Category Archives: Musings
I am not a Lagos girl. Zinny now is and this post is from her. NOT ME. I REPEAT, NOT ME!!!
I am a Calabar girl, born and bred. I thought I’d always be a Calabar girl… until Lagos.
I was raised every inch a lady. How to walk, how to sit, the proper decibels at which to speak given the occasion, how to observe other people’s personal space, whether standing or sitting, how to observe rules of polite behaviour when speaking, like ‘please’, ‘excuse me’, ‘may I?’, ‘sorry’, etc. These all formed part of my home training growing up, at a time when formal etiquette schools had yet to make their entrance. And about the only abusive term I was allowed use of was ‘you are silly’. My dad was that particular! So it was that I blossomed into a lovely young lady who observed etiquette and frankly could not understand it when others wouldn’t.
This, until I was thrown into the cesspool that is Lagos… Thrown, because I was unprepared. Imagine my horror and utter confusion to find that everything which formed the basis of great relationships and a structured society was upended. I was introduced to a society where everything unacceptable is the norm. Even worse, unacceptable is considered cool. Death rides with conductors hanging out of buses whilst speeding through Third Mainland Bridge. Who does that?! Why would you want to do that?! Jumping out of buses that are still in motion. What are you trying to prove? That you are death proof? So was Humpty Dumpty…until he fell.
Lagos is the stuff nightmares are made of. For the longest time, going out was daunting. Why, oh why is everyone soooo angry and suspicious? And where are you all running to? Really! Sir, do please, pretty please, tone down your voice. We are perfectly capable of hearing you – thanks to the two ears the creator planted on our heads. And you might as well lose the viciousness while at it: some things are not worth the hypertension. Errrrrr, Oga, we want to go to heaven in our own good time; no point driving as if hell’s own hounds are giving chase. Ha! If only I knew I was practically alone in thinking this.
Gotta say, Lagos has done a number on me. How do I know this? I’m numb to most of the things that used to make my hair stand on end. Progress, huh? I think so too.
In Calabar, I would go to bed to the occasional bark of a dog and soft music playing in the background. Now I go to bed to the sound of blaring horns, screaming tires and humans who want to prove to each other that they know more abuses in the Yoruba language, and this at roaring volumes expected only in tunnels, so those of us who have nothing to do would be held captive. As it turns out, this is now music to my ears. As it plays on, I sleep on.
In Cally, I would awaken every morning to birds chirping, tweeting in the trees outside my room and the crunch of farmers’ boots on the way to their farms. Now I wake up at what is internationally recognised as an ungodly hour -4 A.M.- thanks to the loudspeaker in the mosque which is situated on the street directly across my house. During Ramadan, I am woken up at least three times a night by that darned gramophone. Oh who cares? I’m alive and it’s a new day, thank you Jesus!
One of my best features was my catwalk: a measured, somewhat seductive way of moving my hips in time to my feet. It was, if I say so myself, musical and paced just right. I am what people call shapely and my gait helped emphasize that. But noooooooooo, Lagos said it was snail pace and utterly unnecessary, when my job description did not read ‘model’. Buses zoomed off before I got to the spot where they had been standing. Conductors cursed and jeered. So I learned to gallop. It’s a cross between walking and running. Forget seductive, forget beauty. I need to get to where I’m going and do so in time. What’s the point of pacing yourself just so if it is lost on everyone?
In secondary school, in Calabar of course, we used to eat to time. If you hadn’t finished when the bell went off, you had to chuck your food. I was that girl who stood at the bins after every meal throwing away half my food because I couldn’t rush eating. There were times when students engaged in what was called massacre. They would rush at the servers with giant bowls and cart away huge quantities of food or an entire pot of meat or fish. The servers would be helpless to do anything because they were few and we were many and there were no prefects to bring order to the chaos. Even in those dire times, I would stand back and watch because I did not have the capacity for such violence. I was too ladylike for such extremities! I would be mauled! Not anymore. Now, when there’s scarcity of transport here in Lagos, I find myself rushing with the spring of an accomplished acrobat and the menace of a wild animal.
