Heart of Arts

Brother Bernard!

Toyin Falola

Back in the days when I used to stay in a face-me-I-slap-you apartment in Surulere, I used to have a neighbour whom everyone fondly called Brother Bernard. Brother Bernard happened to have fled from the seminary on the day he was to be ordained as a Catholic priest. It was at the point of ordination that Brother Bernard realized that becoming a Catholic priest meant that he would be single forever. How was he supposed to resist all the Bakassii and bress on the streets of Lagos? Ko possible now! When he first told me he was going to the seminary, I laughed so hard because I thought it was a prank. “You want to go to the seminary because you are named Brother Bernard, and you think that is a sign from God that you are called to be a Priest?” I laughed again. Everyone who knew Brother Bernard knew that there was one thing he didn’t fail at, which was falling into people’s hands. Brother Bernard is not the one to trust with anything important or dear to you; he will not fail to disappoint you. Brother Bernard, best in falling my hand!

Brother Bernard complained about his joblessness to me, and out of goodwill, I connected him to one of my friends who runs a big logistics company in Lagos to give him a job as a delivery guy. I had spoken well of Brother Bernard and assured my friend that he would do well. On the day of the interview, after being offered the job and cleared by HR, Brother Bernard went to see my friend to appreciate him for his help. Only for him to look down at my friend’s shoes and burst out in laughter. If I am being honest, my friend wears chuu, not shoes. His major flaw is that he has horrible taste in shoes, and because we all cannot be perfect, I have learned to overlook it and not allow it to affect our friendship, but I am yet to understand why he only has eyes for gbenusoke and very ugly-shaped shoes. I made the mistake of thinking that Brother Bernard would be able to handle the situation because who actually laughs at their helpers’s chuu if not Brother Bernard? I begged my friend to overlook his stupidity and still employ him. Brother Bernard was employed with respect to our shared affiliation. Brother Bernard really disappointed me, but the height of it was when he was to deliver milky doughnuts to a customer, and he ate one of them in traffic, saying he was hungry. Ah! Which kain wahala be this forgursake? Brother Bernard, you fall my hand! That was how Brother Bernard lost his job as a dispatch rider.

Not long after, he got another job as a housekeeper for the Inspector General of Police who stays in Victoria Island. His problem with this job was that Oga’s wife had a big backside that Brother Bernard couldn’t resist. As he described his Oga’s wife, I knew he wouldn’t last at his job, but I held my peace so I wouldn’t sound like the representative his village people sent to prevent him from making it in Lagos. Due to the nature of the IG’s job, he rarely stayed at home, but Madam was a full-time housewife. One fateful day, as I was jejely minding my business, I received a call from an unknown number, Brother Bernard’s voice sounding like one who was about to make his last wish. He said, “TF, help me, help me, Oga don carry me go where I no know.” Ah! Again? Which kain wahala be this?

It happened that Oga returned home unexpectedly and caught Brother Bernard in bed with his wife. Brother Bernard tried explaining that Madam had been complaining of severe back and waist pain, and as a good Samaritan, he offered to help her massage it with the anointing oil his pastor had blessed in church, and that was how he started rubbing Madam’s waist, and the rest was the work of the devil, and madam is that devil. Ah! Brother Bernard! First, Oga ordered his boys to give Brother Bernard the beating of his life. The boys beat him black and blue and then locked him behind bars in Kirikiri for a few days before he was released. Ah! Brother Bernard, you fall my hand!

The slang “Brother Bernard” became a trend on social media after a woman dived into the open grave of Reverend Father Bernard during his funeral in Ghana while shouting, “Ah! Brother Bernard!” Social media amplified this moment into funny memes, and the slang has since then been used to humorously shade random embarrassing moments of people falling while walking on the street, falling or slipping on the stairs or football clips where a footballer is being dribbled and other funny moments. For instance, you can picture a scenario where someone who is being chased collides with a woman hawking crates of eggs on the streets. As you can imagine, the crates of eggs on her head suddenly fall to the ground, and someone shouts, “Ah! Brother Bernard!”

