ajagunna

I discuss Nigeria and the world at large because I strongly believe MyOpinionCounts!

Month: November, 2014

SundayStarter: Olabisi Ajala: Myths, Memory(-ies) and An African Abroad

Human memory is a limited medium of record preservation; put differently, the human memory pushes to the subconscious events/matters that are not immediately usable for many reasons, one of them being to “create space” to record newer materials. She does this to avoid overstretching, thus limiting the effect of wear and tear, which set in as we age. Imagine if an individual would have to daily “remember” all events (s)he has ever witnessed starting from birth! Aware of this limitation, we constantly backup our memory(-ies) in many ways imaginable. Discoveries of human records in anthropology confirm human ingenuity in record keeping.

Like music, the written word is one of such invented memory backup/refresher. The word-of-mouth is another relevant medium of backing-up human memory in this regard. Parents tell their children and the children tell their children to tell their children’s children so that they may not forget (completely). Talking about Mr. Ajala, I believe we memory-ed him mainly via these media, namely, song (music), oral history/narrative (word-of-mouth) and the written word (book).

The accuracy or truthfulness of recorded events can be tasking to establish, particularly with the oral medium. This does not mean songs and books are more reliable. I emphasized the oral medium because of its permanently liquid/floating state, i.e. hanging in the air to be narrative-ly plucked when needed. The error margin can be high. The reason for the difficulty is, word(s) of mouth, passed from A to B, then B to C, except recorded in a different medium other than the mouth, can hardly be accurately relayed. A Yoruba proverb confirms this:

“Oro atenudenu, ti o ba din, a le” “An oral situation-report from A to B to be relayed to C is overtime always incompete, it is either reduced in content or exaggerated.”

The awareness of the possibility of inaccuracy is good. We know we have to doubly fact-check (recorded) materials for accuracy, correctness and truth. There are many oral versions of happenings while Mr. Ajala’s traveled the world. I need not remind that many of them were peppered and spiced according to the teller’s taste. Take for instance the version I heard when I was a child:

Mr. Ajala was a Yoruba man, very rich businessman. He was world-famous and traveled the length and breadth of the earth. Every country he visited he married a wife who gave him a child. All these women never knew of their husband’s past so they willfully loved, married and catered for him. They bore him children because they loved him. Mr. Ajala met his Waterloo in India. His trip to India was to be executed accordingly, but the woman he married in India had a power far too powerful than Mr. Ajala. With her witchcraft she found out her husband was a real cheat. She killed him.

Beyond the fact that Mr. Ajala traveled to India, nothing in the account could be farther from the truth. I suspect this version must have originated from a source who read Mr. Ajala’s book or only the first few pages. Aware that the book started with a chapter on his visit to India, the rest was easily garnered from fantasy. We need to commend this version. At least it did not dismiss Mr. Ajala’s adventure as a mere fairy-tale.

Chief Ebenezer Obey attempted to backup human memory as regards Mr. Ajala. Below are those popular song-lines that preserve the adventure of this unique Nigerian:

You have traveled allover the world

Ajala traveled allover the world

Ajala traveled, Ajala traveled

Ajala traveled allover the world

When Chief Ebenezer Obey waxed this song, it was an attempt at sing-praising a worthy socialite into national conscience. The song-lines did not go beyond telling us the character traveled around the world, since it was not waxed mainly to sing-praise this character alone, probably more would have been said of his adventures. However, the little was absolutely enough to impress him in our memory.

Mr. Ajala is dead. Many who knew or heard of him might have long forgotten this uncommon Nigerian, but whenever those song-lines are heard, hummed or played, the exploits of a great man are brought to consciousness and consequently celebrated. For the human memory, that Ah! and Oh! moment would come back. In that instant, the individual is pressed to tell again what he knew of Mr. Ajala and his adventures around the world.

No exaggeration, going by events related in Mr. Ajala’s book, he would fit the Yoruba character of valor whose achievements are great and excellently so, to think of such as one (wo)man would be out-of-place. So (s)he is respectfully addressed as seven-(wo)man. Remember, seven represents perfection. No doubt, Mr.Ajala’s achievement made him a world-citizen extraordinaire.

Already in Mr. Ajala’s time, he was becoming a phenomenon; he was a star. His contemporaries saw it, and his legendary status was already being celebrated while he was with them. Here an excerpt from Mr. Ajala’s book:

Well, then, sir, you must be Mr. Ajala from Nigeria. My name is Mustapha Saliu Lawal. I came from Lagos, Nigeria. My friends who met you yesterday told me about you. I have read alot about you in the Nigerian papers before I came to Russia, and one of your brothers, now in London, is a very good friend of now. I am now downstairs with two other Nigerian friends of mine. (Page 81, Olabisi Ajala, An African Abroad)

Israel’s Foreign Secretary, Mrs. Meir was quick to recognize him and his work. She granted him an interview. Hear the introductory part of Mr. Ajala’s account:

Shalom, Mr. Ajala (…) I was quick to repeat her word of greeting. Shalom, your Excellency. You will hardly appreciate how deeply grateful I am to you for allowing me into Israel after causing you and your officials so much headache. (…) It’s not often we have this kind of trouble, your bravery impressed us. We thought we should crown it. (…) Israel is as much your home as Nigeria. (Page 152, Olabisi Ajala, An African Abroad)

To many, who were already of age in the 1960s when Mr. Ajala traveled the world, he was the best synonym for globetrotting. Unfortunately, over the years, his adventure became something of a faraway “non-existent” myth. Many children born around late 1950s and early 1960s when he globe-trotted did even know Mr. Ajala wrote a book. Now, if that be so, then we can safely conclude that in the memory of millions of Nigerians born in the 1980’s and below Mr. Ajala was simply another “confirmed” Ijapa-story, i.e. a fairy-tale. I need not remind us that fairy-tales are beautifully created fictions weaved around wonderful human fantasies.

Yoruba language is a tonal language. A word may bear in it many meaning depending on pronunciation. This sense is figuratively transported/reflected for example in the categorization of apology. We say “Pele lako, o labo”. An apology can be “male”- insincerely offered or “female”- heartfelt/sincere. Same is applicable to pejoratives passed off as commendation or simply expressed to scorn. Sometimes, it can be outright ridicule. Lets take a look at some of these (pejorative) expressions coined in relation to Mr. Ajala’s adventure:

(1) “Lai kii se Ajala!” “But you are not Mr. Ajala!” (2) “Ajala ni!” “(S)he is Mr. Ajala!” (3) “O fe di Ajala ni.” “(S)he wants to become Mr. Ajala.” (4) “O n bimo kiri bi Ajala.” “(S)he makes babies everywhere like Mr. Ajala”

I understand the danger of hasty generalization in this regard and I am aware context matters, but the truth is, many times these expressions are used, they are contextually used to joke or chide the individual concerned. There are questions to ask: (1) Why is Mr. Ajala’s name often used in connection to negative comparison? (2) Why do these expressions carry in them implicit admonitions to shun the Mr. Ajala’s type of adventure? (3) How and why did we let this happen?

