Andy Apkorugo Jr
One year ago today, these were my thoughts as I nursed a cold bottle that cleared my memory five decades long. It’s my prayer this Sunday, that those days aren’t gone forever!
I have been reminiscing recently about the golden age of Nigeria, at least the part of it that I enjoyed. I remember that in about 1970 my father had graduated and welcomed immediately after, a brand new volkswagen beetle car. He got a second one upon being fully employed. I remember that at that time I had everything I ever wanted in life – malted biscuit [pronounced, maltex biscuit] and treetop! I remember that my father was a reporter but had friends amongst top academia, civil service and the richest around. He was a very proud man; some even say cocky and arrogant. But he only boasted with his intellect and didn’t feel anything was taken away from who he was, when he drank beer, lots of it, with his best friend, who was a carpenter and curiously, a devout muslim! I don’t recall any of his friends of lesser means asking him for any money. He didn’t have, anyway! I also didn’t see them chasing him to link them up with his affluent friends, for opportunities. Even if he offered, I am sure they would have turned him down. Everyone just seemed content. Satisfied with where they were. Wanting things to get better but not praying for fantastic miracles!
In class, in public schools, I sat with children of commissioners and permanent secretaries who played with, and sometimes were being bullied by, children of tailors, gatemen and the like, who not being intimidated by, or concerned about, the credentials of their parents, lived a life of equality. It wasn’t strange then for a mechanic father and a seamstress mother to warn their children not to spoil their names, and then go on to reject gifts from them that couldn’t be defended from their means. They warned their children not to mix with children of affluent men of questionable sources of wealth. Such rich people were routinely referred to as ‘money doublers’, or patrons of kidnappers, then in Benin City called, “gbomogbomo” or ‘‘gabayi’’!
I remember then that, as now, NEPA usually struck. And when they struck in the darker evenings, the younger ones were happy. We would, rich kid and poor kid alike, pull out mats, or lean mattresses onto the atmosphere and lie down with our parents, gisting until we fell ‘asleep enough’ to go inside the house to sleep! Of course after mosquito coils or insecticides would have done some work.
I do not recall generators in homes then. If I ever saw one, it must have been at a huge bakery near my house. The Commissioners, Permanent Secretaries and other big men of the time didn’t have such noisy monstrosities at home! It was a time when parents bought books, pencils and lamps for their children to read, such that the real bookworms ended up smelling of kerosene!
I do not recall seeing many air conditioners in the homes of these big men too. Most brand new cars [the Landrovers, Range Rovers, Mecedes Benz, Peugeots] used by the richest, and the not so rich, did not have air conditioners too, until about 1976; you would think at that time there were no cars with air conditioners in the world! I recall that we had a television and our friends/classmates whose parents didn’t have televisions would come into our house and watch, while their parents pridefully stayed away! When the house was full, the curtains will be pulled apart for some to hang around the windows and watch!
I remember that then men drank beer at home, with their wives tempting them further to stay home, by supplementing the shacks with fried protein! I don’t recall men being dismissed from their homes by wives who complained to the hearing of their husband’s friends that they were disturbing. Or that the soup got spoilt because their husbands’ beer had taken all the space in the fridge! It used to be a time when women closed their eyes and opened their hearts when they were being kissed. It used to be a time when women kept well-manicured gardens of tomatoes, vegetables and fruits, rather than today’s beautiful lawns of worthless grasses, except for some aloevera plants for their beauty concerns! It was a time that ‘Singer’ was the name of a fridge and televisions had legs and keys! A time when Chief Ajas was a Nollywood celebrity!
It used to be stupid then for people to borrow money from banks to buy cars. It would have been stupid then to drive to a fancy restaurant to buy a bottle of beer for N1,000, when you could excite yourself with a carton of 12 bottles chilling in your fridge for just N2,000. It used to be stupid then to pay hundreds of thousands of Naira, if not millions, as school fees. If public schools were bad, parents then would band together, affluent and poor alike, and pile pressure to ensure that better teachers were got, and if government delayed, get some themselves on some arrangement, and at their own cost, rather than pay the crazy school fees we pay today. After all, how many subjects does a child do sef!
It used to be stupid then to own a big car before you built your own house. It would have been stupid then to give in exchange for a few wads of dollars, a bag full of hard earned Naira so as to travel abroad for four weeks to squat with relatives or friends in the pretext of having a holiday abroad where in effect, you pay much more in mostly freezing uncomfortable weather, to eat less! It is much worse if its summer, as the weather only imitates ours!
Incidentally, it wasn’t stupid then for a man to get married even before he had a job. Most our fathers were married as students and had wives who contributed to their tuition! They were lucky! They had wives who could say, without lying, that they made their husbands. Those days are far gone. And by current teaching, FOREVER!!
Let’s make today a lazy one and just lay back and reminisce, recalling all those things that used to be stupid, but define our lifestyle and aspirations today! We just might feel, or truly become better after the exercise”