Essays From Exile: Nigeria By Air! Who Wan Die?

by Ikhide R. Ikheloa (Nnamdi)

Our People:

I am thinking of going home to visit my parents in Nigeria. This time, I am not flying the unfriendly skies of Nigeria; I am walking home! Yep, I am walking home, all the way from America, who wan die? I can’t fly home anyway, even if I wanted to (I don’t want to!). There are no planes willing to take me home to Nigeria from America. You see, it is now enshrined in the US Constitution: Any American plane that can remain in the air unassisted for more than five minutes is forbidden from flying anywhere near Nigeria’s “airports.” I exaggerate only slightly.

So, I will be walking home soon to Nigeria. I am going home to be rich. I am not talking of going home to land contracts that I will never execute. Nope, I am going home to be a seer, a soothsayer, a herbalist, a babalawo. I need the money to pay my credit card bills in America. Enh? you ask! Well, it is like this. Since the fiery crash of two airplanes within two months in Nigeria, babalawos have become suddenly hot commodities. Nigerians consult them before climbing aboard the death traps that call themselves planes in Nigeria. Babalawos? you ask! Yes, we have babalawos that cause rains to water our farms; we have babalawos that prevent rains from ruining our owambe parties. And we have Babalawos that prevent us from advancing in our chosen profession, Enh? you ask, yet again! This is very true. Nigerian Police officers who man lucrative “road blocks” or extortion checkpoints have been known to routinely hire the services of babalawos to prevent their enemies er supervisors from “promoting” them to dead end, honest desk jobs where they would be denied the right to extort money from hapless motorists! The thought of living on one’s hard earned salary is enough to generate a heart attack! Who wants to live like that? And now we have babalawos who are paid to keep planes afloat in our airspace. Our ministers use their services regularly.

Our ministers employ babalawos to ward off all sorts of misfortune, including being summarily fired by our president. You see, whenever our president makes a mistake, which is often, he fires a minister. Since our president is fond of making mistakes, the job of a minister is a very stressful one. In fact it is a well kept secret that every minister upon appointment immediately submits an advance signed copy of his “letter of resignation” to the president. That way the minister gets to learn of his or her “resignation” on television and avoid the trouble of actually remembering to “resign” when that time comes to atone for our Head of State’s mistake. Indeed there have been a few cases of ministers protesting loudly on television that they were blissfully unaware that they had just “resigned” their plum ministerial appointments. Most astute ministers try to ward off the harmful effect of this “resignation” by stealing their ministries blind just in case they become unemployed. It is a stressful job, being a minister. Add this stress to that of surviving air crashes and a minister is a heart attack waiting to happen. A minister can survive the humiliation of hearing of his sack on national television, but a plane crash is a whole another story. So ministers have three babalawos each. It is written into their ministerial contract. Every minister has three babalawos. Except those two super ministers who shall remain unnamed who are paid in US dollars. They get twelve babalawos each! And for good reason. You see, these two Americana ministers (including one woman) are deeply resented in Nigeria. So they need all the help they can get to survive the jealous stares of their colleagues.

So every regular minister gets three babalawos. Since ministers love to travel abroad to deposit huge sums of stolen money in their personal accounts in Europe and North America, these babalawos are instrumental in assuring that our fearless leaders survive the harrowing ordeal of air travel to and from Nigeria. One babalawo prays for a successful takeoff; another stays inside the plane to ward off all attempts by the minister’s enemies to keep the airplane from staying afloat; and the third babalawo stays under a mango tree at the “airport” in order to ensure a successful landing. The third babalawo’s mission statement is “What goes up must come down on its own terms, insha Allah!” The babalawos get a hefty commission for every trip that ends safely. In Nigeria, a safe landing is the closest thing to a miracle. Babalawos even have a labor union in Nigeria and they are constantly negotiating for improved conditions in the workplace. They tend to get whatever they ask for, who wan die? They do prefer payment in foreign currency and refer to the Naira as good only for wrapping moinmoin.

Our “airports” tend to lack functioning air traffic control systems. Who needs them? Our babalawos are stationed under mango trees at every “airport” ready to catch any plane falling from the skies. Yep, we have babalawos doing duty in all our “airports” and they use smoke signals to guide our planes away from evil. Smoke signals? That is okay; you see, our planes were built before planes became viable means of commercial transportation and they would not understand instructions emanating from computers and literate human beings. No need to confuse our pilots with modern technology. I put the “airport” in quotes because the white man has refused to recognize our airports as real airports because the babalawos’ cows also use the “airport” tarmac as grazing grounds. Enh? you ask again! You see, in real life, our babalawos raise cattle for a real living and in between waiting for planes to crash, er land, they allow their cattle to feed off the grass growing inside the fertile man-made craters on the “tarmac.” Accidents have been known to happen because well, planes don’t like to collide with grazing cows. The cows do not like it either and so accidents happen often. But not to worry, our Minister for Aviation is right: These are random acts of an unforgiving God! I agree with the honorable minister; our last democratic elections were a random act of an indifferent God. All the winners of that election should be shot. Today. I am joking of course. I think I am joking. Of course.

