After my parents’ divorce, I started staying with one of our neighbors, Alhaja Kudirat. Alhaja as she was fondly called, was a single mother of 5. No one knew so much about her husband, apart from the tale of him being the next of kin to King Solomon of Israel. Alhaja was a trader of grains, a successful trader at that and one of the elites in town.
Alhaja’s look never sends off her rank as the Ajenifuja of Ede. She rarely changed her wear and when she did, her wrapper was never the same as the buba. There was no time for fashion. She was a workaholic whose life revolved around her business. She could fall sick just for not going to her store in a day.
The tribal marks on her face would remind you of a runaway slave in the old dynasty of Oyo. Her teeth send forth a picture of spoilt maize. Her house wasn’t different from her look. It was a backlash on her status. A two-flat apartment, the flat at the back had no roof. That was where Bro Kasali, her first son, my favorite in the house, smoked his weed. The other flat that we stayed in didn’t look more honorable. The louvers, almost entirely broken stood there like they were tired of being half.
There were just two doors in the flat, the front and back doors that served as a balanced diet for termites. Each window was draped with two of Alhaja’s wrappers as the curtain, tied in loose ends with the long rope attached to a mosquito net.
The four rooms in the apartment housed 10 occupants; Alhaja, her 5kids, Auntie Sidi who tripled as a salesgirl, cook, and housemaid, and I, the homeless boy. Wrappers litter the sitting room, where the two drivers of Alhaja’s trailers sleep. I never till now understand how a rich woman would stay in such an uncompleted house.
Alhaja had never stayed a day at home except when she lost her brother; Uncle Karimu as we called him. Uncle Karimu before his death was showing an ineffective life coping ability. He was always feeling worthless and inadequate. Extreme poverty didn’t help his mental state too. He often time questioned the essence of living and the meaning of life.
Alhaja’s friend, Baba Ogundepo, who used to make protective charm for Alhaja, came to the house to check Uncle Karimu to access the problem. After his divination, he ascertained that it was the village people at work. The witches in the village must have charmed Uncle Karimu when they couldn’t conquer Alhaja because of his potent protectives. “I thought as much, we aren’t white! Depression is alien to us, it could only be inflicted by the enemies.” I said to Auntie Sidi when she narrated the event to me.
Baba Ogundepo made an incision on Karimu’s head and back, to protect him from the spiritual attacks. Karimu was however found hanging from a tree in the bush four days after. He committed suicide. The village people won!
Thinking back at my years at Alhaja’s house, the highlight of my stay was Brother Kasali’s lectures. A great thinker he was, especially after smoking his weed. Among so many lectures I took from him, it is hard to forget how he lectured me on how the poor would for a long time be poor. In his words, “Aburo, it’s hard to make it in this country. You know why? Money is what creates money. Poverty!”He stressed the word as if it was causing him so much pain to pronounce.
“I said poverty, comes from the inability of a man to access credit which could translate to wealth for him.” I sighed in, trying to take in each word as he was saying them. “You see, a loan is given out to Trust. Trust is the proven record of financial discipline. Can a poor man have that?” He asked. He immediately continued not minding my response. “The answer is NO. You see, when a poor man seeks to find a means to create that trust, he still requires a name to open the door to the means to Trust.” I was confused at that point with the way he referred to trust like it’s an entity, perhaps a person. Brother Kasali died 3years ago from an overdose of drugs. “What a waste of knowledge.” His intellect didn’t save him from his addiction. Poor chap!
All along, I had enjoyed the fanciless life in Alhaja’s house. I never gave tomorrow a deep thought, I lived each day as it comes. Working in Alhaja’s store and saving my little earns. I had a dream to start the grain business one day later. Such was my dream until the day Adebimpe sent her sister to me that we had something important to discuss. I had to escape from the store to see the love of my life. It’s hard to forget how cold she was to me and how deep her words were.
“See, I’m tired of this relationship. I can no longer cope with this life.”She said. I was staring at her helplessly, trying to make sense of why the person I sent my last dime to just a day before could be so angry. “Do you want to die poor?” She continued. “Were you not in town when Alao left for America? Do you know how much he has been sending to his girlfriend now? Don’t you check Instagram and see his pictures? People now call him; Alao, the Gucci king”
It was clear to me what she wanted. We have always had the conversation but that special day, it was hotter. She seemed so determined and won’t hear a word of defense from me. “The last time, you said you can’t trust an Igbo agent, now I have found a Yoruba man, are you interested?” It was a question that she needed no negative answer to for she quickly added “let me know if you want to change your life or remain with Alhaja. Who knows if she has even tied you down so she can finish your destiny that she is using.” The last statement from her crushed my balls.”Stop that!”I roared. I was angry, I wanted to lash her for her bad thought. But I held it, perhaps a part of me believed that the woman who has housed me since I had nowhere to go, who has been all I have, is using my destiny.
It has been 60days since I stole Alhaja’s money to pay for my crossover to fortune. Here, I’m now, dreams shattered, all hope lost. Trapped in an underground filthy dungeon with a decaying gun-shot leg, choking my nose with the fetid stench. The sickly smell of menstrual blood of women is an addition to my woes. The original brick floor of the prison is covered with human wastes of about 15inches which have hardened over time like cement. The walls are stained with blood and horrifying.
The noise of women being raped on different angles of the prison deafens my ears. Right in front of me, is a woman in labor. She was pushing with all the strength she had, yet the guard wouldn’t stop whipping her. The wailing of men chained outside to face the blazing sun directly, as punishment for disobedience, echoes in the dungeon. Hell on earth!
I don’t want to imagine whose dick Adebimpe would be sucking at the moment. Who else she could be pushing to a grisly fortune. I want to scream, I want to die but death comes not when it’s most needed.
My brain still sends the horrific picture of how 31 people were packed together with me in a Hilux truck to cross the desert to Tripoli. After three days, of no food and water, of no proper ventilation in the truck, some of the passengers died, leaving those of us alive with more grief as we have to battle smell from their mouldering bodies all through the journey. The tale of my gory journey on the desert would be less of a tragedy compared to my memoir of slavery.
As my life flashed right in front of me now, I wish I could turn back the hands of time. For I know where I came from but know not what the next minute could bring.
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