Make I Tell You

Na small thing I touch am sef

 

Nigeria is a land of aggressors. If these were medieval times, we would be a tribe of blood thirsty warriors similar to the Spartans made famous in the movie “300.”

Why is everyone in Nigeria aggressive? Basically it is the “crab in the bucket” theory. Ok scratch that, it is the point-and-kill catfish in the plastic kome-kome (basin) theory. When an infinite number of beings compete for finite resources in a tight area, they display forms of extreme aggression, fighting to eliminate or best each other for food, position or creature comforts (pardon the use of pun). And as we enjoyers of catfish suya know; the catfish, who bruises others to fight to the top of the basin, is the first one to be chosen for point-and-kill grill. The eja with the biggest chip on its shoulders is the first to be assassinated with the butcher’s knife, roasted on a skewer and serve with chips. Ok bad joke, but there you have it.

Sometimes you only have to spend a small time outside our dear nation, for you to realize how aggressive, forward and “in –your-face” we are.

Only in Nigeria can a question come across as a statement: “Are you from where?”

It is also only in Naija that the word “please” could be used in a manner what insults the recipient: “Abeg, abeg…”

Have you noticed that most Caucasians, especially Westerners are laid back and do not say more than they are supposed to. Even the most talkative oyibo extrovert has nothing on a Naija person with a point to prove.  We do not allow you put a word in. Let me give you an example; I am sure everyone has seen one of those movies where a guy goes to see his ex-girlfriend. The ex-girlfriend tries to kiss him and as he tries to wrestle her off, his wife walks in and catches him in the compromising position.

The next part of these kinds of movies usually irks anyone that is Nigerian.  The husband just stands there like a mumu while he tries to offer the feeble explanation to his very angry wife: “Baby, I can explain, it is not what you think…”

And you the viewer are there, screaming at the TV for the guy to explain himself properly.

But the oyibo man just stands there mute, as he watches his wife walk away into the sunset

In a Nollywood movie or in real Nigerian life, the man would have quoted all the laws of quantum physics in an instant. He would have said something like “My darling wife I swear, I was going to V.I. for my appointment, when this woman called me. I didn’t want to go, but I can now see that she is a really agent of the devil. So I decided to…..”

And in Nollywood movies, if that doesn’t work in convincing the wife, there is always the trust old back-hand slap. It always seems to work a treat. And don’t forget the babalawo scene.

I spent one summer with my cousin some years ago in America, and at their request brought them the most recent Nigerian movies. Midway into the movie, my cousin had to turn it off because the shouting, arguing and heated exchanges between the actors were making my 2 year old niece cry. She spilt her chocolate milk all over the place.

Cowering into a corner behind a huge couch, my niece who was born and raised in America sobbed as she asked her mum ‘Mummy, why are they so mad?”

Granted the poor sound production on some of the older movies create a kind of eerie echo effect like that old TV series on NTA ‘The Pot of Life.’ However you have to agree that it would be suicide if you decided to watch some Nollywood movies with 3D glasses. Imagine having Gentle Jack, Torino and Hanks Anuku close up in a 3D environment with all the screaming, drama and incantations.

We are full of stories, eh?

One of the cultural differences between us and say, oyibos from England or America is a need for independence, the concept of personal space and masking your feelings out of being polite. Is it always the best way to relate to people though?

There was a time I went to a gym in America. I was on the treadmill when some chap came in and started using the Lateral Pull weights machine. As he did his curls, he kept on smashing the weights on each other rather than letting the handles on the pulley down slowly. It wasn’t my place to say a word, so I sighed as I cranked up the volume on my mp3 player. After using the treadmill, I used the cross-trainer machine for a while, then decided to use the Lateral Pull machine.

I noticed the weights were on 60pounds. Feeling strong, I decided to up the ante by making it up to 80 pounds. I then started doing curls, but I noticed it was still a bit easy for me. I was feeling very macho and strong with myself, and did about 15 reps, 7 times.

I noticed that the other chap looked at me for a while, and then continued his own work-out.

