Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Country or bust! The sequel

On the 4th of August I arrived at Muritala Mohammed Airport about 7pm for travel to the UK. In spite of the 3rd Minland bridge closure I had already had a fairly restful day. I thought I had prepared myself fro the likely tribulations of International travel but that was nothing short of fantasy. The Nigerian summer travel madness with crazy prices and overbooked planes was playing itself out and I could not get a seat on my usual Virgin Atlantic for love or money. I ended up with KLM via Amsterdam and proceeded to experience a travellers nightmare.

The flight was belatedly cancelled because the co-captain was ill! This was after 3 hours of standing at the gate waiting to board. I had comforting visions of a full blown air rage with possibilities of a bloodied machete by the time I left Muritala Mohammed airport. I had to get out before I blew a gasket or something else. There is a lot more about KLM and this trip for another time because this post is about something far more significant. The point of the scene setting was to locate my tired body in Planet One Hotel in Maryland on the morning of the 5th of August and rushing to make the delayed flight. I made it with moments to spare having had the help and support of the hotel staff along with a comfortable ride on one of their lease cars. It kind of reminded me of my mad dash to the airport the last time Joy ( Onitemi or wife ) and I had a holiday in Florida earlier on in the year and in the process I lost my PDA with all my business contacts et al. In these cases ( I am a veteran) there is always a calmness after the initial adrenaline rush which suggests something is amiss. On this day as i stood at the gate my instincts prompted a body search and as per my Florida experience I had mislaid my wallet with about £4,000 and $2,000 as well as the most viable of my debit and credit cards. I looked at my watch and I had 30 minutes before the flight was due to leave. In my mind the only possible place for me to have left the wallet was at the security screening area. I ran flat out back to the security area and as I steamed down all my worst nightmares were playing out. In Florida I never found my PDA even though I knew where I had left it , here I was in Lagos with a worse reputation and my heart sank even though I have never had anything other than love from my people. I got to the security gate in 5 minutes bags trailing and everyone staring as i must have been quite a sight. I was now caught between the panic of my situation and the tactic that would deliver my desired result. As I ventured to query the security personnel, I met the initial defensiveness then followed by a quick area search without delivering any wallet. My hear sank into the pit of my stomach and I felt ill. I now started contemplating damage limitation actions, like cancelling cards and plugging holes in my finances et al.

As if on cue my phone rang I nearly did not pick it up but thankfully it was Planet One. The driver of the car that brought me to the airport had found my wallet in the back of his car and had reported it to the hotel. Remember am a veteran , i have lost things in every continent apart from Asia and Australia, I have never had them returned. One of my most painful was in 2000 i left a $800 Donna Karan leather Jacket in taxi from Miami International . Damn! that was a fine jacket and I still miss it. Then there was my custom made diamond from Amsterdam that I left fro 30 minutes at the W hotel behind the Warldof Astoria a gift from Onitemi. I am lucky to have my head attached to my body.

I gave my apologies to the Security guys and explanations took another 5 minutes of time so i now had 20 minutes before departure. To further blow my mind the driver had resorted to an Okada (motorcycle taxi) in order to try and get my wallet to me before the flight. I could let you into the suspense of the wait and the concern about choosing between wallet and flight nevertheless he made it and i caught my flight. It took an heroic effort on his part and incredible integrity that can only be understood by the fact that the contents of my wallet was more than a years salary for him. There is also no way i could have known my wallet dropped in his car and far more exceptional is that all the contents of my wallet was there in the manner I would have put it there. There in the middle of Lagos , a city stereotyped without much basis and a people maligned into a caricature by themselves and others, this honourable man had brought the dignity that I experience in the interaction with masses of Nigerians onto a platform for me to express. There is no doubt that many others would have taken the money and never admitted it and that it is exceptional but many others would also do what he has done.

My initial financial reward will be followed up with something more concrete and lasting. For me the drivers and the staff of Planet One represent the Nigeria that I know and still meet everytime I am there even though it is often mixed with the stereotype one especially amongst the elites. It is in the service people whose humility and sacrifices make my every step possible, the culture in which visitors are treated like royalty, the sweet flirtatious help of the market women, the open complement of the admiring young people who embrace my creative divergence.

I started this post a while ago in Milton Keynes but I am now back in Lagos. In the period when I was in the UK I suffered from a form of allergy that is yet fully identified leading to having an inhaler and medicines. I spent all the two or more weeks coughing and sputtering. I got to Lagos yesterday and in spite of its pollution and traffic my coughing has nearly disappeared only emerging when I am in an air-conditioned environment.

I can only say that i aspire and am inspired to be a Nigerian not by virtue of birth but by evolution of character. Nigeria for me is that most creative of possibilities and even the most innovative of aspirations in which many ancient peoples are put into a holding space of millions of desires to marinade into one powerful vision. The inevitable pains of trying to synthesis these disparate drivers into one systemic and dynamic 'Organation' is often distorted. It is the exuberance of the indoctrinated whose individual success in the western propaganda matrix prevents them from curiosity that destroys authentic standards and replaces it with badly constructed caricatures of western facsimiles. They, the Nigerian elite have lost interest in what is and could emerge from this noble experiment. Not for me . It is an honour and privilege to be in the mix when things are not resolved and there is still many things to pioneer. It is the ultimate accolade to one day be regarded as a Nigerian who earned the citizenship of this great human experiment. In my humble opinion the driver from Planet One has truly achieved that accolade , he is a Nigerian.


Anonymous said...

That Planet one story got me glued. I wish you the best
Kole, University of Gainesville Florida

Fifty Sense said...

Wale another lesson to all of us about painting Nigeria in broad strokes. I have had similar experiences myself but not the cliffhanger you described. Nigeria always surprises. As for your head, I suggest that you bolt it on... firmly lest you lose it.