By Oyez Olatunde Rex
‘Welcome to Nigeria. I am ken Theophilus of star travels” I found myself saying these words to the two young American ladies I was to guide on a week’s tour. The two ladies looked at each other and giggled. They hadn’t expected, I guessed, to find their tour guide this soft spoken. Nigeria to them had been erroneously portrayed as a jungle country.
‘Hi ken it’s nice of you to meet us’.
‘Am Hilda and my cousin is Daphne’
‘Please come along to the car’ I said making an effort to lift a heavy carry all they had with them, but Daphne declined.
‘It’s really no burden, thanks’
‘Well, I just felt you must be tired from the flight and, besides, it’s only African as a man to carry the heavy bags for you.’
‘And who say ladies aren’t up to moving their things if they wish?’ asked Daphne with a glint of annoyance in her eyes.
My heart felt stab of pain. In her easily hurt state, her semblance to mum was overwhelming.
‘You should have things as you want Miss Daphne’ I said.
With that, we all came to the white chauffeured car. As the car pulled out of the airport, I pondered on the exchanges with feelings and switched the car radio to an FM station. Ray power 100FM station came on and the soothing music “killing me softly” was on air.
Much later, while guiding her on a stroll around, Hilda remarked:
‘Nice sunny weather you’ve got here’.
‘Sure’ I replied, adding
‘And you can yet get purer, fresher air to go along with the weather as you travel inwards to the country sides’.
‘Please pardon my bluntness. But I must admit curiosity fueled my interest to come to Nigeria. Is it true all Nigerians are either drug addicts or peddlers?’
I saw the sincerity of a soul, which was curious for knowledge sake and not out of malicious intent to ridicule Nigerians or me. I felt the compulsion to answer her as frankly as I could.
‘I’ll answer your question with a simple no’ I said as convincingly as I could.
‘And why is the – no – a simple one?’
‘Because I can launch into a depth of explanation which I do not intend to bore you with’.
‘I quite appreciate your consideration but if you wish, I would love the pleasure of being bored with your explanation.’
‘If you insist’
‘Yes I do’ she returned tenaciously.
‘Well, let me recommend first that you get and read a copy of the book “Not in our character”.’
‘I will if it’s in the market.’
‘It is in the market’. And in any case, you must agree with me that men populate Nigeria, like all other nations worldwide. And in any collection of the specie Homo sapiens, there are bound to be deviants. You see, during the early eighties, Nigeria had the misfortune of having some of these deviants residing and shuttling between Nigeria and the western world. You must appreciate the fact that these miscreants are extremely negligible fraction of this great nation. But towards the end of the decade, various governments became sensitized to the issue of drug trade. This led to the apprehension of some of them. The drug cartels in Columbia and Hong Kong, which had routed their trafficking via Nigeria though the help of these villains, saw this as a major set back. Also, the top most ones among their henchmen had been identified and trailed by international policing organizations. They regrouped and employed the services of a few remaining villainous Nigerians abroad. At this time in our national history, the economic depression of the eighties was being felt so much that the cartels capitalized on it to lure some young unsuspecting Nigerians into the distasteful role of couriers. The fact that this young men and women were lured became ever so apparent with their confessional statement when caught and the ease with which they were being picked up by the drug law enforcement agents. They were obviously none professionals and had no real stakes in the big pie. This widely interspersed incidents were over played by a rather overzealous and alarmed world press. Part of the consequences of embellished situational reports is what am trying to put right as I speak to you now.’
‘Tell me more’ she almost pleaded.
‘Well, I just feel the western world should give a little credit to Africans despite the obvious developmental lapses’
‘How do you mean what for? I asked flustered but continued
‘… After coming to plunder Africa for decades, taking the best of African resources-human and non- human, you mean you can’t see why Africans should be given a break of adverse publicities which are obviously the yard sticks for concessions in a global society which is one of imbalance and pseudo-egalitarian.’
‘Are you also an apostle of the reparation crusade?’
‘Why shouldn’t I be? And in any case, deny it right now that you aren’t convinced in the most secretive part of your heart, that African nations needed to be helped to the sort of national maturity and self rule which is the acclaimed standard in today’s world. You know, the western press should veer away from the practice of sensationalism in reporting Africa’
‘Well I don’t think this has anything to do with what we’ve been discussing’ Hilda baited further.
‘Incredulous.’ I snapped not stopping to see her reaction.
‘Why “ NEPAD”? Why the various grants in aids coming to African nations from Europe? The violence and ills resulting from the imbalance in the world order is certainly forcing the attentions of national leaders in the west to correct the imbalance. Let me ask…’ I said sarcastically,
‘…Why would you not see, that all these things affect our economy; determines who owns the society; affects the distribution of wealth; how the people think and our collective psyche as Africans – the almost impoverished race! Or have you lost your analytical mind now that the issue is African?’
‘Let’s turn back’ she said, obviously shaken by my last outburst.
Reflecting later on, on the day’s activities as was my daily habits, I could not help my bewilderment at the thoughts and ideas I had express to this American, the thought of who constantly invaded my mind, bringing with it an oddly remote feelings quiet alien to my life. I do not believe I harbor prejudices from the western world. Yet these sentiments as expressed about the plunder of my native continent are obsessively strong ones.
Do you condemn me? In my life long state of loneliness, won’t the shrinks eagerly or grudgingly agree with me that compulsive obsessive disorders are likely malaise I might get plagued with? In spite of this clarity of thought about my situation, the hidden confusion in me is betrayed in the following prose, which I scribbled on the last page of my worn pocket note pad before I dosed off in another of my fitful slumber.