How I bought N200 meal in Lagos

Nigerians are indeed a resilient lot. In the middle of this stinging economy, someone still sells cooked rice in N50 bits and meat in N50 chunks. But before I get to that, I’ll walk you through the journey.

 

ofada-rice
Ofada! As it should be.

It was my birthday yesterday so I thought to wear a new look. I called an old hair stylist and confirmed he was free to make my hair. I drove up to his plaza on Opebi and while I struggled to find parking space, I called him to assist. Then he said he was standing outside but couldn’t see me. When I inquired where, it turned out he had moved to another plaza on Allen avenue (about 5minutes away). I turned the car around and headed to this new place. While walking me from the car, we had an interesting conversation.

Me: So when did you move and why?

Martin: Ha! This is the second place since Amazing Grace o (the Opebi plaza). I was paying 50k (50 thousand Naira) before (monthly). Suddenly, she (landlady/caretaker) said I should bring 80k. Where will I see that? So I moved to one other place, still on Opebi. We no do 3months, court came to seal the building. I didn’t know there was a problem before moving in. We just came to work one morning and saw government people. It was after that I moved here.

This new place is a whole floor milling with people: hair stylists, nail technicians, boutique operators, make-up artists; were the much I could count. Each had their corners and ‘hustled’ customers. Martins’ corner is well defined and partitioned away from others. His space was well pimped with mirrors on the wall, chairs, a hanging TV, standing fan and the usual accompanying salon equipment.

Barely had I sat when a young lady came with smiles, greeted, and asked if I would be making my nails too. I told a polite ‘no’. Another well made-up face came to market beauty products to me. I said, ‘no, thank you’. Before I would finish my hair, four more people came, greeting warmly first, then marketing one product or service; all beauty related.

It was while I sat in Martins’ chair, that the ofada (a local rice delicacy) matter happened. Martin asked a female assistant to get him N50 rice and two pieces of meat. I thought I didn’t hear right. Who still sells N50 food and how far can that go in filling a man? The food came, covered. Then I ordered for N100 rice and two pieces of meat. It came; concealed in black nylon, placed on a plate with a spoon.

When my hair was done, I grabbed the plate and began to eat from the nylon in complete market style. It was so tasty. Then I ate and I ate and ate and continued to eat until my tummy was FULL. I could not believe I paid N100 for this portion of rice. The beef was sizeable and well-spiced too. It was almost finger licking good.

It was when the rice seller came for her money that I found out the meat was N50 a piece. What?!!! Incredulous!!! People, that’s how I filled my food tank spending N200 in Lagos, Nigeria in the year 2016. I always have a bottle of water with me so I didn’t have to spend on water.

Back to Martins. He used to own a beauty parlour in a fairly big space in Opebi. He had an in-house nail technician and about four hair assistants. He ran his own generator and controlled who and what came in his shop. He even had a small boutique section.

In this new facility, everything is shared: space, water and power. They all use a central generator that kicks in when government power fails. There’s a floor manager to whom they direct all concerns. For the two hours or less that I was there, power must have failed about six times. I heard an assistant grumble about the ‘useless generator that ought to be sold’ and how the ‘useless (erratic) supply’ had damaged two of her plugged phone chargers only last week.

Perhaps the most frightening and singular most important new challenge is that: Martins just moved in with competition and there’s little he can control. This is how he copes in this economy.

The many inconsistencies that won’t make us great…

Yesterday, I ran a couple of errands that had me go through LASUTH, Opebi, Ikosi and CMD Roads. Every stop I made brought new revelations that made me marvel at how fast things are retrogressing  and how hard the government is trying to reward people’s tenacity with frustration.

 

My first stop was at a friend’s office in Opebi, to pick up the aso-ebi for his wedding, which is holding next week. While I was with him, his intercom kept going off and he’d repeat into the receiver, ‘I’m in a meeting. I said I’m in a meeting’. After the third such call, I asked if he needed to be elsewhere. Then he explained that a group of people from one of the many Lagos State government agencies were in the reception insisting on seeing a senior officer. This was the third team visiting this week (as at Wednesday) allegedly to ‘audit’ the company account.

 

Of course, he was reluctant to see them. The company he works for, an advertising agency, has already laid off half its staff in the last twelve months just to stay afloat. Parking is no longer a problem for guests as the hitherto inadequate car park now boasts only a few cars, a testament to slow business and the reduced staff strength. Yet the government is more desperate than ever to bite off whatever it is that is keeping this company open. As my friend saw me to my car, we walked past the team of 3 – donning black polo shirts with the Lagos state colour symbols on their arms. I shook my head wondering how the conversation would go.

