• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

How was your night?

How was your night?

I graduated from the Department of English Language of the Ahmadu Bello University with a BA English in 1981. I carry that degree with pride as I was taught by some of the finest lecturers in the world. White and black, and we studied hard and made them proud.

We studied Syntax and Semantics, with new words and improved our vocabulary. We read great books by Nadine Gordimer, Ezekiel Mphelele, Wole Soyinka, China Achebe and Mariama Ba. We were students with great minds and neighbours to great men like Professor Bala Usman, Patrick Wilmot and others.

We were students of Professor David Ker, neighbour to Professor Olu Jegede and other such fine minds. We wanted to study, learn and drink deep. Not like today. In the English Department, we even learnt a variant of the language called Nigerian English, and I even wrote an essay on the type of Nigerian English spoken by Chika Okpala – Chief Zebrudaya (alias 4.30) in the New Masquerade.

How was your night? It is not a good question, is unethical and almost rude. I wonder what a messenger or driver, or even one’s Personal Assistant will do with stories of your night.

At this time, I had no idea I would end up with the NTA. In spite of this adventure with the English language, nothing prepared me for How was your night?

My friend Bimbo Oluwole Sowoolu whose mum was a West Indian could suddenly turn to West Indian patois, which I thoroughly enjoy. But ‘How was your night?’ has to be the ultimate invasion of personal space. From the young to the old, from the educated to the uneducated, How was your night? has crept into our lexicon and refused to let go.

Whether you are my mechanic or a young staff, why should how my night went be your concern? Where did this idiotic greeting, may be meant to be kindness and concern, crawled from? What does it even mean? If I have to regale you with how my night went, maybe you will never ask that question again. Would I be kind enough to tell you what I wore to bed? Would I perhaps regale you with whether I showered, what I ate and what else the night held, would you mind?

Please could you sit awhile as I tell you the tales of my night. Some persons I thought highly of and others I don’t care much about have asked me this silly question.

In fact, I have been tempted a few times to spill the beans of my night but I called myself aside in my ultimate concern for the person who thinks it is an innocent question. No, it is not! It is a question about wearing a headgear large like Madam Kofo’s with a gossipy nature like Anebo. No, it is a question at once peering and busy bodies carrying trumpet with the plan to re-propagate the tales of my night.

Read also: Leadership and the unhappy Nigerians

It is that question reserved for the second wife when the first wife wants to cry. It is a question made of crackling wood with a match lit for a bonfire.

How was your night? is not a good question, is unethical and almost rude. I wonder what a messenger or driver, or even one’s Personal Assistant will do with stories of your night. Suppose we all decide to share each other’s tales. So my driver should tell me what his night was like and I will in turn tell him the intricacies of mine. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it gets. My night? Merde!

I think Nigerians take liberty for licence and decide that if the owners of the language have How was your day?, surely they must have how was your night? But day is about day time activities like cooking, working and driving, and the night time is private. Why should my night time activities be any concern of yours? If it was not such a serious greeting it would have been hilarious.

Our language ethos is becoming more and more bizarre. And now there is ‘No wahala,’ which has joined in parading itself in the middle of an official conversation. Please, if we do not want to speak the English language any more let us leave it. No wahala means what? We are talking about budgets. And the one that has almost killed me. How was your night ma? This from an idiot character whom I do not want to speak with. This fellow now wants to know about my night. No sir! Never.

Please, don’t ask people such a private question. Someday they may even decide to oblige you. Yeah! You asked the question. Why are you afraid of the answers?

I have no intention of telling you about my night. Thank you very much!

While we are at it? We also have ‘Did you sleep well?’ Which is a deeply personal question. Never to be asked by your Gardner. Yes, I can answer my children or a friend. Did you sleep well? I might say No, I snored or I went to the loo thrice or I had bad dreams. To a friend or family member it might be okay.

But to my cook, how is this a conversation? I just do not understand where all these mannerisms came from. It is the same thing with ‘Aaah,’ you have added. Very Nigerian. Please ma or sir why are you trying to body shame someone? Especially today’s youths who are struggling with social media validations of what they should look like. You have added the worst thing you can say to anyone. People are very sensitive, so if you have nothing to say, just say ‘Hello’ and move on. You have added means what? Did I add it in your house?

We just do not know how to talk and there are too many people on the fringe of depression and sadness. They may in fact not have slept well or they are on medication, making them put on weight. Ask only questions that make people feel good about themselves. How are you? Hope you are well? and wait to see if they might even respond. People are looking for prompts for talk therapy. Not how their night was. Enough said.