Saturday, September 17, 2011

A FOREIGNERS GUIDE TO DRIVING IN NIGERIA

How God has blessed you since you came to Nigeria! You have settled in, you know the local joints, which bars sell point-and-kill catfish and which bars don’t. Even though you swore you were a vegetarian, you have tasted the goat head meal we call ‘Isi Ewu’ - that messy mound of smashed goat skull, flesh and eyes. It was more spicy than you ever imagined, but you endured it, even took a photo for your friends back home and put it on your Facebook profile to prove you were blending with the Africans. This place is growing on you. Now you need to buy a car and drive it yourself, to know the city better. You have driven in the worst parts of New York, so Abuja can’t be that bad.

First thing you need is a licence. Don’t sweat. It is not that hard. All you need is money. Don’t be prudish and insist on following the normal process of a driving test to make sure you can actually drive, vision test- to make sure those blue or green eyes of yours actually work, and all the other formalities. Believe me, no Nigerian has ever done a driver’s test. So listen.

There will be that guy who will be smiling at you more than necessary, hanging around like your owe him something when you get to the licence office. He is the guy that can get you the licence. Just a few thousand on top of the five thousand regular fee, will do the magic. He will even bring the forms to your office if you want, for your finger prints. Then he will tell you to follow him for the photo capture. Don’t mind if it is after office hours. Your licence will be genuine. You can get it in a few days if you ‘mobilise’ the guy enough.

Now you have hit the road. If you think all the traffic lights are working then you have not been in Nigeria long enough. Our traffic lights come on only on two occasions: when they are brand new and on special occasions, like when the President is visiting with some foreign dignitary. So watch to see if it’s on or off.

At intersections where there are no traffic lights, no one has the right of way- the rule is ‘first come, first pass’. Honk wildly just in case some drunk or blind fellow is speeding past. In fact honk wildly always, we have no laws against honking. Honk when you are overtaking, or even when you are just tired or irritated. It has been proven to relieve Nigerian stress.

You will see the roads sometimes painted with white lines to signify lanes. They mean nothing in this country. They are cosmetic, to make the roads look beautiful like the ones in foreign movies. Swerve from lane to lane as you please especially when the guy ahead of you is driving like a snail. Sometimes you can create your own lane especially when there is a lot of traffic. The side walk is not for walking, you can drive on it to beat traffic. Just don’t be the first to do it. There will always be that first guy who goes off the road because he is just too cool to wait. Follow that guy. Now that you have passed the 10 or so cars in front of you, you need to get back on the road. Wind your glass down and put your hand out and look in the eye of the guy on the road where you want to enter. Raise your hand and implore with your eyes for him to let you enter in front of him. He will look at you. You are white. He will pity you and let you get back on the road. Don’t despair though if there is that stubborn fellow who will ignore you. There will be that woman behind him who will let you pass. Honk and wave in the air when you enter. That is how to show gratitude.

There are no speed limits in Nigeria. The rule is drive but don’t bash anyone. Learn to scream at other drivers. Learn to use your open five fingers in someone’s direction, to say ‘Your father!’ when someone has just tried to run you off the road. It will make you feel better. Learn road cuss words like, ‘Yeye’, ‘Oloshi’, ‘Ewu’ or the very efficient ‘God punish you.’ You will need it.

Now, in your country you have rubbish like breathalyser tests for driving under the influence of alcohol. That is strange to us. No policeman has heard of that here. Our culture permits drinking and driving. You can drink all you want as long as you reach home in one piece. If a policeman stops you, be afraid only if you do not have change to give him. When you actually beat the traffic lights and you are stopped by those guys in dreary orange uniforms, they will ask you to park and let them in. Don’t let them into your car, they will only waste your time. This is where some spare change and Nigerian pidgin will save you. Call him, ‘Officer’, in the most Nigerian accent you can manage. Smile. Don’t appear afraid- like dogs they can sense fear. Greet him. Ask him how work is, they family. Ignore the huge frown on his face, it is for show. He will talk big about arresting you and all that. Don’t give in immediately. Tell him, ‘Bros, make we settle now.’ He might be stubborn at first but it will work wonders. His heart will soften at the prospect of some extra money to augment his miserable salary.

Most people have no proper vehicle insurance in Nigeria, so if someone bashes your car, insist on cash or if you have the time, that they take you to their mechanic. Otherwise just go fix your car by yourself. Never, I repeat, Never allow the police to get involved. They will complicate matters and you will only waste your time and lose money in the process.

At night, nobody is arrested for traffic violations. The only cops on the road are patrol cops. They don’t care about your driving.

You can park by the side of the road without consequence. Nobody cares.

Your choice of a country without speeding tickets or DUI charges is wise. God be with you as you discover the hidden wisdom on our roads.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to make a blockbuster Nigerian movie

So you want to be a film maker. You don’t want to be like those broke ass, scruffy looking white guys who show up at film festivals begging for their movies to be shown. You really want to make this money. Not in 10 years. Today. 

