Our people, I hate to brag but on December 13, 2007, at exactly 7:51 pm, the Almighty One Above gave me the singular privilege of meeting the president of our own Nigeria, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in God’s Own Country America. Really, yes, I met the man. Our President is a very, very nice man and I now regret saying nasty things about him. Ah, I met our President. He sends his greetings to you peons. The man is a very, very nice man. And very handsome too. Compared to Obasanjo our former president, that is (thank God, good riddance to ugly rubbish!). Actually, come to think of it anyone uglier than Obasanjo should simply go jump off a cliff, who wants to live like that? I can only say that meeting President Yar’Adua was a moment I’ll never forget in my life, to quote his sage words when he himself met with President Bush.
How did I get to meet my good friend President Yar’Adua? Well, I was at work at McDonalds on 13th and U, in Washington DC wondering the wondering, why my checks were bouncing, when my very good friend Professor Bolaji Aluko called me on my cell phone. As you all know, Professor Aluko is a very important man who is always writing big big essays on the Internet that no one reads because people no longer read. Na essay man go chop? Thank God, his essays are easy to find and delete because their titles always start with “STAR” this or “UNSTAR” that as in “UNSTAR Uncouthness – Useless Yeye Ndiigbo Maurice Iwu Has Outdone Aremu Obasanjo Again and Now WHAT is RIBADU going to DO about THIS OUTRAGE Against My Good Friend Atiku because Enquiring Minds Want to Know !”
So Bolaji called me on December 13, 2007 at exactly 9:31 am and the conversation went something like this:
Professor Aluko: Ikhide! It is me!
Me: I know! I have caller-id!
Prof: We are going to see Yar’Adua!
Me: Yar’Adua ke? Which Yar’Adua?
Prof: President Yar’Adua, the President of Nigeria!
Me: Greet him for me!
Prof: [Loud Audible Exasperated Sigh by Long Suffering Professor] I said we are going to see Yar’Adua!
Me: You and who?
Prof: You and I
Me: Me and You?
Prof: No, you and I! Oro p’esi je! Your wahala pass me!
Me: Us? Emi ke? Why me? I have never met a real president before! Why me?
Prof: President Yar’Adua wants to meet important Nigerians. He is meeting President Bush today. After that he wants to meet important Nigerians! I have called all my really important Nigerian friends and they are too busy tonight to see the President. So you have to come with me. I have given the organizers of the event your name and they will email you. Meet me at the Nigerian Chancery in D.C. at exactly 7:30 pm tonight. Ikhide, this is important, please act like a big man when you meet the President, behave yourself, don’t say stupid things like “Why are you sitting on a stolen mandate, Mr. President?” you know how you get when your tongue escapes your mouth!
Me: Okay! What is the dress code?
Prof: [Loud Audible Exasperated Sigh by Long Suffering Professor] Enh? What do you mean, Ikhide?
Me: You know, what is the dress code? Should I wear my McDonalds uniform? I could just go to the embassy from work at McDonalds. 13th and U is close to the embassy…
Prof: You have started again! Wear a suit!
Me: I don’t have a suit!
Prof: What happened to the one I gave you for Christmas in 1995?
Me: Prof, I sent it home last year – my brother needed it for his wedding.
Prof: [Loud Audible Exasperated Sigh by Long Suffering Professor] You sef sef! Oro p’esi je! Ah Ah! Did you not pay the bride price for him? How come he couldn’t buy his own suit?
Me: Ko ye mi O! Di ting pass me! I give am wife e say abeg give me blokos! Don’t worry, I will find something! I think I still have the agbada I used for my traditional wedding in Ewu in 1991!
