Sunday, May 25, 2008

Making sense of no sense

This week so many things have happened in our world, South-Africans who for years, I believed to be the most tolerant people on earth…have lost it. The Chinese are still trying to find survivors in the devastating earth quake and Yar’Adua gave an interview in the financial times London (chei! the thing pain me oh, me wey get plenty questions boku to ask, na those oyibo people na im you go grant interview? Haba!) which I read and laughed hard of course. Any other reaction from the cynic in me would have been false but first, let me talk about the South-Africans.

If there is any child that grew up following world events without the miracle of having cable TV, I guess I was one of them. For all their faults, Delta TV could at least arouse your curiosity for world events by flinging in one or two details in their often dry international news. The story of Nelson Mandela I followed closely after watching a documentary on television. After that, came a fascination with the man and his people. I listened to anything about South Africa, sang along with Majek Fashek’s “Free Mandela”, cried watching the film “Cry freedom” and danced like a possessed child to the musical “Sarafina”. I did all that with the firm belief that a country that produced a man as great as Nelson Mandela must be the most tolerant in the whole world.

The events of the past weeks have proved that there is no country that is safe from the wrath of the poor man. The poor people are angry, angry at their government and perhaps the world at large, for abandoning them in a continuous and hopeless state of poverty and misery. A country where the spread of A.I.D.S continue to devastate the population, a country that is synonymous with crime….yet, we are all surprised. We see the images of burning houses and violence and cringe...”not the home of Mandela!”…we are horrified. Oh, lest I forget, was it not the same look of surprise we had on our faces when the Kenyan situation came up? And not too many years ago, we had the same look on our faces about Zimbabwe, right? Right!
Let us not fool ourselves anymore in this world, poverty is real and it will drive people to commit the most inhumane acts. These acts, as bizarre as they might seem, did not happen overnight just as the refugees from Zimbabwe did not appear over night in the slums. Yes, let us all point our fingers to the source of the beginning of the problem…the problem of Zimbabwe…is anybody taking notes? Can anybody help the people of Zimbabwe? First driven from their homeland, they are now being burned and persecuted, yet; this is not a problem of the government of South Africa. It is the problem of Africa and what are we doing? Nothing, as usual.

That is why the interview given by our dear president was amusing. According to our dear president, he has been “planning”. Is it that we do not understand that time is running out? Even with the kidnappings of people in the Niger Delta, the violence and killings and now….a food crisis! A bag of rice has tripled this week…and we still have time? We are still folding our hands and waiting for what to happen? We think the frustrations of the South Africans are different? Why then, are people being kidnapped in this country? What have the innocent done to their captives? So many questions and unfortunately not enough time to answer them all. One thing is for sure though; we are running out of time. Let something be done or else, the wrath of the poor man will continue and who knows who the victims will be next time? Today, it’s the foreigner, tomorrow it might be you or me.

P.S: I bow for all these our governors sha, so if na to spend money for burial, dat one una sabi, but to fix road, na another thing. Na wah oh!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A day at the bank

As a child, I had the opportunity of going to the bank with my father or mother on various occasions to either deposit a check, or cash one or do whatever they used to do those days. Those were the days before ATM machines appeared in Nigeria. The days when everybody knew your name and everybody chit chatted while standing on the queue. Everybody in the bank was “aunty” or “uncle”, they all appeared to be older and most of them always wore glasses. That is what I can remember.

As an adult, I am not so fond of official buildings. In fact, I try to avoid doing anything that cannot be done over the internet. I avoid anything that has to do with papers, signatures and false smiles….all that hand shaking and nodding of heads…nope, banks are nothing more than a pesky necessity in my life. Anyway, so I was at a certain Bank on a hot afternoon in Lagos a couple of weeks ago. My reason for being in that bank was purely out of curiosity and not necessity. I wanted to see how much the Nigerian bank had evolved…okay, I’ll admit it, I wanted to really understand what that door was all about….you know, the two glasslike oval shaped thingy you step in before you go into the bank? Yes, I wanted to know what its function was. I am sorry, I did not find out anything substantial. I am told it is for security purposes …so let us leave it like that.