Brother Bernard is also used to describe situations of disappointment, which may include relationships, academics, or any disappointing situation where someone falls your hand by doing the unexpected. If a friend was served a relationship breakfast, you can humorously express your disappointment by exclaiming, “Ah! Brother Bernard! So, you see fit chop breakfast?” Or when you find out that that coursemate who acts like he knows it all and oppresses other students with his intelligence later failed the course he has always bragged about. You can funnily express your disappointment by saying, “Ah! Brother Bernard!”

When this trend first started, I took it personally because it reminded me of my old friend, Brother Bernard. If only you knew Brother Bernard, this slang would be funnier to you. Not only did Brother Bernerd have unfortunate experiences at getting jobs, or that he always got into trouble in his sexcapades with women, or that he fled from the seminary on the day of his ordination, Brother Bernerd’s village people seemed to take special interest in him that they vowed not to let him go.

After several failed attempts to stay at one job, Brother Bernard kept gallivanting from one job to another. He hardly stayed one full month at any job. The longest he stayed was three weeks at a dry cleaning job in Ebute Metta. I was almost happy that he would at least get a full month’s pay for this dry cleaning job, and hopefully, he would stay at it. Not until after three weeks was Brother Bernard dismissed from that job because he wore a client’s agbada and fila to an Owambe, and had the guts to take pictures with the cloth and post on his Facebook page with the caption “Saturdays are for Owambe.” Egbami! It is the audacity for me!

If it were mental illness, I would have referred him to Yaba; if it were a spiritual problem, I would have recommended Olukoya’s Mountain of Fire so all his enemies could die by fire. Or to white garment churches where they will tie him at the beachside and flog his head with seven brooms and candle waxes because “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” – Proverbs 22:15

Brother Bernard later ventured into gambling since he was too unfortunate to get a job and stay at it. Any kobo that entered his hands was used to make Baba Ijebu richer. He once gambled with 20 thousand naira and won 1.5 million naira. You would think luck had had its way with Brother Bernard, and maybe he would have the sense to do something meaningful with the money and get his life together. But Brother Bernard gambled again with the 1.5 million he won, hoping to win 10 Million Naira with it. This time, he lost the bet. Did you just shout Ah! Brother Bernard!? No, it did not end there. Since he lost all his money to Baba Ijebu, he decided to start working at the betting centre as an attendant. One week in, he started using the company’s profit to play bets until his boss found out and gave him an ultimatum to pay back all the money within a week. Then, Brother Bernard ran to me again, as per his lifesaver that I was and asked me to borrow him 500k to pay his boss. My first thought was that if I had that kind of money he mentioned, what was I doing in a face-me-I-slap-you apartment where I would be tolerating the insolence and misfortune of Brother Bernard? I could not render him any help on this matter, and after a week, his boss stormed into our compound with street boys to find Brother Bernard, who was nowhere to be found.

The boys became furious, broke into his room and took all his belongings, which was basically nothing valuable. Brother Bernard did not return to that house till I left. I thought he only fled because of his debt, but we later found out that he had caused another wahala: Brother Bernard had impregnated Sedi, our landlord’s only daughter. Ha! Brother Bernard! Our landlord, Baba Soldier, vowed to see the end of Brother Bernard. I was not too surprised when I heard that Sedi accused Brother Bernard of impregnating her because there was no disappointment that was beyond Brother Bernard’s cause. I had seen enough of him already that any news on Brother Bernard could not catch me by surprise.

There was no way to reach Brother Bernard; he had disappeared into thin air. Did he go back to the seminary? Or where exactly did Brother Bernard flee to? I have not heard of Brother Bernard since I left that house in Surulere. As for Sedi, our landlord’s only daughter, her father later removed the pregnancy, as nobody wants to give birth to another version of Brother Bernard. He too dey fall hand!

Here is some good news: I ran into Brother Bernard in Nairobi yesterday. I will look for the hunter’s net to capture him!

PS: This piece was written in Nairobi at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies. I appreciate the Director of the School, as well as Dr. Peter Wekesa, who facilitated my trip.

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