At first when I began writing this piece for today’s post I never had anything in common so I decided to act upon a particular frame of mind that I once perceived from some folks who had had the culture mix up, somewhat like the hard mixture of garri and sand. It would take some acute and versed knowledge in present day chemical science what is now called chemistry to separate the two solid mixtures of garri and sand. So? Where do I start from?
Sitting across the table at a popular restaurant in the lower part of a well known city in a foreign land, I decided to stay , relax and observe the atmosphere before ordering anything from the waitress, the canteen had so many folks having late night meetings and catch-up’s , I feasted my eyes on the other lady by the door, she was wearing some nice fedora and a silky grey top, her stilettos made some noise that seemed to run into a musical note with her steps, she had the gait and poise of a queen, her flawless delivery of Spanish and Russian was impeccable, I began to wonder if she ever spoke English. From that point, I almost made up my mind to remain calm and just order my drink and head straight home. Then from nowhere, the other stout looking waitress came around, her accent was pure Australian, I kept mute as she came around, gave me a sheer wry smile and waved her hand in humble disposure as is required of well ‘bred waitress, I wondered if this kind of hospitality will be awaiting my much approved arrival in Nigeria, my homeland, my country and my soil. The other guys that came had their hair all done like the careless chaps about to perform on a rock band stand. They last guy had a ponytail while the three other guys beside him had the Mohawk style, but with some attitude to it. The other black guy, did his but left it unkempt, I tried guessing his true Nationality, Senegalese, Ghanaian, Liberian, Malian, well, like my friend would always say, kindly give your thoughts some breathing space whenever your mind runs to the default mode of casting a dice of a guess on someone especially black folks as Nigerian. So I decided to study the atmosphere once more before making my orders. Not because I never had the money but because somehow I would like to network with someone because most folks I saw there, by my instincts were high net worth individuals. Word had it that mortgage bankers and angel investors used to hand out around this place a lot just for the sake of ‘catching up a potential mind. Yeah? That’s what I heard them say “potential minds’. Rather than sit and be bored, I took my attention away from the people who made their entries and exits into the restaurant and went around going through the art works as conspicuously displayed on the wall. By the wall partition , just between the tripod camera stand, beside the wall vertice, was an Egyptian art work, one would not need a rock science degree to figure it out, mere looking at it, I kind of related it to a lot of things happening in our present day economy. Some people were working, while the slave masters were busy looking at the labourers (Slaves) who were at the same time being flogged with long whips!. Some were carrying chips of blocks, others were moulding blocks, while the others were seen mixing and using chisels,hammer and other building materials to do some work. The most amazing thing about the art work was the tip of the building, looking like a pyramid. There was an old technology I saw, it looked like a conveyor belt that was being used to convey the already formed block from the ground to the height of the building. The second art work was most definitely African, more typically Nigerian, It was that of a mother, trying to pass some food item to a baby she had at her back, though there was not much in her plate, I could see a white sold substance in her plate and a red like liquid at base beside the white solid. As a typical Nigerian I was able to get the story together, she was trying to feed her child on the two piece of yam and palm oil she had in her plate! Whao! I was touched, the other art works where that of a leopard, it was oil on canvass painting and was well framed with glass. I wondered how many visitors would be lost in thoughts while they were trying to decipher the meaning of the white solid and the other coloured liquid inside the woman’s plate.
