The great house

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


A short story introducing my semi fictional adventures in Nigeria

Submitted: April 22, 2018

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Submitted: April 22, 2018

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SOME STAND ON THE SHOULDER OF GIANTS,while others walk alone. 

The royal chambers of the beautiful impressive pyramid temple of Anubis built in the North African desert 150BC was immaculately kept and cleaned, managed by Aurora Anubis herself for that day. The scene had been set with both precision and care, scented oils, expensive platers with gold leaf's petals, fruits, flowers and jewels had been laid amidst rich fabrics and the best choice furniture.  

Prince Pharaoh-Anubis himself who was a giant of a man at 6:3 had entered the temple with his guests a rich merchant and staff, as usual the Pharaoh was elegantly groomed and had dressed specially for the occasion. Personally, the prince believed of the merchant, as with others. that they were just another nobody who knew little of nothing, unlike himself the math wizard of the goat and prince of the Nile. No. the prince would need to take control here, he thought to himself. As he had often done before, he had promised the merchant untold riches and that he would use his great intellect to make the merchant, even richer than he already was.  

As the two entered the temple to huddle closer in its comfort and talk in more confidence, of the great Pharaoh's magnificent ideas.  

The attending underlings retreated from view with Aurora Anubis, all the while maintaining their assumed pose "bowing, scrapping, doggies-style" while emanating melodic notes, soothing sounds and retorts, for the pleasure of both prince and merchant, ever moving backwards out of view never turning their back to Pharaoh, merchant or his staff. As the Pharaoh wound up joyfully for another great presentation, everyone was clear enough, that if the deal was successful, there would be great joy and celebrations and no one, wanted to be on the wrong side of the Pharaoh displeasure.  

 

I woke up from my dream of the Nile a little startled, but slowly coming to realization of where I was. The warm West African air which generously blew the thin fulllength lace curtains, was both very reassuring and refreshing. The Hendon Continental Hotel in Maryland Ikeja Lagos, Saturday April 12th 2016. I had been fortunate to secure a room in an international Marriott class hotel. Which meant I could rest assured of good standards.  

I had had that Pharaoh dream before, it wasn't my first time. I also knew it reminded me of my father who had been an investment banker with an American bank in Nigeria. But unlike the first couple of times I had the dream, I was becoming used to it and I didn't wake up in trepidation of the Pharaoh's displeasure any longer. After a number of years as a banker my father had left with skills in pocket, to open his own investment and finance firm. Hence my been privy to his meetings at a young age. Along with import and exports in commodities, he had done well in reclamations and land developments. 

I got up out of the comfortable hotel bed where I had spent the night, wearing nothing but my pajama bottoms. Having opted for a natural air circulation, rather than using the supplied air conditioner for the room. The nights temperature wasn't too different from countries north of Nigeria. The Hendon Continental was a cinch, if I hadn't taken it up a lumpy mattress in a cheaper hotel would have been my bed fellow, which was a no brainier to me.  

I made towards the open windows and its petite balcony, to get a view and greet the new day. It was 6:30am, the sun was just barely over the horizon and the town of Lagos seen from the 5th floor of the hotel building was emasculation and laid bare before me below, in all its glory. 

Good enough I thought, especially for this Lagos lad anyway. Lagos was still such a breathtaking mishmash of styles, which although reassuring. Clearly was more evidently now a mix of modern European, a smidge of minimal Islamic styles, with a lot of dysfunctional rubble, most of the roof tops could be seen from my vantage point on the 5th floor. The hustle and bustle of the day was beginning to stir up, as the town rumbled to life. I could make out the creamy white and gold dome spires of a mosque in the corner of my skyline, and from distant yonder an Alfa's prayers heard "Allah-wagba!, Allaah-wagbaa!! Allaaaah-waaaggba 

It was going to be a beautiful productive morning, and I hadn't had one here, like this one for a while.This scene always took me back to the boy I was in Lagos, back in the eighties. The fresh mornings brought with it warmth, that promised the certainty of another scorching day to come. And with it brought my 'past come revisiting, 'for a few days anyway.  Certainly since I got the call from my relative, which subsequently led to my coming to Lagos.  

