Saturday, February 3, 2007

Here is a joke I received this morning. I hope you enjoy it. It should also give you cause to think about a couple things.

A Hausa, an Igbo, a Yoruba, and a Stupid Calabar Man

Uche Ogbuagu, the number one Igbo comedian and social commentator southeast of Nigeria, has released a new Audio CD titled "Ochichi Gbakwaa oku," which literally translates to "May Leadership burn in fire" or, metaphorically,"our rulers can go to hell". In that CD, Uche Ogbuagu tells the story of three men, a Hausa, a Yoruba, and an Igbo. The three men had heard that a Calabar restaurant owner in a small town was suffering from amnesia, short-term memory loss, forgetfulness.

So the three men, with dishonorable intent, went to eat at the restaurant. The Yoruba man went in first andordered some food. When he was done, the Calabar man asked him for payment."I have already paid" replied the Yoruba man. And being a forgetful man, the Calabar man apologized and off went the Yoruba man. The Hausa man went in and ate. Once again, the Calabar man, after serving him the food, asked forpayment. "I have already paid you. In fact I paid even before eating,"responded the Hausa man. Again, the forgetful Calabar restaurateur holdinghis head in his hands, quickly apologized. Finally the Igbo man, who had seen the success of his partners in crime,went in and, after eating, was confronted with a request for payment. "Man", said the Igbo man to the Calabar man, "you seem to be forgetful. Abeg give me my change!"

I heard this story while riding from the Airport to my hometown, in my brother's Jeep on the eve of this past Christmas. The Jeep, which was full of my noisy friends who came with my brother to pick me up, immediately erupted with chest-hugging and noisy laughter, in fact guffaws, with tears dripping down my brother's eyes as if he was hearing the story for the first time. As I held my chest, laughing, what followed, unexpectedly, was a heated debate about whether the Igbo was the smartest of the three clowns or whether his partners, who were satisfied with just eating for free, were more honorable, and so on.. I had too many questions. Uche Ogbuagu's story ended without indicating whether the Igbo man received his 'change'. What ultimately happened to the Calabar man? Inexplicably, I wanted very badly to know this information.

One of my friends, who had attended the University of Calabar , insisted that he knew exactly the location of the restaurant where this story started and could take me there. I did not believe him but I was already scheduled to attend a friend's wedding in Cross River State on January 7, 2007. On a dare, and with too much time on our hands on January 5, 2007, off we went toCalabar, Cross River State , with a sense of adventure. In a small town near Calabar Municipality , we drove to a small but clean motor parts shop on astreet corner lined by provision stores owned by mostly Igbos but also by some other Nigerians who were clearly not from Cross River State. Across the street from the motor parts shop was a big white building housing a medical clinic called simply Medical Clinic. Two teenage boys attended to us as we selected some useless motor oil and power steering fluid. After making our selections, a man, whom I assumed was the owner, came to us and asked, in Calabar language "Nno me oku" (give me money). A man of about fifty years of age, he was graying on the fringes of his hairline, graceful, and immaculately dressed in a white outfit. I greeted him in the Efik language "Ete mesiere" (Good morning sir)."Mesiere nde" (good morning to you too) he answered."Iren foo?" (how are you?) I asked. "Mmode"(fine) he said.(Now my greetings in Efik were phonetically correct but I cannot guarantee that the written forms are grammatically correct). As soon as my friends told him why we came to talk to him, he asked us to leave his shop. He was either tired of telling his story or he did not wish to talk to us for unknown reasons. We explained to him that we had traveled more than five hours just to see him. He, very politely but firmly, asked us to take our exit and to do so immediately.

As we left, one of my friends asked him if he knew a good hotel for us to spend the night. He wrote down an address quickly, handed it to me, and then held the door open to indicate a 'goodbye'. I was the last to step out of his shop. As I stepped out, a bright idea occurred to me: I had in my pocket the keys that, from my experience, open all doors in Nigeria . Why didn't I think of it earlier I thought. Very quickly I took out my wallet and opened it as the man looked. I purposely fished out some dollar bills, let a few fall on the ground, and went through the slow motion of picking them up as he looked with a new-found interest. "Sir, if you have time later, would you please come and see us at the hotel.We are willing to pay you in dollars." I said.

At exactly 10:00 p.m. he was at the hotel to see us. After accepting a few dollars, getting an assurance that we were neither journalists nor government investigators, he told us in confidence, that Calabar men and women had known for decades that the way to a man's bank account was through his stomach. Then he opened his mouth andtold what he meant: "Yes, I was the Calabar man in that story. That story has been around for sometime now before Uche Ogbuagu re-told it in his CD. When you came to my shop this afternoon, did you look across the street?" We said we did. He continued: "Across the street is my brother's medical clinic. It was the only medical clinic in this town. In those days, the clinic was virtually empty due to the fact that no one seemed to be sick. My brother needed some patients. At the same time, I was not employed. So my brother and I devised a good way to drum up business. We set up a restaurant exactly at the same location that my motor parts shop is now. "That restaurant was set up for the sole purpose of drumming up business forthe clinic. How? We arranged with some local boys to put the word out that I was suffering from amnesia and that I was serving food without remembering to collect the payments. Did you know that the restaurant was filled to capacity every night for six months and seventy five percent did not pay after eating."My friends, I am happy to inform you that the restaurant did not make moneybut my brother's bank account was full of loads of money from the teeming patients that filled his clinic every day with stomach virus, diarrhea, dysentery and other illnesses. "Of course I can't tell you what we put in the food. But I can tell you that I closed that restaurant within six months, at which time my brother had accumulated so much money that he opened the motor parts shop for me.

As the man concluded his story, I had many questions for him, all of which he,understandably, refused to answer. He had told us too much already, he said. "What about the Igbo man in the story" I asked, "did he ever get his change?" "Sure, I gave him his change. But I also gave him an extra take-home food. I discovered later that he and his wife spent two days at my brother's clinic.Yes, he paid for the food alright." As he left us, my friends and I did not know whether to laugh at the three clowns or clap for the Calabar man. Indeed, the Igbo elders were wise towarn children not to forget that Nwata na-acho ka o g'esi rie Inine, Ininen'eche ka o g'esi gbaa nwata afo (as the child plans on how he will eat the beetle, the beetle plans on how to give the child diarrhea).

2 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Nilla said...


Very interesting!

Anonymous said...

great post, nice blog indeed


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