I must do this if I don’t want this to be my last piece. Once in a while, you get tired of the very thing you love. Like you get tired of eating fried chicken when you’ve had more than normal, like you get tired of listening to Asa’s New Beginning after listening to it over two hundred times, like you get tired of liking George RR Martin since he has decided to take the proper ending of A Song of Ice and Fire (what you know as Game of Thrones) to his grave with him when he dies; you get tired of the things you love. This was the same way I got tired of writing. I got tired and I slipped into nothingness. I would chat up my friend, Michael once in a while and we would have weird conversations like:
ME: How is writing?
HIM: It’s presently almost nonexistent.
ME: Wish I could encourage you but we are currently sailing the same ship. just in different waters.
HIM: The shore is in sight.
ME: It doesn’t look good.
HIM: Does it have to? So long as it is good…
ME: Is it good?
HIM: Is it bad? How do you measure the goodness or badness?
Anyway, today is this friend’s birthday. He is a writer, a graphics designer and also the president of FSF FUTA. Trust me, I know what it is like trying to juggle many things in just two hands. Happy birthday Michael Tolulope Emmanuel. It may not seem like it, but then, this is for you. this is for you.
I have met people. I have met people of different kinds. I have met black people, white people, pink people, yellow people and brown people like myself. I have met Christians, Muslims, atheists, traditionalists and free thinkers. I have lived with these people. I lived with a traditionalist in the same hostel for two years; our rooms shared a wall. We both prayed; thankfully, the wall was strong enough, it never broke down. There was this strange night in September, I think when one of our seniors back then in secondary school had been robbed. The senior was vexed and sure it was one of us, the juniors, who did it. he then called the traditionalist and asked him to set some things in place, do some incantations and charm so we all can swear our innocence. Whoever did not swear was the thief. Whoever swore falsely and began to experience strange misfortune thrown at him by the gods after swearing was a thief. There was fear in the house. I did not cross the bloodied machete, responding to strange calls to Dagon. I left the swearing room and went to sleep. I woke up the next day…obviously. And I was not the thief.
I have traveled too. Well, I have never been out of the country (except in my dreams anyway). But then, I have traveled to some places in this country. I have been to the three major geographical sections of this country. I have been to the North. I have been and live in the South West and just last week, I completed the job by going to the East. Yes, your boy went to the home of the Igbos and the Ijaws and the Urhobos and the many other people that make up Eastern Nigeria. So this piece is about my stay in Enugu, or really, about a girl I met in Enugu. How to begin…
Let us start from where we stopped; Ilorin. After Precious fed us well and showed us what it means to be human, we prepared ourselves for the journey ahead by sleeping. We passed the nights on long wooden benches. It was a short sleep and we woke up early the next morning before the nearest cock could crow. We cleaned up ourselves and put on fresh clothes. There was a long vehicle waiting outside, the Marco polo that would be our home for the next seventeen hours.
If you have never entered a Marco polo before, you might have some trouble understanding this so I am going to help your understanding. A Marco polo is a very long vehicle and a very tall one. It is longer and taller than the coaster bus we all see around. It is like a house on the move. There are about fifty seats in the Marco polo that was waiting outside to take us on our journey to Enugu. I had prepared myself with my traveling kit. I had charged my power bank to the brim. My phone was about 90% full. My earpiece was with me. And my laptop was in my backpack. Soon, the Marco polo began to honk, calling our attention.
Me proposing to my
future wife…she said yes!
I and my guys from OAU made for the house on motion and having decided to enjoy this journey to the maximum, sat at the back of the Marco polo. I sat by the window and Israel sat beside me. By the other window sat Samuel and behind him sat Joseph. Behind me sat two girls, Ifejesu and Blessing. In the next ten hours, we would still be stuck in the vehicle and these two girls would be first friends we would make on our journey to Enugu.
As we started, I had begun to make it clear that I am a foodie and that I cannot behave myself responsibly if I do not see food. I said this loud and clear so that the driver and every other person in our Marco polo could hear so they would have the decency to stop by a food joint so we could eat. Having made this clear enough, I received favorable news from the front that the bus would stop somewhere for us to buy food. With that information, I relaxed as we started the journey out of Unilorin.
