ajagunna

I discuss Nigeria and the world at large because I strongly believe MyOpinionCounts!

Category: SundaySttarter (SS)

Lost in Transit? A Long Poetic Conversation on Language, Culture and Identity by Ola Dunni (!SiDOS)

dunni

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Doctoral student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

Hasten up,

I’d like to take my shower before we leave

No, it is take your bath, not shower, my friend corrects me

No, it is shower, I insist

No, you shower when you want to cool off your body

And take your bath when it involves scrubbing your body

Whatever, I’m off to the bathroom

Lets continue this English lesson in the bus

Ola I’d like some tea

No I don’t have tea

But I got chocolate if you want that

Well that’s tea, my friend shakes his head at me

No it’s chocolate, I insist

Tea comes in a bag

We argue over this for some minutes

Until I shrug my shoulder, “Whatever leave me be”

 

Hey Ola

Can you direct me to the closest cafe around here?

Sure, it’s right around the corner after the traffic light

You want to get some bread and coffee?, I inquire

What?, my friend stares at me incredulously

I want to print some documents

Oh! Its a print shop you need and not a cafe

No, its a cafe I need to go

 

These are the excerpts of conversations

between my newly arrived Nigerian friends and me

For two weeks, I’ve been made to pay attention to my grammar

With the realisation that I’ve picked up the German English

And lost my Nigerian English

Replacing peculiar Nigerian words for German phrases

It doesn’t end there

 

Wake up, your phone is ringing

The guy slaps the girl lightly on the shoulder

Wake up, it’s your alarm

Wake up, you have a message

I stare at them both incredulously

Why you do you have to wake her up to pick her call?

You should just mute the call and when she wakes, she calls back

Why would I do that?, he replies

Your suggestion is weird

Well, you waking her up to pick a call is weird too

I sigh

 

The guy is gone to class

Just me and my girlfriend at home

Her phone rings

I am awake so I mute it

She wakes up later

Hey Ola, did my phone ring?

Yeah, you were asleep so I put it on mute

Why didn’t you wake me?, she grumbles

You didn’t inform me that you’d like to be woken up to pick a call,

I replied

 

Hey Ola, can I use your perfume

My friend shakes my shoulder to wake me up

Is the home on fire?, I ask sarcastically

My sleep ridden face all squeezed

No, but I’d like to use your perfume

You actually wake me to ask this question?

I wasn’t even pissed

I was flabbergasted

You know you should simply use it or leave without using it

Either way, it’s rude to wake me up

I note the differences in our interaction

It will be difficult not to

 

These differences are very obvious

How I walk, how I interpret and respond to messages

My gestures, short mechanical smile I give to strangers

Do you know that person you just smiled at?

They ask

No, we don’t know each other. It’s just simple mechanical smile

Why you smile then? They ask

The hugs of goodbye and welcome I share with my friends

These ones opening the door without hugging me

Me still talking about the weather while they already gone back to the room

Weird people, I shake my head at them both

You are the weird one, they laugh at me

Why you hugging everyone

You not even in a relationship

 

My two newly arrived Nigerian friends

Remind me of the fact that I’ve lost the authentic Nigerian identity

Yes, I have a green passport

And I say I am Nigerian to everyone I meet

Holding on to that identity

But I realise I am swimming against the tide

And I am at the point of drowning

My friends tell me every minute

You are not Nigerian

You are so German

You wont fit into the Nigerian society

 

I have not visited home in 4years

Without my friends showing me what it means to be Nigerian,

I would continue to insist on my authenticity

Telling archaic stories and slangs

No one uses that word any more

They’d laugh at me. This is how we say it

Even your English is all mixed up

It has lost that peculiar Nigerian accent

Your words are pronounced on a very high pitch

Our pronunciations are very flat and low pitched

You are hybrid, just accept it

 

Then I remember the woman at the train station

On a Sunday morning

Shouting in anger at a young boy

It was a small argument that quickly escalated into a fight

I was tired

It was 5am and I had partied the entire night

All I wanted was to take the bus home in peace

But these two were at it

Exchanging words

And then the outburst

Go back to your country!!!

The woman shouted at the dude

It was obvious his facial structures was Arabian

We all turned in alarm

Shock written over our face

Condemning her in our silence

But of course we said nothing

That’s how it always goes

No one was willing to tell her how terrible that was

Then the dude responded, back to where? Bitch!

I was born here, same as you! I belong here!

I am from Germany!

 

He was from here

This is what he’s known all his life

But his identity was snatched from him in seconds

And he had to fight to reclaim it

Who knows how many times he’s had to do this?

Fight this identity battle

Telling everyone willing to listen, I belong here same as you

I pondered to myself

He didn’t look fazed

His statement was very flat

 

So when you say, tell me about Nigeria

I can only tell you about memories

Locked up

Brought out once in a while

Cleaned till it glitters

And locked up again

To be pushed out when the occasion arises

 

But my Nigerian identity has been contested

By my newly arrived friends

I cannot even eat their food

Neither can they mine

I talk about how we eat pepper a lot

Not realising that I do not eat the Nigerian quantity of pepper anymore

They say my food is bland

I say theirs is too hot

Almost ripping my tongue out

How can you feel the taste of the food if you douse it with this quantity of pepper

They say the pepper is actually the taste

So we decided to cook separately

 

I do not know what I am

Of course I’m not German

But they say I’m not Nigerian either

And I’d have to learn how to be Nigerian

So I cannot in good faith regale you with stories of Nigeria

Or how it feels to be one

That will be claiming an identity I do not 100% fit into

Neither do I 100% fit into the German society

 

So I have decided to juggle both

Be the German in the very Nigerian camp

You should lower your voice when you talk

Use your earpiece when you listen to music

Wait for the traffic light, be very time conscious

And be Nigerian in the very German camp

Laugh at the top of my voice, be the pepper eater, invite strangers into my home

This way I have my peace

And I do not have to try too hard to be anything.

Alhaji Raimi Street

Growing up. We were not poor. And by this, I mean every word of it. I will be clear from here: I am talking about me, about myself, about those that gave me life, it’s about us, and about all those who can identify with my story. It’s not fiction. Our happiness was real, it’s still real. The memories are beautiful, of a childhood well spent, of fulfillment and of good tidings. Thanks to my mother, and my dad too, who made it possible. Dad was, and still is, a great guy. I am sure he never would have wished for a different wife.

Let me begin with my MAT memory. MAT is a multimillionaire. He is a business tycoon, he is one of the first major distributor of Nigerite Asbestos roofing sheets before many many other distributors caught wind of the business and flooded the market. MAT owned big trucks. All of them very big. We children called them Trailer MAT. And this is what they truly are! We would stand by in awe counting all of them as they retired to our street in Orile Agege to sleep for the night. The day’s work was done and their big big rocklike tyres walked into our world to complete our expectations before we ourselves retired into the night on our mats spread out in the nightly moon in attempt to escape mosquitoes and heat of our binukonu house.

Many of the trucks arrived before nightfall, so that Brother Peter could still wash them. Bro Peter was a giant, very tall, his mother was one old woman, whos face and beautiful look I still have in my memory till today. She sold pepper in lambebe and other aworobo in front of her house. She was such a gentle woman. A complete contrast to Bro Peter’s loud nature. Bro Peter was loud but not ruly nor unwarantedly rough. He would fight nobody if the fighting partner had not first found his trouble. I remember one case like that when we saw some new people washing the trucks that were normally carwashed by him. That was one day I will not forget in a hurry. His rage came with such loudness and roughness the people did not wait to see it land on tthem before they disappeared into thin air.

Later news spread that some people, apparently his foes, had gone to MAT to badmouth him there. They said he did not carwash the trucks clean enough. We all knew this is a wicked lie. Is it not Bro Peter who would collect Omo from his mother and fetch water without end to carwash these trucks? Trucks that drove intoin our streets very dirty and after which Bro Peter would carwash them so well that we see our pictures glister in their newness!? Why would anyone tell this kind of lie against our giant? Bro Peter was all tears as he carwashed his beloved trucks that evening. I never saw him cry like that, not before that time, and not again thereafter. We even heard that these new people did not even wait for MAT to decide the matter before they set out to begin carwashing the trucks that particular evening. It all infuriated Bro Peter even the more. It hurt him too much.

