My World

October 5, 2013

Five days in another country

Gorgeous South African fans

By Muyiwa Adetiba
Finally, the final piece in a jig-saw has fallen into place. Several years ago, over 30 to be exact, I had done an extensive tour of some Southern African countries that included Mozambique, Angola, Zambia and Rhodesia.

These countries were at different stages of political and economic independence, and I found the trip quite enlightening and interesting. I was particularly impressed with Rhodesia and Mozambique— they seemed a cut apart— and I told some friends that I found Rhodesia the most beautiful country I had ever been to.

(I had by that time, seen quite a bit of the world). My friends, mostly diplomats, told me to withhold my final assessment until I had visited South Africa.

Unfortunately, I am a Nigerian journalist and apartheid and Nigerian journalism, didn’t quite mix. So my South African trip didn’t take place. Not too long after, I moved into administration and that, as they say, was that.

A fortnight ago, an opportunity presented itself courtesy of Forever Living Products (FLP). My missus, ever the one to take up new challenges, had been persuaded to sign on for the marketing of the products. She came home excited by the prospects of dream holidays— she loves travelling—bonuses, and an income that could run into millions of naira.

I tried my best not to dampen her enthusiasm by not voicing my misgivings. After all, it wasn’t my time or my money that would be expended. But it did not stop me from resenting the way the house was swamped by FLP products.

Or the way I was being blackmailed—you know how women blackmail—into giving up my favourite toiletries. My time tested soap, after shave, tooth paste and body lotion soon gave way to FLP products. Even my vitamins! The argument, difficult to fault, is that the products are natural products and thus friendly to the body.

A couple of months ago, she came home to say she was now entitled to a car and a trip abroad. Guess what? It was a trip to South Africa.

In the intervening years between my trip to the South African countries and today, South Africa had gained ascendancy over other African countries including Nigeria and Egypt. She had become the decided economic if not political leader of Africa.

We know she controls the entertainment industry in Africa never mind our much vaunted Nollywood. We have allowed her unlimited access into our homes and given her a blank cheque to cultivate the minds of our children.

South African shopping malls, like her fast food joints, are springing up in urban centres and stocking herproducts. My medical friends tell me that South African medical personnel are planning to set up hospitals in Nigeria to stem medical tourism to India.

How did a country that depended so much on us about 30 years ago get to loom so large? What do they have that we don’t have in excess? Name it; in education, population, natural resources, human resources, Nigeria has an edge. So why is she the one running the show?

We flew in to OliverThamboAirport, Johannesburg and like I said, a final piece fell into place. I didn’t know when Fela’s song, ‘Me and you no dey for the same category’ came to my lips. I am not proud, in fact, I am shame-faced when I say that you do not get the impression you are in an African country because we know what African airports tend to look like.

This airport was big and impressively neat with every gadget working. The lines, demarcated by chrome stands, were orderly. The officers were brisk and very professional. At the end of it all, your luggage was waiting at the other side.

And if you chose not to venture out immediately, there were seats to take the weight off your feet. I compared that to the way passengers are treated in Nigeria— before and after a trip. And to the four rowdy hours I went through between checking-in and boarding when we left for South Africa. Four agonising hours during which I was virtually on my feet.

Outside, their airport had multi level car parks stretching almost to a street. Our apology of a park in Lagos has craters all over and nobody is noticing because our ogas at the top don’t use it.

The trip was for five days. It started with a four-hour trip into the LimpopoCounty to visit one of the game reserves and some of the farms. We also visited Mandela’s home in Soweto and went through Pretoria, the country’s capital before spending a night in Johannesburg.

This means we got to travel extensively on the roads. They were, in the main, wide, eight lane roads with no pot hole to my knowledge.( I later learnt that local governments guard the state of the roads jealously).

We also took advantage of the highway parks to stretch our legs and have a bite. I was particularly taken in by a restaurant that was built as an over head bridge while opposite sides had petrol stations. Johannesburg itself is a beauty.

This is a town that was planned with six million trees at inception! So you can imagine what it now looks like. Yet it has no stream or a natural source of water.

Our leaders come to South Africa. Is it that they have eyes and can not see? Someone commented that the whites built South Africa for themselves.

I think that statement should be seen as an insult to every black man. Who are we building Nigeria for if not for ourselves?

As we mark yet another National Independence, we should let South Africa be a yardstick and not an excuse.