Anyway, so the first thing you notice in any bank would be the beautiful young boys and girls working there. I am telling you, I have never seen anything like this; they are all dressed up in all sorts of suits…so I am guessing having a suit is compulsory for working in a Nigerian Bank. Trouser suit, skirt suit, three quarters suit, etc. Please forgive me if I do not get the right names for the “suit fashion”. Anyway, so I am in the bank and there is a certain sound that keeps reoccurring in my ear….I almost went mad trying to figure out why that sound kept hitting my delicate ears from all angles….well….I don’t know how you all do it, but the sound of high heels and “cork shoes” on the floors was really quite disturbing. Everywhere you turned, there was that sound. Sometimes it came from men as well. I swear. You know mens’ shoes now have heels on them? I am not joking, the next time you see a male banker, check out his shoes, there is a certain kind of flat heel they all wear. So, I am standing at a corner, patiently waiting for my friend who has to conduct business with these suit clad beautiful human beings. There is a line of people waiting patiently to do their business and of course the other set of “who know who” people who are not getting on the line. Some stroll with great confidence to their “contacts” who beam at them under an array of “yes sir”, “how are you madam” “good to see you again”, etc . Then, the second thing I notice are the different people who seem to just be strolling back and forth the floors with no particular destination. I saw a young lady go back and forth five times without doing anything in particular.

Finally, the third and final observation would have to be the presence of the security men. I am not sure what kind of training these men have gone through, but I had no clue about what they were supposed to be doing. Some just hung about throwing jokes to one another, while one or two stood by the door explaining the “oh so delicate” machinery of the oval shaped doors. I have to admit that their uniforms were quite impressive, not the usual scruffy look we have come to associate Nigerian security men with…so that’s a “plus” I guess.

All in all, the biggest improvement would be the designer suits worn by the beautiful young people. They were all so radiant!

P.S: abeg, una fit try hook me up with una tailor? Thanks in advance.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Where do we go from here?

One thing wey we get for this country na mouth! Chei, we sabi promise all sorts, we go promise the whole heaven self, na so our mouth sabi run anyhow like water. One year ago, our dearest minister of transportation seemed to hear the cries of the common man and promised to fix that terrible Lagos-Benin road. Na so, one year don pass, abeg, ask me wetin dem don do? NOTHING. The road still dey as e dey na, e don worse self. Abeg, make una no dey promise us things if una know say una no fit do am, e better to dey trek go Lagos than to enter car. I swear, na trek I go dey trek from now on. Na the same time I go take land self.

Meanwhile, because of the bad roads, the airline business is booming. Sometimes, I wonder if there isn’t a conspiracy in this country to keep the roads in the state they are, so we can all pay the exorbitant prices demanded by the airlines. Recently, I traveled with arik airlines from Lagos to Warri and I was amazed and flabbergasted at the degree of disregard they had for their customers. First of all, they were late. Extremely late. Now, one would expect that they at least provide some information on what is happening, why we are late, when the flight is expected, an apology, you know, the normal. Yet, we waited for more than five hours without any information whatsoever about our delayed flight. For an airline, and for the price being paid by customers, the very least they can do is be professional. That is all I am asking from them. It is not so hard, just make sure your customers are treated with respect at all times.

It is a shame that the Nigerian customer is yet unaware of their right to demand and expect their money’s worth. Why are we always content with barely the minimum? Has it been drummed into our heads as children never to expect anything? I find it very sad that more than fifty people are willing to sit in an airport terminal just waiting as if their own time is not valuable to them. Five hours is a lot of time and to me, a lot of money. If you have ever worked at a job where you are paid hourly, I am sure you would understand how valuable an hour is. Imagine the manpower of more than fifty people being wasted like that! A pity. I remember asking a German friend of mine once why the Germans are so pedant when it comes to quality and he gave me a very simple answer, “Because the German customer will not buy anything less”. It is that simple. Until the Nigerian customer stops this bad habit of “we can manage” and starts focusing instead on quality of service, we will continue to be treated like scum, even though it is our money that keeps the business booming.

