WARNING: THIS POST WILL NOT TEACH YOU HOW TO PREPARE MOI-MOI
Lagos is a hard Task-Master, constantly pushing you to the limits every day with all sorts of drama. Some days it is the scourge of KAI and LASTMA, NPF and VIO, other days it is some random ghost face guy at CMS trying to unzip my bag and pick my phone ( I thank God for my eagle eyes). Sometimes it’s your thieving neighbours or an annoying security guard at work, some other days, it is the traffic dealing with you. I used to think it was my life that was dramatic. Every January 1st at watch night service, I prayed “Dear Lord, I want a drama-free year”, but He never seemed to hear. I had planned scenes in my mind where I would be holding a weapon to my parents’ head and ask them what kind of drama took place the night I was conceived, but I could never pull it off. Good thing, because I realized it wasn’t really my life that was dramatic- It was my country, and more importantly, it was Lagos.
I like love food. I don’t know if I can say i’m a foodie because I eat the same things every day – Rice (all available variants, except Tuwo Shinkafa) , Efo riro, Eba, Asaro, Yam, Ila Alasepo, and of course Moi-Moi, but I never say no to a good meal. Living off campus in a public university, I quickly learnt that there was a difference between the kind of food you cooked and ate and home, and the one you ate in the hostel. The hostel food was an imitation, something to get by. It was a pass-off, mere torture. Home food was priceless, a luxury and taste that I could not afford daily as a student. But I had my ways- I would go home every weekend and bring a small bowl of soup back to be shared with my sister for two days, and then hope that by some miracle my mum would decide to send home-cooked soup.
One of such miracles happened on my cousin’s birthday. We were rounding up lectures for the year at that time of December and it was the perfect time to party. She was also 21 that year, so her mum brought home-cooked food- Rice, Vegetables, Plantain, Moi-Moi and Drinks. I was broke, saving my remaining money to buy a few things for Christmas, and look how God had prepared a table before me. I need not explain that I ate to my fill and took extra Moi-Moi home, much like the proverbial Sule Igbira who ate so much that he died. But I didn’t die, at least not that day.
The next day I set out to Idumota to buy whatever I could get with my small change and head home from there. I had not gotten past two bus-stops before I started sweating profusely. I had previously made a mental note not to sit in the back row of Coaster buses but all the other seats had been taken. I cursed the driver in my mind for putting a bus with sealed windows on the road, but I realized I was the only one sweating. Now that was a problem, I never sweat so you would never find a handkerchief on me. And then suddenly I felt a gripping stomach pain. There was a rough and tumble party going on inside my stomach, which was the explanation for the sweating too. I needed to address a “major issue” promptly, but the perennial Badagry Expressway Traffic was threatening to disgrace me. Being a religious person, I resorted to prayer. I said The Memorae to the Blessed Virgin Mary and a couple of Hail Marys, and then when I didn’t have the energy for that I started humming “O Lord my God, I trust in You, Let me not be ashamed and let not my enemies triumph over me”. The rest of my energy went to attempting to clean my sweat (which was now coming down in torrents) without a handkerchief. The Moi-Moi was at work.
God has His way of answering prayers, if we believe. It occurred to me that perhaps my Idumota runs could wait- My grandmother lived in Mile Two and I would not be put to shame after all. I decided not to follow the bus all the way to CMS. My transport fare would waste but my pride would still be intact, all I needed to do was get to Mile Two. At Mile Two, I landed from the bus like an expert and dashed across the Express and hopped on a Bike. Sometimes, things happen to us to make us realize we really aren’t as principled as we think we are. I ALWAYS used the pedestrian bridge, and I NEVER took a Bike to my Granny’s house from the bus-stop. But I had two choices- mess myself up or break my principles. I was only 20, there would be more time to have better principles.
I got to my Granny’s place at the nick of time; I couldn’t even wait to pay the Bike Man. I screamed at her house-help to take 50 naira from my wallet and pay him and ran straight into the toilet. Only when I had settled on the toilet seat did I realize the stupidity of my principles. Hell! I would have disgraced myself because of 50 naira and a pedestrian bridge??? Thank God for Wisdom. Principle ko! I sat there another 15 minutes just to be sure that evil Moi-Moi had done its worst. Then I played with my Granny another one hour. Besides an occasional rumble, my stomach was fine. The Lord had given me Victory!
I believe in Omens so I decided not to go to Idumota again, who knows what would have happened on my way there sef. I decided to head straight home to Ikorodu. At Oshodi, I boarded a bus headed to Ikorodu. I said a quick prayer again and promptly chose a window seat; but I started sweating again before we even got to Ketu. The second season of Moi-Moi Diaries had started, and I was the only one that would get hurt. There was no one else to visit on this route and the traffic to Ikorodu was gangster, hmmm, dear Lord, where is your face? I knew I had to act fast, but this traffic was going to disgrace me.
Respite came in the form of a Petrol Station about 300 meters away. I promptly started shouting “o wa” and God was gracious because the bus stopped right in front of the Filling Station. I grabbed my bags and ran straight to meet a female attendant on duty. In my best Yoruba, I prayed that she would not be put to shame at home, work and in her in-law’s house, then I proceeded to tearfully explain that I needed to use the toilet in the next minute. I must have cut a pitiable sight- tears streaming down my face and my sweat soaked t-shirt- because she was going to oblige me until an idiot who I later found was the station manager came into the picture. He went on about how if he had run into me on a normal day and asked for my number I would not have looked at him twice, but that I was now at his mercy. I was irritated. Typically, my reaction would have been a long hiss, my best bad-eye look and then I would have said “Yeye dey smell” with one side of my mouth turned up, but I knew if I didn’t behave myself I would be the only one smelling- of shit. Besides, all the energy I had left had been channelled into constricting my anal muscles, so I looked at him, with my “What Would Jesus Do?” eye and hoped that he could see the humility in them, I wasn’t going to choke on this humble pie. Eventually, I won, because the female attendant led me to the bathroom. My joy however seemed short-lived as someone would run into the toilet some 2 seconds before me. My chaperone tried to explain that I was an emergency and that I would not last 5 more minutes, but the dude wasn’t having it, his condition seemed critical too. At that point, my fate seemed sealed. It was over, I was finished. I did not even have the energy to fight after judgement had been pronounced. I simply sat down on the floor, right in front of the toilet and waited for execution. If tears were just rolling down my face previously, I now had waterfalls. God had punished me, and who was I to appeal?
My Chaperone (the female attendant) made a last ditch effort to get me help. She stole the keys to her boss’ restroom (the same evil Manager) and let me in on condition that I keep it clean and leave no water on the floor. I didn’t mind, I could clean water with my clothes if I had to. I ran in there as fast as I could and was there until she came to knock to see if I was alive. I thanked her and prayed for her with all the prayers I had heard on Africa Magic Yoruba. Then I prayed that my Victory would be permanent.
Every morning on my way to work, at Leventis Bus-Stop, I see people doing all sorts- bathing, peeing, and defecating. I don’t judge them. In the evenings, I see men beside big gutters and canals, women bending behind vehicles to do their thing. Lagos has no usable public toilets in many places, and if there are, are they open at 6:15am? Are they hygenic? Lagos is hard enough with all the drama. The government and her agents are always against us. Nature should be on our side