Part of my fear had been if it would ever happen. To the best of my knowledge, none of my family had ever been to the city. In fact, in the entire community, a sizable number of people had ever been there. Notable among the privileged few was my friend’s brother, Steven.
According to Ikerebewu, my friend, Steven became a native of the city, something they call citizenship. In a discussion we later had, he told me citizenship was formed from the word city, and that he could enter the place freely at will. Ikerebewu explained to me Steven dined and wined with the king of the city whom they call Governor.
”Ah!” Then I thought may the gods bless the day I would step into the city. Immediately, I would make sure I got married to the king’s daughter to afford me the privilege of becoming the next Governor. Interesting! That means the city would be my kingdom and they would sing long live the king to me!
That was good to my ears. I had to really work hard. Steven I was also told had one of the best jobs. He was a transporter within the city, a profession I immediately decided to pursue.
A somewhat distant call of my name and a successive slap on my laps brought me back to reality. I was long-lost in my fantasies of the day I would leave the community for the big city.
“I am sorry, I was thinking of my trap in the bush” I lied to my friends.
My name is Motimi. I grew up in a small community in the Southern part of Nigeria. It was the evening of Friday, December 22 year 2003, about three days to Christmas. The atmosphere in the community was cloudy and people couldn’t stop merrymaking. When we heard Steven was in town a day earlier, we were happy and converged at Ikerebewu’s house for the usual discussion and gist about the city and to see what Steven got for him for Christmas as it was the custom; maybe another shoe or clothe. For two years, Ikerebewu‘s dressing was the topic among girls, the reason he had his way with most of them, the same reason none liked me.
“Wow!” chorused my friends.
I refocused my attention to the object of enthusiasm, it was a small object. I tried to look closer when I saw a phone with a flat surfaced object. It’s a plastic-like thing called SIM card. I remember our corper teacher told us about a phone and what could be done with it; it is a system for talking to someone else over a long distance using wire and radio. A machine he specifically called it. The corper demonstrated its usage by calling his mother and we heard her talk through the machine.
Not that I was happy about the development, but I had to join the euphoria in my phony elated mood. Ikerebewu told us his brother bought the phone for his family to use. Instead of having to wait to talk to Steven only when he came home, with the phone, they could talk almost all the time.
It was a very interesting but heart breaking situation for me. Why must it always be Ikerebewu and his family to set the pace? No family in the community had a phone. For the fifth time if my counts were right, Ikerebewu’s family acquired another thing while my family had nothing. I sighed but faked a smile.
“This calls for a celebration” Makoyo, one of us announced to throw a ‘Gengen low’ party in the community over the new acquisition by wisdom Ikerebewu’s family.
As if that wasn’t enough, the youth leadership that was proposed for me because of my academic prowess was decided upon to suit the man with the modern gadgets, clothes and money. The leadership tussle was initially between me and Ikerebewu. But because I was always doing well in class with grades that was second to none, coupled with how I would teach my friends, help write their assignment and organize Saturday classes for the children, 80 percent of the youth decided to choose me.
“Listen friends.” Okoro mounted the soup box as if to campaign for Ikerebewu.
“What I want to say is that no one is saying Motimi can’t be our leader. All we are just saying is that he should step down for Ikerebewu who can help our community with this thing called phone.” Everyone was listening intently to him by this time.
“Ikerebewu can put the phone at the community town hall once a week for people who have families in the city to receive calls. We all know he has to speak to his father for his approval.”
Brooklyn, one of us was too fast in corroborating these statement for my liking. He was just busy shaking his head in agreement to everything.
“My opinion is that he would be encouraged if he has a sense of responsibility and leadership. And secondly, if he agrees to make it happen, the best way to repay him is to honor him to be our leader” he pursed and looked Ikerebewu in the eyes before making his last comment.
“Or you won’t do that Ikerebewu?”
Everyone laughed so loud at the supposed sarcasm in the question. I giggled since I was the object of ridicule. My annoyance about this whole thing was that barely two months ago, I had the support of my entire friend. But because I disagreed to expose my answer booklet to the youth coordinator during our last examination, he planned to frustrate me. I got up to bid them all goodbye but sadly, it was as if no one noticed I did.
The way to my house, normally was short and direct. On that day, I was so affected by the conversation and sudden change of mind of my friends on a sealed mandate as the youth leader that the distant became unusually far.
Very close to the church, I saw Pastor Nnamdi walking out of the church premises.
“Was he holding a bottle of gin?” I murmured and debated quietly. I tried to look harder but my vision was playing a fast one on me. It was when he got closer that I saw it was a bottle of oil.
“Good evening pastor” I greeted him, “Hello Motimi, how are you?” he responded.
