Yesterday marked the end of week one in my beloved country. I left Naija 19 years ago and visited once- 13 years ago. I was prepared- or so I thought. Thanks to Ifeayinwa who warned me to get “spaghettis” before going. I thought it was a code name for mosquito repellants. Duh! Forgive me if I;m going over info that is common knowledge- it isn’t common to me O!
The boys were so excited at the prospect of drinking coconut milk from the coconut with a straw. Poor, confused dears. They were also looking forward to chasing lizards. Child #3 mistakenly though uncle S kept them as pets and he could bring one back to London.
Child #2 was only (still) interested in playing football, it was essential that there were kids he could play with. Child #1 just wanted to see grandma and eat “real” pounded yam. Me? uncertain, unsettled, excited, happy, all rolled into one. I looked forward to finally watching “Jenifa”, eating LOTS of suya and chilling out with my nephew.
ON THE PLANE
The drama didn’t start at, it began on the plane as #3’s hand luggage barely brushed this woman’s foot o! She let out a hiss that took me back to Ojuelegba. I said to her; “Sorry, he’s only a little boy“, as sweetly as I could. She replied, “boy ke?” and muttered so much more. Then there was the man who insisted on standing when we were about to land. Despite the public announcements which went from general to specific, he insisted on announcing to the passengers that he was “pressed” . This was an invitation to the iya in green gele to shout at him: “sit down jo!” the man in the brown french suit; “Oga just sit down now? ehn?” The london babe with weave down to her bum; “this is why we are being delayed, just sit, just listen, ah! Nigerians!!!” followed by multiple hisses. It was sooo cool, so naija!
A new drama unfolded at Murtala Mohammed airport. An official announced to the impatient crowd; “those with foreign passports please come this way”. Who told him to say that? Especially when there were only about 8 non-Nigerian passport holders. The woman in the yellow ankara started it all. She shouted as loud as she could: “WHY HA (ARE) WE BEING TREATED LIKE HANIMALS? IN MY HOWN COUNTRY. WHY HA (ARE) FOREIGNERS BEING TREATED BETTER? WHY SHOULD THEY GO ON A DIFFERENT QUEUE?” Everyone else joined in.
HUNDREDS & THOUSANDS
I left naija at a time when the highest denomination was N20. So when I paid the porter who assisted me N150, I thought I had made up for inflation. He found it insulting. Everything is in Hundreds and Thousands. Nuff said.
OFADA RICE & DESIGNER STEW
AKA pam rice at tasty fried chicken, every “eatery” has its own version of this bukka delicacy. TFC also sell dundu (fried yam). It is called yamarita and it is GOOD. The yam is fried in a sweet batter and served with a to-die-for sauce made from sliced onions, peppers and tomatoes. Other eateries worth mentioning are sweet sensations, barcelos, yum yum, munchies.
Anyone heard of Shoprite? Then there’s Silverbird in Vic Island. Old favourites like Opebi and Allen are still around. TM Lewin and Thomas Pink are not favourites bcos “everyone wears it” Hawes and Curtis is the preferred shirt maker- who by the way now have a banner on their site that screams at you; ‘now shipping to Nigera’. I saw some Primark and BHS clothes for sale in some stores! Primark is loved here but not if you are gbo-gbo bigs gel (slangs from the hit movie, Jenifa are all the rage). In that case you’ll want to go for Hawes and Curtis, Novesa or Couture like Deola Segoe.
EVERYONE uses a mobile phone. I realised it when I heard the househelp’s ringtone- Hit me baby one more time, Brittany Spears. The driver’s wife sends texts to madam to ask how she’s feeling. The driver “flashes ” madam when he has arrived to pick her up.
NEPA still reigns supreme as the crappiest service provider ever. They are fighting off competitors fiercely and staying at the bottom of that ladder. I asked if they took light daily, my brother’s response ? No they bring light daily. It is very frustrating as once NEPA strikes, there’s the very brief calm before the storm of noisy generators. Its everywhere. Its better to have 2 gens, one for daytime another for night time, so you don’t run it to the ground. When there’s no light you can’t pump water. Then there is fuel issue, Ah! Three cars at the petrol station spells scarcity, that causes more queues and traffic and of cause an actual scarcity. With that you can’t run your gen, so no light, no water, no way of getting to work or anywhere, and everything becomes expensive. Saturday was torture for me. There was no light, I couldn’t put on the gen and I was home alone by choice to chill out and read Half of a Yellow Sun– If you read Purple Hibiscus you’ll know a quiet house is necessary to read this. The pace of life is very slow compared to mine and I attribute this to NEPA. You can’t charge your phone or power up a laptop. Life without internet…
There is soooo much more to tell, gutters, the excellent customer service- everyone calls you aunty or uncle, door men open doors for you and do it with a smile.
Naija has advanced in so many ways but sadly has regressed in others.