Now that I was here with rich odor's, languages, images and places of my youth around me, my reflective state and flashbacks weren't getting any gentler or easier. It started with the Pharaoh's dream the night after I received the call. And during the days my solom reflections on how things were after these past years.  Running away hadn't been a solution not anymore, not after the call, but had been a band-aid for an unusual situation. The expectation of what was to come, built up an anticipation, which could only be quenched by looking back, back to things that happened, places and things that changed. 

 

Surulere as I knew it in the early eighties was a mix of tribal combinations, and thriving middle class affluence, often moments within other social class, chaos and spurious rapid developments projects were common, which often crashed midway sometimes remaining still-born. Don't get me wrong Lagos back in the eighties, with all its accelerated growth, was a very happy place indeed. After the discovery of oil in the Delta South and the emergence of political socialism and the good fight against Imperialism in 60's Ghana, Nigeria and west Africa. Simply put we had Utopian aspirations. 

For my family in our little corner of Surulere, it was Eya-Fali! and Mama-Ibeji both Yoruba grocery sellers, Alhaji-Musa the local barber, who were local traders and community catalysts. There was also a seamstress and a local dingy dive of a bar, next to a church further up our street, which of course we never considered going into. But my older cousins weren't as pure, and could be caught sometimes dashing in and out, after a quick drink and playing the cheap slot machines.  

The grocers whose names were often on the lips of everyone, were to us formidable strong black characters who greatly influenced us. Providing such valued items as chocolates, biscuits and sweets to young kids. Especially when the kids needed to take that so important water-break, in 'stop-the-game intermission' from come as you are five a side football or playing exhausting mission-impossible in their car park yards and compounds. It was inspiring to see individuals who went to such great lengths, often at their own discomfort for the smallest item, to satisfy the kids. 

They also mostly supplied the staple diet spaghetti, geisha, corn-beef, bread and eggs groceries, to the mothers in the neighborhood for their ever-popular everyday oily stews. The mothers Who themselves never seemed to go far from their kitchens and were formidable figures them-all; who called out instructions and commands to their pre-twelve-yearolds with authority, in their different native tongues. Instructions which were not to be mistaken or misinterpreted for fear of repercussions and only replied to with a "yes mum" as you dashed off to for Eya-Fali's shop, to translate from your native, to Eya-Fali's Yoruba. 

"Eya-Fali! mama-me so phekefu mi ni, gaisakonati.... " One would say in broken up Yoruba Pharisees, as Eyafalis English was minimal and her daughter Fali's, wasn't that great either.  

By age twelve I had a pretty decent command of the Yoruba language, as well as isekeri and English.Our efforts were well received and often brought a smile to -Fali's weather worn face, their shop was little more than a road side wooden stall, but with products from such as Cadbury, Milo and South Africa's Trebor and Omo, amongst other expert companies, who were happily represented as were the foreign merchant banks then, in immediate post-colonial thriving Nigeria.  

From those simple stalls the ladies would efficiently service every one of the families around. 

 

I admit among my group of friends as soon as we were old enough to travel ourselves at about 14-15yrs. We took the trip out of Surulere to the more upbeat Victoria island and Ikoyi districts, known for its expatriate communities a choice of modern European cuisine restaurants and socially regarded as the international communities' main home in Lagos, with embassies, consulates and UN missions.  

We spent such great times at the popular fashionable social clubs there. With their tennis courts and soft drinks bar, their swimming pools and colorful poolside umbrellas. The food at the clubs wasn't too bad either for the eighties, you could get a shawama or a spicy suya, with pretty nice portions chips quite cheaply.  

We would after swimming a few hours, sun-bath in our shorts when we weren't playing squash, on beach towels under the shade of the miniature dwarf palms, on the poolside bank's immaculate lawn. While also ogling the young European and black girls in perkiness by the swimming pool. Daring sometimes to whistle and give them marks out of ten. 

