May I Take Your Order Please?

I don't know what is inside either

Forget some of the lukewarm service waiters or patrons in Nigerian restaurants give clients; what about the brash behaviors of Nigerian punters at foreign restaurants?

Nigerians loved to be served hand and foot at restaurants or eateries. When we go out to eat, we expect to be treated like kings and queens. Even a chap, who only plans to spend only N50 on a plate of food without any meat, wants to receive a 1000 naira treatment. And why not?

I once went to a buka somewhere in Ikeja called “Image Is Nothing”, and after “demolishing” a huge plate of rice featuring beans, and downing a huge bottle of Harp, I decided to chill, sit where I was for a while, to let the contents settle in my stomach before hitting the road. Some customers who had ordered their food were sighing as they looked about for vacant chairs in the over-crowded buka. I didn’t care – I wasn’t moving an inch because I was very full, and had even loosened my belt; besides I had just paid a ridiculous 400 naira for my food, as so I deserved to seat in my chair till thy kingdom came.

One man walked into the buka with a strut like he owned the joint. He was dressed in an Igbo “Isi-agu”outfit and a red cap, and carried a brief case.  Immediately he steps in, the dude starts barking orders. I counted at least 7 demands he made of Ma Mise, the buka owner or Pascaline her waitress.

Pssst…Pascaline make you bring water make I drink…”

“Madam, this una food no sweet at all. Una sabi wetin salt be, at all?”

“How much meat be this? Oya come collect this plate make you put extra soup”

“This fufu strong like Olumo Rock.

“Bring me water for wash-hand’

“Abi una nor get tooth-pick. This una strong meat don scatter my teeth”

“Abeg na wetin be my bill”

It was N100. He was livid – “Una dey craze? Una done become LCC wey wan collect toll gate fee?”

Needless to say, he didn’t tip Pascaline.

He muttered a curse under his breath as he collected all his change, he turned and was about to exit the joint when he noticed something.  Pointing nervously at a “horn and red feather” hanging on the wall, his voice shook a little as he said “ Na wetin be that thing” Ma Mise didn’t look like she had a ready answer or was about to tell the truth. She shot Pascaline a deadly look, when it looked like she was about to answer, so Pascaline quickly shut it.

Alarmed, the man dashed out of the buka, like he was running for his life as he screamed “I no go de come chop here again. E don tay since I dey wonder how you de get plenty customers but your food nor sweet”

Suddenly my food had digested, and I decided to beat it all as well. Similarly, a man who had ordered a plate of spaghetti suddenly shoved it away like he was seeing worms on his plate instead. An elder man chewing on a chicken leg spat it out immediately in a dazed state. Customers started thronging out of the joint immediately shouting obscenities and pointing to the “otumopkor” (jazz) hanging on the wall.

Na wa for Naija people sha. They never cease to amaze when food is concerned. The worst in people come out when they are at bars or eating out.

One of the weirdest things I have come across is from people who go out for drinks in those open-air, pepper-soup joints. You see a group of guys sitting at a table having drinks, with many empty bottles of Gulder, Star, Harp or Stout on the table. A naïve waitress once tried to clear the table by removing these empty bottles so as to create space for the new orders, but had her hand slapped away by one of the drinkers “ Make you comot that your dirty hand! U de craze? Oya go bring me another cold 33 beer”

Someone once explained to me that these empty bottles, now numbering about 30, were left on the table for certain reasons:

  1. To ensure accountability and ensure that the bill is calculated accurately: The bar-tender or drinking palour madam would not be able to manufacture phantom amounts in her head when the bill is being calculated, as the number of empty bottles will simply be multiplied by the price to deduce the amount, thereby eliminating cheating.
  2. Social status: Other drinkers in the bar would be able to see that the guys on the table filled with empty bottles are “ballers” who have spent a huge fortune on alcohol, thereby increasing their fame and social standing. Don’t laugh; P.Diddy used to do this too. With bottles of Ciroc Vodka, not Golden Guinea Lager though.

Nigerians also carry their crazy behavior abroad too. Funny enough, most of the incidents I know about have occurred in Chinese restaurants, don’t ask me why. I think, it is because most Chinese patrons have shot fuses, and do not suffer fools gladly. There also seems to be a historical relationship between erring black customers and angry Asian store/restaurant owners. Study the first scene in the 1993 gangster movie “Menace II Society” where a flippant Korean/Chinese store owner said something bad about actor Lorenz Tate’s mother.

