All posts by Victor Ehikhamenor

A Blurry Journey, By Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor
Woman, your child is wailing and your vegetables are dying. I can see you but you can’t see me. For N 15,000, the Nigerian Police Force permitted me to tint my windows and increase the degree of our separation. Yet, we are all together. Fear has made me a lonely sojourner. I am afraid of my own shadow in my own country. Yes, I am afraid of that fellow countryman who could mistake me for the cause of his troubles.
My fear is of a boy in that area or a policeman in that jurisdiction who realize they are disenfranchised and disillusioned at that ill-fated time when violence roars out its hole. We live in fear of each other. Even our leaders live atop rocks, behind high walls, prisonlike barbed wire fences—cocooned by AK47-totting-trigger-happy-guards. Fear can be as debilitating as any dictator. Ask our laudable looters why they moved from Dodan Barracks to Aso Rock.
Your child’s mouth is wide open. You wiggle to seek and give comfort. None seems available in the jam-packed metal scrap called molue you transit in. In this blurry journey, you seek food and future but neither is within reach. The bus windows are broken for they can’t be rolled up, a situation akin to our GDP. The child won’t stop crying and the rain won’t stop falling. You can’t breast feed in the overcrowded bus and our rulers can’t feed us despite the excess crude oil revenues. Life here is crude.  Your breasts are trapped by the vegetables you cradle and we are strapped under the dining-table of our looting leaders.
I can’t take my eyes off you or your child; we are co-travellers in this slippery journey to the Island of Hope. Our separation is slim as we ride on the Third Mainland Bridge. The lagoon looms on both sides. And your child is hungry. This journey is blurry. The rain won’t go away, not even to an ancient lullaby.
It’s a cold rain; something touched me as I purchased a newspaper from a wet paper-vendor to see who has fallen out of favour with our First Lady. I am dry but everything is blurry as I read about bank robbers in executive suits. The future of our country is on my mind. The future of the day is on your mind. Your child is still crying. There is a resigned restlessness in your eyes. Your vegetables are losing their freshness; their market value is dropping like bank stocks.
I am stuck, like you, on this journey. But my mind speeds round the world. I am in America—car-seats that protect their children’s journey and future fill my mind. Do you know the child on your bare back deserves his own protective cushioned seat? To breathe and to grow in? Somewhere else in the world, it’s unlawful to transport a child in a vehicle without a child’s car-seat. I chuckle at that reality, your vehicle is not moving and lawlessness is our penal code. But a dangerous truth lurks ahead; your child’s future is tip-toeing on needle points.
As co-traveller, you stare at my window and the reflection of your sorrowful face stares back. You are mesmerized by the road’s increasing flood level, and our leaders’ increasing fraud.
The molue’s wipers are stagnant like our national progress. Your driver’s vision is blurrier than our blatantly morose rulers’—it has to be, the rain is relentless and his reign is rudderless. The green of your vegetables and the white of my shirt have blurred into the colour of fire in my eyes.
Metal to metal, multiple accidents abound. It is to be expected when a drop of rain greets the snake’s back. No road signs or speed limits on this bridge. Third Mainland Bridge is a dark tunnel above the sea.  It is a long suicide stretch of tarmac. Travellers get stuck on this bridge and are robbed blind by homeless urchins and heartless policemen. Our government has no rescue squad. Our rescue squad has no government. Therefore we have no government to rescue us.
Molue metamorphosis. Mangled metal. Morning madness. Everything is upside down, patapata. Passengers are crawling out of crevices of splintered metal. Where are you, co-traveller? Which market were you taking your child and vegetables to? Did you know a hundred journeys to your market on this road would never equal a day’s profit from bunkered barrels in the Niger Delta? Answer me, please. Can you hear me from under there?
The distant siren is not a paramedic’s ambulance; it is a part of the outriders that caused your mishap.
The true owners of our roads are here now, wailing sirens and cracking whips in a crazy convoy transporting our country’s careless citizens to the meetings of non-performing committees. The leaders are drunk with power; the drivers are loaded with paraga. They won’t hear your cry for help, the sirens have gone insane. And the child has become quiet. We the dregs of the society have been pushed to the edge of the bridge. Let’s pray we don’t tilt into the lagoon. Woman your child is quiet.
Expressionist painter and writer, Ehikhamenor, delivers a trashing grade to a nation seeking a centenarian evaluation.

A love letter to my sweet Valentine, By Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor

My dear love,

I have no other way of calling you but by the very name that bring great men to their knees. Whenever it’s Valentine, you make me act like drunk African head of state and randy French president.

Your voice is sweeter than a newly serviced Jenkins sound-proof generator. You smell like fresh mint Abuja dollars withdrawn from Central Bank during a ruling party’s national convention.

Your love for me is richer than NNPC and surer than SURE-P.  Honey, you are my subsidy, without you I look like a bad welfare case.

Sweetie pie, you always stand by me, no matter the opposition’s position against me. If not for your foresightedness , I would have foolishly run to Ghana and live a lonely immigrant life, eating sour kenke by day and feeding on dead dreams by night in a country without light or foresight.

Your beauty radiates round our entire house, your megawatt is uncountable. If Nigeria had problem with consistent electricity, we would not have felt it because you light up our lives.

My darling you are my first lady, my petroleum minister, my finance minister, and you are my aviation minister who make it possible for me to fly first class round the world. Explaining how much I love you is like trying to explain our national budget, and you and I know even if you bring the MD of World Bank, that is a fruitless exercise. Baby I love you so much that the earth shakes under me whenever I see a little sadness on your face.

When we watch Nollywood movies together, you make Genevieve and Omotola look like village fish sellers. Your  luminous skin makes Lupita look like a street beggar in Nairobi.

I don’t even know how to express my love for you this Valentine. Trust me, I really want to do something that has never been done before.  Sending you to Dubai to shop is clichéic. Plastic surgery and age reducing surgeries are for insecure and bored African first ladies, but you are dazzlingly ageless my love, you don’t need any artificial enhancement. I have thought of giving you automatic ticket to be a senator in Abuja but that is not even novel.  I already gave BMW cars to all your friends who came for your birthday party in December. I am at lost to how I should celebrate you this Valentine.

Honey bun, when that Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, said  “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close”,  he was referring to us.

When I look into your eyes, the mist in them make me misty, like a politician receiving news of oil bloc allocation for the price of a he-goat in Ariaria market.

I love you so much my heart aches as if I am an old man whose pension funds have been siphoned to a Swiss bank account by a government worker.

Sweetie pie your love is my bullet-proof German car against aristos, my import license that brings me home to you everyday, my inexhaustible sovereign wealth fund account that pays for  my expensive drinks with friends during EPL football matches.

