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It is midnight in Abuja. I am not sitting or lying. It is not quiet. It is blaring. I am on both feet, surrounded by hundreds of sweaty people, on the rooftop of a multi story building. Damn, Bar Finals ended today! So we are at this hotel to party. My feet hurt a little. Okay, a lot. I have slept for 7 hours in 3 days. But this partying is compulsory. I must not spend tonight on my bed.
Earlier, I was drinking something. I don’t remember what it was. Now, my vision is blurred. Now, I am wildly emboldened. My favorite party song is playing, the greatest of them really.
That girl, that girl, she gat it. She gat gat gat, she gat it.
On these dancefloors, Vector’s Shiga has survived the test of time, hasn’t it? So will my midnight series. I will write to you from every city. You would like that, wouldn’t you?
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to MIA. Please, be seated. In Kevin Hart’s voice, let’s get to the shit! Let’s just get to the shit!
This is the wildest one you will read, the most divisive. Some of the following may be considered offensive. Reader’s discretion is therefore advised. A lot may be considered conceited—the typical wank fest by this David McCoy. If you are not keen, stop reading right away. If you live for these vibes however, get on your knees. I am coming!
Yes, to the shit. Let’s begin with the shittiest of them all — my education in this country.
Speaking about my education.
I will be 25 in October. This means that I may have now chased this qualification for 9 years. At least a third of my life. I sometimes wonder if it is all worth it. I was 16 in 2012, when I left secondary school. Somebody thought it was a great idea to send me to OAU. Somebody = my dad. Well, look at us, Sir. 9 years of pocket money, no wig yet.
Mehn, fuck that rubbish school. And everyone who hypes it. The hype from alumni is something I have come to understand however.
You see, many Nigerians define experiences by their outcomes. We go through hell. And instead of preventing this unnecessary hell from happening again, we thank God for the outcome. “It made me a stronger person”, we say. “It could have been worse”, “That’s the tradition”. Sigh. Typical hardship mentality.
We then go on to lie, to others. That we happen to be better people because we have been through worse. You might remember that occasional idiot who compares a first class from a private university to a 2:2 from a public university. On the sole basis of relative sufferhead.
Worse, there are those who then ensure that everyone after them suffers the same fate. If too many people pass exams, it is because standards are dropping. It cannot be the case that students happen to be better prepared. Somehow, difficulty and quality are symbiotic. So difficulty must be maintained.
Enter, Law School.
Speaking about Law School.
In the coming months, Law School will grade our scripts. It will separate the high performing students for more scrutiny. Just so that less people emerge with that red scroll. Besides, it doesn’t matter how well you perform, your lowest grade is your final grade.
And for what? A qualifying certificate that is not that useful. All it does is enable you to practice law in Nigeria. You change profession or location and it immediately becomes useless. If I could go back in time, oh I would not study law. This profession amuses me. Oh, the clownery, pretense, misplaced priorities. Oh, the faux sanctimony. And the poverty. Damn, why do all these people want to become lawyers?
My Law School experience was meh — underwhelming. There is much to say. I will cautiously remain quiet until later. Too many people follow me here and I prefer to avoid stories that touch. You resume NLS expecting an upgrade from university. But it is just meh and stress. My set, particularly, had it melodramatic. We spent all that time at home, in a pandemic. We endured conflicting WhatsApp notices from an institution that had our email addresses. And when we finally resumed, on the first day of class, it was casually announced that exams were slated for the next month.
Damn, this week was tough. Tough enough to rid one of will, confidence, belief. And isn’t belief key?
Speaking about belief.
It frightens me however, the extent of belief people have in me. Some people think I always win. I often do. But no, not always. Sometimes, life is hard. I complain to some people, and their response is “You’ll be fine. Is it not you, McCoy?” What does that even mean?
When you finish as second best from your class however, you draw attention. Everyone wants a stake in your future (academic) success. People wish you luck hoping that their wish counts. They want to premeditate. You are their representative. If anyone can do it, it’s you. You mustn’t let your people down.
People talk about that relative, teacher or friend who never believed in them. The doubters are a spicy part of every success story, aren’t they? Well, I don’t have those. Never did. Since I was the 3 year old with the big head and interesting questions, people believed. I meet people, and they immediately do. They believe that I can pull it off. Whatever. And I always do. End of story. Until one day, I do not. And a simple disparity between expectations and results feels like a terrible failure.