One time in London, I and a couple of mates wanted to get something to eat around 11pm, after a night of tripping. One of my pals, Oke suggested one Chinese restaurant/take away joint on Golders Green high street. The restaurant had a buffet section as well where you could select a bit of everything on the menu for about 7pounds. Everything you served yourself had to fit and be sealed into a small Chinese take away pack which was also provided for at the joint.

How much food can you possible stack into a take away pack, right? Wrong. It was that day that I found out that some Naija guys could insert a house, a car, a cow and a bag of rice into a take-away pack. The Chinese owner watched and swallowed nervously as Oke and one of our other friends UD stacked fried rice, Singapore fried noodles, Chow Mein, then mushrooms, deep fried Won Tons, spring rolls, Mongolian beef in oyster sauce, beef in broccoli, Cheng Du chicken, crispy skin duck, General Tsao chicken, Kung Pao chicken, lemon chicken, Salt and Pepper squid, sweet and sour pork then top everything up with Hoy Sin sauce.

 Oke looked at my own pack and laughed, as he explained “That is not how it is done. First you put the chicken and the beef, then you squash it in before you add rice and noodles in all the crevices between the rice and noodles. You squash them all in, then add spring rolls, then top it all with sauces.”

Yes, they can all fit into a small take-away pack

The Chinese man was listening to Oke explain this to all of us, and swallowed again as he was becoming increasingly agitated. A bunch of Nigerian guys serving themselves in this manner is bound to ruin any buffet business.

We watched as one of our other friends started applying Oke’s advice by topping up his already full pack and holding the top with his palm to prevent the bulging food from spilling out.

 Alas the Chinese man couldn’t take it anymore, as he ordered us out of his restaurant, barking “You take money back or leave shop now!”

We decided to “cut our losses” and “leave shop now”, rushing into the high street with our take away packs spilling their contents all over the ground, with the Chinese man behind us shaking his fists furiously.

Nothing prepared me for the incident that occurred in a Chinese restaurant in Houston, TX.

A couple living in America had the wife’s parents come and visit them from Nigeria, and so decided to take them out for a meal at a Chinese restaurant.

They walked into the restaurant and were ushered from the reception to their seats.

Ma Ugbaogu the mother-in-law, to the amazement of all present, stood up, called one of the waiters and pointed to a big yellow goldfish in the aquarium, as she said in the best foreign accent she could feign “I want that one. Make you prepare it well well and put lots of pepper and cut onions too.”

Ma Ugbaogu had thought that the aquarium was a tank for ordering “Point-and-Kill” fish. Turning to her husband for affirmation, she continued in Igbo “Azu nke na-atu uto.” (This kind of fish is usually tasty).

 

 

 

I think I am ready to order now

 

The Chinese restaurant people were not amused though, and they make it known – “You leave store now.”

As the now embarrassed couple was exiting the restaurant with their parents in tow, one of the visibly upset Chinese patrons at the door sarcastically muttered to them “I am sorry for your mother.” Hmmm, I wonder what it is with them and abusing people’s mothers.

Sometimes the bad treatment may be uncalled for. I and a female Nigerian friend of mine Yolinda once went to a local Chinese joint somewhere in a “razz’ part of North London. Let me describe my friend, she was one of those unconventional, cant-be-bothered type, tom-boyish type of girl who did absolutely anything she wanted. If you took her out to eat, she would remove all the jewelry on her hands and fingers, and get busy with the food. She was a cheap date’s worst nightmare, as she tried almost everything on the menu. Yes, I mean everything. And she loved buffets; that way she could keep going again and again, until she had tried all they had to offer. Many a time, she hardly finished what was on her plate, before going to get more food.

When we got into the joint, we noticed that the buffet table didn’t have as much variety as most upscale Chinese restaurants. Yolinda went for the first round, and got some soup and rolls. She sat down, pecked at it and soon got bored with it. As she sat down with her half-finished plate of food, she noticed that none of the waiters came to take away the plate. We also noticed that there were no stacks of clean plates by the buffet tables. Obviously this restaurant was set up in a way to deter customers from staying too long or eating too much, by not providing clean plates.

Yolinda was pissed off when she noticed this, so she started wiping her plates clean with tissue napkins from our table, or from the table next to us, when she wanted to go for another round. She did this for a couple of rounds, but the plate got too messy eventually. She now wanted more food, and needed a clean plate so she could have fruit, ice-cream and cheese-cake, so she hailed a waiter who was passing by. The waiter “eyed” her, sighed and ignored her! You can imagine a Chinese person “eyeing” you! I couldn’t believe it; he really wanted her to get lost!

