You were born in Nigeria, the giant of Africa. Here, I am not talking about those born in the American part of Nigeria. You were introduced to the street early, because if you don’t run, you would get trampled upon. I do not mean the stroll through the streets of Dubai or walking your dog down a boulevard in Banana island. As a matter of convention, you found yourself struggling to solve the mathematical puzzle before you
on your frail mat. It was the assignment given to you by that same man- the man who swore by one of those illiterate gods that death is the only excuse for not doing his assignment. You saw the 25 deities of sleep appealing and appeasing to your already heavy eyes to succumb to their pleas, then you dozed off. But it won’t last, with your type of dreams, sleep is a crime. You woke up, your smoking lantern was dead. You rose, tiptoed in the dark without a clear view of anything as you managed to locate the door handle. ‘Whew…’ You sighed at the welcoming hands of the cold breeze outside. For once, you felt there was nothing comparable to the cool breeze even though, you’ve not savoured the wonders of a quality Samsung air conditioner. You remembered the magnificence of God and smiled. Actually, you were an ingrate, but circumstance has changed people more than sermon has. So, under the moonlight, you opened your English assignment book again and saw the question that made you blank. It was like coming face to face with a mad cow. And so it goes thus ‘assuming without conceding that the culpability of an African slave is legible from his demeanour, what is the directional relevance of a Colonial master’s whip when such slave wears a cheap coat of remorse?’ You flipped to the front cover and then you hissed, sighed, swore and muttered something that ‘mad’ teacher must not hear. Then, you picked your pen, in an expensive fashion of nonchalance, you just wanted to write something in the answer space, then it only made an invisible line… Your pen was dead!
Some years later, you became the man you wanted to be but living the life you feared to live. Few thousands on your table, you smiled and nodded. It was your pay day and your wife, mama junior must ensure that she takes you and junior on a trip to Dubai even without visa. It is easy- you would pay her to buy fish, meat, chicken, turkey, snail and then make a remix with other deceitful meal that would make your one room and a parlour look like Sheraton. Then, you called out for her, but almost eight voices replied, the association of people you were indebted to- the provision seller, the electrician, the lady who sells recharge cards, the man at the beer parlour, the brother that borrowed you some thousands from the fund raised in your church, and even Lateef, your Landlord. In twos and threes, they entered, but it was too late for you to hide the fruit of your labour as a school teacher. They all saw the money divided with the motive firmly rooted in your defaulting head. They charged at you and made away with everything. Meanwhile, they are still waiting to be bought- the fish, meat, turkey, cray fish and all those delicacies that would stimulate a Dubai dream. They would be bought, but not by you or maybe, at a future date.
Before mama Junior could finish bathing in preparation for market, the legal robbers were done and gone. Then when she came dazzling with a shopping basket in her hand, you managed a smile and asked ‘will the garri be okay for junior tonight?’ The disappointment was perfectly seen on her face, but you were lucky, she was one of the few women who meant it when they say ‘come rain and shine.’ She nodded and walked back through the direction she came.
You needed comfort, you needed a new life, you needed a new environment, you fought to be a man, you are still fighting as a man. Something has to be done… You stood up, picked up your little radio and tune it, but it dawned on you that Abusgar, the radio repairer had told Junior to give it back to you because you could not pay the money to replace the damaged part for three weeks. You stared at the calendar hung directly before you. One could have thought that you were trying to figure out a date to take a bigger step, but the calendar was a 1979 one- poverty has made you a good record keeper.
Tomorrow is another day, you would feel happy when you listen to blues. You love them and you know where to get them. But your own blues are different- they are the lamentations of people in worse situations, and you would always hear them anytime you board one of those danfo on your way home.
David Oluwasegun Ogundipe