I know what they are going to say. I will be made into a rhetoric. “Sage didn’t do it. Even McCoy couldn’t.” Well, if eventually I don’t, it wouldn’t be because I couldn’t. I could easily have. In the end, those exams weren’t as difficult as I had feared. At the start of every exam, I was confident about my chances. At the end, I was mourning a mistake. I suffered from a failure in mentality. Something was wrong with my thought process, conviction. My problem had actually started earlier, a fortnight to the exams. It began with this unwavering, weakening belief — that I was already underachieving.
Speaking about underachieving.
Oh my greatest worry is that I am underachieving. I often wonder how differently my life could have turned out, if I took a different route in 2012. Why did I wait for public school? Why did I go there? Why did I study this course? Why did I not apply for that moot, that internship?
My routine spells begin with the awareness that I am grossly talented, intelligent. No one this good should be stuck here. No. I shouldn’t be here, cramming sections of a repealed law. This is not testing my creativity. I often feel like I should be elsewhere, doing exciting work, earning more, visiting more countries, talking to more people. I am still a local champion. The world hasn’t met me yet. And I am already 25.
Oh there is also the awareness that I am old. 25 in October? Jesus. What happened? This was not the dream. I feel like I will no longer be considered a prodigy at anything. I am already the oldest in every room. Even in this profession. Look, my mates are two, three years at the Bar. I am here, hoping to God that I put the right date in that Notice to Quit.
I know. I know that everyone’s path is different. I shouldn’t compare. Hell, I preach the same gospel sometimes. But it still hits you. The fear that you are being left behind, that you are failing yourself. Why am I still at this level — bothered about grades. I have worked hard for years. I was on a first class since my first semester in university. Why do I need to do it all over again? To prove to all and sundry that I am truly intelligent. Is this the litmus test? Are there people who still doubt me?
I know. I know what you’re thinking. You’re rolling your eyes and muttering “pride”. Well, fuck you.
Speaking about pride.
I believe that we are made of traits. But one ultimate trait defines us, drives us. One of the traits we exhibit is central to everything else. It is our core. If it is shaken, everything else falls apart. My core trait is confidence. It is why it is so difficult to rid me of it. I am always confident. I need to be. It is why I do away with everything that threatens my confidence. It is why I hate to lie. It is why I dislike surprises, why I like control. It is why I try to be practical. It is why I reduce the superficial things I care about. It is why I prefer to have options. It is why I prefer to announce my insecurities as soon as I discover them.
These days however, I catch myself performing modesty, reducing my volume. I catch myself hiding, trying to simplify myself. To seem as ordinary as everyone else. As if I am afraid of people thinking too much of me.
But after making those bad decisions in those exams, it occurred to me again — that I need to be confident to perform. I need that unreserved trust in myself, regardless of how it makes others feel. I need audacity. Because the lack of it costs me. I needed to believe that Bank of America could hire me. I needed to believe that I stood a chance with Oxford. I didn’t. Not really. I find myself asking “why?”, instead of “why not?”. Ugh! Why do I forget? How? That I am premium, world-class, sliced bread.
When I sketched Midnight in Akure, I planned to write about Burna Boy and this Nigerian humility. Oh I fuck with his unbridled arrogance. Always, I say a big fuck you to this disgusting Nigerian humility. We are some of the most classist, oppressive people on the planet. How performative modesty and tired doses of “na God oh” fit in remains wondrous to me.
I have a problem with people who always speak against pride. They are probably lacking, deeply insecure. Really, why do you need others to be humble? Why should another man’s “pride” annoy you? If they are as good as they say they are, great. If they are not as good as they say they are, then they’re just foolish. And that kind of foolishness (that only concerns them) can be easily ignored. Except you hate to be reminded of how lacking you are. Except you do not know what it feels like to be the greatest at anything. Except something is broken in your self-esteem.
Speaking about self-esteem.
I hate to see it. The tired, toxic advice people give on social media based on their own bad experiences and deep insecurities. Today, it’s talk about “maintaining energy”. Tomorrow, it’s talk about watching how your friends celebrate with you. Yesterday, it was talk about never revealing your feelings to people. Oh, shut up. Too many insecure people on the internet work overtime to make us act like them. Fuck them.
For instance, what is so terrifying about unreciprocated feelings? We’re human. We feel differently. And having your feelings unreciprocated does not make you less of a person. You’re still awesome. Simply, you’re meant for another.
We are never truly confident until we are accepting of rejection. Those who go overboard to protect themselves from vulnerability are usually weak. Often, “hard guys” are cry babies. If your confidence is dependent on a positive outcome, you are not confident. Confident people are not only so when it goes right, they are confident in the knowledge that if it goes wrong, they will be just fine.
I walk up to people aware of the many ways the conversation could go. I expect it to go well. But I am prepared for the possibility that it won’t. I know that I will apologize, smile and step back. I will not pester. And one bad conversation will not ruin my night.
