Sunday, 15 October 2017 23:40

The Afrika Restaurant

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This Is a true story of Dan Iloegbu who thought he had honest--to-goodness Nigerian friends. Names are changed to protect friends.  Dan's  friends were Igbo and Yoruba men he grew up with in Lagos and with whom he drove taxi cabs in America. I have spent hours writing the story. It is left up to readers to guess the purpose of this essay and suggest what lessons, if any,  to learn therefrom.

Driving the Yellow Cab had been Dan's main profession since he came to America in the late 80"s or early 90's. He cannot remember the exact year of his arrival. Dan knew these friends from Lagos where they had been running together as a pack of hyenas. They made ends meet, perfecting the 419 and  eating at each other's homes. Besides, they had  impregnated many of the Lagos loose women with empty promises. They had to leave Lagos and these girls behind in order to break new grounds ahead. Fast forward the story.

Dan is now in New York with his old buddies. Dan drank hard and  partied hard and sometimes  delved into hard narcotics  as most cab and 18-wheeler drivers often do . Life was good and money was coming aplenty.  Dan's friends were no riff-raffs they once were;  they set goals to achieve. First, they would quit driving Yellow Cab and decide they  must get into and own the private limousine company. Next , they bought some of the upscale New York homes for cash after years of Yellow Cabbing and 419. Their houses we posh, meaning ritzy, swish, and swank.

Next goals were bringing wives from home and raising some children. Dan sent invitation to his friends  to come to his home for his wedding anniversaries and christenings of his children. His children were born in rapid succession when money was good.  Dan continued to alternate  between evening college classes and driving cab and limousine even after he had bagged the MS in economics and the MS in public administration. Dan began settling down after he had bagged the  PhD in international  relations and administration.

Dr. Dan is a success story we hear of hardworking Igbo men. Dangota, as Dan Iloegbu was affectionately  known by his many friends around town, as Oke Dimkpa (strong man), the Oba of New York City, Chief Omemgbeoji 1 of Umunze in Anambra State. He was revered by all as far as being resourceful was concerned. Hardworking is a mild term  to describe my man. Dan was a broad-shouldered, proud Igboman .  Call him Nigerian, and Dan would immediately correct  you: "I'm Biafran!"

Dan reminds one of the Abakiliki yam farmer who makes any Igbo father as proud as a peacock at harvest. He is dark, big, ugly, and his wife and kids were equally large with obnoxious physical attributes. He was as strong as oxen.  What Dan did not have on a test of nma anu aru (bodily attractiveness ) he made up on  a test of ike okpukpu (bone or physical stamina).

Remove that hardworking exterior and njokiri anu aru (physical ugliness), and you would find Dr. Dan Dangota Iliegbu to be an okay man. He approached his work painstakingly. He was assiduous, marked by constant and devoted application to his business or enterprise; being diligent and punctilious, as a no-nonsense Igbo dude. Looking at the growing number of family mouths he has to feed and realizing he had to build a mansion in his village to convince folks he was not onye efukefu (prodigal).

Dan threw himself into work like akula obu onye ara (do not strike a mad man). He knew money was in short supply,  especially at this time of massive unemployment in Nigeria and the downsizing of government functions and closing of American factories where he and his friends sometimes  hang out after moonlighting as professional janitorial staff for extra food money, Dan hit upon an  idea at one of these moonlighting sessions.

Husband said to wife Uzoamaka: "Let's open up African restaurant  around town." Wife agreed.  "And, baby, let's make it purely Nigerian with isi ewu (goat head), nkwobi, ukpaka, pepper soup bitteerleaf, okporoko, abacha, ofe nsala."  Then Uzoamaka said: "Chi- mo. Dim oma" ( Oh, my God, my good husband).She quickly added ofe ogiri and ofe manu to the menu to appeal to her husband's Igbo and Yoruba friends, respctively. Ofe Ogiri is the strong foul smelling seasoning made from fermented beans   Ofe manu  is the oily stuff the Yorubas love till Thy Kingdom Come.

