A couple of days ago, the weirdest thing ever happened to me! I say to me, because I personally found it super weird, funny, strange; not because it happened to me per se (it didn’t) but because I simply could not but take it personally. I was affected.
You see, sometimes in life, you just have to relate to people. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask how you would have felt, acted, responded; and be faced with the simple truth that there is still a lot of work to be done in you. You are not that holy yet!
Sometimes, and that is if you’re totally and absolutely true with yourself, you (not I) feel like doing something so radical (in a very bad way), we wonder whether there isn’t something wrong with us (I exclude myself) and whether our souls have truly been saved.
You see, sometimes, being a Christian is a real struggle. I say this because of the roaring lion! He simply will not let me be! Sometimes you just want to have some peace and quiet, some tranquility, some solitude, some rest. But you can’t. Why?
Because you’re in Nigeria!
And so, in the spirit of patriotism, I have decided to speak a bit about that. Not about struggles, challenges, differences. No, not about that at all. Let’s just sit down and talk, gist. Share stories about this “great nation” and its “good people” and well, thank God, as they say..
We’ve all come by signs that read “strictly confidential” or “only for the addressee etc. etc. This is no such post. It is for all eyes and ears and whatever other body-parts could care to get involved. Let’s all just share. Let’s share stories. Stories that are “strictly Nigerian“. And by “strictly” I really do mean “strictly”, in the sense of distinctively; for there are certain things that would and could simply never ever happen anywhere else in the world!
* * *
We Are Seizing Your Passport
If it hadn’t been my Bibi, it would have been yours, or hers, or his. If the victim hadn’t been my friend, it would have been yours (or, again, his or hers). My point is: it would have had to happen to someone else! As a matter of fact, I am more than 100% sure it does happen to people on a regular basis. But note, only in Nigeria!
Excited about travelling back to London, Bibi stood at Murtalla Muhammed’s infamous immigration border, waiting to be let through. They had just made it to the check-in and where late for their flight, as usual. Almost there, she thought, almost there.
But the border, the officers, the wait. Oh, the wait rather than the hope, right? Isn’t that how it usually works when you travel? As a Nigerian, out of Nigeria, with a valid Nigerian passport and a valid British Visa. You stand in the queue, wait for your turn, show them your passport, and simply expect to be let through. But then (and they have still not understood this) they decide to question! They have not yet come to understand the obvious: you question foreigners, not citizens! But anyway, I digress, they started making conversation that went something like this..
Officer: Madam, where are you travelling to?
Bibi: I’m travelling to London, sir.
Officer: Okay. Good for you. So what is your name?
Bibi (looking at the officer inspecting her passport, smiles and answers) Biola
Officer: Sorry, your name is what?
The officer (laughing), Ah ah, say it well now. Open your mouth! Are you not Yoruba?
Bibi: Yes now. Ah, my name is Biola.
Officer: Oh, so your name is Abiola but you can’t pronounce it. Don’t you speak Yoruba?
Bibi: No, not really..
Officer: What? You don’t speak Yoruba and your name is Abiola? All these children of nowadays! In fact, we are seizing your passport!
Bibi (laughing, believing it was nothing to take too seriously. Or at least she was hoping it wasn’t; until they took her to the officer’s office and told her; You are not going anywhere today. You are not travelling. Detained! Was this really happening or was this a joke?) Officer, let me have my passport back please.
It goes without saying, panic arose. Looking at her friend, they both knew they were about to miss their flight if something didn’t happen immediately.
Bibi: Daddy, please come back. You and mommy. This is an emergency! They are detaining me and have taken my passport. Please come.
The parents (arriving almost half an hour later, confused): Excuse us, officer. What exactly is going on? Ah ah, Biola, what happened?
Bibi: Daddy, they seized my passport because they said I can’t speak Yoruba!
Daddy (laughing): What?
Bibi: Can you imagine. This officer took my passport and then brought us to this smelly office, all because they believe I’m supposed to be able to speak Yoruba!
All the officers: HAAAAAA! What? Smelly? You are not going anywhere! You are not travelling! Office, smelly? Haaaaaa! You are calling this office smelly?!
Daddy: Officers, please, don’t mind her. Oya, Biola, apologize.
Biola: For what?
Daddy: Biola, please, just apologize!
Officer: This office, smelly? My office, smelly? You will see whether you are travelling today.
Mommy: Biola, your flight. Please, just apologize.
Biola (now livid): Daddy, I can’t. I won’t. What is this?! They took my passport and are threatening to not let me fly because of what? They don’t even have the power to do that. Abeg, let me have my passport!
Officer: Smelly? You call my office smelly?
Daddy, deciding to sort it and sort them out, sorts. And Biola leaves, with her passport!
Biola: Only in Nigeria..
When recalling this story, she had to do about four times. Four, because I missed everything after “We are ceasing your passport” the first three times. I fainted. Literally, practically, emotionally, physically. I died, and died again. I didn’t want to but it was one of those things “outside my control”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or die again; and so I just did it all, simultaneously, repeatedly. It was too much to bear, to handle, to believe, to accept. Was this story true? But how could it possibly be? Common officers seizing passports because of what? Who gave him what authority?! As in, I’m still trying to come to terms with this, but it was just all sorts of wrong. One of those things you are glad to literally leave behind when you leave Nigeria.. stupidity on a very official level!
* * *
Is This Plantain?
It really wasn’t supposed to be an exciting evening. Just a night out with girls, having dinner while listening to some relaxing music, talk, catch up, laugh. That was all they had expected it to be. No one wanted drama, excitement, adventure. Really, I promise. Just a nice evening out with “le girls”. And so it was; until..
Sayo decided to order a dessert.
A crepe please.
Waiter: What filling, please?
Sayo: Let me have.. ehm.. just banana and maple syrup please. Thanks
Another cocktail and a few minutes later, the dessert appears.
Or so she thought..
Wait. Something’s not right.
Passing the plate to her friend, she chews the first few bites.
Nah. This tastes wrong. Not off, just wrong. Wait..
Questioning her own sanity, she calls the waiter back
Excuse me, I ordered a crepe with banana. What is this?
Waiter: Sorry, ma?
Sayo: This tastes wrong. This tastes like.. like… like plantain.
Waiter: Yes, sorry ma. There were no bananas anymore.
Obviously, at this point, the world and all of existence came to an abrupt end and everything from there on happened in the Afterlife!
As in, a crepe with plantain? No, you guys aren’t understanding me here. Not fried. Not boiled but RAW plantain?! Is this even edible? Is this legal? Raw plantain?
A number of questions, naturally, arose:
- Was this an act of “thinking outside the box”?
- Could this have been the doing of more that ONE person? Did the waiter and the chef actually discuss this and come up with this “great plan” together?
- How does one do this? Replace a banana with a plantain. Do they taste the same? Can they both be eaten raw?
- Is this man married, does he have kids? Would he accept his wife feeding him/them such?
- What else could they have substituted in any or every of their meals?
- And most basic of all: why did he not simply tell me there weren’t any more bananas?
I guess this is what people like terming “taking the initiative”. No, please don’t! I am advising you as a friend. Before taking anything at all, take some application of sense! I don’t even care where you got it from: your mama, your papa, extended family or friends; no, I don’t care, but please take some! Find it and embrace it. Wisdom is key here. It is always and will forever be the principal thing.
Raw plantain, like, really?!
Anyway, I’m sure many of you have some equally strictly Nigerian stories to share (both the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly), please do!