Many times, it was after Bro Peter finished washing that MAT himself drove into our street. Our street led to Abeokuta Street. Ours was Alhaji Raimi Street. He preferred connecting his house via our own street because it was wider than Abeokuta Street. He had a Jeep. His name was the platenumber. I am not very sure now, but I think he drove with a peculiar sound. We children knew this sound way too well. We needed no reminder who it was when MAT appeared around the corner into our street. All of us children on the street would burst into jubilation, praising him, shouting his name. I am sure he saw us through the fully tinted glasses of his Jeep. His driver always drove with extreme care because we were everywhere on the road, busy with all types of children games of our time.

We played Suwe. We played soccer. With unripe oranges. We played Rubber. We did TenTen. And we sang ChiChi O Emego! The bigger ones played table tennis and some of us hung around the table tennis table watching them play to win big bet monies. There were enough games to busy all the roads and streets so that the sound on MAT’s Jeep was actually a good thing, and the slowness was to safe us from accident. In anycase, we loved him so well because he was our multimillionaire. He lived among us. He was one of us, just like us. We would gather behind the Jeep shouting MAT! MAT!! MAT!!! How I so much enjoyed these times.

His first wife, Alhaja, was a friend to many women in the street. We heard his wives don’t work. And this is true. Because I was there once when Alhaja told my mother she had to go home before Alhaji returned from office. His wives called him like that. For us, he was MAT. She had come out of the house to tell my mother she would be buying a very expensive cloth that the women chose for an occasion. They talked about other trivialities before she left. I could not cease looking at her face. She was old and young at the same time. Her skin was fresh and she was softspoken. We used to know that MAT’s latest wife followed him in his Jeep in the morning and that they returned together in the evening. Each time when he drove past, different kinds of new rumour about him filled the air, passing from one mouth to the other, before we finally settled back into our many disrupted games on the roads and streets.

His fame only grew stronger when he single handedly pursued thieves with his double barrel gun out of our streets. The legend had it that MAT jumped down from the penthouse built like watchtower ontop of his storeyed house. He jumped right into the midst of the thieves and scattered them. The thieves could not wait. They took to their heels and he pursued them! He chased them all out. That was before he relocated to his new house in Okekoto Area. He left the old house for his first son, so we heard. He moved into a much bigger house. In my child mind, I agreed he moved into a mansion. And a big house it was indeed. We used to see the light from faraway Okekoto in our street.

Lest I forget, it was because of MAT that a powerline was brought into our area. So, those of us who were sure of the thickness of the wire that carried the powerline on the electricity poles would point them to those of us who did not know. I was awed when I finally recognised the thick powerline. Each time light went off, and MAT’s house was well lit, I concluded it was the powerline that gave him light. Also, when the other line in the powerline gave up light, standby generators took over, keeping the supply of electricty constant in MAT’s house. A legend had it that he left because the thiefraids on our streets were becoming too many and a nightmare for his safety.

Let me spare my first time experience in the hands of armed robbers for awhile and tell of many other blissful times in Orile Agege. There was one unforgettable one like that. It happened at Ile-Osa. We were a handful playing football on this open space, undeveloped because it was a sacred space. Its sacredness notwithstanding, we had not been able to deter people from turning this space into wastedumpyard. So, when we saw that day somebody coming with a big bowl on his head, we were all tensed, waiting to pounce on him if he dared to dispose his waste right before our korokoro eyes while we played. He pulled a smart trick on us though.

So, he came, and before our own eyes, removed the big bowl from his head and placed it on the floor. At once we gathered around him to tell him to carry the dirt immediately. We had barely gathered when he pointed our attention to something none of us had noticed before then. He shouted: “Look! Look!! Look!!!” And pointing his fingers while he did. We followed the direction of the fingers in surprise at this new thing we could not figure out. Out of curiosity, our gaze removed from the wastebowl in the floor, focused on the new unseen threat. Then, like play like play, this wastecarrier took to his heels in the direction of his fingers. We were still not sure what he saw there it was pointing at, but we were carried away long enough for him to run away leaving us with the wastebowl. When our consciousness returned back into our body, we were left with the stranger’s wastebowl. The stranger had long run out of sight. We could not stop laughing at our own stupidity. He got us was all we could say!

So, talking about the nightly moons. Those were beautiful times. I swear they were!  If I ever was born again, I swear I would not hate it if I came back to that same street. At about 7pm, depending on how soon night broke or which family was first to bring out its mats, we all would sweep different spaces in our frontyard, spread our sleeping mats, and laid on them. We children moved from mat to mat, playing all plays imaginable, shouting our voices coarse for excitement. We told stories and sang songs. We recaptured the day’s occurrence, individual or common experiences. If there was any act of valour, we relived them again in the night, we talked and laughed about how many of us lost their afternoon food to the game of Kelegbe.

I bet, nobody would think it fun when a friend just happened on you and caught you and your afternoon food pants down! Imagine this: your friend caught you with your favourite food in your hand, or anything valuable, and you must give it up, because you both had an earlier gentleman agreement that either of you, who in that moment is caught without a piece of broom hidden somewhere in his hair, so that he can counter you with “Motayo!-response” when he charged at your possession with a Kelegbe!-declaration. So much fun we had playing our fun games. This and many more busied our night. We jested, we fought, we smiled, we laughed and told Ijapa stories abd many more. All under the moonlight.

I am coming back tomorrow to tell you of the story of The Dog who hid His Mother in The Sky although it was agreed that all animals kill their mothers for meal due to the famine in the land. But let me tell you first of our deep freezers. The joy that entered our whole house when the deep freezer arrived. It was on one afternoon like that. None of us children suspected mother was going to buy one. We would have been caught unprepared all the same to welcome such a huge change in our room, but our surprise would have been lesser. Mother caught all of us unprepared. It was not a Tokunbo. It was brand new ThermoCool Deep Freezer. It was a playmate who pointed my attention to mother stepping out of the transporter and the people dragging something towards us. The whole house erupted into ecstatic jubilation. Mother was being praised from right left back front and centre. The next day, I carried my books to school in the packagebox which had housed the electricity stabilizer. The stabilizer was bought alongside the deep freezer so that irregular power supply doesn’t spoil it. I placed it proudly on my head and walked to my primary school.

It was in this same house we shared our sorrows together. Like when Wasiu died. It was like we all died. We sorrowed like there was no tomorrow. Same way we jumped and ran to the hospital when we received news of Aunty Muji’s accident, or when we heard Bro Nojimu had fallen off a bus. He was a busboy. We were more than happy to receive him back into our midst. Our love and attention nursed him back to health. We were immeasurably happy when the wife of the younger brother of Bro Semiu put to bed. We all went to the hospital. We all trekked, talking loudly. We were happy. Very happy. We were simply being us. She brought home her baby and she became part of us, growing up with us in who we were!

Before I forget these two, let me drop them here: (1) the night we heard the bakery at the other end of Abeokuta Street invented a new bread. Solo Bread. We stormed the bakery, bought so many, ate them. And bought again. And ate them all. Because we could afford them. It was such genius. The Cocacola Company had just brought a new product into the market. The Solo Coke. The name and price inspired the new bread. We enjoyed the hotness and freshness of the bread. And we enjoyed the idea even more. I am not sure how much a piece sold for, but I bet it could not have been costlier than one Naira. (2) The night an adult brought the new one Naira coin and other coins in lesser denominations home. They were new. Babangida had just killed our beloved one Naira note and many more. We comforted ourselves in the newness we held in our hands. We passed them around. We all wanted to have a look.

It was not all fun in Alhaji Raimi Street. We had our differences. We fought each other. As in bitter fights o. But our bitterness never outlived the night. We resolved them. And I mean every word of that. The adults did. The children did. We all did. We were bigger than our bitterness. We never allowed that to destroy us. How else could our unity despite our differences be nade evident other than 1991/1992. The years that preceded the Hope ’93 project. Iya Funlola was the SDP in the house. She was the lead vanguard of the people’s party. We couldn’t have enough parties in the house. Whenever Iya Funlola returned from The Airport where she worked for FAAN, the whole house would be agog with praise and singing of all songs imaginable in support of Chief MKO Abiola and The Horse, the symbol of the party.

On the other hand, Baba Shamu, the man in charge of NRC in our house, not to be outdone, would roll out songs, invite more than enough people from other streets to join us in celebrating the victory of The Party with The Bird as its emblem. Chants of Egbe Eleye loni competing to outdrone voices of Egbe Elesin! In the middle of all these were us, children, living our happiness right there as it happened. We did not know the difference. We were only happy. And we lived it.

