Despite what happened earlier between me and Ikerebewu over the youth leadership position last week, I tried to have pleasant time throughout the festivals. At Igbemo Angalabiri community, an Island about two hours from Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa state in Nigeria, Christmas and New Year were jointly celebrated. The total population made the practice possible. That year, on Christmas day, everyone worshiped at father Nnamdi’s church at St Matthew cathedral. After church service, we had a cultural display and drama in honor of the birth of Christ. Later that same evening, the community converged at the community chairman’s compound to eat and drink. The day after Christmas; Boxing Day was most spectacular. We had boat riding and fishing competition while the women indulged in bead making competition. During that same period, an impending dispute between the Maragbaya family and Okughalo house hold was brought before the elders, discussed and judged. The New Year eve, which coincidentally was also the last day of the celebrations, was set aside for any man to take for himself a bride. Any man old enough and capable of having a wife usually waits till the eve of each New Year to do the formal engagement. Mr. Government, brother Alaiyesima and Duderogbe said their marriage vows that day.
As promised, Steven, Ikerebewu’s brother from Lagos generously lavished on us on the 1st of January 2004. He took us to the best beer place in the community. We were about sixteen and strictly men but some were men to be like me. Three hours later, everyone was drunk but me, and ready to go home. I wasn’t drunk because I needed to be conscious that day. At first I didn’t know why, only knew I was boiling within. I needed to talk. I needed to make the entire community know the truth but on the other hand I was skeptical Steven would deny and if he did, I would be the object of ridicule and rejection. Some might say I was jealous, others might call me an ingrate. What I had against him were just facts from my dead brother. I needed the right words and moment to convey and make it convincing enough not to arouse suspicion and doubt over the integrity of the accusation.
About an hour debates within me over a bottle of guilder led to a compromise to approach Steven in person on his way home not minding his intoxicated condition. Few minutes after, Steven announced to his drunk crew he was on his way home. Handed his bag to Ikerebewu his brother, my old friend, who ignored my presence throughout the time we were drinking and I gladly disregarded his existence too. While thinking on how to climb on the bandwagon, Steven called out to me.
“Hey Motimi, don’t you want to join us walk the road together?”
I processed what just happened. Like a thief trying to think out the best way to make his unwelcome entry, the inhabitant unknowingly handed him a spare key. Though no thief or key this time, I got an invitation to take Steven through the darkest hour of his life.
“Sure” I responded and at the instance got up, gulped the remaining liquid in my bottle as I needed every available charge to ignite my fury that evening. I must not mince words and must sound believable. Anything short of that could make Steven act smart and deny my claims.
On our way, Steven requested I followed him to his house, I reluctantly agreed. His movement was inconsistent. He took his steps with caution, behaving like his steps must be three feet apart. Thus, dictating his wobbling movements as if he was a hybrid version of Robocop. He pulled me closer, carried his hands across my shoulder to support him while Ikerebewu was on the other side with his bag.
Steven asked if I enjoyed the drink and I replied him I didn’t really enjoy it. He stopped for about three seconds, forcing me to stop as well before proceeding. Though the weather was changing, day turning to-night, I could still see the surprise in his face, a questioning look, obviously unsure of what to make of what I said. At the end, he pushed a word out of his mouth to show his displeasure and inquisitiveness.
“Why?” He asked.
I tried to put up a little act before I responded.
“ Well, I had so much on my mind today, you know it will be two years I lost my brother next month, couldn’t just stop missing him.”
When i mentioned my brothers name, he claimed to feel my pains.
“I am so sorry, I know how that could feel. I missed him too; you know we were childhood friends like you and Ikerebewu.”
His voice was terribly slurred and inaudible. He was choosing his words one after the other in a drunken replication of his annoying movement.
“But his death was not as painful as how he died.”
He took the bait, responded even more passionately this time.
“That was the terribly painful part truly. Your brother I knew was decent and faithful, why or how he got caught up is something I couldn’t comprehend.”
I was happy within me at the progression. The last question was what I intended to nail him. I looked at Ikerebewu who was busy waving to Janet. A lot went on between Janet and I before Ikerebewu came between us.
I chose my words carefully this time, I called out to Steven, and he answered smiling at me.
“Did you know my brother died because of you?” he leaped backwards, enough to hit Ikerebewu off-balance. His eyes became opened and his posture portends sanity and clarity. He looked at me in disbelieve, tried to speak but words failed him. I suspected he wanted to deny and lash out at me but the confidence I uttered the accusation was convincing, he immediately looked to the far right and left to make sure no one was in close distance enough to hear what I said.
I gained confidence and re-frame my accusation while he seemed lost.
“I know you could go to Lagos because of my brother and that was what killed him and….”
He jumped at me unsuspectingly, covered my mouth with his dirty and alcohol smelling palms, whispered to my ears to calm down and keep quiet. Ikerebewu stood transfixed, not sure of what was going on.