"Once in a blue moon" we were even known to smuggle and score a 60cl bottle of beer from the friendly adults' barman, which shared between two or three of us was about "a glass of bear". Of cause when we did that, we couldn't do any provisional driving back home to Surulere and we would have to rely on our parents' driver. Which was pre-insisted on. 

But while we were there at the clubs, we knew pretty well we weren't "real islanders" we were a step removed from the ilk considered to be the "real islanders" the real Vi babes. Who were Nigerians with obviously so much money, as to display and permanently 'ooze' and intone wealth. But still never-the-less yes, it didn't deter us. We had aspirations of an idealistic Nigeria a Utopia in which, all of the Lagos's capital was going to be like vi and it was going to be wonderful.  

  

Back in local thriving Surulere however, the popular hot-spots for us were the burger joint and the local markets of which UTC super-market mall could be counted famously and also the primary-secondary after school lessons circles and church. Then Catholicism still prevailed over Americana and churches weren't so about making money. People went to church more for the joy of the social event in those days rather than, for rewards or marketing in a community which gratified, if you knew how to be pastoral and work it.UTC Supermarkets was popular to us for quality ice creams and bacon, not the wishy-washy ice creams, we tried making at home with tined milk instead of cream, but the chocolate chipped good stuff. 

Alternatively, you could wait for the too infrequent FAN product ice cream; but one had to keep an eye out all day for its mobile vendor. 

The buildings in Surulere were romantically like the styles of old postmodern European towns'. But were a stark color mix match of standard block rectangular homes each proudly heralding only basic amenities and were mostly standard two story, one balcony structures. Within a cemented compound surrounding, allowing usually for a multiple family car park.  

Some of the houses were for the middle classes and had decent roofs, were well painted and even had a little greenery. While others needed more attention, and as neighbor much less presentable. Of cause the fact that little time money and expertise had been given to planning, road development, street lights, gutters, sidewalks, building permits and building standards, wasobvious.And meant, the over-all effect was a mismatch of different styles for its different peoples, who as soon as they acquired funds hurriedly bought land and knocked together what was considered the optimum structure at the time..A very popular saying back amongst Lagosians in those days was that, "building was more valuable than gold." However, it looked. 

 

Of course, it wasn't an absolute that all my good friends at that time had opted out of the Nigerian educational systems. I had one or two good friends like Niyi and Demola who's house was immediately opposite on our right street.  

They didn't much care for fancy foreign ideas, and generally accepted their lot and what they had.They would often quote their more dictatorial father's "My father says young boys shouldn't do this.... or that, type of thing" when we tried forcing them to join in our games. Their mother too kept a strict regime, in order for them to set an after-schoolprogram of lessons, to support his imperialist school system. 

Niyi and Demola didn't much care for going to vi and its social clubs either, as we did. However, many years later I heard they were Nightclubmanagers,' in VI. We couldn't fully understand their objections for not joining us then, I guess they were a little different to us, after all. 

I recall I had a thing for Niyi's sister, Who I managed to kiss on her surprised closed lips at her age 14, and admitted loudly, I liked her! Which changed her view of me permanently, the wrong way. Thenforth regarding me with some suspection on my motives. She also told her brothers, Niyi and older brother Demola who surprisingly, called me aside and said to me,  

"My father says Yoruba's should try and remain Yoruba, not be minorities" something which greatly shocked me. As I had always thought we were friends and understood one another. I was rocked to by Niyis response and after, wondered if being from the Delters, I was a lesser lagosian than them. Consequently, I examined most of my relationships closely looking for clues of rejection and what became a chip on my shoulder 

 

The one and only burger joint in Surulere always smelt so divine, its emasculation odor everywhere and would carry some two or three blocks away. A smell which invited both kids and teens from miles, "mostly as soon as cash was made available to them."  

The yellow and red ramshackle little shed that was the burger joint always had a small que outside the colorful hut. Thinking back today, the burgers were little more than quarter pound patties with a little satayed onions and no verities selections, just ketchup. But we loved it none the less and the closer your house was to the burger joint the more popular a kid you were.  