Also, what is it about kindness that mandates reciprocity? What is this culture? Why do people have to treat us as well as we treat them? Why are we always weighing, guilt tripping? Why can’t we just be kind? Ehn, Mr. “Good Guy”, what’s all this talk about everything you did for that babe?
Speaking about good guys.
Intentions are not enough. Even acts. It is not enough to say that we have feelings for people, that these feelings are deep and pure. We still need to possess the qualities they find attractive. People want to know who you are, before you tell them how you feel. In fact, confessions from a person we do not like can feel like terrorism. This is where “good guys” get it wrong. But there’s more.
“Good guys” are boring. He spends half the time whining about how good he is, how pure his intentions are. The other half, he spends protecting his insecurities. Either he says too much to compensate, or he does too much to prove that he is the man, or he asks too many questions. And when it all goes to shit, he tries to guilt trip her. He tries to makes her feel bad, for not feeling the same way he does.
Then he goes on his usual rant — about how women happen to prefer “bad guys”. Or how they are overly materialistic. Or how they never make an effort. No, my guy. She just doesn’t like you. Being “good” is not enough. And playing the good guy blinds you from self improvement. There is always room for that. Focus on yourself, king. You can be David McCoy. Or you can keep complaining that he stole your babe.
But it is also important to note that she may never want you, no matter what you do or become. And that’s okay. As men, we must learn early that nothing we acquire or become will guarantee us affection. Do not live your life in search of the ultimate recipe, that will make you desirable to all women. It does not exist. A man is told that all women want is a particular quality. He acquires a lot of it. He is eventually frustrated, annoyed when he meets women who are indifferent about it. Entitlement brews.
The “good guy” game fails when he hears “no”. Because why would she say no to him? Look how “good” he has been to her! Meanwhile, he is often like every other guy. Only that he feels that his relative lack of experience, confidence presents opportunity for a facade. Some commitment to moral superiority. Mtchew.
Speaking about morality.
Another lesson my adulthood has taught me is that sanctimony hardly accompanies good behaviour. This cliche sense of morality people profess is no guarantee of character. Religious people, for instance, do horrible things. And those who go on about what they cannot wear or drink, sometimes turn out to be insidious transgressors in some other respect.
I judge the character of others by something I call range. When I speak about range, I often mean values, and the principles these values are grounded in. I often hope that this range is not performative, that it is not determined by their belief in God, that they do not mention their intolerance of alcohol, or their virginity vows. Because these things do not make a good person.
If you ask me, I’ll say that respect does. I mean, basic respect for the individuality of others. Everything else stems from respect. One that is intrinsically, indiscriminately woven. One that does not depend on religion, age, race, status, sexual orientation, etc. Good people do not have many criteria for treating people well. You do not have to worship their God, be older than them or be as wealthy. Your humanity is enough.
This respect is also independent of how they feel about you. It may be harsh, but we must judge people by who they are regardless of their feelings. What indiscriminate values do they hold dear? Where would they stop? What would they never do? Even if they were displeased. This is what matters. Who people are when they do not owe us kindness is who they really are.
Many relationships suffer terrible endings because people judge others by what I call their “I like you behavior”. Are they sweet? Or is it because they like you? Are they polite to everyone else? Believing that you are the exception to a person’s bad behavior is folly. Because whatever that exempts you is often temporal. You too will one day see crazy. What happens when it falls apart? Would they hit you? Would they take their gifts back? Would we find your gist on the TL?
Again, a person’s belief in God is no guarantee of good behavior.
Speaking about God.
I was born in church. My parents are pastors. I was a church-boy until I turned 18. I played keyboard in secondary school and after. I played in my local church, during a phase I recall as the worst of my life. Mostly because my pastor and his wife were bullies. They were manipulative, despicable people who demonized a talented 16 year old. I think my descent began there. At 17, I could write scales and play instruments. I had written 50 songs. Today, people have no idea how good I was at music.
I digress though. This isn’t about people, but about God and how I feel about religion.
18 years and many questions were left unanswered. Especially because even though religion is the most questionable thing, questions are not tolerated. You just sit in church, silently. Terrified that you are the one who believes the least. You think some of the pastor’s affirmations are dishonest, hilarious. But you nod anyway. Others are already moving in the Holy Spirit, you don’t want to be stuck here, scandalously doubting the very existence of God.
When I discuss religion with religious people, I am often discouraged by blatant selfishness. People believe that God exists, that He is good, because of what He has seemingly done for them and their people. Well, what is God doing about everyone else? God always answers prayers? He does? Well, is no one praying for an end to world poverty? Or a cure to terminal diseases? You know, something that affects the majority of people?
