A childhood friend comes to visit. We're having a party. His wife and four kids are in tow. He's a highly qualified professional- doing well by Nigerian standards, the driver and car are there parked in the foreground of our compound to prove it. As is the wife- professional, well-educated, turned out in an expensive lace long skirt and blouse. Up our front steps she struggles- to hang on to the baby, the baby bag and the two older ones' hands while at the same time hitching up her "tight-knee" skirt to negotiate the steep steps. Husband (my friend) strides obliviously on. I go to her and take the baby bag and the two older ones off her hands. Her relief is palpable.
I settle them in and explain that the buffet is open. It's serve yourself as we say. She looks around trying to negotiate what to do with the kids. Husband is deeply engrossed in conversation with some other friends, seemingly oblivious to the problem. I take their order and then go and get what she wants and serves them. Husband swivels round and says what he would like to eat. She abandons feeding the children and heads for the buffet and is soon back with hubby's order. The whole family tuck in.
My friend does not seem to have changed, he's still the same funny, humane person- passionate about Nigerian development and about Nigeria moving forward. We discuss various projects and initiatives that he's involved in.
Yet his treatment of his wife rankles. I keep quiet till the next day. Over a drink I gently, half-humorously raise my observations. He laughs as he tells me that I have turned oyibo- brainwashed by the English. I disagree, reminding him of our heated conversations in university, our rejection of the status quo. That was theory he says- this is practice. We turn to other less contentious subjects, but I still can't shake off my confusion.
The gap between us looms....