Relax, don’t do it

I’ve had numerous Nigerians tell me to take them back with me when I head back to England. Hundreds if not thousands are going to the Embassys trying to get out of the country. My mindset is different because I know I’m leaving. So many people here want to leave the country but have no choice. Goodluck Jonathan, the President before current incumbent Buhari, had a 1 million Naira daily food allowance. 1 million, every single day, solely for food. That’s just under £3000 in English money. No wonder he’s wishing people luck.

I have noticed a distinctly different feeling around Lagos on Mondays. It seems a lot more angry and intense. Ojo told me that everybody has spent their money over the weekend so their only goal is to get it back at any cost. Eyes are dulled and become hooded and everybody shouts at each other a lot more. I wonder if Prince was in Lagos when he wrote that song he gave to the Bangles. It’s alright every other day.

The Police here are a law unto themselves. Trying to get a Crime Report number from them is proving to be – typically – about how much we’re willing to pay them. They want 30,000 just for a Crime Report number. There’s push and pull and to-ing and fro-ing and all sorts. As soon as we walk off or stop trying with them, they become friendly and co-operative again. There’s a poster about avoiding corruption up on the wall in the station. Not one thing here is free. Money is the be all and end all of the attitude in this country. Just because I’m white, they assume I’m rich, and it’s an attitude that is ruining Nigeria. I have strangers come up to me all the time and befriend me, groups of surly looking men buying me drinks in the bars, children saying in Yoruba that they wish they had white skin and the price of everything goes up the second they see a white face. It’s exhausting.

Even the schools are at it. Pupils will pass if the teacher has been paid off. If a male teacher finds a female pupil attractive, she’ll fail unless she sleeps with him.

We left the house on Monday to Ojo trash talking baby goats. They’ve planted numerous trees and plants on the compound but the goats come and eat them all the time, so he tells them exactly how he feels about them. Whether they heed the warning is another matter. A fence is soon on its way to surround the house.

We’ve had a couple of more relaxed days after the madness of the weekend and ahead of the trip to Oshogbo. Yesterday we made the trip to Ikoyi to the JazzHole – an absolute mecca of records, books, cakes and music. I spent an hour picking out 21 records, assuming that I’d be able to afford them all, and I had everything from old High-Life by Ebeneezer Obey and Orlando Owoh to Living in the Material World by George Harrison and a Dream Academy album. But we should have asked them how much the vinyl was before the crate digging – 5000 Naira each! Most of them wouldn’t have gone for 2 quid in England. My two native outfits cost as much as 1 record. I didn’t buy any in the end but it was a fun hour. I did by a book, which wasn’t 5000 Naira, called ‘Sacred Drums of Liberation – Religions and Music of Resistance in Africa and the Diaspora’. Right up my street. We got an Okada back home, bombing it up the main roads for 40 minutes, weaving through gaps we have no right to fit through and getting absolutely covered in muck. The driver seemed to think the road was his and everyone else was in his way. They’re brilliant.

I’m currently reading David Byrne’s amazing book ‘How Music Works’, about everything in the music business, from simple creation to playing live to psychoacoustics to technology to the music business itself, and one thing that struck me with it was his notes on what being ‘tight’ means. It doesn’t mean being smack on the beat all the time, it means playing together. The grid of the rhythm is something to play with and those imperfections give the story more character and meaning.

You’ll often see locals wearing t-shirts with names on the back. It’s their moniker. There’s a guy who works for the Ibray hotel up the road, where we watch the football, that works overnight ferrying people over the water in his boat. He was a godsend when we had those two late nights. He goes by the name of ‘T-Money’. Yesterday I saw ‘Yung Bld’ and ‘Famous’ too in Satellite Town. It’s that American influence I spoke of a couple of weeks back.

I heard the Nigerian National Anthem over the weekend too. You can immediately tell that this used to be a British Colony – it sounds like Last Night at the Proms. I don’t think Nigerians wave plastic Union Flags around though.

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