The answer(s) is/are definitely multifarious, but not untraceable to our perception of indigenous memory, be it communicative, collective or cultural. Simply put, we tend to look our own achievements with scorn, so much so that we are quick to single out or project only the dirty or bad sides/images/figures of these achievements. We sometimes go as far as “creating” a badness for the achievement if we could not originally find one. Mr. Ajala’s character/image, I suppose, was a victim of negative narratives, which overtime the seem to be the overarching/prevalent narratives as reflected in the pejoratives.

I started reading Mr. Ajala’s own account of his travelogue with mixed feeling. One was that of excitement. Finally, I could read a personal narrative of this legendary figure. Another is, as I turned the pages, I realized my memory of this figure was coming back to me, one after the other; I read with prejudice. I had to consciously shut them out to read him objectively.

This is at the beginning of Mr Ajala’s book:

It is quite safe to say the worst and the best about India and Indians. Without being biased or unduly critical, one can identify Indians as appallingly ignorant savages, yet they belong to the most highly cultured and literary societies in the world. One can further describe India as the most hideous and, at the same time, the most colourfully fascinating of countries- in brief, every possible antonym may be used to classify and dissect this part of the world, and none will be far from the truth. (Page 19, Olabisi Ajala, An African Abroad)

Throughout the book, I came across contradictory, yet seemingly true comparisons like these in many of Mr. Ajala’s accounts and observations of the peoples, places and countries he visited. He was modest and careful not to stamp his observation as the singularly valid opinion about these peoples, places and countries. He made clear these are his personal observations and perception of the matter. One could not but have the feeling he was telling the truth. Besides, why doubt him since many of these accounts can be fact-checked.

Like his account on India, Mr. Ajala was sincerely detailed, almost to a fault, in his encounters with everyday life in the places and of the peoples he visited. Lets return to his account on India again to establish this:

With the exception of the Prime Minister, Jawaharl Nehru(..), most of the Indian people I met(…) were snobbish and intolerant, with detestable and annoying habits. For example, you are startled out of a pleasant sleep at 5 a.m. by the sound of someone who appears to be vomiting and in obvious agony at the wash-basin. You get up, full of sympathy and ready to help, only to find someone cleaning his teeth and cheerfully clearing his throat with the most disgusting sounds. (Page 20, Olabisi Ajayi, An African Abroad).

Detailed account like this cut across the book. These down-to-earth descriptions of experiences and encounters about/with the inhabitants of these spaces are characteristics only of good and objective travelogues. One can experience life of the locals about places one is yet to visit and get a feeling of being in their midst even if the reader is in faraway Germany.

Mr. Ajala was not only interested in the living conditions and ways of life of the locals, he was keen on getting to know same about African students in the countries. Aware that racial discrimination of all color and shade were at its peak around the time he made his trips, he did not take words of assurance from government or diplomatic sources for bare coins, particularly on the living conditions of African students. In India he spoke with African students who relayed the hostility of Indian students to Blacks. In his rapport with African students in The Soviet Union, this was how he introduced his discussion with them:

Just before I came to Moscow I was reading in one of the African papers (…) a serialized article by one of three students, all of whom had to leave Russia because they were being discriminated against, taught the workings of communism and insulted when in the company of their girlfriends. The same African who wrote these articles stated that he was often publicly attacked and beaten up by young Russian hoodlums. (Pages 82 and 83, Olabisi Ajala, An African Abroad)

This introduction was provocative, no doubt. Apparently, Mr. Ajala chose to introduce his chat this way to get as much details as possible from students who were confronted with daily-living in a country that is anything but black or colored. The responses of and account of daily-life recounted by the three students resulted in a lightly heated debate, which Mr. Ajala was sure to control so it did not degenerate into an all-shout-out-affair as it wont for Nigerians (Africans); a situation where all talked at the same time without hearing the other out. Reading in-between the lines, one sees that the students agreed African student life and the level of acceptance/warmness enjoyed could be better.

His interest in matters of race and discrimination was not limited to African students alone. His demand to be allowed to visit the Arab settlements in Israel was a pointer to Mr. Ajala’s keen interest in seeing an improvement in the extremely poor living conditions of these people. The Australians he met and spoke with were not spared questions about the unimaginable persecutions being suffered by the Aborigines of the land. Mr. Ajala wanted not only answers, he seemed to be appealing to the moral sense and humanity of the persecutor and the powerful to let be of evil. We are all god’s children.

Another interesting parts in the book were Mr. Ajala’s accounts of his meetings with the Heads of States (King, President, Prime Minister) in some countries. One could not but feel that Mr. Ajala was a daredevil. He cared not even for his life to realize his goal of meeting them. I held my breath when he told of his near-death encounter to cross the No-Mans-Land into Israel from Jordan. Really, he was only lucky to escape with his skin unhurt.

Especially insightful was the account of “Drama in Meeting Khrushchev”. He could have been dead because he was shot at, but for sheer luck; fate indeed meant it well with Mr. Ajala. Mr. Khrushchev, undoubtedly the strongest man of Soviet politics, for once feared for his life. And he showed it. He was afraid and he was unable to hide his helplessness. So, a man so powerful as Mr. Khrushchev, who controlled with iron-fist the fate and lives of hundreds of millions was not immune to fear. If Mr. Ajala’s successful meeting with the Kremlin Chief achieved nothing, it at least confirmed that those who wield (political) power are just as human as anyone of us.

I will not forget to remember this: at first, I found it lightly difficult to read sentences without a pause. The reason, I found out very quickly, was the way the English sentences were constructed. They were correct Standard English, no doubt, but I realized I was not only reading a book about the past, I was practically being transfigured into the past via the English diction and sentence construction style employed in the book. All in all, Mr. Ajala’s political travelogue and partly autobiography is a good read. I strongly recommend it.

J. M. G. Le Clézio: Onitsha, their Onitsha

Pa Ikhide

The novel Onitsha written by French author and 2008 Nobel laureate J. M. G. Le Clézio is a beautiful piece of fiction. Originally written in French and translated into English in 1997, it bears prose that steals your heart. Le Clézio can sustain quiet tension in a book and build up suspense. It does get silly in places where it succumbs to a puzzlingly mythical babble in which case it deteriorates from haunting prose to malarial hallucinations about the deities of Egypt and Ethiopia. As for the content and what it says about how the West sees Africans, it is an ugly book for it reveals the insidious patronizing attitudes of white liberals.

