Friday, December 20, 2013


You should have known this when you walked through security with the hundreds of others like nomads ambling through lush fields, looking mostly alike in dark suits and ties and dark dresses. Your phone went off as soon as you crossed the huge foyer into the hall where the award ceremony was going to take place. The foyer made you feel like you were standing in a huge concrete silo with eyes of presidents, dead and living, staring down at you. You should have known then, that the devil lurked in the silver trays.

Several times they moved you. You were either sitting on a table reserved for Special Advisers or Ministers. They moved you until you got to the very last table on the front row, away from the TV Cameras, but close enough to the stage to see your friends being honoured by their peers.

Finally, you thought, you were going to see what type of food was going to be served in this place where the President claimed it would cost almost a billion to feed guests in one year.

Several times you wanted to smack the MC who made desperate, distasteful attempts at making jokes, observing with annoyance how the male honorees were 'smart' or 'achievers' or 'mentors' but the female honorees were 'lovely' or 'beautiful'.  You hoped that at least one of the women who got up to speak would object to being described like part of the hall decoration. Not even the Finance Minister in reference to whom he made the silly statement ‘sometimes big things come in small packages’.

You wished you were on the same table as the embattled Aviation Minister who looked visibly weighed down by what you wanted to believe was the heavy and widely publicized corruption scandal. She looked like a fish out of water among the other Ministers who got up to exchange greetings with each other, with the Finance Minister who appeared to be the head of the pack and to greet the Vice President when he finally arrived. If they let you share a table you would have asked her about those cars, the ones that cost 255 million. Or not.

You were torn between filling up your plate to take care of the five-hour old hunger you’d had since entering this room and appearing like a glutton who came to Aso Rock to eat. If you weren’t so hungry, you probably would have just had the fruits on the table and gone away feeling self-righteous. But you told yourself, it was your money, and anyone who kept you in a hall for that many hours should feed you. So you had the fish. And the snails, well, one snail. And the pepper soup. And some cucumbers to give your body the illusion of eating healthy.

When you refused to get up when the Vice President got up, you were glad that those on your table didn’t make you feel bad. You all agreed with your eyes that you were there, but not there. You were all attending a dinner but not dining with these guys who oversee the unfortunate situation that is Nigeria. All three of you sat there, getting up only for the National Anthem, eating freely the grapes and peaches and apples on the table.

And when the backlash came on the internet, accusing the young organizers of hobnobbing with the corrupt government by allowing their event to be hosted by the hugely unpopular President, your mind went straight to the food. You should have gone back for a second serving if, by just attending an event at the Presidential Villa, people would forget the many times you were almost shot by policemen, the anti-corruption protests you have taken part in and helped organize and your near daily criticism of government impropriety and accuse you of selling out. It was the snails you thought of when someone made a silly remark about you being a traitor. You should have had more snails dammit.

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