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Disclaimer: the tale you are about to read is not entirely fiction. Keep your internet browser close by, you might need to verify.

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“Oloshi!”

You ignore the conductor and walk right on, a crisp fifty naira note in your hand, crisper than the one you had just now refused to take from him. He curses even more as the bus zooms off, but you do not spare him a second glance – he is the least of your worries.

Your pocket is your primary worry at the moment, it is empty. Not a komkom milo kind of empty, empty tins can at least make good music; this emptiness is more of an akpa asisa kind, an abrasive kind of empty. And it is all the fault of that stupid bank.

The old man from across the street waves at you and makes to rise from his perch beneath the shade. But your wave back at him is brusque; you slip through the gate and hurry towards your door without looking back. He will be disappointed, you know. Every evening as you return for work, he is seated in the same spot beneath that tree, fanning himself with a sheet of cardboard paper. And usually, you would stop to exchange a few laughs. But not today, not while your tummy and pockets sing a duet of dearth.

It was on a day like this that you walked into that fast-food place at the corner of Sanusi Boulevard and ordered a large meal of rice, beans, plantain and cow-tail. You were washing the spirited meal down with a coke when the waiter approached, bill in hand. You didn’t even look, just waved your Naira mastercard in the air. Get your POS.

It didn’t work the first time – typical. So you tapped in your PIN again. While you waited – you and the waiter, you downed another mouthful of the chilled coke which apparently, you were sharing with somebody named Ehi.

No vex, oga, let me bring another one. And she ran off, leaving the faulty POS on the table, your card still stuck halfway in it. She returned with a grey one and an outrageously brightly coloured one in either hand. You tried again. Again. And again. Still no show, so you finished your  coke, paid in cash and left.

You were seated in the conference room, opposite the Korean investors, when the first debit alert came in, then the second, then the third, then another…and the next. Six of them in all, your account balance read just below five thousand. Sure, you were concerned, but not really worried. These things happened very often, and you were certain that you would receive six reversal alerts before close of business.

But the end of the day came, and there were no alerts. You willed them to roll in so you would not have to call customer care – they took forever to connect and always ended with more promises than fixes. Noon came the following day and you still had not seen any debit reversal SMS. You checked online and your account balance was the same – 4,998.50. So you dialed Customer Care.

They promised to fix it; you really had no choice so you waited. Then you got busy, working hard, while living off your small stash of cash, and you forgot all about it. Until earlier this afternoon when you stood in front of an ATM machine reading “Insufficient balance” on the monochrome screen. You can’t believe you had forgotten to follow up, because who goes to sleep on the comfort of a banker’s word in this country?

As you now stare at the small bag of garri sitting on your kitchen floor like a fat toddler, you realize it is your singular sure means of surviving the weekend. You are angry, angrier because you are helpless. But you are also very hungry. So you fling the tail of your tie over one shoulder and stoop to pour some of the fine yellow flour into a bowl.

Your laptop is sitting on your dining table, lid up, as you left it before going to bed last night. And the sight of it reminds you of a conversation you had with your colleague, Jide weeks ago. He is a twitter-worm and apparently, a website had been the rave at the time, where people reported their bank troubles and they got resolved at no cost.

You pour some water into it and set the bowl of garri aside – given time, the mixture will swell to a quantity that stood a better chance of sating your hunger. As the orange, red and blue colours of your internet browser flood the laptop screen, you mentally pat your own back for subscribing to the monthly plan. The state of your finances at the moment place internet way above luxury.

All you can remember about that site Jide mentioned is that its name sounded like a TV news channel; and you are not very certain but it probably had the words ‘global’ and ‘bank’ in it.

A few minutes of Google later and you are looking at a large picture of the Dubai sky-line – “Dubai is where your search ends,” it read. Wrong one. You start to glide your pointer towards the ‘go back’ button at the top-left of the screen but some words stop you.

Global Banking Issues Network – GBINetwork

‘Our bank is here to encourage all banks to be more efficient and help bank customers blah-blah-blah…

You scroll down and spend the following minutes reading through a deluge of reports sent in by dissatisfied bank customers world-wide, and the responses to them. By your rough estimate, 70-75% of all bank troubles reported here is rectified, and the erring banks even wrote personal apologies in the Comments section.

There is a ‘Click here to post your complaints’ button on the menu bar. You click.

It is loading as you reach for the bowl. The garri has ‘risen’ enough now, nearly doubling in mass and flirting with the inner rims of the large bowl. You spoon a dollop of the sodden paste into your mouth, knead it between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, and swallow.

