As you might know, you are not properly welcomed to any African country until a guard shows you how insignificant you are to the universe. African gate-keepers have a way of putting you in your place. So, if you want to know how it feels to crash into a brick wall, try and get through a gate or barrier without authorisation.
You won’t even see it coming. Just minding your own business, intending to visit a friend or even enter your own home, a stop sign is shoved in your face out if the blue, forcing you to prove to a stranger that you are worthycof respect and deserving of entry.
In those moments when all your plans are hanging in the balance ans your sense of entitlement is leaking out of your pores like battery acid, you begib to question the very essence of your existence. Does God still love me? Have I angered the ancestors? Do I really need to go home tonight? Will my my best friend take it personally if I miss her wedding? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? These are the questions that go through your mind as you stand on one side of a gate, and a watchman stands on the other.
But the words that come out of your mouth never in synch with your lofty thoughts. Instead, you twist your lips into a snarl and say something stupid like, “Do you know who I am? I can make just one phone call and you won’t have a job. Ebu stop playing with me!” To which the watchman will invariably respond, “Si you call then? Wee piga simu kama ni simu unataka piga. Hapa sisi tunaangalia sechurrity.”
Kenyan ‘watchies’ feel nothing for the ramblings of people who can’t say why they should be given access. They spit in the face of the common man and glibly put aside the puny demands of ordinary folk. If they are men and women whose souls have been disolved in the consuming vat of power, it is those who determine who can go in, and who cannot. And it’s not just the ones who sit at physical gates; it is thosr who stand guard at the gate of opportunity, grinding their boots into the heads of ‘peasants’ who are climbing the ladder of finding a better life.
These gatekeepers throw up old-money gang signs and exclude everyone who doesn’t get it. You’ll find them at every large corporation around the world, greasing wheels od the deep state as it makes mince meat of the poor and underprivileged from one generation to another.
But let’s get back to the watchmen who delught in denying physical entry into premises. We all know how high-handed our own can be, but you ain’t seen nothing yet until you meet ‘The Real Watchmen of Lagos’.
Specifically, the ones who man gates in residential areas. They have no time for explanations, oh. Either they have been told to expect you or they must get a call from the owner of the house instructing them to let you in. In the absence of both, you can go cry in a public toilet.
So now, there I was, a Kenyan booked to stay at rental flat with a South African coleague who had already arrived. I tried to reach her South African line with my Kenyan one but the call kept dropping, which is not unusual in Lagos. Bottom line, I couldn’t reach her on phone, even though I knew she was home. The watchman basically tols me to do whatever I wanted, as long as it didn’t involve crossing the border between where I stood and where I needed to be. Luckily, my colleague had been waiting for me to arrive, so eventually she came down ti ask. Hed she not done that I have no doubt I would have slept on the pavement. Dude at the gate was not budging, and I was completely out of my cultural depth. I honestly didn’t know how to proceed.
But once the gate-keeper and his cronies knew that I was part of the ‘flat club’ their whole tone changed. It was all “good morning” ,and “good evening Ma’am” from that point on. Because now I knew people, abd people knew me.
There really isn’t any moral to this story except to marvel at Kenyan and Nigerian watchmen; same Wozzap group. Someone should set up an exchange programme. They truly are a special group of people.