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The Last Portmanteau
Published Oct 22, 2022 IN THE REALITIES,
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A Portmanteau (colloquially pronounced as “portmento” in Nigeria) is a large traveling bag, typically made of stiff leather and opening into two equal parts. There are other sides of the portmanteau. In Nigeria, for example, it can be of wood, metal, aluminum or gold. And it comes in various sizes and for various purposes.

Though the item is primarily used for storing clothes in homes, especially by women and children, it became more popular in the country as instrument of use by primary school pupils newly admitted into post primary boarding schools (colleges as they were known then) after successful participation in the necessary admission processes. At this level, the portmanteau was not just a box for the safekeeping of clothes, but for the storing of other things that required to be hidden from fellow students.

The possession of the box was one of the most exciting belongings cherished by children of the peasant villagers who got opportunities to travel out of their local birth places to the cities as a result of being admitted into boarding schools.

Meanwhile, the use of portmanteaus by boarding house students appears to have been “outlawed” unofficially among students. Many are now given to using fanciful traveling bags in place of the once most valued possession commonly found in the hands of students of colleges and grammar schools in Nigeria.

And high value was also placed on “college” boys and girls in those days of schools like St. Patrick’s college, Asaba, Ika grammar school, Agbor, Edo College, Benin city, Urhobo college, Warri, King’s college, Lagos and Christ the King’s college, Onitsha amongst others. Seeing them at commercial motor parks with this item was a beautiful sight to behold by their admirers.

Just as students have started using fanciful traveling bags in place of “portmentos”, those who hitherto stored their clothes and other cosmetic valuables in them have shifted to the use of wardrobes for similar purposes

 One remarkable feature of the portmanteau is that its owner takes the most time in arranging or removing things inside of it. The valuables such as gold wrist watches, clothes and trinkets for special occasions have allocated sections in the ‘portmento’ while the owner go to have contact with it only when the need arises. She or he does not live in the box.

However, there is another type of portmanteau. It is the last portmanteau a men or women can ever possess on earth. She or he “lives” inside of it with its other contents. The owner does not have control over what the box contains. And when the time comes to open it, she or he has no power to stop the opener from doing whatever she or he (the opener) wants to do with it. The other name for the last portmanteau is the casket or coffin. Nobody, no matter how lowly or highly placed can ever escape the ownership of this box whose colour, cost or size are determined by other people she or he once loved or hated.

One of these species of portmanteau was unveiled in Britain on the 18th of September, 2023. It was provided for the late Queen Elizabeth of England. While she laid there with her crown as the most powerful monarch in the world, something she could not prevent happened – the officiating Anglican priest who hitherto bowed in reverend to her ordered that all the paraphernalia of kingship around her, including her crown be removed before she could be seen to have been bided proper farewell to the great beyond.

Her son, Charles has since been crowned in her stead as the King of England. The only title left behind for Elizabeth is “former queen”. Her deeds have also continued to provoke some discourse in modern politics, whether or not they are in her favour. She cannot challenge posterity. Nigerians are quick to remember her as one that lowered the union jack flag that ushered the country into political independence on the 1st of October 1960.

In Asaba, Delta state, another similar scenario occurred on the 14th day of October 2022 at an event centre along the popular DBS road. The occasion was the Christian funeral service in honour of late Mrs. Rose Nzeteh. Speaker after speaker paid glowing tributes to the life and times of the departed soul.

As he performed his duties on that day, one of the officiating ministers of God recollected how the late mother of eight children was so supportive to the course of advancing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ by ensuring that her Pastors never lacked whatever it took to win souls to God’s kingdom.

In his tribute, her first son-in-law, Mr. Frank whyte Osabohian wrote; “I cannot forget the day mama visited my house on one faithful morning. She said she was led by the Spirit of God to visit us. That was the day she advised that I should hold on to God despite all that I was passing through at that time. When she asked of my wife, I told her (mama) that she had left for her duty post at Agbor. Mama then brought out huge sum of money from her bag and handed it over to me with a charge to tell no one about it”. Though the instruction was to tell no one about mama’s kind gesture, the Frank whyte could not resist the temptation to remember his mother-in-law for this philanthropic act at the funeral service site on the 14th of October, 2022.

Both Queen Elizabeth and Mama Rose are being remembered today for their deeds, not for material possessions or seats they occupied during church services while their stay on earth lasted. One question then arises; “how will you be remembered after taking permanent residence in your last portmanteau?”


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