End of the year. I remember two spectacular occasions. One was super cool, one was not. The bad one first, and that very short. We went for a watchnight service. On our way back home, the high tension wire on poles began this terrible spark. We did not know what triggered this sparkling. Thank Goodness we escaped. I held mother’s hand as we ran away from the sparkling high tension. It was such a thin escape that we were not struck. Now to the good one. I dont know how it started, it sha started. We were at our backyard in our street. Was it Iya Tope or Iya Omopenu who had killed a chicken and we were all gathered to look at the defeather-ing process, to be followed by the careful cutting into small pieces. Someone fetched water to fill his empty drum somewhere close to the kitchen. Some bathed their children while some did nothing in particular. Iya Funlola’s voice joined the song blaring from a stereo in one of the rooms. It was the traditional end-of-year-song. Then, one of us joined. Another joined. Yet another joined. Until we were all singing and rejoicing that we were going to see the new year! The revival that descended on the househouse lasted hours. Iya Funlola only stopped us at imterval to feed us with more reasons why we must be thankful. And we indeed were. We raised our voices and sang even louder. Our religion never mattered. We were just all happy and thankful for the new year.

I can continue to tell of many many beautiful times while I was  a growing. They were great times, for real. But I don’t want to bore my readers so I will stop here for today. I will continue tomorrow. Then, I will tell of that armed robbery experience. It was a trauma, no doubt, but many other memorable moments far outweigh it. Times that cannot wait to be told. I will tell of these good times and memories. And many many more. Tomorrow.

Everything About Nigeria Will Kill You! (With Laughter!)

There are two things you need to note: first, the title above is not a panic propaganda. Of course, it sounds like one (…), yet it’s no propaganda, it’s a fact. But even if you disagree with this premise, then let’s call it a propaganda, but it is one that has become necessary and urgent at this point. – Ayo Sogunro, May 2014

Everything about Nigeria will kill you! With laughter! Or not! One is but not always able to laugh considering how pathetic things are in this space. No doubt, Nigerians living in Nigeria have grown thick skin, hardly any of these things affect them the way it would Nigerians in diaspora. I am one of the latter. I live in Dortmund, I died many times in the past ten days, I resurrected almost immediately so I could see more of these things that killed me (with laughter), then I died, to wake again. Naija wenjele!

Ahjot Naija in Ibadan

Ahjot Naija in Ibadan

Think of a man who would be willing to get killed at dawn when what anybody wanted would be to make it to a destination as early as possible. So, it happened that I boarded this Lagos black-yellow bus to Oshodi. I jumped in without a second thought because it was unbelievably cheap at 100 Naira; from Stadium Bus stop. The bus filled up on time, most likely with awuf-liking hurry-hurry passengers like me. A mobile police officer sat beside me in front. With the driver. Three people in front. Of course, the police officer was not expected to pay a fare. It is an unwritten pact between officers and commercial bus drivers, a give-and-take arrangement; there is always a payback time.

Well, I will talk more on that later, lest I talk too much, forgetting the man who was willing to get killed. The bus conductor called bus stops, passengers responded and got alighted until trouble started. The bus driver and conductor must have seen trouble coming long enough to be prepared. I knew this when attempts were being made to beg the trouble-passenger to leave in peace. He had paid 50 Naira for a route worth 100 Naira. The driver said his fare expired two bus stops ago, yet he did not come off the omnibus. He stayed put. To add salt to injury, when the bus conductor called out for passengers who wanted to alight at Obanikoro, this passenger demanded to be dropped at another bus stop, purportedly the “correct” Obanikoro bus stop. He would have no nonsense of being dropped off at a stop other than his wish.

The bus driver begged him to come down NOW! The conductor begged him to come down NOW! He refused. That was when we knew trouble has met us unprepared, except for the two men who knew how much he paid, this trouble-man happened on us all suddenly. The bus drove past the wished bus stop. Upon stopping at another stop, the trouble-man punched the bus conductor in the stomach, the poor busboy was then dragged off the bus, being held at his waist. It was the trouble-man’s voice we heard, even though it was the conductor who was being hit! He shout-promised trouble, trouble, and more trouble in abundance! “I will show you that you cannot do anyhow. I told you where I wanted to stop, you refused to drop me, you wanted trouble this early morning, now you can have it in full.”

The driver jumped out of the bus, going to rescue his boy, passengers begged the man to let go, there was another police officer on spot to intervene, yet the man would not be appeased. When the police officer beside me jumped out to help settle the matter, the trouble-man threw away his only belonging of a nylon-bag, he declared convincingly he was willing to get killed; only death was going to pacify his anger. He threw tantrums here and there, insulting anyone who thought it was not the driver’s fault to stop him at a different stop, nobody could even touch him because he threw shout and spit in all direction.

When I realized this was not stopping anytime soon, my fear spiked. I took 100 Naira from my purse to appease the trouble-man. By now, he was talking on phone, only hell knew what he wanted. “Here is your money, take and go, please, just go, let it be! Here! Take! Take! 100 Naira! He refused still.

The driver did not want me to give him the money, some passers-by cum onlookers wanted to take the money out of my hand, I did not give them, I wanted the right man to collect it so there could be peace, the police officers pointed him to the money. “Oga, take your money and leave!” Yet, he did not bulge. At that point, I was lost, I knew no further.

Then suddenly, just like the whole theater started, he was pacified. All by himself! But that was not before he accused one of the police officers of watching him get slapped by the bus conductor. He told me not to worry, he thanked my kindness. Now, passengers who had alighted when trouble started got back on the bus, the driver ignited, and we moved on, I pursed my money. I did not stop wondering what the trouble-man was all about. The mobile police officer said the trouble-man had a “mission”. The driver talked and talked, the bus conductor was quiet, passengers continued talking. And on we moved to other things.

Allow me talk about two other incidents on commercial buses.

One- on the road to Ibadan from Akungba-Akoko. The driver wanted four passengers seated in a space barely enough to house three. When I did not “shift” to accommodate a fourth passenger who was going to seat just as uncomfortable as I would have, the driver threatened to throw me out. One would think the passenger about to be picked was going to see reason and go away. How wrong I was!

From left: Ms Talabi, my personal assistant, Ahjot Naija, Driver, Patrick Sowunmi

From left: Ms Talabi, my personal assistant, Ahjot Naija, Driver, Patrick Sowunmi

He stayed put. He abused me, called me names for being inconsiderate. “And people like you would not be ready to pay for space, yet want to sit as if they owned the bus!” I was at a loss. The driver was all smile. He won the bet. My frustration was boundless. I changed tone, talked with the driver who agreed to take 500 Naira extra to leave three passengers in a space best suitable for two. We continued our journey to Ibadan.

A young lady seated next to the Muslim woman beside me busied herself with a Christian literature, it was a self-help on getting motivated, Osupa Saheed blasted in his fullness from the louder-than-loud speaker mounted somewhere in the bus, at interval, he was replaced by another song. The replacement was not as beautiful as Osupa Saheed’s. I wished he could sing forever; he was my only redemption in this house of chaos.

We arrived Ibadan in peace, the Christian bookreader would not come down. She insisted on being carried further, she threatened to not accept this madness, she was deadsure she told the driver a different destination. I was too fainted to beg her to leave in peace, I carried my luggage on my head and walked into the night.

Two- From Kila along Abeokuta-Ibadan road. The Agbero began to shout, he insisted a market woman insulted him, he bragged and bragged until I caught fire and told him to go away or keep quiet, my personal assistant was seated at the back, she was watching, she said nothing. I was soon to realize my intervention was futile when I saw the crazeman increased the pitch of his rage to an incomprehensible level.

Ahjot Naija, Beauty and a nephew

Ahjot Naija, Beauty and a nephew

By now, the market woman was not relevant anymore, he wanted to throwback my own insult at me. The issue was, how could I ever dare insult him and his reputation. For the driver’s timely intervention, I am sure he would have shouted forever to “restore” his dented reputation.

Beyond doubly overloaded, our road-unworthy omnibus began its journey to Apata in Ibadan. I gave up trying to make the driver see reason not to overload when he told me that a conductor was still going to share my space with me. “This is how it’s done here, sir. If you want change, please talk to NURTW.” He said this with a tone of friendliness I have not seen a long time that I was willing to agree with this helplessness for once.