According to the blurb, “Onitsha tells the story of Fintan, a youth who travels to Africa in 1948 with his Italian mother to join the English father he has never met. Initially enchanted by the exotic world…

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Mrs. Oluremi Obasanjo: Life with an Animal

Pa Ikhide

Reprinted for archival purposes; first published November 30, 2009

Trolling books in search of pleasure is fraught with peril; one never knows what darkness lurks between the covers of a book. There is the danger of inheriting someone else’s demons. Life is too short for such burdens, but it happens. Patrick French’s stellar biography of the writer V.S. Naipaul The World Is What It Is is an excellent example of hard covered darkness. As you read that dark book, the mind simply recoils from Naipaul’s misogyny and the heart fills with the mystery of what depravity and deficits in self esteem would permit a woman to endure such horrors of misogyny. This is a long rambling way of saying for the record that no book has upset me more in recent times than Bitter-Sweet: My Life with Obasanjo, written by Mrs. Oluremi Obasanjo, Chief Matthew Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo’s first…

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Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): Our President Wants Second-Term!

Mr. Tanimomo is a scholar resident in Germany. He guest-blogs on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com He is author of the popular bi-weekly: Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM).

Mr. Tanimomo is a scholar resident in Germany. He guest-blogs on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com He is author of the popular bi-weekly: Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM).

Nigeria is one country that voted for a man because he declared *I had no shoes*. Nigerians certainly forgot in that moment the man in question is a career-politician with nearly 20 years of active naija-politicking. This man came around wearing a bowler hat on black traditional attire to declare he had no shoes. The contradiction could not have been more stark.

An acquaintance once counseled, *don’t ask a politician what he will do. He might lie. Ask him what he has done and you will know who he is*. Apparently, this wise counsel we largely ignored in 2011.

When President Jonathan contested, Nigerians did not bother to ask him how he had spent his nearly 20 years of service as Assitant Director of OMPADEC, Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President and President.

I suspect the godluck-fever was infectious, the dreams were high, it was desirable, the air was fresh and breathtaking and he was a ‘god-fearing’ man. So, we refused to harken to wise counsel, we refused to judge the man by the work of his hands. En masse, sans rigging, the gentleman from Otuoke became the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

Recent happenings are pointers to the fact that a large chair does not make a king. This president voted on good intentions has failed the electorate woefully. In spite of the numerous failures trailing the administration of the incumbent, it is unfortunate that our PhD-President is seeking a second term. It is irresponsible to go back to a lender of seed-yams to borrow more seed-yams, justifying/blaming such return on beetles, who ate up the previously borrowed seed-yams!

Worse is, this big fish, namely the president makes an enemy of those who point out the weaknesses in his sense of judgment. He is the proverbial man with head full of lice. Come to think of it: Should the man from whose head lice are being removed be ungrateful?

Personally, I am against baseless judgments and unnecessary comparisons. Like grand-ma would say, *you will kill one child for the other if you compare children*. So, considering objective performance yardsticks in critiquing the president’s, he still is not living up to expectation. Impeaching this president for underperforming would not have been exaggerated.

Since the needful is not being done to expedite the removal of a lameduck president, the electorate is left with the singular option of removal via the ballot box. This last option is needful at this moment of our collective existence as a country.

We don’t want a president, who aids corruption and abates transparence. Corruption at the moment is at an all-time high. Not only are many officials corrupt, the president encourages, embezzlement, bribery and nepotism. Think of Oduahgate, Otehgate, the outcome of the fuel subsidy saga, Nuhu Ribadu’s report etc. Till date there are no clear explanations for the removal of fuel subsidy. Worse still, accountability seems to be the elusive leopard in the oil sector.

It needs not get worse. We must stop this economic hemorrhage. A fastest way to halt this cancer is to deny President Jonathan a second term. His infamous statement *stealing is not corruption* only lends credence to the argument that the president is both unguarded in speech and governance. One can only wonder what statements he shall utter if he won a second term!

See, we all know this: If you watch your pot, your food will not burn. Boko Haram insurgence grew out of proportion mainly because the president delayed the arrest of the situation. It would not have been a bad idea if he had ordered the Nigerian Military to wage a full-blown war on these insurgents.

Furthermore, his late response to Chibok Kidnapping is far from being commander-in- chief-like; it is, to say the least, disappointing and cowardly. Does a man not know when he has pepper in his eyes? Is it not annoying that in spite of the security challenge that we face, with no respite in sight, the president still wants a second term? This president has a full mouth of challenges already, so one wonders what he needs another mouthful for?

A child that will sell on spot-price the family house plus other valuable properties therein shall not hide his bastardly character even as a child. Every time I think of another four years of a Jonathan presidency, the duo of Ohimai and Reno Omokri come to mind. Not only have these two disappointed this generation by churning out blatantly stupid lies, praising to high heavens phantom successes of the president, they continually stifle the voice(s) of reasoning. I can only imagine the enormous power these two moral criminals will wield by 2019 if President Jonathan wins another term.

These two and others who enjoy present windfall will not only have earned millions to step into the shoes of existing corrupt politicians, they will also have religion-power to cajole Nigerians into doing their biddings. Maxims like *Rome was not built in a day*, *E go better* etc will then sell well like widely coveted hot Akara at sunset during Ramadan.

If a load is too heavy to carry, one will do well to give the load to the ground to carry. It seems the burden of the presidency is too heavy for our president to carry, the responsible thing to do is to turn a deaf ear to sycophants who are *begging* him to contest again.

So having said so much, allow me to end on this note: The president should be reminded that no one forgets the discussion of yesternight just because (s)he went to bed. Therefore, we shall not forget the missing 20 Billion Naira, Nigeria Immigration recruitment sham, his incessant travels etc.

Really, in saner climes, President Jonathan’s oral submision of Nigeria’s sovereignty by inviting a stranger *to come and fix Nigeria* would have earned him an impeachment. We have not forgotten this jamtalk too.

The sumtotal of all these matters is evident enough to prevent this incumbent president a second term. He doesn’t deserve it.

Coming to Lagos

I definitely wanted to go with Sister to Lagos, but my willingness was not decisive in the matter. I was not even asked. It was at Sister’s discretion; of course, she consulted with Baba to decide my fate. But I was not deluded in anyway to think Baba would make the final decision. She had the final say. Informing Baba was formality. Baba would not have questioned Sister. He readily blessed anything she did. I did not know when she talked with Baba; not that I bothered to ask when she asked me to go prepare for the journey.

I was wearing my best gown. I didn’t have much, so I told her on the spot I was ready. Smiling, I spoke my mind, “What would I have to prepare about myself again? Nothing!” Only speakers of our language would understand the tone of finality in the “nothing”. It was that of assured finality. With my best gown, full of hope and expectations, I was extremely happy when I left to prepare for the journey.