There was a family from the Ebo tribe, who were mostly women opposite our house, next to Eya Fali's shop. The ladies had something to do with Nigerian-airways which was not only a local carrier, but did internationalroutes too, in those days. This meant from time to time, we would spot and get glimpses of them, coming or going in the green-on-green suits uniform with the immaculate white blouse and headcap of the airways. This of cause brought images of international travels and adventure, the world over to our somewhat simple minds. Thinking back, I don't think that Ebo family earned a lot of money, but their status was securely elevated and the younger adolescent girls in the family, welcomed into most circles. I personally found them a little snooty for my taste but would hang out at the burger joint once in a while, which we did talking of simple nothings for hours. 

Prospects of travel and low foreign exchange rates, meant traveling, different import export opportunities. Things were so good, even most uneducated people knew all they needed was just a little capital and they could do profitable trade importing cloths or groceries or tech radios and vhs video machine players. 

Lagos was just post the Festac 1977's extravaganza and were still reverberating from it, emanating its themes songs and dance. which was lousily the birth of Nollywood in Lagos today.   

My little marginally older cousins from the countryside would often quite rationally talk of traveling overseas. Even though they had little or no cash, before coming to teach us how to properly dribble a football, like Segun Odegbemi, in our yard. of course, then people travailed to the countries of their destinations without a need to show incomes before a visa request.  

The truly great and only original green eagles, who's stars like Segun odegbami, Emanuel Okala and others. Had originally pushed out the trough that is now Nigerian international footballing standards.There was more joyfulness and hope amongst Lagosians then. But little seen today of what was, a brief dream. which had a much more spectacular results elsewhere. 

  

It usually made me smile to think back how simplistic, our standards were those days.As I turned away from the window my private thoughts and enjoying the morning view. I made to catch up with my pre-arrangements with the hotel for breakfast. I had ordered a hearty breakfast, with the creamy parsley and ham side eggs iliked but hoped to shower beforehand 

I made towards the bathroom but stopped midway to layout my clothes on the bedsheets I had rearranged. Then turned on the digital radio/alarm clock I had remembered to pack in my hold all, for a good music channel preferably something jazzy-bluesy. But defeated, I settled for a magazine radio show, between two ladies on Nigerian Christianity and Pastor Chris from Christ embassy instead.  

The host of the show who was a known no nonsense cookie, was saying, "I have trouble believing the modernist Americana pastors popular in Lagos had anything to do with any grown-up spirituality, not something suitable enough for the 2016's anyway." 

"yeah, your right" Her guest agreed who was in PR with 'The society of engineers' and replied "To me, it's just seemingly harmless joyous rambling of bible quotes." and then further added  

"Religion in Nigeria today isn't 100% about "the love for thy neighbor" or social philosophy." "But a bigger percentage is a reflection of the countries true "survival of the fittest and sink or swim, ideologies." they both resounded their agreement. 

The host carried on, "The Christian movement is very self-serving in Nigeria. And has been a huge substitute for better social integration job allocations and national socialism for some time. When are things going to be taken out of the hands of self-serving armatures, and a program set for the common-man Nigerian, by the government?"  

"good question." answered the guest and said,"The churches do have a higher percentage of working labor, business individuals over regular average citizen Joe plunk' and Nothing much happens here without them, or their internal rewards system."  

the shows guest followed with. 

"If anyone cared to look at the flammable popularity of the modernist churches exploding in Lagos, they can."  

"I've personally always thought as others, the pastor was little more than a babbling snake oil salesman, frontman for a thriving business community. Which got up to all sorts under the hood, but upfront claimed they had "the glow of inner enlightenment and him a hero of the people." the guest finished with enthusiasm. 

Both ladies chuckled their agreement, for a little. 

"let us listen to some of the pastor's revelations" the host prompted changing the direction of the conversation.  

I winched at the prospect of what was to come, it was getting ugly and these ladies were going to take the pastor apart.  

