Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Nigerian Oga's

I don’t have any Nigerian friends not because I don’t like them, but seeing I am not Nigerian and I can’t speak Ibo or Yoruba, I guess there was no need to try and make friends with them.

The closest I have come to Nigerian’s is when I lived in the London Borough of Southwark and there weren’t many of them.  Of the immigrants, it was the Pakistani’s and the Bengal’s who dominated.

A good portion of the white community, were not amused by this arrangement that, anybody who was not white was bound to suffer some form of racial attack.

The Pakistani’s and Bengal’s were the obvious targets with the Chinese coming in a close third. Blacks were given a wide berth until the Oga’s moved in.

Oga was easy to spot. He wore rich and colourful robes and Mama Oga wore a hairstyle that resembled the Birds Nest, the Chinese Olympic stadium in Beijing.

If Oga dressed down into jeans and a casual shirt, you would still know that he was Nigerian because of the tribal scars on his face. And if Oga didn’t have tribal scars on his face you could still tell he was Nigerian because whenever he spoke, it was like a fierce row had broken out.

It was 1986 then – I think, and I was standing outside Elephant and Castle tube station. Across the road, were three Oga’s and going by the fever pitch noise they were making, it looked like they were having a row, a row which was in danger of boiling into a melee.

Naturally, a crowd gathered and with an impending melee seemingly about to break out, I crossed the road not only get a good vantage point, but to be in the thick of the action.

As the row continued, three police cars pulled up and cops were all over the place slapping handcuffs onto the bewildered Oga’s and whisking them away.

A few days later in the local paper, a story appeared under the headline: “Nigerian’s arrested.” It went on: “An elderly white woman called police because three black men with raised voices were about to start fighting in the streets in broad daylight… and that it took the intervention of a local Nigerian councillor to convince the police they were not having a row, but that was the way Nigerian’s spoke – with full gusto”.

Recently I travelled to Abuja. Abuja so I found out is quite similar to Kampala except that one would think that the whole city is angry with each other. Every corner you turn, there are raised voices but like the London scenario, there was no impending row. It’s just the way Oga spoke. Oga wants the world to know he is around. Oga wants it known that he is the boss, the Oga of all Nigerian’s.

During my sojourn I frequented a small pub for drinks which aptly, was named Abuja and the funny thing about it, when Oga was whispering romantic things to Mama Oga, they were unable to keep their voices down so I got to hear everything. And when Oga spoke on the phone – he didn’t discreetly speak into the phone. He ‘ferociously’ bellowed into it.

Since my return from Abuja, I have trouble keeping my voice down. Am always bellowing and it becomes an issue especially when traffic police think I am agitated and ask me to calm down. Oga can be that infectious.

By the way, the Abuja I travelled to, be not Abuja in Nigeria, but a small pub called Abuja right here in our Kansanga where Oga’s voice can be heard as far away as Ggaba. 


Monday, November 18, 2013

Why Won't The Hotel Housekeeper Lay My Bed?

I used to jump at the chance to go up-country but at this rate, it’s not as fun as it used to be especially, if you stayed in a medium sized hotel.

On my last three trips, I have noticed a disturbing trend about the hotel rooms. They no longer make the beds. Okay, they do but not all of it. They lay the bottom sheet, give you fresh pillow cases but the top sheet and blanket, will have been folded into a neat pile and left in the middle of the bed.

I assumed the girl from housekeeping hadn’t yet finished laying the bed, but when I returned in the wee hours of the morning and after some beers, the bed was as it was. The top sheet and the blanket were still folded in a neat pile in the centre of the bed.

So there I am in a hotel room at 2:00am with a few beers swirling about in my head and I am struggling to make my bed. It was SO not on and I duly made a mental note to lodge a complaint the following day.

Management took my complaint seriously that Housekeeper was summoned to the office. She insisted she had laid the bed but when I explained that the top sheet and blanket were not, things took on a new twist.

Management told me that is was their house style - that “some guests prefer it that way”. I retorted:  “I don’t stay in a hotel to lay my bed. I go to a hotel so that I get pampered, so that I have people waiting on me and well as having Housekeeping lay my bed every morning!” However, for the duration of my stay, my bed was never laid.

In a hotel in Mbarara, the curtains were inside out. Again, I made a mental note to tell Management and when I did, in their opinion they had a perfectly valid explanation. They want the windows to look pretty and attractive from the outside. Hmm so I breathed, then added: “But when I am in the room, I don’t want to look at inside out curtains.”

I got the standard up-country response, that of a blank ‘what is your problem’ look.

In Gulu, it’s a different story. There is something called Bata Slipper Mutilation (BSM). Hoteliers in Acholi are so petrified that guests will walk off with their slippers that they have resorted to mutilating them so they don’t look attractive enough to steal. Their psychopath gardener is tasked chopping out lumps of the slipper so that it reads the hotels name. Only thing is that by the time he is done, the slippers are so badly mutilated, they are uncomfortable to wear.

I wonder what the people from Bata would say when they find out what’s happening to their slippers.   

I also have issues with up-country hotel breakfast. The menu is the same –dreary. A cold boiled egg. If not, some sort of omelette that the chef fried two days earlier. Oh, and one hard sausage that requires a pneumatic drill to cut through it. It’s such a bland breakfast that most times I skip it, until I decided to start taking my own. I packed a box of Weetabix and over breakfast, there were murmurs as other guests assumed I was being mean and had walked off with the whole box. But funny thing, the hotel charged me for the milk I used with the Weetabix.

Next time I will pack my own milk and probably my own cereal bowl, sugar and spoon. I might even take House-ee along to lay my bed.      