Baby  please don’t ever leave me, because if you do my heart will be deserted like a town with Boko Haram insurgents. Stay with me so that we both can enjoy Nigeria’s wonderful cassava bread that needs no butter. We can take the Wi fi enabled love train from Lagos to Kano and back, soaking in our  lush countryscape we rescued from Lord Lugard’s children.  I promise I will never take a selfie with another woman during our stop at Lokoja to photograph the confluence of River Niger and River Benue.

My wonderful love, lets not go to the Louvre in Paris this Valentine, tarry with me in this lovely cultured land.  We can go to our vibrant National Museum of Arts and from there to our Museum Of Contemporary Art and enjoy the pulsating arts of our  motherland.

Lets hold hands and stroll on our paved boardwalks from Yaba to Onipanu, enjoying the beautiful flowers and trees, stopping by cafes to drink cold coffees and sip sweet teas. Lets laugh and stuff each other with snacks we can barely pronounce their names. We can catch the latest play at our exquisitely maintained National Theater at Iganmu before the box office closes.

Baby, inside this cold air-conditioned master bedroom, warm me like Sokoto sun.  I want to pant and run for your love this Valentine like you were a fine country and I am a desperate incumbent presidential candidate.

Old Shrine, New Gods, By Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor

I am back from church. It is noon on Sunday and the hammering has ceased. The carpenter is done. I look out my window, a shrine stares back at me. Rain has given way to sunshine. Blinding rays bounce off the corrugated zinc covering the shrine. Everybody has one in this city in this country. Along my street, like every other street in Lagos, shrines litter compounds. Small ones, big ones and very big ones. Men and women and businesses and even the government build them daily without knowing.  The shrines are built in compounds in a nondescript corner—that is well in the nature of shrines. Behind doors, bush paths, deep in the forest, river banks—humans always give gods a respectable distance.

This new shrine looks old already. Same architecture from life so distant, it is almost like it never existed. Before fraudulent prophets/pastors grew faster than mushrooms on decaying wood, we had fathers and grandfathers that could see beyond the razzmatazz of polyester suits, clip-on ties and megaphones powered by Ever Ready batteries. They were priests in their homestead; every household had one and a shrine to manage. Some shrines were made in honour of deities; others were altars of remembrance for founders of entities. Whites go to cemeteries to throw roses at gravestones of departed loved ones. Africans say prayers to theirs at shrines erected in memory of the departed. Through the diligent work of colonial/missionary masters, Okonkwo became the devil and St. Michael Peter became our angel.  Chaplets replaced amulets and pamphlets became semi-permeable membranes via which our brains osmosised western beliefs.

This Lagos shrine is not different from that of yesterday which lined the village paths I walked.  This particular shrine reminds me of Okosun Onogun’s, the blacksmith, shrine. By virtue of his profession, he was the high priest of the iron god—Ogun. His small shrine was built away from his workshop, the gulag of many dogs, Ogun’s favourite beverage maker. All day, you could hear the striking of iron on metal as he fashioned hoes and cutlasses and knives for villagers. Onogun could hold red-hot iron with bare hands because, as we were told, Ogun had given him power over burns.  Ever so often, he performed his priestly role by pouring Ogun’s diesel of dog’s blood on the shrine.  More power. Sometimes, when we dared to stare hard at the interior of Onogun’s shrine, built with wood and corrugated zinc, we saw heaps of stained metal.  Beside a very old dane gun and retired hoes and cutlasses devoid of wooden handles, new gods of Western origin found themselves into the shrine—spark plugs, a motorcycle petrol tank, bicycle chains, and a rusted exhaust pipe to show the universality of Ogun. As children, on our way to catechism or Mass, we made a sign of the cross and held tight to our rosaries as we raced past Onogun’s fearsome shrine. What frightened us most was not the caked blood of dogs that lost their lives to Ogun, but the pictures of such shrines painted by our catechist and reverend fathers. Last time I went to the village, Okosun Onogun has long gone and his shrine had taken the colour of used generator oil.

The shrine the carpenter built is for my generator, Nigeria’s new god. Every household has one, a house to house these new gods, like old shrines in my village. Pepper sellers and barbers have generators. Factories and manufacturers have generators.  The House of Assembly and Senate have generators. The Presidency and the President have generators—the new god of Nigeria. They come in different sizes, as gods are wont to, and in Nigeria size matters. To stroke egos and make manhood swell to supernatural proportions especially. Big jeep. Big houses. Big country. Big failure. So we buy bigger and bigger generators and build bigger shrines for them, as we seek more power.

The acquisition of generators is the beginning of light. For long we have been thrown into perpetual darkness by our “Power Sector” and there is nothing any government can do about it but worship generators as well.  Every Nigerian must seek his or her own power and therefore must worship generators. Even PHCN offices worship generators.  Small and mega-churches worship these new gods or else the pastor’s loudspeakers would fall silent—like the relics of Onogun’s shrine.  Dogs’ blood has been replaced with diesel and engine oil—no more barbaric sacrifices you would say. But that is because you have never visited the Niger Delta, where the oil comes from to see what and who are dying in place of dogs.

I drag my generator (only 7kva, a small god compared to my neighbour’s earth-moving one) out of its box to the shrine, clean it and give it the desired anointing with petrol and oil. As Onogun the blacksmith sought remote power from his shrine by offering it sacrifices and incantations, I seek power from my generator which came with a remote. I mutter a short prayer by the shrine and beg God to let the generator generate power.

This article was first published in NEXT. We are republishing here with the author’s permission.

Time to Run, By Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor

I don’t know at what age Soyinka wrote poetry to his first white hairs, but it must have been exhilarating or debilitating to discover the white intruders in his all black congregation of hair. I just realized recently that when human beings get to a certain age they begin to have intense conversations with their body parts. My mother has been talking to her knees now for some years. She suffers from arthritis, but she can still move around the house and the courtyard. She is in her 80s. She used to sprint like a cheetah after an errant impala, whenever I misbehave, which was often as a kid. My mother would walk miles to the market if there was no car. Then gradually, her knees and legs started rebelling. Like a sully immigration officer denying one a visa to attend a best friend’s wedding in London, the knees said NO to some of her moves. She visited us in America a few years ago. Instead of talking to us, it was always about  – If not for these my knees that say I wont go anywhere again, I would have done this or that.

Now I am the one talking to a part of my body, the way my mom speak to her legs.

