This country will not finish me. It has been a depressing and emotional week for me.
I was talking to Dangote and Bill Gates at the wedding the other day and the prognosis of this country is pretty bleak. As I used my knife to cut the well-cooked prime steak on my plate, my Audemars Piguet watch caught my brooding expression. So many things were just not right with this country. I stared at my face reflecting on the 18 carat pink gold bezel and my moody expression lifted. It is hard to stay angry when you are wearing a watch so exclusive that only 20 pieces were made in Switzerland. I am lucky to have purchased one.
If things continue the way they have been going, I may not be able to afford such luxuries in the near future. Technically, that is never going to happen because I have secret stashes that can fund the budget of a small country. But the thought of not affording a luxury, even if it wasn’t going to happen, was still upsetting.
The thought of that brought back the mood. I quickly picked the Imperial champagne flute on the table and threw back some of the bubbly liquid gold and I felt better again.
Osinbajo was on the table and speaking about how bad the economy was when they met it. I nodded as he spoke. I love to hear him speak. He has a generic Nigeria accent but it has an educated polish to it. He understood the words he said and he deliberately rolled them out of his tongue in a crisp urgent manner. He spoke in the tone of a motivational speaker/lawyer/pastor . His words were purposeful and aimed at convincing all that were listening. His eyes shone with fervent sincerity.
“It is appalling. Simply appalling. The past administration…”
Because I enjoyed hearing him speak, I looked at him with all the interest I could muster. I wondered briefly if he had said the things he was saying for so long that he actually believed them. Or did he crave visibility or was he trying to hide the fact that he had no real power by speaking so categorically on things that he had no control over.
It has to be embarrassing. To work for a boss you are obviously brighter than and still be blindsided… We all know that Mallam Daura’s eyelash is more potent than the vice president.
I sputtered into my drink at this thought so much so that I had a little coughing fit. I reached for the perfumed gold napkin on my lap and dabbed my lips.
My eyes wandered round the table till they stopped briefly at the president’s wife. The First Lady of the country…this was what we all called her in our minds. Even though there had been a promise to scrap the office of the first lady, only the name had changed. She still goes for all the functions, has her office and staff and has pet projects in the pipeline.
I dismissed her at the beginning. I had made the mistake that most people make by stereotyping women from the north. I had assumed she was demur, a beautiful wall paper and unable to properly articulate herself.
Hajiya shocked the world. I was in the office of a sitting governor when word of her interview got out. They had been unable to supress it. This was why she did not grant the interview to any local media station. She spoke confidently and boldly. Baba had done the wisest thing ever when he humiliated her by saying she was nothing but a wife. There was no way it would look good on him if he had fought her publicly. How they were able to keep the farce of togetherness… It was difficult not to admire Hajiya. I watched as her intelligent eyes flitted around the table. If this was not Nigeria, it would have been interesting to see her vie for a political post.
The music was getting louder and sweeter. My feet were doing a full swing thing under the table. Nigerian music does that to me. It was vibrant and the antithesis to the bleary state of the country. I did not even tap my fingers on the table. When you are on the same table with the richest and most powerful men in Nigeria and two of the richest men in the world, you have to act with some decorum.
Well Senator Adeleke did not get that memo.
He approached the table with the swiftness of a man half his age and size and point zero zero percent of his wealth. He did a spin and a dip and I knew that before the night would be over, Senator Adeleke would do a solo I-DON’T-GIVE-A-HOOT-WHAT-YOU-THINK dance.
With his Yoruba hat standing straight, he came close to Dangote who practically squealed in delight. They shook hands and spoke while the Senator carried on dancing. Everyone had the same smile on the table; who could look at Senator Adeleke and not smile? I saw the eyes of the oyinbos on the table widen a bit. They seemed quiet and overwhelmed. Nigerian parties can be humbling. I was very certain that they had not been in the midst of so much ‘extra’ behaviour like this before. Well take that Mr Heal the world and solve African poverty. Not all of us need your money to have a good time.
Or maybe we did.
But that is beside the point. I think.
The Emir was sitting close to Bill Gates. I resented that a bit. But I understood it. The aristocratic Emir reminded me of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. He sat with a ramrod straight back and an austere expression belying a rumoured love of the finer things of life and people of life. He is obviously a well-educated man and one of our best feet forward. But he looked like he would fit in an uptight British setting sitting beside the Queen of England with both of them looking down their long noses at ordinary people.
Americans are too casual. Their accent is not dignified enough. They speak simply, I thought, as I imagined the conversation between the Emir and the billionaire. I knew it would be somewhat tilted. The emir speaking with an almost British accent and the American saying things like ‘yeah’, ‘that’s fine’ and ‘totally’.
Ok well, maybe not ‘totally’.
And to the biggest question of the day.
Why was everyone on the table so comfortable with an ‘infidel’? Bill Gates is an atheist, isn’t he?
Nigeria sha. Strongly polarised along the lines of religion and ethnicity at the bottom. But at the top, tolerance kept an Emir, a Pastor, a Billionaire and an Atheist on the same table without any fights.
Davido starts singing and Dangote gets up. I get up with him too. It was ok to dance now.
I will come back to how Nigeria is so depressing and the bad prognosis later…. Let me keep enjoying the memory of that party first….
(If you believe this, then you are on a long thing.)