Sunday, March 20, 2016

HOW TO TRAVEL (EASILY) THROUGH AFRICA WITH A NIGERIAN PASSPORT


Please, if you also have a red or blue passport, this article is not for you. You can take a stroll now if you like. I am speaking to people like me, without a lifeline, whose only means of identification in this world is that green passport that reads Federal Republic of Nigeria and who have no special “connections”. Ordinary people who want to travel with ease around Africa.

Make no mistake about it, nobody in Africa is waiting for you at their border with open arms to say welcome, dear Nigerian. It is easier to find your way to Europe and Dubai (sometimes even America, yes!) than to travel through Africa. Travelling through Africa is like making heaven. On your way there will be a lot of obstacles, temptations, sins, and frustrations. I am here, not to insult the countries who make life hard for us, but to  help you find a way. God will judge those countries at an appropriate time. In this world you have to find solutions. As a frequent traveller I provide this advice free of charge.

1.    Find the corrupt link
No matter how much they spit at us, they are in fact like us. Often we hate the people we most resemble. As we are full of corruption, so are they. There will be that one hustler in their embassy that connives with the Nigerian interface who does the deals on the outside. Don’t be like me. Pay and pass through the gates of African heaven. I remember sitting in a visa office trying to get a South African visa. One of the Nigerians who worked security there whispered to me, that for a small fee she could make my life easier. “They will suffer you and you may not get it,” she told me. I declined her offer and told her I would rather follow the official route, confident that my application was strong enough not to need any “help”. Long story short, I did not get the South African visa, and I missed the trip. I could hear the spirit of that woman laughing at me for many months after that. Find the corrupt link. They are like us.

2.    Marry wisely
Now, for this one I am sorry if you are already married. I do not advise anyone to end their marriage to a Nigerian. So if you are stuck in a marriage to a Nigerian, just skip this part. Marrying wisely can mean the difference between a life time of disrespect or easy access to the world, especially Africa. It is no secret that people with the nice passports of the world – US, UK, Canada, Germany, France – find it easier to travel through Africa than Africans themselves. This is how we are. We are kind. We love visitors. Marrying well can convert you from an African to a visitor. It can convert you from a leprous carrier of a filthy green passport to a desirable human being with rights. Find yourself a nice foreigner, swallow your pride and say I do. In a few years, like a sexually transmitted disease, that passport will be passed on to you and you will forget what it feels like to be denied entry by another African country. But you have to be smart. Research the country before falling in love. Don't go and marry someone like from Switzerland. Apart from the racism, they don't make it particularly easy for spouses to pass on citizenship to people like us.  Be wise. You don’t want to be stuck with a foreign spouse in a cold, racist place without a passport. That would be a tragedy

3.    Run errands for a foreigner with a strong passport
Another thing: Africans respect the workers and messengers of foreigners. So if you work for say, the British, they will, for fear of offending the British, treat you like they would treat the British. So if you can’t marry well or find the corrupt link, look for a job with the Americans, the British or the Germans. Once they see that connection, you are good to go. You will travel Africa on the back of your foreign oga and you will forget how it feels to be the owner of a green passport. Don’t be stupid and lose that job. Be loyal to your foreign boss and continue receiving the blessings of their strong passport.


So, now, these three remain the rules for easy African travel: the corrupt link, marrying wisely and working for a foreigner. But the greatest of these is marrying wisely. It is the most secure. The most permanent. Even if the spouse with the powerful passport leaves you after you secure the passport, you have still won. With the new powerful sexually transmitted passport, you can hope all things, believe all things. Marrying wisely never fails. But whether there are corrupt links, they will cease; whether there are foreign employers, they too will pass away, but when that foreign passport comes, that which is temporary disappears. An article is enough for the wise.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A LOVE STORY


There was a great famine that spread throughout the farm. And the animals had neither water nor sunshine. And they fought in queues over dwindling rations. And the Whitists cursed the sun and the pipes that would not supply water and the food that did not grow and the former farm manager Goodhead whose tenure a long time ago they refused to forget. But that will not be the subject of this story. What is the point of a sad story of despair and privation? 

