I will not start with the usual i normally don’t do this speech, because let’s face it, i always do this, and in a nation where politics has taken center stage, a story of this caliber is a breath of fresh air.
Certain events make us realize the error of our ways, by normal human nature, we only become remorseful, when we get caught doing something wrong, we ordinarily would never repent if we got away with doing evil over and over again.
By the time I woke up, it was already late in the morning, and to my surprise I wasn’t tied or thrown into a hole like I had thought, I was just alone in the tent, I touched the side of my head, it didn’t hurt as much, but I still felt the pain, probably from the memory of the blow, I still lay down and stared at the tent ceiling, it was rather hot inside, Continue reading
We were driven for what seemed like an eternity, the long drive was quiet, quiet not because we were tired, but quiet because we were uncertain of what lay in front of us, the realization that we had been taken sank in very fast, i had heard stories of people being taken captive and never heard from again, many of us had even paid visits to families who had lost loved ones either by way of a stray or intentional bullets, axes or machetes, or being taken away, i would always say the same things over and over again, Continue reading
It was a cold night, not unusually cold, but cold all the same, we were getting set for bed, after a long day of writing exams; exams we had studied day and night for, under the most stressful conditions; you see, it’s quite difficult studying for an examination and dodging either bullets or machetes, and not exactly in that order, because we always dodged whichever came first, but we studied all the same, because deep down in her hearts we had the hope that someday soon, the turmoil would end, and we would be allowed to face our futures, so we decided to prepare for it sooner than later, we were not going to allow anything take away the only thing we had that was capable of giving us the lives we dreamed of, so we persevered and we studied.
After the incident we began to talk and play as kids’ do, I even started to hang out with Obiri and the rest of her friends whenever Aunty Edith was out as she often was. Sometimes I will follow her and Kemta her side kick to kuramo near the motor park on the other end of Paradise to go hustle. We go there to sell ‘Igbo’ weed or stolen phones which had been appropriated from handbags and pockets of careless commuters unlucky enough to have let their guard down while in Paradise Island, my duty was to stand watch near the road by the okada commercial cyclists to watch out for Police or ‘Askari’ as Obiri calls them in street parlance.
Sometimes i will follow them to Audu the Mai-Suya in front of Ghana High for barbeque ﬁsh with coke to chase it down, this was a luxury and only happened once in a while. I love coke but could not afford to buy it save the few times we made some money and will treat ourselves to one bottle each or share between us. Sometimes on these trips kemta and the other girls will steal off with the commercial motorcyclists, the okada men going towards the far and dark part where the beach huts faced rumbling waves of the ocean. They would be gone for 15 perhaps 20 minutes and then come back, the okada drivers adjusting his trousers and the girls counting money. I did not understand what they were selling but never asked not once although i never saw Obiri go with them.
Paradise island a complete contrast to its name one of the most deprived and violent ghettos in the city. It stood alone set apart from other areas an island standing aloof as though in deﬁance of constituted authority, that might be open to debate but most of the inhabitants were certainly in deﬁance of society. We made our own rules lived by our unwritten commandments. “Thou shalt not steal from residents” or a tire round your neck, a box of matches materialize as if from thin air and the culprit is reduced to cinders all in minutes. You are permitted to steal from outside never in Paradise…
The Island concealed a rich gaggle of hardened criminals, inexhaustible supply of mild mannered and well-spoken fraudsters alike, I was yet to ﬁgure out the most terrifying monsters were not battle hardened villains carrying guns waylaying innocent people, they were those much closer to home sporting the beguiling smiles endearing manners.
This Friday evening as usual Aunty Edith dressed up to go out only this time she laid out a pretty dress on the bed, she asked me if I liked it and i was extremely thrilled when i realized it was for me.I tried it on and it was a little short and revealing but I did not care so much about that. This does not happen every day so I was happy with my new dress, giggling with childish excitement. After a while we heard a knock and aunty opened the door, as soon as I saw his face my heart sank to the pit of my stomach, not even the excitement of my new dress could remedy the unpleasant mien that had sullied my happy mood, of all Auntie’s friends and customers I resent the man standing in the doorway the most. I constantly felt a strange sense of unease how Uncle Sammy stares and ogles me with those bloodshot eyes of his, piercing eyeballs which seem to bore right through me, searing as though stripping me naked. He is obese and very dark in complexion, always sweaty with a lingering body odor that trailed after him, not unlike mama’s He-goat back in the village.
Once, when Aunty was not looking he grabbed my bottom but I quickly pulled away from him, since then I am always mindful of being near him. He stepped inside Aunty greeting him and both exchanged ﬂeeting looks I did not understand but dismissed as something adults do. He sat down and like Aunty had tutored me, quickly rushed to our small fridge to fetch the bottle of beer reserved for him as i uncorked it he made a half-hearted effort to grab me and I jumped back alarmed, he laughed heartily as he busied himself ﬁlling the glass to the brim and gulping down to the dregs lips smacking in contentment. He must be giving her a lot of money because she never entertains any of the others, not even with ordinary water or biscuit, unless they brought out their own cash. Ah!!! Aunty never jokes with money.
