Thursday, 15 April 2010

Tips On How To Spend Less When Returning to Nigeria From Abroad

I have been looking for excuses to justify why I have not been able to write another episode of Memoirs for the past two weeks and I decided to use this: Nepa took light! Nepa/PHCN officials travelled all the way from Nigeria to Bournemouth to disconnect my wire and they also took it away. Well, if you believed that then you can believe anything. The honest truth is that my brain took a break and it took great effort to write this episode.
Honestly I don’t know where to start from unless to say my trip back to Nigeria was more than I bargained for. As the time ticked towards my trip, I had to indulge in some over-eating techniques so that Ma Nizzle would at least see some flesh on my cheeks and also had to hit the gym so that Miss Nizzle can see a sexy body, rub a well developed chest and proudly show me off to her friends.

After using most of my money to buy ‘Primarks’, I also had to have cash to throw around for the boys for Faji. Even though I had only gone for three months, people back home would expect one thing or the other and wouldn’t understand that I was just a Masters student with no job but only swagger. I could imagine a long queue with people and their requests...I shuddered. My financial situation was even worse since I had already purchased birthday gifts for Ma & Miss Nizzle’s who were billed to celebrate their birthdays during my visit.
To salvage my situation, I had arranged with my trusted confidantes back home on escape methods. Because I knew I was not going to have enough money, I had an ironclad blueprint of hide and seek methods that would perplex even the United States government and make Osama Bin Laden present me with an honorary award. It was so detailed that even if Britney Spears or any celebrity uses it, no paparazzi would be able to get a sniff of them or even get a picture of them. You would be as elusive as a Zebra on a speed bike eluding a Lion.
Recalling when I was in Nigeria, I knew I was not going to get any mercy, since I always did the same to my friends who just came back from abroad. My cult-hero status would also ensure that those that knew me would also expect quite a lot from me especially since ‘I too dey form’ when I was in Nigeria. My Facebook pictures also gave the impression that I was living an affluent lifestyle. What people didn’t know is that one of my major reasons for coming home was to come and pack enough garri,groundnut and Indomie to weather the storm here. I want to use this opportunity to thank the makers of Indomie for saving Nigerian bachelors the world over and giving us a reason to enter the kitchen. God bless you.
Sharing some techniques out of my escape routine was the ‘Over Luggage Palaver’. When people are coming over to Nigeria and are not well prepared financially as I was, one of the ‘get-out-of-jail’ excuses was that of over-luggage. When the lynch mob arrives to get a piece of the goodies you bought for them from yonder, what people say is that they bought a lot of stuffs but there were problems at the airport because of the weight of the bags. As such, they couldn’t come with everything they planned on bringing especially the stuffs that they bought you. They then usually follow it up with a promise that their bag was en-route to Nigeria in a couple of days, if you had the patience. After saying all these, they would probably console you by giving you a Primark shirt or chocolates instead of the SONY PSP you requested for.
