Boiled yam is that food you go to because you have no option left. Nobody really likes it but you eat it because its food – Sira Sokari
It was the first of January.
She woke up.
Dad shouted her name, She answered.
Dad told her,
Her heart jumped.
Her heart was gladdened.
She pictured the electric blue gown she would wear in her mind’s eye. She could only wait to be told the destination dad was about to take her to.
Then dad said,
“Pick up a knife, you and your sisters need to peel those cassavas in the backyard so that the garri can be fried today.”
I am she.
I remember in the days of old, when my chest was still flat and I didn’t know how babies were made. Yes, those are the days I speak of. That was when I had my first experience of WAR.
I remember it so vividly because it is never easy to forget the first time a person experiences something as ravaging as a WAR.
I was in the kitchen, doing my duty – washing dishes with all honour and glandeur. Not knowing I would be called up to battle at any moment.
I heard screams,
“Where e dey?”
“Daddy, e dey under the chair.”
“No allow am run o, check that side! Check that side!” Those were the orders given to my brother by my father.
“Daddy, see am! See am eh! E don enter the kitchen!” Screamed brother.
After I heard brother say “kitchen”, I became alert. This was my territory. The ball was in my court. I had to prove my honour. I had to do something. I picked up a broom and took the posture of a woman ready for battle.
Father entered the kitchen and gave the following speech –
“Daughter, guard the main door. Son, guard the door to the store room and I shall guard the door to the backyard.
Remember, today is the day you prove how authentic of a Nigerian you are. You cannot be a good wife or husband if you don’t know how to kill a rat.”
And then he gave the final command, “Do not let the rat out of your sight.”
Now, the rat was under the freezer which was close to the main door which is the door I happened to be guarding. How convenient.
The rat hunt began. All three of us, sticking our brooms underneath the freezer, in every which way. Just to make this rat come out.
It was not an easy battle for me. If a man tells people he killed a rat, everybody would believe him. Whether it was true or not. If I told people I killed a rat, my statement would be followed by a series of “hahas”. I had to prove myself in front of these men so as to have allies. I had to prove that whatever a man could do, a woman could do it better.
As you can imagine, I had never been so alert in my life. Adrenaline pumping, soapy greasy hands holding my broom and then the rat came out.
The grayish black, 3kg weighing rat came out and I ran.
This was not your average white people mouse or mice. I repeat, it was not a white cute mouse with a pink pretty round nose and tail.
It was a rat. A black people’s rat. The kind of which you hear tales about. Tales of rats who conquered cats in their kingdoms. These are the kind of rats that made cat owners throw their cats away. It was this kind.
There was no where to run to. But boy did I run. I ran away from the freezer to my assigned post. But something weird was happening.
As I ran, it seemed as if the voices of father and brother kept following me. It was strange. If the rat was out, father and brother were supposed to chase after the rat and not me. Except, the rat was behind me and chasing me. Which would make father and brother come after it and that would make it seem like they were coming after me. Right?
Right. After I got to my post, I turned around and saw my soon to be allies running towards me. They kept hitting their brooms on the floor with strength and aim but it seemed like the more they hit the ground, the closer they got to me. What it seemed, was what it was.
I was starting to panic and then a command came from father, “daughter! Hit it! Hit it!” I lifted up my broom and it was the worst mistake of my life. Because just as I was about to do that, the enemy ran up my feet, went past my stomach and headed straight for my chest.
I’m Nigerian, if not, I would have fainted.
I threw the broom away. Struggled with the 3kg weighing enemy who was now tangled in my shirt buttons and I just decided to die.
I didn’t die.
There was no where to run to. Every door was shut. I know it was shut because while I was trying to de tangle myself from the enemy, I stepped back and tried to push the main door open. Now that I remember it, I should have just pulled the door. By this time, I was half naked and technically crazy.
Children, when I tell you that battles won in the kitchen are great battles, believe me.
I have told you stories of battles of how mother caught me stealing meat from the pot because it was too hot and not easy to chew. I blame sister for bringing it down from the stove too soon.
I have also told you the story of how mother caught me, again, stealing peak milk because she asked me to spell ‘crook’. But nothing compares to the War Against Rats.
Wow! Life is truly amazing.
A few hours ago, I experienced the most surreal thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life. My dad said he had never seen such a thing in his 50 plus years on earth.