As soon as Bolaji hung up, I dropped to my knees and THANKED the LORD for friends like Bolaji and for His infinite mercies! Bolaji is easily my best friend. I have known this very nice man for close to twenty years and he has made it a personal goal of his to extricate me from the depths of the grinding poverty that I find myself in America. You really have to meet Bolaji, he is an amazing person. Bolaji is always surrounded by famous people; even his father Professor Sam Aluko is famous. And he is always calling me and saying things like this: “Ikhide! Meet me at my house at exactly 6:30 pm. I want you to meet someone important. And please behave yourself, don’t say anything stupid!” Like a good friend, I always clear my schedule to accommodate Bolaji; thankfully my schedule is always clear so I don’t have to do much schedule clearing. Thanks to Bolaji I have met allegedly famous people like his father, his mother, his wife, Wole Soyinka, Condoleezza Rice (O Condi!) all the Kutis before they traveled to the other “abroad”, Bola Tinubu, Anthony Enahoro, Matto Akindana, well strike Matto’s name off the list, he is a nobody, but you get the gist.
But back to Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The Lord is Good! All the time! Yar’Adua wants to meet ME! President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua wants to meet humble ME! The Lord is Good! All the time! Wow! This is BIG. President Yar’Adua did not ask to meet big big PhDs like you-know-who, no, he wants to meet ME! He did not ask to meet big big writers like you-know-who, no, he wants to meet ME! The Lord is Good! All the time! The Good Lord in his infinite mercies knows that unlike the big big people whose name I have not mentioned, I am a cow with no tail! I need a lot of help! The President must have read my intellectual essays on the Internet and simply said to himself, “this is a man that I must meet!” All this time I have been writing big big essays criticizing Yar’Adua’s government and I had not heard a peep from him! Not a peep! All I would get would be high fives from fellow losers chanting my akwukwo skills! Na praise I go chop? I was hoping against hope that they would call me into Aso Rock someday, perhaps admonish me for screaming at them from the safety of America after which they would then plug my mouth with bush-meat-that-fills-the-mouth. Who nor like better ting? Feed me, I say, there is no udala seed too big for my yansh! The Lord is Good! All the time!
So I set about getting ready for an enchanting evening with my good friend Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. I decided to run home to shave, polish my shoes and tell my wife the good news! As soon as I got into my anikeleja jalopy of a van, I knew that this embarrassment of a van was not going anywhere near the Nigerian embassy, definitely not to see Alhaji Yar’Adua, mba O! First of all, I bought my van used fifteen years ago. Today it now looks like a danfo that has survived many terrible accidents, giving real meaning to the saying No Condition Is Permanent. My van is so old, I don’t remember if it was a Toyota or a Dodge Caravan. I remember that it used to be red. But now, my Iraqi mechanic has kept it miraculously alive by cobbling together several unrelated body parts from whatever vehicle was laying around his shop. One look at my kombi bus and I just knew I was going to take the train to see my good friend Yar’Adua. You never know, after our meeting the President might offer to escort me to my “Fully Loaded, End of Discussion” Mercedes Benz, gulp! Lord have mercy! No, I decided I would park my “coat of many colors” kombi bus at the train station and take the train to see our great president. Insha Allah, if my meeting with Umaru Musa Yar’Adua goes well, that would be the last time my long suffering behind would use a train or a wretched kombi bus!
When I got home, I told my long-suffering wife Mama_di_Girl that I had been invited to meet Yar’Adua, the Great President of Nigeria. She took the news with great grace and dignity. First she broke into tears of joy, fell to her knees, raised her hands to the heavens, thanked God severally, then she rose from her knees and started dancing and singing songs of praise to the Almighty Lord. She thanked God for Bolaji, that great Friend of Friends, she thanked God for Yar’Adua who was going to deliver her from the ravages of a loving marriage albeit one bereft of simple comforts like a real mansion, several chauffeured cars, dozens of house help, and uncountable euros and dollars. A woman can only do so much with mere love, a church rat of a husband and shameless custodian of a biweekly paycheck that barely covers the rent! In her own eloquent words, na love man go chop? Tufiakwa! She just knew that one day God would answer her daily prayers for relief from the tedium of a marriage to a man armed with only sweet mouth but nothing for yansh (that would be me, sigh!). She just knew that one day she would be transported back to the choicest part of Abuja in Nigeria to live a well-deserved life of dignity and luxury with servants for each of our four beautiful children, cooks, two gatemen, one to close the gate, and another to open the gate and so much money we would have to save some in Switzerland. The Lord is good! All the time!
