I nearly missed the massive Bisi Olatilo shindig at the Balmoral Hall of Federal Palace Hotel last night. What a show! How would I have explained that to myself and to my brother and friend who has been there for me through thick and thin? Let me say publicly that I cannot think of five Nigerians that have identified with me, the son of an Igbo man, the way this guy from the west, who speaks every Nigerian language and who is at home anywhere in Nigeria, has.
Ordinarily, a Bisi Olatilo event is my event. I should be the one making the arrangements and receiving people as they arrived. I want to thank all the people who stood in for me and made the show spark. Everyone was there. Once again, Bisi, the magnet that pulls people together, brought the Glitterati of the Nigerian nation from every corner of our country to the historic Federal Palace Hotel. If you were not at the incredible event celebrating 20 years of the iconic, Bisi Olatilo Show, it may just be that you are not as important as you think you are. Practically every important person in Nigeria was there.
Last night, I concluded that the common friend of Bisi and myself whom we thought we buried last year is not dead after all. Live on stage at the big party was the rub-a-dub master, the great Ras Kimono dishing out Rhumba Stylee, Under Pressure, What’s Gwan and all the memorable songs. It is just that the Kimono last night was younger and came in a female shape. The swag was there, the command of the stage was there, the control of the band was there, the voice was there and everyone at the Balmoral Hall rocked as Oge Kimono, the 1st daughter of Ras Kimono made her father proud. I could not help but jump on stage with Bisi to rock to the magical performance of Oge Kimono. I had thought that I was at the burial of Ras Kimono. Last night, I was not sure anymore. Ras Kimono lives!
The great Bisi Olatilo party was the one good way to end a week that tested my spirit and resolve. What a week!
During the jaw breaking and incomparable traffic in Lagos of Wednesday, November 20, 2019, I got a call that I had to be in Abuja for a crucial meeting on Thursday. Going home was as difficult as going to work. Please ask Abey, my driver, what we went through in the streets of the city called Lagos on Wednesday.
On a normal day, it takes us less than 25 minutes to get from home to COSON House in Ikeja. On Wednesday, we left home at 2.00 pm for a meeting at COSON House scheduled for 3 pm. Believe me, nothing was normal on any road to Ikeja this past Wednesday. 7 lanes of madness had developed on each side of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway! Even the famous Lagos ‘Okada’ could not move. I saw hundreds of okadas stuck at one point. I called COSON House to apologize that I was in traffic and would be a little late for the meeting. Lo and behold, 3 pm turned to 4 pm and 4 pm turned to 5 pm. At 6 pm, 4 hours after we left home, we were still locked up at the same point around the old Punch office. We had still not done half of the trip to COSON House!
Nothing was making sense any more as thousands of people, many carrying heavy loads on their heads were trekking in every direction. Ikeja looked every much like a war zone.
I told Abey that I was not prepared to spend Christmas stuck in that traffic. Even if we wished to go back home, it was impossible. I got down from the car and began a long trek to COSON House. I asked Abey to join me whenever he could extricate the car from the madness. The whole of Ikeja was trekking. A few times, I almost got knocked down by many of the angry and frustrated people who were trekking alongside me. I got to COSON House at about 7.30 pm all sweaty, dirty, frustrated and tired. I was able to get a few things done.
Abey did manage to get the car out of the jam. He joined me at COSON House at 10 pm! It had taken Abey 8 hours to do a journey we normally did in less than 25 minutes. Anyone who set out from Lagos to London at the time we left home would have arrived London, eaten, had a bath and slept! If you were driving from Owerri to Lagos, you would have long arrived the city. As we turned to go home, we tried very hard to avoid the ‘go-slow’ spots. For where? Despite our best efforts, we arrived home at 1.30 a.m. It was already Thursday morning and I had to be at the airport on my way to Abuja same morning.
How many people missed their flights in Lagos on Wednesday? How many flights left half empty? How many people who were trying to get to a hospital lost their lives in the Lagos mayhem of this week? Who planned the plan-less road repairs in Lagos during the week that had no plans as to how people get from one point to another? Has anyone lost his job as a result of the trauma the people of Lagos have been made to go through and the huge cost to the state? What happened in Lagos during the week is simply not acceptable.
Yes, I did get to the airport and to Abuja. I almost got stuck in Abuja and had to practically drive straight from the airport to Federal Palace Hotel. When I saw the crowd and the setting, I was lifted and relieved. I could not have done it better.
I dedicate Saturday Breakfast today to Prince Bisi Olatilo, a special kind of guy, a giver and not a taker. Bisi is the man!
See you next week.
– Okoroji is COSON Chairman