How I “sold” Nigeria to Abdul Aziz from Oman By Emeka Opara
Now, this is NOT about Ethelberts, ladies and gentlemen, but then again we can’t finish this story without mentioning the brand that’s fast becoming synonymous with smart, bespoke, truly Nigerian menswear. Anyways, keep reading.
I seek every good opportunity to market, not de-market, Nigeria-and I want to recommend that behavior to all of you, my dear friends. It is patriotic so to do. For a country that has been led by probably the worst and been through the worst, the best the rest of us can do is push the best possible narratives about our dear country. And I got one of such opportunities on board an international flight back to Nigeria, recently.
Few minutes after I settled down in my window seat, a chubby, bubbly young man arrived and took the aisle seat. I caught him twice stealing glances at me so took a break from my Hennessy XO (which I was sipping from the bottle) and beckoned on him with a “Hey, Bro! My name is Emeka” and at the same time stretching my hand. He took it and I pumped his heartily, repeated my name as he told me he’s Abdul Aziz, a banker, from Oman flying to Nigeria for the first time for a one-week meeting at one of the top banks! All my ambassadorial cum nationalistic instincts kicked in.
Five minutes after, anybody would think we were traveling together. He confessed he loved my Black Isiagu Mix & Match, which I wore proudly on a pair of blue True Religions Jeans; so I looked quite stylish and all that. The jean pants were skinny too; so I’m like hot, you know. Ighotago? I told him I was a tailor. He wondered how came it I was a tailor when I had introduced myself once as Director of Corporate Communications at Airtel Nigeria. Story of my life! I told him from the Genesis to Apocrypha. Somewhere along the way, at 35k feet above sea level, I whipped out my tape and took his measurement, while many other passengers looked in amazement, admiration and confusion. One of the female Cabin Crew was so excited she “volunteered” I could measure her N2N-an offer most guys in my position (at the time) won’t reject. The babe is a SAMPLE. Ighotago?
Well, we arrived our ever so hot and humid Murtala Mohammed International Airport. My guy was sweating profusely. Already the Protocol Team was waiting and had all my Immigration formalities sorted out. So I called to say I had company; so he too was sorted. We went on the VIP lane and in a jiffy we were through passport control and out to await our luggage. Abdul Aziz had only his hand luggage so he waited for me to pick up my lone suitcase and off we went. Earlier, I had bailed him out from some Immigration official who demanded Yellow Fever Card upon discovering he was a first time visitor. She shook the guy up until I came to his rescue. He was already looking for $100 to buy his way through, “based on logistics”.
Anyways, as we headed towards the exit, Abdul Aziz asked for my help with calling the driver who was said to be at the Airport to met him. The line rang and the voice at the other end said the driver forgot it in VI, but was at the Airport. There was no way we could figure out the guy from the battery of drivers and hangers on at the arrival lounge so I offered to take him to his hotel. He was happy and wowed.
He wasn’t totally surprised by the rowdiness of the Airport and the disorderly traffic and all, but he was certainly shocked if not confused by the refined hospitality he got from me, which was contrapuntal to then briefing he got. Right there and then he told me there’s no way anyone would be able to convince him that Nigerians are not good people. He felt at home and we chatted as we crawled our way through Oshodi and on to 3rd Mainland Bridge. I took the opportunity to tell him a few (quite a few actually) nice things about Lagos-and promised him a good time, while he was in town.
To cut the story short, he took delivery of his Ethelberts on Thursday and showed up at work on Friday (their dress down day in the bank) and everyone was blown away. He took photos with literally everyone at the Head office, he told me. It was then, he told them in his parting speech that he met the right Nigerian on his way in and with that “bias” focused on the good and right things about Nigeria and Nigerians during his stay.
On the eve of his departure, I had taken him and his friend Salman (from Qatar) out to The Waterside, owned by my brother Ivor, and they loved the sights and sounds of Lagos at night. The beautiful lights across the lagoon between Ikoyi and Victoria Island with the luxury boats dotting the shoreline made quite an impression. They loved the food, and the beer, and wished they were staying longer-even if just Friday night so I could spoil them a little more. But alas, they had to fly the next day.
Abdul Aziz is back to base and he can’t wait to RETALIATE the hospitality in Oman, a country not too different from Nigeria in terms of her dependence on oil revenues and now thinking of a way out with dwindling oil prices. When I’m back from Oman early next year, I’ll share my experience, and probably see how it resembles or differs from Nigeria. But I’m sure it’s gonna be awesome from what the young man has been sending to me on WhatsApp. He even caught the bug of Classical Music and has acquired some songs by Luciano Pavarotti and Andreas Bocelli, which enveloped them in my car that evening.
I’m glad I won a soul for my fatherland, in spite of the challenges. Let’s all join hands to tell positive stories about our country in our words and our deeds, especially when those whose day job it is seem completely out of their depth and look totally unprepared to get the job done.