Now that I look back at my younger youth, (I decided to make this phrase up, as I believe that age is in the mind) I realize how short sight sided and inexperienced I was. Information is key.
We grew up being careful and cautious, being corrected to pronounce every word with complete eloquence and to look and behave well. We were not allowed to mingle too much with the outside world, though we were very well taken care of.
In the 80’s Sesame Street was one of windows to the world. We learnt some Spanish. I will never forget “Salida”. Sesame Street gave us an inkling into what American life was all like. Our Mothers parted our permed hair into two, one pony tail on one side and the other on the other. We looked like those little American girls playing Double Dutch and jump rope (skipping rope). Our parents felt that wearing Ankara for a child was a show of poverty. It was so important to all the parents for the little girls to wear their frilly or lacy dresses with belts behind, tied to perfection with matching Mary Jane shoes (usually black patent) and the little boys had on their smart checkered or plain shirts with shorts or trousers and black or brown shoes to match. We watched Michael Jackson do his thing and all the birthday parties had kiddy copycats backsliding and holding their crotches. The celebrant if he was a boy was made to wear a thick velvet suit which was usually black, burgundy or green with a black bow tie. The celebrant sweated and sweated in his suit, with one hand holding on to the knife to cut his cake and shifting from one leg to the other because the oversized shoes stuffed with Newspaper were a wee bit uncomfortable and in all of this, he maintained a ‘cheese” smile.
It was London here today America tomorrow! It was apparent and still is, that traveling to Obodo Oyinbo was a class thing. My trip to the Calabar Slave Museum has convinced me now more than ever before that it is the slave thing in us that has not died, even after over a hundred years of its abolition. Our Forefathers who had been taken away to plantations in Brazil and other countries came back as “Akata”, telling stories of how exotic Obodo oyinbo was, their accents had changed and their brothers who had been left behind felt unfavored. They sighed as they watched the “Johnny just land” build houses in the style of the Brazilian Portuguese homes, and their fancy sounding names, which till today, we all cling to. I smile as I remember a young woman, proudly re-echoing her surname as something Domingo, as though all who were at the hospital reception area should get on their knees and worship her, I smiled. I remember my Grandmother telling me that a certain family was “new People”. I didn’t know what “new people” was at the time, now I do. An uncle of mine would ask ‘why does every conversation have to be tied to “when I travelled” or “after I came back” or “we where airborne when you tried to reach me”??
Can we not get it? Frantz Fanon said it all with the title of his Book in 1952 “Black Skin, White Mask” How so true! it is so important to be “white and polished”, to be accepted by the wider world, to be Bourgeois, widely travelled and informed and yet the majority quickly throw it all away once they get into their closets and revert to charm wearing, pagan worship, taboo belief, sorcery and wealth by any means.
The difference between us and our forefather slaves is that when they returned home, their source of wealth was traceable to sheer hard work, but when we return from a journey of poverty and finally “arrive” no one cares how it came about.
My Father had left the shores of our country as an 18year old and found his way to Casablanca and eventually to Germany. In Germany he learnt history and Philosophy. He lapped up writings of Ptolemy, Cicero and the rest. He came to his country as an unscripted, unconventional God less person. He strenuously put forth theories of existence and creation based on verifiable fact and was a practical Man. My Mother called him atheist and could not understand why he felt that way. He cared little about worldly things and was only interested in doing good, helping others and living life to the fullest.
As I see Churches springing up like Mushrooms and Shopping Malls, I wonder why in the midst of all this lip service to religion and the one and only Supreme Being, there is so much corruption and evil in our country!
Corruption is a foreign word that has no meaning here. Somebody forgot to tell the outside world that that the word does not even exist in vernacular. When a man regularly beats his wife and ‘settles” his In- Laws handsomely, he is a good man and their Daughter just needs a little more patience!
When a parent ‘takes care’ of his son’s class teacher with regular cash gifts…the parent is a “giver and nice Man or Woman”, when there is a big sign in front of a building saying “No parking” and the driver of a car winds down his window, smiles and says he will “settle”, he is only “empowering” the youths. When area boys block one side of the street to “obtain” contribution for carnival in December, so they can buy decorations, beautify the streets and drink and dance all night long when they have no jobs and no means of survival except to rob others, is that bad??
Is corruption getting a contract of N100m to repair a federal road and using only N10Million to dress up the road because more than 70% of the contract sum is going back to the office that issued as a “Thank you” – is that corruption? or being kind and benevolent?, so that another job comes from the same source?
When street urchins, Agberos and petty thieves “do Ajo” (Ajo –local /informal thrift/savings) for the DPO every day, is that not out of respect –is that corruption? Is it bad when over 2,000 people stuck in traffic look away whilst 2 robbers without guns rob one car after another?
I suppose the bad Government is responsible for all this some would say. The word corruption has no place here, anything goes! I watch with amusement the Pastor shouting strenuously on Sunday and blackmailing the congregation to” give money to get money” and the same pastor going to “Dudu” to collect “Agbara” so that the Church market will “sell” tell me who is fooling who??
Yet another Pastor is given a wowing welcome as his Escalade jeep pulls up on the Church premises, smelling like Gucci and Ralph Lauren, while his members hold up Palm fronds to welcome him shouting ‘Daddy “ Daddy GO ..Welcome ”Some of the congregation are wearing taters, poverty and armpits oozing in the air, they have all contributed their first and last fruits so that before Pastor’s return someone can put the contribution together to buy Diesel for Pastor, so the generator works overnight and so that “Pastor” does not sweat!!!!. Tell me is that corruption as well? Or the sister that refused to perm her hair and wear earrings was caught on tape stealing part of Sunday offering and had done so for over 5 years, because “God helps those who help themselves”?
If indeed there is a God, he is a very patient and merciful God! During prayers, a sister taps my shoulder to ask me where I bought my human hair. Two brothers fight over a plate of Jollof rice at a wake keeping after having cried their eyes out for the deceased they didn’t even know. I am amused again! Why do we bother! These are the things my Father saw and decided to give up on! The Alfaa has been on the praying mat for 21 days fasting and praying for the success of a monumental robbery that will take human lives!
I try to look away from these things and worship God in the best way I can, in my own way and I hope that a revolution builds up in the minds of the younger youth, to change our values, our minds and our filthy pretense! For me I will do what I can, while I can!