  

By now I was almost done from the bathroom. I could hear the pastor's growly voice above my power shower, on the joys of some bible quote for his permanent memory, and its philosophical revelations to himself. Good luck! To you on that mate, I thought feeling a little sorry for the pastor. 

I also heard the door knock and the hotel porter inquire "Breakfast sir?!" I came out of the bathroom in a robe, turned down the radio a little and opened the door. He wheeled in my breakfast greeting me with a smooth  

"Hello sir, my name is Nickolas and I'm here to serve your breakfast."  

"Ok buddy," I said pointing him to the table.He went about setting a place for me by the corner side table.  

"Aah!" he said in a broken English accent, "you like pastor Chriss too, heay."  

"no, not really" I replied a little defensively "I just couldn't find the music channel." 

"oh! I used to go to Christ embassy before myself," he casually said "but then I got tired and left" there are a lot of rich well doing men's there, but hardly nothing for the boys, only the same minimum wage work. We used to dance and sing to our music, but na-thing for de boys, sir.  Only the big business mens, only. They wanted me to go and work in their ministry which originated in Benin delta state.  But my uncle said, he used to live in Benin and the Benin people warship idols and practice multiple religions together. So, I got very frightened of them and left." 

"I have two or three friends today, who like the pastor came from Benin" I said. 

"But! I sympathize with you," I said then volunteering for his benefit "I usually go to the catholic church, when I come to Lagos!".  

"Ooh! yes" he said "good catholic churches in Lagos." smiling and showing as much of his teeth at once as was possible and then stood still, as if.... 

I tipped him generously from my Man-purse, and he left me to my breakfast and the pastor. 

Personally, I preferred the more traditional vicarages and the British churches, we were choir boys and bell-ringers for. Which was why I opted for the more disciplined catholic church,for my religion.  For one thing, they didn't allow just anyone to cram the bible and be a pastor. "viva la difference!" I say for that. 

I put the radio show and good pastor, out of my mind and focused on my reasons for being in Lagos. 

  

Like most things it normally took a while, a week or two to work my way out of Solom my moods. I had originally returned to resettle in Nigeria 2000, after almost two decades living and working, in Europe. Another decade after that with my family trying to make good at business in Lagos. Failing that.  

I found work in nearby North West of Nigeria through a mission, my life was pretty good in Mali. I had two kids and a wife. I worked as marketing manager for a magazine, I was also a member of a band for pastime and got into doing artworks as a second hobby through the magazine, after 2013.  

Only returning to Nigeria on this trip in 2016 spurred by personal reasons, from my relative Pastor T Brown, three days before, who told of how things in the family concern had taken a turn. He sketched out the basics to me and we agreed, I needed to travel to Lagos. 

  

We had agreed to meet at a wine bar, on the Lagos Lagoon that Saturday after lunch. He had warned me, he would be bringing along his current business partner, Ms. Cordelia art! Who I was reasonably acquainted with and who's married name, was actually Artere a Yoruba name, but she had shortened it to Art. 

  

For me looking back today,in my solom solitude. It remains a wonder and augmenting fact, that although we were from simplistic beginnings as Surulere bad housing for poverty stricken uneducated classes, amidst upwardly mobile bright upper middle-class affluence as its, in the face next door neighbor 

For me and My group of opt-out friends mostly at the same schools, in Lagos. who after homework lessons swapped comics with one another and discussed our favorite television shows, with animated enthusiasm. who Were welcomed with such open arms into the dizzy heights of the British public-school system. Which socially was about as different, as could be from what we were and what we had experienced beforehand. 

For us the mix of such extremes while young, had its effect. With term times in countryside scenery, spacious rolling hills and truly beautiful lush greenery and on holidays?! Back in the hubbub of Lagos life, its noisy beeping cars, dusty roads, street puddles which cars would splash on animated cursing pedestrians and shanty shed bookers for albeit good goat meat pepper soup, all under a hot blazing African sun. 