I have many tales of killing encounters on my omnibus journeys in my short stay, but lest I bore my readership, I will go on to other killing stories while I visited the land that my ascenstors call home. Next, I will talk about two dogs I met, I will show you a pig on a motorcycle, then go on to talk about bad roads. I will talk about toilets in Nigeria before I move on to a motorcycle rider who was bent on dissing a woman foodseller, until I blessed the woman with 200 Naira; the money was to make a point.

Beauty is my cousin’s dog. She is indeed a beautiful dog. I fell in love with her on first sight. When I asked for her name and I was told she answers to Beauty, I knew I was right all along. Beauty likes to play wild, she runs up a distance, comes back to be cuddled, then runs away to come back again. When I carried her in my laps, she was full of happiness; my nieces and nephews looked on in excitement, they called out to their dad to see me carry Beauty on my laps. Beauty and I enjoyed our short meeting so well. I am sure if I stayed longer, I would have taught her a few more plays, like getting to catch a thrown stick. I suspected she was afraid whenever I picked up a stick, so I stopped, she definitely thought I wanted to hit her. We played other plays without sticks.

The other dog I met is resident in Ikorodu area of Lagos. He barked and backed off, not so friendly unlike Beauty. He was scared to come too close to us. His master dragged him to us. Reluctantly, he took a picture with us. Unlike Beauty, who was glad to take pictures with me and her family. The pig on the motorcycle. I met her on my way to Ibadan; on her way to death-the slaughter’s slab, that much was sure. I pitied her condition. I requested the Okada rider to allow me immortalize this cool creature before she would be no more. He agreed, and we took shots together.

Good roads are not existent in Nigeria. If anyone tried to convince you otherwise, look him in the face and tell him this truth- “Now I know how a liar looks!” I swear, we hardly traveled a 20 kilometre stretch without something wrong with the road; talk of potholes, untarred roads, worn-out coaltars, unleveled paths, stony to water-logged ways, an unsecured bridge(-like) roads, just any badness imaginable! To travel safely in these roads, I would recommend a speed limit of 80 km/h, anything else is suicide.

Toilet matters. This is what my cousin said when I showed a picture of a toilet of a private hospital: “This is still manageable now. There are more terrible toilets.” He was right. Toilets in Nigeria are anything between manageable and outright disastrous. In eateries and fastfood joint, in other public and private spaces, the condition of toilets are bizzare, only a handful are usable, I found handwash in one or two, hand-dryers did not work, no disposable towels, I could not sit on many, my business would simply not be done upon sighting some, I refused food and drank water instead so I  got pressed less frequently. I did just anything to avoid using a restroom. In short, I would be anywhere but in a toilet in Nigeria.

A Toilet in a private hospital in Nigeria

A Toilet in a private hospital in Nigeria

I visited a primary school where I had to use a restroom. The pit-latrine stank to high heavens. Of course, I was not expecting a five-star pleasure from a pit-latrine, but the condition in which I met the adjoining pit-latrines meant for the school pupils were appalling. Excreta littered everywhere, I picked my way carefully so I did not stumble on a shit, I opened the padlock to use the staff pit-latrine, the condition was only better because no shit littered the locked shithouse.

While I squatted to do my business, I was carried in thought to my primary school days when Babangida was president. We had same terrible shithouses. Our teachers had same, just like present-day shithouses in that primary school in Kila village, they were full of shit, we shat everywhere, we shat until we had no more space to shit on, then we shat on shits. Just like now when Buhari is president, nobody cared where we did our business.

There is no other way to put it, the truth is, a people who cannot create for themselves a toilet fit for human use, talkless of manage one, is unable to create and manage change, in fact, such a people is far away from change, they are ready for anything but change because there is (and will be) no change!

Enough of toilet shits, I must remember to talk about the foodseller who was being dissed by the motorcycle rider. That was in Akungba-Akoko. We had negotiated to sit only three passengers at the backseat, the driver agreed to take 1900 Naira instead of 2000 Naira to seat four. He agreed after I called a NURTW unit-chairman in another city. I crossed the road to eat before we took off.

“How much rice do you want?” “I don’t know, just sell me little, scoop a spoon or so, add a little beans, just a little, and one ponmo will do, no chicken abeg, no, that is alright.” While I talked with the woman, the Okada rider stood behind, waiting for his turn. I ate while he ordered. “Put more now, haba, is that 50 Naira worth of rice!?, what a cheat you are!, add more joor!, more meat, more spaghetti, beans, more beans, dodo too!, everything, add jaara o!” He abused this and that about the foodseller and the food he was about to eat. The woman did as instructed. I was taken aback by this rudeness.

Eating eba with vegetable stew in a fast-food in FUNAAB, Abeokuta, standing, with a foodtray in hand, is my cousin, Dr. Jegede Vincent

Eating eba with vegetable stew in a fast-food in FUNAAB, Abeokuta, standing, with a foodtray in hand, is my cousin, Dr. Jegede Vincent

Here is a woman who sold you good food, trying to feed your hunger, yet all she deserved was insult. I finished my food, gave the foodseller 200 Naira. I asked for water, she pointed to a bag of pure water. One cost ten Naira, I took two and gave her twenty Naira. That was when I noticed the big smile on the woman’s face. She knelt down and thanked me. “Not to worry, you deserve more than the insult of a motorcycle rider.” I did see the Okada man was now quiet. He looked at me and spoke softly. “Oga sir, find something for your boy too o, sir.” I gave him 50 Naira to add to his food money, but that I did after I told him it was irresponsible to talkdown a woman whose only offense was her kindness to feed a hungry motorcyclist. He collected the money with respect, and thanked me.

While I made to cross the road to join other waiting passengers, a woman dressed in Ankara greeted, her intent was clear from the way she greeted, she wanted to be blessed with money. I ignored her and ran into the safety arms of the commercial car hungry to eat the road leading to Okene.

Open Letter to Prof. ‘Remi Sonaiya by Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed

Professor 'Remi Sonaiya was KOWA Party Presidential Candidate in Nigeria's 2015 Presidential election

Professor ‘Remi Sonaiya was KOWA Party Presidential Candidate in Nigeria’s 2015 Presidential election

Dear Prof. Sonaiya,

Five months ago, if I had written this open letter with this same caption, a deluge of questions would have poured in. Who is the addressee of this letter? Why is an open letter addressed to her? What relationship exists between the writer and her? Of what concern is the letter to us, members of the public? Just name it. Any question an inquisitive mind could elicit.

Today, by that singular audacity, you, Prof. Comfort ‘Remi Sonaiya, have saved me the stress of having to proffer answer(s) to satiate the people’s genuine curiosity. This audacity, encapsulated in your eight-word motivational statement, “Ordinary citizens like me can be President too”,  resonated across the length and breadth of our nation. With that epochal electoral participation, Mrs. Sonaiya has etched her name in gold in our History books as a woman Presidential contestant in the male-dominated Nigeria political terrain.

By garnering 13,076 of the total votes cast, which were spread across the 36 states of the federation plus the FCT, the KOWA Party candidate trounced two other male contestants out of the other 13 male hopefuls in the March 28 historic Presidential election. As modest as this may appear, it is definitely no mean feat most especially for a woman and a new comer to the rocky and bumpy  roads to the highest office in the land. Today, Remi Sonaiya, this name of an “ordinary” Nigerian with an “extraordinary” dream rings a bell, from the far north to the near south. From the remote east, to the proximal west. That in itself is a resounding achievement. It offers a rare springboard for a more forceful comeback and a leverage to sweep to victory in the future.

Still about the future, General Buhari’s triumph at the polls was a symbolic defeat and demystification of moneybags politics. The dedollarizaion and denairalization of our political space were a necessary rite of passage which we had to undergo as a people so as to guarantee a level playing field and ensure the enthronement of meritocracy among the political class. Never again will financial inducement of the electorates be so potent as to fetch undue advantage for unpopular and mediocre political desperadoes to lord it over the rest of us. Henceforth, it will be foolhardy and naïve to rely solely on buying votes as a means to get to power.

It was the need to ensure that paradigm shift that made a number of us to pitch our tents with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. We understood that by siding with him, we were supporting a man who possesses and depends solely on the strength of his character and willingness to serve  as a means to get the people’s mandate. We understood that the former Head of State was not the best, but definitely better than those currently misruling us. We understood, like the Yoruba proverb captured it, that trees that fall on each other should be sorted out from top downward. Buhari was therefore a means to an end. And not an end in itself. He offered the tool with which the masses vented their anger and taught our present crop of (mis)leaders the lesson that never again should the people be taken for a ride.

