Uncle Folly: Do You Know Who I Am?


Queue at a Fuel Station; credits: punchng.com

Uncle Folly was one of the bus drivers at my primary school. There was also Uncle Doyin and later Sir Jido. I am not sure which of the Yoruba names ‘Folly’ must have been a short form of. It could have been from ‘Folorunsho’, ‘Afolabi’ or something like that. One afternoon at a filling station, Uncle Folly brought the school bus up behind a Datsun saloon car but with some space in between and it was that space that a just-arriving driver of a Peugeot 504 tried to maneuver into. Uncle Folly went to have a word with him but it seemed one word would not be enough. Uncle Folly shouted in the man’s face “Se o mo bi mo se je sha?” which translates “Do you know who I am?” The other man replied: “Firigbon o silekun o, eni to ni kokoro dani ni” loosely translated a key opens the door not physical size. He did a bit of punching the air and Uncle Folly folded his arms. He pulled off his shirt and turned his back to show Uncle Folly series of scars. Uncle Folly smiled then dipped his right hand in his pocket to bring out a ring.

He did, one dull metal ring with an ugly circle. The other driver took to his heels and we never got the chance to know if Uncle Folly’s ring really had any powers but those words acquired a correlative status with Uncle Folly’s image in my memory hence becoming ‘Uncle Folly Do-you-know-who-I-am’.

We sometimes hear people boast of how they could do terrible things to some others seemingly on the lower rungs of the ladder of life. We respect money and status or an appearance that purports to reflect them. People’s perception of their own worth has even many times shunted far from reality, rather propped up by delusions of grandeur based on association, birth, religion or Twitter followers and average number of retweets. A rich man disobeys traffic rules and calls the bluff of the LASTMA official because he is a friend to the Commissioner on Waste Disposal. When two side mirrors collide on a Lagos road, it is usually the one with the more expensive automobile who would wear a smug look before asking “So, what do you want us to do now?” Where people seem evenly matched in their apparels, they engage in a name-dropping contest interspersed with series of “do you know who I am?” till there appears a possibly more influential name on one person’s side. It is life in this clime, a game more easily influenced by the perceived identity of the players than their proven skill. It is however good to have a good grasp of people’s true identities, it can be very helpful in handling situations. A bit of skepticism does everyone some good.

Knowing who you are as a person is just quite as important as knowing the real identity of whoever you are relating with irrespective of the nature of the relationship, be it mere acquaintances, business partners or more intimate connections. If you have a clear idea of what you want, you may be better able to seek the knowledge of how to get it. You can also tell when you are getting the short end of the stick. It is for that purpose there is such a thing as introspection which I think we should all spare time doing. One identifies where he belongs, where to do more, where to make changes and where to consolidate. There’s also a reassurance birthed ahead of encounters with blustering fellows. I like Sinach’s song, ‘I Know Who I Am’ which reigned supreme in Christian circles a little while ago. It’s a song I believe is borne out of meditation on the gospel and a melodious rendition of affirmations about kingdom identity. Meditation is the believer’s secret to revelations about his identity and while introspection deals more with an evaluation of the self, meditation ushers an entry into an abundance of divine truths and convictions that greatly shape a believer’s outlook towards life and success. How sweet to be able to relate with the two.

There was a time I tried to play the game of assumed identity that nearly ended in disaster. I was 16 and fresh out of secondary school, making one of my first few independent trips to Lagos from Ijebu Ode. Rather than alight at Berger bus stop where I had disembarked on two occasions, I decided to go with the bus to Ojota. I asked a man how to get a bus going to Abule-Egba and he asked me to follow him. Shortly after crossing the expressway, the man broke into a sprint and momentarily, I remembered tales from Ijebu of men running mad having been remote-controlled by village witches. I was stupefied, trying to decide whether to pursue and rally help for my benefactor or just go on my way. Then it happened, a calloused hand grabbed my wrist, accompanied by a stern look. “You don’t know that crossing the expressway is an offence in Lagos?” the man seemed to ask and accuse at the same time as it settled within my consciousness that he was a Policeman in mufti. Two of his colleagues were in a futile pursuit of the other man and only then I realized he must have been at alert, always guiding as street lingo would put it.

I was ushered into a waiting bus where about seven other people dreamily looked on, griping about their ignorance.  Some minutes later, we were at the Police station where the Policemen wasted no time asking us to bail ourselves out with N3000 each or be ushered into a cell. The nearest cell within sight had two young men stripped to their boxers and I just could not imagine spending a minute inside the filthy place. I brought out my Samsung blue-led phone, it was one of the cool phones amongst my social circle at the time so I thought it would attract some respect. Then I feigned a call to my ‘big-man-daddy’ who was angry that Policemen dared pick up his son. A Policeman laughed at me so hard I realized the futility of my game, others didn’t even pay me attention. I brought out the N1350 remaining on me and gave N1000 to the Policeman who had laughed at me while begging him to allow me keep the N350 so I could get home. He was kind enough to let me keep N300 after taking away N50 for his own pure water as he put it. I walked out a dejected and confused teenager learning about living in Lagos. It was 6pm and I had a long way to go.  

Tobi Adebowale


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