This story is a love story. Love is not what you see in the movies. Sometimes love is neither kind nor patient; It is not selfless. Love is just love. And to understand love one must understand White, the farm manager whose speeches outside the farm forms the basis for what Whitists have now bound and codified called “A Treatise on Love”.

1.  Love is silent. 
Love does not make a lot of noise. Love does not have to act either. Love just knows when to appear and disappear, like White. Like when White began his tours of other farms and spoke to his animals mostly through foreign animals whose questions he was glad to answer. Like when the most crucial of his decisions and inner thoughts become known when he visits other farms and gets asked questions about his farm. Like when they asked him about the hardship animals were facing in making trips outside the farm and he said, “Well, they need to learn to live within their means, sit their behinds down and work for my farm.”

Even when they reminded him of his young pups that were living on other farms in relative luxury, he said, “Well, some of us can afford it. Those who want to afford it should become farm managers like me. Some people are meant to suffer in this life and some are meant to enjoy. I love destiny. I try very hard not to mess with destiny because I believe all the animal gods have plans for us animals. Some were born to suffer. Some were born to die. Some were born to be ridden. Some were born to be cuddled. I may be a perfect wolf, but I am not a god. I will advise those animals whose lot in life is never to afford what I can afford for my pups to be humble and learn patience.”

Mostly though, White is silent at home. And it is thus that we see this rule come true: love is silent. We can see it in the way White walks through the farm, arms behind his back, silent, except where a foreign animal asks him a question. Tough love. Silent love. 

Silent love even when, in the middle of the farm, hundreds of animals get hacked to death in a wolf invasion. Because one can love even the bodies of animals killed by wolves. 


2.  Love is stubborn
Some people wrongly assume that love yields. Love does not yield. Like White. White does what White wants even if it makes no economic sense, mostly because White is love and what White can see on four legs, bats cannot see with wings flying around. That is why they end up being massacred by people like Dick-Tai, White’s farm hand. (You may argue that bats are naturally blind but that is not the point. The point is that White knows stuff.)

White is love. And it is this love that makes him ignore any pleas to take actions that would help the flow of food in the farm. Like when White stubbornly pegged the exchange rate for yams at one yam to one bag of grain, making it difficult to do food exchanges in the farm because in the parallel food market, the real value was very very different. White knows however that heading a farm is a bit like an operation to take out the nail from an animal’s hooves. While the nail is being pulled out, the animal would squeal loudly. But the end justifies the means. And if there is extreme pain, in the words of White: “So be it.” 


3.  Love says what love wants
Love cannot be chained. Love will make stupid remarks but only because love is passionate and free and wild. Like White who, when he speaks, speaks first and thinks later. The important thing is the intention. White intends always to be helpful. Even when White calls animals who do not like what he has said “bigots”. Because that is what a bigot is. One who will see the holy intentions of a farm manager like White and do a radical thing like ask questions. Because questions show disloyalty especially when you are questioning a perfect creature like White who can do no wrong. And what is an animal’s life worth if that animal questions the good and perfect will of their farm manager? 


4.  When all things fail, love knows where to put the blame.
Love never takes responsibility. Because that would be admitting to failure. And White does not fail. If animals are to queue for water, White has not failed. If the exchange rate for yams is disastrous for trade, White has not failed. If a great famine sweeps through the land, then animals must ask themselves before complaining: “Did I complain when Goodhead and his cronies were in charge of the farm for over a decade? Did I complain?”


5.  Love is never stagnant
Love moves. It may be away for long, but it moves. Here today, there the next, renewing the soul, rejuvenating the spirit. Like White. White who went from farm to farm, showing nothing but love to his animals. 


In conclusion, s/he who does not worship White does not know love. Because White is love.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

THINGS I HAVE LEARNT IN GHANA


Three things are popular once you are in Ghana. Africa, Jesus, and dead people. 