This past weekend, I was at Afropolitan Music jam in Freedom Park in Lagos organized by Ade Bantu. One of the performers was the actor and musician, Wale Ojo of New Nigeria Cinema day at the British Film Institute in London. Wale was the Fela of the night, which means he wore a tight ankara trousers with a denim jacket. The first Fela song he did was Lady, one of Fela’s most energetic songs. Wale’s performance charged up the wild Lagos crowd and the night was electrified. Seeing he had the crowd by their throat, the actor/musician decided to take off his shirt. This got all the ladies screaming their head off. At this point I decided to turn my face from the stage, because one can never be too sure what’s lawful these days especially with some brand new law that nobody is too sure if it is trap for elephants or mice. But before I turned, I asked myself a very serious question – if I were a musician performing before a beautiful Lagos audience, would I be bold enough to remove my shirt on stage and reveal my once-upon-a-time six pack that is fast becoming a small sack of basmati rice?

At the beginning of this week I had started having conversation with my belly. First I blamed this phenomenal rise in status on my pounded yam breakfasts. My roasted yam launch. My eba dinners. I blamed it on everything I could possibly think of that make us Nigerian men grow potbelly proudly.  After these round-about-police-station accusations, I finally resorted to what Soyinka did to his first white hairs – I had a frank conversation with my belly:

My friend, how did we get here na? Where exactly do you think you are growing to? Let me just tell you now, I don’t have money to maintain your sudden status that you are trying to acquire o. This is not what we agreed when I was younger. Do you want to make me a laughing stock? Do you know there is no time to go to the gym in Lagos? Why are you trying to make me change my wardrobe? You know that I am not a politician with plenty agbada to cover my excesses. I know it’s a status symbol and Nigerian men like flaunting you with so much pride, but I don’t think I am cut for that.

That was the kind of conversation I had with my belly. You see, here in Nigeria many people aren’t sensitive to people’s body weight like they do in the Western world. Any stranger or friend can walk up to you in a public place and scream – Oboy you don fat well well o! You don hammer abi you don dey chop government money? See enjoyment!

Why am I alarmed with my belly that’s begging to shape itself like Ladi Kwali’s pot? Apart from the sometimes-embarrassing snide comments from friends and families sometimes, I know that a big belly is not always healthy, especially for someone who is not big-bodied naturally. White hair might be healthy and worth writing an alarming poem for, but growing a pot belly at my age is more alarming.

Seeing that if I don’t take matters into my own hands my belly will keep going on its mission, I had one more conversation with it. Look, guy, I know it’s not your fault, it’s all mine. I have totally ignored you all these while and ate what Nigeria culinary environment had to offer. I know I am not the man I used to be. I am no longer that young village boy with loads of active metabolism that could granulate Aso rock if I were to swallow it. I am sorry, I understand I have to work on you or with you. Here is what I am going to do – I have decided to run. Not for any office like President Jonathan would do in 2015 by every means necessary but I want to run every morning and every evening for my dear life. I want to run to stay fit and healthy. Kindly work with me.

Blindness at Nigeria’s Top, By Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor

Growing up in my village in Nigeria, my friends and I had a favourite game. We called it Asesebhor — “Are we there yet?”

It was a game of trust. You picked a playmate to lead you to an undisclosed spot. You’d close your eyes and, like a blind mendicant, rest both of your hands on his shoulders as he walked.

“Asesebhor?” you would keep asking. “Are we there yet?” To which he would respond, “Eiyeh” — “No.”

Others whom you passed would play along, chanting and hailing, without revealing your path or destination. When your guide stopped moving, you had arrived.

Often, you would open your eyes and be amused to find that you were in another part of the village. But sometimes, a rogue playmate would lead you into a bush of thorns or brush of poison ivy. So you learned to be on your guard. If your guide was in the habit of such tricks, you learned to slyly take a peek during the game. Though this ruined the fun of surprise, it kept you from getting hurt.

I cannot help but think that this is precisely the situation that the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, has placed himself in now — playing a game of Asesebhor with the untrustworthy associates in his cabinet and in other positions of influence and power.

To a close observer of his administration, it is obvious that most of the ministers, special advisers, special assistants and a host of others are in his government only to bleed the country dry. And from all public indications, it would appear that our president is oblivious to their deceitful games.

That is the kindest interpretation I can put on Mr. Jonathan’s inattention to the blatant corruption all around him. The alternative is that he is complicit in the corrupt actions that are clogging the wheels of progress in the country.

One thing is sure: Whatever trust the president stubbornly continues to hold in his cronies and kingmakers, whatever political debts they are collecting, whatever benefit he stands to reap by ignoring the deadwoods in his administration, it only hurts the ordinary Nigerians who voted him into power in 2011.

And whatever game he is playing with the voters’ trust, he should stop now and systematically clean up his administration.

Mr. Jonathan is not incapable of making tough decisions. He recently fired five military commanders in one fell swoop, partly because of their failures in combating the Boko Haram insurgency and partly to consolidate his power in advance of next year’s elections.

But in the area of corruption, the president has turned a blind eye.

In one recent scandal, Stella Oduah, the minister of aviation, was accused of spending 255 million naira — about $1.6 million — on the purchase of two armored cars that were worth perhaps one-quarter as much, as well as of falsifying an academic credential from an American college.

But the president has not yet acted against this minister. She continues in office while a report by a committee that was set up to investigate this case is gathering dust somewhere in the presidential offices, without having been made public.

The president’s refusal to take action against her only lends credence to the widely held suspicion that some members of his administration are untouchable. No matter their offense, the president treats them as if he trusts them blindly, while he and his cronies engage in diversionary tactics.

A few weeks ago, for example, the president asked Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, to resign from his post, a demand Mr. Sanusi has resisted. Mr. Sanusi had written a letter asking the president to look into a case of $49.8 billion in receipts from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation that are now unaccounted for.

Whereas a minister accused of misappropriating public funds is allowed to remain in office, a central bank governor has been hounded for seeking the president’s intervention in a case that strongly suggests corrupt practices in a government-owned corporation.

When the president acts — or fails to act — in this manner, ordinary Nigerians wonder where just exactly he is going, or where his advisers are leading him.

Recently, Mr. Jonathan signed into law a ban on same-sex marriage, even as another bill, which many Nigerians believe would curb corrupt practices in the oil and gas industry, suffered setback after setback in the Parliament.

The result: Nothing has been done to end corruption involving the single most important source of funds for the Nigerian government, but horror stories of gay-bashing by law enforcement officers have already become rife.

And gross failures in vital services like power supply, health care and education continue to get almost no effective attention.

In Nigeria, corrupt elected and appointed government officials typically do not resign from office unless they are forced out. So it is the duty of the commander in chief to clean a corrupt house.

