Today, I decide on a capitalist lunch alone. My assigned driver takes me to a capitalist restaurant – one of the elitist watering holes of anybody who is anybody in Nigeria’s centre of power.
I invite the driver to come in with me. He is shocked. He is used to waiting in the car. Or being given some change to go and find an appropriate Mama Put for his own lunch while the Ogas eat in the capitalist location.
I have no idea why I asked him to come with me. Inside, we strike a picture of contrasts. All eyes raised. All eyes looking at the odd pair.
We are taken to a table for one because the waitress naturally assumes that my driver is just carrying my phone and will find his way out to wait in the car as soon as I am seated.
I ask her for a table for two. She looks at me, looks at the driver, mouth agape. Something ain’t adding up. She takes us to a table for two. The driver is in a strange universe. Fish out of water.
I help him with the complications of the life of the rich: how to order swallow and “protein” from a menu in the ways of the rich instead of barking at Sikira to add more ponmo and shaki at Iya Basira’s buka. I order the same swallow and protein for both of us.
Inquisitive looks. Hostile looks. Querying looks. You’d think we were a black and white interracial couple that had just entered a public space holding hands in America or Canada. It is the same looks of disapproval. But this time, it is not from folks frowning on the interracial border crossing. It is from rich Nigerians, big Nigerians, Ogas at the top and their accent-forming sophisticated mistresses, feeling that their space has been violated by the presence of my driver.
Much to my disappointment, nobody says anything to us and I miss the opportunity of a fight. However, I’m extremely pleased with what is going on – this sense that I am violating that space gives me immense satisfaction. I am also pleased that once he attacks his food, the driver no send anybody again. He eats with the natural noises of his normal buka environment – sneezing, belching, guffawing, etc.
There are moments when one has to be a strategic agbaya if it serves the purpose of getting on the nerves of a certain class of people so I join in the bad behaviour, also belching loudly and drawing satisfaction from the disapproving looks on the faces of some of the accent-faking sophisticated ladies and their male company at other tables.
We walk out royally after our meal. I can sense the happiness which engulfs my driver. We strike a conversation about it all on the way to the airport. He tells me that the most painful part of it for him is that all those madams and ogas spending about N10,000 for a meal for two are often people who owe their drivers, cooks, houseboys, house girls, gardeners, maiguards and nannies salary arrears and refuse to pay.
That is when it occurs to me that he probably would have appreciated the cash equivalent of what I just spent on a single lunch for him.
Our bill was N8000.
At the airport, I give him N4000.
His profuse prayers are the last words I hear as the airport terminal swallows me on my way to Lagos.
*PS: Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, was director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada.
He was among the 18 Canadians who died in last Sunday’s ill-fated Ethiopian air crash in Addis Ababa. This piece here is one of the littlest pieces of writing done by the late Professor.
He was not only a prolific writer, a great satirist, an author, but he also wrote about common everyday stuff that everyone can relate to. True, a shining meteor had fallen. He was a monumental loss for Nigeria, Canada and the world at large.
*PSS: I have dedicated Monday – Friday, to post on my Facebook wall, some of Pius Adesanmi’s evocative writings that I truly enjoyed.
Adieu, Professor Pius Adesanmi.
May your soul rest in peace.
Peace and Love!
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