Fairytales Bar in Calabar
Most Oyinbos (peeled people) are already at home, since this is Christmas time, and for most Oyinbos it is better to be at home for Christmas. Even if they prefer to stay in Nigeria, their wives prefer them to be at home, or else. This is the system.
But for me, this was always the best time to be in Nigeria, and especially in Calabar, Cross River State, for two reasons.
The first is the most inspiring street Carnival in the world that happened to be in Calabar, and the second is that, I feel at home in Nigeria, just like that, and I too prefer to be at home for Christmas.
It's toward evening in Metropolitan Hotel in Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria, and it is a good time to go down to Fairytales Bar, just to check if any of the usual characters are around already. The bar is called Fairytales, because most of the characters coming to that bar, especially for the Carnival, always have some fairytales to speak about, after they take palm-wine with cheap whiskey.
Metropolitan Hotel is regarded by all, as the main hotel in Calabar, for the VIP guests, and at this time, December, there are always some interesting personalities staying in the Hotel; which most of the year is almost empty.
Fairytales Bar is in the lobby, on the right side of the entrance, and already some of the characters are discussing about bolts and nuts, blowing hot humid air, and the discussion is getting louder with every bit of whatever they are sipping.
I say - Mokom-O - which is something like good evening in Efik, in case any of the characters is Efik, a well-known ethnic group around Cross River; which is related to the Uruan people in Akwa Ibom.
The attendees, few Nigerians and two Japanese, acknowledged my entrance with different types of gestures.
One of the characters, that I met a year before, is Chief Agola Dagogo from Bayelsa. He jumps toward me, as if he is waiting only for me.
Listen - he says - we just found one Oyinbo madam. Very badly injured.
Looks 'kiku patapata' (completely dead), someone in the corner is adding. Big Wahala!
We took her to one bush doctor, here in Calabar. Maybe you should go to see her. He suggests.
Now, just because I am Oyinbo (peeled person), doesn’t mean that the patapata Oyinbo and I know each other. Or that we are relatives.
Nevertheless, it's becoming a mystery and everybody around Metropolitan hotel and beyond are wondering. How come an Oyinbo madam just appears here in Calabar? And how she was injured patapata so badly?
Let's hope for her quick recovery - I tell the Chief. She is already in good hands.
Chief Agola Dagogo is an Ijaw Chief from Bayelsa. Some Ijaw people believe, that they have descended from the lost Israelites tribes.
He is very well educated with a certain degree, from a certain university in London, with important emphasis on London.
His high education was possible, due to his family status. His father was an Army General, and after the coup of 1985, his father became the Governor of Ondo State. Such a position provides endless opportunities, and Agola Dagogo's father grabbed some of those opportunities, just to be on the safe side.
So, while Chief Dagogo is telling us the history of his father, he is fueling his mind with cheap cognac and a bottle of Star beer. Excellent beer, by the way, if one of your neighbors is asking.
In addition, he has a small bottle of palm wine. Such a drink helps him to open his heart, his mind and his mouth, especially his mouth.
He turns out to be extremely intelligent, or in simple words, has a very high understanding capabilities of the reality around, and the life on earth. Maybe the palm-wine is a drink of intelligence.
Although Agola Dagogo is Ijaw, he sympathized with the Igbo people. He says to the brothers in the bar, that even his father didn’t understand why the Yoruba, or other brothers from the south, such as the Ijaw, Edo, Ekoy, Ibibio or Efik, did not join the Igbo to create an independent state in the south. Agola Dagogo refers to the very terrible Biafra War that left many scars on the Nigerian hearts and souls.
He says that the world doesn't know the truth about that war.
One good man on the corner yells - no one know the truth about anything.
One of the Japanese tells us a story. Probably had enough "Star" beer.
His cook has 6 children. Those kids liked to peep at him via a narrow gap between the curtains. The clan includes 2-years-old, just starting to say few words, and hardly stand straight. Suddenly the Jap opened the window. The clan got panicked and evaporated.
The 2-years-old baby couldn’t run yet and stands there confused.
The Jap asked him – "What are you doing here?!!!"
The little baby said – "E-No-B-Me" (it is not me).
Two years old baby, already knows what to say, without a blink in his eyes. Na-Wow!
