WAR WITHIN

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War within

Binged, tired and lost in an unfamiliar dream, I woke up to the vehement sounds of the rain.

The bus-stop roof had taken some beatings and it wasn’t going to keep quiet. Not when it rains this hard. Stony as the droplets may seem the rhythm had a musicality to my new environment.

I woke up to an array of silent humans, each loosely packed in a tiny space of their own. The atmosphere was different this time around and the sun seemed to have escaped with the noise that would have deafened me if my two ear sized attorneys haven’t afforded me a fair hearing of melodious recordings from my cell phone.

The man whose squeaky voice tortured us for more than an hour had carefully packed himself in one of the seats as he was now dead to the world. We didn’t entirely like the noise but he introduced himself as a man of God, by mutual respect we ended any protest before it even started. Although the atmosphere had quitened, I could hear some men argue out their footballing allegiance and beliefs in turns – each trying to outweigh the other’s point. In front of me were two women, whose rancorous argument had delayed the whole contingent by 30 minutes.

One of them, her luggage on her laps, hatred in her soul and anger in her eyes. She just won’t keep quiet, she was so nosy that you would believe she saw demons at intervals. Instead, the demon was right beside her. Another lady with a yellow top which read “THE REAL BITCH” had called her fat. I didn’t think she was fat, I thought she was big( big enough to occupy two seats). The fact that she sat at my front made me stop to think she could be the barrier the pastor said was blocking my blessings the previous day in his Sunday preaching.

She had started her self defence almost immediately and like an M16 reaching for an innocent soul, she has done the damage in the least time her opponent could think of. She targetted her looks, calling her Ugly. Truth be told, the other woman was ugly…. But who cares?? There are ugly bitches too…

Like dogs fighting over bones they both aimed jibes at one another and it almost degenerated into a free-for-all fight. Their new rivalry had cost the entire contingent a 30 minutes delay before the start and it wasn’t looking to end any sooner or change for better.

I was in a public transport for a long distance journey. An option that I took helplessly due to my prevailing circumstance(s). One of them that I didn’t have enough money to travel by air.

I was en route to Ekiti– my ancestral land which I have ironically been to twice. One during my birth and the other to visit my aged mother.

Except those two occasions, anytime I am not in Abuja, I am in Lagos or running my second degree at a school in the United Kingdom in my dreams. On my last visit two years back, mum had convinced me to complete my voter registration after I had bitterly complained how bad the roads on any part that wasn’t a major city in Ekiti was, and by INEC crooked guidelines I have to make the travel down south to vote in tomorrow, Saturday February 16 general elections.

It was 6am in the morning and we were four hours from completing what was a long and grueling 10 hours trip. Like a store owner yelling at a breakaway thief, an elderly passenger repeatedly howled at the driver, pleading that he empties his bowel before he dies of inflammatory kidney cancer. In seconds, the bus stopped. Sometimes freedom wears the garb of the law of chance, each passenger wasn’t going to allow this chance pass them by, they quickly explored the old man’s misfortune to ease themselves too.

Old KSA  music from loudspeakers, women jostling to display their wares, children in different stages of nakedness scattered and running helter-skelter, some boys justling to sell their fried plantains and gala which they placed on their shoulder, others having jerrycans buried on their vertices. These scenes made me realize we had arrived at Oye Ekiti.

It was 10am on Friday morning, but it looked nothing short of a Monday morning in the market near the bus station – It was market day. Fifteen minutes later, I was in my mother’s house. Outside was lukewarm and the smell of Chelsea in the piss steaming off the veranda informed me of my uncle’s presence.

He wasn’t entirely bad, except that he was a ugly and an unrepentant drunkard. He was a security personnel in the Ibadan City polytechnic. For some strange reasons he was famous for his nickname, “go-easy” among the students . According to my mother, he was christened Babajide, a name he strongly detested.

