BANG! BANG! BANG!
By Gbenga X-adebija
That was the sound of the heavy pounding on the door of my hotel room in J’burg, South Africa in 2003
I had arrived South Africa the day before and checked into the hotel. The receptionist who handed me the room key must have seen a six-footer dressed informally with a Nigerian passport ( actually, “informally” was a mild way of describing my dress code and Mrs X always claims I dress like a gangster with dark shades and all when travelling out of naija ) but checked into one of the VIP suites.
Hmmmmm .. odikwa suspicious already.
But back to the story… How come there was heavy pounding on my door ?
I had flown into the UK from the USA with my then 2 year old son Gbenga Jr. who I was seeing for the first time in about 7 months. He had left Naija with his pregnant mother for the USA when he was slightly over a year old and following the birth of his brother, Madam had summoned me over to bring Senior Junior back to Naija so she could return with only Junior Junior.
Problem was the boy hardly knew me and had begun to speak with a heavy American accent which I barely understood. Imagine travelling with a 2 year old boy who vaguely remembered me as his father and could not understand each other’s accent ?
I would speak to him and he would stare blankly like … whaddya you talking ’bout ?
On our way back to Nigeria, we stayed a night or two in the UK with Gbenga Ibinayo , further confusing the boy when he met his Uncle.
His own name ? Gbenga
His (new) Dad’s name ? Gbenga
His (new) Uncle’s name ? Gbenga.
It was all too much for a 2 year old boy to cope with and by this time, my son was alternately crying for his Mother and refusing to speak to me.
Not that I really minded since I could not understand him anyway.
He was not calling me Daddy either which worried me a bit and I sometimes wondered what would happen if the UK Police stopped me to inquire the nature of the relationship between a man and a boy who was behaving as if he was kidnapped.
To further compound the issue, the boy did not look anything like me but was instead the spitting image of his grandfather. Problem was that his grandfather died in 1988 and could therefore not be tendered as evidence if I ever got into any wahala with the Police.
Hoping for a reprieve, I took him to Trafalgar Square(see pictore below) for his 2nd birthday but he still remained sullen and unresponsive.
It was a great relief to drop him off at home in Lagos with my Mum and Sister, Kemi Obayemi. The boy noticeably perked up in the company of the ladies and his grandma was happy to see him again.
Within minutes, he was calling her grandma(imagine) and conversing non-stop with her( same boy wey no gree talk to me o), although my mum could constantly whisper to me.
“what did he just say ? “
That same night I flew out to South Africa for a business conference, meaning that my travel itinerary was Dallas-London-Lagos-Johannesburg, a looooooooooong journey across different time zones within a few days.
By my second day in South Africa, it was clear the journey had taken its toll on my body and I started feeling unwell.
To quote Fela
Malaria Fever nko? E dey!
Sneezing nko ? E dey !
Body weakness nko ? E dey !
Shaking and shivering in bed, I phoned the reception downstairs.
“Excuse me, where can I get some drugs ? “
The receptionist sounded incredulous.
“ What did you say you wanted to get sir?”
Wetin dey do dis bobo nah ? Ear dey pain am ?
“I asked where I could get some drugs “
There was silence on the other end of the line but I could hear muffled conversation.
Finally, the guy spoke again.
“Sir, will be with you right away “
Ah -ah , for what nah ? Simple kweshon him no fit answer ?
I did not want the wahala of getting out of bed to open the door.
Then a thought occurred to me. Maybe the receptionist was coming to my room to collect the money for the purchase.
Ah, that one good o !
Bang! Bang! Bang!
That was fast…
I opened the door and was confronted by the sight of several men.
Na all these pipo wan follow go buy the merecine ??
The receptionist was speaking very animatedly in a language I did not understand but his entire manner was of someone identifying a culprit.
Matter of fact, I half-expected him to yell “na him be dat !” from the way he was carrying on.
The men with him were all in dark shades and heavily built.
Clearly, they were Security.
Bhet why nah ? Just to go buy Panadol ?
One of them who had been sizing me up while listening intently to the receptionist stepped forward.
“Sir, May I ask what you requested when you phoned the hotel reception s few minutes ago ?”
Wetin dey do dis pipo nah ? How many times we wan talk dis matter ?
“ As you can see, I think I have malaria or something . That is why I asked for where I could get drugs, maybe paracetamol or any anti-malaria drugs available from a pharmacy”.
I could see the shock (and disappointment?) on their faces. There was silence as they stared at me and at each other.
Finally, another of the security guys spoke up.
“You mean you wanted medication for malaria ? “
I nodded in agreement.
“So why did you ask for drugs ?”
Ooooooooooooooooooooh !!!! I finally understood what the whole brouhaha was about.
Drugs o, medication o, all na merecine joor…
That was how the matter was settled and the hotel even provided the drugs, sorry, medication free of charge. Maybe they were afraid I could sue for harassment and intimidation. Dem no know say nothing fit shake correct naija bobo.
By the way, that 2 year old boy ?
He is a year older today…. Happy birthday !!!!
Excerpted from the upcoming book, LET’S TALK ABOUT X by Gbenga X-adebija.
GBENGA ADEBIJA IS A GUEST WRITER FOR KEMIBIJASBLOG