Sometimes these waiters bring out the worst in customers. Overzealous restaurant staffs seeking to curry favour for a tip end up rubbing off Nigerians the wrong way. A pot-bellied Nigerian banker in his late 40s went to a popular joint somewhere on the Mainland to eat during his lunch break. He took off his blazer, hung it on a chair and ordered a huge, huge plate of pounded yam and ogbono soup, garnished with round-a-bout, shaki, ponmo, snail and ogunfe (goat meat). The massive amount of food was brought to him by a youngish, inexperienced looking waiter, whom he chided for bringing him cutlery which he rejected. He asked for a basin so he could wash his hands as he wanted to eat the poundo with his fingers. He also asked for an extra plate, so that he could separate the numerous pieces of meat and assorted from the soup to allow him maneuver properly.

He started eating the food, visibly enjoying it, and almost rushing it in his excitement, when the waiter came up to him and said “Sir, there is a big soup stain on your tie.”

Tie strain

The banker looked down from his delicious meal, and saw that his neck tie had a soup stain on it. He tried wiping it with his clean left hand, but only succeeded in spreading the sticky stain further in a way that ogbono does.

Visibly he irritated, he hissed and threw the tie over his shoulder, and continued with his meal, using the pre-molars on his teeth to tackle a stubborn piece of cow-leg, while now being mindful of the drooling ogbono.

He was now about to tackle the ogunfe, when the waiter tapped him rigorously on the shoulder.

When he spun around, the overzealous waiter said “Sir, there is another big stain at the back of your shirt.”

True to word, the tie he had flipped over his shoulder earlier had inflicted a massive palm-oil stain at the back of his white “T.M. Lewin” button-up shirt.

He wasn’t grateful for the latest piece of information though, as it had interrupted his appointment with the ogunfe. So he barked out this instruction to the bewildered waiter “Get lost and allow me enjoy my food in peace or I will slap demons out of your face!!!”

Looking at the floor, the waiter meekly said “Ok sir; let me get your bill.”

 

 

Always knew that I would clock g’s/

“But welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order please/

Got to serve you food that might give you cancer/

 Ice Cube (Bird in the Hand, 1991)

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You’re Only A Customer

Humans are the only living things that provide a service.  Baboons scratch each other’s backs and groom themselves, but I doubt that there is a primate somewhere offering a swinging service or discount bananas, high up in the tree-tops.

How important is good customer service? The only thing better than good customer service is a thick skin to withstand bad service.

I dare say every man’s quest and ambition for wealth and success is borne out of a yearning for better customer service – or the best there is out there actually. We want fortune and fame so that we can be treated like royalty at 7 star hotels, pampered at fancy spas and Moroccan getaway villas. Bespoke and top of the line services cost top dollar (or many top nairas).

Entertainment stars, minted folk, and even trust fund totties are afforded access to exclusive products, freebies, and can have Harrods or Nobu or Cipriani’s or ____ (insert Naija joint here) shut to everyday customers to accommodate their custom. And if a store has been shut just for your convenience, I somehow doubt that the till manager will blow gum and look disinterested while you squeeze into and force on garments that are obviously never going to be your size.

In our dear country Naija, the customer service culture is suffering.

Back in the day for example, the good folk at the shoe store chain Bata (now Famad apparently) had the most professional attendants who helped you pick and try mountains of shoes and sandals if need be, until you walked out of the branch, smiling with your purchase.

That was then.

I was at a “Sea Bank” recently to do some Western Union transfer and I went to the customer service area to make an enquiry, and believe you me, the bank teller didn’t look up once from some documents she was reading. She kept on mumbling the answers to my enquiry, until I stopped bothering her with questions.

It beggars belief but there is an airline that requires customers to identify their luggage on the tarmac prior to boarding the aircraft for take-off, so that the identified items could be loaded unto the plane. I thought that was what tags were for, but I had to catch on quickly.  I was lucky because I nearly left my Onitsha tri-colored chocolate bread which were in my briefcase, behind.  You do realize that some people do not welcome you back from your travels if you dare come without bearing bread. Funny but true!

Eateries have arguably the worst customer service though banks are now giving them a run for their money.

It is not uncommon to buy pastry or fast food or perishables, only to find out that it has gone off. And you know in most places in naija, snacks are non-refundable, whether or not you found a gnat or a reptile inside.

I purchased a birthday cake for my uncle last year from a popular fast food franchise whose company logo is a yellow icon, similar to the BB smiley icon for “happy”. Imagine how we felt, when my uncle cut his birthday cake and discovered that it was spoilt inside. I can only imagine what he wished for when he blew his candles.

