The National Theatre stands ahead of us, shaped like the cap of an army general. Guy and I have just participated in an audition for the next season’s Nigeria Has Got Talent.
We are either auditioning for acting roles in highbrow sitcoms or soaps or singing and dancing out our invention of routines before a panel of judges. We do this, plunging our different families into episodes of expectations— expectations that our obsession with the performing arts might one day take us to stardom, expectations that we might be selected by the judges and even proceed to win a grand prize and the rest will be history.
But since we never break through our auditions, our parents are slightly worried that we might be on the road to delusion.
Even now, we just returned from a Nigeria Has Got Talent audition where we danced as Guy & Bolt (our brand name) and followed difficult dance routines to impress the judges. In the end we heard the judges say one after the other, with pompous mouths, “It is a no for me!”
Exhausted, Guy and I stop at a shop near the theatre. We drop the bags containing our costumes on the floor and drink our cold Maltina sluggishly. We curse the judges. We wonder why they didn’t like our brilliant performance. They are idiots, we say. They don’t know talent. We are the best. we praise ourselves. Then we get tired and bored.
I decide to open up to my friend about my intense fascination with a popular reality TV show host in Nigeria.
“Promise me you won’t call me a freak,” I say to Guy.
“How can I call you that?” he says, smiling. Waving his slightly big hands before my eyes, he says: “Hello, I’m Guy, your friend.”
“Alright,” I say. “Do you like Kemi Adetiba?”
“Everyone likes Kemi Adetiba,” Guy says. “She is tall and pretty, Bolt.”
“Everyone may like her,” I say, “but mine is more than likeness. I see her in my dreams. I can’t even sleep when I think about her.”
“Bolt, you’re having a crush on Kemi Adetiba!” Guy says, laughing. “Every teenager has it.”
“Is it just a crush?” I say. “I think she likes me.”
“Likes you? Look at you, you’ve not even met her.”
“Well, I have,” I say.
“Jesus Christ! You are a bandit, Bolt! And you never told me about that?”
“No, I didn’t,” I say. “But I was going to tell you, anyway.”
Guy frowns at me and begins shaking his head. He has a short temper.
“There’s nothing to fuss about, Guy,” I say. “I was going to tell you anyway. So, listen up.
“Maltina Dance All is my family’s favorite TV show. You know that. We crowd around our TV at evenings when it is show time. My dad creeps out of his study. Mum hurries up in the kitchen and then cutlery and pots and things will start clashing and clanging. It’s always a funny situation when the reality show is about to filter into our family television. My dad still dreams we could one day be on the show. Since I am the only child of my parents, there is a plan to ask my cousins Vinnie and Winnie to join my family to audition. My cousins are great dancers. We still think we can win the grand prize.
“We love everything about the show. We love the dancing families dressed in ethnic costumes. We love the judges and what they say. Mum likes judge Michael Adegoke’s hairstyle. If he parted his hair on the left side or right, she would style Dad’s hair the same way. Dad likes Judge Muyiwa Osinaike. He is Dad’s look-alike. Mum likes Judge Muyiwa because of his English. And both Dad and Mum want the Olanike family to win. As for me, my interest in the entire reality show is centered squarely on the tall, dark, pretty and gorgeously dressed host Kemi Adetiba.
“Imagine how happy I was the day I won a ticket to attend the grand finale of the last season of the Maltina Dance All. I had played an online game on the Maltina Dance All Facebook fan page and was sure I would not win. As you know, Guy, I rarely win anything. Winning always seemed a total stranger to me. But here it came—Bingo! I won a ticket to the grand finale of the most amazing talent contest in Nigeria.
“The grand finale was held at the Expo Centre of Eko Hotel & Suites in Victoria Island. It was like a dream. The noise of the teeming crowd around the Eko Hotel was hilarious. I was dressed in my tuxedo, the one with oxblood lapels. I had been to my barber the day before, bogged him with directions on how to give me the perfect Mohawk style. I looked the best I could. I wore my blue-rimmed sunglasses, a big green bow tie on my blue-checked shirt, and then brown suede shoes that sported my immaculate white socks. I thought I was perfect for that show.