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Wedding Crashers

I was ‘invited’ to a wedding last Saturday - not by Groom or Bride-to-Be, but by a friend who am sure, didn’t have an invite.

If I were younger, I would have crashed it, but as it involved getting all suited and booted, I found it to be too much of a chore.

The first wedding I crashed was on a hot Saturday at a small chapel in London. We were bored. As we drove past the chapel, we stopped and asked Limo Driver where the reception was going to be held. With the address firmly tucked in my pocket, Norris and I went home, got changed and off we went.

To our horror, the wedding was not in a hall, but in a small semi-detached house where it was impossible blend in seeing that Norris and I were the only black faces.

But we had a plan. To go on the offensive and ask the guests as we mingled if they were on Groom or Bride’s side. If they said ‘groom,’ we would then say we are on the bride’s side.

Somewhere down the road we were rumbled by Groom’s Brother and had to leave. But at least we had quaffed enough beers and filled our stomachs with food though, we didn’t get to taste the wedding cake – something that we thought was totally rude and unfair of them - even though we were wedding crashers. And black ones at that.

In Uganda, I crashed a wedding back in the day. When Oscar M was getting married to Miriam, I didn’t know him like I do today. ‘I knew of him’. He was also a good friend to OPP who I knew well, and it was OPP who had taken it upon himself to invite me to the reception at Nile Hotel before its transformation into Serena Hotel.

Unlike the London wedding, there were a good number of guests so it was possible to skulk amongst the bona fide guests. And oh yes, I did drink and eat my fill and unlike the London wedding, I also ate cake. I might have also packed some to take home – I think.

When Sandor married Laura, their reception was in Munyonyo. Sandor was very particular about wedding crashers so he made sure the gates were adequately manned. While I was invited, Young Man sitting next to me wasn’t. It all came to light when a not so amused Sandor had to serve cake to Young Man who he knew he hadn’t invited. And he couldn’t do anything about it except whisper to me: “I didn’t invite him.”

If Sandor was frothing mad, spare a thought for OPP who flipped because Young Man had the nerve to wear one of OPP’s jackets to the function, a jacket that the whole of Kampala knew belonged to OPP, and that made it look like it was OPP who had invited him.

Some weddings are hard to crack. When KK married Sarah, Red Top’s were deployed at the entrance. When Rita, who was a top dog at a telecommunications firm and had been ‘invited’ by Annette, she met stiff resistance at the gate from Binyo who, smirked because he knew Rita was not on the guest list. No matter how much Annette pleaded on her behalf, there was no getting in.

Rita persisted and it was only when Red Top started poking his head about that she left for fear of being embarrassed. That put Annette in a quagmire. Does she stay seeing she was invited? Or go back with uninvited Rita? Had it been me, I would have treated Rita like she was the plague, flushed her and stayed.   

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sometimes The Home Grown Man Is Best

When the late Princess Diana married Prince Charles in the 80s, it was not a wedding. It was THE wedding! Shown on TV, globally, it drew an audience well into the millions and for years to come, Diana was the talk of the world. Academically she was daft (a mere two O-levels), but she was a stunner who could flutter her eyes in a provocative and sexual manner, enough to bring most men to their knees.

Then the cracks appeared and by the time she and Charles parted company, the daggers and machetes were out. In those days, Face Book and Twitter didn’t exist so they leaked information on each other to the media. The highlight was when Diana bared all on a BBC documentary about her ‘harrowing’ marriage to Charles.

I remember watching the documentary in a normally screaming pub in South London except that this time, it was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. By the time she was done and the verdict was read, Charles was vilified as the most hated man in the UK.

Closer to home, I woke up on a Tuesday to a screaming headline in New Vision: “I was abused” and underneath it, a picture of our own, Princess Komuntale and hubby, Christopher Thomas.

Komuntale and Thomas had called it quits, though in a rambling press statement, Komuntale didn’t reveal the specifics as to why the marriage had run its course.

But on Face Book, their dirty private muck was being thrown about for us to read. In one post, Thomas says: “Her family is broke, they have no money. Everyone knows this. It’s no secret and I want my ring back.” But the killer and perhaps inexcusable allegation was that she had sores all over her body as well as having herpes. And the muck is still being flung.

In our parents’ generation, marriages were not always rosy. They too, had their fair share of problems - be it money, infidelity and a whole host of other problems. But somehow they battled it out. Yes, the muck was thrown. They argued, they fought and they screamed, but certainly not for public consumption and certainly not in front of the children. When the dust settled and the broken pieces were picked up, one thing that was not bound to happen was divorce. It was not an option.

Komuntale didn’t have a father figure in her life so I guess she never got to understand how the male psyche works. Her dad, the former king, died when she was still a tot and growing up, she was tossed to the sidelines because the spotlight was always on her brother King Oyo, who the world had an interest in seeing he was the world’s youngest ruling monarch.

There is a good chance that if her other ‘father’, the late Col. Muhammer Gadaffi, were still alive today, Thomas would not be slinging the muck on FB. He would have been like a chicken thief on the run, hiding out in the slums of Harlem or seeking refuge in derelict and rat infested buildings of the bankrupt city of Detroit while fighting for stale bread with the roaches and the rats. He would have been doing all that because Gadaffi would have put a fatwa on his head for ruining his ‘daughters’ life.

Now that Komuntale is single, perhaps she has learnt a lesson that Ugandan women of today do not want to grasp. Foreigners – be it American’s or otherwise, may not be the best. That Ugandan man over in the next village with the cassava plantation and malwa joint could be just the right man to give eternal bliss.

Expelled From School And Sent to Prison

I was fortunate enough, that during my academic career, I was never suspended or expelled from school – not because I was a good boy who to...