Going to the Market is Always An Event

I haven’t been to the market in a long while. I could afford to buy groceries at Spars, Shoprite, Amigo and Dunes. I even disdained Sahad Stores because I bought a fake box of Persil there once. The convenience was worth the price.

This morning I went to Garki market with my bff. There is an electronic barrier at the entrance now. Someone stands there, punches out a ticket and hands it to us. It’s still early, the heat won’t be overwhelming for at least another hour.

The secret to going to the market – go early. Everything is fresh, the sellers are eager to make their first sale and believe it can give them good luck. Although some people prefer to go at the end of the day because its cheaper.

My bff drives into the car lot. We are here to buy fruits and vegetables. I see some near the entrance. She keeps driving.

“Why you parking here? The veg stall is back there.”

“We’re going that way” she points to an un-tarred dusty lane leading off the lot.

“Why?”

“Because its cheaper”

Of course it is. We walk in the direction she pointed. The road is steep and rough.

“No wonder its cheaper. This road is rough”.

We are going deeper into the market. I’m glad I wore my sun cap but wish I had used some sunscreen.

“Is it muddy?”

“Nah”.

An open van stands at the end of the lane. It just delivered meat and is being washed down. Bloody water flows into the dirt lane in a muddy red trail. I feel like I’m wading through rivers of blood. I’m careful not to stain my white Birkenstocks.

But I’m still feeling magnanimous. I take some pictures. The market boys notice me. They start speaking Chinese at me. I smile good naturedly. To them all white people must look the same.

I remember going to the market in my village.

“Owu nwa Agwubuo. Nna ya kporo ya lota obodo oyibo”

Women would leave their wares to touch me, touch my hair. Pregnant women would rub up against me believing they could rub off some of my yellow on their unborn baby. Every woman wanted a yellow baby. Yellow babies brought good luck and wealth.

Then they would give me presents of food; smoked fish, akara wrapped in leaves, bananas, peanuts. Children followed me through the market and all the way home.

Father disapproved but I paid him no mind. I had no fear of these people and I did cute things like fetch firewood and water for old childless widows and give old men Father’s Schnapps to tell me stories. They loved me.

Eventually my bff and I get to the very heart of the market. The vegetables are fresh and the price is great. Here they usually sell to smaller distributors. I buy avocado’s, lettuce, cabbage, green peppers, tomatoes, oranges, mangoes, celery, parsley and potatoes for half the price I would pay at the supermarket.

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How Brown Skin Behaved In The Heat

There was a heat wave in England last week; it was all too much sunshine for me

Coming from Africa recently but after a while I came out wondering what I would see

I met enough feminine flesh to make a good Muslim flee! Or make a black man happy

Give them a break it’s just how they were raised.  It’s called cultural relativity

They were told women were evil, encouraged to rape any female they find too revealing

They were told she’ll stir up the devil in Him. So they wrapped her up and blamed her for sin

Built her a cage and a prison to safely reside, made her swallow her pride

Told her the laws can’t withstand the frenzied lust of an unrestrained man

Men are powerless, pliant and weak in the palm of a feminine hand

Surely the Queen shouldn’t let such brutes into her land

Because her subjects aren’t allowed to surrender to mere notions of gender

When the sun shines they’re allowed to submit to the heat, encouraged to bare

Miles of pale limbs in shorts and no hair! Shorts everywhere! Shorts here and there

Short shorts. Bum shorts.  Cut off shorts. Bermuda shorts. Baggy shorts

Male and female shorts. Actually, I snort, they are male and white female shorts

When a brown woman strides past purposefully, I can see she’s not on a spree

She and her daughter dressed similarly, dressed like the winter is near

I expect innocence to find it queer and ask ‘Mama, why are we the only ones covered here?’

‘The End is coming against the infidels dear. The Jihad is here.’

So youth and goodness is indoctrinated, mis-educated, alienated, contaminated

Truism and individualism besieged by cynicism, populism, culturism, religionism

For the free, many a crisis there’ll be till the seed finally grows into that mighty tree

Meanwhile it seems to be that brown skin is hiding from me, covered in Modesty

A legacy of Victorian hypocrisy, a story full of chicanery, travesty and tragedy

Brown skin hides nervously, in ignominy and suddenly my pale skin fills me with Superiority

Because it privileges me, apparently, it could be the key

It lets me display my brown skin with pride, why should I hide when pale skin sits in the light

Trying to be superficially brown while my brown sister tries to be superficially white

And Brown skin hides. Saying I am retiring. I am religious. I am righteous. I am right

See brown sisters hold their men tight, ever ready to fight, for the right to share in his plight

While pale bodies go on display for a warm summer day. Looking for bargains to trade

The young the old, the not so beautiful, bodies of all attitudes are here on parade

Even age refuses to wrap itself in a charade while Brown skin shouts ‘I’m no longer for sale!’