“Trust me, the Expo Centre was packed with a well-dressed audience. Musicians. Families. Cameramen. Tech people. I was spellbound and even scared. Loudspeakers. Lights. Cameras. There were different sizes and shapes of lights and cameras. Some hung on the roof. Some hung on gliding machines. Some were carried by men in dreadlocks with black T-shirts with the word CREW printed on their backs. There was nothing like the atmosphere. There was loud juju music. King Sunny Ade. A fat woman sitting right next to me couldn’t stop bumping her fat bum into my face. But every bad moment had its time and went. So the moment I had been waiting for came. A deep baritone rolled out of the loudspeakers saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the host of the Maltina Dance All…” The blood rushed to my ears and for a brief moment I didn’t hear a thing except my heartbeat. A thunderous applause filled the air and then a tall, elegant lady walked onto the stage.
“She was dressed in a bluish-green gown that cast a thousand lights on my face. Her hair was ebony black, long and straight and it reached down to her shoulders. I saw her glimmering eyes, her long nose and long face that had no blemish whatsoever. I could never imagine how her smooth long legs just moved in perfect timing with the event.
“‘Hello, Nigeria…!’ she said. I nearly toppled over the fat woman by me and the crowd went wild at every sound of her voice. ‘My name is Kemi Adetiba and welcome to the grand finale of the most electrifying reality TV show— MALTINA DANCE ALL…” (I heard myself yelling with craze. The audience joined in the loud cheering as she smiled like a goddess.
“She introduced the judges and the show went in full swing. Five dancing families remained and each would perform their dance routines in splendid attire two times for the audience in a bid to get the most votes from Nigerians.
“The Olanike family danced first, to the music of Omawumi, which got the audience very excited. Judge Muyiwa read out his criticism: ‘What the Olanike family had performed for us is, in summary a peregrination, a splendid episodic recapture of history through the magic of dance…!’
“The Olanikes jumped up and embraced one another. The audience got wild again. And my sweet one, Kemi stood aside smiling as beautifully as ever.
“The other families—the Okonkwo family, the Dada family, the Haruna family, and the Essien family each danced beautifully, although none performed better than the Olanike family. Or perhaps they did, because all the time my gaze, my mind, my soul was fixed on the host of the show.
“In the end, as I and my family had predicted, the Olanike family got the highest votes from viewers across Nigeria and therefore won the competition. It was celebration galore. Loud music! Clicking cameras! Flashing lights! A live band played a Lagbaja song. The Olanikes cavorted about, danced in fits of happiness, and bathed in colored confetti.
“It was getting late that night, but I didn’t care about anything. I didn’t care about time. Nor did I care about Mum’s stern warning: ‘Start making your way towards home the moment the Olanikes win the grand prize. Did you hear me, Bolt? No photographs. No socializing whatsoever! And make sure your phone is on so I can reach you anytime.’
“But I would not leave the event without grabbing a chance to meet Kemi Adetiba.
“My eyes went crazy. They turned this way and that in search of Kemi Adetiba. The Olanikes met a crazy surge of the media. Journalists with customized microphones swarmed the stage to interview the winners. I was clearly lost now. I searched for Kemi Adetiba. I bumped into many people. I saw a crowd of mostly girls at one section of the hall clamoring for a greeting or an autograph from Femi Kuti, who had attended the event. I had no business with him. If I needed an autograph it would surely be Kemi Adetiba’s, but I needed just a word from her—even if it was a hi.
“‘Please did you see the show host, Ms Kemi Adetiba?’ I asked a number of people as I made my way through the crowd. A woman said to me, pointing ahead:
“‘I saw Kemi go that way.’
“‘Thank you, ma,’ I said, and then went in the given direction.