I sat down in a corner soon lost in my dreams my girlish fantasies though still self-conscious in his presence tried to cover the exposed part of my body due to the revealing dress. Aunty left with him later but instructed me to leave the door unlocked. It must have been no less than 30-45 minutes after I had been in bed I heard a creak in the door, before I could react I felt a massive sweaty palm clamp over my mouth. The overpowering odor the weight on top of me, even in the darkness I instinctively knew it was Uncle Sammy.
In blind panic i tried struggling free the distinctive odor of cigarette assailing my nostrils but with little success. He was on top of me now breathing heavily noxious scent of beer and whiff of nicotine bellowing out with his every breath, ever present stale sweat as he continued slobbering all over me, while I tried twisting my face away from his terrifying assault. I made an effort to push him off and scream but he had planted his lips directly over mine, almost swallowing my lips and tongue in his slobbery and slimy assault. With his shoulder and part of his chest pinning me down to the bed one of his hands was fumbling and squeezing my immature and barely formed breast, rough and mauling touch really painful mentally more so. It felt like an eternity of his terrifying assault before he brieﬂy paused to undo his belt .Then I saw a fleeting chance to free my right hand, as i grabbed an empty bottle sitting on the side of the bed and smashed it on his bald head as hard as I could with what little strength i had left, the bottle did not break but his yelp of pain as his hands instinctively went up to his head holding and massaging the point of contact was satisfying indeed.
This created a small window of opportunity to quickly slip out from underneath him as i ran outside the room into the darkened corridor darting out as fast as my legs could carry me. He lumbered outside the bedroom after me cursing loudly and trying to grab hold of me but I was already outside, holding my torn nightie tightly with one hand to my chest and racing towards the main road. I looked around for any sign of Aunty but she was nowhere in sight so crossed over to the other side, and after a quick look to make sure he was not following ducked and hid my small frame on the other side of a disused sand dune. I sighted him after some minutes shufﬂing out, still massaging his head and smoking as he continued muttering audibly even in the distance. He lurched off into the night the dark already cloaking his dark thoughts and designs with the enveloping anonymity darkness affords the vile and evil. It was in this state shivering with fright that omoefa had accosted me. She led me back to her own room lending me a shirt to wear over my torn dress, and then gave me her bed to sleep in until the next morning when Aunty will return. The next morning before I left Omoefa warned me not to accept opened drink or food from any of Auntie’s friends. I returned back to our apartment with a new resolve to return back to the village with the little money I have saved going out with Obiri and Kemta. I know mama can use the money to start something and we would have enough at least to feed.
To Be Continued……………………..
By Bunmi olaniyan
Read Part 2 HERE
As I lay there deliberating my friend Omoefa’s coarse and loud voice rang out as she shouted my name from outside startled me out of short lived reverie. I got up from the bed still in my pant and bra holding my head which had subsided a bit, just by sheer will and effort managed to put on a pair of Jeans and tee shirt. I slipped on a pair of slippers and stepped into the slightly darkened corridor crisscrossed with other rooms adjoined leading out to the compound.
I beheld one of the older girls who also worked in our compound Cindy and friends dancing near the window but ignored them only extending a brief greeting to Deborah one of the girls as I moved on, I heard from Omoefa’s roommate Cindy was from a good home, had even been sent to school a real secondary school but had run off with an older boyfriend her father’s pension safely tucked in her bag. The boyfriend swindled her and traveled out to Spain, leaving her with just a letter I suppose as memento or reminder I don’t know. Some have feet and shoes to wear on them, some have shoes but no feet, others possess neither shoes nor feet I wish, i wonder….
I met Omoefa sitting in a corner with the girls smoking ‘Igbo’ weed as they all shuffled to the music emanating from the stereo. I went towards them and as soon as they sighted me, they all shouted as if on cue hailing AREA HOW FAR NAH? Happy Birthday!!!
Tinuke Omoefa’s room mate passed me a cup of “Tombo liquor “as I joined them on the bench Omoefa passed me the smouldering wrap of ‘Igbo’ she was smoking. I held it between my thumb and foreﬁnger the embers cackling, sparks emitting from the tiny embers of the seed as i tapped the excess ash off. I put the cup to my lips and swallowed a mouthful of the local gin, my eyes watered slightly as the ethanol hit me full in the chest, oblivious to my pain charting a burning path down my throat traversing relentlessly down, a ﬁery passageway to the pit of my stomach. I took a long drag of the ‘Igbo’ weed inhaling holding in the smoke as long as I could thankfully, it was not the highly intoxicating kanaku hybrid.