“Let’s discuss this in a more private environment.”
He removed his palm from my mouth to ease me. He turned to Ikerebewu, ordered him to go home while he asked me to follow him towards the town hall. On a day like 1st of January, the town hall was usually busy but at the back of the town hall was a hidden converging point known to the youths. It was along the Gbelegory bush, barricaded inside by multiply bamboo trees.
We walked through the crowded town hall compound, navigated our way to the back. We crossed the stream that passed in between the hall and Gbelegory bush. On the other side, under a mango tree was Wisdom and Winnie catching up on old times or maybe hooking up for good time. We greeted them and moved on. We diverted our way through the bamboos and in no time approached the hideout, cutting us from any possible human existence.
The reigning sound was that of mockingbirds, probably annoyed about our presence. Flies roamed the environment closely, probably scared of the second coming of two goliath while am sure they haven’t gotten a David to fight the battle. We heard sounds of passerby but ignored and delve straight into the pressing issue.
“What was that you said out there?” Steven asked, his eyes were shinning and anger permeates his breath.
“Of cause you heard me. Darosa my brother told me everything that happened” breathing heavily, sure scared of a possible denial but hoped he would not.
“What did he tell you?” He was perspiring heavily. Though panting, his voice came out a bit determined. He couldn’t sit but paced back and forth.
“Well, he told me enough to know both of you ought to go to Lagos but because the money wasn’t enough he sacrificed his trip. You promised to come for him but you didn’t. Yet, until his death he protected the truth and made me promise never to tell anyone”.
At that point, tears were forming in my eyes, I was missing Darosa more than I could handle. I remembered our trips on boat, setting traps, making nets and boat riding. He taught me almost all I knew, made me understand the usefulness of education and promised to send me to school as soon as he could go to Lagos.
I looked at Steven and wailed in agony and hatred “but you killed him!”
I thrust myself toward him but he was too strong and fast, he moved swiftly out the way of the impending attack. My punch missed him by a whisker. I hit my foot on a stone and descended heavily on the ground, he took advantage of the situation while I was faced down, still connecting the dots on why I was on the ground. He pinned my waist with his knee to the ground, held firmly my two hands backward with one hand and the other to pull my head.
“Motimi, you have to be careful what you do or claim, I didn’t kill Darosa, he was too smart and nice. He chose his path.”
I tried to get him off me to no avail. It was my turn to pant which I would have done better than anyone if it was a competition. I sweat profusely. At that stage of the unfolding, fear gripped me. Different thoughts and possibilities took turn within me in a close succession. I became scared Steven took me to that quiet place to kill me too.
At that instance I tried to relax, I sensed death dinning with me with a longer spoon. I had to borrow words I knew out rightly betrayed my intended motive but to be timid is better than death I consoled myself.
“Okay Steven, get off me or I will scream and the community will rush down here and you will……”
“Please spare me the gist, no one care about what happen on a busy night like this” he raised his head, turned to look towards every direction to further confirm we were alone. I sensed his worries so I took advantage.
“Well, before I joined you for drink, I told Moremi my sister I was coming to you for a serious talk, I advised if I didn’t come home in time, you would know where I would be” I lied.
I felt his grip loosen as against the previously firm one. He cleared his throat and became quiet for a while before urging me he didn’t want to hurt me. He told me he only needed to be sure I won’t further attack him.
“Of course I won’t.”
He believed my words, released his grips both from my backward twisted arms and head and got off my back slowly.
I got up, stretched my twisted arms, dusted my cloth and about to talk when I realized Steven was shedding tears. I feel so in control immediately.
“You connived with Darosa, sold the stolen property but failed on your agreement.”
“I didn’t connive with him, I agreed with him!” He shouted in frustration at me.
He cleaned the tears, “We nursed going to Lagos for several years, and we had someone to help us but didn’t have the money to travel.”
“Darosa told me”, I concurred. And he also told me you stole from chief Malaikaye when you delivered his request for two baskets of fish for his daughter’s wedding”.
“We didn’t steal we took. Moreover, Darosa asked us to. All I did was help him carry the copper sculpture from Benin showing the mix of weapons that existed during the colonial era. We got a buyer and sold it out.”
“Yes you did” I replied him, frustrated at his abysmal understanding of the word ‘steal’ and ‘took’, connive and agreed.
“And the proceeds wasn’t enough to take you both to Lagos?” he nodded in acknowledgement.
“And my brother had to sacrifice his trip to let you go but not without a prior agreement you would gather money to take him to Lagos as soon as possible?”
“So why didn’t you honour your agreement?”
He looked perplex and lost. After a while, he got over his reverie and charged the situation a bit.
“I didn’t come for him because I couldn’t afford the transport fare at that moment” his voice was louder than I would advice in such messy situation.
