The Kagoro Motel is a scary place. Even in the bright sunshine of a late Saturday afternoon, it can give one the shivers. Though still in full operation, there’s an emptiness here that suggests a checkout time of 11 am…..twenty years ago. Deserted hallways lead to lonely rooms, with an echo the only response received to a call for assistance. Norman Bates would have second thoughts about running this place, especially since the showers aren’t up to his standards. Despite its spookiness, the motel has become a central gathering place for the community. A neighbouring building houses the sole dance club in the village, although it’s unlikely to ever be confused with Studio 54. Its sound system is impressive, however, as it keeps the volume pumped on an extensive repertoire of five songs. I’ve drifted off to sleep to the subtle lyrics of P-Square’s “Do Me” enough times that the song is burned into my subconscious like some kind of macho brainwashing for bashful nerds.
At the entrance of the motel, a suya stand offers grilled meat to those who don’t ask too many questions. When I first arrived in Kagoro, I asked my neighbour whether the motel was a good place to eat. He cheerfully replied that all three of the previous VSO volunteers who ate there became sick afterwards, but he’d be happy to go with me if I wanted to try it. Well, sign me up! If nothing else, the motel offers consistent results, but any place that could promote itself as “No shirt, No shoes, No salmonella” is worth a miss.
The motel does offer a nice courtyard/parking lot at the rear of the main building where one can sit under a tree and enjoy a drink or two. There’s usually a handful of locals also taking advantage of the cool shade and cooler Star beer. My exchanges with them rarely go beyond the customary greetings and Queen Elizabeth waves, but every now and then, curiosity gets the better of someone and he needs to find out more about the batauris in their midst. This is usually when the fun begins. On this particular occasion, Kristel and I are waiting for our drinks and the day to draw to a close when a man walks up to our table and offers to introduce us to everyone in the courtyard. Since there are only four other people seated nearby, his shouted introductions only take a minute or two. Describing himself as being from the US, he also assigns a country of origin to Kristel and me, and I begin to doubt his geographical sanity, since Kristel looks about as Chinese as I do Ghanaian. He wishes us a good afternoon and disappears into the restaurant, only to reappear a minute later with a chair in hand and a look of determination on his face. Approaching our table, he asks us whether we would like some company, an offer not meant to be refused.
Sitting down across from us, he introduces himself as Goodvoice. A name like that is not uncommon in Nigeria, with many monikers straight out of a James Bond movie. Often, names are given according to the circumstances surrounding one’s birth, so someone born on a Sunday is named Sunday, for example. I've even heard of someone called Borntooearly, which either reflects a premature birth or his parents' displeasure at his arrival so early in the morning. Desirable attributes such as Patience and gracious actions like Comfort and Blessing also appear on the register. And then there's the security guard at the Foundation whose name is Black. I had to check to make sure I had heard that correctly, since calling him Black by mistake would likely cause him to take offence and lead to my immediate demise, given that he’s the size of a small SUV. I was assured that it really was his name; according to one of my coworkers, his parents looked at him when he was born and said, “Well, he’s black”. Let me pause here to express my appreciation that similar naming conventions aren’t usually followed by parents in Canada. I’d hate to have to introduce myself as Baldbaby or Shitsalot.
But getting back to Goodvoice. Not surprisingly, he identifies his chosen career as artist/singer/radio personality. He pulls a form from his pocket and shows it to us. For the reasonable price of 100 naira, I could have him dedicate five songs of my choosing to whomever I want. I even have my pick of radio shows where the dedications can appear. I briefly consider the possibilities: “Folsom Prison Blues” for Conrad Black; “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” to Hockey Night in Canada; “Fool on the Hill” for Stephen Harper; “Mr. Cellophane” to Stéphane Dion. But instead, I just hand the form back to him with thanks. Smiling broadly, he folds the paper and returns it to his pocket while moving on to the next topic of interest to him. “Have you eaten Nigerian food?”, he asks. Kristel and I nod and list off the staples, including rice, beans and yam. Taking his cue from the strays wandering the courtyard, he leans in and asks conspiratorially, “What about dog?”
I admit that I haven’t yet tried that particular delicacy and Kristel shakes her head as well. Flipping the question back to Goodvoice, he says he hasn’t eaten crispy canine since he was a boy. At this point, one of the patrons at the neighbouring table, who had been taking a keen interest in our conversation, jumps in with a claim that Goodvoice is still indulging in a Scooby snack now and again. Aghast, Goodvoice cleverly plays the rubber band and bounces the same allegation back at his accuser. For the next five minutes, the two play tennis with escalating claims of hotdogging of a different kind, ending with each pointing a finger at the other as the worst betrayer of man’s best friend. None of this is serious, of course, and the two enjoy a good laugh before Goodvoice asks us about our experience with eating cats. At this point, we gently move the conversation to another topic, but not before I realize that I haven’t seen any cats in Kagoro since I arrived.
Eventually, our drinks come to an end and so does our time with Goodvoice. We thank him for his company and walk out of the courtyard, just in time to hear “Do Me” kick off the Saturday night dance party in style.