Air travel in Nigeria falls in the category of “Do Not Even Think of Trying This Foolishness At Home.” To tell the truth, globally, air travel is no longer what it used to be ever since 9-11 when terrorists from the Middle East decided that they want me dead. Okay, okay, I am guilty of generalization about terrorists from the Middle East. Let me rephrase my assertion, to say that only 100% of Middle East terrorists do not want to see me dead. The other 100% would like to do worse to me! What is worse than death? I don’t know, our friends from Saudi Arabia would know! They are experts at making us miserable. I am sure they can come up with something!

You will notice that my statements are nuanced; I may be drunk but I am not stupid. I don’t want some yeye people to pronounce a fatwa on my innocent head, who wants to die? I tell you, our people, this political correctness business is getting out of hand. You know, a few months ago, I was returning from a conference in South Africa, some conference with the pretentious title: “Aflatoxin levels in Chicken Nuggets that have been left Uneaten for Several Days in America.” First of all, I did not need to go to South Africa to know that there are no Aflatoxin levels in chicken nuggets that have been left uneaten for several days in America. Because there are no chicken nuggets that have been left uneaten in America. Not even for a minute. Americans eat everything that is not welded down. Anyway, I went and I don’t remember much of the conference because I found out that Johannesburg is the happening place if you really want to soak your liver in booze… At the end of the conference, coming back home to America, I boarded this plane in Amsterdam. I had just strapped myself to my seat, as a prelude to drinking myself to sleep when this yeye hostess’s voice came on to the loudspeaker like this:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, two Kuwaitis with boarding passes have failed to board this aircraft after checking in their luggage. Please allow fifteen minutes for our flight crew to try to identify their luggage and remove them from the plane.”

Jesus wept! As a trained journalist, I asked myself the following profound questions:

1. Enh?

2. Why me?

3. Why not my enemies?

4. Why O why are Kuwaitis traveling in the same plane with me?

5. Are there any other Arabs traveling with me on this plane?

You see, na my turn Form Five dey wear knicker! My enemies go to conferences every day like farmers going to their farms; you do not see terrorists “forgetting” their luggage in their planes. The only one opportunity that I get to enjoy myself, those yeye people want to blow me up. I don’t know about you guys; I am not in a hurry to die. I am enjoying life, I don’t want to die! Not even the pope who already is guaranteed a mansion in heaven was willing to die. That poor man died in installments! The man must know something, otherwise why was he extremely reluctant to go ride his popemobile in heaven? So why should I allow these thugs to kill me? I immediately swung into action. I rushed to the front of the plane with several ex-liberals who had now become flaming asshole conservatives (it is amazing how your views change when your life is at stake! Racial profiling my behind! Who wan die???) and we all demanded to be taken off the plane immediately. I assured the racist oyinbo flight crew people that if they did not get me off the plane… Well to cut a long story short, we finally flew without said terrorist luggage. Unfortunately the racist airline crew would not adopt my suggestion, which was to take out EVERY luggage and passenger and fly me alone to Washington DC. I bet if it was a white man making such a reasonable request, it would have been granted… Man until that experience, I did not know that I could be so religious. From Amsterdam to Washington DC, that plane became a veritable temple of unnecessary eye service to the Lord Jesus Christ. Man, I praise worshipped so much even Jesus Christ called me to beg me to tone down the eye service a bit.

I tell you, the people that scare me the most are not the terrorists; rather it is the liberals in our midst. They won’t let George Bush protect my life. I understand that George Bush is in trouble for authorizing spies to spy on my enemies. Unbelievable. I am shocked that Mr. Bush is just now getting around to protecting my life. All this time, my enemies have been plotting my demise and President Bush has neglected to spy on these losers because that is somehow against the law, Huh! His sorry behind should be hauled before congress for dereliction of duty! Our liberals are always prattling on about civil liberties, no Patriot Act, prattle, prattle, prattle. If you try to protect yourself, they call you names! I was boarding the Metro train the other day and this young man came to sit by me. I noticed that he had prayer beads with him, and his head was wrapped and he had a long dress on and he was bearded and he had a backpack and he was in the habit of chanting Allah wa Akhbar! So just to be friendly I started asking him simple questions, you know, just to be friendly, questions like:

Why are you not clean shaven?

