• Thursday, December 07, 2023
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Worst state in America (2)



Africa-Man continued his curious and fascinating account of his encounter with racists in Texas. “I spent a year in Texas—the longest year of my life. Never again! In Texas I saw nwii!” But things being so bad on first encounter, I asked him, how could he possibly spend a year in Texas?

“I don’t know,” he replied, pensively. . . . “You know, being in Texas, especially Houston and Dallas, is rather like being in Nigeria. It’s hot as in Sokoto and Maiduguri, and the rains are heavier than in Calabar or Port Harcourt. Some of the gutters are deep and open, like the Big Gutter in Aba—except that they are properly sloped so that the water drains away immediately, leaving no stagnant, stinking sludge. And the mosquitoes, man, the mosquitoes are the size of houseflies, and neither strong fan nor frigid air conditioner can deter them: they will crawl all the way up your trousers and bite you in the groin.”

“But they don’t have malaria, do they?” “Not yet, at least not the Naija brand. But many people don’t let their children play outdoors for fear of insect bites which can be quite severe. It’s a very unhealthy place.”

“No wonder there’s a million Nigerians living in Texas.” “I don’t know the figures exactly, but at least 95 percent of the 419ers in the world must live in Texas.” “So Texas has the worst of America and the worst of Nigeria?”

“You get the picture.” “How did your stay in Texas end?” “I ran way from Texas. I was a fugitive from the law.” “What? You were in 419 also?”

“No, I had traffic tickets that I refused to pay.” “Traffic tickets? That’s no crime as far as I know.” “In Texas it’s a crime, especially if you’re black and also a foreigner. Ask the Nigerians who live there. That’s why, in search of safety in anonymity, 75 percent of them have dropped their Nigerian names and adopted horrible concoctions that are un-spellable, un-pronounceable, and un-identifiable with any known nationality, language or culture on the face of the earth.”

“And you never thought of doing the same?” “Never. I can never sell my birthright for any mess of pottage.” “Is that why you’re a poor man today? “I’m not poor—but then I’m not rich either.”

“So the police chased you out of Texas?” “They had a warrant for my arrest, believe it or not. I had seven unpaid traffic tickets—for speeding, for a burned-out tail light, for turning right without signaling, for driving with out-of-state registration plates after sixty days, for driving in the HOV-lane with two passengers instead of three or more, and so on. I think the maximum you could owe was three tickets. They issued a warrant for my arrest. I refused to pay. I wanted to find out what it was like to be in jail in Texas.”

“Like the rich man in Tutuola’s story who gave away all his wealth so as to experience what it was like to be poor?” “Exactly. You know how sweet freedom is when you experience its opposite.” “That’s crazy, man.”

“My friends thought so too. They said: If we leave this fool alone he will kill himself without meaning to. He doesn’t know Texas. This is not New York or California. The racists down here don’t play. They decided to take up a collection and pay my tickets and accrued interest and penalties, which came to about two thousand dollars. I adamantly refused. Instead I packed my belongings in my beat up old van one night, and drove non-stop until I crossed the Texas state boundary. As I drove I kept one eye on the rear-view mirror to see if the vicious Texas police were chasing me. I slept in one no-name motel in Louisiana, then woke up and continued my flight northwards. …”

“Looks like you re-lived America’s fugitive slave history one century later.” “Indeed. And trust me, those Fugitive Slave Laws are still in effect, more or less. They tracked me up north, but they didn’t try to extradite me; they simply kept sending me their summons to appear in court. I tore up the summons—but never dared set foot in Texas again.” “Phooey!” I took a deep breath. “My friend, you have lots of stories to tell. I bet the children in your village, and even the adults, will be thrilled with your stories, and will learn a lot. Why don’t you come home and hole up in your village?”

“In that den of kidnappers? O.J., I see you don’t wish me well. My state is the worst state in Nigeria. Worse than Texas. How many days do you think I will last before the kidnappers come for me?” “You have nothing to fear. You don’t have any money.”

“Do they know that? Do they care? DO THE GOVERNORS CARE? DOES THE PRESIDENT CARE? IF THEY CARED, THEY WOULD WIPE OUT KIDNAPPING NATIONWIDE IN SIX MONTHS. But they have other things on their minds. Security is at the bottom of their lists. They are protected by their private armies—and the public can go to hell. It’s dog eat dog. Every man for himself. It’s a jungle out there….”