With a grainy salt-sour taste in your mouth, you begin to type.

***

Y: “Oh boy, Jide, show first.”

Jide: “Wassup nah?”

Y: “Guy, that your link work oh.”

Jide: “Link ke? Which one?”

Y:“The bank one nah…GBIN.”

Jide: “Oh, you use am?”

Y: “Yes oh…my bank really messed up, I just use vex report them for the website.”

Jide: “Enhen…?”

Y: “They called me now to apologize oh, the bank people. I form small shaa, but the grammar just dey increase. Come see the sweet voice wey the babe use dey beg me nah: ‘We saw your report on GBIN, sir, we’re very sorry that you had to endure supri supri supri…’

“Omo, last last ehn, she asked some questions about my account details and the transaction wey cause the wahala, come talk say dem go fix am. As I dey drop phone, guy, alert dey enter my phone fia fia fia!”

Jide: “Wow, you mean am?”

Y: “Hian…see question oh. No be you show your boy the way?”

Jide: “Omo, I never used it oh. I just saw the gist on twitter, that’s how I knew about it. And I dey here since, my bank just dey misbehave…”

Y: “Oh boy, no time oh. Gee-BIN them!”

Jide: “Sharp sharp, bros”

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Do not keep this one to yourself. Tell someborri!

Chisom

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The Lectern: Black is Good

WAW confam home-boy, Vincent Nzemeke is back again. He’s on The Lectern for the March edition, and spitting controversy as usual, this time on the topic of the black man and racism.

It’s not polite, it’s not prim, nowhere near proper…but well, Veen wrote it anyway.

So enjoy – or not – let us read whatever you think of it in the comments section, and have a fantastic month ahead.

The Lectern01

…that we might be read


Black is Good

black

She’s a pauper – a poor little thing in a skimpy, worn-out and ragged dress. But because she was born on one of those days when the sun shined for just fifty miserable minutes, built a snow-man in winter and her skin pigmentation is brighter than yours, she thinks she is better.

In her head, she is up there and you are down there. Her life is the script you and your generations yet unborn should aspire to follow. She wants you to pronounce her name the right way by rolling your tongue even if it hurts. But she says it is illogical when you tell her the ‘K’ in Akpos is silent and should not be pronounced as ‘Hakkpos’. The society taught her to see herself as superior and you as inferior. So from now until the afterlife, you will always be black in her mind even if you die trying to be white.

You are black and will always be black. That’s why you are always alone on seats that should take four persons when you are on the train. When that boy with the curly hair and his friends board before you, they occupy the seats with their bags and legs sometimes. And when you ask them to take their bags so you can seat, they marvel at the audacity of a black man.

Because you are black and will always be, their stomach aches when you make meaningful contributions in class. They are red with envy and disdain when you tell the professor that the capital of Australia is Canberra and not Sydney. It is more annoying when you discuss the history of Europe with so much accuracy, especially how the allied forces made a mess of Hitler’s tactics.  They say Boko Haram is running your country, you tell them the myriads of problems in their own backyards.

So when you have to work in groups, they assign to you what they think is the easiest task. Just because you are black, they think you lack the intellectual wherewithal to do that which they can do. At the meeting,  they are stunned when you tell them 15 subtracted from 103 is 88 without using a calculator.

You know why that lady with flabby breasts at the store made you wait longer than you should when you paid with cash for all those items you bought?  It is because a black man should never have that much. She says it is a normal procedure but it is normal only because you are different.

That cocky dude still can’t believe you beat him in a scrabble game. You compound his woes when you play soccer and you also dazzle him and his brothers when you have the ball. They play like machines; you are sleek, cunning and always scoring beautiful goals. That must be some African magic at work.  That’s what they say in their minds.

You exceed their expectations in different ways.  How can you be black and not be a beggar at their mercy? How can you be black and not kowtow to their whims and caprices?  How can you be black and offer to pay for their meals when you eat out? How can you be black and not fit into the box their society has taught them to put you?  How can you be black and not be ashamed?

It hurts their ego to say you are better than them. So they will remind you at every opportunity that you are black and will always be. Don’t try to argue because it is an argument you will never win. Just keep performing and prove to them that white is not always good and that black is not always bad.

By Vincent Nzemeke

Veen

Vincent ‘Veen’ Nzemeke is a Nigerian currently studying in Germany

If you have written something which you would like read at ‘The Lectern’, send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you are unsure about a subject matter but want to be read still, send me an email too and we can work up something appropriate for you. It doesn’t have to be right, left, right or wrong…just your opinion.

Chisom