Talking about scum, how, in the name of the Lord, do all these airlines get away with canceling flights at will? I would like the Minister of aviation to look into this please. Isn’t there some sort of protocol to be followed? After all, this is not molue we are entering, or is it? Please, let us know. If na molue, ehen, at least I no go expect any service self! Also, can anyone come up with a better idea for the handling of luggage? How does the rest of the world do it? Someone should please try and look into this. At this day and age, I find it ridiculous that luggage should be handled like we are at the market place. To say the truth, I think it is a miracle every time my bag makes it!
Meanwhile, big shame to all of una Lagos spots wey go dey quadruple price of everything! Fa fa fa, fowl! Even water self, na four times the normal price. Wetin person dey pay all that for? To dey mingle with ajebutters? Hiss!

Public Disturbance!

My people! If I tell una say I never sleep for the past one week, una no go believe me! Abeg, make una ask me why now, ehen, thank you. I go tell una. My people, na all these church people dem no dey allow person close eye for night. Na so oh, as evening just nak, dem go begin. Left oh, right oh, in front oh, behind oh, from all corners, dem go begin dey shout, dey disturb the whole neighborhood anyhow. Shuo! Na only una dey Warri? Special notice to all of una wey dey P.T.I road, Effurun. I swear, una go soon see my medical bill for una mail box. Hiss!

Now, it is not a problem if people decide to worship and sing praises to the Lord. It is a good thing, a very good thing. However, if you have decided to spend your night at church singing at the top of your voice, that is your prerogative, not mine nor the hundreds of people around in the neighborhood that have decided to spend their own nights on their beds sleeping. Honestly! Do we not have a law against public disturbance? I mean, a lot of people are hardworking people that have spent their hours working all day and all they need is a good night’s rest. For example, a doctor that has spent his whole day on his feet would need his sleep at night in order to perform a life saving operation the next day. Tomorrow na, if the poor man leave scissors for person belle una go begin dey make noise, but una don forget say una no allow am rest for night oh! How im wan take do im job properly ehn? Or another example, a long distance lorry driver falls asleep on the road, causing a major accident, wetin una go talk? Una go begin blame all the blood sucking demons for road, meanwhile, una don forget say na una no allow the man close eye for night!

Furthermore, it is not the fact that these churches have chosen to “broadcast” their prayers and praise singing through megaphones and horn speakers, that is the matter. It is the logic of the whole thing that is particularly disturbing. Now, I have always assumed that perhaps there was a crowd outside the churches that needed to follow the worship or whatever else was going on inside the church. Imagine my amazement to discover that there was nobody outside these churches at all! In some of them, there were only a handful of people inside the church and yet they had decided to broadcast their worship outside! For who? None of the church members were there, and there was no gathering outside for them to even assume that anybody else was interested in their worship proceedings. I am sure if anybody wanted to take part, they would have been there. Now, please, somebody, explain to me, where is the logic? How would people feel if I decide to blast reggae through megaphones through out the night, every night? After all, Rastafari is a religion too. I appeal to all the churches in Warri, to please remove those terrible megaphones and horn speakers hanging from the corners of their churches and let us sleep. Na God we dey take beg una.

Meanwhile, the thing wey dem dey blast for us self no get head or tail! Pastor go dey do im own incantations for there, some people go dey sing their own dey go, plus the music wey dem go dey play na another thing entirely! Haba! The thing reach to destroy ear drum, and then imagine the noise of all those generators on top. Na die be dat na!

P S: Una take style see that AMAA awards? Chei! Laugh wan kill me! Una see the stage? The thing be like say dey import am from one cheap Karaoke bar from Thailand! And na so everything just jaga jaga anyhow. Abeg, the people wey organize am, una no try at all oh! Chei! Shame catch me, I hope say all our African neighbours no watch that thing oh!

Naija weddings!

