Click HERE to Read Kehinde's Biography on the Nigerian Writers Database.
What you are about to read is beyond a tribute to the amazing, yet relishing original title, Never Look an American in the Eye: A Memoir: Flying Turtles, Colonial Ghosts, and the Making of a Nigerian American by Okey Ndibe. It is perhaps a re-cast of our experience here, a place where we supposedly should call home. Regrettably, [don’t be mad], a Nigerian who hasn’t even seen how a plane looks like, or be on one in the real sense of a plane, cannot imagine what it feels like to look an American in the eye, talk more of expecting or hoping not to be shot in the head with a shotgun when caught looking an American in the eye. When we speak of nothing, we speak of a little silence: of our Nigerianess, a consciousness that is well versed and important before any international or ‘Americanah’ connections. We therefore speak of the making of “The Angry Nigerian.”
Speaking delicately but frankly, the making of “The Angry Nigerian” is this; no American, perhaps can stand being looked in the eye. But also, no Nigerian can have the patience of looking back at you when being looked in the eye. The Nigerian – who can only shout or nag – is in a loop of survival, one set in a time-table of “Wetin we go chop?”, complaints of “Na When Naija go better sef?” “In Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen, Amen, Amen, by the grace of Almighty God… Allah’u Akbar”, “Our leaders dem na bad eggs sef.” This time-table is a shared testimony, it’s the national passport and mental rosary we carry in our head(s), heart(s) and eye(s). So, why look a Nigerian in the eye when you know their eyeballs are painted in the canvass of vexation, regret/s and transfer of aggression? Why look a Nigerian in the eye when you can focus on the littered streets, the happiness of playful and careless children who find motion in riding tyres, with some, picking pockets, the market woman who smiles half way into the street hoping to have all her bread sold for the day, the bus conductor whose voice gets heightened whenever he gets in(to) conversation with an agbero or another angry passenger who would rather die to have his balance returned rather than let a choral director of “Yaba, Lawanson, Costain (x2)” have all his sweat in five minutes.
Trust me, I am not wrong on this, a Nigerian is always angry. There is no need for a Nigerian to download the Software of anger from Android Play store; it is naturally installed in every Nigerian. I will make matters worse if I say in every Lagosian. Well, from Tuesday to Friday night, the anger is in a rehearsal for the final session of an unwanted Monday. Where are the days of Man Crush Monday? Ah ah ah, your man crush is being crushed by the system, their system, Boo Boo’s system. He looked a Nigerian in the eye last week and he got more than what he had bargained for. Well, a Nigerian also looked him in the eye and they handled it. There was a convergence of yellow buses, with dual black lines raping their bodies in different stretches. Your Monday crush was raped with words too, after which the Nigerian situation had raped him and still rapes him. In this system, we all get raped. Everyone kept their calm, but for the preacher man, “God bless you my brethren.” He mouthed…
“Who be your brethren?” Your ‘Man crush’ spoke wildly “abeg, abeg, make una no start una noise this morning o.”
“I say, the peace of God be upon you all as we journey together” the preacher man said facing your ‘Man crush’ Monday who is draped in a fine blue turtleneck shirt, heading to the Island.
“Why are you looking into my eyes? Why you dey look me? Am I the problem of the country? Am I the cause of your disaster? Why focus on me alone? Preach the fuck you do!”
The preacher man pretended not to hear, he has half of his eyes gazed on your man crush and the other passengers.
“Ehh, why you dey look am? Why are you starring?” the woman on the second row of the Vanagon spoke out; she was on a red patterned blouse.
“Dem look themselves for their eye, why una dey blame the pastor?” the man two seats away from her said, rather defensively.
The conductor called out, “CMS, CMS, oyaaa…” he has his eyes gazed on all of his passengers to know those who had just entered, perhaps for the next trip.
In this country, we are all mad. Never look a Nigerian in the eye if you are not sure what she/he is looking at or if she/he cares about your sight, the kind of attachment or haircut you have on. No one cares here, make I yarn you so. If you look at a Nigerian in the eye more than twice, you are either a marine spirit or a prophet waiting to render a prophecy or premonition, a long-lost uncle who reconnected with his nephew/niece at Obalende, a former landlord who compares how you look now to how you looked while living in his pafuka one-room apartment, an ex who stays half-way separated from me by a covet. We could look each other in the eye but our hearts are a million miles apart and we like it. In this country, we dey mad. Again, ehn, na me talk am. But if you no wan mad, you go just look away. If you attempt to look at the tinted glasses of the fleet of cars your politicians and celebrities drive, you would be asked why your ‘over-sabi’ is too much and why you don’t have a business to face, no matter how little.