Even Mr. Jonathan’s mentor, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was behind Mr. Jonathan’s rise to power, criticized him for tolerating corruption in the oil industry and other sectors and mismanaging the fight against Boko Haram. Mr. Jonathan rejected Mr. Obasanjo’s attack in an open letter.

It is time for Mr. Jonathan to open his eyes, stop the dangerous game he is playing, and fire his corrupt playmates before the voters take the matter out of his hands in the general elections scheduled for next year.

This was first published in Wednesday’s online edition of the New York Times. We have the author’s permission to republish.

Victor Ehikhamenor, a writer and artist, is the author of an essay collection, “Excuse Me! One Nigerian’s Funny Outsized Reality.” He writes a weekly column for PREMIUM TIMES. You can interact with him via his twitter handle @victorsozaboy

What is the name of your year? By Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor

We Nigerians name our years, but not like the Chinese who name their years after animals. God forbid bad thing. The God we Nigerians serve is grander than that of goat, dragon, horse, sheep, monkey, snake and the rest of the animal kingdom.  Matter of fact, we have pastors whose specialties are to cast out every spirit of these animals that the Chinese name their years after.

This might be strange to those who are not Christians or Nigerians — please, if you are reading this and you fall under those two categories, learn, because you are about to fall under special anointing and be blessed with this nugget of information.

The new year, to us Nigerians, is a like a new born baby that must be named. And as you may or may not know, names in Africa are not just names, they carry the internal and external history of the bearer and his entire lineage.

Even our colonial masters, with names like Stone and Lugard, could not wipe this naming culture out. That is why an Esan boy-child could have a colonial name like Roland yet also be named Ikhide, a name that means that no matter the weapon fashioned against me by my enemies I will not fall. Some names are prayers, some are quarrels, some are blessings, some are declaration of wealth and some are a celebration of humility or acknowledgement of poverty. But a name is never just a name in Africa; names are history laden.

We modern day Nigerians, both everyday Pentecostal Christians and non-Christians, have borrowed a leaf from the efficacy of names in our African tradition as well as from the Biblical prayer of Jabez whose change of name brought him a better destiny. Like naming children, we also name our years.

Every New Year, Nigerians both at home and abroad go for what we call the Cross Over Service. By the way, some churches’ branding and ads for their Cross Over service in Lagos surpasses that of American NFL Superbowl. Someday, I should look into the economic side of this tradition, because the amount expended on advertisement, designs and printing of billboards, stickers, pamphlets, banners, T-shirts, caps, pens etc. is mind boggling. But that’s for another day. We are naming our year for now, time to count our blessings is coming folks.

While white people are dropping the ball in New York ( And they wonder why the New York Stock Exchange Market crashes sometimes) and fireworks are going off in London city, we Nigerians seek the Lord’s face to guide us in the New Year. As soon as it is midnight, you are expected to name or declare what you want your year to be, usually during a church service. Every church has its style, but they all pretty much carry the same DNA. The name of one’s year is kind of similar to a New Year resolution, except that what I am talking about is one silver bullet that takes care of the entire year. For instance, one year was THE YEAR OF GREEN CARD for me — that was while I was in America being chased from pillar to post with a work permit that was beginning to look like an expired CVS coupon.

People name their years according to their immediate needs, so it reads something close to a prayer request. Some might be modest in their name because a firebrand preacher would have admonished against always making requests from God instead of praising Him for his previous blessings. Hence, you could see My Year Of Praise or My Year of Songs. But we are humans, we are always in need so it still ends up being a coined supplication.

A vibrant and well heeled man of God can come to the rescue during a Cross Over Service if he feels the congregation don’t know how to name their year. “This is your year of laughter! This is your year of sowing and reaping! This is your year of winning! This is your year of multiple quadruple blessings! This is your year of unmerited favour! This is your year of a new car! This is your year of a wife! This is your year of a husband! This is your year of American citizenship! Amen!”

Naming one’s year used to be a very private conversation between supplicant and his/her God. But lately I have seen some contacts on my BlackBerry Messenger, boldly declaring their years in status updates. Let me share just two with you – cousin Big Joe’s own is MY YEAR OF GREATNESS and a former coworker’s is MY YEAR OF GOODNESS AND MERCY. Those are just a few examples.

Now I am wondering, what if some of our political leaders were on my contact list, what would they name their new year? And don’t you tell me they don’t name their year in Abuja. Let’s be honest with ourselves, Nigeria is currently operating a Pentecostal System of Government, a beautiful presidential phenomenon I will be discussing sometime soon.

Now let’s take a wild guess at some of the politician’s years:

President Jonathan = My Year of Fearlessness

Senate President David Mark = My Year of Decisive Move

Stella Oduah = My Year of Spiritual Strength and Conquest

First Lady, Patience Jonathan = My Year of Finishing Off My Home Enemy

Governor Amaechi of Rivers = My Year of Defeating The Goliath

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala = My Year of Bountiful Harvest

Bamanga Tukur = My Year of Survival

Olusegun Obasanjo = My Year of Divine Messages

Muhammadu Buhari = My Year of Breakthrough

James Ibori = My Year of Freedom

Abubakar Atiku = My Year Of New Hope

Bola Tinubu = My Year of Good Health

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi = My Year of Glory

Peradventure, our president has not named this year for our country, I hereby implore him to contact a fellow president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejefo, to help name the year. As for you, what did you name your year? If you haven’t,  name your year now, it works.

Mr. Ehikhamenor, an expressionistic painter and art photographer, is author of the brusque satire, Excuse Me! He writes, every Thursday, a weekly column for Premium Times.  Interact with him via  his twitter handle @victorsozaboy or his website www.victorehi.com 

Evangelist Evans’ Jesus Christ Of Okrika, By Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor-Ehikhamenor

A man has two scorpion tails that must never be stepped on barefooted – his mother’s reputation and his religious belief. Man can easily kill and has killed when these two very volatile lines are crossed. One of Nigeria’s biggest problem today and even the world over is religious intolerance, never diss a man’s belief or his religious figure head. Cartoonists, writers, poets, journalists etc have had fatwa placed on their heads like a falling mace for mouthing off at someone’s belief.

Unfortunately, brethren never learn from history and these have caused a lot of broken hearts and bleeding heads. Brother Rotimi Amaechi whom I thought was a good Christian with insight and wisdom missed the teaching of the Bible that says - Touch not my anointed, and do my prophets no harm. He did not only touch the anointed he went ahead and  insulted a wild Christian’s Jesus Christ and hell and mace broke loose under his roof.  Brother Amaechi can no longer claim ignorance to the cause of the tsunamic turmoil that has flooded his House.