When I had completed the last rep, I looked up at the machine, and almost passed out with embarrassment.

There was a sticker on the upper part of the machine which outlined the instructions for operating it. One of them said that I was to face the weights pulley when doing curls for optimal performance. I had backed it instead. Obviously it was much easier to do reps, and didn’t weigh half as much when the machine was used incorrectly as I had just used it.

People expect you in western climes, to sort yourself out. If you can use a machine, you should read the instructions. But if you need help, you will be pointed in the right direction.  You are your own government, except that you don’t provide your own electricity (generators), water (borehole) and security (mai-guard) like it unfortunately is in Nigeria today.

In some Nigerian gyms, you would have had someone, who isn’t the gym instructor, leaning over you with sweaty armpits as he tried to adjust your weights mid-curl, potentially crushing you to death.

To get into perspective how forward and aggressive Nigerians are, when a Briton is very pissed they may say “How dare you…’ and that statement is the epitome of anger.

Richard Keys and Andy Gray who were until recently football presenters on Sky football were involved in a sexist scandal earlier this year. All one of them had said when asked about a female line-woman officiating a game of football or understanding the offside rule was the statement “ A female referee understanding the offside rule? Do me a favour love….”

It is hardly the same as saying “Abeg woman no sabi football. Make them de kitchen jor.”

Granted, it is just cultures.

And the aggression exists everywhere. People who don’t know you won’t hesitate to stick the knife in. In America they have serial killers and psychopaths, in Nigeria we have armed robbers who steal and maim as well.

Some chap I know named Bonny once went to a club in Ibadan while he was a student at University of Ibadan. At the club, lots of chaps were smoking trees, and so the police busted the place on a tip-off. They rounded up a couple of guys including Bonny and took them to the police station.

Bonny was being rude to one of the policemen so he thrown into one of the cells behind the counter.

He described the cell to me as thus: a rectangular room with only one barred window for ventilation. There were about 15 people there. The walls were ‘painted’ with the rich brown of human faeces, while 2 buckets laid in a corner filled to the brim with excrement. There were huge pools of urine everywhere while houseflies buzzed around, welcoming every guest. The ‘mayor’ of the cell was a thick-set, cross-eyed, dangerous looking guy nicknamed “Spoiler.”

Bonny said that as soon as he entered the cell, Spoiler kept ice-grilling him, giving him a very fierce look, not even taking his eyes away from him.

He decided to give everyone a general greeting “What’s up?”

Nobody answered him. Two of the prisoners were eating fufu and agonyi beans.

Bonny was still dressed up in his party best, a crisp white button up, jeans and some smart  suede shoes looking all dapper. He also noticed that since all the walls were stained with poo, the only clean corner of the cell was reserved for Spoiler who sat on the only chair in the cell. All the other inmates, crouched, knelt or even sat on the piss-stained floor.

Bonny squatted somewhere opposite from Spoiler, across the room. He used his hanky on the floor to steady himself so that he wouldn’t lean against the filthy wall.

One of the inmates then brought Spoiler a sachet of pure water. Not taken his eyes off Bonny for a second, Spoiler maintained his furious unfriendly gaze as he sipped the water.

When he finished, he then pulled out his pee-pee, and starting urinating into the empty sachet.

Recycling for the environment, then? No.

Then in a swift motion and without warning, Spoiler threw the piss-filled sachet at Bonny.

Bonny saw it too late, and as the sachet hit him on the face spilling and splattering its contents, he lost his footing and fell against the wall, rubbing his shirt all over the map of faeces. Double jeopardy.

Spoiler then proceeded to give Bonny the beating of his life.

He barked “I go kill you today. When you enter my area, you must bow down”

Trapped in a suffocating headlock on the ground, Bonny used his last ounce of strength to call for help “Constable, constable! Abeg come oh. Them wan kill me for here o.’

The constable took his time, and when he came, he peered through the cell bars, laughed before he appealed to Spoiler “Haba Spoiler, make you free am. Abeg o, na all this small small boys wey de university. Oya bros make you come de go”

Spoiler let Bonny go reluctantly.

