Recently, at the same time pilgrims were buying dollars for ₦197 and I was buying for ₦400, I began feeling like I hadn’t been giving my boy a proper training on the nuances of navigating a noose-tight economy. By his requests and demands, it was obvious my son had not gotten the memo from Abuja. I decided then was the right time to break things down gently for him. He needed to know that the days of pizza or ice cream when it is nobody’s birthday were over.
Change as promised by Mr. President during his campaign, had to start from him because, just like those in Abuja, I am too old to change.
I also felt I had left his understanding of our country’s new realities to his headmistress who couldn’t care less if he knew the difference between a shoe lace and aso-ebi lace. Unlike my village headmaster, our new headmasters seem only to care about school fees and developmental fees akin to church building fund that never ends even after the church had been built to the size of a cathedral that rivals Roman edifices.
In any case, I woke up and met him playing online games on his phone. That is to say, he was wasting my Smile data and inverter energy – we’ve had no electricity for quite some time but that is okay, I am not complaining – I took one good look at him concentrating to defeat some fictitious driver in a car race game and calmly told him to go wash my car outside. After all it was Saturday and he was on holiday.
Fellow Nigerians, I must drop a disclaimer here that I have never done this before because, one is never too sure of neighbours. There may be a child labour advocate watching my household to see if I will have my eleven year old take out the trash.
My boy’s face dropped the way mine dropped when I heard some people were putting jara on top of Buhari’s budget, despite his efforts to stop corruption. This budget padding fiasco corroborates the saying in my village that, when a thief is being admonished, his mind is roving another yam barn he wishes to steal from.
Anyway, I liked the look on his face because now he knows how I feel when he harangues me for Domino’s pizza while a pot of egusi soup is doing bonsue fuji on the gas cooker. I held my laugh tight inside my mouth.
I kept my game face on. You know kids of nowadays have a way of melting adults to uselessness like palm oil left too long on fire. “I mean now!”, I reiterated.
Training day had begun.
With a long face the size of a well carved Dongon mask, he shuffled out to start the war camp labour of washing my car.
Just like that, he saved me the quintessential speech of a typical Nigerian father that starts with “at your age”.
Seriously though, at this boy’s age I had accomplished a lot in the village of Uwessan. I am not counting the number of times I washed my uncle’s big American car. Said washing was fun especially because I got to stylishly honk the horn which sent me and surrounding goats to high heavens and had my village friends bloated on swallowed envy saliva. Never mind that I never got to ride in the car because my rickety legs were meant for walking miles to go look for Guinness stout for my uncle.
The accomplishments I am talking about include, walking miles to the farm to clear stubborn elephant grass weed from taking over yams and maize; elephant grass that grew the very next day the way corrupt leaders grow every second despite the war against corruption. Setting clever traps to catch bush fowls, rabbits, grasscutter and antelopes. Walking miles to Afuda river to fetch water for our headmaster’s wife. Harvesting bamboos and wild ropes to mend fences of our village school garden so our teachers’ tomatoes wouldn’t get destroyed by marauding pigs. Helping my grandmother fetch firewood from a thick forest so she could weather the biting harmattan at night. Carrying hefty tubers of yams to the chief’s palace because tradition demanded that every family must respect culture and I was part of that culture.
At my son’s age I had formed a dance band in the village called Ikoikoija with other village boys and owned my own masquerade. I was making money by dancing round the village like circus clown during new yam festival and Christmas.
So, having my boy wash my car for the first time at the ripe age of eleven was in order but what was not in order was after he washed my car (which he surprisingly did well) he decided to put an icing on the cake.
He went to my room and grabbed my bottle of Bottega Veneta pour homme and sprayed it copiously inside the interior of the car, now my car smell like a perfume factory.
Tomorrow, he is trimming the flowers. I can’t tell you what else is at risk in my house hold to execute that chore, but first things first let me tell him there is difference between body spray and car freshener.
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