I have offered this tale, with a purpose in mind, how prepared are the children you are raising, to live in the Nigeria they’ll inherit from you?
My recent works have been dark, humorless, and depressing. But then, I do write from my stream of consciousness, and it is hard to be anything but depressed, when the state of Nigeria is contemplated. It is my intention to lighten the mood, even as I intend to share a true story, a cautionary tale, with you.
Out of respect for the privacy of the primary source of this tale, I will fudge the identities of the parties involved, and will use only types, instead of persons. This will not in any way affect the facts, and other than the injection of my own opinions, I shall merely retell the story I was told.
My friend is a self made man. He’s from one of the many tribes of the Nigerian delta, the son of a cook, whose wife traded petty stuffs and pretty much stayed at home to raise the kids. He cottoned on to his allergy for poverty, early in life, and to Germany he fled barely out of his teenage years. Whatever he did, only he can tell, but suffice to say, he wasn’t washing German plates, and I doubt he broke too much sweat, in the Prussian cold. But as the story goes, he had built his first house in Nigeria by the time he was 25 years old. He mentioned bringing Tokunbo cars to Nigeria as a source of early wealth. My grandfather is also Chinese.
As his wealth grew, so did the shadiness of the past. He has not offered too many details in the past, and I have never considered it my business to ask, but war tales of time spent enjoying the hospitality of the American state, have featured in our talks about the past. Whatever he did, he would swear he has stopped, having gone legit since his return to Nigeria, over a decade ago, he now runs a very successful real estate business.
As his wealth has grown, he sent his children and wife to America to live, Nigeria has failed, he would often declare. With his family away from the country, golf became a refuge for him. Once freed of his occasional visits to his project sites, he would be found within the precinct of Ikoyi Club. He views the club as something of a social education class. But just tarry a while, and all would be clear, the bastion of old privilege has been overran by serfs.
“Arokean Bogey” such as I am, I did not become acquainted with this privileged club, until sometime in the 1990s, when by reason of my friendship with a dear friend and her loving family, I was asked along, a couple of times, over the years. It was at the time, a place to congregate for the elites of the Lagos Island. The Ikoyi, Victoria Island elites would retire their for their leisure. The technocrats, judges, the top civil servants, expatriates, it wasn’t much different from the country clubs you’d find all over America, and the crowd not dissimilar.
Fast forward to the present day, and my friend was sat at the bar with other club members of his own age. The conversation turned to the years of youth, and the lives these gentlemen shared, save my friend. They all grew up within the Ikoyi and VI axis. They told of early friendships formed at the elitist St’ Saviors School, tales were told of Corona Schools, and Greg’s. ISL at Unilag was also a name. Trips to Ikoyi Park, now Parkview without a park, were recalled, oh, the weekly tea parties in so, so, and so’s front gardens. Civil servants sons, swapped tales of trips to the then seat of power, Dodan Barracks, with the Generals sons, memories of the old Ikoyi perfumed the air.
“Charley, what schools did you attend?” This is the question my friend was asked. If you have ever been around golfers, you’d know that they gamble. The amount involved is not the issue, I have seen Generals, men who have salted away untold fortunes, compete as though, their very lives depended on it, just because of a bet. It’s more about the bragging rights, than money. The questioner had just received a hiding from my friend, and graciousness is not a word with which my friend is acquainted. He had teased his questioner ceaselessly, and wickedly.
Let’s call the questioner, Ade. Ade’s father was a judge of the Lagos High court. The old man was a magistrate who rose through the ranks, and Ade grew up in the Ikoyi of old. He had always found the acerbic wit of the cook’s son, a thorn in his flesh, and his insouciant ways, a source of constant irritation. Ade went to the very best of Ikoyi schools, and topped it off, with English boarding school for ‘his A Levels, and from the university of London, a Bachelor, and Masters degree in law. The question was designed to put my friend in his place. Ade concluded by wondering aloud, how come my friend never had anything to say, about his childhood.
“Which one of the schools I attended, would be of interest to you, and which one of them would you have ever heard of or know? When you were being chauffeured to St’ Saviors, and Eton, I was in school in Ajakpavakpa in Uruosa LGA of my backwater state, and when papa was sending you money to go to school in London, I was already paying school fees for my younger ones in Nigeria. Would you like me to tell you of the times my father’s salary wasn’t enough to pay the fees for all his children, when we had to decide whose turn it was, to wear the only shoes, available to three brothers?”. This was my friend, Charley’s retort. But he didn’t end it there, his legendary insouciance came to the fore, and he went for the jugular with the way he closed.
“You all grew up in Ikoyi and with privileges, I have only one question for you, how many of you, today resides in the same Ikoyi? You live in Egbeda, you in Surulere, you in Magodo, and you, Ajah, Ade my questioner, you live in the LSDPC slums of Dolphin Estate” The only one of them still in the neighborhood, lives in a block of flats, owned by his father’s estate, a block of ten apartments, built on what was his childhood home, his father’s house, and which his Law office manages. Ikoyi for them, a memory of youth, but my friend you see, lives on the island called Banana, where the storm waters of the Ikoyi of Ade’s youth, used to flow.
I have offered this tale, with a purpose in mind, how prepared are the children you are raising, to live in the Nigeria they’ll inherit from you? Could, and should, Ade’s and his friends’ fathers, have prepared them for the Nigeria of today? Could they have predicted today’s Nigeria? The past is gone, and with the lost past, the opportunities for prophesy about yesterday, but this is now, and there’s tomorrow to foretell. What would be the future, that our children would inherit?
Where do you live, and where would they live?
What kind of Nigeria are you building, or not building for them? Where do you live now? My story might talk about a physical space, but you’ll be misled, if you focused on that. Think!
First published 3 October, 2018.