The first thing is to get a good script. This is where a successful Nollywood movie will begin and end so pay attention. You don’t need any intelligent, mind boggling plots. The easier the better. Remember that your audience doesn’t care about twists or multi-layered conflict.  

Let the story begin with a happy family or a rich family or both. Show a huge mansion and please tell your camera man to always take many shots of the car park where there will be expensive cars. Let him linger there for many seconds even if there will be nothing there. Don’t forget the car park scene. Something has to happen in the car park, preferably with the Hausa guard or gate man looking foolishly after which he will run and open the gate. Good, before I forget, the gate man should never be played by someone who actually knows how to do a Hausa accent. Find a Yoruba man who has nothing close to a real Hausa accent to do that generic silly Hausa accent popularised by lazy Nigerian comedians where the Hausa man says ‘I’ when he means ‘you’. He must never be sensible or normal, always foolish and comical.   

Scenes must be long and winding. No need to rush through the story. The audience loves it when there is dreary music playing in the background while the camera follows the car as it slowly approaches the house, honks, and waits for the door to be opened. Especially if it’s a nice car. 

No complicated professions please. If they are rich, let them be business men with oil companies or some undisclosed business or professionals- bankers, lawyers, doctors. If they are poor let them hawk in the market or work as labourers. No regular civil servants, no geologists. It is either really poor or really rich.
The slap. There has to be the classic slap, don’t miss this. The person slapped has to hold his or her face and look back in shock saying: ‘You slapped me?’ as if he is still not quite sure if the slap actually happened. Have two or three of those scenes and you are good to go.

No Nigerian movie is ever complete without the wicked mother or mother-in-law. Please get someone with an already wicked looking face like Patience Ozokwor to play the part. This character must never be a complex or rounded character. She must just be hateful, vengeful, back-biting, destructive all throughout the movie. These days a wicked sister or sister-in-law will do if you can’t afford Patience. I hear she has increased her fee.

Now maybe you want to give your unsophisticated audience some action. Do a court scene. Make sure it is nothing like the real Nigerian courts. After all who wants to know what our legal system really is like? Dress the female lawyers in male lawyers clothes. It doesn’t matter. Let them call a magistrate ‘My Lord’ instead of ‘Your Worship’. There must be no mention of complex things like affidavits, motions or written arguments. Everything must be argued orally and lawyers must shout at the top of their voices and be angry with each other. It is not important to do any research for legal terminology. Just let it have a lot of action and shouting. Perfect.

Please note that all cultists, kidnappers and bad boys wear tight tops, black or red berets and are chain smokers who are obsessed with sucking in as much smoke as possible in one drag. The more the smoke, the better.

From the beginning, it is important to let the audience know how the movie is going to end or give them a fair idea of it. Sometimes use the soundtrack to do this where the movie is summarised in one or two of the songs. If a person is wicked, let them be wicked from the get go and let the audience just wait for when the wicked person will be exposed. If the person is a child of God let them be so from the beginning perhaps with many tests to his faith.

The movie should have marriage or barrenness or children or in-laws as the theme or sub-theme because this is your audience’s preoccupation in life- they can relate to it.

Rich men must always be dressed as if they are going for events even when they are relaxing at home. Never use any family photos on the walls. This is wrong.  

If you decide to do a flashback to twenty years ago, let people have the same hairstyles, drive the same cars. It doesn’t matter, your audience won’t notice.

Spice it up with that nice guy or girl who just came back from America with a horrible accent to prove it.
All cults should dance around bonfires wearing rags and paint their faces many colours. There are no sophisticated cults. Cult meetings always happen in the bush and at night.

Ah, don’t forget the soliloquy where a character talks to himself and tells himself what he must do to overcome his predicament or complains about her lot in life. People always talk to themselves. 

Other scenes that must be copiously used are: the police scene where no one looks like a police man, the robbery/ kidnapping/ accident scene where the camera is always shaky, the native doctor scene where the native doctor always has white chalk around one eye, is always slim with a little pouch and never wears a shirt, the hospital scene with a  doctor who is always a really bad actor and the awkward love scene where if they ever actually kiss they do it like people who have never kissed before.

The name of the movie must be an easy summary: ‘Stupid’, ‘Why Me?’, ‘Aki and Paw-Paw’ (really just a silly movie about two midgets doing nothing), ‘Wicked Sister’, ‘Bad Marriage’. ‘End of Kidnappers’. People need to know what they are buying. 

The movie must end with people crying and being remorseful and repentant. Plenty crying. Add a confession by the wicked mother-in-law or mother to it for flavour. Plenty hugging and forgiveness. A lot of mention of God. Perfect ending. To God be the glory.

Now chop your single movie up into three pieces. Call it Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 respectively. This is the only way to recover costs. Don’t bother about the rest like marketing and sales. Trust the guys at Alaba or the experts at 51 Iweka Road Onitsha.