Child Psychologist, Michael Lewis, has developed an interesting test.
Children's ability to deceive was examined in order to determine whether they are able to hide their emotional expression intentionally. Three-years-old infants were instructed not to peek at a toy, while the experimenter left the room. When asked, the great majority either denied that they peeked or would not answer the question. Facial and bodily activity did not differentiate the deceivers from the truth tellers. Child Psychologist Michael Lewis test is clear evidence that for survival, most children will lie without a blink of their eyes.
Telling people in their face, what we say behind their back, will destroy civilization, Nitche said.
By and large, all in Fairytales agreed that survival instincts are guiding us. Deceiving is natural and telling the truth is educational and cultural.
The two characters sitting beside Chief Agola Dagogo are VIP-style's personalities. They came also for the Carnival of Calabar. Chief Agola Dagogo introduces us to Professor Amobi and Ogah (Sir) Maduka.
Someone order for all those in the Fairytales Bar some Ukang Ukom and cheap cognac. I take a sip of "Star" beer. Ukang Ukom combines unripe plantain, cow foot and sometimes cow head for a truly fascinating dish of the Efik people.
Professor Amobi tells the Japs - you should try the Ukang Ukom. Maybe you will like it. Maybe not. The Jap said – Eshe-Pupo (thank you) we are not hungry!
Professor Amobi teaches history in UNILAG (University of Lagos) for 36 years. He wrote seven books that none was sold against Naira. The Professor is articulate, and he is regarded as a very good teacher, and nice person too.
He is teaching approximately the same courses during all those years and sometimes he changed the courses names. Very important! to avoid repetition.
The professor sits barefoot on a low chair and massaging his toes and between, to kill any fungus that might developed.
This habit is mainly to show an indication of the social status that the professor regards himself to be. If any of the guests decides to vomit, it is advisable to vomit outside, to avoid unnecessary insult and stay polite.
Ogah Maduka, Amobi's friend, studied at UNILAG too, with Amobi, and they are about the same age. Maduka is a mechanical engineer and started working for a high-tech company in London. With a big emphasis on London.
Maduka made his career in the 'real world', as Professor Amobi calls those who make their career outside the academia.
Chief Agola Dagogo's 18-years-old son is wondering what to study at the university and the Chief wants his son to make the correct, smart choice. After all, this is the most important decision in his son's life.
So Agola Dagogo is asking the professor for advice, and the professor advice is to get advice from Ogah Maduka.
The professor said - frankly, Ogah Maduka learnt more than I did, since he had his career in the 'Real World' and so, he understands better what will work well for Dagogo's son. I was teaching in the university all those years, and most of the time, the same course. Boring.
Ogah Maduka provides a long and systematic answer; this is the most important decision a young person make. At this age, most kids actually "know everything" and therefore they can easily make bad choices.
The most important rule, is to study for a degree that shall provide good livelihood, or in simple words, money. And if not money, then dollars.
Maduka says - the degree that your son should go for, should be in demand all over the world! Not a degree that is specific to one country only.
Your son wants to have a good life! Correct?! Like everybody else!
He has a better chance for a good life, if he has enough money!
And he has a better chance to have enough money, if he has a good job!
And he has a better chance to get a good job, if there are demands for his skills!
Something practical such as: medicine, engineering, or computers. Practical science. not just any degree - says Maduka.
In fact, Bachelor Degree normally cost about the same for all types for disciplines. The cost includes accommodation, travelling, food, tuition fee, and so on.
Clearly, at each university, the cost of tuition fee is different.
Now, the "market values" of the degrees are not the same and your son should pick a Bachelor Degree with a high market value!
But – Agola Dagogo tells Maduka - my son doesn’t know what will interest him.
Ogah Maduka is visibly uncomfortable with that comment.
Look Chief - he tells him - when your son will have enough cash, he can go and study whatever he likes. For now, he needs Franklins in order to live comfortably.
Most important is to get the right degree. Degree is like a "key" to open doors for opportunities. Your son needs good opportunities. That's all. Think about it!
Anyway - Maduka says - universities these days are a bit funny, and in the end, you wonder if you learnt anything. This is why the most important is the correct degree!
Maduka believes that universities should have mandatory courses about the Principles of Science.
