COVID-19 and Nigeria

Not being somebody who really follows the news, I first heard about Coronavirus sometime in February. I was scrolling though Instagram and I saw a post about a deadly disease killing people in China and I read it with the distracted air that I read about a war in Iran or something else Putin did. It seemed so far away, and to be honest, it still does. 

And then it started spreading, South Korea, Italy, Nigerians still weren’t concerned, instead, like we do about everything, we started making memes and joking about it. The older people started praying for ‘those countries that have that disease’. 

Then finally, after a long trip, Coronavirus arrived in Lagos and then a short spell of panic rippled through the Nation. What were we going to do?? We are a country of over two hundred million people; Lagos alone with about 20 million and our healthcare system was bad enough without a pandemic on our hands. Stores ran out of hand-sanitiser, some people started wearing face masks, all sorts of stories started circulating; a man claimed to be the Uber driver that picked the Italian up from the airport, some people claimed many other people had gotten the virus. It was going to be the end.

Quite surprisingly, the government swooped in and managed everything quite efficiently. They began contact-tracing, and soon they had the one hundred plus people who came in contact with the index case quarantined. They were closely monitored while the Italian man was being treated and then tested, today, we are Coronavirus free.

People started saying this is God’s way of punishing the countries who hate him, that this is the end of the world; the second coming of Jesus is upon us.

We decided Coronavirus only affected white people…I wonder who we were lying more to; outsiders or ourselves. 

As the virus spreads I hope we all stay safe and please, for the love of God wash your hands as often as possible.

‘How Are You?’

This is one of the most confusing phrases to use with Nigerian Adults. Ask them about their well-being and they take it to mean you’re being deliberately disrespectful.

Scenario:

After the service one Sunday, I came out of the church and ran into a friend of my mum’s. She commented that it’d been a while, I agreed and asked how she’d been and at that exact moment, my mum walked up to us. I tuned them out as they got to talking but just before we left, she whispered furiously, “Your daughter has no manners!”

But then when you are being deliberately disrespectful and don’t greet them, the ‘How are you?’ once again pops up. If they want to acknowledge your presence without ‘stooping’ and being the first one to say hello, then they stiffly spit out “How are you?” So, then, you are forced to respond and then greet them, But heavens forbid you answer by saying “Fine, thank you. And you?”

You are, however, allowed to ask about the well-being of their children, spouse, relatives or even their car. A simple “How is your car doing?” can launch into a 12 minute rant about how the rain keeps dirtying it or the battery keeps acting up or their mechanic keeps cheating them and all you’ve got to do is tut and blame it on the country and/or president and you’ve got yourself a friend!

Speed rail…development?

Naija’s first speed rail! We’re a bit behind but at least we’re moving forward. Okay more like crawling….but same difference. Right?
So I went with my mum to Lagos from Ibadan by road to get some things done, slept over and was planning to return to Ibadan by road again, only for my mum to bring up travelling by train. Train?? What train??? Apparently the speed rail that the FG have been rumoured to be building was halfway done and they were test running it with free trips to Lagos from Ibadan and back.
I hadn’t heard any such thing and I preferred the assuredness of going to Ojota and boarding a car to Ibadan.

My mum loves adventure. I don’t. I didn’t really have a choice though. We found our way to Iju Fagba in Agege, Lagos and after asking for directions from numerous people who assured us that they most certainly weren’t running any trains, we found ourselves on the tracks. With no station in sight.

My mum wasn’t discouraged though, so, we started up the tracks. In the boiling harmattan heat. After walking for what seemed like forever, we found somebody along the way who pointed out the train station and we trudged up to it with dust coated feet.

The place was dead. I was now hundred percent sure there weren’t any trains, nor test runs and we had just wasted our time and energy. The once-cream-but-now-almost- brown paint on the walls was peeling, darker brown hand prints decorated it.

A radio crackled from inside, there were a few people outside, seated on a wooden bench. My mum entered while I waited outside feeling very hot and bothered. I was quite cross already just thinking about walking all the way back to the main road.

Then it turned out she was right! But the train only ran once a day, 9am from Ibadan to Lagos with a brief stop at Abeokuta and 4pm back and the journey was 3 hours because they were still just test running and when it began running fully, the journey would be faster.

It was 11am. We had a 5 hour wait. We couldn’t very well go back into Lagos because with the crazy traffic, it wasn’t guaranteed we would make it back in time.

I spotted a little shack across the rails from the train station and could see a Coca cola sign outside! Oh! Joy! I practically sprinted there with my mum in tow and ordered a cold bottle.

The wait didn’t seem that long because the woman who owner the shop; Lady K she called herself, was quite the conversationalist and around 3:30, after finishing a nice hot bowl of Cow tail pepper soup, we presented our forms of identification ( in our case, international passports) to the ticket master at the station, got our tickets and boarded the train.