Split us young Nigerian kids in the happy eighties down the middle, into two distinct groups of kids. Those who did and those who didn't,opportunity was open to take advantage of good favorable exchange rates and kids whose parents were more Nigerian minded and traditionalist, settled for life the Nigerian way. Which meant for them Lagos's post imperialist schooling system good and bad, at best whites and dictatorial teachers in sunny lit classrooms stuffy weather and all.  

I also guess we felt a little different ourselves. We were more inquisitive of our environment than Nigerian based kids, who were more accepting of theirs. I remember once after watching the Paris-Dacker rally, we decided it would be cool to fly a microlight in stages from Lagos to south Africa. And we couldn't understand why it hadn't been done before. I guess we had aspirations. 

We also would ask a great deal of questions which we thought were obvious of our parents, both blindly hopeful and also very naively and had to be fobbed off with simple, "young nation!" answers and "still developing!" defenses..."Which wasn't much for questions like, "what was the deal with the bad roads and town planning" "why is the product of the cities so much low-quality cement structures, dominating the skyline." 

But those were young innocent questions we had in the eighties, the questions for today's young minds are more, "what happened to Nigerians petrol dollar nirvana, which so inflamed the deltas in the 70's and 80's?" "what's the story with the exchange rates" "What happened to the imperialist schools post the fifties?" "what plans are laid down by Government to cater for the needs of minorities or average joe? 

I had a chance to ask my father these questions, when I returned to do work in Lagos before 2013 and he waited for a very short while, then smiled and answered "young nation, still developing!!"  

 

I had chosen my favorite comfortable crested tan Italian swede shoes "not too heavy on the bling" a traditional pair of stone washed 501's and a light white dressy cotton shirt, which I was sure would serve me well in the midday. I also was in good shape having gone to lengths staying active in mali, which had its payoffs. 

I made my way through the hotel lobby with its summery dressed experts and businessmen, through generous spaciously tiled floors, indoor flowery plums and bar. Only stopping briefly to talk to the receptionist. Her name was Ruth I recalled, we had made friendly conversation when I arrived the day before. "I'm hoping to go sightseeing tomorrow dear, any ideas on what's good?" " I haven't spent time in Lagos for a while" 

"Oh, and where do I catch a taxi for the lagoon?" I added before she answered.  

She gave me a very practiced smile and pointing me towards my goal. Saying she thought Yaba mart was good, especially on a Sunday.  

I thanked her before heading towards the double sliding doors and her directions to the taxi rank, on the street side corner.  

 

  

I settled into the cab, making sure to bark a few commands in native Yoruba language, so the cabbie would know better and take a shortcut for a Lagos lad. The cabbie wound our way towards the lagoon and I thought of pastor Tony Brown. 

I was secretly looking forward to seeing him again. It had been some years since we saw each other and there had been a time l recall, when we were pretty close. of course, I knew better than to show these emotions over our past. As "a lot of water had gone under the bridge," since then.  

I had always thought of him a favorite though, I asked him to bring pictures of his kids, who I promised to see sometime later on in the week.  

  

At about the time I left Nigeria for university in the UK. Pastor Tony made firm friends with an Alfa in Lagos, "A Muslim leader." Who as friends and partners with the pastor, had gone into business and social circles for a number of years. 

It follows that when I returned to Lagos in 2000 to 2013, their partnership was still going strong and successful. while I was fragile, unconnected looking for possibilities. There was little or no oppressive pose or display of advantageous wealth. About doing great businessmen and how well things were going with contacts.  That said, Alfa did not instigate and try out towards me. Finding me foreign and an alien opposition to his established way of life, which needed exclusion.  Much like a pastor would exorcize a bad spirit or a witch doctor cast a spell. 

Which at first made me feel defenseless and quite strangely foreign, at home in Lagos.  

Although I had some really good experience under my belt as a management tech salesman overseas, and very much wanted to get back into action with that. I had to finally settle for my own small business venture. Since that period however there has been an uncomfortable if polite, silence between the pastor and me. 