And don’t ask me what I do to my food.
Temperament wise, I have always called myself a melancholic. I won’t speak unless I need to. I enjoy my own company. I’m mellow and soft spoken; aggressive only when arguing a point (and that you can blame on my profession: Law). That’s all in the past now. I have undergone a whole personality change. I don’t remember what bedroom tones sound like. I scream at conductors with gusto. I am brash for no reason. I speak pidgin like an upcoming Warri babe. I even think in pidgin now (scary!). I tend to get bored of my company too soon. I look at me sometimes and I don’t recognize me. LAGOS!!!
Lagos is not just a place, it is a culture; an identity; a frame of reference. Lasgidi. Lagosian. It is an identity a lot hold dear and beat their chests loudly to in proclamation. It is an identity I loathe and embrace in equal parts. Think about it, what does Lagosian mean? It means one is tough, ready and able to do the necessary to achieve success, even if that means exerting grievous effort or taking on the lowliest of jobs. It means one is acclimated to traffic and its accompanying exhaustion and yet can still rise before cocks crow the next day headed for new traffic. It means one is aggressive enough to stand up to touts and their ilk and the quickest to head off in the opposite direction if a rape, beating, theft or murder is taking place. It means one can spot a cheat a mile off and never misses an opportunity to make an extra buck. It means one can live in filth without flinching. It means clubbing and working are one and the same and aso-ebis would never leave the no.1 spot on ‘trending’. It means strangers and beggars deserve the same treatment: ignore.
Lagos, the owners claim, is survived by only the fittest. Well, I have survived two years and counting and intend to do so until hubby dearest whisks me off to a destination island where we would spend the rest of our days. Come quickly honey, for although I am surviving considerably, the tell-tale signs are beginning to show. You see, all hustle and no fun, and there you have it – the perfect recipe for aging.
I just found my new tagline…
Lagos: Age Quickly.
Please look up the first one before you read on….
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Our leaders should have figured out by now that the easiest way to unite this country is sports. More specifically, football. We just LOOVE us some soccer. I’ll start where I have more vested interest: Nigeria’s women footballers rock! They show unrivalled commitment to the cause unlike our men. Especially at youth level where they recently got to their first finals in any FIFA-organized tournament. The Germans were even lucky to have won us. Hmph!
In 1994, Nigeria’s men qualified for her first World Cup. The gender placement of nations as female always cracks me up at times like these considering said World Cup was an all-male affair. But oh well… USA ‘94 was a blast though. A real blast – though I heard Argentina did ojoro on their way to defeating us. Maradona just had to get high, didn’t he? And who says I can’t say ojoro where I want? There’s no better way to describe what he did jare. What? Certainly if ojoro’s allowed, jare can’t be embargoed now, can it?
Anyway, speaking of jare and ojoro, we come to what I would want to describe as a high point in our growth as a people over the past 50 years – our pop culture.
It all generally starts from the music. Nigerian music has moved on over the years. In the past, we were good no doubt. What with all the Bongos Ikwes, Onyekas, Sunny Ades and Felas of the past generation. They set a pretty high bar and I think it is safe to say that the current crop has matched – if not surpassed – the accomplishments of the previous crew. If nothing else, we’ve gone global with it now. The world over, Nigerian music now has a face. And a sound. Thus, with regards to influencing pop-culture, things have gone a step further. And it has helped reinforce a sense of national identity especially with the youths. You’re patiently waiting for me to illustrate, no? Well, think of the fact that these days most people say “naija” instead of Nigeria. In fact, we write it as “9ja.” How cool is that?
Our movie industry isn’t doing too badly. However, it’s not doing great either. With the rise of more varying forms of media, came the unfortunate birth of widespread piracy and this has greatly limited the amount of financial risks filmmakers are willing to take. But we’ll get there. At least I hope so.
Nigeria’s biggest issue has to be power. Changing names from National Electric Power Authority to Power Holding Company of Nigeria hasn’t equaled a change in output. Or stability. Power is still uncomfortably erratic. Nigerians are unbelievably tenacious I have to say.