My people, if I tell una say I don tire for all dis wedding business, una go think say I dey lie. I say, I don tire! Shuo, na only for Nigeria people dey do wedding? Haba! All these colours and themes wey person never hear before…abi na me be mumu? I say the kain colors wey Naija women go dey call, don dey trouble me. If you say blue abi na yellow, that one I know, but wey the thing reach all those kain “aqua”, “periwinkle” , “oatmeal” and co, I swear, I go begin get headache.

Anyway, for those of you that do not know, weddings have now become personal auditions for professional acting, I swear. Honestly the performances at these "shows" have now become Oscar worthy oh! In fact, forget about the "occasional" shedding of a tear or two, these days, one must weep when recalling the romantic moment when the soul mate (who by the way, was sent by God and guided by the holy spirit to that particular place at that particular time, since just that morning, the so called mate had just sent a powerful prayer to God which went like this : Oh God, you know my turn has come, I am asking you in Jesus name, to send him my way etc, etc) appeared by her side. Every single bride or groom knew "instantly" that they had met "the one". Na where dat one take happen? For “go-slow” abi na for Molue na im una begin sing Indian song?

Anyway...and when did Nigerian men become so creative about proposing? All sorts of stories! forget about good-old fashioned proposals, nowadays, one has to come up with elaborate stories on how the "d-day" went down. In fact, I am waiting for the Nigerian man that will drop down with parachute in the middle of the "soul-mate's" dinner where family and friends are surrounded for some unknown reason, take out the ring which all this while has been hanging by his teeth on a long yellow ribbon (the bride's color), recite a poem which has the "hidden proposal" somewhere within the lines and all this time "their" favorite music by Michael Bolton mysteriously starts playing in the background....

The way the whole thing is orchestrated, from beginning to end, with a wedding planner as the “maestro”, no be small thing. Forget about those days, when your mother and her friends (plus some village women) put firewood in the back yard and cooked and fried goat meat, forget about how you went to mama Chinwe, the neighborhood tailor, with a magazine under your armpit for serious descriptions, forget about scouring the markets under the heat for “lace” and other “satin like” materials for the flower girls and bridesmaids. I used to be a serious flower girl in the eighties, in fact, one could say, I was sort of a professional. I remember all sorts of weddings, the most memorable of course, were the ones done in village churches. I don’t know what it is about those churches, so cool inside, with the “choir” (anybody that can carry a tune) singing hymns from worn out hymn books, the bride and groom surrounded by mostly family and close friends. I found an old picture once, of myself as a flower girl. I had a toothy smile on my face, with a bunch of plastic flowers. I still remember that day because the groom kept trying to wipe his bride’s sweaty face with his handkerchief.
In my child’s mind, I was already convinced that that must be why she was marrying him. For the rest of their lives, he would wipe the sweat off her forehead. It’s been more than 25 years since that picture was taken, in a little village in Delta state without pomp and pageantry…..and all the rest hullabaloo today’s weddings are made of. They are still married, with adult children and they still have the pictures of that day, stored carefully away in an album.

So, una wey wan begin all those aisle waka, I advice una to seriously think of village church oh, cos e be like say the kain prayers wey those pastors dem dey use na serious “binding”, no small Sikiratu go fit destroy that kain prayer.

Na my papa money!

Na so I just dey mind my business wey my friend come call me, dey complain say all im friends dey travel go abroad dey go continue education, meanwhile, as im papa no fit afford am, na there im go dey. Me, I pity am sha, no be im fault, how im papa suppose find dat kind money? Only the visa runs self go empty the family savings talk less of ticket money! Na so the papa almost kill am self wey im mention all the things wey im suppose do. So na Abraka im go siddon, and even self, after im finish with dat im abraka degree, na who go employ am wey senator pikin go land with UCLA degree? Ehen, who you think say dem go choose? This degree matter no be small thing oh.

