White people! Can they ever prosper? I doubt it. A few moons ago, the British government under its Chevening program gave me an undeserved scholarship for a Master’s degree. It is undeserving because usually, Cheveners work hard to get the award – most of them have their First Class or Second Class Upper. I don’t have one. But some chaps sitting both in Abuja and London thought that I was some professional journalist who has discharged his duty diligently and so, they gave me the scholarship – another confession.
Like a good boy, I packed my Ghana-Must-Go bag and showed up in London. Before I knew what was happening, I had registered at City University. By the second week or so, my class of incredibly talented and highly accomplished journalists from across the globe met and elected me one of a three-person class representative. Sorry guys, I did not campaign and had no liver to refuse.
Before I knew what was happening, the class began. I will call my teachers ‘sir’ and they would stare at me as if I just insulted them. My head of department, the incredible Heather wanted to be called Heather. Mike Gandon would follow us to the pub adjacent to the university for a pint or two. I that I struggled to go to Unilorin and was well raised by Pa and Mama Asaju was very careful how I related with these ‘professors’ who didn’t want to be called by their titles. I told myself that I should not behave like the muzungu, because you never know – my enemies might follow me to London and get me expelled.
Small-time now, a little brat in the class would come and report a teacher because he (the brat) had arrived late and the teacher refused to restart the class. I would tell them how lucky they were and that in Nigeria, they would be asked to stand outside, close their eyes and raise their hands – it happened to me in 300 Level!
I am not a restaurant person except you caught me in Peckham. But once I was in the buttery and my Dean was standing behind me. The way I jumped off the queue ehn, you would think that NEPA overflowed all over me with a high current. With my head half bowed, I motioned to my Dean to take my place. You could have seen his face ashen!
But I am sure it’s not the first time someone like me had offered their space to him. He recovered and told me he would never do a thing like that. ‘You came before me, so you naturally go before me’.
My brother, the jacket potato I ordered that day did not go well. What if this man colludes with other teachers and fails me? That was the thought in my mind for the next week or two. Not to talk of avoiding him whenever the need arises.
Before I gained admission to Unilorin, I was an honorary member of the Senior Staff Club. Journalism earned me that privilege. When I became a student there, I silently withdrew my membership and but for Prof Akanji Nasiru who was my mentor and whose car I drove more often, I would never have gone to that Club my entire years at that uni. You must know your place in Naija. If Buhari is travelling, roads are closed before he had finished taking his shower. If his plane is flying, no other one, not even Air Force One is allowed to take off or land at the same time. If Oga is passing at the corridors of the Federal Secretariat, the messenger or junior staff that shares the corridor with him/her knows their days are numbered.
If an officer is granted an honorary doctorate, every other title he earns go with it – Chief/Dr/Engineer/Surveyor/Barrister So and So. If you miss any titled person as MC, wallahi you may not get your pay.
In Newswatch where I worked for ten (10 years – without pension or gratuity), the Ogas that own and run the place are not NORMAL. Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed, Soji Akinrinade are not normal people. You could meet them in the corridor and not greet them, they don’t mind. Don’t try to carry their bags for them, they won’t let you! If you buy corn and declare ‘corn don land oh’, they will join you in blowing mouth organ. That is not NORMAL!
When I went to work for Ken Nnamani, I had become an ehana – a wild one. Shouts of Oga is coming, Oga is coming does not move me. Oga has enough room to pass and I am not in his way. The man called me ‘arrogant’, but no, I respect myself. At the British High Commission, it was okay to say ‘sir’ to Richard Gozney, you get an evil eye. His successor quickly reminds you he has not been knighted yet.
You see guys, I am spoilt, except in London where little ‘afraid’ caught me.
An Emir’s plane was going to be one hour late. His protocol guys wanted a commercial jet grounded for him – not his private jet. The animals in Banjul did not know that an Emir should never be kept waiting, they delayed His Imperial Majesty! So, he did not feel insulted in The Gambia, he has class at home. It does not matter how many heads were travelling to Kano that day, they should wait on the tarmac for one hour until His Majesty’s plane touched down – that is how to be an Emir!
Air peace broke the protocol. They told the Emir’s brother they would NOT delay take-off (which they constantly do without explanation to other ‘ordinary’ Nigerians). They feared the media backlash of delaying a plane for one man with one head wrapped in rawani. They took off without the Emir. They slighted His Majesty’s oversized ego. They showed disrespect to the hallowed institution of an Emir! Can you beat that?
And they have the temerity to be explaining their action instead of lining up their boss, directors and shareholders for the Emir to walk on their heads. This is an insubordination of unprecedented order. Air peace Chairman and his management are children of lesser gods. They should be made to pay. They should never overfly Kano airspace again – ever!
No, strike that. If Hadi Sirika knows what is good for him, he should withdraw the license of Airpeace. The EFCC should charge the Chairman and send him to jail without evidence. What evidence is required when a man refused to stop a plane for the owner of Kano to arrive? If I were Air peace, I would have discharged all boarded passengers, tell the Emir’s cousin to inform HRM to disembark from the rude commercial flight from Banjul and that we are coming in class to bring him home. Then if the other 200 dry heads complained, I would just look at them with the corner of my eyes and tell them to do their worst!
By the way, who are these Nigerians trying to compete with Ukrainian dogs for space to leave the country? Where were they when Oga Joe Biden warned that any American left behind stays at their own risk – sorry, they are Nigerians. Their lives are worth much more than the status of a kernel or the American Ambassador.
If I say the second bass now, HRM might be offended because in Kano, ba mu rawa da arna!
* Tunde Asaju, a multi-lingual journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Ottawa, Canada.