“A man I enquired from said:
“‘Kemi must be with the crew of producers. Go there—there! Turn left, then right, then straight to the lobby where the white expatriates are drinking champagne.’
“‘Thank you, sir,’ I said and hurried away from him.
“Everything was as deceitful as can be. I had asked dozens of men and women about Kemi Adetiba’s location and their answers proved to be fraudulent. Were the women simply silly? And what about the men? I thought they were equally silly like their female counterparts. In my fury I ran into the confusing crowd, looking for a particular woman who had given me the most assuring clue as to the host’s location. I will talk harshly to her for playing such a stupid prank on me, I said to myself.
“The woman was fat and fair, wore large earrings shaped like curved catfish, and wore a brown ankara shirt and calf-length trousers. Now I heard myself asking new persons:
“‘Please did you see the fat woman wearing an up-and-down ankara dress?’ Or ‘Did you see the woman wearing fish earrings?’
“The answers I got were fake.
“‘Yes, yes, I saw her laughing and chatting with Femi Kuti a while ago near the painting of Nelson Mandela on the wall over there.’
“‘Oh, I saw her in the lobby with a Maltina chief executive.’
“‘Yes, that woman? Is she your mum? Anyway, take the lift to the next floor. You will find her exchanging pleasantries with Mr Frank Edoho.’
“I had lost my patience now. I was angry with everything in the world—the Olanikes, the ticket I had won, the Maltina Dance All grand finale, my mum who kept buzzing me, my Mohawk, my tuxedo. In my fit I lost my blue-rimmed sunglasses. Good riddance! Those sunglasses didn’t help my searching instincts. I bumped into more people. I fell down on the floor at one time, but as a dancer I sprang back on my feet and continued my search.
“Then I saw what I had been looking for. The fat figure of the ankara woman. Now it seemed as if her catfish earrings had doubled in size. The woman’s back was turned to me, and she was laughing before someone whose figure I could not really make out because this ankara woman was such a big woman. She was laughing so loudly that her buttocks shook like two huge misplaced breasts.
“I flung my entire weight on this woman. I had lost my mind. I could never have imagined what my weight was capable of doing before this day. But it dislodged this heavyweight of a woman, crashing her into the painting of Nelson Mandela. She ripped the painting off the wall.
“What followed now was an instant melee which the security guards of the Eko Hotel & Suites contained immediately. They grabbed me, pinned me to the ground, and twisted my arms on my back. Overpowered, they handcuffed me immediately. My victim sat on the floor, panting loudly near the painting.
“As you would predict, my action drew the attention of more people to the scene. I could hear from the surrounding crowd wisps of the news about a dangerous boy in a Mohawk on the loose. I could hear a different voice crying on my behalf, saying, ‘What did she do to him? Why did he attack her?’
“As the security guards pulled me off the ground, my face met with the lady asking the useless questions. She was the lady who had been chatting with the ankara woman. It seemed as if her voice had changed now, even her bluish-green gown with a thousand diamonds.
“‘Ms Kemi Adetiba!’ I cried.
“‘Be quiet!’ an Eko Hotel security guard said sternly to me.
“He dragged me away, tears flooding my eyes, my gaze shaking from the sight of the popular TV show host.”
Guy and I finish our Maltina.
We pay the shopkeeper.
Then we take the bags containing our dancing shoes and costumes, and we walk away.
The National Theatre, looking like an army general’s cap, reminds me of the security guards at Eko Hotel & Suites. We head towards the theatre, but I can’t help wondering if Guy thinks I’m a freak or not.
Post image by @kemiadetiba via Instagram
About the Author:
Nnamdi Oguike writes fiction and poetry, which he considers his first love. His work has appeared in The Dalhousie Review and on africabookclub.com. In addition to writing, Nnamdi plays in a chamber orchestra operating in South Eastern Nigeria. Among his numerous wishes is to work as a tourist guide in a game reserve or tourist resort.