Once Mama_di_Girl calmed down from the news of our impending good fortune, she forbade me to go see my friend Yar’Adua dressed in a yeye agbada. Nonsense, she declared, everybody would show up at the meeting dressed in agbada, how would the great Yar’Adua tell me apart from those losers posing as important Nigerians in the Diaspora? She went into her portmanteau and brought out a spanking new suit complete with the Wal-Mart sales tags that she said she was meaning to give to me as my Christmas present and she said with pride “Wear this one! He will like you once he sees you in this suit!!” I love this woman. I wore the suit but the suit was one size too big so we left the tags on; we would return the suit after my meeting with Yar’Adua, maybe on our way to the airport to go to Nigeria to take up my appointment as Senior Personal Assistant to Somebody Very Important. Mama_di_Girl fretted and fussed over me, did I tell anybody about this good fortune, she worried, you know Nigerians and their witchcraft and their bad belle. I lied and I said no, but I had told Charles, Victor Ehikhamenor, Okwy Okeke, Ogaga Ifowodo, Femi, Saturday, Friday, Monday and Dele, a few friends that I trusted. Mama_di_Girl made me practice my American accent on her. She was not happy about my Nigerian accent. She regretted mightily that I had neglected to take accent reduction classes as she had requested. And she did not forget to remind me of this lapse thusly: “Don’t be going there and speaking gbau gbau as if you swallow pounded yam for breakfast every day! This is why I said we should take accent reduction classes, you never know when you will need to speak like a real American No, you never listen to me, if another woman had suggested the same thing, oya, you will run down there like ogufe to reduce your accent! Listen to how you talk, like a Nigerian! God help us!”
Well, I got to the embassy by Metro and like the African Big Man that I am, I was ushered past security into a big hall like this full of about 300 Nigerians that looked like me. They were all dressed in business suits they had obviously bought from Wal-Mart. The yeye people, not one of them wore “native.” Apparently, they all had the same idea as me; they chose to brand themselves by wearing oyinbo suits. What happened to our heritage? This is an outrage! I did not understand why I was in the same room as 300 other people. There was a deejay playing high life music. There was orishi rishi food in aluminum foil platters and there was an all-you-can-drink cocktail bar. But no Yar’Adua! I could not find Professor Bolaji Aluko, it was so hard to recognize anyone, we all looked alike. I knew this was a mistake. Someone was going to come for me. I kept listening for my name to be called, I kept waiting to be extricated from this mass of yeye losers for my one-on-one meeting with my good friend Yar’Adua. Whossai! The next thing I knew a large man took the microscope and announced that The President of Nigeria was coming into the room. Like magic President Yar’Adua appeared looking small in the middle of a huge posse of rather large men, personal staff assistants, special staff assistants, etcheteram, etcheteram. President Yar’Adua went to the front of the room and we were made to sing Nigeria’s national anthem and then the large man apologized to America because we could not sing America’s national anthem because just like the Nigerian anthem we had just murdered, no one could remember the words to the American national anthem. Apparently, the protocol in diplomatic circles is to sing the American national anthem after our own, something to do with something called colonial mentality. One dude, drunk like a skunk on the embassy’s cheap booze, actually tried to sing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika but was unsuccessful.
