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You get what you inspect, not what you expect


This is a modern proverb. It is always so tiresome hearing people refer to ancient proverbs and ancient wisdom. It is as if wisdom went out with Noah’s ark and no modern proverbs and recently minted wisdom. There is new technology. There are new ways of doing things. And there is always new knowledge. All these affect human and animal behaviour. There are new forms of living together of men and women from different climes and clans. Animals living together in zoos far from their native forests. New human and animal experiences result.

Villages follow where new roads go. Where the main road of the village was twenty years ago is not where it is today. Traders of the village offering the goodies of the farms and forests to travellers of different pockets. All along the ‘express’ road, constructed to avoid the village, congregate mostly the women of the village and the young men and women hawking various farm and forest products. The more the toad tries to avoid the village, the faster the village follows the road. The old road is abandoned along the houses that used to guard the road left and right.

Farm and forest harvests abound in each village. Yams in abundance. Plantains aplenty. Oranges arranged in stuffed baskets. Bags of garri recently fried, white and gold coloured. Palm oil is plastic 4 litre transparent containers. Honey in old whisky bottles displayed on benches. Pineapples, pawpaws and breadfruits, sweet potatoes and cocoyams. There are bananas of different lengths and thicknesses. Out of the forest outrageous snakes twisted around broken branches for sale. Rabbits freshly lured out of their homes in the ground killed and offered for sale. Snails too, more about them just now. Mushrooms, big and small, wild and tame, toxic and harmless. All for sale.

Snails are special. They are central to traditional restoration of calm in the restless and the hypertensive. To the late Nigerian writer and comic, Kenule Saro Wiwa, snails in egusi soup with pounded yam was the Yoruba epicurean excellence expressed in the only Yoruba sentence he loved so much: okele kan, igbin kan, which being interpreted is ‘one swallow, one well peppered and crunchy snail. It must not be overdone. It must be well cleaned with lime liberally used to wash its slimy cover. And it is best washed down with palmwine.

The young couple must have been salivating over this imagined meal when they stopped at a village whose name may not be revealed here for reasons political correctness. The husband stopped their luxury saloon car, pressed the window pane and resisted the blast of heat as it hit his face with smoke and dust. Shut the window, MAN! shouted the wife. He ignored her and called out: Snails, how much? The woman who answered him must have been pretty long ago. She was surrounded by three girls, all three of them very pretty the way she used to be. This basket 48 snails six-five. He looked at the woman and said: Ok, put it in the boot. His wife looked at him with a big question: you no go haggle the price? There is nothing to haggle about. Imagine how much waka waka she must have done to collect 48 snails! Remember they don’t live in communes. Snails live in isolation and if any one would . . . Please, please, spare me your lecture on the habitats of snails, admonished the wife. I’m just warning you that you don’t take the first price they offer you. It is usually two times what you should pay.

Says who? Asked the husband. My mother, said the wife. I DONE PUT AM FOR BOOT, shouted the sales woman. The husband agreed with his mother in law but with these village people that particular rule would not operate. He took out his crocodile skin wallet and wondered if the woman had POS machine. His wife laughed and told him to pay cash and let them go. You must have heard, Honey, about something called Cashless economy of Nigeria. You see electricity in this village? In a country where network has become notwork from whence cometh the connection. He paid the saleswoman six thousand five hundred naira and they drove off.

The wife wondered aloud about her husband’s sudden craving for snails. The husband did not remember opening the boot but remembered asking the snail woman to put the snails in the boot. He wanted to stop and check but he did not stop. He answered his wife about his wanting to eat snails. Remember the meal at the hotel, and the snails I ordered? Fried to iron toughness. Not edible. These ones must be handled tenderly. I will supervise the housemaid. No, I will watch you prepare it. No, I will cook it myself.

They got home after dark and the houseboy Alogbo, and the housemaid Sparetyre, brought the things in the boot into the house. Husband and wife had gotten out of the car and gone upstairs to rest and sleep. In the morning early the wife wanted to surprise her husband with the snail meal, crowned with pounded yam. She called the housemaid and asked her to get some lime and clean twelve of the snails. The housemaid went and plucked some limes from the lime tree in the garden and went to the kitchen. Where is the snails ma? SNAILS IS PLURAL! YOU SAY WHERE ARE THE SNAILS? Yes ma. Where are the snails ma?

Didn’t you unpack them from the car last night? There was no snail ma. DON’T LIE TO ME GIRL? True to God ma, there was no snail in the boot. That’s not possible. The woman said she had put them in the boot sah! Call the houseboy! I hope you people haven’t gone and sold the snails now. I DIDN’T SELL ANY SNAIL MA!

What’s going on here, asked the husband coming downstairs. They say they didn’t see any snail! That’s impossible! Did the snails escape? The woman said she put them in the boot sah! But we didn’t check. The whole country is a crime scene. Village people thieving as well? What we expect. What we inspect.

In this article:
Kola Omotoso
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