I could not say proper goodbye to my friends. I didn’t think there was need for that. What better goodbye was more than the many nights, in which we talked about our dreams and wishes to leave the village behind? Those were enough goodbyes. I was sure nobody would be mad that my own dream was suddenly realized. And since I could not even decide if I would be going or not, there was really nothing I could do about the suddenness. I simply had to go. I wished my friends and all those I was going to miss in the village understand. Fate had the upper-hand in this case. I was anxious.

Recently, Baba was appointed chief. Sister’s visit was primarily to celebrate the traditional rite of appointment- three days of ritual and merrymaking. Upon announcing Baba’s appointment, I had a feeling his appointment would bring me new luck, but I did not know how the luck would come. This feeling refused to leave me. I was happy it was there.

Beyond being happy that I would eat endlessly during Baba’s Iwuye, I was restless since it became public knowledge the ceremony was going to be held. Whenever I was that endlessly anxious and restless, I was quick to recognize something might be about to in my life. In the past, whenever I felt this way, I hardly was tired.

This reminded me of Eniyanlesu, our goat, when her water broke. I never believed she wasn’t going to die, really. Eniyanlesu laid on the same spot in the yard. She was in pain. I pitied the poor animal and prayed she would be delivered of the kids soon enough; I simply wanted the agony I saw in her face to leave. I was anxious and terrified.

Eniyanlesu was not the best of animals. She was a goat, so it wasn’t that I expected her to be particularly cool-headed, but Eniyanlesu’s stubbornness cried into the heavens; she was a real terrible animal. Seeing her in this horrific painful state, I could not even think of her terribleness. My stomach tightened. I was probably too anxious to help, but I could not.

Notwithstanding my fear for Eniyanlesu’s life, something told me she was going to be fine. I was right. She delivered four beautiful kids. It was as though she shat them. Finally, I breathed relief. Seeing the kids slip out one after the other, I could not suppress a smile. The visible pain on her face gradually gave way. Spontaneously, I walked to the animal. My hands trembled when I touched the kids.

A similar feeling of anxiety was what I felt when Baba’s appointment was announced. I worked more than usual and I hardly tired out. I ate too much. I did not even know if I was satisfied or not. I carried heavier loads from the farm. For days, I simply exaggerated everything. With Sister’s decision to take me to Lagos, I was right again about my feeling.

Baba had had two wives so far. Both dead. Sister was a child from the first wife. The first wife had five children before she passed away. I didn’t know what killed her. I supposed my older siblings knew the cause of my stepmother’s death.

I am not sure if it would be right to refer to Baba’s first wife as my stepmother. I was yet unborn when she married Baba, gave him the five children and eventually died. I didn’t meet her. I simply don’t know her.

Her death necessitated Baba to take another wife. Relatives were quite helpful after the death of my stepmother, particularly in taking care of the children, but there was a limit to what they could do. Baba’s main job was to take care of the farm, while a mother took care of the children. With death killing the woman, who had cared for them so far, the responsible step was to shop for a new wife and mother. This brought my mother into Baba’s house. She became his wife.

Not only Sister talked well of my deceased mother. Almost all the villagers praised her to high heavens. She was of a strong character. She treated her stepchildren just like her own. She was big hearted. Her humanity was not in doubt.

I didn’t know the cause of my mother’s death too. I was but happy to know she did not die in child labor. Not few mothers died during childbirth, particularly at that time when I was born. Such children would bear the stigma for a lifetime because it was believed they killed their mothers.

“You did not kill your mother”. That was all Baba told me when I asked to know what killer her. “She died in peace and she did not die of hunger.” I did not press further.

My mother had six children. Then death took her. There was hardly enough time for me to know her. My memory of her was faint. The little I knew was from my grandmother. She had enough memories in store with which I refreshed my faint memory. She never stopped talking about her unique daughter, my mother.

Bringing in the third wife into Baba’s house was not uncontroversial. Sister was not absolutely against the idea, but she wasn’t a strong supporter. Her reason: I, being the youngest of Baba’s children, was not so small that I would not survive without a mother. Besides, my grandmother could as well play that role. I certainly needed a mother, but not so much as to warrant a compulsory marrying of a third wife. The third wife did contribute to my upbringing, no doubt. But if she was not married, I still would have survived. I suspected Sister did not want Baba to marry a new wife that would bear more children. Her objection was not unjustified.

I was a child, but I knew the mood in our house was tense. I knew it must be about a serious matter when adults talked till late in the night. They did that many nights.

Normally, objection against a marriage were not meant for the ears of a wife or wife-to-be. Somehow the new wife-to-be got wind of it. She waited to be brought into Baba’s house. Upon becoming a wife, she immediately sought audience with Sister.

“My wife”, she started. She called Sister her wife because Sister was traditionally the first mother and wife of the house upon stepmother’s death. “Am I so dirty you don’t want me to give Baba children? What shall be my portion in the family if I am without children? I plead with you, please reconsider me. Don’t be annoyed with me, but I would like to have children with Baba. With your blessing. Please have mercy on me”.

She did not as much as look Sister in the eyes. Were Sister’s heart made of steel, the plea would have melted it. She hugged the new wife heartily. This way, the matter ended. The third wife had three children together with Baba

We had to leave at dawn, long before the first cock crew. Chickens who slept on tree branches and in cages were disturbed. I was sure the sleepy chickens were not too pleased that we were up before them. They were not used to being woken up so early. Actually, they usually woke us up with their morning cry So the incoherent sound they let out could only have been irritation- irritated at being disturbed before the break of day.

After the communal breakfast, the omnibus-driver started the bus. In no time, we were on our way out of the village with full speed.

Sister told me later, “The journey would not have been a real journey if that did not happen. You have never embarked on such a journey before”.

True, I have never traveled on a bus or car before, let alone a trip to Lagos. we went everywhere in the village on foot- to farm and to school. So the journey was my first real journey which was not made on foot.

The driver drove and drove, the faster he drove, the wider the express-road. I thought the speed caused the widening of the road. It was like a journey to eternity. I was already nervous before the journey. My nervousness worsened. My head began to spin. Sister did not know I did not eat my pap and bean-ball served in the morning before we left the village.

It was late in the afternoon when the driver stopped at a tank station. I felt hunger for the first time and I wanted to eat. Many roadside sellers ran over. They offered their goods. Sister bought eggs and gave me.

It was not difficult to remove the shell. I ate two eggs in no time. The terrible thing happened when I drank water. Hardly did I finish the water when I vomitted the whole thing. The driver had ended the break. So we were already back on the express-road when I vomitted. Sister acted very quickly. She wiped my face with water, cleaned my messed up gown and threw out the vomit from the window.

The driver did not stop on the express-road. It was too dangerous. Armed robbers might be in the bush. He was not ready to risk an attack. Nobody would have insisted he stopped with a possibility of an armed robber attack, but his refusal to stop could be better brought across. He was very unfriendly. Sister was annoyed, not because of the vomit. She was annoyed with the unfriendly driver.

