Top of the week to all and sundry this fine morning. It’s been an extremely broiling weather here in Lagos for the past month and it has shown no signs of relinquishing its hold on the country. If I were a farmer I would be very worried. Come to think of it, I am an eater so I should be worried and if we go on at this rate with no rain in sight, there’ll be no need for cooking our yams or potatoes when we dig them up with pneumatic drills. I can hardly take a few steps outside without being drenched in sweat. I don’t go out unless I absolutely have to and when I do, it’s either in the morning or at night. Kinda reminds me of Houston, Texas. I went there some sometime ago in June for my cousin’s wedding. Hm, I have never seen anywhere as hot! Must have been at least 40C on a cool day. We used to, my brother, Imaga, and I, when we wanted to go out, dash outside, turn on the engine of our rented car, put the air conditioning on, and dash back into the house to wait for the car’s interior to cool down. I made a note to, next time I ventured into that state at that time of the year, specifically request for a rental car that can be started by remote control. I don’t really know about having such a vehicle here in Lagos because might be someone who may not mind so much driving off in a car whose only impediment is a heated interior. Nevertheless, the point I’m making is that it is excruciatingly hot here and to raise the stakes a little higher, I’ll be travelling to Enugu, which is in the south east of the country, later this week. It is the very town and its characteristic heat that I, on a lighter note, wish to speak.
It was, I think, in the late eighties when the prowess of the Enugu weather made our country proud by enacting the Aesop tale of the fox and the stork. The details are a bit hazy but I do remember the African Cup of Nations football tournament was round the corner and every country vied to qualify for the knockout (second) stage of the tournament. The first stage has different groups comprising about four to six countries with each country playing one another with a view to rack up enough points to qualify for the second round. The competing countries play two matches; one in each country’s home turf. For example if Zambia and Malawi are playing two matches, one will be played in Malawi and the second leg in Zambia. If each country wins in its home turf, then the goal difference between them is racked up and the one with the greater aggregate wins. However any goal scored against the host country doubles in points making it imperative that the guest be prevented from scoring any goals at all (legal) costs. The particular country we were playing with was Algeria and the first leg was to be in their country. We, known for our typical good spirits and sportsmanship, went there to play and got a very cool reception. Our boys were taken to a city in the northern part of Algeria where distant snow capped mountains bordering it glistened in the pale sun. Our boys, unaccustomed to the freezing weather, were unable to cope and played like old women trying to flee a rabid dog, and lost. Our wretched crestfallen boys trudged back home to prepare for the second leg of the match in a last attempt to qualify for the elimination round.
Our incensed sports body hurriedly met to decide how best to both give the Algerians their just desserts and qualify for the next round in one fell swoop. The initial plan was to play the match in Sokoto, a city in the north that is part arid desert and averages temperatures of 42C until one man advised them to designate Enugu as the venue for the match. With some reluctance and after much argument, they agreed. Enugu, which means ‘the city on the hills’, is actually surrounded roundabout by the hills and combines with the extreme humidity the tropicals are known for (and, as far as I’m concerned, is where the ozone layer opened up) to raise the city to the temperature of a blistering pressure cooker. The match was fixed for 2pm. They came, and we played, they kept fainting, and we kept scoring, and they lost and we won, and they complained, and we, we stuck our tongues out at them! The stork triumphed over the fox! It was a sweet joy for everyone, even me – I’m not particularly interested in football except for my beloved Arsenal.
I sit here thinking about Enugu, my beloved valley in the hills where I partly grew up and mull over my work there, running about on barefoot, and possibly half naked, in the scorching weather and pray my days there are mercifully short. Then again, I never know what could jump out at me and make me reluctant to leave; they almost always do, so I will be on the lookout. Have a great week everybody and those of you in the freezing weather, think about us here while we in our scorcher think of you there. Cheerio!