What did you think of when you saw that word? What do you most associate with that word? America- the promise land? That brash young man who spent two weeks in the states and came back with an accent thicker than George W Bush’s? Cheap clothes and perfume sent by your uncle in the US which you wear with great pride and never fail to tell everyone that it came from Yankee or Yank if you’re from Lawanson and want to sound hip.
Or my father’s godfather who was popularly known as De Yankee- I never got to know his real name, let me go ask my dad. He said his name was Josiah… I only recently discovered his wife’s name, she’d been ‘nwunye De Yankee’ to me all my life. I also had another Yankee in my life, one of my uncles was known as Yankee boy. He was named Yankee boy by De Yankee
If you’re a baseball fan then Yankee would instantly connect you to the New York Yankees baseball team- Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig’s team. Perhaps it reminds you of the song ‘Yankee doodle’, speaking of Yankee Doodle. Rikimaru Tenchu- one of the other Farafina workshop participants wrote a brilliant, hilarious and insightful piece based on the Nigerian adaptation of the song which is titled Mr Macaroni. I want to write like Rikimaru when I grow up- I’d make you laugh and I’d make you think… I’d shake you out of your comfort zones but you’d be laughing so hard that you won’t realise just how hard I’ve jolted you.
If you’re American, you mightn’t accept to be called Yankee especially if you’re from one of the southern states. You’d say a Yankee is someone from North of the Mason-Dixon Line, if you were from the Northern states… you’d say a Yankee was someone from New England. There’s an aphorism that’s attributed to E.B. White that succinctly explains it.
To foreigners, a Yankee is an American
To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner
To Northerners, a Yankee is an Easterner
To Easterners, a Yankee is a New Englander
To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter
To Vermonters, a Yankee is someone who eats pies for breakfast.
Funny how it keeps getting smaller and smaller until we find that the true Yankee might not even have existed… except for Daddy’s godfather, who has joined his ancestors already.
This morning I was watching a very old episode of the now rested soap Jacob’s cross, it was the second episode of the series. In this episode, Jacob was getting married to his pregnant girlfriend and they had a garden wedding- I’m not so sure I’d want one… too many creepy things can be found in grass. The bandleader at the wedding also doubled as a comedian and he made a joke that inspired this post. He made a joke about South Africa having eleven official languages and how Jacob would make love to his wife in the different languages. He gave an example of lovemaking in Zulu and then he talked about lovemaking in Nigerian language.
I was surprised to hear Nigerian language- we have more than three hundred languages and dialects in Nigeria, I wanted to know which one they’d pick.
Who’s your daddy? I give you money, I buy things for you- that’s lovemaking in Nigerian language according to the guy. Of course I laughed, the idea of that being the Nigerian way of wooing women seemed apt but strange to me, I haven’t seen any Nigerian man who’s told me such things, maybe that’s the way Nigerians in diaspora behave.
One of the Kenyan participants at the workshop told us how happy he was to get a Nigerian visa on his passport, he knew he had gotten bragging rights of sorts among his friends. We were surprised at how happy he seemed, then he told us how well regarded Nigerians are in Kenya. Kenyan girls prefer Nigerian guys for their generosity and their zest for life and living. Another Kenyan- an older man this time told us of his experience at a club in Ghana, a young girl thought he was Nigerian and she was very willing to leave her boyfriend who she’d come to the club with to go to his hotel room with him.
Why? Nigerians are generous, business minded, and would go the extra mile to make a buck. They’d come to a place with a nylon bag and in two years they’d build mansions after establishing mega businesses which will become virtual monopolies.
If you came to the streets of Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Calabar… anywhere in Nigeria for that matter and gave that description to almost any one. They’d almost immediately think of our brethren who are from the east of the Niger- the Ibos.
If you ask me, my friend Chinwe or my cousins who are from Imo and Abia states who that description fits. We’d tell you that’s the Anambra man or woman, they fit that description perfectly. However a good number of Anambra people would tell you that it’s the people from Nnewi or Ichida who behave that way. If you confront the Nnewi man with that description… would he recognise himself?
Would we then say that description or is it allusion is wrong, perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. I think the truth is no group of people have a monopoly on certain behavioural traits and not everyone in that group would even subscribe to such traits. Why then do we insist on propagating stereotypes? Why then do we refuse to see people as individuals rather than lumping them to fit into national or tribal stereotypes? Peter Enahoro said in “how to be a Nigerian” that a man’s dreams, sexual prowess, intellect and even secret thoughts can be known once his tribe is known, I don’t think he was joking.
Enough about stereotypes, I finally completed my national youth service on Thursday. I still have no clear idea what I’m going to do with myself. Should I work in a community pharmacy, or work as a medical rep, or start baking fulltime, or make beads fulltime- If I can get Aisha Buhari and her daughters as customers, or just become a hired gun?
Speaking of Kenya- I have Kenya on my mind and I won’t mind if I got a sponsored trip sef. If the Lord touches ya heart, you know how to reach me.
PS I’m beginning to love the fact that I write longer post these days, even though I was nearly bullied by Hero into writing this one. I’m finally beginning to think about writing stuff for publication, it’s such a big leap for me and I’m scared stiff, remember moi in ya prayers.