 

Still smarting from that, I proceeded to the Lagos State High Court on Oba Akinjobi Road. I needed to swear an affidavit. As a Lagos girl, I parked outside and made sure to avoid the court touts who saw me arrive in a car. Then I went straight to those tiny buildings on your right, just by the fence, inside the court premises. To my surprise, the former office now carried a chalk inscription saying ‘mosque’. There were maybe another 20 touts and photographers hanging around there and one (who couldn’t be older than 21) approached me. He billed me ₦1500 for ‘typing’ the document, and securing the court stamp. He wouldn’t take less than ₦1000.
I was last here in 2007, when I lost my wallet along with a couple of I.Ds and bank cards. My entire transaction at the time took place in this ‘mosque’ for a few hundred bucks. My kid brother, who also swore an affidavit two months ago, said he spent less than ₦500,. so why pay this third party ₦1000? I tried to find the legal route even though everyone around me were interested in helping me in another way. A security officer later pointed me to the building where I could ‘stamp’ my ‘typed’ document (which was what I asked him).

 

On getting there, it was another tout (who I first thought to be an officer) that led me out to the reserved car park and asked that I wrote out my particulars: Name, Religion, Address, correct and incorrect dates of birth. Then he said, ‘your money na one-two (₦1200)’. I was already tired from walking around in the sun. With my car key firmly tucked away in my bag, I proceeded to negotiate. ‘Ha oga! Na ₦1000 dey my hand o and I go enter transport go house. I dey stay for Ketu. Make I give you ₦700.’

 

My brothers and sisters, this man gave me a seat in another building, and left for a couple of minutes. He returned with a COMPUTER PRINTED document, asked me to cross-check my details, collected the 1k note and went for the stamps. About 15 minutes later, my transaction was done. I walked out to my car wondering how our systems are created with deliberate loopholes to service corruption. What’s wrong with hosting a website where anyone can download these documents so that completed ones are physically presented for stamping in court? Why the ‘type’ scare when computer print outs are also acceptable?

 

As I journeyed home I saw hawkers scamper with their wares as zealous green-uniformed men (and women) jumped down from a black van. Ikeja is the state capital and hawking is forbidden. CMD Road and environs are currently under fire with demolition of ‘illegal’ structures going on left and right. Many of these house small businesses run by their CEOs and a handful of workers. As the economy crumbles and big organisations downsize, Lagos wages war against people trying to make ends meet legitimately. A friend who has produced her own juice in her Mum’s backyard, and is now trying to set up her factory, approached NAFDAC for approval. NAFDAC referred her to a consultant who she MUST ‘work’ with. I leave the rest of the story to your imagination.

 

When the hubby came home and I narrated my court experience cum negotiation tactic, he said: “Welcome to being a criminal. Lying in a courthouse is perjury.”

 

My reply? “I wasn’t under oath, please.” Sigh. The things Nigeria make you do.

 

In this economy, Chicken is chicken

Have you gone shopping recently? If your barber still cuts hair for the same amount, you should collect the hair he shaves off you at your next cut. And if you are one of those who have a haircut twice weekly, I leave you to God.

 

haircut
In this economy?

 

Suddenly, everyone knows the word ‘economy’. My eleran (meat seller) won’t cut N300 beef again for my children (I’m #teamFitfam now so no red meat for me). Meat pricing begins from N500. My preferred Titus fish is now N400, 450 – the same sizes I bought two weeks ago for N300, 350. Funny, how tomatoes has stayed afloat – the Yoruba kind; not the fat, round, strong, succulent type.

 

Ugu is even worse. Six flowered sticks for N50. To cook a medium-size pot of Edi Ka Ikong these days, you will need to spend at least N500 on buying leaves (in place of N200). Yes, leaves; so you better stop weeding the Ugu and water leaf growing behind your house and ask your children to begin watering them when they return from school.

 

children-gardening
Children gardening. Photo credit: bloominthyme.com

 

Chicken is healthier than red meat, says my fitness coach, so I was at my poultry seller’s on Saturday evening. As I waited for my turn, the woman before me – clothed in full Owambe regalia – contemplated her purchase.

“How much is chicken?”

“N1000 ma”

“Live nko?”

“Two-five, Two- eight ma. Depending on the size”

“Ha! But Sallah has passed nau”

She contemplates a bit. Fidgets with her purse. Some crisp N100 notes she probably sprayed or was sprayed at the party fell out as she took out her handkerchief. She ‘weighs’ the chicken laps in her hand, not trusting the scale. 3 laps make 1 kilo. She eyes the live chicken staring her from the cage, mutters something under her breath and from nowhere says,  ‘gimme chicken wings please. Chicken is chicken’.

