Your Brief Bio:
Mudiare Jite, from Nigeria, fondly called the Voice of Reason in a chaotic world. I publish Anchor Democrat Magazine, which stands for what you stand for: A commitment to enhancing society by anchoring democracy on truth, justice and equity. I'm also passionate about environmental protection and renewal.
Tweet-Style Story Summary:
@ Children's day celebrations and its inherent consistent inconsistencies with the realities that stare us in the face.
The boy gingerly came down the knoll overshadowed by one of the hills surrounding the capital city. He had gone there to watch the sunrise and to ‘reason’ like only a ten year old can. He enjoyed just sitting down and watching the distant horizon where the sky often manages to kiss the earth. These days, the sun was slow in waking up from its chamber; the night was longer than the day. Ordinarily, he should be on his way to school but today was no ordinary day; it was a school free day.
As he walked, the wind tickled his face with a fury that was in no way gentle. It came strong as though threatening to take away all he had reasoned – his dilemmas, his soul torments that prompted him to ask when the sun would rise for him, shinning with not just warmth but goodness and everything he desired. How could he keep looking to the future from behind a veil of tears?
Perhaps the sun would rise in answer to the turmoil in his soul – why was he born? What will he become when he grew up? What would he do and how would he cope? Would he wear long flowing regalia, ride in expensive cars and speak from both sides of his mouth, looking askance as he rode by?
Perhaps the answers were somewhere in the wind, and Jagus was yet to find them. He turned the corner, that’s when he saw her – the woman sitting poised over her work area like a stone monument of resolve, resilience, perseverance, persistence and hard work. Irresistible in her own right, her gnarled hands telling the story, her beaten brows and the shadows in her eyes sneaking in the gleam of better days. The woman locked eyes with him, nothing was said, everything was said, the message delivered, mother and son had sold the world, collected change without anyone knowing as when he had cupped his tears and thrown it down the knoll.
She had woken up early as usual to prepare and package the plantain chips according to price and specification – ripe and unripe, small and big sizes, kpekere, better put kpeks was good to go, neatly arranged on his marketing tray before going to the hills to source raw materials for her quarry business, which were rough cut pieces of rock which she with other women broke into smaller pieces and sold for a little profit to construction sites within the city. Business was just there, the work was strenuous and hard and they faced stiff competition from the machine operated quarries and their operators who dotted the hill-scape and had only the good will of their long term customers to count on. It was a valid means of income, better than sitting around, lamenting and doing nothing.
Many from the surrounding community at the base of the hills had divergent reasons to be on the hills. You heard the occasional fervent prayer knocking at heaven’s gate amidst the din of needs until some assurance was gotten. You had the ‘reasoners’ with their red glazing eyes and smoke wrung faces, positive and negative vibes borne out of cigarette reason, Indian hemp reason; solution (glue) sniffing… And still others went there to release their anal bombs – boom, boom, boom; and still yet others seeking peace. His mother’s piercing eyes were the constant reminder – please don’t break my heart. He could still feel those eyes boring into his, back and into his soul, searching out every vice as he made his way to their paltry dwellings, a room and parlour in a face to face compound. The tick-tuckof the grandfathers’ clock, his mother’s inheritance filled the room urging him on. He took his wares and the transport fare beneath the tray and was on his way. He’d walk about one and half miles to get to the bus-stop after which he entered the government bus into the city. It was usually cheaper than the commercial buses.He walked briskly so as not to miss the government bus which were fewer than the demand. They were called subsidy as part of the government’s palliative measure, looking very much like an afterthought to the public outcry that met with the increase in the pump price of petrol.
Few minutes later, he heard someone call his name, taking furtive glances behind him; he caught her figure making the bend in his direction.Adanne, two years older than him was his partner in sales, partner in progress. She lived with her father a few ‘lungus’ away from him and moved back and forth from her grandmother’s place also in the area. Her mother had died a few days after having her. Her father quickly blamed the nurses for negligence; the nurses in turn blamed the fake drugs bought by her father from the drug store across the community health centre. Somebody else was to blame, particularly if you were poor; you often took the fall for the rich or the man or woman becoming rich off you… Her father’s exact lament, working as security guard in a security firm guarding the homes and offices of the big men.
She was part walking, part running after which she caught up with him. He let her catch her breath and together they made their way to the bus-stop. She hadn’t gone to the eagle square to watch or be part of the proceeding of the children’s day – the cycle of match passes, the media milling feast, the balloon of ego driven promises to assuage conscience, the long listless resounding repetitive speeches over the children’s heads, the takeaway commemorative packs as a token for attending and perhaps, a meal until next year.