Isiaq 'Deji Hammed. An elephant does not pass by and you describe his presence with a wave of hand. 'Deji came to us READY-MADE! He is a giant contributor.

Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed.
An elephant does not pass by and you describe his presence with a wave of hand. ‘Deji came to us READY-MADE!
He is a giant contributor.

In effect, we were, perhaps inadvertently, paving way for the emergence of “ordinary citizens” like me and you in occupying, why not, the highest office in the land. With the corrupt politicians’ buying dollars put to shame, and with massive rigging drastically checked and reduced, the coast to the Presidency is more than ever clear for the likes of Sonaiya who were hitherto shortchanged for being unable or unwilling, as a matter of personal principle, to go on dollars’ spray. I hope we will consolidate on that paradigm shift.

That is not all. The unwritten north-south power rotation pact as well  as power zoning between the six geopolitical regions is another hurdle we must cross. Moreover, the level of our sociopolitical evolution and sophistication as to embrace the idea of a female President is still subject of contention and cynicism. For a  patriarchal nation like ours with deeply rooted male chauvinistic tendencies, it will at best remain a tall order.

However, none of the hurdles is insurmountable. Like you rightly pointed out in one of your pre-election interviews, serving in the incoming administration may not be out of place. In my estimations, most of the personal principles and sociopolitical norms and values that you hold dear are not anathema to the President-elect. Without you cross-carpeting or compromising on the KOWA Party welfarist ideology, taking a political appointment will afford the opportunity to showcase your leadership prowess and endear you more to the electorates. That will also silence the skeptics who were cynical about your leadership credentials and experience. Hillary Clinton, Oby Ezekwesili, Late Dora Akunyili etc all offer shining examples in this regard.

Alternatively, our dear Professor of French language and Applied linguistics turned politician can focus on building KOWA Party to become stronger and by so doing deepen our democracy while serving as watchdogs and constructive critics of the ruling party. I completely agree with these lines in your post-election statement:

I am also convinced that there is a quiet majority out there who see the truth in our message that only a leader with strong values and an independent mind can give us the change we need. As such, I intend to spend the coming years working with other members to grow KOWA Party and establish it as a solid and attractive platform of excellence for politicians of character and integrity.

The road may seem long, tedious and unending. I dare to think otherwise. The most difficult was having the audacity to embark. That you have done. By mere coincidence or not, General Buhari’s twelve-year journey to Aso Rock Villa started when he was sixty years old. You are also starting at that particular age. How long yours will take still begs for answer. An answer that only Providence has a clue about. In the months and years to come, we can only wish you the best of luck and assure you of  our unwavering belief and unflinching support of your noble dreams for our nation and the common man.

Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed

SundayStarter: Buhari to Kill Corruption! Elrufai to Chaseout Poverty! FOREVER!! Chai!!!

“@OakTVOnline: “I ask you to join me to chase out poverty forever”- Nasir El-Rufai @elrufai #KadunaState #FocusOnElRufai”

So, now that change has come, I can tell you a story. E ma ba mi kalo!

This morning was a reminder why I returned to Dortmund. Till today some friends and family would not stop joking my zealousness and positivity for Nigeria. I would not be told otherwise that Nigeria was not worth it! I was a strong believer in that country! I still am 🙂

Tumi ran up to me, cry-shouting while trying to let me know something was wrong. I could not figure out what could have gone wrong, so I shouted instruction at him. “You talk to me now so I know what is happening here! Talk! Talk!! Talk!!!” I held him in my arms. In my panic I was trying to figure out what could be wrong.

He had swallowed a sweet in error. It was painful and the stonelike sweet might be stuck in his throat or lungs. I left him standing, dashed into my room, grabbed my mobile phone to call the emergency service. I told the officer about my boy. I gave him my address and family name. “Yeah, that’s the name on the doorbell…Yeah…Thank you…See you.” I hung up.

When my babysitter rang, I knew it was not the emergency. I let her and her boyfriend into the appartment. I let them in on the incidence. We all waited together for the emergency to arrive. And they arrived! Less than ten minutes after my call for help. A young woman emergency doctor led the way. They were five in all.

Andre was surprised they came with two ambulance vehicles to attend to my son. He saw the vehicles when we got downstairs, on our way to Essen. I had been about to leave for Essen when the sweet incidence interrupted me at the kitchen-sink. I nodded and and answered a simple yeah to his wonderment.

Three and half year back. In my apartment. In Nigeria. Midnight. I had thought I was the only one who heard the sound of a gun. I refused to shake. Deep down I was scared like shit. Come to think of it, I had barely ten thousand naira in the whole house. A pregnant woman and other people’s children in my care. What would I have done if the thieves we heard came calling in the middle of the night had happened on us?! My worry cum fear knew no end.

When day broke and the pregnant woman in my house told me she heard the gunshot the other night, my worries notched up many inches. I could bear it still that Ibukun was mosquito-bitten. The big bite-wound would heal up soon enough to leave only scars and memories. But how would I deal with a pregnant woman inflicted with potential thief-visit hypertension?!

The last straw that broke my camel’s patience was a ride in a BRT enroute to Sango-Ota.

So, the driver switched on the airconditioner. It was yet to circulate the whole bus. We were lucky to be on this bus. Yes, lucky that the driver deemed us worthy our busfare to turn on the thing. What shall we have done if the thing was bad?

I thought it was a joke when two people began this argument. The other had opened the window, and the other argument-partner wanted him to close the window! Before long, other passengers joined. Some wanted more windows opened so the airconditioner could work better! Others joined the fight of the person who thought it good for us if the windows were closed. After a while, we did not know what the problem was, we were all shouting and cursing this-or-that.

I said “we” not because I was part of the madness. Of course not. The “we” is alone an indication of my presence on the bus. I was beginning to realize I was in the wrong place almost all the time.

I was deep in thought. Only days back I fought in a bank because they would not pay me my money because a friend had paid in the big money the same day. On a bike to work, I tried to make my rider understand why he deserved better than he had. He did not understand. Another woman exchanged harsh words with me because I had insisted on sitting comfortably on a seat I paid for on a bus etc etc.

I ran back to Europe disappointed, broken and broke!

Back home, I was beyond happy. Here I could be who I was: A poor teacher who earned so much I could afford the kind of comfort reserved for the likes of Buhari and the Lion of Bourdillon in Nigeria.

So, you think I am interested in political office or feel better when I shout on social media why no senator deserves a better life than a (homeless) child living in Ijoko-Ota or Igasi-Akoko with a secured future in poverty etc?!

No, I am not. I am fine without one.

I only wanted the wife of my uncle (your uncle too) with ten children or even more to know where to run to when a newphew swallowed a sweet in error. Even if his father has no money!

Yes! And it is not your grandfather’s fault he did not choose to die when he was young! After all, those would-be-grandfathers who did the other time lost their life in the immigration job scam!

Our cultures love old and young people, no matter what their background is. They deserve to live their old and young age in peace on a dignifying pension and secured social system!

After all, Jonathan will too. As of now, he is making plan to return to Otuoke with our stolen wealth. Like all PDP’ers who shall become APC member anytime soon, for loot and convenience sake.

Truth be told, Nigerians who are poor do not deserve the kind of poverty that torment them at present. They need not be this poor to begin with.

So, now that change has come, it must begin with the fulfillment of what El-Rufai promised on twitter yesterday (or at least what oaktv twittered that he said): I ask you to join me to chase out poverty forever! in Kaduna state.

Why wont I just believe the promise?! The forever part?! I don’t know.

Think of change this way: Two years uninterrupted electricity for all in Nigeria, LOYOLA/ABTI-standard schools for all and sundry, hospitals good enough to repair (yes! repair!) Tinubu’s leg and your legs in Nigeria etc etc.

Impossible?! Then, we might be in  for another PDP-arrangement of 16 year-democracy-scam! Achieved by 2019?! That will be kicking out poverty FOREVER and that is change!

Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): The Homes in His Head

Mr. Tanimomo is a scholar resident in Germany. He guest-blogs on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com He is author of the popular bi-weekly: Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM).

Mr. Tanimomo is a scholar resident in Germany. He guest-blogs on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com He is author of the popular bi-weekly: Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM).

There are four homes in Uncle Tunde’s head. Home when Maradonna was the Military Head of State (HoS) and president at the same time. It was this home that Mr. Ajibade visited weekly because Daddy had promised to lend him some money. The government had devalued the Naira and Mr. Ajibade was unable to import the 3 printers he wanted from Germany.