As the other waitress turned to leave, she drove my attention towards some stack of magazines, I checked through the stack more like a haystack, I was inquisitive, I saw the dailies from London England, I saw the Russian Magazines, The French, The wall street Journal and lots more. Frustrated by my insistence of getting an African Magazine, the security guy summoned my attention to the next little room, it was dark, so they made a box for it, there, I found Newspapers and Journals from Africa” because to the whites, Africa was a country, I searched deeper and I found Newswatch, Guardian and Daily times! I checked the Date and it was about 3 years old! How on earth? But the ones I checked in the main ball of the restaurant were a day old! So how come? I became infuriated instantly and asked the security guy why this was so, He replied that African News made their customers sober and forget to entertain themselves. He then led me to the other room where I learnt of African Magazines, Mali, Senegal but the Magazines from South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria and even Guinea were properly left unattended. ThisDay, Guardian, Complete Sports, Daily Independent were all looking marked with biros’ pencils and very big question marks attached to them. I discovered that the guys in charge of Newspaper circulation laid strict rules about News regarding Nigeria, It was then I discovered that being a Nigerian had its sweet bones and bitter pies, the good side and the bad side, the aspect to be proud of and the side you’d like to cover up. The area where you’d lift your head up and the area where you’d cast your head down in poignant gloom, I was completely proud and at the same time mortified. In lighter terms, I was shamefully happy to see that even the Guardian and the Vanguard sections of culture and arts were being photocopied and used as research cases of study by communications, language and economic student majors.When Mr Blakes Morton, an athletic built guy in charge of the newspaper circulation asked of my name, I just told him, Chukwuka, He pushed forward his question, Chukwuka Who? Then there was this slight grin on my face like? *** Who is this dude to request for full disclosure of my name and family name? I then answered reluctantly Ozor, He said Oh! I get it let me guess, you’re Igbo, Delta or Rivers, eh! And then he said “ that’s the part that interests me, snapping his fingers as if to say ‘ Beeni’ or ezioku in Igbo language, he excitedly had this exhilaration written all over him when he mentioned that only Nigerians knew how to make that sound “eh” . He asked me lots of questions about Nigeria, My state of origin and the place of my birth. He poured the second round of Frapiccino. He place his left hand over me, almost in tears, I looked hard at him, just like I’d shouldn’t have done. He began weeping softly, but I wasn’t taking this jokingly So suspiciously, I came closer to him As to how he knew where I came from, he laughed. So hard that I was falling for the cracks from his butt of foolishness, he raised his head, my friend look properly at my face! I lifted my head up, looked hard and left behind the glassy table, avoiding the well lit chandeliers, then some pictures from my childhood began to filter in like a permeable membrane that has been too hard, but felt soft to allow for some fluid to pass through, then I screamed, Tobe! What happened? His accent had changed; His name was Tobe Onengiye Chukwuka, my former classmate at primary three. We fought almost every day over nothing and usually made up during lunch periods, I would be the main beneficiary of his warm gestures but back in the class, the battle line was always drawn. Same way I wept when Tobe’s mum came crying helpless in school over her missing child was what I saw Tobe do. He wept uncontrollably, to be sincere,, he was my cousin. Tobe! Sssssh! Please come this way, No one knows that I’m a Nigerian here, My name is simply Blake Morton, and I’m from New Jersey, An American citizen but left my country when I joined the marines. I’m on some health break so I decided to pick up this part time job. But a major question I had in my mind was, how did he come this far? With tattoos all over his body down to his abdominal parts??? Just as we decide to cut’ some more into espresso. The security guy notified me of my time to leave, my boss had finished his meeting and we were due to leave for Malaysia the next day. I left but with one thing, I pulled my wrist band and my necklace and gave it to him, Tobe filled with tears, left some cards with written stuffs and a handy pack of what I knew was documents and stuffs
Back at the airport, I decide to read through the note, it was his business card, at the back of it, he wrote
At home I may be lost but here I further lost into a strange word that has left me eager for self destruction, I long for home, but the courage to have the faith has withered away, though I ‘might be dead, but I’m not lost. For my spirit woke up when I just saw your face. Foe were two of a kind,.;; I muttered some words of prayer for him as I checked my mobile, his text just came in, I’m getting set to visit you in Malaysia. But another came in again… it read, tell the people home to sell their bananas and garri, for in them lies the secret to greatness. Africa is the world’s dance stage. I nodded my head and opened my apple notebook to re-edit my itineraries. But my psyche was hurt my manliness shrunk in, somehow, the idea began to filter in, “Our citizens renounce” their national identity and become locked in themselves, their fear of the unknown fate that befalls them should incase they begin to own up their true culture, identity and African objectivism and sense of thought. Tears dripped down slowly down my cheeks, gradually We have become, the lost generations
Words, As Told By: Anslem Ozor
Location: Café Maison, Lekki
Date: November 28th 2012.