Nigeria is a bed rock of class divisions, economically, educationally and…all the rest. The biggest problem faced by our society today, is the inclusion of the poor in a good education system. It is easy for a child to go to school, but if the school does not meet up with the standards required, then the education is wasted. Why send your child to school only to be told that he/she will never be able to pass the common entrance exams to secondary schools? Why send your child to a secondary school when you know that the possibility of the child getting a “p” in Jamb English is impossible? What is the child going to do with an education that he cannot use in the future? If this child, now manages, beyond all expectations, to get a higher education, who is going to employ him when his competition is a person with British secondary school and University results? What chance does a child from Ovwian grammer school and Delta State University have? (In fact, as they just see that name, plus “Abraka” for the paper, na laugh be dat)

The system we have today is ensuring that the children of the wealthy will probably be your rulers and leaders tomorrow. Yes. You know that annoying guy that plays music at all hours, drinks champagne and cruises around your neighborhood with no apparent destination? Yep. He would probably be one of your leaders. For the simple fact that he is better qualified on papers, forget about character, all we care about is your “degree”….and you know that hard working boy, so neat, so polite, looks like he could be a great leader….you know him? Unfortunately, he will probably be the driver, cleaner, washer man or cook of the rich man. Your new leader.
Of course, the wealthy will always have the means for education, and why shouldn’t they? After all, they can afford it. Yes, they should have education, but so should the poor man too. Should the rich man have a better education than the poor man? The answer is NO. We need to make a conscious effort in Nigeria to ensure that all children, no matter their economic back ground or gender, are able to get quality education. Now, if the rich man wants all the other “jaras” a school can offer, then by all means, let him have it, but let there be a general standard for all schools so the poor man can compete with the only natural resource that has not yet been taken from him, his brains.

Meanwhile, no be everybody wey go school for obodo oyibo na im know book oh! Some of dem no even know wetin carry dem go dat side self. Apart from all those their big big English, dem fit still be serious agbekpo.

P.S: Una don find dat plane? Shebi na the same question I ask una last week? Fear dey catch me for dis our country oh, so na so plane fit lost for air? Tufiakwa!

Memo to whoever is the minister of foreign affairs in this country: Do your job!


Dear Sir
It has come to my notice that you are seriously needed by your fellow countrymen. Nigerians all over the world continue to be treated as second class citizens by organizations and companies abroad. Recently, 136 Nigerian passengers were ordered off a British airways flight bound for Lagos because they protested against the way deportees were being treated on the flight. Is it now a crime in the world to show empathy for a fellow human being? Is it now a crime to request that people should be treated with dignity and respect?

It seems carrying a Nigerian passport has an invisible logo underneath it that says “treat me as you please, nobody cares!” There is no country in the world that would accept such treatment of their citizens under any circumstances. It is wrong and I believe it is your job to write a letter of protest to the government concerned or whatever protocol it is that you are supposed to follow. You must know better than I do, it is your job. I am tired of Nigerians being treated like dirt because we do not dare to stand up for our rights.

You are being paid. Do your job.

Waffy Waffarian

Memo to the commissioner of health, Anambra state: We are now in 2008!

Dear Sir,
I recently heard that for some reason, you have not been informed about the year we are currently living in. It seems you have been misinformed and misled by the people around you. It is not your fault; I know for sure that you must have been living in another planet all these years. That must be the only reason why you are unaware of the disease called A.I.DS. This disease is a threat to the human race and a cure is yet to be found. Did I hear you gasp? Yes Sir, unfortunately, we humans have been living with that monster for decades now. I know you have no idea about it, if you did; you certainly would not make the kind of outrageous statements that you made recently in your state. There was some talk about banning condoms and contraceptives….is this true? a sexually transmitted disease…… terrible isn’t yet? I am sure you are beginning to realize the kind of dilemma this is. As I said earlier, you must have been misinformed by the incompetent people around you. I guess they did not give you all these facts? Well, not to worry, I am sure you can still do something about it. However, reading your opinions on condoms and contraceptives, it has occurred to me that you are in the wrong line of business. I believe you should be a pastor or evangelist, not a health commissioner. Please do not be afraid to follow your calling in life, there is nothing to be ashamed of. I wish you God’s speed.
Oh, I forgot, the real reason for this letter was to inform you that we are in 2008. We no longer allow decisions made by ignorant people in this country, just in case you never got the memo.

Best Regards,
Waffy Waffarian