His financial ruination happened in the space of three days. On Monday, he had the whole sum for three industrial printers! 50,000 Naira! On Wednesday, the money for three could only buy one! Consequently, he wasn’t able to execute the printing contract he got from a multinational!

Thereupon, the bank threatened to take his house. Mr. Ajibade died one Saturday morning. This Job’s message came to us while we breakfasted. High Blood Pressure (HBP) snatched his life! He was a man in his prime!

Uncle Tunde smiles when he remembers that home because beside the many downs of that home, they had it good a number of times. Before school, they ate good food and Milo was in granules. They could afford tin-milk. Water ran in many houses. They had light so much that they only noticed when it was taken. It was from that house and home they built and moved to our present house where I was born in 1996.

Many neighbours also moved to their houses. Life was a mélange of good and bad, a cocktail of having and not-having, but they enjoyed the excitement of riding in parks, the fun of waiting for Christmas and how they drove to school in Daddy’s car. Sometimes, they used the school bus and so did his friends.

He said: Back then, we were not rich but we were not poor. No wonder we hated so much the man that made our lives miserable and less pleasurable.

There is a second home in Uncle Tunde’s head, home when General Sani was HoS. It was in this home that everybody forgot what it meant to have a right! In fact, they forgot how to talk! They must learn to register displeasure in whispers! Political activism was noticeable only in buying Tempo or Tell Magazine or other newspapers. In them, the cruelty and idiocy of the bad government was exposed.

Visitors shrank drastically. Family members and friends had checked out. Uncle Seyi escaped to London; Uncle Kayode made it to Saudi Arabia; our neighbor, Aunty Gladys travelled to Italy. One man went as far as Azerbaijan!

In the second home in Uncle Tunde’s head, they groaned under the heavy oppression of a Monster but they could still afford something close to dignifying lifestyle, only that they lost their voices. Gani Fawehinmi, Tunde Bakare, Femi Falana, Chris Ubani and many others spoke louder and stronger like everybody had donated their voices to them.

There is a third home in his head; home when OBJ was president. It was in this home I began to talk and run around. From here Mummy took me to kindergarten. I know this house fairly well. People began to find their voices in this home. They began to gather again at news-stands to abuse our president. But beyond finding our lost voices, nothing much changed. In fact, things grew worse. For one, Daddy complained we used too much milk, Mummy removed Milo from our reach. So we needed permission to take a tablespoonful of Milo! It was in this home Daddy bought tyres infrequently. He could only afford to change them yearly. Before, he did that twice a year.

Even the number of foreigners on our street thinned out. Ghanaians, Togolese and Beninese began leaving for their countries. We heard their countries were now better. Genevieve told Uncle Tunde that Ghana had changed. They had light longer, she said.

The fourth home. Actually, two fourth-homes. In that home Baba Go-Slow was president. Upon whose demise Mr No-Shoes took over. Uncle Tunde said they were one and the same. You can’t say the root of a tree is not part of a tree. So I agree. We live here now. Many people have since moved to our home in Lagos. They are jobless. Neither Ibadan nor Abeokuta where their parents live, provide them with their needs. Lagos is no better place to get a job either. In short, finding jobs in Nigeria is like a wind-chase. The longer you chase, the faster it eludes you!

In this home, Uncle Tunde and friends argue every day. He is now a philosopher, he has stopped going to church. His reason: religion is our problem! Religious leaders are crooks. I don’t know for him. When my other brothers argue, he faults their argument for generalizing. But now he generalizes and blankets all religious leaders! How many does he know sef?!

Anyway apart from his problems with the religious leaders, I like Uncle Tunde because he says the truth almost all the time. For example, yesterday he said: Our country is bad because of President No-Shoes. No reasonable person pushes for the renewal of MEGALOMANIAC EPITOMIC CLUELESSNESS.

I suspect he was right. The big English confirms my suspicion 🙂

SundayStarter: Olabisi Ajala: Myths, Memory(-ies) and An African Abroad

Human memory is a limited medium of record preservation; put differently, the human memory pushes to the subconscious events/matters that are not immediately usable for many reasons, one of them being to “create space” to record newer materials. She does this to avoid overstretching, thus limiting the effect of wear and tear, which set in as we age. Imagine if an individual would have to daily “remember” all events (s)he has ever witnessed starting from birth! Aware of this limitation, we constantly backup our memory(-ies) in many ways imaginable. Discoveries of human records in anthropology confirm human ingenuity in record keeping.

Like music, the written word is one of such invented memory backup/refresher. The word-of-mouth is another relevant medium of backing-up human memory in this regard. Parents tell their children and the children tell their children to tell their children’s children so that they may not forget (completely). Talking about Mr. Ajala, I believe we memory-ed him mainly via these media, namely, song (music), oral history/narrative (word-of-mouth) and the written word (book).

The accuracy or truthfulness of recorded events can be tasking to establish, particularly with the oral medium. This does not mean songs and books are more reliable. I emphasized the oral medium because of its permanently liquid/floating state, i.e. hanging in the air to be narrative-ly plucked when needed. The error margin can be high. The reason for the difficulty is, word(s) of mouth, passed from A to B, then B to C, except recorded in a different medium other than the mouth, can hardly be accurately relayed. A Yoruba proverb confirms this:

“Oro atenudenu, ti o ba din, a le” “An oral situation-report from A to B to be relayed to C is overtime always incompete, it is either reduced in content or exaggerated.”

The awareness of the possibility of inaccuracy is good. We know we have to doubly fact-check (recorded) materials for accuracy, correctness and truth. There are many oral versions of happenings while Mr. Ajala’s traveled the world. I need not remind that many of them were peppered and spiced according to the teller’s taste. Take for instance the version I heard when I was a child:

Mr. Ajala was a Yoruba man, very rich businessman. He was world-famous and traveled the length and breadth of the earth. Every country he visited he married a wife who gave him a child. All these women never knew of their husband’s past so they willfully loved, married and catered for him. They bore him children because they loved him. Mr. Ajala met his Waterloo in India. His trip to India was to be executed accordingly, but the woman he married in India had a power far too powerful than Mr. Ajala. With her witchcraft she found out her husband was a real cheat. She killed him.

Beyond the fact that Mr. Ajala traveled to India, nothing in the account could be farther from the truth. I suspect this version must have originated from a source who read Mr. Ajala’s book or only the first few pages. Aware that the book started with a chapter on his visit to India, the rest was easily garnered from fantasy. We need to commend this version. At least it did not dismiss Mr. Ajala’s adventure as a mere fairy-tale.

Chief Ebenezer Obey attempted to backup human memory as regards Mr. Ajala. Below are those popular song-lines that preserve the adventure of this unique Nigerian:

You have traveled allover the world

Ajala traveled allover the world

Ajala traveled, Ajala traveled

Ajala traveled allover the world

When Chief Ebenezer Obey waxed this song, it was an attempt at sing-praising a worthy socialite into national conscience. The song-lines did not go beyond telling us the character traveled around the world, since it was not waxed mainly to sing-praise this character alone, probably more would have been said of his adventures. However, the little was absolutely enough to impress him in our memory.

Mr. Ajala is dead. Many who knew or heard of him might have long forgotten this uncommon Nigerian, but whenever those song-lines are heard, hummed or played, the exploits of a great man are brought to consciousness and consequently celebrated. For the human memory, that Ah! and Oh! moment would come back. In that instant, the individual is pressed to tell again what he knew of Mr. Ajala and his adventures around the world.

No exaggeration, going by events related in Mr. Ajala’s book, he would fit the Yoruba character of valor whose achievements are great and excellently so, to think of such as one (wo)man would be out-of-place. So (s)he is respectfully addressed as seven-(wo)man. Remember, seven represents perfection. No doubt, Mr.Ajala’s achievement made him a world-citizen extraordinaire.

