I met a white American recently in Lagos. He told me he loved what I was wearing. I thanked him. He went ahead to ask who made it, and I told him I did. He was, first, shocked, then impressed. We had just finished a meeting where I spoke on Communications and Nation Branding. And then, I’m a Tailor?
So, Richmond goes, “you’ll have to make me one or two”. I told him to make six and get one free. “Oh c’mon man, let me start with one and then we take it from there.” I told him he would pay more to have them shipped to the US because I knew he would love them. He agreed. Deal. I gave him the price in $ and gave him my US account. Then, I told him, if I got his payment, I would make his outfits, but since he was leaving the next day, I’d ensure he got one-and I’d deliver the remaining six when I visit the US during the Christmas. He had this incredulous look, which, of course, I recognized, but I was determined to prove him wrong.
Next day, to his amazement and pure delight, we delivered two outfits, instead of one, to his hotel room just before he left to the airport to fly back home. He was so impressed,he decided not to take off one of the outfits he tried on and actually travelled in it. Na him sabi how him take manage with cold in New York. Well, he probably changed into proper clothing.
Anyways, with his money in the bank, we made his remaining five outfits-plus one extra for his very gracious comments. Upon landing in Texas early December, the suitcase containing his outfits didn’t come! Men, I was sad. I was a bit embarrassed he would think he was right that this Nigerian, a tailor for that matter, would play a fast one on him and is actually doing it.
So, I scanned the forms I signed at the British Airways desk and sent to him. The next morning, I received a text from BA saying my luggage was on the way to Texas and another saying it had arrived and another saying it was out for delivery at my house. Exactly 48 hours after I arrived, the parcel was delivered at my doorsteps. I made sure I forwarded the text messages to him.
It was with a flourish that I rushed to Fedex and shipped it by express delivery to him. He was so excited. He was even more excited when he received the parcel and everything was intact plus an extra outfit he wasn’t expecting. Wow! He didn’t just call me but he made a video call so I could see him wearing one of the outfits and his wife and kids admiring him.
We kept talking through my vacation. It was towards the end of my vacation that Mr. Donald Trump made the abundantly stupid statement about s-hole. I took umbrage. Richmond called me almost immediately the news broke, feeling so sorry and quite apologetic. A very decent, very educated and widely travelled man, he was like “Emeka, I haven’t stopped telling people about your amazing presentation in Lagos as well as your amazing and inspiring Ethelberts outfits.”
The word inspiring came from the story I told him on how I came about the Ethelberts idea, how I took time off work to learn tailoring in Aba, how I’m using it to immortalize my father and how we donate a percentage of the proceeds to charity. He told me to tell my brethren in Nigeria to tell Mr. Trump our country isn’t an s-hole, not only by being defensive but by being the best at what we do and by behaving like civilized people.
I can’t publish his photos, but I’m absolutely thankful for his graciousness and custom. I’m, in the same vein, absolutely proud of myself, country and some of my fellow countrymen. Nigeria is not where it should be, but I’m highly optimistic Our Best is ahead of us. Things CANNOT remain the way they are. The WILL NOT stay the same. I can see a bright future with the kind of patriotic, energetic, talented and visionary folks I see around.
As for naysayers and those who buy the Trump analogy, I can only feel sorry for them, because only a bastard calls his fatherland a shithole!
I’m actually angry tonight, in spite of the slightly mitigating effect of my encounter with my American Customer, Richmond. So pardon any errors you find here. I did not proofread.
Emeka Oparah, is a Director of Communications at Airtel Nigeria and CEO of Ethelbert clothing