This is what happened…
My dad and I went to pick up my sisters who are in boarding school (we live in Port Harcourt but their school is in Owerri). When we got to the school, we were delayed unnecessarily by some bad beles.
Honestly, I felt very uneasy while at the school because I wanted us to be done and hit the road before night fall. Besides, my dad the driver wasn’t feeling too well. This uneasy feeling was very unlike me because I love travelling. Like a lot. Anything to make me go home later than expected is always welcomed. I just wasn’t feeling this trip.
When we finally left, we had a goal to reach the Rivers/Imo state boarder before it got dark. We achieved this goal, the trip back home was going smooth. We talked about things my sisters had been taught for the term. Like how dying your hair was a sin and so on. By now, it was dark.
We were journeying the journey quite well. A mitsubishi bus carrying passengers overtook us and my dad was about to start telling us tales of his younger days and his expert driving skills. “I no longer driver these days, I’ve chan….” and BAM! A saloon car just appeared in the middle of the road.
On the highway, at night, and a car appears in the middle of the road out of nowhere.
The bus driver, on high speed tried to dodge the car and swayed into the bush. We were next because we had been right behind the bus. My dad dodged this seemingly drunk guy without any stress. It was a little too easy. My sleeping sister woke up because I was screaming loud while everything was happening.
The bus guy who swayed into the bush, tried to get back on the coal tar and that was where the whole thing took a left turn. I think because he was too scared, he never remembered to take his feet off the throttle and brake slowly because the bus somersaulted like 3 times. It happened right in front of my eyes, like a movie.
After the bus came to a stop, it was upside down. My dad decided to park the car and see if we could help out. The driver rushed out of the bus, he survived. A woman and her 2 little beautiful daughters came out, other people managed to come out of the vehicle and everybody was in shock.
My dad rushed towards the upside down bus and found out a man was trapped under the vehicle. The whole weight of the bus was on this guy. He couldn’t speak. My dad screamed and called for help. People soon came together and we raised the bus.
The guy was dead.
Right in front of my eyes.
My dad called me immediately, trying to protect me from what we just saw. We got into our car and left.
This is Nigeria, there is no ambulance to take you to a hospital. There’s no 911 to call.
As we drove off, the whole thing began to play in my mind over and over and over. It started to sink in.
We would have been the ones in front of the bus. We escaped the accident so easily. It was like God carried us as eggs and placed us in a safe position on the road.
The man who died was dressed in business casual so you would know he was someone who looked like he had a future.
My dad kept thinking about the family aspect of the man’s life. What would they tell his wife? What if he had 4 young children? How would the wife take the news? What will she do? This is Christmas!
I kept thinking about the non-family aspect of his life. Maybe he had an appointment for millions of Naira tomorrow. Maybe everything he had spent his entire life doing was going to materialise tomorrow morning, all his dreams, aspirations, wealth…
EVERYTHING was gone in a somersault that took seconds!
I feel awful.
Not sure I can sleep tonight.
I’m Christian and every time I wake up, I pray. When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t pray, I just said Thank you Lord for today, thank you Lord for waking up, thank you Lord… and that was all.
When we got home, I started watching a live broadcast of christmas carols on TV. Smiling faces, happy people, celebrating christmas.
Somewhere else, a mother is crying for the loss of her son, a wife is weeping for the loss of her husband and children are mourning the death of their father.
I feel like I wasn’t better than that hard working man who was just trying to make ends meet. Here I am, a lazy, lazy, lazy bum. Alive.
We should appreciate life more.
If you have read a few of my posts, you would notice how I always talked about being dark skinned while living in India and the stigma that came with it.
So why bring up the topic again? Well, I noticed a few things about the Nigerian society which I wish to blab about. I created this blog to publish my rants on the internet. Today, that purpose shall be accomplished.
Since I came back, I noticed that whenever I would be ‘out and about’ I would always be called ‘blacky’. Which I did find annoying at first because, well, duh, we are all black here in Nigeria.
Usually, if you go out somewhere, anywhere, let’s say to the market, if you interact with the women selling, they’ll call you aunty or uncle. But I seem to be the only one who is being called ‘blacky’.
Sometimes, I would sit and ponder on this issue.
If I’m called ‘blacky’ in a nation located close to the equator, I can only imagine what went through the heads of those Indians who would call me kali.
They would have probably thought I was the modern version of kali or better still, the sexier version.
After doing further research and investigations as to why I am being called ‘blacky’, I found out from the guys that I was black but a different kind of black. Literally. That’s why they had to point it out?