 Brethrens many times have we heard that God’s ways are not our ways, therefore we must be mindful of our surroundings.  How else do we explain how a very humble woman, born in the riverine area of Okrika (the home of second hand goods)  who has been preaching about widows and children, travelling in canoes and been laughed at because of her utterances, is actually the saviour we have all been waiting for? Ever since Evangelist Evans’s revelation about our most Venerable Patience Jonathan my joy has known no bounds. The explosion of Pentecostalism in Nigeria has eventually paid off tremendously for us because our lord and saviour chose our nation as the host country for the second coming. Halleluyah somebody!

If by now you still don’t believe that the right Venerable Patience Jonathan is Evangelist Evans’ Christ, that means you need to pray for the holy ghost fire to burn logs of your eyes and soften your heart of stone to believe. What has been hidden from our prophets, pastors, prophetesses, bishops, arch bishops, reverends, most reverends, reverend fathers and all the Pentecostal paramilitaries has been revealed to a politician. God is wonderful. I hope we can now all believe the First Lady’s testimony in an Abuja church that she died and rose after seven days. Evangelist Evans’ Jesus Christ of Okrika rose from the dead after seven good days and this shattered the previous three days record in the now old new testament. We Nigerians despite our churches and cathedrals and worshipping culture were doubting Thomases when she preached this sermon a while back, hang your heads in shame brothers and sisters.

No other outstanding miracle since the first Jesus Christ turned water to Merlot in a Galilean wedding. Now it is obvious that Evangelist Evans’ Jesus Christ was the one that converted cassava to bread, not anybody else. And guess who was the mother of the day at Evangelist Evans Bipi’s wedding?  The right Venerable Patience Jonathan, of course.

If you have come this far and you are still doubting Evangelist Evans’ claim that our First Lady is his Jesus Christ, let’s see what the Bible says about Christ’s second coming in 1st Thessalonians  - Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

Now do you see what I am saying? Did the First Lady not come upon us like a thief in the night? Has some newspapers not even misread this prophesy and sometimes called the poor woman a thief! A prophet is really without honour in his home country. Oh shame on you blasphemous people! Brethrens, don’t let your life be that  while people are screaming “Peace and Safety” you allow destruction in form of mace to come down suddenly on your head because of your unbelief.

 If you are still wondering while someone’s head was broken with a mace, then you are really a neophyte Christian.  Let me tell you, never mouth off at someone’s Jesus Christ, you will never go free because justice will be swift. Someone please go to the book of John 18, verse 10: Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.

Brethren, since we have moved from the use of sword as a weapon of war to mace, Evangelist Evans and the five disciples had no choice but to smash a head for their master’s sake, to let the pagan politician know they weren’t faffing around. And just like in the Bible, where Jesus Christ (in his first coming) told Simon Peter to put away his sword, Evangelist Evans’ Jesus just released a statement this week for her disciples to put their mace away and embrace peace.

Despite all these and even now that Evangelist Evans Bipi has revealed Christ’s identity to us, some of our brothers and sisters are still jumping up and down, building churches, crusading, defrauding poor people, seeing fake vision 202020 and telling Nigerians that Christ is coming meanwhile Christ is already walking on waters in Rivers.  Since that violent crusade in the House, and a brother held Evangelist Evans the way a pastor holds a worshipper under the influence of the holy spirit, and he confessed the profound words that has shifted our paradigm – “Why must he be insulting my mother, my Jesus Christ on earth?…I cant take it…” I have not been able to look many pastors in the face. How long can these false prophets lie to their congregations? Why do millions of Christians in Nigeria have to get this very vital piece of revelation  about Jesus Christ from a boxer-looking politician instead of the president of CAN?

I hope that our men of God are prepared to see the drop in church attendance and revenue because all roads now lead to Okrika, our new Jerusalem. Woe betide Nigeria government if they don’t capitalize on this and turn Okrika, where Evangelist Evans’ Jesus was born, to a tourist attraction and save tax payers’ money on annual pilgrimage sponsorship to far away old Jerusalem. Every Christian should be able to afford themselves Ekene Dili Chukwu or Arik ticket to Okrika.

To end this sermon, someone should remind Professor Wole Soyinka that the Venerable Patience Jonathan is not a pekelemense white Jesus Christ he considers a fictional character. She is the formidable and unshakeable lord of five fervent disciples,  their very first homemade black Jesus Christ. The old Prof should refrain from further blasphemies because surviving the taking over of a radio station and fighting military dictatorship to a standstill is like a child’s play when it comes to withstanding Evangelist Evans and the five disciples. Soyinka’s cataclysmic grammar can not form a helmet when a mace comes down on his white head.

Brothers and sisters, lets do a sign of the mace, service has ended, groan in peace!

Achebe: Africa’s Voice, Nigeria’s Conscience, By Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor

I grew up under my grandfather’s ancient pear tree in the Nigerian village of Uwessan. The tree’s roots were massive and its leaves shielded us from hot tropical sun while we played soccer. Elders also used it as shade while drinking palm wine and telling hunting tales in the evening. We sometimes climbed a low branch to set wire-traps and catch birds. When a dead branch broke off, it became firewood. Most important, the tree was a major cash crop for my grandfather, who sold its fruits to traders from far away.

Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian writer who died last week, was a similarly rich resource for an entire generation of Nigerians. He meant different things to different people, but he was first and foremost a writer whom we all grew up to respect.

We were raised on Mr. Achebe’s stories. His fame spread through towns and villages across Nigeria and even beyond. I first encountered him at the age of 10 through the pages of “Chike and the River,” a children’s storybook. Mr. Achebe later became a regular staple at every step of my educational journey.

In secondary school, his masterpiece “Things Fall Apart” was a recommended text. My older siblings had read the novel and passed down the story and a worn-out copy to me. One of my older sisters had warned me that some parts of the book were so tragic I would cry. I never knew until then that written words could elicit such emotions. When you grew up in a village like mine, not many books had familiar characters, setting or diction like Mr. Achebe’s.

His use of parables and proverbs brought his writing home for me, because they were sayings I heard every day as a villager.

In my undergrad days as an English and literature major, we were asked to write long essays on him and his works. Throughout the four years in the department, most of us had read him so much we felt we knew him personally.

I finally met Mr. Achebe in person years later in New York. When he entered the room, everybody froze in reverence. He was not a physical giant with a booming voice. He was a gentle needle that sewed tattered clothes, a minuscule scorpion’s tail that packed venom. He answered every question with the precision of a sniper. He was a man who spoke gently, yet he was a writer “in whose company the prison walls fell down,” as Nelson Mandela said.

Mr. Achebe was a source of pride to many Nigerians, an elder we could point to when the world laughed at our shortcomings. We often invoked his name like that of a fierce god.

