Saturday 7 April 2012

Thoughts on the Landing of a Hotel in Owerri

I bound up the spiral stairway, so elated, I nearly miss a step. My dear friend is in Owerri! But because she came in late, I couldn’t see her last night. So I have come to pick her up this breezy morning, so we can both cruise and carouse.

I am at the landing now.

Captivated by the bright painting on the cream wall, I take my time to admire it. I think of Victor Ehikhamenor’s masterpieces.

As I turn away from the artwork, I realise, tapping my head: oh no! I’ve forgotten her room number – out of excitement. And to think the charming receptionist had mentioned the room number a minute ago.

I chide myself for feeling like a virginal teen on his first tryst. I clench my teeth, disappointed in myself. Think of calling her, of vaulting down the stairs to ask the receptionist again. No; I take a breath then let my eyes flick around.

Suddenly, it comes back – the number. I grin and, proceeding to the room, I notice the eyehole first, then the gilt doorplate facing me.

Lincoln Suite?

My brow furrows as another doorplate eyes me from my left: Martin Luther King Jr. Suite?

Yet another…

Obama Suite?

I huff, remembering I’d seen Obama vegetable oil, Obama bread, at the market, although I couldn’t bring myself to buy either, having since known that the quality of the products would simply be dubious. I shake my head hard, completely, utterly, disappointed – standing right there I try to understand.

I evoke Fanon, Cabral, to help enlighten me, to help me understand why a Nigerian will name the rooms in his own hotel after American heroes. What could inspire such a citizen to patronise and appropriate foreign legends in branding his services or products? Is Nigeria so bereft of heroes that we can’t find any names to fish out of our history? And yet, some Pan-African scholar or writer, will someday rail against neocolonialism, re-colonialism, or whatever ism that yields itself quite easily to heartfelt expression.

Anyway, I try not to get too dejected. I knock on the door, though with leaden knuckles, eager to see my friend, yet wondering how many African minds are riddled with complexes that will always privilege the Western icon over what is true and authentic of the homeland.

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