How different? I asked.
These are the answers they gave and its going to sound very weird.
Guy No 1: You’re black but your black shines.
What?! What does that even mean?
Guy No 2: Your black is like real black.
Guy No 3: You have a pointed, triangular nose. You look different from many of us.
ooook. What does that have to do with my skin colour?
Gal No 1: Are you Ghanian or Fulani?
Emmmm, I’m from the Niger Delta.
Gal No 2: What soap do you use? I like your kind of black. I want to be your kind of black but every soap I use has caused my skin to bleach.
I use any soap I find in the bathroom. I’m tough like that.
As you can see, being called ‘blacky’ is not such a bad thing. I’m still not comfortable with it but atleast I know they mean no harm when they(Nigerians) say it.
On Friday morning, I opened my twitter app and there was just a continuous stream on my timeline about how a great man had passed away.
My dad had gone to drop my siblings off at school. When he came back, he told me he had heard on the radio that Nelson Mandela had passed away. I nodded in agreement. Then he said, “No be yesterday that man die o, e go don die since but them just dey wait for the right time to tell everybody.”
I asked him why he thought so, and then he said, “How is it that just the day before yesterday, his daughters were telling us that ‘Mandela is teaching them discipline, patience, blah, blah, blah.’” My dad was referring to a radio broadcast that happened on Wednesday evening where the newsreader said something about Mandela’s daughters saying their father, Madiba, was a man who was still teaching them values even while on his death bed.
Enough with my dad’s conspiracy theory, let me tell you why I think Madiba’s main achievement was to prove to white people that Africans are not animals.
We should ask ourselves, what makes Madiba different? Yes he was in prison for a time long enough for a woman to be born, grow boobs and have seven children. Other people went to prison for the fight of the freedom of their people from one form of oppression or the other. I can’t think of any names right now, but there should be others in the history of the world. He read Achebe’s books in prison, so what? Black people love to read in prison. If you didn’t know, watch 60% of Hollywood crime thrillers that have Blacks as the culprits. I just came up with that figure
He was a lawyer who wanted black people to be treated as equal to whites, all black people are still fighting the battle of racism.
He was a true African, he married more than one wife, although he could not keep them all at home at the same time, it is almost the same thing.
So what made him different?
IT WAS HIS FORGIVING HEART.
God knows, if it was Idi Amin Dada, who came out of prison after 27 years and was made the president of his country, there would be not a single white person in South Africa today. It would have been the African version of what Hitler did. And you know when black people do bad things it is often referred to as being animalistic.
I don’t know how he knew it, maybe he visited a juju priest or priestess, I mean he is African after all, but somehow he saw a South Africa where the whites, blacks and those in between, could work together for a better tomorrow.
Today, in the whole of Africa, there isn’t a place as diversified as South Africa in terms of ethnicity. That is why they are a continental power.
Like I’ve always said, if you want to grow, as a person, a community or a nation, you must always have inputs from the outside. You cannot do it alone.
p.s: wherever there are white people things always seem to be managed better. For now.
Last year, when Nigeria celebrated her Independence. I did a sweet post about how we should be considered as a country blessed with good things and good people. I tried to paint a picture of something different unlike what Africa is portrayed as in the media – starving children, famine and poverty.
This time around, I’m going to be more realistic of what is happening in this blessed country of mine.
Nigeria got her independence from Britain in 1960 and since then, every thing has gone downhill. It has been so bad that even the reputation of each individual in the country is questionable by non-Nigerians.
Corruption is one of the basic problems of this nation. The mind set of corruption is not going to change in my generation because it has already been instilled in us that for us to succeed, we have to cheat. We have to lie. We have to eat alone and also reserve some for our great grand children who are unborn.
If you ask us to change, we will ask you, “Why do I have to be the one to change something our fathers have been doing even before the foundations of a Nigeria were laid?”
In other words, our tradition of corruption should remain as it is and one day CHANGE will fall from heaven and make a difference in the lives of our people.
What a mindset!
Corruption is everywhere.
In religious houses, where you have to pay money for you to be prayed for by your pastor.
In the educational system, where lecturers demand for sex as a criteria for students to excel in exams or extort money from students through the selling of their authored books. Books which they [the lecturers] copy everything from google and just send to a printing press.
The fact that Nigerian students have been sitting at home for more than 90 days due to an ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is a shame.
