Lagos, my Lagos, is fast losing its beans. It breaks my heart no end that the choice spots that used to give Lagos its onions are no longer there.
For instance, the first ever hotel I lodged in can no longer be seen even with the aid of a microscope. I am talking of no less an edifice than Bobby Benson Hotel that stood ever so majestically between Fadeyi and Onipanu bus-stops, on the opposite side Igbobi Orthopaedic Hospital.
Gone with the structure is the legendary Caban Bamboo nightclub where a young Wole Soyinka muttered the immortal words “If you like marry taxi driver” and Bobby Benson ended up releasing the monster hit “Taxi Driver”.
Very prosaic characters often dismiss me as a “poor poet”, but they ought to know that there’s aristocracy in my poverty, otherwise I could not have been lodging in posh hotels like Hotel Bobby!
The class of it all is that I don’t need to spend my own cash to get booked into swanky hotels. I earned my room in Hotel Bobby as a member of the cast of the play Madam Tinubu written by the recently deceased playwright Akinwunmi Isola. I played the part of the leader of the eyo masqueraders.
We came from the then University of Ife to stage the play at the National Theatre and the University of Lagos. After the first performances at the National Theatre I left my costumes at my Hotel Bobby lodging and paid a visit to my uncle who was then living in Lawanson, Surulere.
I had a helluva time with my uncle such that I completely forgot about Hotel Bobby and even the play that I had come to Lagos to perform. It was only at the very last minute that I rushed to Unilag to make the call-time, but my costumes were still holed up in Hotel Bobby!
There was panic amongst the cast and crew, but I was very cool. The director of the play, Femi Euba, was saying that the start of the play could not be delayed, and I ought to be the first man on stage leading the eyo masqueraders!
A couple of lecturers whom I shall not name here were threatening fire and Sango brimstone. One said he would report me to our Head of Department Prof Wole Soyinka and I quickly replied him that he should first report me to Soyinka’s sister Folabo who was with us there as a member of the cast!
While the bickering lasted I managed to sneak away with a member of the cast, Akin, one of my eyo masqueraders, to a nearby watering-hole.
Out of sight, we could hear the soft-spoken Director Femi Euba hollering: “Where is Maximus?” Others were screaming: “Where is Borojah?” In short, Borojah resounded all over the place like a cracked ikwokirikwo record!
In theatre, there is the dictum that the show must go on no matter what. So the play took place without me participating.
The real gist is this: Back at Ife, during rehearsals, the eyo masqueraders and I used to flog Ahmed Yerima who acted the part of Mr. Vikiansony.
Yerima would always complain to the play director about the actual flogging when we ought to be simulating.
I would defend the action of my team by explaining that we were practicing “Theatre of Cruelty” as developed by the French dramatist Antonin Artaud. Our plan to give Ahmed Yerima the final flogging in Lagos was thwarted by my forgetting the costumes at Hotel Bobby!