Before this happened, I didn’t even know cakes could get spoilt or go bad.  Well, apart from bean cakes obviously.

Everywhere we turn, we are harassed with poor customer service. It is hard enough working hard 40 plus hours a week to earn money, without having to work harder to get good value for your buck. The funny thing is that Nigerians would make a quick billionaire out of the provider of any niche service that catches on. If we love a product or service, we over-subscribe to it, until the owner starts beating us away with a stick. Yes, our dear Naija is a franchisor’s dream. Please read the article on The Brand-Wagon Effect.

And it is not just the banks or eateries. There is a popular recruitment company in VI which is the Nigerian branch of a major UK recruitment firm.  The receptionist there more and less determines who may get hired or who gets to see the main recruitment consultants. It is like she is the first hurdle in the recruitment process.  Seems like if she hates your face or is not in the mood, your resume may end up as a wrapper at a guguru and epa stand.

It is also quite remarkable that some customer service officers usually seem clueless or ill-informed about the product they are selling.  A friend of mine went to (X)FC and ordered  one of their types of chicken  but the girl at the till looked surprised and confused by the order, even though it was listed on the electronic menu board just behind her. Hope she was not a vegan in disguise?

And it is funny how some restaurateurs claim “Food is Ready” or the plusher joints have the a big beautiful advert board showing an array of pies, muffins and pastries , but when you get into the joint, all they left is fufu and hot Golden Guinea beer?  Or the chicken they offer you in the store looks like the carcass of a local fowl, while the one advertised on the board was a battery reared hen?

 Back in University, there was this popular eatery whose owner who used to welcome students in with a frown and a verbal rundown of what was not on the menu: “Eba no dey. Fufu don finish. Rice dey fire. Fridge don spoil, I no go market so no fish, I de pick stone for inside beans”. Right, I don’t suppose the medium rare steak and a bottle of your finest Bordeaux are available?

Believe you me; you get much better customer service at a roadside market, than you do at a bank or from a GSM or Internet Service Provider.  At least the wee girl that hawks gra-nut (Nigerian for groundnut) on my street, gives me jara every time. Talk about BOGOF (buy one get one free!).

And the need for proper service even spreads to schools.

Back in secondary school, we had a Math teacher who was as unruly and Fuji as you can get. The sort of chap that wore those wife-beater vests with big holes in them, under a see through lace traditional outfit. He forever carried a hankie, and baptized your face with spit whenever he was demonstrating a point or angry.

There was a day he taught a new topic in class – I think it was algebra or something. Everyone looked confused, so he said “If there is anyone who doesn’t understand, please tell me now o. Exams are coming up in 2 weeks time. If you write nonsense in the exams, I will fail you and I won’t hear please o. That’s why I’m your teacher. I am here to make you understand, and go over it again and again. You can even approach me in the staff room and ask me to explain and I would revise it with you o.”

Then one chap sitting at the front row of the classroom put his hand up.

The Math teacher was like “Yes young man, what is it?”

The chap said “Sir, I don’t understand”

The Math teacher spat venom “Get out of here!!! You are a bastard!!! Idiot!!”

Everyone was like #@*%$!!???

 Is it not even more ridiculous how store attendants always try to make you look like you shouldn’t want what you are inquiring about? You ask for a product, and they sort of snicker under their breath like, do you still use that unpopular product or they look at you like do not know what you are saying and should be asking for something else. Or they try to impose their will on your tastes. I will illustrate:

My friend Lulu and I went to a place popular for their rice and stew to eat. The owner of the spot usually liked to take the orders from customers and serve the meals herself. Great stuff. Now Lulu was on some kind of cholesterol diet to reduce her oil intake so asked the owner of the place to bring only white rice for her and no stew at all. She intended to use some ketchup from the table to eat the white rice she had ordered. I was on no such diet, so I ordered rice, stew and all the peperempes. The woman brought my order first and it was piping hot!  Lulu reminded the woman again, that she just wanted white rice, with no stew. The woman nodded in understanding.

Fifteen minutes later, the restaurateur brought Lulu’s order – it had stew on it, in fact of plenty stew! Lulu was shocked and very upset. She asked the woman “Are you kidding me?! Why the hell did you put stew on the food? I didn’t want any. I wanted plain rice which I was going to eat with some of your table ketchup!”