  

Both Ms. Art and Pastor Tony Brown were already there when I entered the wine bar, a lovely spacious airy place which didn't get too crowded until the evenings rush hour, so we had more than enough time to chat. Ms. Cordelia Art reached over to hug me first, asking after my kids and saying they must be so grown up by now. We chit-chatted and caught up for a few minute, before turning over to our companies impending court case. 

"Wait a minute" I said, "as I understand it, from your description on the phone our chairman made two contracts over this past year to reclaim developments with our vessel within Lagos," "one of them with Oba of Lagos" "the one and only king of the Yoruba people, in Lagos, right?" 

"yes, the same one Oba " Art answered, she then went into a narration of how the Oba would send a car escorted with entourage policemen, to pick up our chairman when he was courting us for the deal. "he gets police escorts and all," "is he that influential? "heck yeah, that's nothing" she replied "It's all very flamboyant, and tribal." 

Pastor tony raised his palms and injected "As a Lagosian I know the Oba's story well. He was I recall, originally one of a number in contention for the throne, while he worked for the Lagos state council services. He also somehow managed to gather influence from there to place himself on top of the heap and first in line for the throne. " 

"It then follows," Ms. Art continued after the interruption from the pastor "that the good Oba, came to us with a prerequisite of some 400 million Naira ($1.2m) upfront to "oil the wheels," before handing the undeveloped raw land over to us for the project." "arguing proceeds and profits would more than cover any initial outlay, made for good faith." 

"seeing as he was the Oba of Lagos," Art rounded-off "our chairman felt he had reason to trust him and took a leap on faith, with friends and business partners, to raise the upfront cash."  

"which after transferring into the Oba's account. The good Oba subsequently scrapped his involvement in the deal and plum simply refused to return the endowment." 

"Wow!that's a dozy" I said letting out a big gasp, "some story hardly believable, it really sounds like fiction."  

"we have the bank transfer docs, to prove it!" Pastor tony added calmly and then said "we have tried every avenue to recoup the money, failing that the business partners involved, want to go to court." "and we fear the clout of the Oba there." 

I hushed them and said "have been thinking this over for the past three days, since i heard from you and i think i have a suggestion" "the Oba's deal isn't the only one that has taken a nose dive, am i right? " 

"yeah your right, another deal went much further, months before to project completion before problems arose with payment." Ms Cordelia Art retorted "that one involved the Lagos state government." "who are still in a court dispute today over ownership of the land at sapatalekki with local leaders." "we have an arbitrator in the good Justice Oguntade, retired. Who is looking at it on our behalf." 

"Well it came to me the other day," I said "the problem with the second deal is that the Lagos state government is unmoving on its ownership issue, of the land, right?" "Although they do agree we successfully subcontracted and reclaimed it, from its previous raw state."  

"How much was our remuneration share for the completed reclaimed land?" i asked.  

"about 800 million Naira ($2.3m)" "the work wont to a quite well known German builders and they will, willing testify they did the work." pastor tony answered. 

I then suggested "well since the good Oba has clout with Lagosians, couldn't he possibly be forthcoming on our plight with the good governor of Lagos, over the loss of payments and costs to both us and our German building firm." "in return for us writing off, the good Oba's $1.2 million, withheld?!" 

I think both pastor's Tony and Art liked my plan, because they were silent for a short while, before answering. Pastor Tony nodded his agreement and said "I'll will put the proposal forward to the good justice Oguntade arbitrator on the judgment on Monday." "After which, i will come back to you on their response, usually before Wednesday noon."  

"Ooh! That means, I'm stuck here in Lagos till then, for four days."  I said a little chest fallen. 

Ms. Art injected, smoothly "If that's going to be the case, why don't you take time and see your mum and our bedridden chairman your father." 

"I will get to it, soon enough I promise" I replied a little irritated that she had brought it up, "only not tomorrow, I'm looking for the closest catholic Church to me for Sunday mass, after which I will call my kids." "I'll drop in on my father Monday afternoon."  