Well, I can say this about Yar’Adua. He is a very nice man unlike that yeye former president Aremu Obasanjo. Unlike Obasanjo, Yar’Adua is very presidential, that is the first thing that you notice about him. In the fifteen long minutes he was with me, sorry all 300 of us, he never once dug into his butt with his fingers like Obasanjo would do on National TV. Unlike Obasanjo, he did not pick stock fish and ewedu from his teeth with his fingers and empty the contents on a Personal Staff Assistant’s suit. Unlike yeye Obasanjo, he never once berated any one of us for trying to force business cards on him. Unlike yeye Obasanjo, Yar’Adua actually spoke several complete sentences; apparently he actually attended a real school. And unlike Obasanjo, the man has a lot of sweet mouth, very seductive. With that kind of sweet mouth I am sure he has twelve wives. Listening to him one could die of kwashiorkor and still be grateful to him for his empty promises. He assured us that he actually came to America just so he could be with us very important Nigerians that are doing important things in America! Wow! How nice! He said that life is good in Nigeria and we should come home and enjoy the good life. He said that he has zero tolerance for corruption; Nigeria will soon be a very clean place free of massive election rigging, corruption, armed robbery, nepotism and associated evil isms. He said that Insha Allah, by the year 2020, Nigeria will become a superpower. Double wow! Very nice man! I hope he runs for a third term. Actually, I pray that he becomes our President for life. What a nice man!
I must confess that one thing that Obasanjo is better at than Yar’Adua is that Obasanjo is a very social man. At the end of the 15-minute speech, the deejay that was hired by the embassy (for only 50 million Naira) began to play African Rhythm Messengers’ rendition of Rex Lawson’s Sawale as in “Sa wa sa wa sa wa le! Sa wa sa wa sa wa le! Ashewo!” My people, that is where Obasanjo would just shine. Aremu Obasanjo, the life of the party would have taken off his agbada, stripped down to his torn singlet and taken the floor with the most beautiful woman in the room, usually someone else’s wife. And woe betide the husband if he as much as complains, EFCC Rottweiler Ribadu will be on his sorry ass the next morning. Aremu Obasanjo, Founder of the Nation and Igbefe Specialist would have thrown his sparse dignity to the winds and shown off his stuff right there on the embassy floor. Obasanjo may be ugly but Owambe is his game. Not Musa Yar’Adua, mba O! Instead of dancing with any one of our several willing wives, we were told he had to take leave of us because he was tired, according to his handlers. How rude!
So, I am thinking that after the fifteen-minute speech, my very good friend, Yar’Adua will take me by the hand and lead me upstairs where we will talk about my fortunes, sorry Nigeria’s progress. Mba O. Suddenly one large man took the microscope and announced that Yar’Adua had had a very tough day, what with visiting President Bush, touring the White House, seeing the monuments and visiting a famous McDonald’s at 13th and U. And now the president must go to sleep because, gobe ma rana ni, tomorrow is another day! And the gentle President Yar’Adua, very nice man, agreed with the large man and proceeded to, gasp, leave me behind in that large room full of 300 blue-suited losers. At that point, all hell broke loose. People started throwing their business cards at him, they threw their bodies in front of him, men and women, it was so shameful. I saw married women shaking themselves loose from their loser husbands, throwing themselves at the feet of my friend Yar’Adua and wailing: “Save me! Marry me! There must be space in your private jet! I am tired of suffering in America!!!!” Allah, I am not making this up. Several reputable journalists were there to record this disgraceful episode.
After President Yar’Adua left, I stayed downstairs along with three hundred losers waiting for the call from my good friend Yar’Adua. The call never came. I did eat a lot – the embassy can sure throw a party – anything Nigerian it was there – orishi rishi fish made many ways, with the head staring at you (“Head of State” Heh! Heh! Heh! Heh!) goat meat, all the spare parts of Hagerstown, Maryland beef, moin-moin, ewedu, peppersoup, etchetram etchetram, Heineken and all the cognac you can drink. I did not meet with Yar’Adua one-on-one but I busted the embassy’s food and booze budget. I ate up a storm. And I drank Heineken and cognac like a thirsty fish. The embassy was not impressed with my eating and drinking skills; I saw a security guard taking my pictures. I doubt that I will ever see the inside of that embassy again.