There was quite a bit of hassle about where to sit because somebody has sat in my assigned seat and the person the seat I had settled for was assigned to wanted his seat! Eventually I found an empty seat and settled.

There were only two coaches because we weren’t many on board. The interior was quite nice with really comfortable chairs and blasting air conditioning which I really appreciated. The people on board with me weren’t so nice, however. Mostly illiterates, they kept shouting at the top of their voices while talking to somebody who was right next to them. One woman actually called all her family members just to tell them “the train was like an aeroplane”.

Other than that, it was a quite pleasant ride to Ibadan. The train is run and operated by Chinese men who don’t speak and don’t make any effort to speak our language; even English and I found that quite sad. It took us two hours and fifty minutes to arrive at the Ologuneru station in Ibadan.

Knowing the kind of people in my country, I know that if care isn’t taken, the whole train situation will become a mess. Already, there are reports of metal items being pried off and stolen while the train is parked in the station.
It’s a great idea and will provide much better job opportunities to people in Ibadan but as with everything in life, it all depends on how it’s managed.

TERRA KULTURE

Unapologetically African. That was the phrase that came to mind as I walked into Terra Kulture. From the bamboo to the artwork; every single thing screamed ‘We’re African and we love it!’

An art gallery, A live theatre, A bookstore/Gift shop and A restaurant; Terra Kulture is quite the entertainment centre.

Huge posters advertising live shows like; Queen Moremi, Fela’s Kalakuta Queens , decorated the walls leading to the entrance. For anybody who hasn’t heard of the Kalakuta queens, well, Fela (you must have heard of him) married forty wives on the same day and named them the Kalakuta Queens and well that’s the story. Then imagine watching some, undoubtedly, skilled actors and actresses (mostly actresses I would presume) re-enact that, live on stage!

Terra Kulture is constructed so that you walk right into the restaurant which then leads off; right to the Bookstore and giftshop and left, up the wooden curved stairs to the art gallery. Smart people they are, the smell of proper Nigerian jollof rice hits you immediately you walk in making it too late to back out even if you wanted to.

Apologising to my stomach, I made a beeline for the bookstore which unlike so many bookstores around, wasn’t stocked with inspirational books from Ben Carson or Barack Obama (who are fantastic writers, by the way) but with books, set in Africa; by African; both upcoming and established, writers. Romance, Coming of Age, Historical, Political, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Prose, Drama, there’s something for everybody.

The handcrafted ankara accessories immediately grabbed my attention in the giftshop. Bright patterns and colourful fabrics decorated the usually dull clutches, handbags, shoes….there were even ankara Vans!

Next, it was up to the art gallery which is room after room of brightly painted, poignant, art work. Now, I know absolutely nothing about art outside my Junior Secondary School Visual Art classes of Igbo-Ukwu and Nok art, but the paintings looked pretty good to me, aesthetic, a lot of attention paid to details. There were oil paintings, pottery, mouldings, sculptures…. we technically weren’t allowed to take pictures of the artwork but I pulled a few strings and snuck one.

Nobody has to guess that my second favourite part of the day, after the bookstore, was settling down on one of the wooden chairs with a woven bamboo back with a steaming hot plate of Jollof rice and dodo and my newly purchased book.

 

“Black People Can’t Be Racist!”…..Or Can We??

“Blacks can’t be racist” If I had a kobo for every time I’ve heard that in the last year!

Racism has and still is a very touchy subject; I dare say even more now than the era of the slave trade. Because we try so hard to pretend it doesn’t exist, it affects us even more. With the introduction of social media, people are bolder now; although ironically hiding behind their screens, to stand up for themselves and we are getting more and more comfortable with this ‘only white people can be racist’ mentality. Because, hey! They started it!

A black person in some organisation somewhere says something like “We want to have our own space, where it’s just us black people” And everybody agrees and thinks ‘Why not?’ and cheers the person on.

But then a white person in some organisation somewhere says something similar; “We want to have our own space, where it’s just us white people”  And boom! Racist!

If a white person had written this article, it would be deemed racist simply from the title, but because I’m black, we’ll let it slide.

The Oxford Dictionary defines Racism as ‘the belief that each race or ethnic group possesses specific characteristics, abilities, or qualities that distinguish it as inferior or superior to another such group.’

So according to that definition, everybody’s racist. You don’t have to look down on another race before you are racist. If you think another race is better than yours, then you are racist! If you think your race is better than another, you are racist!

Because, believe it or not, everybody discriminates; even among us doing the stone throwing. These days, some people actually, seriously, with a straight face call themselves ‘light-skinned black’. What on earth is that!? If you’re black, you’re black. You’re not better than the other black people because you’re a few shades lighter!

I personally consider that even worse than white-black racism. Because how can you hate on somebody who’s the same colour as you just cos they’re a few shades darker?! It’s just sad, it’s hypocrisy in its finest form.

You say a snarky comment about somebody’s colour; it’s not alright just cos you’re black! Black people CAN be racist!