We pray that God keeps us safe from accidents. Meanwhile, some people will invariably die on the bad roads. We pray that God provides funds, to match the inflation. Yet, some people will invariably be buried under. We pray that when others say there is a casting down, we should say there is a lifting up. Again I ask, why? Why should there be casting down in the first place? When bad things happen to others, we thank God for our own safety. Until bad things invariably happen to us, and we cannot speak about them. Because others will use our plight for thanksgiving, or worse, say that it must be a product of our sins.
It remains a terribly unfair world. The powerful take what they want and decide narratives. There is no karma or judgment. There has never been. Evil wins, often. There is no balance or order, just vibes. Who has the world in his hands? If you read enough books, you might discover that it is the middle aged white man. It was him who decided what Jesus looks like. It is him who made white good, and black, evil. It is him that all things work together for. Racism and misogyny are hurled at everyone else.
Around the world, there is excruciating suffering, that this omnipresent God must be witnessing. What about the young, starving boy, in an impoverished land, under the withering sun, who is crawling out of a ditch. He will die today. Birds are perched on a rotting tree, waiting for it to happen. So they can pluck his eyes for lunch. What was his purpose? What was God’s plan for him? Everything happens for a reason eh? What is the reason for that? You selfish, deluded person.
Another thing that confounds me — sects of religious people believe that they have a monopoly of understanding. They actually believe that only them, and others who share their doctrine, will make it to heaven. Meanwhile, there are so many doctrines held by so many people who have as much belief. I remember how infuriated I was by that gist — of the Christian lady who kept preaching to her Muslim Uber driver. Apart from the insensitivity, the act itself, and the commentary that followed showed an unsettling sense of blatant superiority.
I remember some saying “you sell business to people but I can’t preach the word of God? Just say you don’t want to hear about Jesus.” Well, apart from this being a faulty comparison, the last line reeked of that sense of superiority that greatly unsettles me. If a person is Muslim, of course it is more appropriate to assume that they don’t want to hear about Jesus. Some people don’t. And that’s okay. From their perspective, it is not the worst thing in the world. You think someday, angels will blow a trumpet to end the world. Well, he has his own fantastic beliefs too. And here’s the thing — he’s just as convinced!
At PwC, I spent some of my lunch breaks with this Indian who indulged me with talk about Hinduism. She would go on, and I would listen keenly. Her set of beliefs were just as sophisticated, and she trusted them, as much as any Christian or Muslim I had sat with (trusted theirs). It was then it began to occur to me. There are hundreds of religions, and everyone is just as convinced about theirs! Everyone’s prophet came to earth and performed wonders. Everyone has felt the spirit of their own God move. And at the same time, everyone thinks their religion is superior, the only true route to the great beyond. It is the most incredible thing!
I still believe in God. And many days, in Jesus. I still prayed this morning. But I do not believe that God intended to create humans who would not question him. I think — maybe God should be understood more broadly, differently. Maybe the Nigerian version of God is just warped. Oh, the Nigerian version. And the conmen it births in the form of pastors. All these prayers and prophets. Yet, the most religious country is one of the most impoverished. Hopelessly so. Something must be wrong.
Religion in this country contributes to a culture of irresponsibility, one that begs God instead of holding leaders accountable. Nigerians will fight for God, but not for their rights. Then, religious leaders sell hope. No. It is implausible, Sir. No matter how loudly these people say amen, their lives will not improve if our economy continues to plummet. They will die painful deaths, caused by poverty, bad healthcare, bad roads, insecurity. Nigerian disasters do not recognize religion. Close your church, Sir. There are enough of these in the area. Let’s open schools.
Sigh. I know how this looks. I will not get claps for this. Many will hesitate to share this link. Blasphemy! McCoy has finally lost it. Some may even challenge me.
This brings me to the last thing that confounds me — this eagerness to fight for God. It beats me — devout Christians referring to certain things as offensive. You believe in God. You believe that he exists, knows all, sees all and can do all. You believe that he created and controls everything. Almighty. Yet, you see the need to regularly, vehemently defend him from banter on Jack Dorsey’s Twitter? It doesn’t make sense. Why does God need you to defend him?
Except of course, you are defending yourself, protecting the sanctity of your belief and community. Perhaps we believe in God because we need to. Perhaps it is the only way this world makes sense. Perhaps we are powerless, oppressed Nigerians who need to believe that we lowkey have a power above every other power, and that God will eventually bring judgment to the many who oppress us. Perhaps we need a sense of protection, from the 1000 Nigerian ways to die.