Husband and wife quickly agreed. Smart Dan and Dutiful Uzoamaka were not schooled in Igbo -ology nor did they study Yoruba trickonomy. They never understood or dealt with the lies, trickery, and anya ukwu (big eyes or greed) of their fellow Nigerians. What about the anya ufu (envy, bad heart) of Nigerians? They forgot the aghugho (trickery) of the Yorubas. Why did they forget that Awolowo led Ojukwu into Bafra War and later backed out when the going was rough?

As hardworking and cooperative with his wife as Dan Dangota Iloegbo is, Uzoamaka's Isi Ewu African Restaurant (named after his loyal wife) was opened one Monday morning. On grand opening day, come and see the massive support of Igbo community, plus the big do-da of the Yoruba guys and babes.

Taxi drivers, students, Igbo professionals, and white men who had done some work in Nigeria, were all there, chopping, licking five fingers dipped in ogbono soup,  and swaying thick waists as the High Life music blasted and guests  bellowed , yelled, bawled, and, hollered. The owambe dance  caught fire.

To make the occasion sweet and memorable, Dan and Uzoamaka reduced food prices so low: $2 for pepper soup, nkwobi, ga rri with onugbu or egusi, or okra soup made with large pieces of goat and hen. Free soda flowed like a river. Don't even mention intoxicating drinks.

Someone yelled,: "Dan, nwokem (my man Dan), you need to supply some beers at this restaurant. Odi egwu. Igbo Kwenu!" One rough  looking taxi driver seconded: "Yeay, yeah. Odi egwu. Kwezue nu!"

Dan made a serious mistake: he counted on deceitful friends to support his wealth-growing ventures. As cheap as the menu was, Dan was shocked when his friends wouldn't pay, and sometimes argued with management about the cost of pounded yam. "It's too costly," some said.  "I don't have money now; why don't I pay you tomorrow?" Some asked , knowingly fully well there was a sign that says "NO CREDIT" hanging on the wall in front of them. Some customers feigned ignorance, or illiteracy. Some said they never saw the sign. A few burly Igbo customers threatened to fight Dan and hurt him if he continued to insist there was no credit.

A distant cousin of Dan  said: "Fuck you, and I'll kick your stinky ass." Dan's best friend from his village  said: "You are talking and eating shit  because of this lousy food  Come on, fellows. Let's get the fuck out of this fucking place." Others thought of a sinister plan to close their friend's business. Igbo-ology means  eating with your friends with a long spoon and clearing your escape route behind with a sharp machete, The Yoruba man says:   "Wayo man die-o-, wayo man buryam-o."

As Uzoamaka's  Isi Ewu African Restaurant grew  in popularity and revenue, so did open and secret enemies. Dan and wife added delivery service which Dan ran while picking and dropping passengers with his Yellow Cab.   A Naija physician who ate at the grand opening was pleased and wondered if his wife could to cook from Uzoamaka who appeared so humble and obedient to Dan her husband.

As resourceful as the Igboman he was, Dan added beers of various flavors, without first obtaining license),   including popular Heinekens, bitter Guinness Stout, stomach-bloating Nigerian Golden Guinea, and cheap American watery  stuff .Life was sweet and good.

Uzoamaka's Isi Ewu  African Restaurant blossomed and became packed at night and on weekends. So-called friends, like Mr. Judas Iscariot, went to police and told on their friend. They revealed  all  their friend's business secrets to the police.

They said to Police: "That African man  thinks he is smart. He sells beer without  a license, and he delivers marijuana with his Yellow Cab, and brings marijuana into town with his 18 wheeler We know akwunakwunas (prostitutes) operate there as waitresses."

Police raided Uzoamaka's Isi Ewu African Restaurant. They searched the Yellow Cab for drugs. They confiscated Uzoamaka's  Isi Ewu African Restaurant business license. They queried Dan and his employees. Finally, police quenched Dan's  right to operate the restaurant. Uzoamaka had bags of tears under her eyes for weeks. Dan cried to his friends for rescue. No one comes by to say: "Hi" anymore. No man or woman.

Written by Dr. James C. Agazie; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; jamesagazies.blodspot.com

COPYRIGHTED  MATERIALS NOT TO BE REPRODUCED  BY ANY MEANS

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James Agazie Ed D

A retired college Professor  with educational backgrounds in law (JD) education (Ed.D, MA) counseling,( MS) and and mathematics.  Write on topics dealing with Nigerian families, marriages, education, and employment.