This hate he owes to an old nightmare. In this dream he had tried to evoke the gods of fortune, dressed in red, laced with white hen feathers on his cap and an incantation only he himself understood. He had made way for the heaven gates until one woman appeared in white. Her face like that of a Lion who had just lost out on a prey – frustrated. She had immediately lashed out at him, warning him to never trouble the gods again else they forcibly transit him to the land of the dead the place where unfortunate soul like him languish. She said, that he was still alive only due to their kindness, for to them, he’s been an even bigger embarrassment than his grandfather, Davidi, who was nicknamed, Oloriburuku, for his misfortune was almost a purposeful labouring to affirm the ugly stereotypes that anchored their intergenerational failings. That day, he woke up like a defeated warrior, the little strength that remained in him he had immediately used to denounce his name Babajide which meant “the return of his grandfather” giving that he died the same way my uncle was born.

Like in most part of Nigeria, stable electricity was a fantasy, hoped and prayed for but hardly ever seen or experienced. Oye Ekiti is as dark as Moscow is cold. One could even get lost within the confines of his compound during the evening . My phone’s battery percentage wasn’t entirely bad – 52%. It was the absence of network that worried me. As basic as it may seem 2G coverage was a luxury in this clime, as soon as I slide to unlock my device, notifications like “no network” stayed floating up its screen.

Hardly had I settled than my mother unveiled her welcome dish. Before me was lying a clean tray carefully laced with semovita and bitter leaf soup with plethora of edible animals swimming in it. Carefully unpacking myself from my travelling suit, I made way for the bathroom and in minutes I was faced with the sweetest task in the world – devouring mum’s special delicacy.

The sun had meticulously spread its tentacles to the nook and cranny of the environment, it was an hot afternoon in Ekiti and I had decided to take a walk down street, more appropriately the bush, coz there was a bush on every side.

I had barely walked 50 metres when I saw a young boy hawking oranges, he made quick advances at me, wanting me to patronize the business I was sure wasn’t his own. I had three thousand Naira notes in my pocket. I gave him one and took two oranges. His face lit up like the Olympic light. He had hit a jackpot without playing his father’s favourite game – Baba Ijebu.

Minutes later, I would arrive the scenery of a crime incident. A girl has been mobbed by six boys, they claimed she disrespected one of them and they were taking her into a building yet to be completed. Perhaps they were taking her to a guidance counsellor. But I wasn’t for sure if one would live in such conditions. I quickly raised an alarm in a bid to stop them. But they won’t stop, instead they ran faster with her. They ran so fast they alarmed a farmer, whose two inches cutlass was enough to scare the plan out of their heads. Ireti was finally safe. And She wouldn’t stop thanking me for saving her life, according to her she had been kidnapped by the boys and they were planning to take turns to rape her. Perhaps my interception was timely – the type my favourite defender Sergio Ramos has become known for. But I was still shocked by how close she was between life and grief. I got home late and tired from the day’s troubles.

My uncle, whiskey in his hand, bloodshot eyes tired from drinking and a long sleep. He was seated with my mother, they were having dinner and I would soon join them.

Empty plates, silent noise and stomachs filled. A discussion soon ensued. This part, I hated the most. My uncle went first.

“Irvine, you are no longer a child, your mother is growing old and it’s high time you got married.”

He could barely finish with his part when my mother cut in.

“Ile obirin o n pe su, you are 30 this year and in some years you will be heading towards menopause, is that when you will start taking the decision to give me my grand kids seriously ?? ….”

“But you have Kiki already mum….. ”

“Gbe enu e sohun, the child who we do not even know her father”

If one man treats one badly it doesn’t mean others will.

Ki oju ma ri ibi, gbogbo Ara ni ogun eh.

“As the discussion lingered, my mum and her brother were pressuring me into marriage. And at a point, my uncle gave an ultimatum of 5 months for me to find a partner.

It was at that point that my mum remembered Lakunle her friend’s son. According to her he fits the profile of the husband I would like. Lakunle was a businessman who had just returned from the United States, since his arrival he has been a major player in the Oil and Gas industry. Besides his achievements, he was good looking, tall, handsome with a broad chest many women would cherish. On top of that, he was my mother’s best friend son. In my mother’s head, there couldn’t have been a more perfect union.

She had make sure myself and Kunle met in Lagos. We only went out three times before we parted ways, three weeks into what was an immature relationship .

It was only three weeks and three outings, but Kunle had hit me six times and almost raped me on another. Besides, I had walked in on himself and other ladies naked in his house. My mum response to my complains about Kunle were typical.