Talking about chocolates, what is it about expecting someone coming from abroad to always buy? It is not like you can’t get in the supermarket down your street or something. Alternatively, you could go to ShopRite and buy your fill. Well, it was in a page in my escape routine to buy the chocolates in Nigeria with Naira instead of the money-sapping Pounds. Had to save money, you know?
Finally the best part of the escape routine is to leave them guessing. Never let them know the actual date you would be leaving. The first thing you do when you enter the country is to promise people that you would be around for a while so that they get relaxed having you around. If they know or sense you might not be around for long, they would so clinch you and sap everything they can while they can. 
Earlier, I mentioned the over-baggage scenario, by lying about over-extending your stay; it would give your story more credence. The only downside about all these lies is that your confession to a Reverend father would take longer than usual when you return. It was worth it though, I had a friend who went home for the December break, he lamented that everything was taken from him, even his belt!!! His trousers sagged and fell all the way back to the United States.
Comforting myself with the knowledge of my escape routine, I entered Heathrow airport. It is worth noting here, that it took me less than 15 minutes to clear myself, all with minimal fuss. The trolley used to wheel my baggage was free and I boarded my flight without breaking sweat.
On the plane, I noticed people were still suffering from the post ‘Muttalab’ blues. Due to the fact that I took a lot of red wine, I always had to pee in the toilet and anytime I did so, I noticed people’s eyes following me to and fro the toilet. Did I look like the bloody bugger for crissakes!!!??? Ignoring them and with my earphone tucked in my ears, I imagined the reunion back home especially with Miss Nizzle. I smiled. I listened to all the love songs from Michael Buble-Home to Phil Collins and Bone Thugs- Take me Home and Sound Sultan’s-King of my Country. To pass away time because I was shivering with excitement, I practiced my phonetics. Since I was from Jand and going home, I had to show that my accent had changed a bit even though it was only three months I had left. Since there was lack of anything to do, it looked like a good idea back then.
After like seven hours, the wait was finally over. From my vantage view from the plane, I saw Gidi, Lagos, Home in all its glory, in all its darkness since there was no light. Getting down from the plane and walking into the airport, I was blasted with a wave of hot air that I nearly fainted. It took me less than five minutes to start sweating, a feat I couldn’t manage in like three months abroad. The air-conditioners were supposed to be working, maybe they were but it had no effect at all. At the Muritala airport, unlike Heathrow, I had to pay N100 for a trolley just to wheel my baggage. From the point of the plane up to the moment I saw Pa Nizzle, I was asked for tips from immigration officers, airport-workers on no less than 10 times. It was pathetic. Did I look like Santa Claus with naira Bills? Or Michel Jackson on a twenty-naira note?
Shaking my head by it all, I spotted Pa Nizzle and Demola (one of my escape-route plotters); I strode towards them filled with happiness. Nizzle was back in Gidi...

