By Ifeanyi Clement Nweke
Years ago, at the beginning of my youth service program, I was redeployed to Lagos from Ogun state where I originally did my camp. When I got to Lagos, I went about looking for a job. I was lucky to find a corporate law firm in Lekki to attach myself. I was over the moon as it meant I wouldn’t be stuck daily in Lagos traffic in order to get to work.
So, after I began work at my office, the next thing was to find an ‘affordable’ place for my daily lunch. I’m certain many of us who have found ourselves in new environments can relate to this. Anyways, moving on, for those of us not accustomed to how things are on the “Island” part of Lagos, well let me enlighten you. The word “affordable” may be a humbling word but believe me, here on the Island, it is critical to your very survival. Well, I know this does not apply to all but to the hustling majority, embrace and guard it jealously.
Back to my story, I commenced my search for where to eat but at the mention of the word ‘affordable’, I got a shake of the head synced with a bewildered look on my colleagues’ faces which were often embellished with the, all too cliche question of; “here on the Island?” Well, I always felt like replying, “NO! On the OASIS”. Luckily for me, my colleagues were all ladies bent on keeping in shape, so, I was not condemned to gulping saliva and muttering half-hearted thank you as they ate. Hence I was never perturbed as I stuck to my lunch hunger strike.
At long last my seeming savior came one day in the person of my colleague’s husband. He dropped by at the office one day, as he was leaving, he announced he was on his way to pick “take away lunch”. The first question I asked before asking how good the food was, was whether it was affordable. He was like “sure! of course !!. Feeling like one who just got directions to the promise land, I hopped into his car feeling all excited and giddy. Who was I to know that his definition of “affordable” was far from what I had in mind.
So, on getting to the Hypothetical promise land actually known as “Mama EBO”, a name for which its homely nature left a broad smile on my face doing nothing in the way of sending any red signals as I was already accustomed to the “tooshed” names around. My companion wasted no time in placing his order as he was apparently a customer there. Having been convinced already that it can’t be that bad I didn’t bother asking for the prices of the food.
You can imagine the look on my face when I heard a man beside me ask the seller how much for what seem to me like a plate of rice he was holding in his hand and she answered “That would be N5400, N2500 for the lady’s and N 2,900 for you Sir”. Expecting the man to ask why or something as per a mistake, I half turned only to see the man paying without breaking a sweat as his lady companion ogle in pride as he counted out money.
In the voice of my Nigerian Law School Lagos campus lecturer, “that is when I knew there was a problem”. Starting to sweat profusely with my mouth still agape, I nudged subtly at the side of my colleague’s husband, asking “please how much is your food?”, All smiley face, he said ” just N1,500, her food is one of the best in Lagos and debate-ably the best in Benin where she started……………” As he continued boisterously in his accolade, I had already switched off as I needed no soothsayer to tell me that as a “Corper” on a low income budget I was definitely at the wrong place.
I was brought out of my reverie by the polite voice of the smiling food seller “what do we offer you Sir?”. I returned her smile and in clenched teeth I replied “I’m okay, don’t worry about me”. My kind-natured companion went further to inquire whether I was certain. I remember replying that I had just lost my appetite and in order to spice it up I threw in that there would definitely be food at home [which was the truth].
Call it ego or whatever, but in truth, I did lose my appetite. Not because I wasn’t hungry but simply because money no dey. That day I realized the power of an empty pocket [LOL]……………….TO BE CONTINUED
(Throwback to 2016, when I was writing my diary as an island lawyer😂)