The thing about growing up in Lagos is that you tend to have this sense of aggression otherwise known as “gragra”, which most times, is all bark and no single bite. This sense of gragra comes in handy when you are stopped by law enforcement agents or harassed by someone. You display just to make them realize that you cannot be bullied. And to be very honest, it is an important ingredient for survival in Lagos. Here is the thing with that sense of aggression; you have to learn when to apply wisdom, because there are levels of aggression and madness. And there are places where this aggression ends. Like it is popularly said, Sango cannot leave its jurisdiction in the South Western part of Nigeria and decide to preside over an issue in the South Eastern part where Amadioha reigns supreme and vice versa.
Apart from the five years spent in the university, in the South Eastern part of Nigeria, I had lived all my life in Lagos and you can imagine the sense of gragra I had in me. I used my “rushing bus” technique (Which is the fine art of learning how to get into a vehicle before anyone else when there are a lot of passengers and they have all refused to queue up) to get into vehicles. In my mind, I would smile and say to myself, “I am so smart”. When people confront me, I give it back to them too. You no fit talk pass me. Or so I believed. Schooling in Enugu was fun. I had to learn a whole lot and meet people with different cultures and beliefs. And even though it was hard separating myself from Lagos, I grew to love the city of Enugu.
One Sunday afternoon, I decided to go and watch football. There were no viewing centers as we have them now then, so the only option was to go to Polo Park (where you have the shopping mall where shoprite is now). Back then, what we had was a line of shops were people coming to drink, eat and hang out, and then watch football. Since, you are not expected to pay to watch a game; your ticket is to at least buy a drink. So we end up most times, with a bottle of coke which we use to watch as many games as possible, sipping slowly. If you do not buy a drink, you are told to leave. The first game that day was Westham vs Arsenal, and it was one of those annoying games where you as an Arsenal fan wonder if it was your beloved Arsenal team playing or if they had been possessed by some demons to leave you with a heart attack. They were horrible. Henry was not himself and the fans of the other clubs, especially Chelsea fans were at their troublesome best.
There was this particular guy who just wouldn’t shut up. He kept insulting Arsenal and calling Wenger names and calling the club useless and saying every annoying thing available just to piss off the Arsenal fans. It got to a point when I couldn’t endure it anymore and decided to tackle (If I can use the word) him. The Lagos gragra in me would not let me be. I wasn’t going to let this guy get away with it. Shebi na talk? We go tackle our self with talk na. So for every attack, I replied with a counter attack. People started paying attention to our banter and then Westham scored and it just made matters worse. The dude became more vocal and even went abusive. I kept my cool and then we continued our banter. It was going well until I told him
“Guy if you no get wetin to talk, abeg shut up your mouth!!!”
Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, boys and girls, what followed changed my life for good. The guy sprang up from his seat, picked up an empty bottle of coke and charged towards me. To be very honest, I actually thought about running for dear life as I wasn’t sure if the bottle would not end on my head. I thought about how thick the bottle looked and if it would break on my head as it landed or not. I had seen this happen a few times and I was not sure I wanted to experience it myself. How I sat still is what I will never be able to explain. Immediately he got close to me, he said:
“You dey crase? Sometin dey worry you for head wey you go tell me shut up? Na you carry me come here? Na you pay for my drink? Who you be wey you go open ya durty mouth tell me shut up?”
I didn’t answer any of those questions (not like he was expecting me to), as the spirit of deaf and dumbness had descended upon me like a gentle dove advising me to just observe in silence. Isaiah 30:15c came quickly to my mind “in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength…..”
He continued: “Just tell me shut up again! Try am! Try and see whether I no go finish this bottle for ya head, you bloody fool”
People gathered and told him to calm down.
“shebi na ball matter una dey talk? Na untop this ball wey dem no dey pay you, you wan come break pesin head?”
He slowly went back to his seat as though he was waiting to hear me whisper “shut up” so he could pounce on me.
At the end of the day, Arsenal lost, and Chelsea also lost to Tottenham by two goals to one. The game where Jose Mourinho had to take out Khalid Boularouz just after bringing him in at half time, yeah, that one. I had learned a vital lesson. In life, there are levels of gragra.