Sometimes sales began right away at the bus-stop. But the market was saturated here as too many people soldplantain chips better known as kpekere. Passengers waiting for the subsidy buses patronized them to keep their mouths busy while they waited or as they commuted the thirty minute ride into the heart of the city provided there was no traffic.
They alighted at the bus-stop near the ultra modern market at the city centre, that was their business zone and with people milling up and down in the beehive of activity in and around the market, customers were not hard to find. Sales were good, enterprise paid off. Their only hindrance and kill-joy was the taskforce who constantly harassed and raided them, took away their goods by force and even arrested them. Their arrival on the scene sent everyone scampering to safety with their goods in all directions; some getting caught up in traffic, so many getting injured in the process and still others dying on the spot or later when hit by an oncoming vehicle – talk about jumping out of the frying pan (and) into the fire. Their intent was to rid the capital city off illegal street hawkers – adhoc traders, young boys and girls and mostly women, not forgetting the elderly trying to eke out a living, make themselves useful by meeting a need, supplying a service, supporting themselves or augmenting the family income in this trying times by selling something.
They called out:
Buy pure water, pure water
Buy plantain chips, plantain chips, kpekere, kpekere
Buy banana, buy banana, banana
Buy chin-chin; buy chin-chin, chin-chin
Buy cake, cake, cake, cake
Buy sausage; buy gala, gala, gala meat
Buy okpa, buy okpa, okpa
Buy cashew nut, cashew nut.
Buy biscuit, buy biscuit, biscuit…
Soft drinks were not left out – bottled or canned drinks, yoghurt and fruit juices all get their mention as well, pirated CD’s and DVDs’, belts and wristwatches, books, wall racks, children’s toys and phones had their call too. You name it, you have it was the rule of the game, hawking was a game of life. It was no easy job but the rule was, don’t run afoul of the task force. Their appearance was the hawker or adhoctraders’ nightmare. Some days, they really over did themselves. Other days they received a settlement and looked the other way. In the hustle and bustle, it wasn’t hard to find a hand that required greasing, who wouldn’t do with an extra buck, after all government work ‘no be dem papa work.’?
Today business was good, his plantain chips and Adanne’s had sold out. And they were now into selling sachet water which they sourced on credit from a woman who ran a semi-cold room and paid her as soon as they had made their sales. She was a friend to Adanne’s late mother and this was good fortune for them in the vicious world of the poor eking out a living, self-preservation was a virtue and compassion more often than not considered a vice.
But God is good! He was taking a little rest while Adanne had gone to settle Mama Sikiru for the bags of sachets water. That’s when he saw him, the man with his suitcase looking more like a bag of tricks. The man who knew more about the government than the government knew about themselves. He held audiences spell bound around the newspaper vendor’s stand. He knew all about the government policies, their pros and cons. He was current on all the sports, who beat who, who was bought and sold, sacked or appointed. He knew who ‘chopped’ what, where, when and how. The ‘honourable’ they called him. Listening to him was thrilling, exciting and baffling. It brought comic relief, a sunny side to life.
One only wondered if he knew so much why did he have to look like a clown in his fraying suit and greying hair, with a suitcase to match which he said contained his credentials and plenty of proposals which he was pursuing with different government agencies, ending with a promissory “check back later” or “we’d get back to you”.
Today the honourable was at his best, doing his thing, regaling his audience with his experiences. He had woken up with this ‘God punish the devil’ feeling in his gut. His woman had started it all with a 5am text: “honey, sorry to catch you unawares, today is children’s day. I went for a test yesterday, the result is positive. E be like say we don carry oh. Love you three much.”
“Congratulations,” exclaimed one of his listeners.
“Congratu-wetin?” honourable retorted.
“Congratulations, twenty one gun salute, three gbosa!gbosa!gbosa! to the honourable, comrade gentleman,” another of his fans saluted, standing at attention at the same time.
The gathering responded with a resounding gbosathrice.
“So when are the wedding bells ringing?” a saner head asked.
“No be onlywedding bells but jingle bells,” the honourable responded with a jibe.
“Aah, why now?” another fan joined in.
“For this condition?” The honourable continued, “With confusion threatening to break my bones, see me see trouble o!
With this haze in my thoughts I came out, moving like a shadow without loneliness and laughter. I found myself trying to make an application online but all I could do was thump at the keyboard and swear at the mouse, sweating like a Christmas goat, and to make it worse, the internet kept fluctuating, coming on and off. I was a walking bomb going somewhere to explode, an accident waiting to happen, leaving the internet café was all I could do to preserve my sanity or what remained of it, at least remain or pretend to be a gentleman.