Are you from Saudi Arabia?

Are you from Kuwait?

Iraq nko?

Do you know any of those assholes that killed all those beautiful people on 9/11?

What is your name?

What is in your backpack, is it a bomb, are you going to kill all of us??

Do you know, this social retard called the police and I was almost arrested for disturbing the peace?

Yep, Nigeria is on my mind and I am going to do something about it. I am walking home to Nigeria. Pray for me. I have a sneaky feeling that I will be back. Until we meet again, I offer you this prayer I found somewhere:

Lord, grant us the

serenity to accept the

things we cannot change,

the courage to change

the things we can and

the wisdom to hide the

bodies of those people


had to kill because

they p*ssed us off.

Yep, I believe in prayers. Yes, there are times when a good prayer saves you from doing something terrible to yourself and/or others. You should know. You voted for our president!

I present you three fine examples of stressful situations that require the power of prayers. We shall call them Maalox moments. Or Milk of Magnesia moments if you are new to America and still refer to the bathroom as latrine!

A) It is wintertime and you are in Australia, far from kpomo, roun’about and shaki. Everything is oyinbo food. Even the Heineken tastes different. The madam is expecting a baby – glorious event. It is 2:00 a.m. and you are snoring away after 12 hours hard labor at the salt mines of the outback. Madam wakes you up with several blows to your solar plexus. She is suffering from what oyinbo people call a “craving.” She has a reasonable request:

“Honey! Honey! Wake up! I have a craving for roasted plantain, roasted with real wood O, and dipped in red palm oil and I want to wash it down with Maltex!” She breaks down in tears when you gently explain that a) this is 2:00 a.m. in the morning b) this is Australia and c) no one sells boli in Australia at 2:00 a.m., certainly not with Maltex. This Maalox moment deserves a prayer.

B) You are in Alaska and of course it is freezing. Your place of work is one hour away by reindeer and you have 5 minutes to get to work to give that important presentation on “Revenue Projections from Exporting Snow to Nigeria”. For the past one hour you have been dressing up your daughter in several layers of assorted astronaut and Eskimo clothing. Phew! Done! You strap her unto the reindeer sled for the trip to the baby sitter. She looks up at you and ever so sweetly, she coos:

“Daddy! Daddy! I have to use the bathroom! Now!!!”

This Maalox moment deserves a prayer.

C) It is 2:00 a.m. You have just dragged your funky old tired, definitely-not-in-the-mood-for-sex body from McDonalds where for the past 14 hours you have been serving thousands of “metabolically challenged” Americans large quantities of hamburgers, fries and diet cokes. All this for 50 cents/hour after taxes and your credit card bills. You have just taken a shower and the clown you married based on a colored photograph he took of himself posing by someone else’s Cadillac, your husband Mazi Heineken Breath, is lying in bed suggestively waiting for you. He is hungry for you; he has that “man must chop” look in his eyes. And he asks that romantic question that says it all.

“Mama bomboy, you don bath?”

He wants “some.” At 2:00 a.m.! Over your dead body.

This Maalox moment deserves a prayer!

O Beautiful People, Happy New Year! May your creditors forget to mail you your bills this month! You need a break! Amen!

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Anonymous February 13, 2006 - 8:48 am

good one

Anonymous February 10, 2006 - 4:33 pm

Excellent…Hilarious!!!! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha HA!!!!!!! Oh Oh Oh./…wait I must stop laughing first. Chaaaaiiii, nna na wa oh…. you certainly know how to put it together. Thanks for helping us not go completely crazy this side of the Atlantic.

Anonymous January 16, 2006 - 1:59 pm

Ma bros eh! Omo this article funny no be small..I have had it opened for days without reading now I dont regret it. Omo u go do comedy jam


Anonymous January 14, 2006 - 1:26 pm

Funny and entertaining. Creative and I think a socio-political satire

Anonymous January 14, 2006 - 12:27 pm

Funny and full of allegories. Thanks for this funning way of looking at Nigeria's monomental problems. Your method is very distinct and effective.

Anonymous January 14, 2006 - 9:39 am

O boy, e be like you sef go need babalawo after you trek go Naija. You are god.

Anonymous January 13, 2006 - 5:45 pm

solid article

Anonymous January 13, 2006 - 5:21 pm

Nna you go get me fired O! I laughed and laughed till I cried. Funny.


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