Monday, 29 March 2010

EPISODE 5: How Primark Saved Me + News Roundup

Dear readers, I apologise for the unannounced one week break, it was as a result of a small matter called Media Law examinations and assignment deadlines I had to meet. Much as I tried to pen something down, it just didn’t happen. Instead, pieces of Law terminologies I have crammed in my head kept interfering.
Anyways, during the exams, while my brain was hoping for a miracle to remember things, I looked around the hall and noticed the stark differences between the exam atmosphere here and in Nigeria. If you had the time to look around during exams, you would most definitely see all methods and types of examination crimes ranging from neck extensions (giraffing) to sign and coded messages sent over long distances without the aid of Bluetooth. Look on the desks and you would see that mini-textbooks have been jotted on them and if you looked close you would see that some people had the nerve to bring in textbooks as big as Oxford dictionaries inside the exam hall. 
Bodily writing is another matter as students could write a semester worth of answers on parts of their body in manners and designs even a tattooist would blush at. I had a female friend that was rusticated for writing on her laps, and I must confess those laps were ‘yellow’ and fresh. After the incident, we nicknamed people that wrote on their laps as people carrying lap-tops. 
In the hall here, it was dead quiet, so quiet you could hear biros scribbling, clocks ticking and I think I heard my brain crying in dismay for the stress I was putting it through. I am pretty sure a camera must have been spying on us but I wasn’t about to put that fact to test and get rusticated wasting the Village Trust Fund that paid for my Masters program.
Well, back to my story from the last time. As the time ticked to when I was going back to Nigeria, my excitement knew no bounds. I felt like Nicholas Cage in Con-Air, like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. I felt like a virgin on her wedding night, who just wanted the pastor to get it over with and the guests to go home. I remembered when I was in Nigeria, I used to crave privacy. Now I got my wish but it was a tad too much, I wanted the company of my friends. I lusted for Lagos, had mental-wet dreams about it. Lagos was like a cross between Beyonce, Angelina Jolie, Eva Mendez, Jessica Alba and Ini-Edo and I wanted to be wrapped in her embrace. The mere thoughts of the Iya Basiras canteens, riding down Ikorodu road on an Okada and even imagining being extorted by the police and LASTMA made me shudder in excitement. The thought of my one-way exploits made me more excited than Tom Cruise on the Oprah show. Thinking about Abe-Igi cat-fish pepper soup made me higher than One-Thousand and Four Buildings (1004) or a child on alcohol.
 I had left Nigeria for like Seven million, seven hundred and seventy-six seconds (7,776,000) and every second away hurt. Sleeping at night became a challenge because of the excitement and of the worry about what I was going to buy, the gifts I would take back home. After all. I couldn’t just go home empty-handed!!! I walked down the High Street walking by to check shops like Marks and Spencer, Timbaland out but the prices always increased my blood pressure a few notches and this wasn’t good for a young man like me. Worse still, the fastest way to get depressed was to always check my bank balance which looked as low as an Aboki hooked on anti-depressants.
One call saved my pockets though. A dear friend showed me the truth, the way, the light. She recounted how this particular establishment was well known ad had saved the blushes of many Nigerians who were in the same predicament as I was. This particular ‘saviour’ was called a shopping outlet called PRIMARK. In Primark, you can get semi-quality, extra-cheap clothing for next to nothing. If you are a frequenter of bend down select at Yaba, Oshodi, Mile 12, then you know what I am talking about in terms of prices.
Well I won’t say how cheap the clothes I bought were because if those I bought them for are reading, they might start tearing them to use it for washing car or use to clean their kitchen stoves. I ask for your forgiveness because I actually wanted to buy Armanis. I am sorry. In the same vein, if you are surprised as to how that wicked, stingy relative of yours actually got you something from the UK, check the label. If it is Primark then your misery and wonderment ends right at this moment. But on the other hand, what if all the clothes your loved one bought for you are all from Primark...? Well, maybe it is just the recession. Let’s blame it on that.
With the Primark goodies safely secured in my bag with the better gits reserves for Ma and Miss Nizzle, I swaggered into Heathrow airport to board my Arik flight to Nigeria...

                        MEMOIRS NEWS ROUNDUP
A lot of people loved the Yara’dua chronicles I posted the last time. Here’s more from Asukwo, who I think is a good cartoonist.

In other news is a tragic fascinating story of a Nigerian that died at Zurich airport last week while he was been deported. A very strange story that highlights the desperation of Nigerians who are all too eager to leave her shores and never return. Apparently this guy preferred dying rather than come back home.Pity. Read more here on Jangola.
Rounding the news up for this week is an interesting story about a 12 year old boy who I really feel needs to be entered into the Guinness Books of Records because of his criminal activities. His criminal record is described as appalling due to the fact that he has committed more than 30 crimes in the short space he has spent on earth. If you are into crime and curious enough, you can get the full gist on Times Online here.
That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks for reading. As Jenifa used to say, ‘Catch ya later, bye’

