I have just returned to Nigeria after the longest holiday of my life (not counting the ASUU-induced ones). Three weeks of relaxation and de-stressing in two #ThisIsACountry countries. No generators to fuel or put on, sanity on the roads, round-the-clock electricity, no one worried that the witches in his mother’s village were jinxing him. It was truly a pleasant time away. I’m back now and, in addition to the needing to provide my own electricity, the fuel queues and police checkpoints are back. Anyway, here are some stories from my summer wonderland.
My Texinas are dual-nationals and one of them needed to have her Wonderland passport renewed while we were away. I’d filled the application form online before we got there and chose the one-day express walk-in renewal service for a date two days or so after our arrival. All the Wonderland folks required for the renewal were her old passport and birth-certificate. We spent less than 10 minutes with the document-checker and less than 30 overall including going through security and getting a ticket number. “Come back at 5 for the passport”, we were told. I kept waiting for her to ask me for her “something for the weekend” but she didn’t. Got back at 5.30, the passport was ready. Simples.
At the Ikoyi passport office, even after you’ve paid the tout for “express” service, you still have to endure a 1-hour inter-religious prayer session with the 300 or so other applicants under the waiting canopy. “These passports you are collecting today, the Lord will never allow foreign embassies to stamp refusals or rejections on them.” “AMEEEEEN”, the people chorus back…
Then someone yells out applicants names from a pile of labelled files stacked on the table. Every applicant called must then collect his file from the yeller and personally take it into the processing room. In the processing room, someone checks the documents in the file and signs something which you need to quickly dash out to photocopy, then somebody shows you your data on the screen for your approval, warning you that mistakes cannot be corrected after this point. Then another person takes your picture. Long story short, four hours and two weeks after you arrive, your passport should be ready. If you didn’t pay a tout though, I bet you’re still under that waiting canopy, earnestly expecting the yelling immigration guy to call out your name.
The Lord’s Army
Still on the Texinas, I’m a firm believer in the importance of children growing up listening to wholesome music. This is mostly because I did and, every once in a while, a nice melody from primary school bursts into my consciousness and I have a nice bask in the nostalgic waterfall. I therefore have loads of music from CBBs and Disney and this is what we listen to in the car on family outings. None of all that nanananinanaininono stuff. I decided to add nice children’s Christian music to the mix in Wonderland and got a CD named ‘Action Bible Songs’. One of the songs on this album is ‘The Lord’s Army’, which most of us learned at Sunday School, way back. You know, “…for I am in the Lord’s Army. Yessir!!” yes, that one.
Now here’s a teaser for you. Do you know the actual words of the verse? Chances are, like me, you’ve been singing “I will never whoomp on the enemy, grunt on the nanini, ride on the fillary…” No, you’re not like me? Well, thanks to this CD, I now know that the real words are –
I may never march in the infantry/Ride in the cavalry/Shoot the artillery/I may never zoom o’er the enemy/But I am in the Lord’s Army
The sound of all those pennies dropping. You’re welcome.
Dinner with the Cabal
I informed His Royal Overlordness King Feyi XVIII (@doubleeph) that I would be in his neck of the Wonderland Woods and he very graciously invited me for an evening of Roast Pheasant and Arcanian Cheese with Akin Oyebode (@AO1379), Dapo Adesanya (@DapoAdesanya) and [Uncle] Akin Akintayo (@forakin).
Okay, so it wasn’t really pheasant and cheese but it was an extremely pleasant Wonderland evening at a restaurant owned by one of the truly great Nigerian musicians of yore. Now, I have the habit of imagining what people I’ve never met sound like, from their appearance in pictures. @AO1379 is a regular contributor on ynaija and the voice I’d made up for him in my head would’ve made Barry White jealous. He wasn’t that baritone but he is a great ‘conversator’. Plus, contrary to what I think he’s said before on the twitter, he paid for non-1759 drinks, so hearty cheers to him.
You may have noticed that I referred to @forakin as ‘Uncle’. This is because in the middle of one of his stories (in his ever so posh manner) he mentioned the year in which he finished secondary school. The rest of us at the table did double-takes, remembering how old (or more correctly, young) we were at the time.
A nice evening of great conversation and made in Wonderland Nigerian food.
When LCC announced the arrival of electronic tags for users of their toll road, I promptly took the papers of mine and Mrs Tex’s cars to register for the e-Tag. Unfortunately for all concerned, Mrs Tex’s car was still registered in her maiden name (“You need to bring the marriage certificate…”) and mine was still registered in the name of the leasing company (“…and a letter from this company on the papers.”).
“But it’s my bank account that I would be linking the tags to.” I protest.
“No o, Oga. It haff serious legal implication.”
“Really? Someone will sue LCC for letting me pay for e-Tag on their car?”[raised eyebrow]
“Hehe. Oga, it seems like you don’t understand what I’m saying. It haff legal [read “legggal”] implication.”
Of course, I wasn’t going to bring a marriage certificate to get a sodding e-Tag and that was that.
In Wonderland, in the Baltimore-Washington DC axis, you will find 2 short parallel Velcro stickers on most people’s car windshields. Johnny Just Come (Johnny Come Lately, in proper English) initially prevented me from asking what they were for but I found out soon enough. On this same commuting axis, you see, are a couple of toll roads. The LCC in Wonderland also have e-Tag equivalents called EZ Passes. The Velcro stickers are how you affix your EZ Pass onto your windshield to pay tolls. Drivers transfer EZ Passes between vehicles; that being the reason why in many cars you’d see the bare Velcro stickers but no EZ Pass. No legggal issues whatsoever in a #ThisIsACountry country.
Returning From Wonderland
As a great sage recently informed us, everything that has a beginning must have an ending. On this, he was right and I eventually found myself in the MMIA – the land of “What do you have for us?” Typically at MMIA, you’re on the immigration queue for about 30 minutes and spend the next hour and a half gathering your luggage (unless you flew First or Business Class). If, as frequently happens, the baggage carousel breaks down and luggage has to be transferred to another carousel your wait could be much longer.
However, on the day I returned from Wonderland, Immigration fast-tracked us on the queue because of the Texinas, so our passports were stamped roughly 10 minutes after disembarking from the plane. While waiting for the usual “so, oga lawyer, what did you bring for us?” from the immigration fellas, I spied a carousel churning out luggage. I didn’t think, in a million years, it could be for our flight but was I glad to be wrong. Another 30 minutes and all our luggage had been collected. Now for the customs people.
I was bracing myself for “What’s in the boxes? Open one, let’s see. Okay don’t open, just find something for us and you can go.” But the lady just pointed out to us that exits had changed because of ongoing renovation and that we were to head in a different direction. Hang on, I thought, isn’t this a #ThisIsNotACountry HQ? Right on cue, probably just to make sure I wasn’t permanently disorientated, PHCN struck and there was a power cut, accompanied by that usual groan that people make when that happens. The lights soon came back on and, as I left the terminal, I heard a different customs officer remark to an expatriate grabbing the last of his baggage, “Welcome to Nigeria.”
Indeed, I thought.