Nigeria, my beloved country, I tell you today with all sincerity in my heart that the ongoing ASUU strike is a very big shame to our nation. These people who are also organising strikes and making students spend more time than necessary in university, God is watching all of you. Amen.
Corruption is there in the banking sector, in the market place. It is everywhere.
For those people in Abuja, riding big cars, travelling for holidays all over the world while undergraduates are bus drivers struggling under the Nigerian sun, don’t think I forgot you. God is watching you in 3D. Make ona try o. Try well well.
As always, corruption goes hand in hand with bribery.
Nigerian government officials believe that they cannot SURVIVE without accepting bribes. My people, we need to change.
Police officers, please stop the bribery. Stop the extortion. We are barely surviving with what we have, why collect it from us by force?
Do your job of protecting the lives and properties of your citizens.
Government, please pay them well and and also pay them on time so that they don’t need bribes.
Bribery and Corruption is the basic problem I have with this country.
Lack of Basic amenities such as electricity, good roads, hospitals, clean water and good governance are of so much importance, we shouldn’t even tell you (government) that you need to provide them.
Let’s try to tackle these issues one after the other.
God Bless our country! God Bless Nigeria at 53!
Recently, I had to go to Bayelsa state because an “occasion” demanded that I had to. Nigerians like the word “occasion” the same way Indians like to say the word “enjoy”. If you’ve met an Indian who hasn’t said the phrase -“let’s enjoy”, then you should question his authenticity, generally speaking.
The occasion was for a man who organises scholarships for students of the state’s origin who are underprivileged, yeah, he’s a good man.
My job was to help with the food preparation, as it always is. :-s That explains the big pot of boiling jollof rice. I did more of an assisting role, my aunt did the cooking.
After the “occasion”, I also had the chance to see my grandma because she lives here.
On the way we found a a lake. I asked the warriors to strike a pose and off we went.
Also used the opportunity to see Goodluck Jonathan’s (the Nigerian President’s) house. He owns a mansion in the village before the one where grandma stays, then my dad said “Na so dem go take finish Nigeria money” and we drove off.
Got to grandma’s house, as usual, she was gossiping with friends. She said something about me getting married soon, I smiled at her for saying something so silly. All her friends said things to each other in the Ogbia dialect which I know was about me, because my name popped up in their gossip every then and again. It was a “smile and nod” affair for me.
She lives in front of that river – the last photo.
Anyhoo, it was a fun trip.
Yup! I’m back in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. I’m having mixed feelings about the place but it’ll be fine soon.
Being back is bittersweet. So, I’m gonna do a list of the bitter (cons) and sweets (pros) of coming back.
* I’m growing fat.
* The number of people who have died since I left, is just overwhelming – family friends, neighbours, relatives, everyone has lost a person I knew 4 years ago. 😦
* The cost of having an internet connection is too damn high. 3GB is about N2500. That’s like Rs833.
* Its really difficult to buy things because I keep converting the price to Rupees then back to Naira and make comparisons in my head.
*My dad has the solution to more than half of Nigeria’s political problems. How is this a con? I get to listen and nod in agreement, EVERY SINGLE TIME, because his arguments make sense. :s
*My dish/plate washing and pot scrubbing duties have been re instituted and I have been given full entitlements to anything pertaining to the kitchen, such as cleaning and occasionally cooking . What can I say? Life is pretty awesome.*shrugging my shoulders*
*I have 5 and 9 year old sisters – this means everything I own is theirs.
*I almost forgot the lack of electricity. How funny of me, because the lack of electricity issue is no joke, which leads to the next point.
*Use of noisy generators which make it practically impossible to sleep at night.
*I miss Dal Makhani, butter roti and pickles.
*ALL Bills are on my dad. This probably, is the best thing about everything.
*The washing machine – I missed it so much. It’s the little things 🙂
*The food. The food is just amazing. I’ll do a post specifically for the food I’ve had since I came back.
*The highest temperature so far is 28 degrees celsius. Take that North India! Its been cool all through.
*I get to see my family again 🙂
*No more stares in public, so I’m more comfortable leaving the house.
*Its easier to get my braids done (not an important point for guys, I know).
* The food again, just because its absolutely amazing. I won’t lie.
*I get to see old friends and compare how tall we’ve grown and also occasionally compare boob size.
*Lastly, I met a friend I haven’t seen in 10 whole years. The weird part is she still looks exactly the same except more feminine if you know what I mean.