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

EPISODE 4: Reasons why Naija Rocks + News Roundup

“Guy, it’s a mail sorting job. All you have to do is turn up for some hours; sort the mail in the right post codes and collect your 7 pounds per hour dough.” That was what my friend told me. It was just supposed to be a job where I was supposed to make a quick buck. It was supposed to be easy.
My friend continued: “One snag though is that, it is in the early hours of the morning, from 1am to 9am.” I told him not to worry with my mind already multiplying the quick buck I would make. Although I was a big failure at mathematics at school, I hurriedly calculated the sum in my head. I multiplied: 7 Pounds X 8 hours=56 pounds. I went on further to multiply 56 pounds X 250(Nigerian equivalent in naira) = N14, 000. Sweet! That was enough to at least buy cat-fish pepper soup and beer for my guys and I wanted to do like five days work of ‘easy mail sorting’. You can do the maths from there.
However my big money dreams all vanished when the work started. First, it was a factory and it wasn’t letters we were sorting, it was big, massive boxes of goods. Secondly, it was in the open and the temperature was in freezing conditions. I instinctively knew I was in for it. Till date, the experience is one that is intensely traumatic for me. That night alone, I think I worked more than the Israelites when they were captives in Egypt. The only thing missing was the whip and Pharaoh grinning from his royal seat above.
 Just two hours into the work, I lost all my orientation and began to sleep-walk and work. I began to curse in languages from Arabic to Hindu and was extremely bitter at the fate that had befallen me. The look I gave my friend who recommended the job to me was so withering one that could make the Amazon jungle a desert. It was like the scales finally fell from  my eyes, it was as if I had eaten ‘The Apple’ only this time it wasn’t a sexy naked Eve that made me but suffering.
Everything came into perspective and I realized that everything here in the UK is a LOAN. You watch them in movies and see the lives they lead and you are awed but know what? The house they are living is a mortgage. The car they drive was gotten through a loan. The fancy phone they use is a contract (which they pay for in instalments). Even in the house you live in, you have to pay for your heater and Television License (which is about 120 pounds!) Can you just imagine paying £120 to watch NTA? I shudder at the very thought. Even marriages now are a contract, I have had people approach me to forget Miss Nizzle, get hitched and pay a white gal! It is now a cartel, a business, an industry.
Here, you are a slave to the system.
Fine.  Accepted. Nigeria is perceived as bad over here, nobody wants to go back. We see the killings at Jos, we see on TV as our leaders make a mockery of themselves. There is no constant electricity but it is HOME.
It is where you could avoid paying NEPA/PHCN Bill and just bribe the official when he comes. Besides don’t you get the tingle in your spine when you hear the rapturous cry of ‘UP NEPA’!!! It is where you might have water coming out of your tap (if you are lucky) and not know who is paying for it.
It is where you can drive as you wish, beating traffic rules if they were any, without having thousands of pounds fined out of anal cavity.
It was where your family knew it had hit pay dirt once a member got elected into government, even if it was just a Local Government Councillor appointment
It was where you could park your fleet of cars and put plate numbers for every day of the week, or the name of your girlfriends.
It is where you could celebrate with the flimsiest of reasons. A lot of livestock like cows, goats and fowls would be regretting ever being born in Nigeria because of the frequency in which we put them to the sword. Nigeria is the only country I know that even if the family is so poor as to not be able to pay their kid’s school fees could throw a burial ceremony costing about half a million naira.
It is where you could make untaxed dough and become a billionaire with ideas borne out of your head or stolen from others.
It was where you could open a bar by the side of the road or a canteen; make a ton of money that’s before Fashola comes to shut you down.
It was where you could eat cat-fish pepper soup, Nkwobi and drink Guinness (the real bitter one). We are not the second highest Guinness drinking nation in the world for nothing!!!

It is where your loved ones are at. It was where mine was. It was HOME and I was going.

                                               MEMOIR NEWS ROUND UP
I came across a cartoon that epitomises the situation of things in Nigeria. It’s really nice; it was done by a dude called Asukwo. I couldn’t resist using it in what I have fondly called, the Chronicles of Yaradua.

 Some episodes ago, I wrote about the joys of Facebook where two folks got united and married after several years apart. Here’s an ugly side of the social network and how a dude killed his ex-girlfriend in a murderous rage all because he saw her in a picture with another man. He flew all the way from Trinidad & Tobago to London to commit this act. Read more about it here.
 While Facebook has been a place for old friends/classmates to reunite, a place where business transactions have been struck. It is also a place where a lot of individuals find preys to satisfy their lust. A site that has potentially caused a lot of breakups. Well, different strokes for different folks.

 This sort of made me remember when Miss Nizzle gained access into my Facebook inbox. Oooohhh! I shudder whenever I remember her murderous gaze.
This ends this week’s edition of Memoirs. I am sorry for been late this time, school stress and a mild bout of depression are the reasons why. I promise to be good henceforth. Enjoy the rest of the week.