Monday, August 13, 2007

Dispatches from Lagos

Yesterday (Sunday) Night I was walking along Idejo Street, Victoria Island, at around 8.30 when I saw this drama:

A taxi takes off a few metres ahead of me. Then this mobile policeman (apparently one of those attached to IBTC-Chartered bank) emerges from the darkness and tries to stop the taxi. He hits his gun on the bonnet and barks at the driver to stop. The driver picks up speed and leaves the cop behind. The enraged cop lifts his gun, cocks it and points at the speeding taxi, all the while running after it and barking angrily. I stand transfixed, a cauldron of terror and excitement. The taxi driver eventually slows down metres ahead, and parks. The mobile policeman throws himself upon the taxi, gun cocked and aimed, and orders the occupants to come out. From where I am standing I see the driver and his sole occupant come out, hands raised in surrender. The cop ignores the driver (most taxi drivers in Lagos are harmless, tribal-marked, elderly men from Ibadan – slight exaggeration) and seizes the passenger. The prisoner-of-war, hands in the air, is kicked to the security post by the cop, who then proceeds to assault him. The POW is very terrified, and is pleading. Of course by now a crowd has gathered.
I wonder what exactly he must have done? Did he attempt to rob the bank?
The taxi had an Oyo State Number – XA 997 SHK.

Yesterday Night, in an Ogba-bound danfo (yes, I take those contraptions) a woman sitting in the row in front of me had her NOKIA phone bound up in a knot in the hem of her wrapper, in the manner of Yoruba market women who tie up their money in knots which they expertly untie every time they need to add more money or give a customer change.

She removed it to take a call from someone whose “caller ID” read SERIKI’S MUM.
The woman with the phone in a knot must have sensed that I was intrigued. She turned back to smile and tell me why she knotted-up her phone. It was a way of safeguarding it, especially as she was carrying too many things. I quite understand. Phones are the easiest things to misplace.

The guy next to me also took a call. From someone with caller ID: Bro Gbenga.

Sometimes I like to imagine and create lives for these strangers at the other ends of telephone conversations in buses. At the motor park in Ogba a woman came to a business centre to call someone called SUNKANMI. She spoke for less than 10 seconds. She only wanted to ask a question: had Sunkanmi helped deliver a message? Yes. Thanks. Bye-bye. She paid 20 naira.

Sometimes I like to imagine and create lives for these strangers at the other ends of telephone conversations in buses. These Seriki’s Mums and Bro Gbengas and Sunkanmis. Their hopes, their fears, their secrets, their sex lives or the lack of it, their eating habits...

Coining Words – over the weekend, a couple of friends and I, over fish barbecue and Smirnoff Ices at Kuramo Beach, coined a new terminology for "masturbation" (pronounced MAH - STORE - BAY - SHEUN):


Synonyms: Self-Mutilation, Self-help, Self-study

PS> NaijaBlog has a post HERE on the dangers of the unspeakable act.

How Nigeria works. Nigeria is a deadly virus. It infects victims and attacks the cells in the human soul that produce a sense of wonder and a capacity to be surprised and astounded. That is what Nigeria does. A few days/weeks/months/years (doesn’t matter, all those times are the same; a thousand weeks is as one hour is as one million months) after infection, victims progressively lose the following:

which is why just a few years after Abacha, we were clamoring for another Eternal President. Him only the cap fitteth; him only the key that unlocketh our national destiny.

Nothing shocks us anymore:

- dead bodies on our streets, bloated and torn to pieces by speeding cars

- armed robbers who invade a neighbourhood and for FOUR hours go from house to house, raping, killing, maiming, emptying...

- Police who go around arresting every arrestable thing:
“improperly”-dressed men and women,

which are all eventually "bailed" without receipts.

- Universities that refuse to give certificates to graduates who have successfully completed their course of study but have contracted HIV/AIDS or failed pregnancy tests.

- Police Inspector Generals whose capacity and talent for stealing would make armed robbers envious...