Beyond his literary prowess, Mr. Achebe was known to stand for what he believed in. When those who did not know the African story told it to glorify themselves, he rose like a lion and thwarted the hunter’s tales with truth. Not only did he fight back against the mistelling of our story by white explorers; he equipped other writers to do the same.

With fiction and nonfiction, he helped us deride colonialism. He went to the front lines of the Biafran war in the late 1960s and served as an ambassador for the short-lived breakaway republic when he felt the need to side with his fellow Ibos in their unsuccessful fight for independence.

He also addressed corruption head on, teaching younger Nigerians not to be hungry to the point of selling our birthrights. His soul and conscience were nonnegotiable. He turned down Nigeria’s national honors twice because he was one who believed an elder should not eat his meal atop a heap of malodorous rubbish.

Mr. Achebe was a gentle rebel who refused to shake the necrotic outstretched hands of corrupt leaders. He was an old breed, a wise man from a different generation who could not stand the wanton looting of Nigeria’s public coffers.

Mr. Achebe would have loved to spend his twilight years among his own people instead of in America. With the bastardization of a nation he was once proud of by kleptocratic military and civilian rulers, the old man had no country to return to alive.

This article was first published in the New York Times, and was thereafter sent to us by the author.

Victor Ehikhamenor, a writer and visual artist, is the author of “Excuse Me!”

Black Smoke for a Black Pope? By Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor

Lately, I have been drawn into the affairs of the Vatican like a flirtatious butterfly to sweet smelling nectar. I have been submerged into the traditions of men with long, black, red sometimes white gowns and red caps. They were the cardinals that would select the next pope. The entire holy shenanigan had been sometimes confusing, because we were told that electing a new pope is not a political issue, but a spiritual matter. But when I started hearing words like “vote” and “election” the political fire inside me started bringing out smoke from my ears.

First, white smoke, then as I get warmed up real good and looked at the history behind the selection of past pontiffs, the smoke turned black. But I plugged my ears and held my breath let me see if the eggs laid by chicken will hatch snake or if the mature cassava will yield a harvest of yams, this is a spiritual matter, remember. An unusual thing has to happen like having a black pope. I was waiting to see if the cardinals would pick Francis Arinze as the new papal.

One side of my head said.”a black papal?” I said why not.this is a spiritual matter. After that last thought, I started dreaming.

Pope Francis Arinze, I don’t see any reason why he could not be the Pope. He has been a Vatican insider since 1985 and has held key positions and was very close to the late Pope John Paul. He shared some of the last pope’s ideology and he is not afraid to say his mind. He denounced the social decadence and moral depravity inherent in America society when he had the opportunity in 2003.

He is a great “uniter” or a unifier, someone who had no qualms with Moslems. He had arranged for the pope to visit a mosque, a gargantuan feat in modern day history.

His resume is flawless.

I kept dreaming.

Afterall, Africa has more that 150 million Catholics and Nigeria (his home country) has about 19 million, not counting those in my village. Yes, while Catholic population is dipping in Europe and going up in smoke in North America, it is growing rapidly in Africa. I couldn’t see any reason why the cardinals should not let an African be a pope. Not only is the church growing there but also Africa is the major supplier of priests to the rest of the world. No one wants to be a priest in America or Europe anymore.

I kept dreaming.

The other cardinals will see Francis as a man of high moral and spiritual standard because no African priest was named among the pedophilic priests that rocked America recently. He will bring revival to the dwindling popularity of Catholicism.

Why not Francis Arinze, afterall for the past 1,500 years, all the popes have been white. Since the church preaches equality for all men (and women), it will be spiritually right to have a black pope. I thought.

The newspaper analysis were encouraging. Television reviews and interviews were pointing favorably to uncle Francis.

I kept dreaming but more with trepidation now.

I quickly moved beyond the papal election and went straight to post election celebration in my dream. If Francis becomes the pope we would have street-closing parties. There would be Atilogwu in the Vatican, upwine would flow ceaselessly like river Niger. If they allow us, we would bring egungun and do the magic dance for the white world to see. Loud speakers from back of pickups would blast none-stop gospel highlife music.

We are Nigerians and we celebrate in grand style. we would wear the best clothes money can buy. Lace from Liverpool, adire from Oshogbo. Cupion, Aso-oke, we would show them what it is to have color. We would distribute gifts like plastic plates, buckets, fans, asuebi, T-shirts, tea mugs, African prints with Francis Arinze’s picture and full name plastered all over the gift items in circular format. Onitsha women union would dance round the streets of Rome and be drunk with the holy spirit in celebration.

Italy would see what they have never seen before yes, we would spray dollars, pound sterling and Euros. The slow procession of the cardinals would be hastened, and the old cardinals (those 80 years and above) that cannot walk would found themselves in the shoulders of young strong priest from Onitsha diocese. African drums would deafen the ears of nature the emir of Kano, Katsina and Zaria would send their long pipe players. Talking drums and oriki masters would flow from the Alafin of Oyo and Oni of Ife’s palace. Oba of Benin would send the best red regalia, adorned with ivories and coral beads never before worn by a pope. Men would bring goat and cow meat.women would cook jollof rice and fufu. The aroma of Egusi and Ogbono soup would harass the Roman air and wake up Julius Caesar.

But one side of my head was telling me enisuru!.What if the cardinals do not see beyond cardinal Francis Arinze’s skin color. What if they see him as colored instead of a man with colorful personality, what if they treat him the way other black immigrants are treated everyday in the corporate western world? Where a school dropout lords it over a Phd holder. What if they don’t see him as a qualified cardinal who is different from the broom pushing and high-rise window cleaning black man? What if they think all he is good for is just the Prefect of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments?

Now my mind was racing.Questions were jamming questions like a multiple car crash during rush hour.What in God’s name actually goes on inside the Conclave? Has there ever been fair play whenever those Roman doors are closed? Does a black man have a voice in the midst of so many white men behind closed door? Will they ask Francis to close his eyes for prayer, while the rest are willing and dealing with eyes wide open? Will a few minority cardinals rule over million African Catholics, if it happened, can we call that apartheid or neo-colonization?

My dreams were now gradually dissipating and melting away as these thoughts keep running riot in my head. But I tried to remain calm and told myself that it was a spiritual thing and not political. If it were not so, Nigerians would have taught them how to play politics.

I became impatiently patient, waiting for white smoke to rise from the ashes of burnt straws.

When I saw the smoke rising from the chimney, my heart pounded, I could not tell black smoke from white smoke. I waited for the balls of the Sistine Chapel’s bell to clank and herald Francis Arinze, but silence banged my ears like a judge’s gavel.

