Tuesday, December 18, 2018 10:15 pm
I alighted from the plane a few hours ago to this disturbing scene they call Terminal at the Blaise Diagne International Airport in Dakar, Senegal.
From Ghana to Kenya via Abidjan, there is this conspiracy in the rest of Africa to rub this sort of thing against the nose of the Nigerian.
At the lobby of the very majestic King Fahd Hotel, Dakar, I see Professor Wole Soyinka sitting royally and majestically all by himself, wearing the look of someone who couldn’t believe that he could get a few minutes to himself without being mobbed by admirers.
Prof! I scream. We hadn’t seen each other since Ake Festival 2015. We sit down for catch up. I know the conference people will soon start spilling out. I can’t hope to have him all to myself for more than a few minutes. I am certain of that.
The first to come out is President Thabo Mbeki (whose speech I missed this morning because I was flying in from Accra). No airs. Nothing. He greets Kongi, squeezes his face at me. I help him with recognition. Ah, Pretoria 2016! I say yes, your Excellency, that is where we met. We all greet and he leaves for his room. No airs. Nothing.
Kongi and I resume our conversation. He is talking about this Dakar airport, wincing in pain and gnashing his teeth. He asks if I saw the roads. I say I don’t know which is most depressing for a Nigerian coming here – the hypermodern airport or the unbelievable road networks they have built to go along with it.
Coming from the airport to this hotel feels like being on a German autobahn. I tell him I just left the 21st century in Accra hoping to move closer to Nigeria in development terms here in Dakar only to have to contend with a version of the 21st century that is getting dangerously close to South Africa’s infrastructure. Kongi says he was here just two years ago. I can tell he is anguished by what this country has done in two years that seems perpetual rocket science for his own country.
I tell him that I have developed a coping mechanism with the hypermodernity I see everywhere in the rest of Africa: pretend it is not there. You cannot kuku compare that which is not there with Nigeria, abi?
Dr. Samuel Oloruntoba arrives to break our pity party. My sister, Professor Akosua Adomako-Ampofo arrives. Professor Koffi Anyidoho arrives. Professor Bayo Olukoshi arrives. My sister, Dr. Pinkie Mekgwe arrives. People are starting to come out of conference panels. I give Kongi a conspiratorial wince. None of the joiners realize that we had been agonizing over hypermodernity in the rest of Africa. Everybody is in high spirits, greeting the Nobel laureate.
On the way to my room, I console myself. We may not have hypermodernity in Nigeria, we have ultramodernity which our leaders launch every day with fanfare.
Somewhere near you in Nigeria tomorrow, somebody will cut a ribbon to launch a borehole or a shalanga.
Goodluck to y’all in the land of the ultramodern. As for me, I already missed a day of CODESRIA here in Dakar due to the Accra meetings. So, I am going to enjoy the rest of the conference thoroughly.