Human beings are the same everywhere.
Whenever an aunt or uncle or cousin visits the UK for the first time and marvels at how clean and orderly everything is compared to Nigeria, I laugh to myself. The older ones who’ve been before reminisce: When I went to school in Wales-Jersey-Fife, there was such and such, they say. The British are so nice and proper. Afternoon tea and God save the Queen. Good Lord, what is this Peckham? It is too like Nigeria. Does nobody speak the Queen’s English any more? and they turn up their noses and spit.
(The younger African may see it as a stop-gap on the road to America, and the chance to hustle and be something. A place where nobody cares that their great-great-grandfather was once caught having sex with a goat on a farm despite his six wives and now nobody will marry from their family and all their uncles and aunties have married foreigners who do not know of the family shame.)
Me, I just nod and smile. And I remember living in Enfield and waking up one morning to find that the traffic lights around Bush Hill Park had stopped working. In thirty minutes, the whole placed turned to Oshodi in Lagos. See oyibo people swearing and swerving, see them pulling up to the bumber, baby, driving up on the kerb, see Asians blasting out music from their car speakers like it was Notting Hill carnival, see the zebra crossing become a place where cars played chicken with pedestrians. Nobody was spared; old men leaning on walking sticks, teenagers with high, tight baby-bellies, Hello-mummies on school run, kids on scooters…everyone joined the melee. Soon there was a gridlock and the police had to be called.
See the black Africans standing on the sidelines, identifiable by the babble of French and other non-Latin languages, crossing themselves, looks of terror and Quelle horreur! on their faces. The end of the world was surely coming; the First becoming the Third, and the Third becoming the First.
Human beings are the same everywhere, white or black. But people like to act sometimes like black people are the worst of the lot. African men are not spared – I have done a great deal of spearing myself! They are too backward, they do not cook, they are not romantic, – Flower? Can you eat it? Is it spinach? Waste of time! – they do not take care of their kids and they cheat. A lot.
But in my view, the expat male in Nigeria can be much worse given only half the chance. Kai, he is a frickin’ beast. Talk about unleashing the dragon.
You know when a man is jailed for many years and upon release the first thing he does is look for a women to shag? (or so films would have us believe like we don’t know how they ‘manage’ in prison. As an aside, what did Madiba do? Hmm.) Well, that’s the expat in Nigeria, except that unlike our ex-con he has access to foreign currency, which thanks to our generous exchange rates, makes him a rich man instantly. It doesn’t matter if he is a Neanderthal with as much sense as a velvet tamarind seed, suddenly every woman is his to own. It’s only money after all. Everyone has a price.
I remember my cousins and I going with our uncle and his wife to chill at the Hilton in Abuja. He had lived there for a whole year while his house was being built and was sick to death of the place but he took us anyway because we were bored and were climbing the walls. We sat at the poolside bar taking in the sights when out of the corner of my eye, I noticed this guy giving me a look. I turned. He winked at me. I looked around to make sure it was me he was winking at. There was nobody behind me. I looked back at him. He winked again, looking me up and down sloooooowly. I crossed my hands over my chest, feeling exposed. My stomach roiled. I glared at him. He smiled out of the corner of his mouth and pursed his lips, miming a kiss.
In normal circumstances I would have meted out worse treatment, if I thought he was cute, which he was. He had all those muscles and sky-blue swim shorts and the hairs on his legs were dark and unidirectional. But I was disgusted because I had noticed the baby in his arms and the woman beside him. The pouch of her lower belly told me she was the baby’s mother. The way he had leaned back in his own chair so that he could wink at me behind her where she could not see told me he was her partner. The fact that he was doing this while carrying on a conversation with her told me he was a cad, a bad fellow. Never trust a man who can multitask.
I hissed and cut my eyes at him. He whispered something to his woman and in a minute they were off, him leading the way, studiously avoiding my gaze.
Or was it the time one of my big aunty-cousins had taken me to one of those ubiquitous garden places in a Abuja and and three expats had walked in with eight fresh-faced young ‘uns between them? Eight, I tell you. I counted. Unless you’re a vampire and actually depend on them for sustenance, I do not see what you are….OK, I see, but still. Eight! And this was the Abuja of 2003, not the cesspit of moral depravity I hear it is now. Now it would be more like eighteen.
Human beings are the same everywhere.
It is rules that keep us in check, they are the ties that bind, they make us behave. Rules, the Law, societal convention, The Norm, all these things do not really exist.They are foreign to our nature, so at the first sign of lawlessness, the masks come off and it’s survival of the fittest. Teeth and claws and hair everywhere. Fight or flee. Kill or be killed. That is why (it seems as if a lot of ) African men cheat a lot. A lot of the time, they hold all the cards. In many of our societies, physical strength takes preeminence over other qualities. Throw in money and you can call yourself Yaweh if you want. You’re sitting pretty at the top of the food chain. Different rules apply up there.
And this is why the COZA ‘scandal’ does not surprise me. It saddens me. It makes me angry, but it does not surprise me. The pastor involved was right: It does take ‘another level of grace’ to act the way he did. The same rules do not apply. Or rather, the same human instincts apply all too well. The strong will always prey on the weak. And people will always try to get away with what they can. As for the lady involved, Ese Walker, I hope she takes care of herself because it is apparent that nobody else will.
We are all beasts really. We seek things that give us pleasure, we destroy that which causes us grief and if we live to see another day we do it all again. This is the sad truth about humanity.