offers from credit card companies and financial investors who offer them all manners of services and incentives. In Nigeria, once you hit any form of millions, it is hangers-on, ‘distant’ relatives, and traditional rulers who chase you  for financial favors or to bestow chieftaincy titles on you.

I had other reasons to play the lottery too. Imagine if because of the mere 1 pound fee it takes to play the lotto, I neglected to try my luck, and then my co-workers scooped the top prize in my absence. Fear caught me o. Britico people no sabi share at all.

So we bought the tickets, pledging that if any of us pulled the winning number, we would all share the jackpot equally.  Imagine 30 million splitting 8 ways – that’s some decent mula.

The next 24 hours were a pain, as I had to play the waiting game. You know that feeling of hopeless anticipation, like when you are sweating in the heat, begging NEPA to bring back the power, but you know remember your neighborhood transformer had blown.  It didn’t stop me keeping my phone close to me, hoping one of the lads would call me to announce that we had won big. I don hammer o!

As I sat there, many thoughts passed through my head. I envisaged picking up my winnings, and hitting the next thing smoking to Lagos. I would rather be a millionaire in the Zanga, than a Big Time Charlie in the land of Mama Charlie. As I sat there, I recalled an instance where a Nigerian friend of mine, from back in Scotland looked up at the sky, smiling as he explained what he would do if he ever won lottery millions.

He shook his head as he said “Esco, all I need is just 500,000 pounds; one million or ten million is even too much. I would first of all call and inform my mother in Nigeria; and  then warn her to quit from that her junk civil service job. I would then go shopping in Harrods, and then return to Nigeria like a prodigal son. I would tell my mum like this – mummy I am buying a shop for you in Victoria Island, so get ready to fly to Dubai to go shopping for stock. Then I would relocate my entire family from FESTAC to Banana Island in Ikoyi sharp sharp.

All for 500k pounds? Ok o. Besides why is that most Nigerians in the Diaspora say they would return to Nigeria immediately if they  ever stumbled upon great wealth. Being rich in Nigeria must be the lick.The Hamptons or Old Ikoyi? Hmmm…

I wanted to snap him out of his daydream, but he preferred to stay in Total Recall mode:”I would then travel to Germany to ship down 3 tear-rubber models of Mercedes – a G Wagon, an ML 500 and a small C-Class for my mum. All my rides would be German, no time for Korean brands.” What about Volkswagen?

I reminded him that he had not said anything about cars for his siblings. His answer was followed by an evil sigh “Mcheew…Na them win lottery? Berger for Apapa never close na. I would buy them first class tokunboh in Nigeria. Abi make I carry all my money give them, make them rest? I would then hire 5 domestic servants in French maid outfits to work in my mansion and serve me hand and foot.  I would contest the House of Rep election for my state, and then float a company for winning government contracts.”

I can see it now Lotto Oil & Gas Nigeria Limited. Ok o.

He was clearly enjoying himself too much, and his eyes lit up as he continued to fool himself “All my furniture for my house in Banana Island would be imported straight from England. Every room including the toilets would have an LCD TV. But I would also invest some of the money as well in ventures.”

I looked at him with my eyes open in mock surprise as I quipped sarcastically, you don’t mean it. So now you remember to invest money, 499999 pounds later. What kind of venture would this be, pray tell, O wise one?

He smiled proudly like he had just done something epic like postulating a theory in quantum physics, or deciphering the inner workings of Tonto Dike’s thought process, as he concluded: “I have always really liked alcohol and spirits. So I would open up a distillery in Ughelli, where we would bottle and export local alcohol. Forget Ciroc Vodka or even Vitamin Water, I would export Sapele Water as a premium spirit.” It is a ‘spirit’ alright.

One of my theories about human nature is thus – you can tell the character of a person by the manner and articles they spend money on when they get it. It is easier to take up a goody two-shoes, moralistic posture as a saint with a halo, when you are skint. It is the things you do, the excesses you opt for, or the discipline you show when ‘pepper rests’ that paints your true picture of your persona.