I was not the only one that did not meet with President Yar’Adua. Right after the President left for his beauty sleep, Professor Bolaji Aluko breezed into the embassy fashionably late, poking me in the ribs and asking me the irritating question: “Where Yar’Adua? You see am?” Apparently Bolaji had been downtown at some other meeting with low totem pole types, Jesse Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, Leon Sullivan, Bill Gates…! He saw I was downcast because I did not get to meet with President Yar’Adua and he said, “Come, Ikhide, let’s mingle, I know a lot of important people, I shall introduce you to them. If I say they are important, give them your business card!” So, Bolaji started introducing me to people; he would say, “Ikhide, I want you to meet someone really important, this is the Right Honorable Mr. Monday Goodluck, SAN, PSA, DSP, PhD, CGFN, he is someone important to know, please give him your business card!” And I would gladly hand over my business card. I had to get rid of the Ghana-Must-Go bag of business cards I had brought for the occasion. Across the room, Bolaji spied a handsome dude that looked like me, dressed in an identical suit and smiling nonstop. And Bolaji pointed at him and hissed in my ears, “That is Dr. Sam Amadi over there, yeye man, he is not important! You remember Dr. Sam Amadi on our intellectual list-serve right? You know him; he is the one that always signs his emails as Special Assistant to the Foreign Minister, Director of this and that and Senior Policy Advisor for Nothing Consulting, Blah! Blah! Blah! Oro won p’esi je! Let’s just go over and say hi, but he is not important. Don’t waste your business card on him!” We went over and said Hi to Dr. Amadi. He is a very nice guy, very humble but he did not look important. He looked hungry like me. I did not give him my business card.
– Ikhide R. Ikheloa
Disclaimer: Only 90% of Ikhide’s intervention above was true. I leave you to judge the 10%.
I apologize for not seeing Mr. Umoru Yar’Adua – but we did meet Sam Amadi o!.
Please blame my failure on funny-man Chris Tucker, who was putting a Leon Sullivan Summit dinner audience IN STITCHES about his visit to Nigeria, at about the time that I was supposed to depart for the Nigerian Chancery from a hotel just one mile away from the Nigerian Chancery. I thought that I could swing both events – actually there was some prior statement that Yar’Adua might attend – start the dinner at 6, head for the Nigerian Chancery at 8, and return to the dinner at 9:30, but “African Time” killed the best laid plans.
Here is Tucker,….in my own words to approximate his.
“I went to Nigeria with Andy Young…we visited President Obasanjo on his farm, and so on. Great time… Men, those Nigerians are AGGRESSIVE…As we were driving around, my guide said “Tucker, wind up your car windows, …NOW!” I said, “Why…these Nigerian brothers look friendly!” Wind them up NOW, he said, and I quickly did. Man, it was only in Nigeria that I was forced to give an autograph. One guy came to me and said, “My name is Ikhide…I need your autograph.” I said, “I am in a hurry…” Ikhide said, “I need your autograph Now,…here is a pen, write, “To my friend Ikhide”…I said, “I don’t even know you yet, buddy! Anyway, what is the spelling of Ikhide ?” He said, “You are funny American but you cannot spell Ikhide , I-K-H-I-D-E! So I wrote.”
End Tucker’s words…..
Everybody in the audience was laughing, me too for some time, but I then just started to shake my head, saying “There continues the Nigerian stereotyping…”
Then I left for the Embassy, and met Yar’Adua’s “absence”, as the Nigerian saying goes.
But I met Ikhide, and Sam Amadi, and they made up for it, because I was going to ask him anyway why he said that he would never forget ever meeting Bush.
Na God save am !
I returned to the dinner at 10, to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete’s long speech touting his country, the venue of next year’s Leon Sullivan Africa-African American Summit (June 2-5, 2008 http://www.thesullivansummit.go.tz/programme.asp )
Having a belly-laugh
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