Good King Flashoslas




Good (?) King Flashoslas looked out o’er the Lekki people

With the 4-eyed man he thought, let us fleece the people

Widen roads and build a bridge, then exact full measure

For a quarter century, jingling pockets, pleasure.


What if they revolt, F said, could we still withstand them?

Do not fret your little head, we will just disband them.

Bring out tanks and sub-machines, gas to end their gathering

When they beat a full retreat, there’ll be no more blathering.


And, the 4-eyed man went on, see their feeble leaning

Gutless, rudderless and poor, full of empty steaming

They are well-renowned, you see, for a deep resilience

After feeble mutiny, they’ll accept their sentence.


-Timmy Flowers, 1734 -1862

Endangered Specie: Save the Side-Mirror

The Lagos side-mirror is endangered and someone has to do something about it. Every car comes off the assembly line with two unique side-mirrors, the beginning of a life-time ménage a trois. The car and the side mirrors work hard together under the hot sun in the traffic, huddle together in the rain and enjoy those long, moonlit nights in each others’ company. In Lagos, this happily ever after almost never is.

Wing mirror VW Fox

Wing mirror VW Fox (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


From the days of area boys smashing the side-mirrors of “one-way” infringers, to one-side mirror being stolen at wedding receptions (why just the one?) to okadas scratching them in every single go-slow , the Lagos side-mirror has suffered violence and the violent keep triumphing by their force. Lagos has now been rated 300th out of 299 cities surveyed for the likelihood of cars to be scrapped with the same two mirrors (10+ years of use) with which it left the manufacturer’s warehouse.

Only today, I lost my second side-mirror in three years. I was at the front of the queue at the traffic lights. Once the lights turned green, the cars in my lane (on the right) would go forward and the cars in the lane to our left would turn left. Easy, no? Well, the lights turned green and, out of nowhere, this construction truck raced up and tried to squeeze itself in between my car and the median in the road. It almost succeeded. The measure by which it didn’t make it resulted in the smashing of the side-mirror on the driver’s side of the car. I swear I virtually heard my car heave a moan of despair at its bereavement.



Side mirrors are easily damaged

Side mirrors are easily damaged (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


At that unfortunate moment, I snapped. It was the final straw, you know, the one that broke the camel’s back. How much longer will we stand by and let the dregs of society continue this inhumane action against side-mirrors and their owner cars? How many more vehicles will go through the traumatisation of losing their assembly-line mirrors? Apart from affecting their sense of perspective and hindsight, other studies show that 73% of Lagos-based cars find it harder to concentrate for the first 13 months after an assembly-line mirror is replaced. The statistic goes up to 93% when the replacement side-mirror is a “Made in China” tokunbo. A few cases of loss of horsepower have even been reported but studies are currently inconclusive.

The time has come to pool all our collective goodwill and money into the brand spanking new NGO I’m about to register (the MirrorMax Movement) and let’s save the assembly-line side-mirror. The MirrorMax Movement will take donations from sympathetic members of the public and plough it into the development of the MirrorMax MirrorCush™ (patent pending). This revolutionary device creates a protective force-field around side-mirrors, ensuring that even if the car is smashed by a speeding train, the side-mirrors will always remain attached to the car. Until the very end, when crushing does them part.

Given the data available to us at MirrorMax, the business of this NGO is extremely urgent and needs to be taken expeditiously across all the motoring locations in Nigeria and, eventually, to the ends of the earth. Going by the Doctrine of Notorious Facts, this clearly means that one of our most pressing needs is a private jet, as we have no time to lose. If you feel as strongly about saving the precious vehicle/side-mirror relationship as we do at MirrorMax, then you must give violently – the earlier it seems like we’re reaching our targets, the better. Side-mirrors are counting on us to stop the genocide. Will you stand up and becounted?


Interesting things typically happen in transit on flights between London and Lagos. Tolu Ogunlesi’s recent YNaija piece reminded me of a few of my own experiences. Once, a woman who’d probably got lost in the Terminal 5 Duty Free, and on account of whom the flight had been delayed for nearly 45 minutes (they were about to take her luggage off the aircraft) finally showed up, wheeling in a humoungous holdall. Now, even if the overhead locker above her seat had been empty she would still have had trouble fitting her luggage into it. However, this was the London –Lagos flight and she was the last person to board, so the odds that it would be vacant were next to nil. Said lady, opening the locker and seeing it full, casually remarked “You Nigerians sef, is this your seat?” and proceeded to toss all the other bags on the floor. Of course, pandemonium ensued.

The incident after which this piece is titled is no less remarkable for its shock-factor. We were well into the British Airways flight, dinner had been served and cleared, alcoholics had had their nightcaps and passengers were falling asleep on their second or third movies. The lights had long since been dimmed and we were nearing the end of the silence just before the flurry of activity that usually precedes landing; that point when the flight map shows the aeroplane somewhere between Morocco (?) and France. Suddenly, three sharp slaps rent the air, thwap, thwapp, thwapp! “You thief!” the slapper accused.

