The “Oyinbo” Man and His Egusi Soup…

My people, what can I say? I know I have been away for a long time and I am sorry. I shall explain myself soon and allow you all to decide what do with me, but until then I think you really want to know what went down with this egusi soup.

So on this day, I was minding my business at work, willing time to move faster so I could get home and watch Empire, when a couple of people walked into the restaurant, a Nigerian and an American. I greeted them both and sat them at their respective tables. I handed the Nigerian a menu and as I was about to hand one to the American he smiled and said “no, I know what I want.” I was intrigued and I raised my pen prepared to write down an order of maybe curried chicken with some sautéed collard greens and all those things they like to eat, but to my utmost surprise, the man said he would like pounded yam, egusi soup and goat meat. I did not do a good job of hiding my expression of shock because he noticed and explained to me that he liked okra and ogbono as well, but he was in the mood for some spicy  egusi. Now, it is important to note that this guy, even with his accent pronounced egusi and ogbono to the best of his ability. I turned his order in and proceeded to the Nigerian.

When I got to the Nigerian, she was on the phone so I took a couple of steps backwards to give her some privacy but I could hear her conversation. “nnaa forget that man, oche na mu na ya bu ogbo?” were some of the key phrases I could catch. Eventually she finished with her call and I walked back over. She kept flipping the menu and asking me what was good on the it. It became a struggle for me not to laugh because her accent was a like a big bowl of soup. It had some Igbo in there, smithereens of old Britain and an American accent as well. She got to the list of soups and almost bit her tongue trying to not to pronounce the soups properly. Her: ogbo, ogb…, me: oh!, you mean ogbono soup? Yes we have it. I helped her stumble through the soups until she finally decided on jollof rice. It was with sheer self control that I made it to the kitchen before bursting out in to laughter. Why do Nigerians in the diaspora like to form? Anyway the egusi was ready and it was with joy that I watched this Oyinbo man wash his hands, and consume his food without leaving a scrap behind.

He commended the chef on the lovely meal, tipped generously and told me that he would be back. My Nigerian sister on the other hand, eventually gave up the struggle to use her fork and knife to eat her rice, and switched back to the spoon with which she was raised. She barely finished her meal, didn’t tip and sauntered away in her six inches.

What struck me and keeps striking me since I have been here is this. some of the Nigerians I meet,work so hard to leave their culture behind, to shed anything that associates them with home and act as though they have been Americans all their lives. I have even met a couple of them that have sworn never to return to the mother land again, even in death. Meanwhile some of these Americans are sincerely intrigued by our culture and want to know about us. When they come to eat, it’s almost lecture time because they want to know what tribe certain foods originated from, how we plant etc.

Nigeria will always be my home, its the root from where I sprouted, I don’t know why some of us are so eager to forget. Then again to each man his own.

“You need a village, if only for the pleasure of leaving it. A village means that you are not alone, knowing that in the people, the trees, the earth, there is something that belongs to you, waiting for you when you are not there.” –Casare Pavese

Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea..

In a couple of days the fate of Nigeria my beloved country, will be sealed for the next four or possibly eight years to come. I have religiously followed the news and all the current happenings in Nigeria as much as I can and of all the feelings I have felt about the happenings, the prevalent of them is fear. Fear because of the two top contenders, I think that we are indeed trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea.

GEJ and GMB as they are fondly referred to, instill fear and uncertainty in me because left in their hands I know not where my beloved country is headed. Sadly there is a dearth of worthy contenders that can come forth, take this monstrosity that is corruption in Nigeria and decimate it for good. Where are our “future leaders” ??? since I was a child I have always been told that we were the leaders of tomorrow. Will tomorrow ever come? might the future leaders be lost in Nollywood? or the music industry? I know not.

Nigeria has robbed me of so many things, too numerous to mention. The joke that is our health system has robbed me of my father’s health. A simple surgery that would have helped him walk again was botched hence he cannot walk like he should, my grandma, two of my aunts, my pregnant friend and a couple of my close friends have been sent to their early graves because there is no such thing as speedy help in time of health emergencies/ accidents. Growing up, Nigeria robbed me and many other children both in my time and today of so many basic amenities that no child should be denied of. If the roads had been fixed like they ought to have been, I would not have had to waddle in still waters and often times mud on my way to school because it rained a day before.

I could go on and on about all the things that Nigeria has robbed me of, but can I really blame Nigeria? Nigeria is rich, really rich, wealthy in fact  she is just poorly led, poorly managed and so its no wonder she is what she is today. While its easy to blame our leaders and bemoan the fate that has befallen us, let us and by us I mean you and I, kindly accept our portion of the blame because we are Nigeria. You who sits on the BRT bus and decorates the floor of the buses  with gala and pure water packs, you who flings banana peels and used recharge cards from your moving car, you that sends off your under age child to go and hawk on major express ways, shall I remind those of you that haven’t paid your PHCN bills in years, and have no qualms with joining wires and tapping electric currents from street to street, or you that makes it a daily habit to dispose of oil and all sorts of garbage into the drainage? We are all to blame in one way or another. The change we so desperately seek can only start from our own little corners, the government cannot do everything for us.

Having said my piece, I sincerely feel that we are trapped between the two Gs, literally between the devil and the deep blue sea,  and all I can say at this point is let the best man win, as long as the girls come home, Naira becomes less of a joke that it is as of now, and the senseless killings stop, I will make my peace with who ever gets elected or reelected as the case may be.

“You must be the change that you wish to see in the world”.- Mahatma Gandhi

Tunnel Vision As Written By Lekan Olaifa…

A good friend of mine wrote this and I found it so enlightening, trust me when I say it is a worthy read, enjoy!