My head was stretched out the window. The fresh air helped. The spinning stopped. I coughed. When the cough stopped, I vomited a little more egg. Sister wiped my face with more water and cleaned my gown with her scarf.

Although she had reacted very quickly when I started to vomit, my gown was ruined. I continued the journey with my ruined gown, a relieving nervousness and a feeling of fever.

I did not want to sleep because I wanted to see everything seeable while the omnibus traveled the road. I resisted sleep, but resistance was futile. My eyelids closed against my will.

 The change from a resisting-me to a sleeping-me progressed quickly. My nervousness must have followed me into sleep because I saw many things that threatened to ruin the sleep. If my nervous state had nothing to do with the things I saw, then it must be the forest. The trees in the forest looked terrible already. The speeding omnibus only made them more terrible. They took on different shapes and monstrous sizes while I looked at them. They multiplied. They had heads I could not describe. I wished I was not asleep.

Unfortunately, I did not wake. I fell deeper into sleep. It seemed as though I fell into a dark hole. As much as I wished, I did not stock in this hole. I was brought further into another place. The space seemed abandoned, a deserted land. I was almost able to grab the quietness in the space. The stillness was defeaning. Even a cemetery could not have been so quiet. At least in a cemetery, birds would twitter. Insects would fly around. Bush rats, tree squirrels and rabbits would disturb the peace a little. The quietness into which I was brought defied description. It was beyond dead silent.

I did not trust my ears. “Am I not deaf like this?”, I asked myself. If I was not deaf, then I probably did not put my ears on the ground enough, I concluded. Following this conclusion, I strained my ears a little more. I placed my hands on my ears. I wanted to confirm if the noise meant for my ears escaped them and I did not know.

It paid off. I heard something. I strained my ears more. I wanted them to guess what kind of noise it was and who made them. Was it coming from an animal, human or just any being? At first it was a mystery.

I looked over my head and saw bats. They were the creatures making the noise. The mystery was solved. They flew past me, just a little above my head. Their flight seemed as if they stayed put in the air at some point. I held my breathe. One flew towards me. I lost my balance when I saw the bat at such close range. I was terribly afraid. My underskin was hot. It was as if I was going to vomit my heart via my mouth. I fell to the ground.

Instinctively, I struggled to get up immediately. In my struggle I faced up to see a company of more terrible creatures, such I could hardly comprehend even after I was awake. A voice in my head told me runnung away was senseless. These creatures were too many to escape from.

Notwithstandung this urge to give up, I stood on my feet and ran. Fast as my legs could carry me. I remembered we used to say the whole body must be at alert if one has to escape a life-threatening danger. My hands did not stop to move swiftly, in agreement with my fleeing legs. My eyes opened wide. My hot underskin was still hot and my heart raced. In short, my whole body was wildly at alert. I was not going to give up easily.

Sure, the creatures would have overtaken me if Sister had not shaken me. In anycase, I had not intended to give up without a fight. She announced our arrival in Lagos. That way, she ended the terrible dream. Sister had just rescued me again.

The sun was high up in the sky. “So, this is Lagos”, I said to myself. I followed Sister very closely behind.

By Wind and Awe- Emmanuel Oritseweyinmi

Emmanuel Oritseweyinmi is a writer and an inspirational speaker. He is the author of “I Dare to be a Nigerian: A collection of inspiring stories, plays and anecdotes” available on Amazon We at AhjotNaija are honoured to have him guestblog for us. This is first of many inpsirational series soon to be published.

Emmanuel Oritseweyinmi is a writer and an inspirational speaker. He is the author of “I Dare to be a Nigerian: A collection of inspiring stories, plays and anecdotes” available on Amazon
We at AhjotNaija are honoured to have him guestblog for us. This is first of many inpsirational series soon to be published.

When a child is born into this world, it has no concept of the tone of skin it has. It’s only grateful for what it’s been given. If the world around accepts it, it would learn to love it. Just as I learned to love you—Africa.

Much like a toddler loves it’s mother and the sound of her voice, sonorous was yours when you welcomed the morning sun, singing Makeba’s “Mbumbe”. Or at night when you sang the moon sweet lullabies. The elements seemed to like it, as I remember the stars shone brighter that night when you sang Salif Keita’s “Wamba”.

And at noon when the sun did our corn roast, you sang to the hearing of the king and his proud chiefs, who sat like children about him, the songs of the one who held death in his pouch.

The truth was never bitter in his mouth, so he mixed it with lyrics and made nobility drink it like sweet wine. For he had a hope that our shores would one day welcome peace and that she may find her place among us. So he dared the elements and made music his weapon.

These days you mumble K’naan, wanting more from the dusty foot philosopher. And your brows were arched when you counted the units to Youssou N’dour’s wordcraft.

I really can’t put my finger on what your reaction would be if you heard what’s being aired on the radio these days. It’s either you’re impressed or sorely disappointed. I pray it’s not the latter. Afterall, we do have some songs that mother and child can dance to. Songs that make them jolly, bringing back good memories, they tell us about what we can have & become. The old days were good, but the future looks brighter. I see the light on.

And one day, when my hair glimmers like the sun when it sets, I should be able to sing my little ones a song from Africa, woven like fine tapestry, soothing to sour minds & uplifting to wary travelers from across the five oceans, brought in by the wind and awe to trade with Mr Black and Miss Beautiful.

Bus 281

Read it. It’s a beautiful short story.

livelytwist

Bus 281

The bus driver did not look at me when I entered the bus. I spared him a glance as he sped away from the bus stop and grabbed a red pole to steady myself before I flopped into my seat.

“Sorry,” I apologized to the man on the window seat when I regained my balance and saw what my lipstick had done to his sleeve.

He shrugged and smiled.

Whenever we approached a bus stop, we lurched forward as the driver braked and we fell backwards as he accelerated again. No one got on the bus. At the intersection between Park and Jacob Street, a grey Toyota on the opposite lane, anxious to beat the red light, navigated a left turn. But it was caught in the middle of the road, in the path of our angry bus. The bus driver brought the bus within scratching distance of the Toyota. The…

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!SiDoS: My-Jollof-Excuse

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Master student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

Ms. Oladunni Talabi is a beautiful and wonderful addition to the AhjotNaija!BlogFamily. She is a Master student resident in Germany, young and very-full-of-life. She experiments with different forms of writing; this is one of them: Entertaining while strongly pushing for deep self-discovery/identification and cross-cultural dialogues among other interesting themes

Being a minority in a group comes with its plus and minus. Let me rephrase that: I am the ONLY minority in that group. So, I have to explain almost everything I do. But trust me, it is not all bad; I own the monopoly of explanation. And being mischief-personified, I turn to my pranks-bags, dishing them out at will.