My brown brother can’t look away, taught to feel yearning but not what to say

The change is complete, who is naked walking the street?  Where is the justice of peace?

Take me home, this is too much temptation for me, I haven’t learnt to be free

I rather live in the safety of my false piety or even blame my weakness on thee

Rather than take responsibility for my sexuality, I will hide my brown skin in a black maxi

I’m from Nigeria, across the sea, conservative and free, a reactionary rebels in me

My Brown skin is still searching for yours truly still asking itself “Who I be?”

 

Hi Honey, I’m Home – And the Natives Are Disturbing Me Already

They’ve started rolling in. The demands from my village people.

‘Its time for you to get an appointment’

‘Appointment?’

‘Yes now. They’re looking for people like you.’

‘People like me?’

‘Yes now. They want people like you. You read book. You’re yellow. You speak well. You be woman. You can represent us there.’

‘I’m not interested’

‘What do you mean you’re not interested?’

‘I’m not interested in their appointment. I won’t be able to achieve anything. And they will kill me. You know I cannot smell shit and keep a straight face. I will blow alarm.’

‘What’s that? What do you think you’re talking about?’

‘I can’t follow them and do what they’re doing?’

‘What are they doing?’

‘They are chopping money, Nigeria money’

‘Ehen! Are you not a Nigerian?’

‘I don’t know how to chop government money. I’m not that sophisticated.’

‘Ah. You will learn now. They will teach you’

‘I don’t want to learn.’

‘You be better person. Oya. Go and change the system now’

‘You can’t change the system. The system changes you.’

‘Ehn? So you will change and chop?’

‘If I don’t they will ban me from the village. But I will have an open day every Wednesday and Friday. Any body that comes to see me will get a cash gift.’ ‘

‘Ehn? So you won’t chop but you will give everybody to chop?’

‘Yes. No one will believe that I’m not chopping anyway so I will let the people chop my share. At least dey no fit talk say I dey chop alone.’

‘You’re very funny.’

‘I’m not being funny. Anyway it doesn’t matter. I’m not interested in an appointment.’

‘So? Is that what your going to tell them in the village?  But you went to school now, we need people like you. Okay. So why did you go to school now?’

‘I went to school to get an education?’

‘Ehn? Is that what you think? Siddon dey do mumu. If I had a head for school I would have been there chopping o! And they want to put more Igbo people there.’

I wonder if I should bother arguing with her. A decade or two ago I would have. But I know she won’t budge in her opinion. In the village you are communal property. Period. They don’t understand individualism. They don’t understand you have your own life to live. Your life belongs to them. You are part of the collective. That’s how you survive. Why banishment was such a terrible punishment.

I feel a twinge of guilt. There has to be another way to do something for the people I left behind in the village. The rules changed before they could get to the finishing line. They had depended on the privileged ones (like me) who got a higher education and good work opportunities to come back for them and lead them to a better life. That’s what my father expected of me too. Perhaps that’s what the ancestors expect.

Nwa Agwubuo Duruabali

FREE MARRIAGE ADVICE ON FRIDAY FEBRUARY FOURTEENTH

FEBRUARY 14 – Valentine’s Day. Lover’s day, the day of Love. I did the hand made cards, anxious hearts, chocolates and roses when I was young. Now I’m mildly embarrassed at my younger self.  Every time my new hormones reacted to the pheromones and fine genetic features of a male of my specie I thought  myself madly in love.

What is love?  Some people think love is the bond between mother and child, some think its the sexual attraction you feel when you meet some body, some people say that love is a verb – how you act towards some body.  Some people think its spiritual, metaphysical, magical, other worldly, inexplicable. Even the Bible says so, right?

I was as confused as everyone else till I read the January 2008 Time issue on the science of love. My life has never been the same. You can read a pretty good summary here. I wish someone had explained love to me a bit earlier. I can be melodramatic and intense. But I wrote some great poems in those days of ignorance. Find one here.

