“Who are you…do you know who I am…you bloody fool…arrest him!” (Nigerian Big-man)
There is something about small and narrow-minded people that vexes me. You will find them in great number in the market places, money houses and in the corridor of power with not much of a heart or intellect but with lots of nothingness and vainglory. With their ostentatious display of wealth and power they swoosh to the right and to the left when they walk; or they majestically swirl the lapel of their agbada or call attention to their redcap and walking stick. East or West, North or South, they all have three things in common: haughtiness, roguery, and the propensity to subjugate the common man. These are the big-shots of Nigeria: the mister who-are-you, the don’t-you-know-me kind of guy.
We use to have a whole of them in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kaduna and most big cities — but mostly in Lagos when Lagos was the center of business, social, and political activities. Most of these men were also sugar-daddies who sold dreams, dole out money and comforted legions of young maidens mostly in exchange for sex and wonderment. The sugar-daddies of yesteryears were a different breed of men. They roamed the Nigeria social and marital landscape in the glory days of Nigeria when the Naira was recognized, and life wasn’t this tough and rough and overseas travels, especially to London, Paris, and New York was a source of joy which allows for bragging rights.
I knew of families were both parents heartily welcomed the sugar daddies because (1) he was the primary source of income; and there have cases where the sugar daddies bought homes and or other tangible goods for the family; and (2) in unusual circumstances, sugar daddies have been known to marry their young lovers, or have them as kept-women for a very long time…popping out babies.
Most sugar-daddies were married and were generally in polygamous relationships; but still, they had time for some fine young things. UNILAG, UNIBEN, UNIPORT, ABU, UI and virtually all Nigerian universities and polytechnics and colleges of education were breeding ground and market for such activities. To be sure; there were sugar-mommies too, but I sometimes wonder if sugar-mommies had it as good as their male counterparts. Besides, I wonder how many boys wanted to be known or were proud to be sex-toys. To be 50 or 60 and have a teenager or a 20-something as a trophy; or to be that old and have a playmate the age of your daughter or granddaughter? Damn, it must be a good feeling. Ha, what money can buy! And just this morning I wondered what became to all those girls who welcomed all those men to their bed and hidden treasure? I wonder.
Anyways, that’s a conversation for another time and place, a tête-à-tête between my pals and me. But may be not! May be not! I would imagine that most subsequently went on to become someone else’s second or third wife and are now mothers. Na wa! I am not sure there are abortion data. Come to think of it: Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) tests were virtually unknown or uncommon in those days and so I wonder how many kids ended up in the wrong home or how many fathers got the “wrong” baby.
I also remember that the mid-1970s and the very early 80s was the era of the scripture unionists — the S.U — who were the fore-runner of the born-again movement. So, I am thinking that most of these girls were absorbed, repented and then went on with their lives. It should be a relief to some that we don’t have a Jerry Springer, or a culture of kiss-and-tell, or of salacious autobiographies. You see, Nigerians are good at taking secrets to their graves because they are cognizant of the finger-pointing habit of Nigerians (which in most cases can be worst than public hanging).
Gee, how did I end up here? Oh, I see; I started by talking about power and money-hungry Nigerian men — the snooty, self-centered, and self-aggrandizing kinds. You see, these are not the kind of men you want to mess with. They are vindictive. They have long memories. They are the unforgiving types and needed to be reminded every morning and every night of how central and indispensable they are.
You have to be careful, really careful of how you talk and interact with them. Their egos are so large that their head and upper torso get obscured. They have an exaggerated sense of self and an exaggerated sense of purpose. I have met and know a few who thought God created them before anyone else. You know, the kind that beat their chest signifying “it ain’t easy being me,” or pound the table signifying “who the fuck are you?” and all the while thumbing their nose at you.
You don’t want to offend a Nigerian big-man. You don’t, unless of course you have superior backup and highly-placed friends and relatives to come to your aid. Absent that, you are a giant in your own right. As if you don’t already know this: the Nigerian-big man don’t and won’t take nonsense from small pins like you. Way back then a lot of them lived in Victoria Island and its surrounding and in Ikoyi (when Ikoyi was Ikoyi and still had its mystique). You would also find them in all the GRAs that dotted Lagos. I can also attest to the fact that not all of them lived in the aforementioned places as a lot of power and money-bags also lived in places like Surulere and Ikeja.
Big-shotism has its positive trickle down effects in that their wives and children, and even mistresses and errand-boys and house-helps, do ride on the coattail of such men. There have been instances when Madams have been louder than Ogas. Watch a typical Madam demonstrate her power and influence. And in fact, most of these madams are more vindictive and uppity than their husbands. The older madams usually have their radar on (trying to catch their husbands in the act). I never could understand why they lose sleep over such matters since the society “condones” infidelity and polygamy; and in most cases, the madams never leave.
And how many madams do you suppose has been upstaged by their housemaids — who, until it became public knowledge — were servicing Oga? Moreover, as we all know, Nigeria if full of housewives who were once housemaids. Very good and exceptional houseboys or chauffeurs, as a few of you would attest to, were also known to be servicing their madams. Absent madam, they service Oga’s daughter. In such situations, I apportion no blame on the houseboys or chauffeurs. If anything, these stallions are helping Oga out. How? First, Oga is too busy making money and acquiring power to pay madam the required and necessary love and affection; second, when he takes time off from madam’s constant nagging, madam need someone to attend to her needs; and third, if he is in a polygamous relationship, hey, he needs all the help he can get. Chei, at this point I am thinking DNA…DNA…DNA…DNA…DNA.
By the way: how is the sugar daddy business in today’s Nigeria? Is it still profitable? My suspicion is that Abuja is now the center of activities; and that universities and institutions of higher learning are still in the sugar daddy business.