Interesting is, if I have to explain what I cannot explain, I simply say that how we do it in Nigeria. It bails me out without further questions. Some things are so hilarious friends laugh so hard. They would ask: *Are you serious, Ola?* Trust me, I would be sure to wear my best mischief-face in response: *Yes, of course*. I would be sure to repeat the response long enough so it is believable.

Recently, I cooked rice. Half the pot of my precious rice was burnt! I had been busy with gist and lolling. When it was time to eat and my friend asked why/how our rice nearly got half-burnt, you can already guess my response.

Really, I searched for a different response other than the truth, but my dumb brain forsook me. I didn’t want to own up I half-burnt it because I was lolling to gist etc. So, my *That’s-How-Alibi* came in very handy. *That’s how rice is cooked in Nigeria. We get it burnt intentionally. It adds sweet flavor to the food*, I answered.

My friend laughed so hard she was almost rolling on the floor. She said, *Ola, give me another excuse. Don’t play the That’s-How-Drama* with me this time.*

She’s my second bestie. The start of our friendship sucked because my alibi. She knows better now. Seriously, our friendship could not have been so hilarious without the That’s-How-Thing. Well, I only have a person less to play my prank on. I will still use my mantra on other friends, who are yet to notice I might be lying 🙂

Anyway, it was jollof-rice I cooked. Of course, you all know a rice is not yet JOLLOF if it is not burnt! So, I was actually telling the truth with my That’s-How-Alibi. Thank Goodness my popular excuse did not forsake me when I really needed it 🙂

2015 General Election- The Change We (Don’t) Want

A Choice between PDP and APC is a choice between drowning in a latrine and drowning in another. Millions of Nigerians prefer their present odious circumstances and refuse to go to to the party of Tinubu and Atiku, the party of “reform” where it costs N27m to collect “the people’s form. We will stay with PDP until we see real change agents. This is the only way to hold our looters accountable. Ikhide R. Ikheloa

The clamor for the return of General Buhari as president recently reached a disturbing height. Fortunately, so loud are the counter-voices that demand a never-again to a Buhari-return. They prayed to be spared the WAI-nightmare among many people-unfriendly policies during his iron-fist reign. Never mind that General Buhari was in power for only two years, yet his crimes still busy us till date.

Comparing the wild jubilation which ushered in the coup-plotter soldier in December 1983 with the present choking frenzy, almost obsessive demand for General Buhari presidency in 2015, one thing is evident, namely the extreme incompetence and terrific corruption of/in the GEJ-led government. We must remember that the Shagari-government was overthrown, directly due to election malpractices, but largely due to unimaginable corruption in and out of government. There is therefore a positiveness to this present demand. Nigerians are aware of GEJ’s incompetence and are tired of his circus. They want a TRUE policy and directional change.

No doubt, the 1983 coup-plotters understood the only way to legitimize the coup was to install a figure extremely opposite to what they swept out of the way. Hence, the unanimous decision for Buhari.

General Buhari bit the bait; he characteristically outperformed expectations of his soldier-benefactors.He jailed indiscriminately. He wanted order and discipline in the country- War Against Indiscipline (W.A.I.) was born! Soldiers beat and battered citizens routinely. The streets, express-roads, stinking gutters, dirty drainage, open-wastelands etc became drill-land for the Buhari-boys.

Lest I be accused of telling too much truth, I will forget to remember that common Nigerians were the soldiers’ drill tools. General Buhari’s barbarism knew no end. He stretched discipline and terror to breaking points.

Actually, enough has been written on General Buhari’s reign of terror. Only that we often forget to mention that the General looked away too often from too many crimes. In short, his anti-corruption manuals were applicable only to Nigerians! Yes, bloody Nigerians alone!

While his soldiers beat the hell out of indisciplined Nigerians somewhere in Asokoro, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the Corruption-in-Chief, whose government was coup d’etat-ed, was kept in a mansion-like detention, enjoying the benefits of a president only that he had no country to preside over. Opposition leaders and politicians languished in Buhari’s jails countrywide. The maxim was to rid the land of corruption and indiscipline, but only those of the common people, dissenting opposition and journalists were relevant.

Anyone would then understand why General Buhari never listened to pleas from every quarter to spare the lives of the Nigerian youths he murdered on a retroactive law. He had to make up for the image loss. He would not be outdone by his sidekicks and soldier-boys, who were either busy assaulting journalists or looting our commonwealth.

An objective observer will understand therefore that General Buhari’s claim to be an anti-corruption Caesar is nothing but sheer double standard, nepotism, murder, oppression and undiluted terror. The willful public miscarriage/manipulation of justice in the Middle Age could not be much worse.

General Buhari should at best leave us alone to heal in dignity. Yes, we are still healing after over 30 years of his two year regime.

Lets assume for a second that Nigeria’s primary problem is corruption, still General Buhari will be the wrong man to cleanse the country of this plague. Don’t take my word for it. Read WS article on Buhari. Only an endemic Buharist would still stick to him if past records were a yardstick. Buhari’s anti-corruption prescription was selective, poorman-focused and a farce. I shall leave it at that to attend to other matters.

I have warned severally of an election of a president based on sheer trust. That is exactly what is being clamored for right now, barely eight months to general elections. In a Facebook post, I asked if anyone needed a manifesto from General Buhari. I had at one time stated very clearly why we need a clear-cut agenda from anyone who wants to preside over us. S/he is best advised to WRITE down these agenda and how they shall be achieved in CONCRETE terms for the electorate.

We have been politically duped and raped for too long. We are therefore allergic to a campaign on trust. Our allergic condition worsens especially if the so-called choice candidate is a General, whose past records are as controversial and divisive as Buhari’s.

We have nothing to loose by talking no riddles, but we stand the danger of loosing too much if we kept quiet. So, we shall talk clear terms. Here is an open truth: General Buhari has no strategy beyond his declaration of intent to contest. If his antecedent is any yardstick, we are not certain if he will combat true corruption- not common stealing (apology to GEJ). Meanwhile corruption is the only campaign-club his foot-soldiers on social media presently wield/throw around.

Definitely, upon election, the likes of Rotimi Amaechi and Asiwaju Tinubu, other APC-defectees etc etc shall not be jailed for plundering the till of their various states/constituencies. We don’t have to wait until 2015 to know already what a Buhari/APC-led government shall do. APC’s handling of Tambulwa-crisis is a strong pointer to the future; an APC-led government shall only apply the constitution if/when it is convenient.

I have searched the internet endlessly to find what goals and plans a Buhari-government shall pursue if elected, unsuccessfully. I wont mind being given a link to such plans. We are not asking for too much, considering the fact that APC’s selling point is that difference-mantra being fed to the public.

We must keep in mind that late president Umaru Yar’adua had a seven point agenda! We do not want such agenda. We need a step-by-step-manual on every promised agenda.