Some women are waiting for someone to send them a royal Valentine hamper from Fortnum’s or  buy them a trip to Dubai. Some will be happy to get dinner, a card or a plastic rose. Guys are running, avoiding phone calls. Runs babes are sorting the Big Boys from the men. Lots of boys and girls are regularly disappointed on Valentine’s Day.

According to a 2011 report more divorce petitions are filed in the US the day after Valentine’s Day than any other day in the year. In the absence of reliable records I’m going to track my blog stats to see whether I get more search engine hits and enquiries on ‘divorce in Nigeria’ on that day too. Is there more discontent in the air?

I’m a scientific kind of female.

“Events occurring in the brain when we are in love have similarities with mental illness.”

Don’t we all know that feeling?

So which do you think you are feeling? Lust? Attraction? Attachment? Or is it just plain need and fear that’s keeping you in bondage in a loveless abusive relationship? Abuse isn’t only physical. If your spouse constantly creates an atmosphere of rigid control and terror you may be in an abusive relationship. Even if he is providing everything.

Will your relationship or marriage survive Valentine’s Day?  Will that slap you receive, literal or figurative, when you innocently ask what he got you for Valentine’s be the final straw that makes you say ‘enough is enough’.  Will you finally realize that his isolating you from family and friends is abusive behaviour?

I’ll have a tweet meet @MzAgams on February 14th and 15 give some heartfelt and sincere marriage advice to the many broken hearts that may finally decide on Valentine’s Day – the day of love – they deserve better than an abusive spouse.  I’ll answer all your questions about family law, matrimonial causes and child custody issues. Is 8pm good?

 

Hi Honey, I’m Home – A Rant About Nigeria’s Middle Class

My friends are very bourgeois as my Moscow aunt would say. I’m just an unsophisticated village girl. Or maybe a working class Moscow girl. My father was a socialist. He believed the party line. He told me he raised me to be a revolutionary like Eduador Mondlane’s children. I read that book when I was 10. I saw that picture of Mondlane’s’s daughter Chudi holding an assault rifle. Her mother Janet sitting under a tree in fatigues. Powerful pictures. Powerful PR. Powerful propaganda. That’s what my father wanted me to be but he could never raise an army. And I eventually abandoned him for the joys of capitalism and city life. I always had ‘big eye’.

‘The thing wey dey hungry you no dey market’ my husband would often say to me. He’s a bourgeois beta male. I didn’t know any better when I married him. This December is our 30 year anniversary. I think its time to get a divorce. He never goes anywhere. He was traumatized by the civil war. Says he won’t live anywhere so far away that he can’t walk back to his village in a day. He moved from Orlu to Owerri (30 miles) kicking, screaming and protesting. I want to go spend another year abroad, this time in the Pacific Islands. Why the Pacific Islands? Sounds exciting and I hear the weather is good.

The bourgeois middle class in Nigeria are pathetic. All they think about is maintaining their middle class lifestyles. The  moment they can’t afford to go on their annual holiday abroad  or buy the latest Range Rover they sell their birth right for a bowl of porridge. They don’t question the status quo.  They are certainly not out to change it either. They’re THE heirs to the lifestyle their parents imposed on them in the 60’s and 70’s. They’re always talking about how they travelled to England every summer as kids and shopped in Marks and Spencer. As if that makes them better human beings.

Poverty porn? They’re the biggest peddlers. Always making a big deal about helping the natives while they live fat off the people’s suffering. Collaborators. Every last one of them has abandoned the village, their communities, their community values and blame the kidnapping. Kidnapping is just how the natives respond to the stupid isolationism the Nigerian middle class imposed on themselves. They buy vineyards in South Africa but can’t invest in local industry.

The natives still believe brothers help brothers. They’re obtaining because the bourgeois middle class weren’t sharing like they’re supposed to according to native law and custom. The natives can be unforgiving and harsh. Hunger and hardship in a land of plenty has made them extra mean and desperate. You better watch out for that guy washing your car and opening your gate. You boast about paying him $100 a month and tips but his wife and family live in one room inside a ghetto.