Already in Mr. Ajala’s time, he was becoming a phenomenon; he was a star. His contemporaries saw it, and his legendary status was already being celebrated while he was with them. Here an excerpt from Mr. Ajala’s book:

Well, then, sir, you must be Mr. Ajala from Nigeria. My name is Mustapha Saliu Lawal. I came from Lagos, Nigeria. My friends who met you yesterday told me about you. I have read alot about you in the Nigerian papers before I came to Russia, and one of your brothers, now in London, is a very good friend of now. I am now downstairs with two other Nigerian friends of mine. (Page 81, Olabisi Ajala, An African Abroad)

Israel’s Foreign Secretary, Mrs. Meir was quick to recognize him and his work. She granted him an interview. Hear the introductory part of Mr. Ajala’s account:

Shalom, Mr. Ajala (…) I was quick to repeat her word of greeting. Shalom, your Excellency. You will hardly appreciate how deeply grateful I am to you for allowing me into Israel after causing you and your officials so much headache. (…) It’s not often we have this kind of trouble, your bravery impressed us. We thought we should crown it. (…) Israel is as much your home as Nigeria. (Page 152, Olabisi Ajala, An African Abroad)

To many, who were already of age in the 1960s when Mr. Ajala traveled the world, he was the best synonym for globetrotting. Unfortunately, over the years, his adventure became something of a faraway “non-existent” myth. Many children born around late 1950s and early 1960s when he globe-trotted did even know Mr. Ajala wrote a book. Now, if that be so, then we can safely conclude that in the memory of millions of Nigerians born in the 1980’s and below Mr. Ajala was simply another “confirmed” Ijapa-story, i.e. a fairy-tale. I need not remind us that fairy-tales are beautifully created fictions weaved around wonderful human fantasies.

Yoruba language is a tonal language. A word may bear in it many meaning depending on pronunciation. This sense is figuratively transported/reflected for example in the categorization of apology. We say “Pele lako, o labo”. An apology can be “male”- insincerely offered or “female”- heartfelt/sincere. Same is applicable to pejoratives passed off as commendation or simply expressed to scorn. Sometimes, it can be outright ridicule. Lets take a look at some of these (pejorative) expressions coined in relation to Mr. Ajala’s adventure:

(1) “Lai kii se Ajala!” “But you are not Mr. Ajala!” (2) “Ajala ni!” “(S)he is Mr. Ajala!” (3) “O fe di Ajala ni.” “(S)he wants to become Mr. Ajala.” (4) “O n bimo kiri bi Ajala.” “(S)he makes babies everywhere like Mr. Ajala”

I understand the danger of hasty generalization in this regard and I am aware context matters, but the truth is, many times these expressions are used, they are contextually used to joke or chide the individual concerned. There are questions to ask: (1) Why is Mr. Ajala’s name often used in connection to negative comparison? (2) Why do these expressions carry in them implicit admonitions to shun the Mr. Ajala’s type of adventure? (3) How and why did we let this happen?

The answer(s) is/are definitely multifarious, but not untraceable to our perception of indigenous memory, be it communicative, collective or cultural. Simply put, we tend to look our own achievements with scorn, so much so that we are quick to single out or project only the dirty or bad sides/images/figures of these achievements. We sometimes go as far as “creating” a badness for the achievement if we could not originally find one. Mr. Ajala’s character/image, I suppose, was a victim of negative narratives, which overtime the seem to be the overarching/prevalent narratives as reflected in the pejoratives.

I started reading Mr. Ajala’s own account of his travelogue with mixed feeling. One was that of excitement. Finally, I could read a personal narrative of this legendary figure. Another is, as I turned the pages, I realized my memory of this figure was coming back to me, one after the other; I read with prejudice. I had to consciously shut them out to read him objectively.

This is at the beginning of Mr Ajala’s book:

It is quite safe to say the worst and the best about India and Indians. Without being biased or unduly critical, one can identify Indians as appallingly ignorant savages, yet they belong to the most highly cultured and literary societies in the world. One can further describe India as the most hideous and, at the same time, the most colourfully fascinating of countries- in brief, every possible antonym may be used to classify and dissect this part of the world, and none will be far from the truth. (Page 19, Olabisi Ajala, An African Abroad)

Throughout the book, I came across contradictory, yet seemingly true comparisons like these in many of Mr. Ajala’s accounts and observations of the peoples, places and countries he visited. He was modest and careful not to stamp his observation as the singularly valid opinion about these peoples, places and countries. He made clear these are his personal observations and perception of the matter. One could not but have the feeling he was telling the truth. Besides, why doubt him since many of these accounts can be fact-checked.

Like his account on India, Mr. Ajala was sincerely detailed, almost to a fault, in his encounters with everyday life in the places and of the peoples he visited. Lets return to his account on India again to establish this:

With the exception of the Prime Minister, Jawaharl Nehru(..), most of the Indian people I met(…) were snobbish and intolerant, with detestable and annoying habits. For example, you are startled out of a pleasant sleep at 5 a.m. by the sound of someone who appears to be vomiting and in obvious agony at the wash-basin. You get up, full of sympathy and ready to help, only to find someone cleaning his teeth and cheerfully clearing his throat with the most disgusting sounds. (Page 20, Olabisi Ajayi, An African Abroad).

Detailed account like this cut across the book. These down-to-earth descriptions of experiences and encounters about/with the inhabitants of these spaces are characteristics only of good and objective travelogues. One can experience life of the locals about places one is yet to visit and get a feeling of being in their midst even if the reader is in faraway Germany.

Mr. Ajala was not only interested in the living conditions and ways of life of the locals, he was keen on getting to know same about African students in the countries. Aware that racial discrimination of all color and shade were at its peak around the time he made his trips, he did not take words of assurance from government or diplomatic sources for bare coins, particularly on the living conditions of African students. In India he spoke with African students who relayed the hostility of Indian students to Blacks. In his rapport with African students in The Soviet Union, this was how he introduced his discussion with them:

Just before I came to Moscow I was reading in one of the African papers (…) a serialized article by one of three students, all of whom had to leave Russia because they were being discriminated against, taught the workings of communism and insulted when in the company of their girlfriends. The same African who wrote these articles stated that he was often publicly attacked and beaten up by young Russian hoodlums. (Pages 82 and 83, Olabisi Ajala, An African Abroad)

This introduction was provocative, no doubt. Apparently, Mr. Ajala chose to introduce his chat this way to get as much details as possible from students who were confronted with daily-living in a country that is anything but black or colored. The responses of and account of daily-life recounted by the three students resulted in a lightly heated debate, which Mr. Ajala was sure to control so it did not degenerate into an all-shout-out-affair as it wont for Nigerians (Africans); a situation where all talked at the same time without hearing the other out. Reading in-between the lines, one sees that the students agreed African student life and the level of acceptance/warmness enjoyed could be better.

His interest in matters of race and discrimination was not limited to African students alone. His demand to be allowed to visit the Arab settlements in Israel was a pointer to Mr. Ajala’s keen interest in seeing an improvement in the extremely poor living conditions of these people. The Australians he met and spoke with were not spared questions about the unimaginable persecutions being suffered by the Aborigines of the land. Mr. Ajala wanted not only answers, he seemed to be appealing to the moral sense and humanity of the persecutor and the powerful to let be of evil. We are all god’s children.

Another interesting parts in the book were Mr. Ajala’s accounts of his meetings with the Heads of States (King, President, Prime Minister) in some countries. One could not but feel that Mr. Ajala was a daredevil. He cared not even for his life to realize his goal of meeting them. I held my breath when he told of his near-death encounter to cross the No-Mans-Land into Israel from Jordan. Really, he was only lucky to escape with his skin unhurt.

Especially insightful was the account of “Drama in Meeting Khrushchev”. He could have been dead because he was shot at, but for sheer luck; fate indeed meant it well with Mr. Ajala. Mr. Khrushchev, undoubtedly the strongest man of Soviet politics, for once feared for his life. And he showed it. He was afraid and he was unable to hide his helplessness. So, a man so powerful as Mr. Khrushchev, who controlled with iron-fist the fate and lives of hundreds of millions was not immune to fear. If Mr. Ajala’s successful meeting with the Kremlin Chief achieved nothing, it at least confirmed that those who wield (political) power are just as human as anyone of us.

I will not forget to remember this: at first, I found it lightly difficult to read sentences without a pause. The reason, I found out very quickly, was the way the English sentences were constructed. They were correct Standard English, no doubt, but I realized I was not only reading a book about the past, I was practically being transfigured into the past via the English diction and sentence construction style employed in the book. All in all, Mr. Ajala’s political travelogue and partly autobiography is a good read. I strongly recommend it.

!SiDoS: My-Jollof-Excuse

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Master student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Master student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

Being a minority in a group comes with its plus and minus. Let me rephrase that: I am the ONLY minority in that group. So, I have to explain almost everything I do. But trust me, it is not all bad; I own the monopoly of explanation. And being mischief-personified, I turn to my pranks-bags, dishing them out at will.