Going by standard fare in Nigerian comedy circles, the recipient of the slaps must have been a Yoruba man, as the final syllables of all the exclamations that followed left him with his mouth wide open.

“Ha! Ha! Haaa! You slapped me? Me, you slapped me?? I will kill this old woman o!” he screamed. He spread his fingers wide and raised his arm in a pre-slap arc. A gentleman sitting in the row behind them quickly grabbed him mid-swing. “Control yassef” he urged the incandescent man, “are you not a man?”

“You stole my money,” the middle-aged lady alleged.

“Me???!! Steal money from you??? I have three thousand pounds in my brief-case!” as he lunged for her again. But the intervener refused to let go. “You’re a man. Control yassef. Control yassef,” he urged.

By this time, the BA flight attendants had run over in military formation and asked the man to come four rows back, to the rear of the plane, two seats away from me. A male attendant remained with the woman, while the person interviewing the alleged thief was female.

“Did you take her money sir?” the attendant asked. The man, in his late 30s to early 40s, started denying very loudly but she insisted he calmed down before answering. The man, still upset, very firmly refuted the accusation. The male attendant came over very shortly afterwards and asked to confer with his female colleague in the galley. They soon emerged, with female attendant looking slightly embarrassed.

“Ok sir, Let me first of all apologise for what just happened. My colleague has spoken with the passenger beside you. She’s now said she’d been dreaming that someone’s hand was inside her purse and suddenly woke up… I’m really, really sorry sir…we’ll also have to ask you to remain here at this seat until we land at Heathrow… I’m so, so sorry, sir.”

The man was silent for a few seconds, appearing to contemplate the misfortune that had just befallen him. Then, with absolutely no warning, he burst into tears and cried thoroughly, bitterly, broken-heartedly for a good five to ten minutes.


The one thing in the world that will reduce the world’s stateliest royal to the ranks of the most abject of its hoi polloi, more than bankruptcy or a reversal of fortunes, is a runny stomach. Diarrhoea. All sense of comportment and etiquette vanish with that urgent, almost panicked, longing of your body to relieve itself. Feyi learnt this in the most practical way that one learns things in life – through personal experience.

Feyi graduated with a degree in law from the University of Lagos in 2001. As the system of legal training in Nigeria requires, he enrolled in the Nigerian Law School the following year and was called to the Bar in 2003. From the very beginning of his journey as a law student till the day he was presented with his certificate of call to the Bar, his teachers had reinforced over and again that the legal profession was the noblest of all professions. He had taken an elective in Classics in his third or fourth undergraduate year and had learnt that there were only 3 ‘noble’ professions. Apparently, in the classical era, you were among the most privileged and noble of society if you were a clergyman, a medical doctor or a lawyer. He surmised that all other professions, going by the thinking at this time, were merely decent.

His law teachers were unshakable in their belief in the nobility of the profession. “Do not speak so imprecisely, you’re training to be a lawyer.” “Do not dress as students in other faculties do. Don’t you understand that at the end of their training they will merely become educated; you will become learned?” And so on. One of his lecturers even went so far as to say that the legal profession was traditionally the preserve of the wealthy. At the time, Feyi thought the statement excessively arrogant but later in life came to see some justification in it.

Students from other faculties and departments also fuelled the superior air that law students carried. If there was ever an argument between a law student and, say, a student of psychology, bystanders were usually more inclined to side with the law student and, on occasion, would accuse the other person of being foolish in thinking he could take on a ‘legal mind’. At the national youth service camp, where there was already a good-natured divide between university graduates and those from polytechnics, it was common to hear such phrases as “De Law, why are you bothering with this fellow? Don’t you know he didn’t even go to a university?”

It therefore was quite commonplace for new lawyers to be filled with pomp and a sense of a glorious destiny when starting their first jobs. Life usually separates the wheat from the chaff but all new lawyers plunge in with great expectations.

Feyi’s first job was as a ‘Youth Corper’ with the Ministry of Justice in Calabar, Cross River state. Most corpers spend their mandatory year of national service as teachers or administrative staff so it suited Feyi quite well that he would spend his working in a professional capacity. It was with great pride that he had packed his brand new Ede & Ravenscroft wig and gown with the rest of his belongings.

The most frequently asked question amongst ‘new wigs’ is whether or not they had appeared in court and, if so, whether they had ‘flown solo’. Feyi had appeared in court several times with his boss, the Director of Public Prosecutions, a very pleasant gentleman. The DPP had four corpers assigned to his office but appeared to be most comfortable with Feyi as his assistant. This was the reason why, when a meeting of Department Heads was suddenly called by the Attorney-General, the DPP asked Feyi to handle his out-of-town trials for the day.

The trials were scheduled for the high court in Akampa, about twenty minutes from Calabar by car. Usually, Feyi would ride along with the DPP in his car. Today’s turn events meant that Feyi had to travel to Akampa by public transportation. He knew he was in the good books of the DPP but borrowing the car would have been totally out of the question. So he made his way to the motor park.