The woman was defiant as she replied in pigeon, not even pidgin: “The food come dry somehow without stew na. How you go de shop (chop) rice like that? Abeg  jor”

The woman had probably decided that she was going to add the stew from the get go as she was  upset that someone didn’t want to sample her specialty. Somehow I don’t see her throwing only rice at the couple at  weddings.

Have you noticed that the more popular a business becomes in Nigeria, the worse the customer service seems to get? And it is the reverse as well – low patronage causes better customer services so as to prevent business closure. I noticed that the service at “Fish-tail Bank” has gotten better since the summer of 09. Sanusi has gotten something right at least.

I was a bank recently somewhere in Ikota (the bank’s name has the same spelling as the Igbo traditional delicacy made from strips of cassava – African salad). There were 2 points of entry into the bank, only one was working to allow customers in. A long queue similar to the Tally number days had formed in front of the working entry door (or secret weight scale, as you would find out later). Then one clueless customer came and stood in front of the one that wasn’t functioning.  He noticed that nobody was trying to use the door even though it was free, so he asked some people in the queue: “Why una no dey use this door. E de work?

The security orderly manning the working door, hissed sarcastically: “Try am, e de work”

He pressed the button for the automatic door to open, but obviously it didn’t. I was like, this is unbelievable. I don’t believe the security orderly said that? He can’t say that, can he? Did a bank employee just say that to a customer? He should get more than a slap on the wrist.

The funniest things are those capsules or security doors that banks use. The worst ones are the ones used by a bank which has a similar trademark with the Mask of Zorro logo. The insulting security capsule discriminates against customers with weight on them.

It bellows in a very polite but loud and humiliating voice which all the customers in the bank can hear as well “ This platform can only hold one customer, two customers are not allowed”

 Those bank security capsules can only be in service in a country like Naija.  How many customers coming in to do their banking expect to be chucked on a scale machine or abused by something that Dr Who would be climbing out of?

 

 

Rocking D Boy, Fila, velour in 190 black Benz/
Now they shut down the stores when I’m shopping/

Nas (Hero, 2008)

SPEED DEMONS – OKADA RIDERS

Valentine’s Day fell on a weekend. Who the hell cared, me and the lads decided to meet up for a trick or treating in the evening. But there was the small matter of a wedding I had to attend at Golden Gate Ikoyi; I got there for the reception and was ushered to a table where one of the women corned all the small chops and finger foods for herself and her clan.  Maybe it was because I wasnt wearing aso-ebi so it was all good. Good wedding – lots of talent everywhere, but not enough nosh so everyone’s eyes looked strong.

Then Kevin my friend called me, to say that he and another, called Mof were downstairs in the restaurant’s lobby. We then got a buzz that there was a get-together somewhere in Lekki Phase one. I and Kevin rode in my car, with Mof driving directly behind us in his car.

When we got to Phase one, we couldn’t locate the street; so we did what anyone in Lagos would do – we started asking Okada riders.

Abeg you sabi Babs Oki street? The okada man would reply “Danbaba Aboki street? No, I no know am.”

Then we would be like “No, we said Babs Oki” but it was no use, the Okada chaps didn’t have a clue. They didn’t look like they wanted to have a clue either. All they wanted to do was ride.

So we called the chap who had invited us for the get-together; he described it thus: When you get to Admiralty, take the 3rd turning after the first junction on your right. When you get to the adjacent street, take a 2nd turning on your left and keep going straight. Then you would get to a close. Drive to the end of the close and ask okada for Babs Oki street.”

Drive to the end of the close and ask okada for Babs Oki street?!! Men, this guy was obviously pissy drunk, and didn’t know what he was talking about.

So we turned off Admiralty, with me driving, and saw a stream of okadas on a side street. We drove up to approach one, and my pal riding shotgun had wound down the window to ask the okada for directions when we heard “BOOOOM!!”. The car rocked forward on impact.

Oh that can’t be good, I thought to myself.

Me and my mate got down from the car to look. An okada guy had collided with the car and had totally smashed the left rear light. Valentine’s Day Massacre was about to occur on the Lekki Peninsular. I was sooooo angry.

I looked and the okada culprit was writhing on the floor in pain, with his finger sliced.

Men I was still angry.

I was like “Look at what you have done to my car. You have smashed the rear light”

The okada man kept bellowing and writhing on the floor louder.

You know the drill in Nigeria – whoever is angrier or more upset or more aggrieved is usually the one likely to gain upper-hand or not be at fault. If you dull, you may end up replacing your car rear lights as well as paying for the okada-man’s hospital bill. If a policeman passes by, and intervenes, you will also pay a “consultancy fee”.

