“A riot is, at bottom, the language of the unheard” – Martin Luther King, 1967
More than a month ago, the rest of the world looked in horror (except for Nigerians) as England endured almost 2 weeks of rioting, looting and banditry. Shops were smashed into, cars tipped over, and properties set ablaze. This would elicit a yawn from someone who has been residing in Jos for the past decade, but this needs to be taken into context. What surprise most people was not the rioting and lawlessness in placing like Tottenham and Leyton – it was the craziness which occurred in more upscale neighborhoods like Kensington and Ealing. That is the equivalent of someone frying akara for sale on a VGC street. Haha.
People blamed the riots on yob (slang for area boy) culture, disgruntled youths and disenfranchised communities. I think the love for consumer goods may have played a part. Did you see some people carting away large screen plasma TVs. I even saw a picture of a lass with a pack of Uncle’s Ben’s rice. If, heaven forbid, a full scale riot were to occur in Lagos, there are many things people would loot before thinking of a bag of ofada or Abakiliki rice.
Nigerians prefer instant gratification. Stealing ofada rice is burdensome – you have to heave the heavy bag, and then look for oil, salt, tomatoes and meat to cook the dish. You may not even have gas/kerosene for your stove. How do I know all this?
I remember sometime in the 80s, there was a crazy riot in the Surulere part of Lagos. Parents came to collect their kids early from school, and businesses shut down, as a mob of rioters went from shop to store breaking in and carting away ‘valuables’ (perishables as you will come to find out later).
Adeniran Ogunsanya Road was the worst hit, predictably. These inconsiderate fools smashed up my dear Chicken George, an eatery ala TFC, which used to serve up the awesome-est breaded chicken and a side dish of perfectly cut fries. Chicken and chips were their specialty, and each potato chip was precisely cut like a diamond gem, spiced with flavors to excite the tongue and deep fried to an inch of perfection. The chicken itself was a work of art – breaded, crunchy but not flaky chicken skin with a well-cooked interior. These looters, these brutes, these vagabonds trashed that joint up, smashing the windows, scattering the furniture, and dismantling the grills. Chicken George was never the same again. It lost its custom to Little Chef, then Terris, and now when people outside Surulere hear the word Chicken George, they think of Kunta Kinte’s grandson, the chicken fighter from the famous book/ TV series “Roots” by the famous author Alex Haley.
Across the road, a famous supermarket, the “Shoprite” of its day, was not spared either. A group broke into the store, and someone opened the freezer, and started helping himself to some Walls ice-cream! Yep, a grown-ass man who joined the rioting for some bedeviled political cause, was sitting in a store, the sweat of the owner’s labor, licking Fan Ice and Walls ice-cream. In Nigeria, you lick ice-cream, not eat it.
UTC a large departmental store suffered the same treat. I hear rioters helped themselves to ice cream, jam donuts and rolls from the deli within the store, while boxes of gold watches and 24 carat gold trinklets laid in the show-glasses untouched. What is it with Nigerians and ice-cream sef? Even kids are in on the act. Uncle please buy me ice-cream na. What?! You are lucky I came to get you, and you are not walking back home from school, like the Jakande school kids your age do.
The London riots took an ugly twist when famous historian David Starkey made a ‘racist’ comment in the aftermath with his comments on a talk-show about how black culture was impacting Britain negatively. There was an uproar in the UK around that time. I was more incensed with the weak rebuttal the black lady in the interview offered. I hate when people only cite hiphop and entertainment as negro contributions to world culture
Well that one no concern us for Naija. Besides we have contributed to world immensely. I mean this is a country that has produced Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, 2 of the world’s 6 black billionaires, Fela, Kanu, James Ibori, Terry G, Jim ‘Shoes’ Ikye, OBJ and Tonto Dike. Go figure.
A few people tried to act like the rioters were pre-dominantly black. Some Naija people opined that as far as some of the rioters were black, there is a good chance that some Nigerians would have been involved. These same people bleat that same old line that one in four black persons is a Nigerian. Apparently this statistic is only ever brought up when there are a group of 4 bandits or rogues, and never when its 4 successful black people.
Unfortunately, a Nigerian engineering student was part of the rioters remanded at Her Majesty’s prisons. This unfortunate Masters student had ‘thiefed’ a plasma TV from a mall in Surrey, thereby contravening the conditions of his kpali. Sorry o. So because of 32 inches, he is about to experience 32 feet of separation. Imagine what his folks back in Nigeria would think. Some people said Britain will collect their kpali back, but that is the least of his problems, he will have to foreit his eduction. And you know what they say – when you close a school, you build a prison. I can just imagine one of those people who queue day in day out outside the British Embassy on Walter Carrington, desperately trying to “Andrew’ out of Nigeria, sighing at disgust at this story. You blew it brother. TV dey Naija na.
And forget all that bollocks that Naija folks like awoof too much, and cant help but steal given the opportunity. My answer to that is that have you ever seen an Naija illegal immigrant in Jand before? Or a Naija person whose idea of a nightmare is having to return to Nigeria after his study? Or the ones who even come for hols and want to stay out of trouble, so that they will be able to continue to get visa? They are like Bambi on ice – the personification of good behavior.
Even the illegal immigrant Naija person is well behaved. If he sees wahala or riot coming, he will flee in the other direction. They stay away from areas or situations where police are likely to gather or arrive. One even had his flat robbed, and begged his bemused oyibo neigbour not to call the cops, as he didn’t want to file a report. He explained to the bewildered neighbor: “Mr. Smith, all is vanity; besides I have forgiven the burglars. I was even about to donate the things to Oxfam charity, before the robbers struck sef”
After the oyibo person had reluctantly agreed and left, he was like “Ewu! So na me go carry myself go report for police, after I don dodge them for 7 years. Biko buru ga wa.”
Even the legal Nigerians who come for hols are likely to be timid, and stay out of trouble. A 10 year ban on your E-passport to some is a valid death sentence and social suicide. Some Naija people had their return flight cancelled and delayed for 12 hours. As compensation, BV put them up in a hotel close to Heathrow. Then later that evening, they received knocks on their doors, as the hotel staff came to inform them to come down to the hotel restaurant for dinner, as their flight had been rescheduled for later that night.
Some of the naija people came down to the restaurant but were scared to touch the food. Make someone no go chop 100 pounds food, when he don spend all him money for Next on Oxford Street. Even the ones with cash, were scared to eat because that VAT tax-refund money was for a return trip next summer or the foreseeable future. Food dey Naija na.
Sensing their reluctance, the restaurant manager told a few of them ‘Go ahead and serve yourself. The meal is complimentary.” Compli-wetin? The fait accompli.
The one he told panicked and explained to the others “ The oyibo man talk say the food is very sweet. But mami, me I dey go upstairs. I no get pounds to waste just because I wan chop oyibo salad”.
About 33 of the other travelers followed him up to their rooms. Only 8 of the passengers sat down and got something to eat. Four of them were Sierra Leoneans.
Over-reaction is my only reaction which only sets off a chain reaction/
that puts five more zany acting maniacs in action/
..a lot of people say misogynistic which is true/
I don’t deny it – matter of fact I stand by it/
So please stand by at the start of a damn riot/
If you don’t wanna get stampeded, then stand quiet/
D12 (I Spit On You, 2000)