That’s why crooked politicians’ favor objects of expenditure like fast cars, faster women like runs girls or prostitutes,  insane amounts of real estate in high-brow areas and a quest to retain their mandate through selection rather than election. Wealth to them is all about enjoyment, and never about employment.  If corrupt government officials spend their illicit wealth on opening factories which employ graduates, or setting up initiatives to better the lot of the masses, they would make small sense.  But the trend is to purchase unrealistic units of real estate, which lie derelict and unoccupied because they would rather charge ridiculous sums for rent, than accept an affordable fee from tenants. There are thousands of high-end real estate lying fallow, and rooming Agama lizards and weeds in Oniru, Lekki, Maitama and Wuse. These properties are as empty as the owners.

As I sat in my flat, watching old tapes of “A Night of a 1000 Laughs”, I chuckled as I recalled  what my Britico co-workers said they would do with their winnings. Let me just say that their plans were a bit different from my Naija friend:

–          I would move from my tiny council flat in Leyton to a terrace house with a garden in Maida Vale

–          My dream is to open a center for disadvantaged and autistic kids in Brixton.

–          Esco, are you kidding me? I would call in on Monday and tell the boss to stick his job where the sun don’t shine. I would then go on a cruise with a luxury liner around Europe.

–          Men, the first thing I would do is fly out and get smashed on a lad’s holiday with all of you to Aiya Napa. Eh, Aiye wetin?

–          Oh my days! I would use of my winnings to purchase a cottage for my and my partner in Norfolk or Yorkshire

–          Norfolk or Yorkshire? Who wants to live in wet and cold Blighty? I am off to Australia or Marbella in Spain.

–          I have always wanted to do voluntary work in India and Peru, then go hiking and bungie jumping in Brazil.

–          I am happy as I am. I would keep working, and give most of my winnings to charity. I would keep just enough to pay for my funeral when I am gone.

It was a middle-aged unmarried oyibo man who made the last statement.  Everybody else thought it unusual but shrugged their shoulders, as they thought: na your ishoro be that.

In Nigeria, he would have been sent to a church for deliverance from the spirit of poverty.

And I thought to myself, maybe its best I just forget it. The lottery in life is hard work or laziness. You better your odds for success considerably by working hard at something you are passionate about, and never giving up. If I did win the lottery, there are many doors it could open for me. I could set up a foundation to fight against the work of runs girls. I could build WoahNigeria into a Disney-like conglomerate. Yes I do like cars and luxury goods, but I want something I could take with me to the grave. Not to bequeath a legacy that would make my descendants spend more time fighting in the courts for inheritance than co-existing to build something epic for Nigeria.

However I, like all Nigerians, could handle the disappointment of not winning, and still kick on regardless. In a way, we Nigerians play the lottery everyday when we vote in questionable leaders on ethnic or personal grounds; we keep gambling with our future and those of our kids by celebrating mediocrity, corruption and the illicit stockpiling of wealth. We play the most unfair and unwinnable lottery when we expect a different outcome by repeating the same mistakes that got us here in the first place. What we win is not a million pieces of silver or units of legal tender; our takings are a million steps backwards into stagnant under-development or one billion decibels of pain and frustration with our national experiment.

Needless to say, the call that I had won the lottery never did come. I reported for work on the cold, misty Monday morning, and had to contend with a few of the sad and crestfallen faces of my co-workers, especially the one who was really looking for the bachelor retreat in Aiya Napa, Cyprus. I laughed inside like, una never jam.

 

What would you do if you won or came up 1 million dollars right now.  Please be truthful and don’t try to sell a pipe dream. If you already have a million dollars, what would you do with 1 billion dollars? And if Dangote is one of my readers, good afternoon sir!

 

I would be lying if I said I didn’t want millions/

More than money saved, I wanna save children/

Common (The 6th Sense, 2000)