And herein lies the one constant through the years: the people. Irrespective of the fact that Oprah devoted an episode of her show to make us look like a band of cyber-criminals, or the fact that the popular American filmmaker (Peter Jackson of “Jurrasic Park” fame) produced a movie depicting all our women as prostitutes (District 9), Nigerians have remained a mentally strong force. A people who thrive in thick and thin. Little wonder that the rest of the world finds it lucrative to poach our best brains off us.
So what’s the solution to everything? Off the top of my head, prayer. Oodles of it. Aside from that, we really need to take responsibility and stop blaming everybody else: like the media, America, our colonial masters and religion. The time to act is now: action is the greatest present the present can present to the future. It is also the only solution to the errors of the past.
I’m going to be brutally honest: I wouldn’t turn down the offer of a passport to a developed country (even if na to travel once) but I wouldn’t give up my green one. Not for some other one, not for the world, not for anything…
A Proud Nigerian…
I am now convinced that I am going to die single.
Growing up, I had been tutored to have high demands when it came to women. I was encouraged not to ‘settle’. So, as early as JSS3, I had made up my list of requirements. Whoever would be my main squeeze had to have the following exact characteristics:
1. Pretty face. Females who were ogres in their former lives were advised to stay far. Very far.
2. Hot figure. Something of a mix between Eva Longoria and Beyonce.
3. Height. Pygmies not welcome.
4. Fair complexion. This particular idiosyncrasy was handed down from Dad: you should see my mother.
5. Ample bosom. I’m a big dude with man-boobs. We shouldn’t be competing!
But you see, dear readers, I met Jennifer during my first year of university. She had all but number 4. Her chocolate complexion was exquisite. I fell in lust instantly (she dumped me after I farted in bed). Anyway, I had then realized that I could date dark chicks. Awesome. Then I met Bimbo who kind of looked like a bimbo. However, she was missing numbers 3 and 4. Our relationship went down the drain after she caught me ogling at her mother. What? Don’t judge. The woman had all 5! But she also had her blasted husband’s stupid wedding ring. Aaaaargh…
It all went downhill from there. Eno, while of average height, was shaped like a pedestrian bridge: straight and narrow. Daphne made me rethink item 5. She put the ‘2’ in too much. The Jews could have hidden from Hitler’s Nazis in her cleavage!
I once dated a girl called Ugochi. Ugochi was not ugly. Rather, ugly WAS Ugochi. The day her ‘jazz’ wore off, I texted her to end our fling. Rubbish.
Recently, I finally let go of my precepts. I made but one new rule: conversation. I want a woman I can talk to. All my friends lauded the new and improved me. I had indeed matured, they all said.
And so I happened upon Ingrid. She was a colleague at work. And –you guessed it- she had all five. Plus, she was single. How ironic that I should meet the girl of my dreams AFTER I’d contrived to trash those prerequisites. I’d only seen her a few times when she came to our floor and… my oh my: she was stunning! First she was half caste, and then her figure was to die for. On top of that, she was at least 5feet 10inches.
I once snuck a peek while she was talking to Clinton (another colleague). I couldn’t make out what she was saying from where I stood but I figured she must be a pretty powerful orator because Clinton clearly had tears in his eyes. Amazing! What could make such a macho man cry? If my curiosity was piqued before, I was nearing obsession by now. It seemed my search was finally over. I couldn’t wait to meet Ingrid and have terrific conversations with this intelligent, hot girl.
My chance came soon enough. One day, I spotted her at an eatery my colleagues and I frequented during lunch breaks. I was about to order when our eyes clashed. I ignored the attendant and walked over to where she sat.
“Hi”, I started, “my name is Chris and I’ve been dying to meet you.” By the time she was done replying, I was weeping like Clinton. She said:
“Hello Chris. I’m Ingrid. Let me start by apologizing. I have a birth defect which accounts for my incurable, tear inducing halitosis…” I wiped my face without bothering to hear more and trudged back to the counter.
See why I wrote the first line?