Students should learn how science is differs from other concepts, especially from religions. Mandatory courses in science, such as the Principles of Science, will make graduates better scientists.
Maduka takes his phone and say - look at this smart-phone. This mini-computer, has a huge impact on the life of many people all over the world. Together with the networks, providing easy access to information anywhere and at any time.
The technological developments and inventions that make this smart-phone, are very many and complicated. Most of those technologies were developed within the Research and Development Departments of commercial companies.
Outside the academia!
Before, the academia led the technological developments, now they are dragged behind.
Anyway, the academical degrees are still very important.
Professor Amobi agreed and added - some of the latest technologies, that were developed by the commercial companies, are more important than inventions developed by some Noble Prize winners.
Yet, the Noble Prize committee did not recognize enough the technologies that created the mini-computers, the most important technological development since the development of the printing press.
Noble Prize committee is political. Don't mind them. They just make wahala - Ogah Maduka says.
Professor Amobi continues - many professors have plenty "pixels" but they can't make a "picture" with them. In other words, they have plenty data and knowledge, but little understanding of that knowledge.
Chief Agola Dagogo tells the Fairytales audience, that he was recently in South Africa.
He was surprised to know, that in addition to Mandela, there was also someone by the name de Klerk; which jointly with Mandela, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime.
I thought it was only Mandela. I never heard of this de Klerk before. In fact, this de Klerk is a hero too, because he had to go against his own people.
The two Japanese listens, after they had some bottles of "Star." They heard much about the Carnival and they look forward to the event tomorrow. They are both civil engineers. One from Tokyo and one from Hiroshima. Chief Dagogo say that Hiroshima sounds familiar to him.
Yes - the Japanese from Hiroshima answered - Hiroshima suffered the very terrible nuclear bombing. Around 150,000 Japanese lost their life. Terrible event.
You should notice - the other Japanese said - that since World War 2, there was no nuclear war between super powers. That nuclear catastrophe in Hiroshima, created a big fear of using that weapon, and as a consequence, the fear prevents big wars.
During WW2, there are estimates that between 65 and 100 million lost their lives. Yet, it looks like the 150,000 Japanese killed, in that nuclear bombing, left a greater impact on the mind of the world.
Chief Agola Dagogo is thinking about that Japanese comment and says - that fear allows progress and development in the world.
Paradoxically, that's mean that President Truman's decision brought a long period of silence between superpowers.
The Chief asked the Japanese - Do you think President Truman deserves Nobel Peace Prize?
The Japanese is not embarrassed - maybe in hindsight he deserves it. I don't know.
I think that the palm wine and alcohol play many tricks on our minds.
It is getting late, but Chief Agola Dagogo is just getting warm.
Tomorrow, the excellent, most beautiful people of Cross River State, will march on the streets of Calabar, in one of the most attractive displays of culture, costumes, music, colors, dances and energies. People in the world should hear more about this extraordinary carnival. Because, if there is a 'beauty,' then the Carnival of Calabar is the case.
In Cross River State alone, there are about 30 different ethnic groups, or tribes, with people speaking different languages and dialects. Among them the Agbo, Efik, Bahumono, Abayon, Anyima, Iyala, Yalla, Mbube, Mbembe, Etung, and more. They all have beautiful and colorful culture and unique traditions.
The carnival holds every December, and was started by His Excellency Mr. Donald Duke and thereafter improved by His Excellency Mr. Liyel Imoke; both were governors of Cross River State. The carnival was created to annually mark the Christmas celebration. The birth of Jesus from the Galilee.
Chief Agola Dagogo says - I believe in Jesus. I don't believe in Juju. Juju can be very bad sometimes. This is why I prefer Jesus.
Professor Amobi says - I prefer science. The difference is that, religious people sanctify and consecrate their beliefs. Once your beliefs are holy, you can't be a scientist. Science is about challenging the exiting beliefs, putting doubts, come up with new ideas, and challenge them too. That is science.
For example, religious people believe that they, or at least their soul, continue to live, or exist, after death. This is a fundamental and very significant sacred belief.
Those who believe that the death is the end of life, understand that they live only once! Therefore, they must do all they can to enjoy their life, and avoid suffering.