For about 5 minutes, me and the wounded okada man, who was still on the floor writhing and holding his calf, and bellowing like a crazed banshee, had the following exchange:

Me, in a loud voice: “Aboki, see wetin you do my motor! You go pay for the back-light”

Okada man in a louder voice: “Yeeehh!!! I don die o. You don broke am for my leg o. Shege banzai!!!!”

Me, in a louder, louder voice “Make you stand up!!! Na you hit me from behind! I go seize ya machine o! Plus ya helmet!! And the passenger helmet!!!”

Okada man in a louder louder voice “My leg don broke o!!! You don kill me. I just come from Jigawa this morning o!!!!! This machine, na ma brother own o!!!!!”

And I am like, Dude, you just came from Jigawa this morning and you are operating as an okada man in bloody Lekki of all places, expressway and all.

In case you did not know, in Nigeria, when someone smashes into your car, you don’t ask for their insurance; no sir, you ask for their assurance – their assurance that they will fix the car or foot the bill for any repairs – immediately.

My friends too were all pissed and angry and engaging other people on the scene.

Meanwhile, all the okada men in Lagos were swarming on the accident scene. It was now a case of 3 versus the great multitude. Uh oh!

The okada kept writhing like a worm with salt on it. It wasn’t looking good.

Then a man forced himself to the front of the gathering and said in the thickest Igbo accent “Mallam, why you de lie”.

Without even looking at me, the man continued: Mallam, why you de lie?! Na you jam this man motor for back? I see you, you de drive okada and de follow ya brother talk, and you no see say this man motor don park. You come hit am, break the back light. When you see say you don jam am, you come de lie for ground, pretend like say you don break ya leg.”

Apparently, the man (let’s call him Good Samaritan) had been making a phone call in a recharge card centre by the side, and had seen all that had happened. Aww bless.

Good Samaritan now did something that surprised me. He walked to the okadaman on the ground and held the okadaman’s ankles and started stretching and bending the okadaman’s legs at the knees. “Aboki, you talk say your leg don broke abi? If e don break, why you fit bend and straight ya leg? Get up jare!!!”

The okada dude realized that his game was up; he stood up like Lazarus!

Bloody hell!

Everyone present was angry – and believe me it was nearly a mob at the scene.

Everyone was angry and started verbally attacking the okada-man, and not even his colleagues could intervene.

Ok so the okada man is at fault, all well and good. But there is still de small matter of my car lights? I doubt if anger is going to be able to fix them.

My friends seized the man’s key, and started loading the bike into our car boot. “We de seize you okada, that back light na 15 thousand naira for market.”

Normally when another road user bumps into my car, depending on the severity of the damage, I may let it slide and drive off. But this chap lied and pretended that he was injured, an act which could get me set upon by okada-union. And he broke my rear lights, which for the brand of car, will cost a decent sum to fix. Something or someone’s has got to give.

All the okadas decided to donate, after much haggling and we came away with N8000. My lights cost at least N14, 000.

Well in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, lets just accept this and let the okada chap go.  Especially cos new people and okadas were coming to the scene of the incident, and everyone was shouting and getting aggressive.

Me and my friends pulled away from the growing mob, and drove off in our cars. We got to the get-together, it was nearly over. We couldn’t even get a decent drink and had to make do with Fayrouz.

Valentine’s Day was ruined for me anyway, but worse still I developed a phobia for okadas. I would not let them squeeze in front of me even in traffic, and I turned my side mirrors in, when on narrow roads.

I can’t wait for the Lagos State’s ban on okadas on highways to take full effect.  I obviously want riders to earn their living, but there’s no excuse for recklessness. The ban was meant to start on September 1, 2010, but so far when I look outside my car window, I still see Speed Demons – daredevil okada riders doing Ruff Ryder or Biker Mice from Mars drills while carrying delicate passengers.

Ban them from the Autobahns I say!

Oh well!

 

 

This is a story I’ll never forget/

About the day my new car got hit/

It caught me off guard cause it happened so quick/

When I heard the crash I got mad as hell/

Cruising down the highway fast not slow/

Ninety miles an hour in my five point o/

People waving at me cause they know who I am/

Alpine stereo blasting a jam/

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (You Saw My Blinker, 1991)

The Brand-Wagon Effect

Forget its population, Lagos is really a small place. Scratch that, Lagos is the smallest place on earth.
It never fails to amaze, the manner in which the latest fads fast gather discipleship in a city as culturally and socially diverse as Eko. These fads or current fascinations then spread to the twin cities of Abuja and Port-Harcourt. Everyone ends up wearing the same kind of clothes, having similar interests, using the same slangs and figures of speech, and making the same lifestyle choices as a result.

