Fiction

THE LIFE IN CALABAR – AN INCONSEQUENTIAL SHORT STORY

I drove out of the airport at about 7:15 pm local time on Sunday and was mindful not to cause any delays in the exit lane from the parking lot. The parking receipt had slipped through the space between the driver’s seat and the fancy hand rest. I struggled to squeeze my fat fingers through to where the coloured paper rested while keeping the car in motion since from the rearview mirror there was a convoy of government officials trailing. I was driving a rental car, a small mini sedan which I often drove home from the airport instead of taking the light rail into town and hissing at every stop of the 45 minutes journey. Luckily, my dear friend Esther was manning the final exit gate and she simply waved me on and reminded me “Bros Bee, I’m still waiting for the trip oh!”. “I will call you”, I shouted in response. Call her fire! Ever since I met her at a restaurant in town and told her of my weekend getaway with my wife and friends to Creek Town holiday resort, she has bugged me severally to take her family along the next time I went.

The 1km road from the airport terminates at the ‘Welcome to Calabar’ roundabout, a massive landmark which unites three major expressways leading to the major districts in the City of Calabar. Beautifully constructed and well maintained, I usually take a deep breath when I get to drive around it to remind myself why I love this town. At nights, the dancing streams of water shot from powerful nozzles are coloured by underground lights and quite spectacular to behold. The water acrobatics from the concentric pools move with the rhythm of the local Efik percussions. At Christmas, tourists are usually treated to some elaborate water displays while driving into the city.
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PLEASE READ THIS LETTER – DEJOBBED, BEWIFED, AND MUCH CHILDRENISED

As my pseudonym reveals, all things Calabar excites me. I literally go digging historical documentation to find something about my beloved city. Being a city that has a visible coloration of colonial foray, I literally drool over stories of the days when Efik men paraded themselves as the official mediators between the White man and black man.

I first came across this letter on an amazing group on Facebook called Nigeria Nostalgia. As hilarious as it seems, it opened a window into the years when the English language was separating the men from the boys in our colonial society. I recently came across it again while reading through other letters on the website called Letter of Note, and thought I should share the actual letter and also repost the transcript for those who might not be able to read the actual letter.

The letter was written in 1929 by a guy called Asuquo Okon Inyang to a government official in protest of his dismissal from work for laziness. His choice of words are quite hilarious, and I wonder if these words were actually permissible at the time.
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LEAVE YOUR KIDS ALONE!

I once lived in a part of New Jersey called North Bergen. It was quite European by design in most parts and was obviously an escape for all who had a phobia for the clutter of New York City. Most people, including me, worked in the City and the morning and evening commute was a social phenomenon to be observed. I liked it though. I was constantly drawn to the evening and weekends of the North Bergen life, which I have come to appreciate as a microcosm of big City conurbations.

Some evenings and weekends, I go jogging or biking in the park and derive my motivation from the older populations who display such pleasure at keeping fit than a fledgling male such as this writer. After combusting the calories I will usually sit on one of the park benches, earphones in place to pump some good low notes, and begin my careful observation on one of the highways of human activity. In doing this, I was particularly drawn to kids who were at the park training at one sport or the other, in particular Baseball and Soccer. Standing and sitting at the sidelines were several parents watching carefully over their wards.

During my many evening trips home from work, I had passively noticed that the parks were always bubbling with people exercising and parents who had brought their kids for after school training in their chosen sport. These are the baseball moms and soccer moms that wield so much influence in typical American sociocultural and political life. I recalled this from my park observatory and moved my attention to the several parents who were screaming and cheering from the sidelines and I thought how beautiful it was to see parents who are so involved in the lives of their children, something we scarcely see in this part of the world.
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I MUST SAY SOMETHING: THE KAMIKAZE DRIVERS OF ABUJA