An epiphany hit me as soon as I had spent the third day in Ghana. Perhaps it is safe to blame all those African stereotypes on Ghana, a country loved by non-African foreigners. There is Africa everywhere you go, in the holiday resorts, in the business names, in the signs, on the streets. I have never been anywhere where Africa is retailed to foreigners like it is here. Even I felt like I had finally arrived that huge country everyone talks about: Africa. 

For 50 US dollars you can stay in One Africa. Or a fraction of the cost in One Love Africa. And in One Africa you get everything, from a view of the ocean to images and histories of black people who were or at least according to management should be important to Africa. 

In One Love Africa, there are reminders of Bob Marley as ably marketed by it’s dreadlocked owner Judah, who never fails to tell his foreign guests that his wife is an obroni, a white woman. 

Africa is everywhere on the walls, painted in the colours of the Ghanaian flag. And somewhere in the middle is the black star. I blame Nigeria. Somewhere in our history, while we were busy trying to conquer the world, we lost everything: our reputation abroad, our reputation at home, and a franchise of Africa. Ghana cheated us out of Africa and now all a white person needs to do to become African is go to Ghana, get dreadlocks and take drumming lessons from someone near a beach. This could have been us. But, like our beloved president rightly pointed out recently, we were busy being criminals in Western capitals while Ghanaians were putting Africa in little packages the colour of their flag. 

Jesus is big in Ghana. And they do not do it by halves. Everywhere he is in full colour, white, blond, sad-faced and looking up to heaven. And then there are the people who retail Jesus on the large billboards, smiling, looking into the eyes and souls of Ghanaians, beckoning them to come and taste the glory and power of Jesus. None of the billboards offer any return policy on donations in the event that the glory and power does not manifest in one’s life. I think a refund policy is only fair, but then I have not spent enough time in Ghana to know if these agents of Jesus deliver on their promises. I like Jesus in Ghana. He does not mind sharing the space with Muslims whether as funded by the Lebanese or the big ones funded by Turkey. 

Occasionally you do see a Nigerian agent of Jesus expanding into Ghana sometimes dripping with hair products, offering the same power and glory only with a Nigerian flavour. I am not sure how Ghanaians react to this, but if I were a Ghanaian I would patronise made in Ghana products, especially if Nigerians are involved. 

As you leave Accra in the direction of places like Winneba or Cape Coast for example, there are old dead people in full colour by the side of the road. If the signs are anything to go by, it is mostly a celebration of life and I couldn't help thinking how long a dead person would stay on the side of the road and whether relatives change the signs when they fade due to being out in the elements. 

As a Nigerian, you learn to slow down in Ghana. You learn that, unlike in any of the Nigerian cities or capitals, traffic lights and zebra crossings are not fancy objects to decorate the road but have actual use. You learn that somewhere on the continent of Africa, not too far away, it is not illegal to kill pedestrians who step onto zebra crossings; it is not illegal to wait for other humans. You also learn not to be shocked when a Ghanaian shows little interest in doing the business they left their house to do, like a taxi driver telling you, without waiting to bargain, to try another taxi who might be cheaper or a tailor you need to quickly fix a broken button telling you they are too busy eating a snack to help and directing you to another tailor on the next street. 

You learn also that it is possible to love one’s country enough to go out on independence day and be happy even if you are not forced to do it as a civil servant or as a student in a school taking part in an independence day parade. 


I am thinking of going into this Africa business when I return home in one week. I will rent a place in  Abuja, give it a thatched roof, paint everything in green and white, draw huge maps of Africa all over, and employ a few reggae boys with dreadlocks to offer drumming and African dance classes to white women (I am still not sure if I should add a caveat banning my drummer boys from falling in love with my clients). Someone has to claim some of this Africa for Nigeria. 

Ps. And I must add, that although Ghanaians are generally more sane people than Nigerians, I am now convinced that Nigerian Jollof is infinitely superior to Ghanaian jollof. Which is why I have now resolved to spell ours with a capital J.