Hi Honey I’m Home! – And Why The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Law Is Suddenly Very Very Scary

I sit with them. Beautiful people. We sit under the open sky. Girls and boys. Big boys. And Big Girls. As they call themselves. And me. Drinks and red plastic cups litter the table. Loud music booms through ipod speakers. I’ve been back in Abuja a week. I’m enjoying the energy. Nigerians are boisterous. Like Russians. Especially after some devil’s brew. I’m as high as the rest. As loud as the rest. Competing to be heard. Unless you are telling a dramatic compelling story and capture their attention every one speaks at the same time. You got to fight for the right to be heard with wit, aplomb and high decibels. Everyone defers to the pretty young girls. Even me. I like to encourage them. One pretty young thing sits next to me. She is the color of a dark milk chocolate bar and has a killer figure. I praise her beauty and charms. She bats her eyelids.

Someone asks me ‘Lesley why did you chose to go to Brighton sef? Are you a lesbian?’

‘Shhhh’ I reply. ‘We could all get 10 to 14 years for even talking about it. Haven’t you heard about the Same Sex  Marriage Prohibition Law?’

‘Ah no. Lesbians are not among. We have told them to leave the lezbo’s alone’

I spent my first night back with my bff. She has a husband and 3 kids so we left them at home and went to her bar so we could be alone and undisturbed. She doesn’t open on Sundays so we locked ourselves inside. We were there for hours. Telling all the stories we couldn’t share over the phone. When we left there were some people outside. They watched us as she locked up.

‘These people must be wondering what we been doing locked  up inside since. They probably think we’re lesbians.’ she says.

‘Ah! That’s serious o. So if they want to make trouble for us they can call the police?’

Suddenly I feel very vulnerable. Me and bff have been bff’s for over 15 years. We get along so well. We think alike. Believe the same stuff. We finish each others sentences. We also kiss on the mouth like all Russians do with close family and friends. We both have Russian mothers. People have been asking if we are lesbian lovers forever. A gay woman once told me she liked my bff but stayed off cause she thought we were in a relationship. She didn’t quite believe me when I said we weren’t lovers.

‘Leave the lezbo’s’ the Big Boys and Big Girls joke and laugh. For the next hour we talk about the Same Sex Law, homosexuality, gays, Shola Rhodes, peadophilia, things like that.

“We don’t mind them so long as they stay hidden.”

“But they weren’t exactly coming out before you all started this battle.”

They are unapologetically homophobic. All the men talking went to British boarding schools. They’re the Nigerian middle class. I read about British and heard about Nigerian boarding schools. Even the seminary schools.  Its alleged that a lot of rape happened. I did not let my sons go to boarding school and I paid for martial arts lessons in primary school. But if I had a daughter I wouldn’t have let her go to boarding school either. In my Catholic boarding school they called it ‘kpokopi’ or ‘friend’.  The scorned girls were just as mean.

A senior girl once asked me to be her friend. She said if I’m her friend I could have access to her locker. She showed me. It was full to the brim with good things to eat. Her father had a supermarket. In secondary school I was perpetually hungry. And skinny. I said yes. Before night fall word had spread round the whole school that I had agreed to be her ‘freind’. During night prep some students from my village that my father had asked to look out for me called me outside. At first they were harsh and mean till they realized I didn’t understand what the senior or they meant. I thought friend meant what it meant in America. Someone you hang out with. I dumped the senior because she was really ugly. She never forgave me. She tried to torment me the rest of the year by my village girls stood up for me.  I got into trouble with a couple of boys too who said they wanted to be ‘friends’. I learnt that the English language is not the same all over the world.

“ ‘Leave the lezbo’s’ is our exit strategy. After a year or two we will tell Jonathan to amend the law and tell the west we have made a compromise.”

I smile benignly. I know them. They are soooo establishment. I’ve known them for years. I come to hang out and listen to the other story. And they let me tell my story too even if they disparage it as idealistic and unNigerian. We’re still friends. We help each other and our families when things get rough in Naija. Which is like always. The guys I mean. The chicks are mostly eye candy. Next time I go there’ll be a new set. All except for the chocolate cream pie sitting next to me. She’s a permanent fixture. I told her once I would happily become gay for her if she would marry me. Women do such things in my fathers Igbo village. That was before the Bill became law. I can’t say things like that anymore. Someone might take me seriously and tell the police on me. My enemies could use this against me.

I leave them still feeling vulnerable. I guess I have to get used to that feeling now that I’m back in Abuja.