One hundred and twenty kilometers per hour across the Oshodi-Isolo Expressway, straight on to the third mainland bridge with the rain splashing all around us and Bolaji – our designated driver – tailgating Okey Adichie all the way like a stunt driver in a suicidal Nollywood cops and robbers movie; that’s the way we brought Alain Mabanckou into Lagos, well, after an obligatory round of drinks at the airport to welcome him.
Rewind back a few months. Naija no dey carry last, that’s the phrase which the writer Toni Kan muttered to me as we left the Kuramo beach after a particularly surreal night in March after another Farafina project- an Editors Workshop facilitated by Ella Alfrey of Granta. We’d opted to hang out for the night and Toni had suggested and sponsored the group to a long night of drinks at the beach. Doreen Baingana, Parselolo Kentai and David Kaiza (all writers from East Africa) together with Ella and the rest of us Nigerian writers who were there that night seemed to have had great fun. Naija no dey carry last…Nigerians never come last in a contest…we may not win, but we won’t come last, that’s sort of what that phrase means and that was Toni’s way of saying that it seemed he had done a good job of being a good host.
Fast-forward to Friday the 25th of June and Okey Adichie shows Alain Mabanckou round his room at Sofitel Moorhouse in Ikoyi, warning him not to pay for anything he drinks, not to pay for anything he eats, to put everything on the tab, Bolaji and I were witnesses to that stern warning he said, Naija no dey carry last…the phrase had carried over in my mind from March till June. We are very sensitive about how people perceive us, but beyond that, we genuinely love playing host. If our guest does not have a good time or is inconvenienced in anyway under our watch, then, Tufiakwa! God forbid, Naija don carry last be that.
So, Naija no dey carry last, even for World Cup for South Africa sef, Kaita or no Kaita, Yakubu or no Yakubu, Naija still no carry last…abi..no be so?