We could talk of culture, of conflict, love, and pain. In the heart of a buzzing city in Nigeria, Drama plays out like the everyday comic because, in the course of life and death, diversity and differences keep us on our toes.
It’s late October, wind drafts move the swinging doors, the women meet along the streets comparing their wares. The tarred express way ends as you enter the street, the women wave at the cars as they pass. Almost every woman in Opebi owns a store and if for no other reason, it was for Christmas. The little boys running around in their tiny shorts peek out from their windows, they know Iya Alate will have their favourite “knock out” stacked in her bag. There is an Iya Alate on every corner. Their storefronts hug the side of big multi-tenanted compounds, right beside the gates where the boys could easily sneak in for a pack of bangers.
You could hear a stiff bargain going on in a shop.
“Iya Suru, Se tiri sand wa?”
The older woman would frown at the little boy asking for three sound bangers,
“O fe ki mama e pa mi abi? Won ni n ma ta knock out fun e mo, gbogbo owo Iya e loti fi ra tiri sand tan”
The boy fidgets with the naira notes, he pleads with his life and swears that he would not buy another piece after this one. Iya Suru knows he is lying but how else would she nurture this sacred pact between herself and her faithful client? She just has to do the favour in the spirit of Christmas. She grumbles as she accepts his offering and quickly stuffs the contraband in his sweaty palms.
“Ma jeki won ri lowo e ooo,” the boy runs off as if to avoid being dispossessed of his “precious goods.”
Mothers warn their boys about the dangers of throwing banger, that they would not get Christmas presents from Father Christmas. Somehow the little boy in Opebi Lagos had to buy into fantasies that only seem relevant in New York. Who cares about father Christmas, other than the plates of oily Jollof packed with water whistles and stick sweet? None of these little boys care if Father Christmas gets lost on his way to their Christmas Carol. The euphoria and excitement is quite contagious, for a brief moment, everyone loves the other person just for being another human on their street.
On one side of Sadiko street, you can see a school stuck under brown rusty corrugated iron sheets, the female teachers struggle to rehearse marching drills with the children and one of the men poses as father Christmas. The students queue in front of the run down metal gate. Only a few of the older girls and small boys remain after closing hours, the teachers have to keep an eye on the little boys as they cast furtive glances at their playmates who run by screaming at the top of their lungs.
In the distance a boy lights his fire cracker, the sound goes off followed by screams, the rascals are in high spirit.
December is still a whole month away but the colours are out, church proselytes hanging their carol banners, men coming home earlier than usual to herd their families to vigils and rehearsals, the women shuffle across the streets, returning from their umpteenth market run.
The streets buzz with activity, the gates are open, children run in and out of their Gates. A dark gray Toyota Camry crawls through the streets.
“Aunty me! Aunty and me!”
The cheery crowd of excited children runs alongside the car, she smiles out at them, their big little tummies showing how much food they had stacked in their bowels from house to house. Onyinye sees her father’s wide grin as he pulls up just outside the gate to their house. For a split second she thought he was back to his old self but in a second look, she can only see the long drawn wrinkles on his brows and the dark puffy eye bags he had developed within the space of a year. The children quickly grab the packs of sweet Onyinye pulls out, they run off just before the older woman in the passenger’s front seat steps out.
“Mother Christmas, continue wasting your father’s money and allow these tiny witches kill you like they killed your mother!”
The older woman smirks in disgust.
“Fuck you,” Onyinye replies.
“Hain? Demola se emi ni omo e n pe ni fucking” Iyunade exclaims.
The back door of the car slams shut, the two females are poised for a showdown, Demola has abandoned his attempt to open the gate and left the scene.
“Who cares about such a tattered baggage of filth like you? you think my father in his right sense will marry a smelly woman like you?”
She could tell that her father was too tired to break up the fight so Onyinye pulled out all her cards, she had always wanted to tell the Haggard Yoruba woman off for trying to replace her mother.
“Sango lo de maa pa e!” This statement is followed up with wild slaps, the two scuffle right in the middle of the streets. A woman abandons her shop and runs to the scene, she gets scratched on the face, someone runs into the compound calling for Demola.
A rickety bus pulled out of the crowded Lagos to Benin motor park, A woman close to one of the windows beckoned for a call voucher vendor.
A mischievous grin played on her lips as she hummed a tune and punched away at the phone screen. They had agreed to surprise their aged mother the next morning, she was not expecting to see all her children just yet. Someone led a prayer session from the back of the bus, so she held her call till they were well under way.
This was their third family reunion in a decade, She had told Demola to take Onyinye to resume school in Unilag while she would go alone to meet her siblings for the reunion. The Obagus were a close knit family and every opportunity for a reunion was fanfare.
The phone screen lightened up, the trip to Benin had started a little late in the evening so it was soon dark and it seemed best to place her call while the bus was still quiet.
“Hello Nne, hope you have rested… ”
She listened for a while, only nodding at intervals as if the other person could hear her nods.
“We have not gone far ooo, you know I like traveling after I close from school, they didn’t allow me to take leave from school ooo…just tell your husband I want pounded yam,” she said.
A sudden draft of wind rushed in from the driver’s seat, the elderly man jerks and swerved to dodge a pot hole.
The woman briefly held her breathe, hurriedly ended her call and warned the driver to stay at alert.
“Driver o bu ura k’ina arahu k’obu gini?”
The driver waved off her query and she is almost relieved when he engaged a sharp bend at full speed, bringing the car full alignment with a large tow truck that was coming from the other direction.
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