“Oh!” I raised my eyebrow and wiggle my hip to the left while my right palm and arm dabbled to the right thin air like a woman.
“I see. Did you know after some years, they traced the missing sculpture to delta? When the buyer knew it was stolen, he volunteered to come down to the village for possible identification of who sold it to him?”
“No I didn’t” he offered in a condolence voice.
“No, you didn’t I guessed. You didn’t also know that my brother denied he stole or sold anything and surprisingly, he didn’t even mention your name throughout the ordeal?”
“I am so sorry” he tried to touch me but I moved away.
“The community elders suggested since my brother claimed he knew nothing about it, he should drink the water from Maricabar goddess…….”
Before I could finish, Steven shouted and rebuked my brother for taking such step.
“Why would he do that, my parent didn’t tell me that was what happened, thought he died of natural cause?”
Those words angered me but he could be right, he died after a brief illness in his sleep after drinking from Maricabar. That could pass for a natural death I thought.
“No he didn’t, besides, few people knew about the incidence. He told me he had a charm he believed would shove the curse off but it didn’t work.”
I stepped forward, at a distance so close I felt his heavy breath. Although He refused to exude any trait of dread but his stare wasn’t coherent. His eyes darted to every part of our environment. His posture also betrayed his impersonated firm looks; his fingers were unconsciously unsettled while his body posture slightly professed his undermined confidence.
I maintained un-blinking eyes, gnashed my teeth-whimpered almost inaudibly.
“But you refused to come back for him while he laid his life for a sin you both committed.”
He left me standing at the same spot while he paced the confined area with his right index reluctantly in his mouth. He stopped after the fifth laps pacing. Looked at me, opened his mouth as if to say something but nothing came out. Moved to a condemned log, sat on it head bent while his right hand supported his jugular.
“Please Motimi, you have to keep this a secret and I will do anything to compensate your loss.”
I wanted to protest he was selfish and heartless. How could he have betrayed my brother and yet, he wanted me to be an accomplice in making the truth an everlasting secrete. But on the second thought, there was a likelihood of an opportunity in his request. I needed to be sure I heard him well, so I deceitfully plotted a revolt against his request.
“How dare you ask me to cover up such inhuman act? My brother will never forgive me in his grave. I will tell the community what you did, nothing can make me……….”
He cut in looking pitiable and helpless, if it was a gimmick I didn’t know. After all these years, I cared less about his remorse; in honesty or deceit.
Before I could say anything again, he went on his knees immediately.
“Motimi please don’t do this to me, the truth may kill my parents. The public disgrace I can’t bear. My entire family will be a dirty gutter for the community spit of disgust and rejection, please, please, please….”
His eyes were closed, voice returning to his stomach. He faced down while holding my ankle with his left hand and the other to clean the water discharge from his eyes.
“Did you say you will do anything if I keep this a secret?”
I felt a quick vibration on my leg; the hope a positive outcome gave life to his body. He shook my legs with both hands.
“I will do anything.”
“Okay” I said.
“If that is the case, what I want is simple. If you take me with to Lagos, we have a deal.”
I told him with a skeptical disposition.
“That may be serious for now; you know I didn’t plan it. But I can promise to come for you as soon as I can arrange some cash.”
Without wasting time, I revolted.
“No. it’s either you take me now or I expose you. I can’t trust you the way my brother did.” I folded my arms and turned away from him.
“But try to understand, it’s not that I don’t want to but…….” Immediately, I thrust my body forward, both in protest and threat.
“Am getting out of here, can see you are not ready for me,” he caught up with me and drew me back with my hand.
“Okay I have heard you; I will do all I can to take you with me. But remember I am going in three days. Hope that seals the deal?”
“What did you just say?”I asked in astonishment, gently turned back to face him staring at me almost in frustration.
“Yes, I said I will take you to Lagos.” He shouted at me.
As if I would care even if he slaps me to reiterate his promise. I was so happy. That was the best news of my life in fifteen years. Soon enough I shall be in the city I have dreamt of almost all my entire life. Lagos city-Eko Ile, a destination I shall soon make my home.
I became scared l he might be fooling me at some point but the promises of it being true outweighed the reverse. I mysteriously hugged him before I knew what I intended to do. I endured his breath and odour. The following seconds, I wanted to run, wanted to stay. Wanted to tell the community the next king of Lagos was in the making, I looked up as if I would see an image I could pretend was God, I just needed to thank someone, whoever in the sky. From nowhere, a song formed within me and forced out through my mouth. I started singing and dancing, jumping and stooping. The song wasn’t coherent or all together meaningful but I know the lyrics included ‘me, Lagos and go’. The other verse had ‘very soon’ in it. Right where I was standing, far above Stevens head, I pretended I could see Lagos from a distant. And I said to myself “Lagos, here I come”.
In case you miss the first part, you can read it up here http://wp.me/p1WSw3-3f