Life Abroad

Welcome to Nigeria, Aunty

Aunty welcome home
Please watch your steps, we have not had light
In this neighborhood for the past six months
Yes we wallow in darkness and a fetus sees more light
Than this country, everyday is night.
Let me look for the matches and candle
One more stick to the anthill in the corner won’t kill us
Welcome home.

Oh that noise from the back…no it is not a construction site
That is Papa Busola’s generator.

“Is that not adding pollution to the already dead atmosphere?
There is too much tututututu all over Lagos.”

Aunty, you sef! It is only a generator…
You should be worried about the Molue buses
You should be worried about the wharf
You should be choking over the numerous industries
And oil companies that have darkened our once bright sky.

“I am worried about all that, but the sound of all
Of all these generators add up”

OK, aunty I was hoping since you just arrived from America
You would at least help us get one generator too…
But it looks like you are enjoying the darkness
And you don’t mind the blind TV in the corner
Sitting like a deity in a dilapidated shrine
I am sure you do not miss the music of Sunny Ade
So the stereo can remain dumb all day, abi?

“I need to wash my face before I retire to bed.”

Aunty please don’t blister your fine fingers
You can turn the tap knob from today till tomorrow
All it does is hiss and spit at you
No, that too does not work either…the shower is for decoration
You will have to go the old way. Bend down really low
And scoop water over your head from the bucket
It gives you enough time to reminisce over yesterday
Welcome to Nigeria, we are not in a hurry to tomorrow.

Oh my God how could you forget…?
You did not bring toilet roll, is that not the first thing you
Should pack? Now this is funny.
Well, use the good old kettle. Oh yes, it is used by
Everybody. Hygiene…is that a noun or a pronoun?

“Do I have to drink from the same kettle too?”

Oh NO! God forbid. There are a million and one
Cold water sellers in the street of Lagos. Drinking water
Is not our problem at all. When we go out tomorrow
To change the dollars to Naira, we will buy you pure water.

“That smoke is not healthy…”

Sorry, I am not trying to add to your pollution worries
But you just have to light up the mosquito coil
Or else you will have to sleep standing
And dance to the music of the mosquitoes all night.
Why do you have that startled look on your face…?
No no, they don’t cause West Nile Virus
Those are caused by your American mosquitoes
You know Americans like to out do the rest of the world in everything
That drive to excel has bitten the American insects too
Instead of the ordinary malaria caused by the African mosquito
The American mosquito decided on a different disease.
Aunty, but why would they name their disease
After an African river, or is this another hidden agenda
To darken this bright continent? Of course you don’t
Have an answer for that. You carry American passport now
And all of a sudden you don’t have any answer for me.

OK…we will talk about that tomorrow
You look tired.
Yes, please manage the bed, it is not as big
As your king size in Washington.
Is it true you have a water bed? That is funny
The only way you can get a water bed in this part of Lagos
Is if you are drunk and you wet it yourself…hahahaha.
Good night ojare!

Good morning aunty
Hope the mosquito and heat gave you a break…
Don’t worry you will soon get used to it
That is why we always ask the people in America to visit home more often
It reduces the discomfort you’re experiencing now…
I understand aunty; you don’t have to explain…it is always bills! bills!! bills!!!
But you see that is why I say Nigeria is a freer country than America,
I don’t even know where the electric meter is in this house.
I heard one bill collector from NEPA almost got lynched once
For daring to knock on a man’s door asking for payment of
Electricity he did not use.

“That is why you will remain in perpetual darkness
And the taps will continue to mock you with hissing sounds”

Aunty, even if we see the bill and pay
It will still wind up in one man’s central banking pocket…anyway let’s go
Because driving through Lagos traffic is like driving through
A collapsed tunnel.

“What is the long line for, and why are there so many soldiers?”

Ah! That is the petrol line. I guess you call it gas in America
And it flows whenever you need it, right?
Not so in Lagos. Maybe before you left in the seventies.
There is shortage again; you know it is Christmas time.
Yes, we still produce oil
As a matter of fact we pump oil day and night
To make you comfortable in America…
Why are you laughing, it is not funny.
Despite the incessant drainage of oil in Nigeria
We are like a thirsty fish in the belly of the ocean
We are eggs without shell. We are famished in the midst of plenty
Those that have wings have fled this forbidden land
Those that have deep pockets have stolen from the shrine
Those that have iron phallus have raped the water goddess
And our tap shall forever hiss at us like a burning snail.
Thunder has forgotten us
Lightening has abandoned this land
Darkness reigns like a despot king.

“Watch the lights please Mr. Poet.”

What light…you mean those bulbs dangling in mid air.
No, they don’t work. Some contractors got millions for them
We don’t use traffic lights here in Lagos
It is first come first serve basis
We use our common sense to drive
America depends too much on orderliness, it makes life boring.
When everything is so easy and simple
A man becomes a common consumer instead of creative innovator.
And please keep your driver’s license
American driver’s license is to the Nigerian police
What a red rag is to a Spanish bull.

Yes the roads are death traps…
What politicians?
What government?
What governor?
They don’t ply these roads aunty
They fly above us like Aneke the bird
They don’t perch here no more, they have gone to Abuja
So they don’t care…

Aunty I beg, just give them one hundred Naira.
No they are not street poets; they are called “area boys”
Oh yes, they can sing praise songs…but watch
That praise song turn sour if you don’t give them money.
Don’t call them beggars please, that is demeaning.
They are cousins to the armed robbers
And the armed robbers are the senior cousins to the Nigerian police.
Please don’t argue with those three arms of Nigeria government
Whenever you encounter them, and may you not.
Yes they rule this country day and night:
The area boys
The police
And the armed robbers…
I am just teaching you social studies
According to the new millennium.
I told you before we don’t have elected officials
What is it with Americans and elected officials?
We have politicians yes but they are not called elected officials.
You can say that, but don’t call them thieves to their face please
Some of the armed robbers and area boys work for them.
No the police don’t work for the government or the people
They are self employed.
No, not like the American police, these ones in Lagos
Respect white people, they won’t shoot a white man…
But they will shoot a black man
Before they even blink their eyes once.

“Does it mean the black man is fucked anywhere in the world,
Even in his home land?”

Technically, you can put it like that.

“I want to go to the village tomorrow”

Are you tired of Lagos already?
Anyway no problem, hopefully we will be able to get some petrol
From the black market tomorrow.
Aunty do you have black markets in America
Where you can buy gas? Would they still call it black market
Even when the sellers are whit

es…I guess
If they can name a foreign disease after River Nile
Why not call an illegal market black?

Oh sorry, I did not know you were taking a nap
Is it the jet lag or the heat?

Aunty open your eyes, we are in Oshodi
What do you mean…no they are not locusts
They are human beings doing their daily business…
The human congestion is the beauty of Oshodi…
Watch the free fights; it is not like your pay per view
Buy your medication on the streets, you don’t need a prescription
Watch the swinging motion of the horse whip
On the ordinary man’s back like a slave…
Listen to the poetry of the bus conductors
Listen to the chant of the street beggars
Watch your brother survive on the sale of rat poisons
Watch your sister pay her rent from the sale of oranges
Watch your father pay school fees from the sale of coat hangers
Watch your mother feed her nine children from the sale of roasted plantain
Welcome to Oshodi, the combo of life!
The behemoth of survival
The land of the ordinary and extra ordinary man.

“Is that man an armed robber?”

No aunty, he is probably just an ordinary bus driver
An armed robber would not stand by to be whipped
By an ordinary soldier.
Welcome home, aunty.
Tomorrow we shall go to the village.

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