After that we ordered drinks and swapped pictures, while catching up on the past, before I headed off to my hotel.  

Admittedly that night after I thought things over again, I had the pharos dream. 

  

  

I spent that Sunday sightseeing in nearby Yaba's open air markets and stalls, migrating from one stall to another without much intent to buy anything. which I had been told by Ruth had a nice old church suitable for my needs. 

There was an interesting street mime outside the which caught my attention briefly. 

After church I stopped off for a coffee or a cappuccino when it was available, as I had been tea-total for 4-5 year at one or two local cafes' while allowing me to further reflect on years past in both Lagos and the UK. with plans to finish the day and place a call to both my kids and father after returning to the hotel. 

  

My time at the public schools was for me quite fantastic, it was more about activities and taking them to the level, I remember there was always something to do, a standard to reach and the list hardy ever ended, from travailing about the home counties on various sports events to, academics, music and friendship it was an enlightening and fascinating experience, which today is ongoing. While at school i spent most of my half terms in London and remember some occasions on a short stay with my uncle on my mother's side, married to my mum sister.

Uncle Thomson okeretugba was what I'd call an odd fish, for one he had four wife's and twenty children. he reserved a permanent suit at the Churchill hotel when in and about town and rented a house for his family, rather than buying one on Eton square. Half terms were never more entertaining.   

I remember asking my mother all about my fabulous uncle, and his origins; Who apparently somehow although uneducated, had acquired wealth, after coming from the countryside with his loyal four wife's 

He had managed to win a contract to build a bridge for Lagos state and rather than disbursing funds to the expert company he brought into the country to do the work. He took off for the high life in the UK, with the remunerations payments for the bridge he was commissioned.  

of course, the British firm was relentless and after some years finally prevailed, his bank account was legally frozen by the contracting firm to recuperate their monies and costs, after having built said bridge. 

His children today have what remains something of a glint in their eye, that is the reminisce of the time they shared with me at Eton square, after deportation. Expensive enough, you would imagine for someone with twenty children who sent a handful of his kids to public schools, at dover collage. For me my uncle was iconic of the type of things often swept under the carpet by Nigerians. 

  

After time in the home counties I left with my social prestige and collage credits in tow and made for London. where I settled in London's west end. I found a flat in Holland park, which I knew was Richard Branson's borough so I knew I was in good company. One of his virgin management site offices was a neighbor and I made good friends with their staff. Although my flat was a bit on the expensive and poky side, I reasoned it was worth it and initially took on extra work from university in a restaurant in the evenings to make the difference.  

I soon got bored with the restaurant and found other work as a sales rep, for a company with a gentleman retired policeman, who became a valued inspirational mentor. Helping me earn to subsidize my fees and rent. while sharing my poky flat with a French girl, who had a passion for hats and scarfs called Cecil and worked as a secretary for the IMO! 

 

Living and working in nineties London was a very positive time for me. I would often see other African families playing "prince juffyjaffa from zamunda," but with taxis and the London underground in the west end between show-halls and cafes. Wearing African headdress scarfs with 'Asho-ok' for the ladies and native 'Agbadas' for the men. Which was fun, but however it lost something in translation, when traveled to the east end.  

I also observed with some amazement during those years, what was for some, a step dramatic status decline over two short decades. Which started with affluence and the home counties in the mid-eighties. At a favorable exchange of (10 Naira or less to 1 dollar.) "Meaning the West End and Pals staying in ritzy hotels. To a mild chill in the nineties at (60 Naira to 1 dollar.) "Which meant less ritzy practical hotels, further out the west end, with your pals."  

To what was the great Nigerian change abroad and opting for clearly "dingier, but reasoned as, affordable east end digs," in the late nineties and 2004 at a whopping (150-220 Naira to 1 dollar) change rates.  

  

These days of course there are still handful of Nigerians living in the west end. Mostly those who invested early. But those numbers are greatly reduced, also too, there are much less numbers of foreign students who generally travel to universities in the uk........ 

  

END OF CHAPTER ONE 

  


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