I'm a celebrity..get me out of here

Then he turned around and started beating up another cellmate.

Bonny bailed out of the cell as fast as his legs could take him, leaving his loafer behind.

And the everyman on the street is a potential aggressor. Road rage is a common occurrence.

I once went to market a service to the director of a bank. He made available the use of his driver  and official car so that we could complete a transaction for him. So I and the driver set out for Ikeja from Ikoyi.

On our way back, we were on Kingsway Road when another car coming off a side street nearly drove into us. The driver of the other car had not been looking and had recklessly tried to cut us off. On closer inspection, it was also the official car of a rival bank being driven by a employee driver. This bank and the one I was pitching too were huge rivals in the Nigerian banking sector, usually using “de-marketing” anti-commercial measures against each other to win customers.

The driver of my car, a chap called Bitrus, was livid especially when he noticed it was the driver of a rival bank.

The other car was now on our right hand side, and I was sitting at the front passenger seat of our car.

Bitrus wound down my window with the automatic winder on the central control console on his side to rain abuses on the rival driver who had also wound down as well. I was in their middle as they poured vitriol on each other.

Bitrus abused “You are a bastard!”

The rival driver paused and laughed sarcastically for a mini-second, before replying “You are a bloody coward!’

What does coward have to do with bastard?

Hearing that, Bitrus got further inflamed, as he started gathering phlegm in his throat.

Sensing that Bitrus was about to spit at him, the rival driver let spat out as well.

As I was in the middle, I got caught in the cross fire!!!  That was a real Watergate scandal for me.

I showered for days after that.

What the heck was wrong with Bitrus?

Even the way Nigerians talk is different. Some people from other cultures find us intimidating.

There was this guy called Jerry who went to Aberdeen for a post-graduate program in Petroleum Management. He was finding it hard to get a graduate job after completing his program so he took up a job in the call centre of a company that sold broadband internet services.

After one week, the team leader of the call centre, an oyibo woman called Ms Duncan asked to see him privately for a person evaluation.

She said “Jerry, I listened to your calls and it seems that the customers are finding it difficult to understand you. You talk too fast, too loud, sometimes even interrupting the customers and this intimidates them. I want to place you on extra-training next week. Don’t worry, I understand. Sometimes, when a person who is from a culture where English is not the first language, it can make them struggle to become understood in a call to customers….”

Jerry was angry and interrupted her “What do you mean by that? I got an A3 in English and an C4 in English Literature in my WAEC exams. I also just concluded a Masters degree at University of Aberdeen. My spoken English is the best in this whole company!”

Thanks for calling, how you dey?

 

Ms Duncan turned red in the face with embarrassment. She didn’t say anything and declared the evaluation over.

The following week, Jerry was transferred to the mailroom and given a huge envelop opener.

 

Who are you to look at me with your eyes like that/

Wise up young blood, before you make things escalate/

Mobb Deep (Up North Trip, 1995)

7 responses

  1. ahahahaha. iCant!
    That was refreshing, to say the least. I have to tell you, we can be so obnoxious,I facking love it.
    I was in Naija this summer and i can’t tell you how many times i wanted to slap a driver or an ‘oversabi’ individual.
    I thoroughly enjoy your blog. are you on twitter? Gast add some spice to my tweet-nation.

    • Hope the ‘oversabi’ individuals didnt ruin your summer. I’m not currently on twitter but I am working on it. I’m on facebook though. Nice one.

  2. wow i was hooked, even wanted to run away with the jail scene but nah i wanted to read till the end! ypu was also in lasgidi last novemeber and boy o boy are we all up in your face though they are mostly trying to help but felt a bit uncomfortable lol

  3. Your article brings to mind a question by my son some years ago after we had some fellow country men and women for dinner. It goes like this:

    Son: Dad, why do Nigerians talk loudly and look like they are about fight when they are having a conversation?

    Me: Son, what you have just seen is the Nigerian competitive spirit at full blast. We call it “shant gree”.

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