Tanimomo, a guestblogger on this blog would vote for Buhari if the General would tell him in concrete terms his plan for the health sector. That is a legitimate demand! I am particularly interested in knowing General Buhari’s ABC-approach to tackle the endemic power problem in the country. Undoubtedly, the people are tired of living in darkness. Should General Buhari promised to supply 24-hour electricity uninterrupted for two years (NOT FOUR YEARS!!!), backed by a practical timetable for realization, I am sure no hate message would hinder Nigerians, even South-South electorate from voting this promised messiah. In fact, I would be tempted to personally champion his cause on every platform.

I am particularly troubled because overtime we seem to have zeroed-down Nigeria’s problem to corruption. This false assumption leveled the ground for the Buhari-Vanguard, so that their singular reason why Buhari is earnestly necessary in 2015 is a fight on corruption. A wrong diagnosis leads to looking for the solution in the wrong person/place. Corruption is not Nigeria’s primary problem. Yes, you read me correctly!

I believe this is a possible message President Jonathan wanted to pass across when he gaffed with his *people call common stealing corruption* statement. Corruption is indeed an offshoot of a more terrific endemic problem. In same vein as Christian and Muslim Pentecostalism is a byproduct of an impoverished people. Yes, poverty can birth many things.

Corruption is a practical manifestation of a people, who are permanently in search of a secure-tomorrow that actually do not exist. Nigerians have been abandoned for too long that they simply cannot do otherwise than steal, plunder commonwealth endlessly and game the system at any chance they get. Those who are less-abandoned, i.e. they are employed by the system, experience daily the blind-looting by the leadership. Not stealing/plundering the leftovers from their masters- the government is thus considered foolhardy and strange.

It self-explains when a police-officer demands bribe to allow a lawbreaker go without arrest. He has a wife and children to feed! Remember, he is a bloody recruit/constable! And please do not tell me it is not the government job to feed his eleven children! The police-officer is corrupt. Yes! But do you bother to read Ikhide’s Barrack Boys to understand what is wrong with that police-officer?

Think of the SCOAN building that collapsed killing so many due to structural defects. So, nobody saw that the building would collapse? Of course, the townplaner, whose pension is a farce, was smart enough to look-away.

It probably has never occurred to anyone to ask why corruption returned immediately General Buhari was overthrown. General Babangida only reformed and introduced newer means to corruption. He did not introduce corruption. It was that which General Buhari had attempted to fight unsuccessfully. The reason for the quick recuperation of a suppressed corrupt system is not far-fetched- General Buhari was only fighting a symptom, not the sickness. Nigerians are corrupt, but that is not the problem; the primary issue is not corruption. The Amukun-Philosophy sums up Nigerian’s true problem(s). I shall attend to this philosophy in another piece.

So given that Buhari is bent on fighting corruption to a standstill, he would have only succeeded in fighting a symptom, only for the sickness to reemerge stronger once the General is out of office. Of course, we are aware of antibiotic resistant ailment if not properly/hurriedly treated! That explains partly the resistance of the Anti-Buhari-Vanguard. Nigeria experienced Buhari once. 30 years thereafter, we are still corrupt, in fact, more terribly so.

Like many political observer rightly observed, if President Jonathan practically achieved nothing in his two years of acting as president, he will be a disastrous president if elected full president. Jonathan out-proves critics’ fears. He is a mega-disaster. Likewise, an old General Buhari shall not outperform that young army general, who overthrew our infant democracy in 1983 and subjected the whole country to two years reign of terror and a farcical anti-corruption war.

Charity, they say, begins at home. On this note, we shall return to Daura, the birthplace of General Buhari. Lets keep in mind that we are talking Nigeria, so Buhari’s God-status is un-tampered, also in Daura. That means Daura’s council chairman would listen once Buhari speaks. Even the Governor of Katsina would not dare ignore the people’s General if he offered public advice/practical help. So, he could have been playing president in his birthplace since his election loss four years ago, if just to prepare him for 2015.

So, what exactly has this man of the people done/been doing in the past four years voluntarily for public primary school children in Daura, whose classrooms are yet to be air-conditioned?! Daura averages 35 Degrees Celsius yearly. Nobody can survive conducively in such a harsh tropic weather without an air-conditioner. Yes, General Buhari is not the government! But aren’t we talking of a nonchalant PDP-government and Daura-citizens dependent largely on goodwill of prominent citizens? If there are still Daura-born Almajiris, then what exactly has Buhari done to convert Daura into a paradise for them?!

There are still PUBLIC primary and secondary schools in Daura, whose learning condition and building standard are different from those of Pampers International Primary School Lagos, Bells Group of Schools Ota and Loyola International College. General Buhari would do well to cater for a successfully managed Daura as a model for a countrywide project. Until then, he is (shall be) a terrible (but temporary) hindrance on Nigeria’s path to escaping another PDP-led government in 2015.

FictiononSunday(FoS): The Madman

Yesterday I saw the madman, when I went to arrange for water. I have always seen him, but yesterday I looked at him longer than usual. He was about to smoke a cigarette. He had empty cigarette packs. He probably had smoked them all or found some empty packs on his many walkabouts, to add to the proverbial madman’s load.

Intuitively, I assured myself he was going to get more cigarettes, once he finished the last stick. Cigarette was probably his only consolation. Saving the packs and stack of papers, he seemed to care for nothing more. Held very carefully, he drew in, as if his life depended on it.

A dirty rope held the papers together. Was I expecting a madman’s load to be any cleaner? My keen observation of the madman baffled me, but for a moment. I discarded the bafflement and looked on.

The papers were written all over. He was writing on another while he smoked. I concluded he would add it to his load, get more to write on, then add to those already in his possession.

The madman must have been learned, before he lost sanity. “But why am I even thinking all these?”, I asked myself. I was yet to answer when another thought occurred to me.

Writing on those papers could be something the madman unconsciously chose to do; that way, he wanted to show there was nothing wrong with him. A way to disabuse his own mind from seeing his madness. I heard stories of mad people, who did anything to simulate sanity. Unfortunately, the sanity simulation only made the madness more obvious.

I was once sick; not mad. It was a strong malaria. At a time, I began to laugh. I had no control over the laughter. I thought of something, which was hilarious to me. That was the trigger. Nobody understood me. Mother became agitated.

She thought her son was losing his mind. I knew I was, but I could not help myself. Mother screamed my name. With both hands on my arms, she pulled and pushed me to and away from herself. She was not angry at me. It was the common expression of panic. She was confused and feared for me. She knew it was due to the strong malaria. She was desperate to end the terrible laughter.

At a time, I was annoyed mother was trying to stop me from laughing. She could not help me. I was sure when the laughter stopped, it did because it wanted to. I fell into a deep sleep thereafter.

This must be madness: a victim is out of control. A remote force, from within or without, determines the day-to-day routine of the victim.