Perhaps I am saying too much. Perhaps Twitter is driving me crazy. Perhaps I should stick to topics I am more convinced about. Ehen, what else happened on Twitter recently? Aha! Kuda Bank vs. stupid men.
Speaking about affirmative action.
I watched that Kuda Bank saga with horror. Affirmative action is not rocket science. Young Africans, especially, should understand it. In technology, only 28.8% of the global workforce are women. Only 5% of global VC went to female led startups in 2020. Why is this the case? The pipelines are more difficult for women. From basic education to “IT is not for women” to family models to workplace discrimination.
People who oppose affirmative action probably assume that there is equality already. Or that to foster equality, both sides should be treated equally, immediately. Meanwhile, to bridge the inequality gap, opportunities must be specially created for the historically disadvantaged. We cannot just declare equality moving forward. We have to consciously provide opportunity.
Historical inequality decides the present. If men have always occupied certain positions, men will continue to. Therefore, somebody would need to say “we must now reserve this ratio for women!” It is the only way. What affirmative action does is provide an upward pull, one that can perpetuate itself.
There are those who suggest that this results in hiring less qualified people. First, that may be wildly derogatory. Also, untrue. Here, women are not less qualified than men. They only are when they have been denied the education/experience they require. Then there are those who say that it denies qualified men of opportunities. Well, isn’t that a stupid indictment of the discrimination we talk about? You admit that men will dominate positions if some are not reserved for women. And it is okay for women to be denied?
Affirmative action is equality. It is never “too much” until there is total, verifiable equality. And “ugh, don’t make this about gender” is often sexism with a mask on.
Sigh. It’s almost like I can’t write anything without sprinkling some feminism. Skrrr. I’m still at this party anyway. This vodka is still in my system. School, God, affirmative action. Why so serious? I should use my mind for less formal engagements. I should let it wander. You’re finally done, McCoy. What happens next, McCoy? What happens first? What are the vibes?
What are the vibes? In summary, the vibes are your exit from this school system, the return of your belief, the freedom you have been granted to achieve new things, the fortification of your mentality, the liberation of your mind. The conviction, that even if grades betray you, it is too late for doubt. The assurance that people who lose you, lose. It doesn’t matter how they treat you, your worth is indelibly intrinsic. The resolution, that it is okay to be confident, fierce, ubiquitous. It is okay to bet on yourself. Humility is overrated and there are no rewards for shyness.
The vibes are your options. Maybe you will return to your writing jobs. Maybe not. Maybe for now. You have missed out on some opportunities, but you also got what you always wanted. That firm. And the one year you wanted. Was it a good plan? You get to find out. Come on, abroad can wait.
You know that your hyper will die soon. Your melancholic will return. You will be confronted with the dreadful realization that moving forward, your life is entirely in your hands. There is no school to decide your schedule, no institution to blame. But it is also liberating, isn’t it? Who are you outside this system? They’re about to find out.
You will now decide which city to move to. At least for the meantime. Maybe love life will be easier. Maybe God will bless somebody’s daughter this year. Hallelujah. Oh you’re going to buy some new shit, because you can. Maybe you’ll dye your hair. Maybe you’ll get piercings. Maybe you’ll check ticket prices. You can do this, these.
The vibes are your skill. Oleku. They love how you fit the words in, how you turn and pound. For everyone who loves your writing, there will be orgasms in April. Midnight in Lagos will end your wrestle with Nigeria. Insha Allah, it will be foreign cities after. You beat GERD, anxiety and Law School within the past year, life has to come through with the good bits now. The vibes are your youth. You’re late, but you’re here. Finally. And you still feel good.
She is turning around to eye you. It has been half an hour. You have your left hand in her hair and your right on her waist. Oh that arc is elegant. You would give it a 9. No, an 8. Not enough composure. You cannot blame her though. She is swinging back and forth. She is cursing. She is saying things none of you would remember. They said men who cannot dance cannot do this. They must be fucking crazy. Because here you are, fucking crazy.
Rats! The bed is creaking. The damned thing will give you away. You should slow down. The sheets are already wet. But these women are blessed with multiple arrivals. So you are still at it. For as long as she wants. For as long as she likes it. You are here to serve. What is the record? Now, she is calling you daddy. Ugh! It should be fuel to your engines. Instead, you stop midway to think.
One day, your children will call you that.
You would be that old. Yuck. Would you still feel like this, move like this? Would you even want this as much? This heat and firm that flows through you, would it die?
Is it already dying? Remember, you’re 25. That’s almost 40. And you have been sitting at that table for too long, studying Ethics. NLS vs. libido. Tell me, does your guy still work?
Well, it is midnight in Abuja. There is only one way to find out.