Category: Nigeria and Ghana, 2013

Orikis and Protocol

August 25

Up early for a 7:00 departure.

Our time in Lagos was great, clearly highlighted by the people we met. I don’t feel that I have a very good sense of Lagos, as a city, though. All of the Nigerians we’ve met describe it as a vibrant, fast-moving, aggressive city on the order of New York. While I believe them, we did not really experience that ourselves.

We were picked up at the hotel in a van, sent by Ekiti State (of which, more later). In the SUV were a driver, guard and protocol officer. Another truck escorted us on our travels, siren sounding to clear the way. This entourage would accompany us until Tuesday.

Drove to the mainland portion of Lagos to the complex in which Sola’s 82-year old mother lives. Sola explained that the entire area around the buildings was completely empty when his father built it. Sola had been unaware of the project until his father took him there to show it to him, after it was completed. We walked a block, where Sola showed us a badly overgrown foundation for a building that was to have been a hospital that his father was building for him at which it was anticipated that he would practice after he returned from medical studies in the US. While Sola and Funmi were over studying, though, a military coup occurred, they did not return and the hospital was never built. A sign saying, “This land is not for sale” stands outside the property to deter people who do not own the property from purporting to sell it to another. Sola has thought about selling the property, but can’t bring himself to do that, because of what it was to have been.

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We went up to the apartment to visit Sola’s mother and saw the obviously warm and tender relationship they have. At our request, his mama sang Sola’s Oriki, the praise poem that she sang to him as a boy, and still sings to him each time they talk. One of his sisters joined in the Oriki, then set out the brunch she had prepared for all of us, a task for which, as a caterer, she’s particularly well suited.

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After saying our goodbyes, we set out on the long, 5-hour drive to Ekiti State, where Funmi grew up. We’d been warned that the roads were bumpy and bad, and they were, by US highway standards, but were far better than many we’d encountered in Ghana on past trips. The first several hours were flat and the roadside resembled a somewhat more urbanized Ghana, with open stalls selling various items, and assorted goats and cows grazing from time to time. The stores did not have the religious names that permeate Ghana stores. I did have a favorite large billboard that loomed above several port-a-potty-type units, “The Business of Shit is Serious Business.” I am not making this up, as several witnesses can attest, but we flew by quickly, and so I was unable to photograph it.

We drove by Ibadan, a red-roofed, sprawling city of some ten million, to which we will return on Tuesday. After a while, the land became hillier and forested, and eventually we reached Ekiti and drove to the Fountain Hotel, which is at best a b-minus, but will do for the next two nights. We spent a quick few minutes checking in and cleaning up a bit, before setting out to pay a “courtesy visit” on a US-educated king of a village in the area. We were greeted warmly by a bevy of colorfully-dressed chiefs, all of whom shook our hands and told us, “you are welcome.” Introductions were made in the very modest “palace” and several speeches welcoming us were given by chiefs in a language we could not understand. Then we were taken to the chief, before whom we kneeled, as he gave us individual blessings in English, wishing us long life, success, etc. After goodbyes and more handshakes, we drove to our next stop, “Mama,” Funmi’s 92-year old mother.

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A large crowd had gathered there to greet us, shake our hands and tell us that we were welcome. Women serenaded Funmi, singing her Oriki, and we were ushered in to meet a lovely and smiling Mama with whom Funmi seems to share the same warm relationship that Sola and his mother have, and then shown into the dining room for another meal. After the meal we discussed the farming situation in the area with five farmers, which included farmers having to accept the prices offered to them without negotiation. Water is a huge problem, with there being very few wells offering safe water.

After the meal we went back in to see Mama, and she sang Funmi’s Oriki, accompanied by young women who sang verses that we later found out were both praising and roasting Funmi. We met Precious. Mama was a care giver to Precious, a very cute 3-year old girl, who was the daughter of a health service worker, who had lived with Mama for many years.

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We set off again, behind sirens to our final stop, the home of Governor Fayemi and his wife. The governor is a perhaps 50-year old man who received his PhD in War Studies in England. He seems a very engaging, genuine, progressive, straight-forward person who is interested in helping his people. We’d all been given rather impressive, 130-page, large books, loaded with statistics and color photographs trumpeting the programs he’d initiated, and which he obviously hoped would lead to a second 4-year term in next year’s election. His wife has been active in feminine causes in Africa, and they lived together in Ghana for a good part of the past decade. In the large parlor, we exchanged introductions for about half an hour with the ministers of agriculture, trade, education, women’s issues, health and the deputy governor, all of whom joined us for a rather lavish buffet dinner and pleasant conversation in the dining room. Both in the parlor and the dining room, large flat screen TVs were tuned to a soccer match, though nobody appeared to be watching it.

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All of these introductions, welcomes and pomp are rather uncomfortable for Carol and me, since the major contribution we’ve made to deserve all this is to have been Dick and Susie’s friends for forty years. It certainly is a privilege to be included in each step, though.

On our way out, the governor’s wife gave each couple gifts in a large shopping bag bearing the words “with compliments” and printed with a large, attractive picture of her. Weary, we headed back to our hotel, and crashed.

3 comments to Orikis and Protocol

  • Margo Oberman

    What an amazing adventure Arnie! Loving your entries. Best to all.
    xo Margo

  • Dave Osten

    Arn:

    Don’t know how you have the time or energy to write in such detail, but I’m certainly enjoying my vicarious trip. Best to all of you.

    Dave

  • Wendy

    LOVE the photo of the women on their knees and the close-up of the governor’s wife!
    Very moving to hear about the would-be hospital and Sola’s understandable need to hold onto the property. Heart-warming to hear about the respective visits with the mamas, complete with singing.

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