When he got to the park, he caught his reflection in the window of one the cars parked nearby. He smiled what he hoped was an inward smile as he admired his stiff collar, the starched bib and the important-looking case file. He was also wearing his favourite cuff-links, given to him as a graduation present by an old lady neighbour whose husband used to be a judge at the court of appeal. He felt it was probably a little infra dig that he was travelling by public transportation but quickly filed it in the recesses of his mind under ‘paying your dues’. He felt a little more discomfited when he realised that cars going to Akampa did not care for the legal limit of occupants in their vehicles. The saloon car in which he was travelling took four passengers at the back and three in front, one sharing the driver’s seat with the driver.

As the car began its short journey, Feyi felt that feeling of intestinal contortions in the pit of his stomach. At first he thought it was as a result of the combination of him having to squeeze his long legs into the back of the car with three other passengers and the rancid body (or was it mouth) odour from the person beside him. He took a few deep breaths and the churning stopped. Then, at the same time that Mr. Mouth Odour started to ask whether Feyi was really a lawyer the driver swerved, trying to avoid a pothole. Three of the vehicles tyres missed the pothole but the right rear tyre, where Feyi was seated went straight in, very hard. Typically, any semblance of shock absorbers or a suspension had left the car a very long time ago. The cocktail of halitosis and the thumping of the vehicle set Feyi’s churning stomach off again. This time, he knew he was in trouble.

The trip to Akampa could not end quickly enough. He was physically contorted, having crammed himself into the back of the car. Metabolically, to prevent the biggest embarrassment of his life from occurring, Feyi was clenching all the muscles in his buttocks with everything he had. This, of course, meant he was sweating.

Luckily, the court was only a few meters off the highway when the journey eventually came to an end. Feyi looked at his watch and figured he had at least twenty minutes before the judge arrived. Very measuredly, he walked into the courtroom and checked that the two matters he came for were put on the cause list. He put his wig, gown and case file down on a chair and, again at a very measured pace, being extremely careful not to tip the balance of his internal equilibrium, went back outside the court and asked the two policemen standing nearby where the toilet was.

“Ehn?” one questioned back. Feyi was slightly embarrassed to have asked the initial question. Making him repeat himself was traumatic.

Oga Police,” he said, “Please, could you tell me where the toilets are?”

“Barrister”, the second one said, “no toilet here o. We ‘ave latrine at the back towards the bush there.”

Under normal circumstances even public water closet toilets were repulsive to Feyi but he was unperturbed as he made for the latrine with his still measured but by now much more brisk walk. Twenty metres from the latrines, the stench of putrefaction hit him in the face. It was almost as if he was walking through a wall of heat and odours. He paused to reconsider the options before him but quickly had his mind made up for him by the twanging in his belly. He could not think what of all that he had eaten the previous day put him in this predicament, but it did not matter.

It was one of Feyi’s most enduring beliefs from childhood that the human organs of excretion had ‘bathroom sonar’ – they seemed to know when their owners were within the vicinity of toilets. The bladder, though letting you know that it is full and ready to be emptied, will comfortably restrain itself until the moment it sets its eyes on a WC. When Feyi’s rectum set its eyes on the latrine, the churner in his stomach shifted gears.

Quickly, he took of his jacket and hung it on the jagged remnant of a door. There really was no door in the traditional sense of a partition that either shuts one in or out of a room. In fact, for some reason, the architects of the outhouse had designed it such that it faced the highway. Thankfully, a cassava farm shielded what was left of Feyi’s modesty. His belt and trousers had come off too and were hanging on the same jagged edge. Hurry, his body said to him.

He undid one cufflink and put it in the pocket of his trousers. His body sensed though that the clothing barrier had been removed and, like a woman crowning towards the end of labour, his body started to act on its own. Still, Feyi would not go with his shirt on and fought furiously to undo the second cufflink. To his dismay, not only did the cufflink come undone, it flew in an arc away from his sleeve and its trajectory carried it straight into the pit of human waste. It did not register yet though that Feyi’s beloved pair of cufflinks was no more as he bestrode the hole in the ground and gave in to his body.

Relief surged through his body and for a brief moment blocked the foulness of his surroundings. The moment passed, though, and he suddenly knew the difference between good and evil again. What was worse, he realised that he had not given any consideration to how he would clean up his posterior after he was done. Again, he considered his options. Cassava Leaves? There was no way of telling how his body would react to that. What he needed was something white and soft and reminiscent of tissue paper. Then he glanced down at his singlet and without a moment’s hesitation quickly took it off.

Upon returning to the courtroom, sans singlet and with one of his cuffs hanging freely in spite of his attempts to tuck it into his jacket sleeve, Feyi looked himself over again. The judge had arrived but the court was not yet in session. The police had brought the suspects into the courtroom and Feyi wondered whether the suspects looking at him were doing so in a silent appeal for help or because they knew where he was coming from and what he had just done.

He smiled as he remembered what his thoughts were as he used his singlet for the very last time. If any of my teachers could see me now, he had thought, they would say Don’t wipe your ass with your singlet! You’re a lawyer!!