 

 

I burst out in laughter. Our eyes meet. She explains, ‘my sister, this economy ehn…we don’t even know where we are going”. I nodded and sighed in agreement. She collected her chopped chicken wings and left. Then it was my turn to contemplate.

This season, I’m trying well-packaged alternatives. Yes. I’m forced to try out brands I have previously walked past on the shelves. If it can save me a few zeros and is decently packed, I give it a shot. An example is Bird’s 400g Custard jar that now retails for N920. The spirit of the Lord has led me to a new brand called ‘Checkers’ which costs N400 in my estate and N320 outside. Same 400g!

checkers-2
Checkers yummy custard

Yes, Checkers turns watery quickly if left unattended to after preparation, but frankly I just ensure the kid is ready to eat before I prepare it.
Creativity is so invaluable these days so I have fallen in love with cooking my Okra soup while counting on my smoked Titus fish to secrete sufficient cooking oil. Yes it is healthier dear friend but perhaps more importantly, I don’t have to BUY palm oil! The market conversations these days are truthfully, depressing.

 

On Brexit and Money Monster

 

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U.K Prime Minister, David Cameron, resigns.

Did you see David Cameron nearly break down at the end of his speech? I felt really sorry for him.

He had been the ‘Stay’ champion, touring schools in different states across the U.K trying to encourage young people on the merits of staying in the EU. Somehow he got across to this demography but some of the older folks feel differently – as the Brexit vote analysis shows. Such a narrow margin but democracy prevails. Sadly so.

Cameron said he doesn’t see a future for the UK on this path and he can’t lead without a vision (paraphrase).  Now there isn’t anything more astute and honourable than that. He resigned because he is no longer the right person to lead the U.K in this new direction. I was so awed I tweeted, “OMG David Cameron nearly broke down in the last sentences…awww. Where do they sell this ‘resignation pill’ make abroad pple buy come Naija”.

Screenshot from 2016-06-24 10-06-50

Really the West make me think. Honour is more meaningful to them than virginity is to an Asian community. They are an inspiring lot sometimes, many times.

The Western environment allows individual development so that there can be a progressive challenge of the status quo. As a matter of fact new knowledge is very important so they will support researches in science and discoveries in art. You are groomed and nudged to always speak out – bare your mind. In fact the rarer your thought patterns the more likely you are sought for opinions and that is what has built their political landscape.

In the Brexit build up and many TV debates, it was not rare to find people from the same party having opposing views on the matter. I recall particularly the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, advocating that Britain remains in the EU while Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn felt differently. These are major figures from one party.

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Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan

In Nigeria, APC will say they have met and agreed on a position; so will PDP. Innocuous stands like this don’t allow for intellectual conversations and arguments in our media and extension country. People are not required to think unless you feel spurned enough. And God help you if you have a political affiliation, you will be promptly labeled a black sheep and disowned if DSS or EFCC don’t visit you first. Meanwhile these so-called party positions on any matter isn’t a result of collective thinking or vote of party members. Rather, it’s the position of party stalwarts and sponsors. Sigh. Nigeria.

I just feel the need to make a case for intellectual development and outspokenness in Nigeria. Look at how interesting presidential elections build up in the West. The arguments and conversations make radio and TV a joy to listen or watch (Trump is another topic, biko). We really need to start looking inwards and try to raise our children better-stimulate their minds early and let them bare it.

Yesterday I saw the ‘Money Monster’ movie featuring George Clooney.

George Clooney Money Monster
George Clooney in Money Monster

An aggrieved young man found his way into a TV studio while a live show was airing. He held the show host (George Clooney) at gunpoint, wore him a suicide vest and demanded to speak with the CEO of a company whose stocks crashed and rendered him bankrupt. He got his wish eventually and confronted the CEO so brazenly about his lost $60,000.

Jack Onell Money Monster
Bankrupt gunman seizes TV anchor in Money Monster

Recast this scene in real life Nigeria. A poor ‘nobody’ meets Otedola, Dangote, Ambode or even his LG chairman. This average person CAN NOT have a conversation with any of these people even if one of their factory trucks just killed his only child! It is sad. The complex – under the stupid guise of humility, religion, culture or respect is EVIL!. We are a generation of YesMen. Forget the social media noise, half of us cannot confront in real life the people we spend day and night cursing on Twitter! Very very sad reality.

It’s time we began to speak up. But before then, let’s read up perhaps we’ll catch up. And remember, question EVERYTHING – in your head first, and don’t stop till you find answers.

thinking
Yes, think. That’s what a brain’s for.

Use your mobile data wisely.