Today destiny caught me unaware, but God had a better sense of humor. I was driving past the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception along Michigan Avenue in Washington DC, when I heard the insistent clanking of their bells. The sound was riotous.It continued like an ancient Roman bedlam. Something must have happened when I was not paying attention. The Pope, oh my God!

I quickly tuned to the WTOP news station on my car radio. But it was commercial. Damn American commercials! I became frantic and called my brother at home and asked if there has been a new pope.”You haven’t heard?” he asked quizzically.

My next question was: “Is he black?” And he shot back like he’d been rehearsing the answer all day.

“You must be dreaming boy, black pope in Rome ke?”

Yes I have been dreaming. I was hoping that when the white billows of smoke float heaven ward, it would herald a black pontiff.

I have been dreaming, the only thing I can’t be deprived of because of the color of my skin.

I closed my phone and shifted my gear, it was also time to shift my dream as the clanging of the bell receded behind me.

Mr. Ehikhamenor first published this piece in April 2005. It is reproduced again to give meaning to the currency of the theme in the light of the just-announced resignation of Pope Benedict.

Superbowl Sonny, By Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor

Last Sunday was Superbowl in America, and if you missed it I am sorry and if you don’t know what I am talking about, omase o. It is one of those Sundays I looked forward to because you could get really drunk without your family suggesting you go for AA therapy. But more seriously, I love the TV commercials that get rolled out during timeouts. Companies compete for attention with new, funny and crazy commercials in front of millions of Americans guzzling Budweiser beer (NOTE: Budweiser paid me to insert their name here—in America, they call that Product Placement).  Superbowl Sunday sees an array of parties all over town, and despite the cold weather the atmosphere is usually charged with festivities and fanaticism. For the past ten years or so, I have only looked forward to the parties and not the games because my local team, the Washington Redskins, is exactly like our Nigerian lawmakers; they get paid millions of dollars to fool around. Redskins over the years play as if they are characters in a beta version of Nintendo Wii.

Since I did not have any dog in this year’s fight, as usual (apology to Michael Vick), and did not feel like bracing the cold weather I thought to relax in one of my brother’s new reclining chairs meant for Nollywood movies. I had settled down, with all necessary paraphernalia for lazy TV watching when my brother declared that we were going to a Superbowl party. I told him I wasn’t in the mood for going out,  I could no longer bear the wintery bitterness of America, the cold seemed angrier at me ever since I moved back home to Nigeria. Also I hadn’t planned on attending any party because in America you are supposed to take your own drink to the host’s house, a culture I could no longer tolerate. I spend more time in Nigeria now, and at home you don’t call a party if you can’t handle the entertainment.  But my brother insisted we go—“Oya let’s go, we are going to Sonny’s house.” That did it for me, I jumped up.

You see, Uncle Sonny (Superbowl Sonny) is a true Nigerian when it comes to hosting parties. Moreover, I think those who declared Nigerians as the happiest people in the world met Uncle Sonny first and last and concluded the matter. I have attended countless numbers of Superbowl parties in his house and knew better not to miss this. Also, as a Washington Redskins season ticket holder, the party helps Uncle Sonny forget the abysmal performance of the hideous team and its bizarre owner, Daniel Snyder.

Brothers and sisters, Uncle Sonny turned it up a notch this year. We arrived a bit late and could barely find parking space around his house. My brother was about to drive to another street in search of parking in the bitter cold when I shook my head and said—“You Americans, abeg block somebody, when e wan go e go call us na.” He too shook his head and said, “You Nigerians!” but he hates the cold, so we did a Lagos parking stunt and rushed into the house.

It was like a beehive inside Uncle Sonny’s new house (recently built with Nigerian and Superbowl parties in mind). There were different sections with plasma TVs staring from the walls like blackboards. Oh, I forgot to tell you that when you are going to his party, you don’t take anything along but thirst and hunger. This party was fully catered ala Lagos style. The first room I arrived in was the children and youth section, these were the American children born by Nigerian parents who think pounded yam can choke the eater—so there were boxes of pizzas, macaroni and cheese, Chinese food, and all kinds of non-alcoholic beverages there. Uncle Sonny had accosted us at the door, his face filled with happiness and laughter. There was also the shock of seeing me – coming all the way from Nigeria – to his Superbowl party. He took our coats himself (sorry folks, no matter how rich you are in America, no houseboys and house girls there) and led us to the basement where the real action was.

The basement was already jam-packed, with rolls of seats like Onikan stadium. The comfortable,   fully-upholstered seats in the front row were already occupied by early birds. Not to worry, because the TV was so large I could have seen a pin if I were watching from Ekpoma. There was a buffet with uniformed Hispanic waiters serving  pounded yam with egusi, Ogbono with assorted, efo  riro with orisisi, jollof rice, fried rice, beans and dodo, American-suya (i.e. peppered skewered beef) and Nigerian salad—the one with sardine, baked beans, and all the things that are not supposed to be mentioned in the same breath as salad. The generational and cultural difference between Nigerian fathers and their American children was glaring and jarring in Uncle Sonny’s selection of food for this section.

The drinks selection ranged from robust VSOP, various bottles of brandy, assorted wines in bottles the shape of cheerleaders, and Guinness stout of course. I sat among old friends and ignored every single question about Nigeria, because in all honesty I don’t wash dirty national linen in public, especially in the home of such a good man as Uncle Sonny.

The author culled this article from his new book: Excuse Me!

My friend is going to America for Christmas, By Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor

Congratulations, I heard they finally gave you American visa after five years of praying and fasting, gathering documents from bank to bank like babalawo collecting items for sacrifice. More interestingly, you have chosen to celebrate your Christmas in America. Great choice but before you buy that ticket to God’s own country, here are a few things to note.

As you pack your travelling bag, remember it is winter over there. That means the temperature is the same as your deep freezer (assuming you have light in your area). Pack some heavy clothing, I don’t mean aso-oke, I am talking real thick jackets. Don’t waste too much money you can get second-hand winter jacket in Balogun market. Don’t take palm sandals and slippers or that dry-lace kaftan because you will freeze faster than Ibru ice fish.

If it snows, those your smooth-sole shoes will be totally useless. Step out on Nigerian shoes in America when it snows, your falling will be worse than okada accident on 3rdMainland Bridge. I can not really tell you what you are going to break if you fall, but usually it is the tailbone, because you slip forward in the car park and the next thing you are high up in the air as if you are a participant in World Wide Wrestling Foundation and bam!