When you are going on a journey to a place you have never been before, you try to prepare for the worst case scenario but in most cases, you are still shocked as to the outcome of the journey. We had been told over and over again that the journey would be far and that we should brace for impact. We tried to do this but then, how can you prepare for time and distance and a clash of culture and other complexities?
I started realizing that I would not be much of a gentle guy during this journey the moment we left Ilorin and made for Osun state. We had already filled our stomach with Bread and Akara and we had bottles of Pepsi, Coke, and Fanta waiting for us in case the monsters within us roared. We passed Osun state, saw the familiar sights – Great Ife, and other sights, – and we moved on. We passed some towns and soon found ourselves in Ondo. By now, we had spent about four hours in the Marco Polo and bladders were bulging. The driver stopped and we stepped into the bush, did our business and returned. The ladies had to do what ladies do, go far, turn left, turn right, turn left again, head north, head north, look around, look around again, then squat and do the business.
By now, I think you should know that our stomachs were already empty but then, no one was about to embarrass their family here so we all comported ourselves like good people and returned to the bus after taking relief. After this little business, we moved on and soon, we got to Ore. This was where we started experiencing a delay.
Do you know the importance of Ore to the Yorubas, to South West, to Nigeria? Do you know that Ore is the entrance from the East into the South West? Do you know the expression, O le ku, ija ore? Do you know the origin?
It was the fourteenth day of July and the sun had refused to come out early for it was still scared of the number of deaths that occurred the day before and the countless souls that came knocking heaven’s door, seeking vengeance. It was in 1967 and the Nigeria-Biafra war, also called the Nigerian Civil War was in its peak. Nsukka had fallen to the Nigerian army and the Biafrans were finding it difficult to recapture it. to divert the attention of Nigeria away from Enugu, Ojukwu planned to invade the Western Region. So far, the war had been called ‘Nigerian’ Civil War but no bullet had been shot in the West. Or so they said…
August 9, 1967. They did not wait for the sun to rise. The Biafran soldiers crossed the bridge at Onitsha and made for Asaba. Benin was captured. Okene followed. Auchi came close by and was also put in shackles. Within 12 hours, the Biafrans were shouting for victory. Mid Western region was in the bag. Soon, they began plotting how to capture Ibadan and Lagos from Ore and Okitipupa. In the meantime, the Biafrans were stationed at Ore and the whole world held its breath; everyone knew what would happen if the war broke into the West. There would be blood and the war will become a ‘Nigerian’ civil war now that the whole country would be involved.
While they remained at Ore, the Nigerian army got to work. Murtala Ramatu Mohammed – the turbaned man on your twenty naira note attacked the Biafrans and forced a retreat. The Biafrans fled and they were followed. They were followed to Asaba and could only breathe after they destroyed the River Niger bridge in Asaba.
Now, when they say O le ku, Ija Ore….you know what they are talking about right?
We were stationed at Ore for about one hour due to bad roads that resulted in slow traffic. When we eventually crossed over to Benin, we were already exhausted. Noon had come and was going and darkness was beginning to set in. We moved as fast as a Marco polo could move.
We got to Asaba and stopped to eat. It was evening already. While we stopped I called an Igbo friend and asked how far we were to Enugu. She laughed and said we were still very far. I did not want to believe her and so I called my old man. Old man said we were still far away and would enter the city at night. That was when I knew I was in for it.
I stepped out of the bus with my fellows and we moved to where they were selling various things. We would later realize that we did not have enough in our pockets to survive here. We did not have N150 to buy Pepsi that was sold for N100 naira where we came from. We did not have N50 to buy just one akara. But then, there is something called hunger and it kills the economist in you. It killed ours. Here we are…
Darkness crept upon us like an old concubine. It did not inform us of its impending presence. We simply closed our eyes and opened it and realized that we could no longer see each other. The horror… Almost everyone was sleeping now but my eyes did not find sleep. I am a heavy sleeper but I find it difficult to sleep in an uncomfortable place. The Marco polo was comfortable for our transport but not for sleeping. I tried various positions and evacuated people from their seat just so I could close my eyes but I could not. I did not sleep and soon lost interest the moment we were on the River Niger bridge and we were about to enter Onitsha. Everyone woke up and we were soon singing, London bridge is falling down…
We crossed the bridge into darkness. It was now night and we had all given up. no one bothered to ask where we were. People simply slept and woke up and slept again. I was checking Google maps and it was telling me we would reach our destination about 11pm. I was optimistic.