The smoke circulated slowly coursing through internal oriﬁce, oh so soothing…swirling as in creating an artiﬁcial smokes screen, cloud-induced interface alongside sudden No stark reality of the life i existed in. It was all I could do not to lean back in relief my headache slowly receding as though dancing backwards, evaporating into nothingness…air, just like the smoke emanating from my slightly parted lips and nostrils drifting up into oblivion. I watched it all swirling upwards towards a stack heap of forgone memories where earlier introspection, niggling conscience end up never to harm or hold my thought process in a choke hold leaving me free to indulge in my vices, my excesses with no recourse to conscientious thoughts.
The ﬁrst time omoefa and I met she had accosted me hiding behind the sand dune crying profusely on a Friday night. I was tucked away in a darkened corner hence did not notice my presence until she nearly stepped on me. Omoefa shouted out in fright jumping back “Blood of Jesus” seeing me clearly her initial fright swiftly morphed into anger. She rounded up in anger asking who I was and my purpose for lurking in the darkness, all the while getting ready to smash her upturned ﬁst in my face. Tears still running down my face intermittently casting furtive glances towards the main gate i had escaped from, she must have realized the extent of my disconcert especially at the sight of my torn clothes as I held tightly to cover my half exposed breasts. Her anger turned to concern, as she asked me what had occurred abandoning all her initial resolve and hostility.
When I arrived Paradise Island I was still naïve hence was oblivious to what the girls actually did until much later. I only started to enjoy myself after I met Obiri, a girl who lived in a shack next to our compound. She was my age although looked and acted older, that girl was a real tomboy a ﬁre cracker. I often wondered how she came to be living on their own in the ghetto later after becoming ﬁrm friends, she conﬁded in me that she ran away from home hiding under a lorry ferrying plantains to Lagos.
She was labelled a witch by a man they called ‘Prophet Zephaniah’ in her village, Prophet’s minions tortured then forced her to drink a concoction made out of water droplets drained from a dead body, declaring the spirit of the dead will compel her into a confession of her deeds even against her will. It seemed one of the strongest demons dwelt in her dark heart as she failed to confess, repeatedly maintaining her innocence. This provoked Prophet’s holy anger as he instructed assistants to hold her down, mouth forced open using his holy staff and concoction poured down her throat. Ensuing stomach cramps triumphant validation for prophet Zephaniah.
She had been accused initially by her father of deploying the powers of witchcraft that strong demonic spirit to drain his destiny causing an inability to feed her 8 siblings, he was a subsistent farmer. Her ropes had been untied in the dead of the night by her mother, who urged her to run away or be killed. Rescuing her mother and siblings from her father’s clutches and giving them a better life has been her motivation for hustling. I will make it in Paradise Island one day you watch and see if I don’t she often said with strong conviction and seriousness.
Aunty had sent me to buy some Panadol at baba Oyibo’s chemist not very far from our compound. On my way back, one of the boys who hang around our street accosted me snatching Auntie’s change off my hand. I cried out begging him to give me back the money but he laughed taunting me until Obiri walked towards us and faced him. Looking on steadily no expression on her face bellying her true intentions she asked him to return my money, but he didn’t pay her any heed neither did I to be fair. Request repeated again this time ﬁrmly resolute as calm as you please, or he would get a beating. He ﬁnally paid attention to the irritant quickly surveying her small frame incredulously, unbelieving of the sheer impudence from this tiny runt as he laughed gleefully. Truly Obiri like me was shorter than the boy, by this time his friends had sauntered closer cheering urging him on.
All of a sudden she lunged forward grabbing his neck like a man and raining punches, open mouthed map of disbelief displayed all over my face at the sight “See this small ‘Pelenge’ girl ﬁghting a boy. The ﬁght seemed reminiscent of David and Goliath bored children had begun watching and clapping as the impromptu ﬁght progressed. She landed a quick succession of punches then another slap Ha it’s a miracle!! I stopped counting after nine punches with interjecting slaps, a cut on his thick black lips blood spurted trailing down his jaw line. He was riled seriously angry now, yellow rimmed eyeballs bulging in naked resentment as he wiped excess blood with the hem of his oversize 2pac long sleeve tee shirt, he began pulling up his sleeves. It has gotten much personal no more a random past time but saving face that male ego has to be redeemed forthwith. He deliberately rushed towards Obiri swinging wildly right hand busy, as he made to grab her with his left hand we all gasped in fright but she darted back evading his latest swing, then moved in crouching like Malaika the great wrestler in our village. She grabbed his legs in a seemingly coordinated motion and shoved him backwards. He landed hard on his buttocks the audible grunt of pain sounding like a pig’s grunt. The tides had swiftly turned at this stage everyone turning the boos earlier directed towards the small girl into cheers the now vanquished ﬁghter lying on the ground, smarting from defeat. I watched her beat him back to the ground, even after he unsuccessfully tried to get back up until an old woman drove the crowd away with a long broom. Caught up in the excitement I had forgotten about my dilemma until I felt my cloth tugged from the back i turned around to see her still looking disheveled from the ﬁght and sporting a small bump on her right cheekbone, without a word she shoved the crumpled change in my palm abruptly walking away.
To Be Continued……………………………
Written By Bunmi olaniyan
Read Part 1 HERE