I do love my shoes. I wish I could simply say “I love shoes”, but that would mean competing with at least  two people in my life that I know too well. (Stop looking around Yemi). I don’t love shoes that much, but the few ones I have, I love them very much, and would do anything to keep them looking good. Well, not everything really, but if they get good polishing and get prevented from submerging in mud, I would be grateful indeed. And there lies the problem. It is raining season here in much of Nigeria and the consequence of that is plenty street puddles after every rain. It doesn’t help having to ride on bikes around town. No matter how shiny the shoe is in the morning, by evening, it is dusty when there is no rain and muddy when there is.

There was this joke about a guy who met someone who wouldn’t stop showing off his new wristwatch. The wristwatch guy comes in with all confidence looking at his watch once every two seconds, pretending to be pressed for time. “I’m in a hurry,” he said, “Do you know the way to…” let’s call it… “Miguel Street? I have to be there in less than ten minutes.” The other guy who had also just got a new shoe stretched forth his leg and tried to describe the way to the former’s destination. “You want to go to Miguel Street? Just go forward like this,” he said, pointing with his feet, “and then turn right, and left, and right again…” I have sometimes felt like the other guy. “Oh Kola, you look so tall,” people would say, and I’d respond in the now typical way, “Oh no, it’s the shoes I’m wearing.” They would look down at them, then at me, shake their heads, “No way man”, smile and go their way. It works only when my shoes are shiny and well polished. Otherwise, I am the one who is left feeling silly.

There is another joke I always remembered. It goes like this, that women remember the shape, colour, and size of a man’s shoes on a first date than anything else. Why? Because whenever they avoid eye contact, their eyes would inevitably rest on the man’s foot. I have never dared to keep my shoes unpolished since I first heard the quasi-sexist joke. I may wear a shirt not well ironed, or a pair of jeans that I’ve worn for a few days already, but my shoes will always be polished. Yesterday, things changed. Badly.

My polish can was nowhere to be found and I had to get out of the house on time, so I planned to meet with my reliable cobbler right in front of the University gate to do what he always did. But by the time I got there and he wasn’t there. In his place were a dozen law enforcement agencies clearing his and other shops illegally erected along the fence of the shopping complex opposite the University. Whether they had given advance warning of the raid to those shop owners or not is not the question here, but that my favourite cobbler was nowhere to be found, and his stall had been levelled and removed. And my shoe has remain muddied, or at best ugly ever since. I’ve not been able to retort to the now many people asking “Oh Kola, you have grown taller since I last saw you.”  Yeah right. It must be all the pizza I’ve been eating. It’s two days now without a shoe polish, and I’m about to lose it.

Okay, I’ll buy a new Kiwi polish tonight, but why should I take the fall for the state government’s late discovery of how best to make the city beautiful? No, they don’t get my sympathy now for finally waking up to their duties to clear the fence of the shopping complex of its many illegal squatters after all this years. I’m not asking for much. All I want is my cobbler back in his famous spot. Yes, the government’s action might be in the public service, I know. I would just love to say, “public service my foot!” if only for once, although I know that that the pun might get lost in the translation. 🙂

Caveat: This post should not be taken too seriously. The government policy to clean up the Shopping Complex at Agbowo is a very laudable project. You need to see how nice the place looks now.

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