Last night was one of those nights I had to do my late-night grocery shopping from ASDA. The ASDA on Smithtown Road happens to be very far from where I live, so I called the one of the taxi Companies.
“Hello, Delta Taxis please”, the operator said in a thick Liverpool accent.
“Hi. May I get a taxi to Cambridge Court please?” I said.
“Alright. What name is it?” the operator asked
“Sandra” I replied.
“Alright! As soon as we can love” and she hung up.
I will not tell you my real name but one thing I would tell you is this – my name is not Sandra. Each time I call the Cab Company, I always have to go through the pain of thinking about a variety of English names to use. I tried using my real name once and it ended up a disaster – I spent almost five minutes trying to pronounce and spell my name. That day, I learnt a lesson never to use my native name when calling a cab company.
The taxi came ten minutes later. My grocery shopping ended as quickly as it started since I virtually knew my way round the store. While I was at the counter, I called for another taxi. This time, I used the name Emma.
The driver was rather friendly and even helped me carry the items to the boot. I told him my destination and he took off. I recognised his accent. A typical London accent. More like Harry Potter’s accent.
“So girl, if you don’t mind me asking, where are you from?”
I proudly replied, “Nigeria. Why?”
“Oh I guessed as much. I’ve stayed in Togo and Ghana before”
“Wow really? So did you like it there?” I asked as if I cared.
“Foolish racist. Who cares if you liked it there or not? Who begged you to go there self. Nonsense.” Only that I didn’t say this out loud. It was all in my mind.
He continued “Nigeria is a really cool country. Very rich place with a lot of resources”
“Oya you’re not a racist. I take back that statement” I continued to speak to myself.
“So tell me girl, what brought you to Liverpool? Are you a student?”
“Yes I am. I’m studying Law at the University of Liverpool”, I replied.
Then he said:
“I’m gonna make a very controversial statement right now and I would like you to say if you agree with me or not”
“Then don’t say it” I said to myself.
Of course, he didn’t hear me so he continued –
“I think the best thing that has happened to Nigeria is Colonialism”
How dare he? Who does he think he is? Who gave him the right! How dare…
“Be calm” I told myself, “You don’t want to give him the impression that Nigerians lack self-control”
So I smiled.
“Actually, I wouldn’t say that” I replied.
I explained to his ignorant mind that while colonialism had undeniably brought some good things, it was NOT the best thing that had happened to Nigeria.
“But Nigerians are corrupt”
Now I was boiling inside. Look at this one o!
“Excuse me?” I said
“I don’t mean to be rude but I’ve researched on it. Why is it that your country has a lot of all those natural resources and yet there so many poor people. Wealth is distributed unequally”
He had a point. But then, I thought again – Aren’t there poor people in the UK?
“They came and took away our culture and oil; and left us with Jesus Christ & gonorrhoea.” I said.
“Huh?” He inquired.
I told him I was quoting from Fela Kuti, one of Nigeria’s best musicians who died in 1997. I explained what the quote meant – it was simply a metaphor for explaining that the colonial masters were basically hypocrites who brought religion and preached ‘the word of God’ but took away our natural resources and didn’t care about the welfare of Nigerians. I explained the whole concept of cultural imperialism to him. I went on to say that it was a stereotype to call all Nigerians corrupt. I informed him that before the advent of colonialism, societies in Nigeria were governed according to the laws of the land. There were no fences or walls or gates to protect houses. The societies operated a system of trust, and the evils of capitalism were absent because the societies were based on a system of communalism. I went on to tell him that in the local languages in Nigeria, there was no word for ‘corruption’ because corruption did not exist. After I finished my speech, I saw that he had left his mouth agape. I had definitely convinced him that not all Nigerians were corrupt and that it was not just derogatory, but also a sign of ignorance to say that the best thing that happened to my country was colonialism. Judging from his facial expression, he had obviously been living in the dark. He had learnt something new tonight.
We had reached Cambridge court so our conversation was cut short.
“That would be Three pound eighty please”, He said
I handed him the coins and he helped me lift the things from the boot.
“It was nice meeting you” He said
“Of course it was. Good night” I faked a smile.
As I climbed the tedious staircase and wondering why there was no elevator on my block, I couldn’t help but think of many the people who shared this man’s stereotypical views about Nigerians. I came to the conclusion that our government had failed us. I was happy when I read on the This Day’s Online Newspaper this morning that Donald Duke had ‘dumped’ the People’s Democratic Party. According to him, the party had become “dysfunctional, unable to articulate a road map and lead Nigerians on a clear and concise path to national renewal.” I share his views.
As I lay on my bed, all I could think about was the haunting statement that the driver had made: “Nigerians are corrupt. Nigerians are corrupt. Nigerians are corrupt” The statement kept playing in my head like one of those annoying nursery rhymes. I thought I was going mad. I prayed to God to help us as a nation prove him wrong. I also prayed to God not to let me go mad. I closed my eyes. I had fallen asleep before I even realised.