…has something to say, so before you sharpen your pitchforks and assemble your angry mob, THINK! “Where can I get a pitchfork in Nigeria?” If you are thinking Game, you may be out of luck. In order to protect myself, I may or may not have preemptively checked their inventory. But just so you know, I go to church, willingly and I’m secure in my relationship with God.
Here is the thing. Church is not always friendly. There I said it (holds a defensive stance). I sometimes find church folk scary and wonder, if what they are drinking is spiritual or cool aid. When my mind is idle (or maybe when its alert) I can see many troubling things in the Nigerian church system.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t really bother me when many preachers get treated like rock stars. It takes real (sometimes fake) spiritual investment and sacrifice to become revered and that is no easy task or joking matter. However, I am driven to misbehavior every time someone insists that the whole congregation rises up to clap for the pastor. Or that the previously given applause wasn’t good enough for a man of God. This always coincides with the sermon about not putting men on pedestals. Can I tell you a secret… sometimes I do not mind standing, but the call to rise never fails to make me weak in the knees.
In Nigeria, many pastors are notoriously unable to keep time. Between the ‘amens and ‘hallelujahs’ you start to notice that the sermon is a whole hour overtime. On the one hand, if the Holy Spirit is on a roll, you’d better get out of his way or get knocked over. The flipside to that is discipline. Pastors should have enough discipline to write a sermon that is effective within the restrains of time. Some churches try and pull a get-out-of-time-limit-jail move by not having a set closing time on their program. They aren’t fooling anyone.
The bible says that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’, but what is its stand on the fear of ushers. Is there a special school were ushers go to get trained by the SS? The moment you shut your eyes or attempt to sneak out, they pop out like Kurt Wagner and threaten you with the holy fire in their eyes. They also wear white gloves, which to me is code for: we won’t leave any fingerprints behind.
Then there is the whole language thing, which I am guilty of doing in the presence of newcomers. Why does each church seem to have its own language or dialect? It is made up of slangs and phrases known exclusively to its members. And everyone seems to have the preset, grunt,squeal,yell, response that seems to only alienate outsiders. Someone will ask if you know the Nazarene or ‘see the light’. Cut to you doing a frantic google search on your blackberry (who the heck says Nazarene anymore?) or worse an agitated phone call to PHCN to ask about the light, all because you lack a preprogrammed response.
Bono said, “I often wonder if religion is the enemy of God. It’s almost like religion is what happens when the Spirit has left the building”. I think he might have a point, does that make me a heathen? (Returns to defensive stance. Cue the angry mob)
I recently got to cover a story in Benue and I (Silly Yamika) thought that it was an acknowledgment of my past performance. Sadly, reality (the huge meanie) was setting me up, in a nice office game of pass the buck to the unsuspecting newbie. I am happy to report that rumors that the devil has relocated to Makurdi in Benue are all false. Although I personally think that the red guy would be comfortable if he settles there because, it is hotter than Hades.
Like a country song , I rolled into an unsuspecting town. I found the people stylish… well about as stylish as 2009. They were polite and overly welcoming in a way that suggests that they expected me to entertain them. Everyone moved at a speed that was mainly slow. The heat only served to exaggerate their nonchalance. I woke up for a 7.30 assignment that finally got going at noon. My articles all got written up and sent by Blackberry, because my laptop couldn’t or wouldn’t catch the internet and it seemed less strenuous than asking for a café. I was given the superb choice between okadas and unmarked taxis. I wonder what it says about me that I prefer the rude bustle of Lagos to the Makurdi calm. I thought it was funny, until it hit me. As bad as it is in Lagos and Abuja, it is worse (and slower) in other places. For many people this was no assignment, no twilight zone and no Truman show, when I left these people would remain there. This was their life.
Their culture was also very strange to me. There seemed to be a huge aversion to brooms. My arrival coincided with what can best be described as the Salem Makurdi broom trials. As my bus pulled into town, the first thing I noticed was a slew of ‘wanted’ posters with brooms on them. Now I can’t tell you if they were all the same broom or completely different broom because most brooms look pretty much the same to me. Maybe they have a reformed quidditch referee to help with that. The signs were everywhere. Another thing I noticed was the high price of brooms. You would think that with so many brooms going bad, their market value with depreciate.
HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BROOM
Traffic came to a standstill on the next day as a crowd seemed to have apprehended a family of brooms. They proceeded to drive through town in a huge convoy. There was music and dancing with lots of merriment. The street crowd parted and cheered, as five cars and countless okadas paraded their captives. The celebration continued throughout my stay. I was still wondering what the brooms did, when two days later I rode out of town. There were many decapitated brooms hanging in the wind, I guess as a warning to other brooms. Though, I never did figure out why. Drop me a line if you know.
Finding and reporting news in Abuja can be a thankless job. So every now and again I take time off foreheading* a brick wall to laugh at the things I cannot change. In my Zen state, I can completely overlook the many obstacles to my existence as a news correspondent.
I can now find lateness amusing. So what if the host of an event operates on ‘African time’. I also absolutely don’t care if they don’t thank or reference the media in their awful speeches or that they continue to make the president their guest of honor for everything. It is perplexing that the less likely he is to show up, the bigger his picture in their program. I would tell them to get over themselves and invite a reasonable alternative, but that would involve caring on my part. And I’m all out of that.
Sometimes I wonder why they say that the president is heavily represented by his proxy. For the sake of clarity, what the heck does ‘heavily represented’ even mean? And can someone be lightly represented? In my jaded experience ‘heavily representing’ is code for some dude, who shows up 2 hours late and has no idea what is going on, but gets to sit on the high table .
In the spirit of not caring, I will also stop mocking all excessively long high tables. It really doesn’t matter to me, if there are more people on the high table than attending guests. I will accept the words of all suck-up-MCs who claim that everybody is equal but give special recognition to rich people in the audience (I happen to be familiar with George Orwell’s “some animals are more equal than others” concept) But hey! If anyone ever walks up to an MC after a conference and says ‘I like the way you called my name, here is a million naira!’ I will give up sarcasm.
Just once I would like someone to walk up to the mic and say “Screw protocol**” before jumping into a well writing speech. But I know that that would lead to the collapse of this reality and I am not yet brave enough to meet Walternate.
Now as stated above, I can forgive almost anything, except Personal Assistants. PAs are antiprogress robots. They give me adult night terrors and make me consider the merits plunging 50 feet of the nearest 50 feet building… on a good day.
In a logical world, a journalist is the best friend of a PA, if only for the purpose of mutual job preservation. My six month old niece can tell you that providing reporters with information is the easiest path to free publicity. But logic, is on permanent vacation and sass and attitude are her substitutes.
And for your pleasure, here are my greatest hits of PA rejection confusion:
Me: where is the conference hall?
PA: There are many conferences going on!
Me: I’m talking about the one for your organization (she was wearing their logo)
PA: (suddenly suspicious of my ability to read minds) who are you?
Me: I’m with the press (holding up my card)
PA: there are many conferences going on which do you want to attend.
Me: Can I take a look at the program
PA: These are only for guests.
Me: I just want a quick look.
PA: you can if you register for the conference
Me: Okay, how do I do that?
PA: It costs 10,000 naira.
Me: I ‘m part of the media!
PA: (After thinking for a few seconds) 8,000 naira.
Me: Can I look at the program?
PA: (while clutching a stack) there aren’t anymore.
She was hoping here stupidity was contagious.
Me: Can I have one of the free carrier bags.
PA: No they have finished.
Five minutes later with me still standing there she gives one to some guy.
Me: Hey, I thought you said that there were no more
PA: He said that he is our boss’s friend…
Me: So that gives him the power to create carrier bags out of thin air?
PA: (blank look and then disapproving look) he said…
Me: I heard you, I’m not sure you understand English (is what I should have said but I just walked away… I usually just walk away)
Till PAs become human, I will continue to report from trenches inhabited by people who think muting their phones is tantamount to suicide. While listening to proxys who ‘heavily represent’ others who were too smart to show up.
* Foreheading: the act of persistently striking and object with your forehead.
** Protocol: is a set of guideline or rules that demand the recognition of all important personnel at an event. This includes interrupting the program to acknowledge latecomers. If a speaker cannot remember all the important people he/she says, “All protocols observed”.