Interesting is, if I have to explain what I cannot explain, I simply say that how we do it in Nigeria. It bails me out without further questions. Some things are so hilarious friends laugh so hard. They would ask: *Are you serious, Ola?* Trust me, I would be sure to wear my best mischief-face in response: *Yes, of course*. I would be sure to repeat the response long enough so it is believable.

Recently, I cooked rice. Half the pot of my precious rice was burnt! I had been busy with gist and lolling. When it was time to eat and my friend asked why/how our rice nearly got half-burnt, you can already guess my response.

Really, I searched for a different response other than the truth, but my dumb brain forsook me. I didn’t want to own up I half-burnt it because I was lolling to gist etc. So, my *That’s-How-Alibi* came in very handy. *That’s how rice is cooked in Nigeria. We get it burnt intentionally. It adds sweet flavor to the food*, I answered.

My friend laughed so hard she was almost rolling on the floor. She said, *Ola, give me another excuse. Don’t play the That’s-How-Drama* with me this time.*

She’s my second bestie. The start of our friendship sucked because my alibi. She knows better now. Seriously, our friendship could not have been so hilarious without the That’s-How-Thing. Well, I only have a person less to play my prank on. I will still use my mantra on other friends, who are yet to notice I might be lying 🙂

Anyway, it was jollof-rice I cooked. Of course, you all know a rice is not yet JOLLOF if it is not burnt! So, I was actually telling the truth with my That’s-How-Alibi. Thank Goodness my popular excuse did not forsake me when I really needed it 🙂

SundayStarter (SS): Personal Thoughts In Quest for Self-Discovery! by Oladapo Ajayi

Mr. Oladapo Ajayi is Nigerian and Master student resident in Germany. He is the initiator of the TACTProject, a NGO practically committed to giving poor children a fair chance at education in Nigeria. He is an activist and a grassroot political and community organiser

Mr. Oladapo Ajayi is Nigerian and Master student resident in Germany. He is the initiator of the TACTProject, a NGO practically committed to giving poor children a fair chance at education in Nigeria. He is an activist and a grassroot political and community organiser

I have come to realize that one difficult matter to write about is oneself, especially if it must be in a bad light. The idea comes readily available but the point of admittance is just too tedious. For long, I always had reservations talking about me.

Caution! Do not excite too soon to read part of my secret! Keep calm and read on!

Actually, it is still not time to *divulge* myself for even the self in myself is bigger than me. I may not be capable of divulging it!

This bigger self houses personal history, the self that brings relationships to the forefront; I mean that self that travels through ethnic leanings to the country of birth, daring even to the continent itself. Behold, it is this complex self I am ashamed to write about!

Earlier this year, there was a wave of controversy on the African continent- Homosexuality was criminalized! It is needless to remind I strongly felt it was a shame for us to have convinced ourselves we had done the right thing. Yes, even when we justify it by the God of Abraham, whom I serve too. Even when we use our colonial science mind to define gender. We simplified it with a tag; it became *That Western Phenomenon!* In our mind, we un-african it!

In following divergent views, what was shockingly consistent was the manner with which we were quick to repudiate the act of homosexuality as a Western import and imposition on our pure culture. We therefore thought that criminalizing it would be a perfect cure to the Western ideological disease we dared to be healed from. In short, many say why do we need the West in the first place? So simple right? This is a question I wish I could ask.

Unfortunately, the truth is different. The slave-master relationship cannot be wished away by unknotting the neck-tie with the leg placed on sofa and hands on the iPad-machine! Africa need realize/accept it is *not yet uhuru*.

To help you get into my small thoughts, I will use my fears and realities as example.

First, let us imagine what we have so far read about Ebola virus and its manifestation; the fatality and the incurable state of the epidemic. Will it be smart of us to imagine the virus manifestation as something very tech-like, experimental, which is created or deliberately designed by some freaky scientists? A response in the affirmative is not impossible.

For me really, I suspect the Ebola virus could be manmade, planted for a purpose. I know of hypertension and stroke, I know of many stages of cancer, I know of malaria fever, I know of cholera,even typhoid. The symptoms seem familiar. Has anyone ever wondered how and why even a corpse becomes more contagious than the living? As suspicious as HIV/AIDS could be, it does not spread like gasoline fire! My un-scientific picture of Ebola virus sees a complete hybrid virus with very high toxic nature, potentially explosive and extremely difficult to contain.

A good/plausible question is this: why should/would a master use a dangerous medium to teach the slaves a lesson of their lives? At his point, it would be helpful to demarcate established hierarchy in the relationship of master and slave; this is paramount particularly when a forgetful slave is involved. A master enjoys a god-like nature. He has exclusive right to life and death of his slaves. Once the master is angry, a slave must be prepared to pay the utmost price for any act of disobedience.

In economic sense, I will unashamedly admit that people from my part of the world are permanently in an imbalanced state. Our labor and resources are best at creating a generational wealth that outgrows the first slave-owners to the modern day corporations. Fact is, corporation dictates the direction of every government. For Nigerian readers, this is what this translates into: the Aliko Dangotes, the Otedolas and the Adenugas dictate government policies to the president and his cabinets. It is never a mistake to see these business tycoons in economic management committees. Corporations exist even in our small slave world.

Now, connect the picture to a Western corporation and its operation? Yes, you will be helping me if you imagine a corporation that will be able to provide Ebola treatment drugs, the vaccine, the gloves, the sanitizers, the protective gloves etc. The truth is, (un-)knowingly the Ebola crisis is a business blessing for some people/nation. Like the saying goes, one man’s loss is another man’s gain!

America and the West are not called super-power for nothing. They watched while we rebuffed them during the anti-gay marriage bill. They knew we would soon come begging, cap in hands asking for a help or the other – and voila here we are. We need them to help find our girls or as we have it not, fight Ebola.

So, it is shocking to notice how *godly* Nigerians, who were arms up against the *ungodly* West following the signing into law of the homophobic bill, have a tongue-check, racing back to the West for help! We probably need be reminded some of these scientists are gays and lesbians. We can only hope very earnestly that these *ungodly* scientists quickly come to our aid by providing ZMAPP or just any vaccine.

I sometimes tell myself that we are sick as Africans. Unfortunately, I cannot diagnose our sickness. Many would always trace our sickness to the trauma of slavery, colonialism and imperialism. Should we probably accept that we have disappointingly under-performed and did not take the bull by the horn in areas of development?

Talking about elections in Nigeria and Kenya for example, the citizens managed to successfully elect some wanted politicians as president and vice-president respectively. Of course, these are independent and sovereign countries, so why would USA interfere? I believe in this light, Mrs. Clinton announced to Kenyans before elections that choices come with consequences. Mrs. Clinton, an American who has been consistent in her messages to Africans and African leaders recently talked again of “hard choices and convenient choices”.

Personally, when people warn about choices and consequences, one must beware they are likely privy to some exclusive information; they have what you don’t have, they wield that which you lack! If this is the case, then a Whitechapel-relationship is inevitable. Whitechapel is a character in the novel The Longest Memory by Fred D’Aguiar. This character is a slave with an unfortunate maneuvering skill. He has a fair share of his privilege from the master.

My fragmented thought points at a big offense African leaders have committed against the master in recent times, namely our re-engineered focus towards Great China. Africa wants China’s form of development. We are however less diplomatic about it though. We think it is our destiny after all, so we want it our way! Big and small loans, soft and hard loans…so long it is Chinese, we take it! Do I need to remind us that our new Tower of Babel, i.e. The New African Union Secretariat was built from Chinese loan? In fact, our leaders took their beautiful jets to the Assembly of China Economic Summit!

Now, the master seem to say, *Thou ambitious slave, have your Chinese funded Tower of Babel, have Ebola, have Terrorism and even Religious Crisis and Remain in Perpetual Confusion!

Beyond the homosexual war, the master’s corporations are technically running out of business. The business of the master and his corporations are threatened because the slave is getting too ambitious. The apparently too ambitious slave seemed to have thrown all caution to the wind.

I have always written about the fact that we lack leadership. Equally, the followers are docile. Africa must re-evaluate her decisions and manner of approach and realization of goals and objectives on many issues and fronts. Take for instance, sexuality is a private matter, and so should it remain. This thought is a difficult one to pencil down for me, but that does not change the fact about the truth. There is a link between Africa’s relationships with the outside world and her daily realities. If Africa learn and work with this fact, she will survive and rise. The world is divided, the world is separated, and the world is entangled. The world is a global project anchored on former and current masters. Africa will only be able to sail successfully the stormy terrain by seeking knowledge and discover herself.

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