Tunnel Vision

I cannot think of a better a time to write this note than now,because I read yesterday that the price of crude oil has dipped to an all-time low of below $50/barrel. And the naira has been forecast to exchange for N202 to $1 this New Year.

It is believed that the book “Things Fall Apart” was inspired by true events; the truth is that all books are inspired by true events; they just become a different story after passing through the mind of the author. But “Things Fall Apart” is said to have been a story that really happened and thankfully for our benefit, it was well told. Okonkwo a.k.a.Amalinze the cat was a man among men, he farmed the best yams in his village,he had a seat among the elders, and he was revered by everyone in the entire province. But none of these great things defined him, he was defined by only one factor; his impetuous, his reason for living was only that “Okonkwo will not become like his father – Unoka”. Unoka was a joke, his wives laughed at him, and the villagers reviled him, why? He could not farm yams – the crop of men, he was not macho enough – he feared the sight of blood, he couldn’t take care of his children and he owed everyone. Okonkwo’s entire life was based on not repeating his father’s mistake(s), what was that mistake? Now, this is the point to pay attention, so you don’t think I am endorsing Unoka’s life when viewed through the lens of irresponsibility. I am only trying to make a point.Unoka’s only mistake was that he lived before his time, in other words, he was not trendy. He was not doing the things that were generally acceptable at the time and that earned him poverty and widespread contempt.

Unoka according to this great book was very gifted at playing the flute. Imagine a man of Unoka’s traits living in our world today; dainty,musically inclined, and effeminate; he’ll be on the cover of all the magazines,he’ll be labelled with terms like sapiosexual, metrosexual, and uber-cool. If this is interesting, imagine if Unoka had lived in the same time he lived, but in Europe, and he was known as very talented with the flute, but he’d probably be a Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, or Unoca if his name was gentrified. But, we rejected him with every gift in him; I just hope that Lagbaja or Pastor Aremu came back with those gifts.

Everyone is quick to point fingers at the successive governments that have not diversified our economic portfolio as a nation. But the truth is that this applies to all of us, it is a progressive culture and mindset, not a singular action, or a periodic anomaly. This applies to all the parents who insist that their children must toe only a particular line of study, to all the girls who will only date the guys that work in oil companies,to all the people who will strive relentlessly to work in banks, to enter into Nollywood, and to open up a church. To all those who believe that success is impossible except beyond the shores of Nigeria, to all who believe that the fountain of well-being is flowing only in Lagos, to all who think that they have to hold political office to be wealthy, and to all the innumerable examples of those who believe only in farming the crops of men.

We don’t know if Unoka believed in yams, or maybe he was just innately unable to excel at farming. He played his flute and survived on borrowed funds, he pursued or remained who he was but he could not make it in a society that regarded him as unworthy. On the other hand, Okonkwo proceeded on the accepted path at the time, and gained the admiration and respect of the people; the worthless feelings that turned him into a stone. He killed Ikemefuna because he never wanted to appear weak (like Unoka), which would have made him lose the respect of the people, something he worked for all his life –his reason for living. More than anything, this note applies to that society that has misplaced its values, that rigid society that appreciates and accepts only those who farm the crops of men. If Unoka had been accepted and perhaps celebrated, if he had a few students learning the flute, playing soothing music to the wrestlers, warriors, and dancers, a new channel of wealth and learning would have been created. And definitely, Okonkwo would have felt much less pressure, he would have lived a full life, he would have considered that Ikemefuna called him father and spared his life. He would not have despised and condemned Nwoye. He would have farmed some, wrestled some, laughed some, and danced to his father’s flute. So, for all of you who respect only those who farm the crops of men, and despise the dignity of those who play the flute,this note is for you. If you change, the economy will be diversified, men will stop killing each other over political offices, there will be fewer aristos,Lagos will be more livable, other cities will develop, and peace will pervade the land. After all, people mostly gravitate towards what is generally accepted.

Of course, I have to acknowledge that in Umuofia of the“Things Fall Apart” days, the yam farmer would have been more prosperous than a flute player. Just the same way a senator would have been more prosperous than a musician in the heydays of the Roman Empire. In the end, money drives the traffic, money drives our traffic. Yes, ninety-nine percent of these decisions are made for money. If this makes you feel funny, that’s your nobler nature getting nudged. And it’s time to answer some questions, if you don’t feel anyhow, it does not mean there is no nobility in you, you may just be more honest or more aware. Either way, let’s answer the questions; can we respect anything other than money? Can a well-behaved, conscientious, and consistent human being who has a not too lucrative job command our respect? Or, since people always look for that which they do not have, and we are largely a resource challenged society. If we must pursue money by all means, can we find other ways of making the money? Rather than everyone trying to knock on the same doors and doing anything possible to get through those doors.

If we respect money less, newer channels will open up and we will all be better for it. The irony of following the traffic is that the traffic moves. My parents told me how actors and actresses used to be looked down on in their days, not anymore. Just stay where you are and pursue your dreams, you’ll be alright. But, more importantly, respect the trend less,respect money less, give due respect to those who play the flute – they are the future. And for you, as an individual, insulate yourself from the pressure,there are too many examples that show us that it is worthless to succumb to it– it is like chasing after the wind. I once read a quote “there is no limit to what a man can achieve, if he does not care who gets the credit”, for me I’d say “there is no limit to what a man can achieve, if he does not care if the ball drops”. Ultimately, the first quote is true, but I believe the second to be truer. Those who do anything and everything to appear like they have it altogether to the society are the ones who eventually do the unthinkable. Be ready to lose some and win some, understand that there will always be richer and poorer people, and that it’s okay to rise and fall. Know that the value of your pocket is not the value of you, and you’ll be amazed at the possibilities.

So I’ll not be guilty of some form of plagiarism, I have to acknowledge Pastor Bankie (www.kwm.com.ng)who brought clarity to the thoughts in my mind.