Blog Archives

Literary Change for Africans

At first when I read the Daily Prompt for today, I was a bit stomped. “What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?” On the surface the question seems easy, but on closer inspection you discover it’s a rather tough one. It reminds me of one test I wrote in my Macro Economics class back in the university, I thought I did excellently well on the test, I thought I had nailed all the answers but when the result came back, it was awful. Back to business, after much consideration I have figured out what change I want my blog to do. I want my blog to challenge people to take a deeper interest in reading and writing. And when I say “people” I mean specifically those from my country (Nigeria) and other developing countries in Africa.

There is a saying here in Africa, I am not sure exactly how it goes but it sounds something like this: “if you want to hide information/knowledge from an African put it in a book”. As much as I want to punch whoever came up with this saying in the face, the truth is that he/she is right. I don t need statistics and figures on illiteracy or poverty to tell you this; the average African cannot even write his name let alone write a piece or even read the works of others. Here in Nigeria for example, the universities produce tonnes and tonnes of graduates every year, but still a large majority of them cannot even comfortably summarize a passage for you. For instance, while I was still job hunting, I went for an aptitude test where we were told to write an essay on any topic of our choosing, and it turned out many people could not write. A lot of the applicants who wrote the test with me only submitted their multiple choice answer sheets, leaving behind the essay sheet on the table. Another instance was during my National Youth Service year in 2011. We were given forms to fill out for registration, and while I was busy filling mine a young lady (university graduate) walked up to me smiling sheepishly (I thought she was about to make a pass at me… :D). Contrary to my delusion, it turned out that she did not even know how to fill out her name in the boxes. I was deeply shocked, but I fought very hard from showing how bizarre it all seemed to me. So when you think about it, if a supposed graduate cannot write and read, what do you expect from the common man on the street who probably only went to primary/elementary school.

I know my blog might not have articles on reading and writing or other material of a similar nature. I know my posts do not get 100 or more “likes” and views. I know I have never been on the Freshly Pressed list. But I hope the mere fact that I am writing inspires African people to want to do the same. I hope that African people wake up to fight and erase this bad stereotype as portrayed in the saying “if you want to hide information/knowledge from an African put it in a book.” I hope that the next time that kid in the village picks up his phone to go on Facebook, he will be met by a link to my blog or the blog of others who will inspire him/her to read and write. I hope that someday, a published author from Africa will mention me in the dedication page as an inspiration to start writing.

I hope and Pray.

Advertisements

Guest Without A Passport

Daily Post:

The moral of this story is so very important that I have to mention it before any other thing starts. Never go to a family event with a family you just met and also where you do not know the other families. Essentially, Do not go to a family event without you own family, it’s the one of most uncomfortable and awkward positions you can put yourself in. I learned the hard way.

A very new friend of mine invited me to the birthday dinner of a cousin of he’s at a restaurant within working distance of my house. I had misgivings, which were somewhat mollified when he told me that there would be a variety of food and wine, and so I considered. I met my new friend, Dave (I will call him Dave for the sake of anonymity, because no one invites you to a family function so you can go blog how bad it was for you) at a bus stop recently in Victoria Island where we were both stranded. Due to the artificially induced fuel scarcity in the country, finding a bus had become such a chore. We immediately bonded over our mutual disdain of the current political and economic predicament of Nigeria; suffice to say the friendship was an instant hit. Now when I think about it, I wonder how many friendships have germinated from a shared dislike over some political or economic situation, I am guessing a lot, because living in a country like Nigeria, one thing you can count on is for the leaders to always give you something to make your life miserable and thus give its citizens the opportunity to engage in heated debates about them. Eventually Dave and I finally found our way home that evening.

Dave comes from one of those nascent bi-ethnic families in Nigeria. His mum is Yoruba while his dad is Igbo. So unlike me, he had the privileged opportunity to learn two languages. I have always wondered how my life would be like if my parents were from two different tribes, there would be a lot of harmonizing to do but otherwise I think it would have been overly awesome.

The Dinner was to start at 7pm. But as the time drew closer I began to ponder the implications of accepting the invite, given that the only person I knew was dave, in what was going to be the combination of two different families with over twenty people. At 6:30 pm I contemplated calling in sick or just flat out bolting, but I did neither. At 7:10pm I got a text from Dave asking me if I was there already, it was my chance to finally give an excuse and bolt, but I did not and instead I replied “I am on my way”. I reluctantly peeled myself off the living room sofa and headed for the bathroom. At this time I was already 30 minutes late Nigerian style (there is a self-imposed stereotype that Nigerians are always late for events and so you would often hear the phrase “No Nigerian Time”).

At 7:45 I arrived at the venue, thinking I was going to be the last one to come in, but to my surprise I was the first there. Dave and a few of his relatives arrived about 5 minutes after me; we took a couple of pictures before heading in. Upon entering the restaurant I realized with it was a buffet. How wonderful, I would not be subjected to the miserly hands of discontented servers. We moved around seeking for the biggest table to sit everyone else, eventually we found one. (I don’t know why I keep using the word “we”, there was no “We”, there was just “Me” and “them”. They made all the decisions and I just went along like an obedient German Sheppard dog). A few minutes later everyone was present. Dave introduced me to aunties, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers, nephew, nieces etc whose names I honestly can’t remember.

They began by catching up with each other, with questions like; “where are you working now?” “how is that is that angry boss of yours?” “Looks like the weight-loss program is beginning to yield results right?” “Dave, where is Ifeoma (his girlfriend)?” etc.  I on the other was just hanging on the sideline, smiling courteously at anyone who made out a few seconds during their own catch-up conversation to make eye contact with me. This “family catch-up” went on for the next grueling 20 minutes. One question led to another and longer responses, I tried to make conversation a couple of times, but their lifespan was shortened by reluctant shot answers. One older lady actually made an attempt to get to know me, she was asking me about my hometown, and the conversation lasted for about 20 seconds until it was cut abruptly by a strong cough from her. It was as if the cough had killed her interest in me. I went back to my former state of awkward solitude.

I felt like a foreigner in a different country without a passport. I became an embodiment of awkward conversations, laughing at unfunny jokes out of courtesy. At some point I began to despise Dave for bringing me to such an event and abandoning me. Because the minute we got in the restaurant, he was engaged by different family members for most of the time.  After what felt like a hundred hours I finally decided I could not stand it anymore. I stood up and pull a lie out of my ass, I told them I had a dental procedure done earlier and that I needed to go home and rest. Dave asked one of his cousins to escort me out, which I thought was weird, but then again I had only just met Dave twice before the Dinner.

Remembering this event just brings up pent-up hate in me, so I am going to end this post here. NEVER GO FOR A STRANGER’S FAMILY EVENT WITHOUT YOUR OWN FAMILY OR FRIENDS.

Thank you for reading.