This snow-ball effect of infectious tastes creates a propensity for some people to jump on the lifestyle bandwagon, sorry, brand wagons.

The world is a global village, yes, but then Lagos must be a hamlet. But I digress…

Early this week, I wanted to buy a smart button-up to wear with a suit for a wedding I have this weekend. I ducked into Ikota Shopping Complex, in Ajah but got so miffed that I had to give up. Every shirt shop I went to stocked the same brand of shirts for men, baring a few Italian knock-off brands like Ogini. No I don’t want a TM Lewin or Hawes & Curtis shirt, free me jor….

Let’s conduct a mini experiment – gather all the 23 -37 year olds living in the following parts of Lagos: Lekki, Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Ajah, Surulere, Magodo, Ikeja, Maryland, Yaba, Ebute-Metta, Apapa, Akoka, Ogudu and Gbagada. Sorry if I didn’t mention your area; every experiment needs a control.

Now, take 2 invisible hoops – a blue one and a pink one. The blue one is for guys and the pink one for the ladies.
If you toss the blue hoop randomly into the crowd, so that it only catches a fella, I can bet my bottom dollar that the following will be his demographic: He lives in Lekki-Ajah by way of somewhere on the Mainland. He drives a Toyota Corolla (the model that all the banks and financial institutions have bought so much that Toyota has made enough profits not to give a rat’s ass about a possible ban or lawsuits in the USA from the brake issues). If he didn’t buy the Corolla brand new and pay installmentally, he would have bought a Honda ‘Baby Boy’ Accord from a used car lot.
Demographic dude also supports Arsenal, and started doing so once it became fashionable to be a Premier League footie fan. He also has an Arsenal sticker on his car rear bumper. My guess would be that the sticker says Gunners for Life!

Demographic dude has a Blackberry Bold on MTN’s network and a beat-up Nokia as a second phone. He works for one of the banks on the Island, and tells anyone who cares to listen that he is thinking of leaving to start his own business. There is also a huge chance that Demo dude also went to LASU or UNILAG, and if he schooled abroad, London Metropolitan University or University of Hertfordshire.
He also wears T.M Lewin or Hawes & Curtis shirts to work. He orders or buys the TM Lewin shirts from the TM Lewin flagship store on the ground floor of Brent Cross Shopping Centre in North West London. By the way, he flies with Virgin Atlantic almost always, and when he travels, almost always to London, he never misses Next’s clearance sales. He also traverses London’s Oxford Street for bargains.
His vocabulary includes sentences like “That’s the P” or “Omo, I de hustle” (even though he has a 9-5 bank job that gives him time for precious little else).

Demographic man also has a couple of big horse Polo by Ralph Lauren polo shirts with the numbers on the sleeves, which he wears on weekends or when hanging with his boys at the sports bar to watch Arsenal games where Bendtener always fails to score. He used to wear Hackett shirts at one point, but that would be social suicide now.
He has started sprouting a small pot-belly these days. He doesn’t care, he is a big boy. In addition, he sports a low crew cut fade, and Rick Ross type sideburns (Oliver De Coque patented that look eons ago though).
The red hoop will rein in a full-figured brown-skinned girl who absolutely loves to eat out and shop for clothes.

‘Demographina’ would be obsessed with Brazilian (or Peruvian) hair, which she no doubt will blackmail some sex-starved mugu to purchase for her if she cannot afford it herself. She is no taller than 5”9. She usually wields a Blackberry Curve on Glo’s network (N1500 per week is easier) which she harasses furiously when she is at an event where nobody ‘sends’ her enough.
Her uniform of choice would include True Religion skinny jeans, tank tops or a tee, flats or gladiators, not to forget a huge handbag (of Ghana-Must-Go proportions) which she has perfected how to carry in the cavity of her elbow.
She drives one of the following – a Kia Picanto or Rio, Honda City or a Hyundai Accent, and wears sunglasses when she drives (she bought them especially for the car). She works as a marketer in either a bank, insurance firm or a firm that sells some kind of equipment which cannot sell itself or its utility to its target market. On Sundays, she attends House on the Rock or This Present House where she fervently prays that she will meet her future husband – a tall, dark and handsome fella who has a Lekki apartment and a smart SUV, and would fork out for her trips to Dubai.
She snarls at her local vendor if he doesn’t have her Sunday ThisDay Style newspaper, and snarls at herself if she doesn’t appear in the magazine itself. But alas I digresseth too much…

Of course there are always exceptions, certain people dress differently and have dissimilar interests which invariably leads to accusations of being weird. Chaps like Derenle the presenter are examples of extreme cases; Prince 2000 of Sunday Rendezvous fame (the Nigerian 1980s dance show a la Soul Train) dressed like no other. These are the examples at the other end of the spectrum.