“Who sent me on this errand, na who send me message o?”
“When, why, where, how…?” the word escaped my thoughts.
“Was I the only one? Was this a ploy to tie me down?”
“Excuse me sir, you are forgetting something,” the receptionist cut through my thoughts.
That’s when I realized, I was forgetting my priceless suitcase which I went back to pick up, murmuring my thanks and joining the melee of people walking the sidewalks. Some counting bridges, some looking in wonder at the magnificent buildings, others strategizing and calculating their next move, life was a moving train, it had caught him flat-footed.
“When? Why? Where? How? He kept faith with his doubts, pausing long enough to call her phone number for the umpteenth time and was met with that annoying voice: “the number you are calling is not available at the moment, please try again later?”
May be it was the network, he murmured to himself and dialled the number once again. Her number was still not available. Was she playing a fast one on him? Was she trying his commitment quotient or just trying to get under his skin. There was nothing ladies didn’t do these days particularly when they became desperate and this was the capital city after all, husbands were scarce, boyfriends abound, everyone was hustling. He was not a contented bachelor ‘but condition get as e be,’ she was succeeding at making him crazy…
She bumped into him sending his brief case one way and him the other. She gathered herself and helped him gather his papers flying around. Done, she mumbled something, “abegoga sir, help me with a little something for transport”.
He glared at her, his glare answered for him as she scampered away to find her next customer, continuing on his way barely overhearing her say to her colleague: “leave am, that one, them swear for am.”
He continued on his way, his thoughts screaming, “na who send me message, trouble dey sleep yanga go wake am, see me, see wahala!
And as Jagus listened to the honourable, he took leave of the moment, his mind skipping like rams, his heart like a deer panting for answers in a familiar world of ‘is’,‘was’, ‘what if’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘why’, ‘where’, and ‘how’. It prompted him to ask questions. Questions like: is this what characterized the advent of a child? Was the honourable just being fugitive or playing the fugitive father, the enjoying male, liberally enjoying all the benefit of the union without wanting responsibility, not wanting to commit?
And as his mind whirled with more questions than he could ever find answers to. He could feel it, no, he saw it, a distant runner struggling towards him with a glimmer of hope, like a child crying somewhere far but near, the child making frantic signs of appeal, the child making frantic calls. He found them on a moving screen in his mind’s eye – the now familiar faces he had seen on the pages of the newspapers and magazines, local and foreign – the refugee, the malnourished child, the child soldier, the sex slave, the rape victim and the rapist, forcefully married children, the kidnapped child, forced labour, trafficked children, women and children always on the run from grownup children misbehaving with their dangerous toys. What about their fathers? Were their fathers exasperated at the news of their coming like the honourable? Was the spirit willing and the body weak or was the body always more than willing and the spirit weak with everyone drunk on lust and lost on reason? Why do adults behave so irrationally? Were they fugitives at heart too?
He barely heard the honourable respond to the sympathetic mocking of his audience, “e be like say I dey go village…” He felt it before he knew it, a steely hand gripping him by the collar and another tugging him by the belt. They were moving him towards the pickup van, the task force had caught up with him in his reverie otherwise he would have been alerted to their presence and gone for cover. But he was tired of running. How long would he continue to run? What did he do wrong? What was his offence? He wasn’t going to beg. He was only hustling, trying to make an honest buck.
And as they gloated over him like a prized catch, prancing over him the way a cat taunts a mouse it has disarmed. He held their gaze like a stone idol of contempt. He got a smack and a knock for that but he remained unflinching in his looks as his thoughts began to swirl: one day he would make them pay. One day he would render them homeless. One day he would make their children orphans. One day he would make them beg, they would beg as though their life depended on it – it will then. One day… He could feel his innocence draining out of him as he winced in his thoughts the terror beginning to form. He thought of his mother, the humiliation of the poor being honest and earnest and then the dam broke, the cloud gathering in his soul had reached its due point, the ice in his resolve was melting, his soul composure giving way, then came the rain – he sobbed, the tears freely flowing, the sob of being separated from his mother, the sob for the despair in her soul, the worry on her brows, her cry, the sob for cursing and feeling on this particular day. He feared his humanity seeping out of him. He was weeping for the monster he was becoming in his thoughts; He was weeping for humanity. He was weeping for himself, the ogre he was transforming into. He was shocked, shell shocked at himself, the horror evident as in a mirror, the horror refusing to dissipate as the pickup van eased away, becoming another statistic offender.
Adanne rounded the corner, just in time, their eyes locked in perfect understanding, the blank in his stare, she could fill, everything was said, nothing was said, she brushed away a tear, and her open mouth closing as the world looked on nonplussed.