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Opinions of Friday, 20 July 2018

Columnist: Ugolee Emmanuel/Facebook

Ugolee Emmanuel writes: How my Nigerian accent saved my life in Baltimore

Here is the scenario from yesterday at 1:30pm but before that, you know I live in Baltimore city, Maryland where the world's number one hospital John Hopkins happens to be. It's a pleasure and a privilege to have the world's best doctors look after you but sadly, the FBI a few months ago declared Baltimore Americas most violent city.

There is a death every day in Baltimore. Only once in the last year did she celebrate 3 straight days of no killings in the city. 3 deaths were recorded on the 4th day.

In 1995, I was in the world's 2nd most violent university (Enugu State university) aka E shoot, aka war college. So I know the rules to survival. e.g.

Mind your business,

Watch your associates,

Remember women are the quickest way to die, No late night movements etc.

And I very gladly refreshed my caution skills.

Yesterday however, the city confronted me with its nature unannounced.

Driving to my car insurance office, I noticed a diversion from a police road block on Belair road. Not knowing the city much, I depend a lot on GPS for movement and so quickly followed the re-routing instructions. It took me thru two left turns and led me right back to the road that was blocked.

At this point, I saw 2 dead bodies on the road and so many police vehicles. Not a nice sight. I put my car on reverse and dear GPS said to move straight. As I kept moving, the road got narrower. Then it suddenly stops. Dead end. And GPS says : make a "U Turn".

Having turned around, I was in a fix because the route ahead was blocked by cops and the one I came in through was a one way drive. See wahala. I parked to think for a second when it started to rain cats and dogs with a few anthelops.

Just when I was thinking "O dear! What a day." I hear a loud bang on my car. Before I could look behind, another bang with metal on my glass. "Down Down" the massive fellow said. Not time to argue so quietly wound down. Gun straight to my chin. Pushing my head back words. "What you looking for?" He asked.

Ol boy! I died. Fingers having a tremor party on my stirring. I opened my mouth in my deepest naija accent and most incoherent sentence I have ever made came out: "l..l.. l am lost. Police block ahead. One way on left. Please which way is best?"

Then the bearded guy bent over to look at me and said with a far less aggressive tone "You ain from around here?" Ah. Me ke? Around where. "No No. Africa. From Africa" I said. Then he points me in another direction after warning me to stay off an alley next time.

I thanked him and sped off. Took awhile to realize that I was still getting wet from the wound down glass. I went straight home to finish the prayer I was mumbling in the car.

I can just imagine if I had gotten used to the "wanna gonna" and laid it on him. Making it hard for him to tell where I was from? Na so "Phurne' " for just kill me for nothing.

Abeg o. Don't be surprised if you call me and I sound like someone straight out of Wakanda. In fact, I doubt if "Emmanuel" is African enough for a name here. You may add the sound Wamba Umba to my name. Just so you know where I am from. Lol

But on a serious note. I have never been one to think that adopting an FAA (Foreign Acquired Accent) is an achievement of any sort.

Personally, I feel a lot of people can quickly tell the bootleg version of accents and often hold their laughs in as you amuse them with a go at sounding foreign.

I agreed completely with Jay Jay Okocha who told the then President Good luck Jonathan on a lighter note that he and Nwankwo Kanu deserved the MON award for being the only two footballers to spend almost 20years across the world and return with their thick igbo accents intact.

It's a thing of pride to sound like you. It has great advantages. Many times people find it attractive and sexy. Lol. Yes. You should see my mouth open when I listen to a South African girl mixing English with her language in her thick accent. Oh and whenever the clicking sound drops. I'm gone.

Anyway, I found a completely new advantage to my Nigerian accent yesterday. One I would never forget. It saved my life.