In the US, there are special, special cases like Lady Gaga but alas I digress again…

In Nigeria however, it seems if you decide to break the norm even slightly, people mistaken it as a sign that you lack generally or are not in the know. A female friend of mine for example would rather wear her natural hair but she has had fashionistas ogle her consistently about why she hasn’t gotten the latest Brazilian weave worn by “Bo Bo Biz Girls.” Socially, Naija’s ethos seems to be either put up or shut up.

This word of mouth advertisement, which prompts us to conform or risk feeling left out was the marketing machine that made the movie Jenifa a Nollywood blockbuster. In Nigeria, the band and brand wagon effects drive up sales of brands like Blackberry, Toyota, Ed Hardy, True Religion, Ralph Lauren, Hackett, TM Lewin and the popularity of premiership clubs of Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool. Nigeria must be a franchisor’s dream; and a goldmine for any aggressive brands.

It is no wonder that KFC is making a killing here. Fair play to them, but word of mouth and social interest alone must have driven sales and patronage through the roof in the first couple of days of its business launch.
A friend of mine opines that if Apple were to set up shop in Nigeria, and offer the full range of its services including a Naija friendly I-Tunes online store, they would best what Research in Motion has achieved so far with the ‘BB’. I once went to Sanusi Fafunwa Street VI, to look for a cord for my MP3 player. The traders there got confused anytime I mentioned “MP3 player”; what they knew was Apple Ipod, even though the cord I needed was for a Sony MP3 Walkman!

In Nigeria, Lagos to be exact, some people are obsessed with wearing vogue clothes as everyone else, going to the most fashionable church (usually for the suave pastor, sea of eligible singles, or for signs and wonders)and owning the most socially acceptable brand (even if it is not the best brand).
My friend joked once that the only product that we in Naija would use without insisting on a particular brand or name is pure-water.

 

“Sometimes I find myself wearing the same stuff for days/ Not caring about what they gonna think or say”
Prodigy “Family’ (2000)

Caveat!

Thank you for stopping by my blog.

I hope you will get something you need, even if you don’t get everything you want.

Let us laugh and cry and love and learn together, in equal measure.

I leave you with wholesome lyrics from the song “Strong Will Continue” off the Distant Relatives (2010) album, a joint effort by Nasir Jones and Damien Marley:

No man live forever
But never say never
Every goodie want better,
Just be a go getter
And always be clever
In every endeavour
Coz drastic time call for drastic measure
Your girl try to pleasure
From ya neighbours things severe
The land and the treasure
Work for whatever
Jah say don’t be a beggar,
The alpha omega
Will bless every soul no matter
Which name you prefer
The immortal stepper
Believe in every skin
No matter which colour they are
Will never let you down no matter
Which kind of weather
You’re destined to rise like the son of Rebecca don’t stop for a second
Every man reckon
It sure would be good to be there
Whether Zion or Mecca
When the gates are finally closed
And the saints go marching in

God Bless…..

ATCHUNG!: Some of the articles and observations on Literati are based on real events which have happened to real everyday people; some names have been changed to protect the innocent. Some events will be presented in their entirety and edited as little as possible in order to present the current harsh realities of city-life and society in their purest form, some of which are still clear and present dangers.

These realities include poverty, corruption, greed, racism, nepotism, selfishness, sloth, vanity and squalor, gross materialism, indiscipline, slander, sexual promiscuity, perversion, illiteracy, inferiority complexes and all forms of ills preventing Nigeria from being the greatest nation on Earth.

However, where any articles are presented undiluted and unrefined, the aim shall not be to humiliate or pour scorn on any class or kind of members of society but to stimulate learning, reform, change, neighbourly love in our cities, families, communities and relationships by the powerful medium of satire and blog literature, hence the name Literati: Satires on Nigerian life.

It is this writer’s frank observation that when we laugh, we remember, and when we remember, we learn, and when we learn, we understand, and when we understand, we empathise, and when we empathise, we love. Love is love.

Any resemblance to any particular fatal  incidents experienced  by any individual reader(s) is regretted.

Life imitates Art. Art irrigates Life.

Satire is the new attire.

Thank you and you and you and you..