This madman was different. They are always different anyway. After all, different things lead to madness. I walked past with mixed feelings, most times. Yesterday, I concluded this madman earned his madness. I could not explain this bad conclusion. “Did he choose to be mad?”, I asked, thinking of predestination. “He could not have escaped loosing his mind, if it must be.”I was sad.

It occurred to me I would be mad if I was predestined to be mad. At that point, I deleted predestination from my vocabulary and wished it strongly out of my mind; I succeeded, but for a while.

While I attempted unsuccessfully to delete predestination, other questions popped up: why is this particular man mad? What led to his insanity? Why should it be him? Why does he smoke? Who was he before madness? Does he have a family? Can he be cured? I was worried.

I became even more worried when I noticed some people. They pointed at his direction. I walked closer, hoping nobody saw me. Anyway, it doesn’t matter so long I only wanted to listen to them. Who knows, they might want me around self. I boosted my confidence.

I was right. They were talking about him.

All they said came from hearsay. They did not know the true story. There was one among them however, who spoke with conviction I almost believed him. No doubt, he knew something about the man. I only contributed at intervals; a word or two to show I was around. We were all curious to know something about the madman.

After a while we dispersed.

I walked down the road where meruwa often gathered. I saw them from afar. They sat idly on their barrows. It wasn’t peak time. I was sure to come at this time when I could get one without much haggling over price.

The closer I got to the water-fetchers, the more vivid the picture became; I remembered a seemingly madman during my student days. The madman spoke as though his sanity was not tampered.

From a distance, his appearance gave him away as a psychiatric case, still it was difficult to conclude he was mad. He was neither completely sane nor outrightly insane.

Another thing that struck me about him: he drew like a genius. The first time I noticed him, it was the artwork, tightly held under his arm, which caught my attention. Like reflex, I turned to the man beside me, with a smile plastered on my face, “A madman is at it again. He must have stolen the artwork.”

It was a pencil sketch of a beautiful lady. She was charmingly decorated with beads. She sat in a chair. Her legs were crossed.

I was shocked when he told me the madman was once a fine-art teacher. I supposed he was telling the truth. The madman spoke fine English. His diction confirmed it. He must have studied when Nigeria offered qualitative education.

Once, the madman crossed the road. I was with friends. He came to us. He said something. My lack of interest was too obvious. However, the artwork he held changed the mood. This time, it was a baby, wrapped in a shawl, eyes partially opened. He smiled thinly, beaming with innocence.

The water-fetchers ran towards me to offer their service. They brought me back to myself.

I sighed, hoping the innocent baby would not be mad or even killed prematurely. For a moment, I thought Nigeria a more dangerous tool of destruction than an ill-fated predestination.

I spoke with my usual meruwa. I was about to describe my apartment when he told me not to worry. “Haba. Oga, I know where your house dey now”. He wasted no more time. He dashed off to his water cart.

I wondered if those things were true. One of us said he knew the madman when he was not mad. He knew where he lived and that he had a family. I did not believe him at first. My doubt began to give way when he mentioned the name of the madman.

“Baye”, he said, “was his name when he was a sane person. He had a wife that bore him a son. He used a car. He had a relatively comfortable life when he was a sane person.”

This man spoke of Baye as if he knew him personally. His voice was heavy with sadness. One would not doubt him, going by the conviction in his voice. One thing we all agreed on, although we did not say it, was that Baye was once normal; he could not have been born mad. It was only the man, who spoke of Baye in that sadness-laden voice, who insisted he was sure of his name.

One of us said he was used to see the madman in a black uniform; starched and ironed. He used to carry a gun. He did not refer to him as a madman. He called him a policeman. He knew about his madness. “He was charmed with madness ni”, he claimed. “That madman was that police man who ran mad”, he was actually shouting as if to confirm his claim was true.

I did not believe his story, but listened on all the same.

Nobody knew the herbalist was a herbalist. Understandably, nobody would have known there was a herbalist in the omnibus. The policeman would not have stopped the omnibus if he knew what fate awaited him.

Upon stopping the bus, he refused to let it leave. The passengers were vexed; near bursting at the seams. They began to murmur. One could see they were ready to do anything to get their fare back from the omnibus-boy.

The omnibus-driver, apparently frustrated and tired of begging the officer, came to the bus. He would find a different bus to bring them to their destination.

A passenger demanded to know why they must be conveyed by another bus. He concluded the driver had refused to tip the policeman. The driver was forced to tell the truth. The officer wanted more money than he offered.

Thereafter, an argument ensued, at first between the driver and his conductor, then between the driver and some passengers. The police officer, who had stood a stone-throw from the quarreling passengers, came closer. He hoped to quench the wild noises.

His intervention did not help. The passengers became more furious. The intervention was an insult. After all, he was the cause of the whole mess in the first place. If he had not stopped the omnibus and demanded for a bigger bribe, there would have been no fight at all.

Before long, the herbalist, whose identity was unknown until then, got into an argument with the policeman. The scene got noisier ad wilder.

The policeman unlatched his booth. Some of the passengers thought he was about to fight the herbalist. Then he untied his top, trousers and underpants.

It only dawned on the passengers it was no intention to fight when the police officer started to dance. He was stark naked. He laughed loudly and his dance became intense. He sweated profusely, looking terribly wild and dangerous.

He fled into the bush when passengers attempted to hold him. They had wanted to clothe him when they eventually realized he might be mad. Unfortunately, the madness was already full blown.

A passenger alerted the others. He was sure the policeman, who had successfully made his way into the bush, last argued with the herbalist. Nobody wanted to confirm the allegation. The driver came back for the bus three hours after the incidence. They all fled the scene. Even the supposed herbalist took to his heels. Apparently, they were all scared. Nobody knew who the god of madness might strike next.

I came back to our compound. Men were seated drinking. I could not have gone past as if they were not there. A chair appeared from nowhere. The men shifted theirs to accommodate me. More drinks were arranged immediately. I sat and opened a drink.

We talked about different things; from the most beautiful woman in the compound to the latest infidelity gist in the neighborhood. One of us exclaimed, as if he was jabbed at, “na only women sabi the true father of their children”.

His word was received with thunderous laughter. We poured ourselves more drinks. Talking continued unabated.

I drank from my cup and stood up. They all looked at me. I lowered my cup which was half-empty. It was quickly refilled. I removed my cap, wiped my face and poured libation. I started a prayer. The men echoed amen in unison.

May we never be struck by madness

May our children never be struck by madness

May our days be long, healthy and prosperous

May we live our time in peace and our times always be joyous

In this peaceful compound and in the neighborhood.

The prayer ended. I talked about the madman and the orisirisi stories I had just heard about him.

“Tisa, you get time sha”, one of the men was referring to me.

“Yes, I used to know him too. Different stories about him, really”, another said.

We continued drinking and talking. I watched out at intervals for the meruwa’s arrival.

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