It is always a thing of joy and pride to visit the Abuja city. Some years back, a special CNN coverage of the growth of Nigeria’s capital city pronounced it as like one of the most promising 21st century cities in terms of beauty. I couldn’t agree less, as it is easy to perceive the great thought that went into planning its structure and order. Sprawling around scenic rocks, it is totally different from a city like Ibadan, which is “flung and scattered among seven hills like broken China in the sun”. While Ibadan, like Lagos grew organically over the years, Abuja is a deliberate imagination of men. It was given birth to by an idea and that has so provided for the primacy of its design. From the city’s entrance, whether from the airport or other doors, you can tell of the systematic allocation of resources and literally draw your movement on paper to trail the city’s concept. It is always a relief to be in an ordered environment, far away from the confusion of ethnic and economic settlements where stress is allocated to its dwellers.

But like the case of any good thing, there are certain spoilers of the vine. For Abuja, almost everyone who drives a car is like a Fox

Abuja junction traffic from ayakubu.blogspot.com

trying to outwit another. Unlike Lagos, which has one popular race track, Abuja is the Grand Prix all by itself. Once a driver hold the steering, all lanes merge into one and it boils down to who arrives at their destination first, even though we aren’t all going to the same place.  I often wondered who exactly gave these kamikaze drivers a license to hit the road. I am beginning to suspect that the case of Abuja is like Calabar city – after Okadas (commercial bikes) were banned, it seems the operators graduated to cab drivers – and this probably is one reason the city’s taxi drivers seem perpetually high. Abuja drivers have no regard for simple traffic rules and flout them with such relish that bewilders a city newbie.
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WILL CALABAR LET ITS CHILDREN DIE?

calabar
Okay I admit that I have a flair for the dramatic as there really isn’t a need for the title of this article. But knowing Nigerians very well, we share this same flair and I am only playing to this national character. Calabar is not the name of a wicked woman who is aborting the destinies of her children; neither are children dying on the streets of Calabar, so no cause for alarm. However, my use of language speaks to another equally important issue that burdens my heart. For me to write about this, which is usually outside the scope of matters I consider ‘note-worthy’, it tells how concerned I am with preserving some of the products of the great city of Calabar. So I hope the right people are reading this; people who can influence change and ensure that we do not lose out in the future simply because we were not careful to invest in our endowments.

Apart from the successes of the state in tourism and entertainment, there remains a lot of untapped resources that we must start investing in. Between the administrations of Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke, we have seen how government can bring prosperity to the lives of people by investing in those areas that are natural strengths for the State. Concentrating on other areas where we do not display comparative advantage is a huge waste of limited resources, and we are not unaware of the effect of this in times past. So this note is just to bring to the fore two other areas where we show relative advantage over other parts of Nigeria.  For these, I believe the State needs to create a strategic plan to enhance our position if none exists at this time.
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BARBECUED BINGO: MY ISSUES WITH ‘DOGMEATISM’

Let me start by saying I don’t eat dog meat, I have never eaten it (I hope so), and do not imagine any instance of my eating it in the future, except of course a terrible war breaks out and man must survive. Fair enough. But the more probing question will be if I support the consumption of this highly controversial delicacy, which by the way, the Chinese consume far more than Nigerians, if we were to go by numbers. The very mention of dog meat as a delicacy produces “yuk!” as a response, or a feverishly face rumpling grin that is typical of drinking Epson Salt. But dog meat is an increasingly popular delicacy in many parts of Nigeria and indeed the world, therefore no disdaining approach will change anything.

I grew up in Calabar with my brother, and we both knew that one thing will never grace our cuisine-polished tongues; dog meat. Down an adjoining street to ours was Mr. Friday, who operated a joint notorious for a large sign posted outside the shack with the tag “404 vs Palm Wine – Come One Come All.” We detested the people who went in there and kind of saw them as vile men, lacking control of their bellies. What made it worse for us was that every Fridays, a pickup truck would pass by loaded with a huge cage containing over twenty frail looking dogs that were probably aware of their approaching demise. Then a few hours later the whole street will be stinking of dog blood, and most people probably do not know that it has a foul odor. These all made it absolutely impossible to sit at table with a hot serving of barbecued dog meat.
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