“Fine” I replied him doggedly.
“Tell your father he shouldn’t forget the church elders meeting tomorrow.”
“Okay sir I will” I turned and moved on.
The road became broadly far than the one to hell. Water dripped down my face, I felt heat every step I took and nauseating. I knew I had to get to the river because I needed to wash away the sour taste of that evening from my mouth. Each time I swallowed my spit, I felt a downward movement of my entire world. I turned to the road that led to the river and moved towards it.
Very close to the river, the croaking of a frog startled me, realizing where the sound was coming from; I readjusted and moved on. The horror of the quiet evening however hunted me even more. The noise from the evening bird freaked me out in a way I had never experienced before. But like the courageous man my father wanted me to be, which informed his three days a week story about the brave hunter, I proceeded. Even like the bride heading for the altar to her groom.
Getting to the river, what I saw was another disaster that totally capsized my mood in the ocean of fury. Kids bathing and defecating in the part of the river the community drinks. I shouted at them in hatred, spit venom of rejection and abused their seemingly God forsaken brains.
“Don’t you children have any brains to know that part of the river is for cooking and drinking?” I got more infuriated and left.
Few minutes’ after-wards, I was almost getting to the Akulume frontage before my senses tapped me into consciousness. Before me were two buildings, One belongs to the Iberepoyi family while the other was for the Akulume’s. I totally had passed off the road to my house and as I recalled, papa Iberepoyi said the next time he saw me at his front door he would shoot me with his hunting gun. Not for any good reason if you asked me. Because he saw his daughter with me under the tree at the back of the house in the forest around 10pm sometimes back. We explained we both went to defecate but he refused to understand the simple English we learn from our teacher back in school.
I stood there thinking while my vision remained blurred.
“How can this be? We didn’t drink palm wine. Why should the embarrassment get to me to the extend of intoxicating with fury and penance for revenge? Yes, revenge!” I laid emphasis and proposed within me to do everything humanly possible to change my status in the community.
“Since none of my family could go to the great city, I have to. Then, I will marry the kings’ daughter”. I confessed determinedly and I breathe out heavily.
“Okay Motimi, calm down”.
I admonished myself to Breathe in and out. I did and opened my eyes.
Immediately, I could speak myself out of the disdainful and infuriating ego, I retraced my steps back and made the road home. At home, I walked straight in and didn’t say a word to anyone. Instead, I went directly to my mat in our room. I laid down hoping to catch a fast nap. After a while, I realized nap was the one catching me, I couldn’t sleep. All I was thinking was the thought-provoking conversation I had with Steven and the mind disturbing betrayal exuded by my friends. I decided to drop the reason I was angry to concentrated more on how to make my friends pay for their betrayal.
Steven told me the big city is the hub of prosperity where success story vibrates against the financial wall of the world. The voices of her resident in the global event resonates its vibrancy. He said business starts and ends in Lagos-the fashion home and mega destination of styles. In the city, the mind is the most powerful tool at people’s disposal. He said whoever can think it will have it. Also, he said every day in the big city dawns to the unending throng of people from side to side and places to places. Each day is a wake up call to everybody no matter what the status is.
I was almost totally lost in the pool of my thought when I jerked to life to the sound of a displaced pot. It fell from the pile of dirty plates and pots. Immediately I knew what it was. That rat was around again, was always rummaging through the dirty plates in the room. Late at night, it would climb over my parents’ body, my uncle’s, two sisters and three brothers to where the pots were, in a corner very close to my mat. I had promised to be the one to kill it, and being the only one in the room; I got up, took my father’s boot and searched for it.
“Today is the day you will die you this rat”. I announced its funeral even before its death.
Five minutes after, the rat seemed to have entered the earth.
“Okay!” Angrily, I withdrew to my mat.
I tried to engage my mind on the city again, tried to catch up where I left off but couldn’t. I closed my eyes and the next thing I heard was the early morning admonition from different cocks that it was dawn…cock-a-doodle-ooh.
I stretched like a lazy man, looked around but none of my family was in view. I sat up and the dream I had came rushing back to me. I was in the big city (Lagos) traveling back to the community along with my wife, the governor’s daughter and kids.
Immediately I knew what I needed to do sooner or later, I resolved to make Ikerebewu pay for what he did to me and what his brother did to my brother. According to what my brother told me before his death,they both agreed on a plan. This agreement was the reason Steven could go to Lagos in the first place and the same reason my brother died. The memory always disturb me and the knowledge I could have been the one enjoying if Ikerebewu’s brother was honest with mine lingers on my mind. I thought within me, it’s either I go to Lagos or kill myself along with Ikerebewu in this community.