In this country, as you avoid looking a Nigerian in the eye, everyone wants to hide their faces: the rich, the poor, the middle-class [if there is anything as such in this country], the fourth class [the messengers of the poor]. No one wants to be looked in the eye. We are all busy with different things everyday: artistes yearning to blow one day in the music industry, Original posters [OPs] and dummy digital photocopiers all yearning to make it to Tunde Ednut, Linda Ikeji, BellaNaija and Instablog’s page, the Naija Twitter family trying to create the hashtag of the season. Everybody is selectively angry to the extent that we give ourselves ‘hot hot’ on social media. This is how it goes to everyone: If you body shame me, I shame you, if you troll me, I put you in a trailer; if you no get joy, me sef no get joy.
Well, if you choose not to react and be angry, a lot of things would make you angry. So, never look at a Nigerian in the eye if you want to live long to see your children’s children. This is the making of “The Angry Nigerian.”
5/2/2020 05:33:15 pm
Nice read. Well done.
5/2/2020 05:40:02 pm
It seems like there's always something to be angry about. I don't like when I am stared at. I usually stare back till the other person is uncomfortable, but when I am not in the mood, I mouth "do I resemble your sista?"
5/2/2020 05:53:36 pm
More Heights Bro
5/2/2020 06:04:05 pm
Badiru, I'm greatly impressed by your write up. In fact, it is insane to be sane in an insane society. A country where people no get joy. Me self no too get. No madness dry rush us.
5/2/2020 06:07:34 pm
The funny part is "your man crush Monday has been crushed by the system...". Nice one, I like the dialogue and the code mix.
NWAFOR Eziafa Brenda
5/2/2020 06:40:20 pm
The vexing dey for another level. Bus palava,na helele. Fela Anikulapo Kuti caught the situation well in every word that came out of his mouth as music. This country is a joke. Well done for catching it appropriately in this work.
5/2/2020 07:11:34 pm
Best thing I've read this year. I took somethings from here.
ADEJARE BOLUWATIFE ADEGBITE
5/2/2020 07:16:32 pm
For me the fact that badiru is a contemporary writer and he makes good use of our Nigerian society to paint perfect pictures of relevant issues gives me good reasons to always want to pick up his piece to read.
5/2/2020 07:28:57 pm
You never disappoint Kenny. Nice work capturing a version of the Nigerian spirit. I think for the different classes and people though, there are different reasons why you cannot look them in the face - think respect or confidence or the lack of it. Anger is one important aspect as much as the ' forever optimistic' version of the Nigerian spirit too
5/2/2020 11:24:46 pm
Thank You Yvonne for your feedback. I am glad you had a great read.
5/2/2020 11:29:06 pm
Wow, so many reasons for a Nigerian's anger to be kindled. From the lack of opportunity to iron your shirt in the morning ( as light no dey) to the fact that you get to work late because Keke and bike were eradicated with no measure for replacement. You finally get a bus after a mile's treck and the conductor infuriates you more by doubling the fare. You get to the office and ur boss queries you for coming late to work. What a Nigeria.
5/2/2020 11:56:57 pm
NIce one Kenny love this
6/2/2020 07:00:40 am
Good read bro.
6/2/2020 09:09:30 am
Beautiful piece you’ve got here, Kenny.
7/2/2020 01:18:12 am
Your travelogue of Nigerians peeped through the window of their souls, leaving a warning for the readers not to follow the same trail. Every corner your eyes see reeks of travails. Don't look a Nigerian in the eye because the eye can tell a million stories if listened to. You echoed every Nigerian's residual anger that the eye on the brink of tears could not whisper.
8/2/2020 01:37:07 pm
Kenny sounds like a bitter pessimist! That is from the eye of someone strange to the society of Kenny's subject matter! He's aggressive and angry! Maybe! But the essay, more than reflecting the emotion of the writer, captures the realities of majority of Nigerians, old or young. The systems beginning from religions to education to justice and then leadership all pierce into gentle souls and hibernate, if not annihilate, hopes, gentleness, goodness and sanity in many Nigerians. Even parents do approve "Yahoo" these days, don't look them in the eye. The babes are bleeding and nursing mothers would rather butcher them if their Botheration gets too much. Pain in the land!
10/2/2020 11:47:16 am
Lol..our country is constantly moving mad. And a lot of us are angry but more than anger we have resigned to fate. I don't think anger is effective when it's a persons default state. So I dare say anybody can look a Nigerian in the eye and live long because our anger is stale and apathetic. We are mad yes but to what extent have we displayed this madness in a way that can cause change. The bad eggs we call leaders will continue to fill up the crate until our madness becomes desperate
11/2/2020 09:54:54 pm
This country is just difficult but at the same time I will not want to live anywhere else. It's sad how we are not doing anything in this madness.it is truly insane to stay sane in a country that is insane
12/2/2020 12:10:22 pm
We're just too "hangry" in this country. From over-woke clout chasers on Twitter, to the entitled beggar who would smash your side mirror because you "dared" refuse to give him out of your hard earned money.
23/2/2020 11:58:03 am
The first thing I notice the knack for allusion. The ability to take other Nigeria stories and relate them with the subject is not only crafty, but is a great way to show that Nigerians are telling one story, and speaking with one voice. Nigerian problems are universal to Nigerians and can be felt by all ― even if in the slightest degree.
Leave a Reply.