Trust me when you land on your ass, the entire white snow turns to technicolours before it turns black. When your eyes are clear, you start laughing at yourself like a mad woman in Ekpoma market. So, keep the Italian shoes and go for real boots or trainers aka sneakers and save yourself a disjointed downfall

Ha! My brother those your Polo t-shirts and jeans are too tight o.  You may be attracting the wrong sex and that is all I have to say about that. Wear oversize suit. I am sure you have seen a certain Pastor T D Jakes, with 8-button suit?

He is American and please borrow a button or two from him. Make sure the sleeves of your suit shake hands with your palms. The more you look like a newly ordained Pentecostal bishop the better.

Where are you going with that bush meat and okporoko? Jehovah! Well if you think LASTMA guys in Lagos are wicked, you apparently have never encountered United States’ Customs and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) officers – especially the ones that look like they are immigrants from Vietnam. Yes, short from calling you an animal who carries disease about, they will seize everything you have in your bag that resembles food.

Before I forget, please do not tick “Yes” on an entry form that asks if you have been to any farm, even if you live in a farm house in Isikwuato. If you tick “Yes” you might as well tell them you are a card-carrying and bomb-wearing member of Al Qaeda. So don’t waste money on bushmeat, fried meat, snail or the likes. But here is a small secret if you still decide to take Nigerian food - tell them everything you are carrying is “Processed Food”. That phrase usually work like magic, in America words can get you in and out of trouble.

Yes, I know you want to shop till you drop dead while in America because you would have found out that the Ikea kitchen napkin you bought for N15,000.00 in Victoria Island is just $1.99 in America. As they say, who nor go nor know. Make sure the dollars on you while entering America is $9,999.00. If it is or over $10,000.00 you will have to explain where you got the money from in multiple forms.

Never mind that our hardworking Nigerian leaders have numerous accounts spilling will billions of dollars in American banks and buying houses the way you buy Tom-Tom from Iya Bose without anyone asking questions.When you have gone to America and come back, check the synonym of America in dictionary you just might see “Hypocrites”, depending on the version of your dictionary.

If you don’t want that American visa to become melted ice cream in your hands, set aside a large sum of naira to “tip” the driver that will drop you at the airport, the Air Force man that will open the glass doors at MMA for you, the young man who will invade your privacy while you try to empty your bowels and ration tissue paper and hand washing soap in the bathroom (Some have lotion and one bottle of perfume for men and women),  the gum-chewing-bleached-out-frustrated ticket lady (she is very important, she has the power to give you a seat next to the airplane’s toilet. And trust me, you don’t want to stay near a toilet for that number of hours in a flight departing from Lagos), the cleaning lady who will beg openly or sell recharge card of N1,000 for N1500 to you,  NDLEA and Customs (who might seize your crayfish or ask for your receipt for the okporoko you bought in Mile 12 market) Navy, Police,Army, Immigration officers of different versions (those that check your passport before you get your ticket, those that stamp it at the long hot security line before you get to your boarding gate and those that will take the passport from you once your hand luggage passes through x-Ray and just stare at you waiting for you to “drop”), FAAN, NAMA, CID,NSO, etc. Trust me, Christmas travel through Murtala Mohamed Airport is brutal, you are the one that will provide the money for these government uniformed  filchers !

Now that you have successfully landed and you listened or ignored (most first time travelers usually don’t listen, that is why you see many Nigerians buying Ghana-Must-Go bags and reshuffling their entire life, stuffing Victoria Secret panties in handbags in a dingy corner of the airport) some of my initial advise and sailed through US immigration -Welcome to the famous America the land of the free in bondage!

First of all braze your self for a few changes that no one can warn you about. If your friend that swore by his late father that he will pick you from the airport is not around when you land take heart. And when you are able to work the public phones to call him, he start describing for you the nearest train station and what it will cost you to take a bus from Union Station to Silver Spring, don’t be shocked at all. He is not the one on vacation, you are. He cannot afford to be late to work because your flight was delayed in Lagos. In America, people do not joke with their time and jobs.

When you hear the term clock-in and clock-out, it means an actual clock that makes a very loud noise like a rabbit trap when it stamps time of your resumption and closing on a card. There is no “abeg sir” in America. You get paid only for what you do, unlike here.

It is finally Christmas Day and the initial excitement of enjoying fast Internet, shower with good pressure and uninterrupted power supply are wearing off ( Although you still cannot figure out why your friend keep switching off lights after you every two-two seconds and keeps reducing the heat even when your teeth are jammed together with cold and telling you to wear sweater and socks more in the house). Well, in America, like Nigeria, you pay for everything, the only difference is one of the two countries actually deliver what you pay for. Go figure!

Without a doubt, you are definitely going to be indoors on Christmas Day for two reasons. It’s either your host has to work to earn double-pay so he can pay for the expenses you will incur within two weeks or he takes the day off from work to rest from the multiple-shift he has racked for weeks, (by now you have gotten over the shock that he is not a medical doctor as you were made to believe but a male nurse in Providence Hospital, Washington DC who hardly sleeps in his big mortgaged  house). And you really don’t know anywhere or cannot go anywhere by yourself. All your friends you usually enjoy Christmas with are here in Lagos deciding what party to attend from numerous invitations, sifting through gift cards and gift baskets from corporate bodies and business partners.

If you are expecting the streets to be exciting with colourful children as if you are in Nigeria, you are in for a shocker bros. The days leading to Christmas are the only exciting times, because that’s when America capitalism come out with chainsaw to separate you and your hard-earned money. But on Christmas Day everybody is pretty locked inside as if they are in maximum security prison. Immigrants who don’t have to work that day may have one or two indoor get together and drink watery Budweiser, mellow down small stout and Heineken and tasteless fried chicken.

The really old Nigerians who have been in America for so long will be playing Don Williams and Eric Donaldson, wearing ironed jeans and reminiscing on Gowon’s administration and Udoji awards that brought them to exile. They shake their heads with eyes fixed on a faraway objects of no substance, thinking about the nursing home in which they will spend their retirement.

For the white people, they stay by the fire and, in-between loud wonderful farts, roast chestnuts and marshmallow, two things that are far from roasted corn, plantain or yam you are used to. If it snows, you may see hooded white kids building a snowman and sticking carrots on the nose of their temporary Pinocchio sculpture – a reminder that America life is nothing but lies.

Have yourself a cold Merry Christmas in God’s own country. I am off to my Esan village where I can tie wrapper round my waist waiting for yam to roast in the fire, receive blessings from toothless and grey hair elders, watch colourful children with plastic eye-glasses and wristwatches match up and down the dusty path of my childhood, bare my chest to receive organic air and wait for Ogbone to come down from the palm tree with a foaming gourd of God’s own juice!