Dear readers, we got to Enugu about 12:17 am, having left home about 6:47am . you can imagine our joy when we saw the WELCOME TO ENUGU sign as it glimmered and said ENUGU IS IN THE HANDS OF GOD. What joy…what words of hope and encouragement… finally, we were in Enugu.
My story on my journey to Enugu would not be complete if I did not tell you about the friend I made in Enugu. My new friend, Favour Archibong. Life is full of riddles and can sometimes play pranks on us. The day I met Favour, life was playing a prank on me. I had just returned from the pay and use restroom but then, my bladder was acting funny so I ushered myself out of White House (in University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus) and made for the restroom. On my way, I saw my friend Eunice and Temi trying to locate the place. They were being led by someone whom I did not know; I had not seen her face. The moment they saw me, they asked for the restroom. I showed them the way and the person left them to go. Finally, I would see her face.
There are no words, really… I know how much I write love poems and describe the beauty of God’s creation in the woman but then… I was lost here. I was standing before a beautiful girl. She had small eyes and a small nose. They were beautiful in their simplicity and in their smallness. There was a certain level of cuteness in them that I cannot describe right now. And she had a very lovely voice., I had been hearing hard coarse voices since I passed Ore but now, I was hearing something melodious. I introduced myself and she smiled and said, ‘I will call you my friend,’ and men and brethren, I tell you, those words will stick with me till I go six feet deep.
Her name was Favour and she began calling me ‘my friend’ and I began calling her Favour. She was a Medical Radiography student from University of Nigeria and she was part of the ushers in the fellowship. Suddenly, I had things to do that needed the help of ushers and I found myself before Favour all the time. Favour was kind to me and friendly and for that, I am grateful. She once called me and gave me a drink and we drank together as she took me around her school. She showed me her hostel and then showed me Adelabu hostel and then I saw their own version of ICAN lecture theatre. And then she told me about her hometown and promised to teach her language. People of God, I am currently enrolled in her school, learning how to speak Anang. Abadie ufan mmi?
I would later learn that Favour also went to a federal unity school, Federal Government College, Akwa Ibom. And that she wants me to cook for her (thank God I am a magnificent cook. I know my village people will say otherwise). Don’t mind them, Favour. I am the BEST!
I met many other lovely people that I cannot begin to mention. I met the class captain of our Marco polo bus. She wrote my name on noisemakers list; Ifeoluwa Akinlade. And then I met Praise Adeyemi and Glory; two good girls who rescued me while my battery was low. Thank you for your power bank. More power to your bank. And there was Rita Adinoyi… Rita that abandoned me the moment we disappeared from the Marco polo. This world is dangerous people. Ifa Majua… I am coming to Zaria to see you one of these days. We will go to Koinonia together.
In Enugu, I met Chioma Princewill… Chioma that is angry that I am taller than her. Is it my fault? What some of us have in heights, some others have in beauty. You can’t eat your cake and have it, ko? I met Sarah Nwanze from Lagos, but I am currently fighting with her since she has chosen to mock my blackness and celebrate my sister’s yellow skin.
Enugu was beautiful. Enugu is beautiful. To show you how much I enjoyed the state in God’s hands, I forgot my Bible and jotter in University of Nigeria, Enugu campus. You can’t blame me. Enugu stole. Before now, I had always wanted to serve my fatherland in Borno but now, I am having a rethink. Going back to Enugu for my NYSC wouldn’t be so bad, would it? What do you say Favour?
Adeola, happy birthday. This is public space so I will reserve all I want to say till when we see. You remember what happened the last time the walls paid attention to our whispers? Happy birthday, dear. I am suddenly rendered speechless. But then, know that I am sending this, with love from my heart.