“Every man has his flaws, do you know how many times your father cheated on me and even hit me … ?? ”

But we later found a common ground and made a beautiful union….

This common narrative was the usual excuse for African mothers in urging their children to remain in abusive relationships.

But I was going to have none of it. Yes, all men have flaws but Kunle’s was more like a curse .

Besides my idea of perfection is myself fufilling my dreams of completing my second degree and furthering for my masters . And Nothing else would come before that. Nothing!

I tried explaining this to my mother and her brother but it didn’t end well, my mother got so annoyed she left the discussion table and my ill fated uncle relegated his concentration to his whiskey.

True to her words, I was going to be thirty this year but marriage was the least of my plans (that’s even if it’s one of it). I had a child from a rape incident while I was in school. My mum named her Kiki, and took her along with herself when she came to visit me four months after the incident.

The rape incident was more harrowing than anything I have experienced. Two masked men bundled me into a building and had their way. It was terrible and I hated men from then on.

Since then, I have looked to furthering my education as a means of finding happiness. My dream of doing my second degree and masters in a UK university was one I pursued with all intents and purposes.

I went to bed sober that night. For once, I could almost see my dreams shattering before my eyes. Sleep wouldn’t come. I had too much on my mind, my application for study at the Manchester University would be reviewed today, it was either I got an acceptance mail or the opposite although my mind was programmed on one outcome – the favourable one.

In the midst of my mystery, I stumbled on my phone and forgetting that I was in a deadbeat zone, I switched on my data connection.

Sometimes, luck comes when you need it the most. 2G network appeared on my phone minutes after I turned on its connectivity.

Where else would I find solace if not Twitter, although the messages were slow and the pictures won’t just load.

The first message I came across was that of the postponement of the general elections.

There are a lot of unverified information on Twitter and I quickly hoped this one was one of them. Right then, I saw a retweet by presidential aide confirming the postponement. The message wasn’t from the electioneering umpire (INEC) but it was from a top government official so it had every chance of being true.

My face immediately knew a new defeat, I had gone through 10 gruelling hours journey, insults from my mum and her brother for no reason. There was going to be no election.

This left a sour taste in my mouth. Minutes later, I saw mail from the Manchester University on my notification. I immediately prayed God that this one be different, not another disappointment.

Loo and behold, I opened the mail, it was a rejection mail. The fifth I have received in 2 months. My face dropped, it felt like the world crumbled right in my front. My dreams were over even before they began. It was a terrible, terrible night. I hurriedly went to sleep.

Allah Akbar, Allahu Akbar…. The familiar sounds of the Muslim call to prayer was up at 6am, but to many in mum’s village it was the early morning notification to get out of bed.

I bumped into my mum and her brother on my way to the bathroom. There was a deafening silence, too loud I couldn’t think about anything. The silence was short-lived. There was nothing good about the morning but Good mornings were appropriate for all mornings, mild and worse.
It was home-training. I did the needful.

From my mum’s transistor radio I could hear the announcement confirming the cancellation of the elections. Like an hammer hitting a nail repeatedly, the news hit my heart really hard again, again and again!. For starters, my little investment with Shade my flatmate in Lagos would certainly crumble. She had the plan to sell “Kunu” to the voters in the polling unit near our residence. She had prepared the Kunu the night before the elections but now it will all go to waste.

I later convinced my mum to allow me leave for Lagos that evening. She was angry, according to her I never get to spend enough time around. I had to lie about a business meeting to lay strong credence to my departure that evening.

I had ten thousand naira left with me and of that, seven thousand naira would be my fare to Lagos. This meant I could only leave three thousand naira for my mum and my little Kiki who was on holiday with my aunt in Ondo. I tried explaining to my mum how hard business was in Lagos but she was having none of it, claiming if I had an husband things would have been different.

Two weeks later, I sit here with an acceptance letter from the University of Birmingham in hand. I have tried calling my mom to share the news but she won’t pick and when she does she doesn’t allow me talk. She says she will only listen when I bring her a suitor.

Maybe the best opportunities of our lives come at our darkest moments….. Life itself is an unrepentant bitch….

 

To be continued……..

 

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