Those who believe in life after death, are willing to suffer during this life, for the sake of the enjoyment in their eternal life, in the 'Garden of Eden', whatever that is. What is 80 years, when compared with eternity?!
Professor Amobi says - If they freely chosen to suffer, then I have no issue with that system, since I believe in freedom. However; it is bothers me when they believe that I should suffer too, for the sake of their sacred beliefs.
I remember few years than, I was invited for a dinner in Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world. I am not familiar with Jerusalem and Google Map was not yet.
Friday, early evening, I arrived to the holy city of Jerusalem and enter a street. A barrage of stones was thrown at my car. By mistake, I entered an Arab Muslim quarter.
The next morning, I am heading back to Tel Aviv and probably missed few streets. A barrage of stones was thrown at my car. By mistake, I entered Religious Jewish quarter.
Is there any other city in the world, that residents toss stones on visitors, just because they missed the road? And in the name of their holy beliefs.
Chief Dagogo say - You know that I am an Ijaw Chief and we are one of the Israelites tribes.
Most definitely - I replied. By the way, the most professional historiographic researchers of the holy book say that no Israelite's tribe was lost, whatsoever. It is just fairytales.
At the same time, Chief Agola Dagogo is not someone to challenge on such an issue, or on any issue for that matter. Since the Chief can regard it as an insult, and no one want to insult the Chief.
Chief Agola Dagogo read a lot about the history of Israel and Ben-Gurion (BG).
Not the airport - he says.
It was Ben-Gurion's dream to be the person that will read the independence declaration of Israel - he said.
But I thought that most jews, that came to Israel those days, dreamed and fought for a modern, liberal democracy under a strong rule-of-law. Isn't it? He asked me.
You are right - I said.
So, was BG religious in his heart? Why he always spoke about the holy book, about Joshua Ben-Nun, and about The Messianic Vision of Redemption?
Did BG betray your people? Because, eventually, he was an autocrat that created a theocratic democracy. Sort of Religious state.
I don't know Chief - I said - they say that he had no choice; the orthodox religious people put a pressure on him.
Chief says - For what? you mean Israel independence was at the hands of a very few orthodox Jews? Ah-Ah! You don't believe that. Ben-Gurion knew it is not true.
You know that if you repeat enough time an 'eke' story, naive citizens take it as a truth. And most people are naïve, you know that.
BG just betrayed your people - The Chief concluded.
Chief Dagogo knows Israel well.
He said - all modern democracies, with freedom and basic civil rights, have casinos. Few theocracies are without casinos: Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea, Jordan, Yemen, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Israel.
Dagogo is pleased with himself - what do you think about that?!
He continues - most countries in the world have 2-days weekend. Mainly Saturday and Sunday. Very few countries, including Israel, have only one weekend day. Only Shabbat.
Theocratic countries control the life of their citizens. Who to marry, can you divorce, where to be buried, what to eat, what not to eat, and more - Dagogo says - you are a religious state in Israel.
What do you think about that?! - He challenged me.
How do you know all that? I asked him.
He replied - I was working in Israel for three years, and as an Ijaw, I read a lot about Israel. Israel has no freedom and civil rights like we have here in Nigeria.
He concludes - you will be surprised but, democracy doesn't guarantee the Rule-of-Law.
In fact, it is the opposite - The Rule-of-Law guarantee democracy.
This is why your politicians fight about the Justice System and about the Judges' Selection Committee and not about the Election Committee. Think about that!
Chief Agogo takes another 'schloock' of cognac and fall into a deep sleep.
Ka Chi Foo (good night) - said Maduka and goes up to his room.
Ka Chi Foo - I answered, and left Fairytales.
The next morning, Chief Dagogo is already waiting for me at the lobby. The bush doctor suggest that the Oyinbo madam should stay at the hotel for recovery.
She is broke patapata (completely). Can we help her by paying for the room? - he asked. So, they bring her to the hotel.
Now, as the only Oyinbo in the hotel, there are some wrong expectations of me to care for the mysterious Oyinbo madam.
Nevertheless, the Hotel Manager asked me to come with him to her room. It turns to be a very strange story indeed.
Her name is Ginerva (meaning the White Phantom) and she is from Italy. Consider her as-is, she has some inspiring specifications, but she looked a bit dried.
Recently she was engaged to an Italian gentleman that goes by the name Dario. She wants to marry Dario, but there is one big bumper.
She has a dream that must be fulfilled, before she gets married. Catholic, you know. According to her, she could not be loyal to Dario until she will put this dream to rest.
Her dream is to be with few original Nigerians, at the same time. Of course, this is a very strange dream, but with so many people on earth, it is bound that such a mutation would occur.
Plus, I see nothing wrong with such dreams, because naturally many Nigerian guys would be happy to fulfill such dreams, and if more people are happy, there is more happiness on earth. Except of course, that she must be careful choosing those original guys.
Also, she hears about the extraordinary street carnival in Calabar and it is a good reason for her to come over to Calabar, to be part of the greatest party on earth and maybe to find some originals. She badly wants to marry Dario.
In addition, she heard, that very soon the coastal area of Nigeria will be washed by the sea, after the ice in the poles will be melted, due to the "climate crisis", that she is one of its believers.
So, she decided that she must come to Calabar before the ice will be melted, otherwise, Calabar will be under the sea, and it shall be more difficult for her to find original guys under the sea.
So, under such climate emergency, here is madam Ginerva, arriving on her own to Calabar, looking for the opportunity to fulfill her dream, so she can marry Dario without any troubling dreams.
The news of her arrival to Calabar spread faster than the speed of tam-tam, because it is a rare scene for an Italian Oyinbo madam to be on her own, asking strangers, where is the best hotel in Calabar, or what should be the cost of a taxi to that hotel.
Such questions are a clear indication to everybody, including the original guys, that the asker needs plenty help. A very significant help.
Coincidently there are some cultists in this area, all are originals, and they have some dreams too, and shall be the first to provide all the required assistance to such an Oyinbo madam.
One of their dreams is to have an Oyinbo (peeled person) madam, that shall come to Calabar alone, looking for originals, before Calabar will be washed under the sea, after the ice of the poles will be melted. Climate Crisis, you know.
Chief later say that, this "Climate Crisis" looks more like "Ignorance Crisis".
So, here is the "climate crisis", here we are, here are the originals, and here is madam Ginerva (the white phantom.)
Some cultists are already waiting for her foot to touch the asphalt of Calabar airport tarmac. They immediately approached her and ask her if they can carry her luggage, and if she needs assistance.
Ginerva see their politeness and attitude as a sign from God. Her God.
Nice guys, looks originals, exactly as she dreams of, come to her assistance immediately as she lands. Madre Mia!
Ginerva is not detailing to me what happened thereafter for three days with the cultists, and how she lost her left ear. And I did not ask.
She just told me that her dream is over and that she misses Dario so much.
But few minutes later, Ginerva decided to tell me a bit more, of how she lost her left ear.
Ginerva tells me that she decided to escape from the cultists' den before the cultist split her body into smaller parts. Because, smaller parts are more convenient for some rituals.
So, she promised the cultists' leader that she wants to marry him. But she must first notify Dario that the wedding is off. This a fundamental rule of her god, if she wants to cancel the wedding with Dario.
So, the cultists' leader agreed to let her go to Metropolitan Hotel to call Dario. He cut her left ear, telling her that she will get her left ear back when she comes back.
Looks like a reasonable and fair deal to Ginerva. Even a good deal, considering the other options available.
On the other hand, Ginerva could not explain exactly the reason why one of the cultists cut her right pinky and gave it to his cat. Such a sweet cute catty - she says.
The most important for Ginerva (the Italian White Phantom), is that she came over to Calabar, before the entire area will be washed by the sea, after the ice in the poles will be melted.
As they told her many times on the television in Europe. Otherwise, she would not be able to put that dream off and marry Dario with a clear mind.
Can I use your phone? she asked. Ti amo Dario! - she screamed.
Buona Fortuna madam - I said.
I went down to the Fairytales bar to see Chief Dagogo. He asked me what happened to that Oyinbo Madam.
Well - I tell the Chief - it looks like this Oyinbo madam is the most confused lady in the world, and even if I am wrong, she can keep that title, until we find someone that is more confused than her.
At least, she just successfully fulfilled her dream, at the last minute, right before Nigeria is washed by the sea, after the ice in the poles will be melted.
Think about it chief. Think well-wello!