You remember that month when you joined in the good gloating and shouted like a live cockerel with red comb folded into halves, thrown into the hot water that circled angrily in the big pot heated by red flames produced from dry firewood. You trumpeted, and rolled around with your legs here and there as if you were one of the newly purchased rotating chairs of the barber who mistakenly scrapped your hair with blade when you requested for low-cut many years ago. That ‘fadan’ happened when you were in Primary Five at Government Primary School with a bald field.
One morning, you burrowed for your wide glossy coloured papers sitting in a brown folded envelope-material paper beside the three-legged table because there was no light and we ran out of candle. It was very early before the next compound mother started her shouting routine, calling, cursing, blessing and mixing both to get her kids who would always wake after the fifth time crow of the courtyard cockerels to the kitchen just to prepare the morning eba. You searched well to reach the right angle. Once you got it, you started counting in the room that was getting the small-small illumination because the day was getting brighter and the night was packing for recess.
Before you dashed out that day which received downpour in the evening, pursuing the hens and their tail-following chicks to their wooden cage zinc roofed house, Mother sat on the chair with her hands clasped. She must have fought deeply with different thoughts running across her mind like a stream. She had once asked how much you were paid to trek and shout from pillar to post. And you answered that the ‘‘time has come’’. You cornered by spinning different answers so that you she couldn’t antagonise your submission. But you knew that wasn’t the woman of some years ago. Who dared looked into her eyes? Perhaps her action is adopting the ‘‘when you grow old, you thread softly’’ principle. But she’s just a fifty-eight year-old retired nurse.
Nobody is to be blamed for your ‘exercise’. That’s what Grandma call it: exercise. If not for anything, you really need it: to burn the fat that made you look older than your age. You remember you told Grandma to forget her tales of the sunlight, one afternoons you came back tired, sweats dripping down your fore-head.
Later, your returning home changed from evening to late evening. Maybe ‘night’ to make it better. And then late in the night when darkness sat comfortably, listening to the sounds of the crickets and watching the unseen spirits of ancestors who lived beyond, revisiting their homes. You remember that late night you came back and mother told you to go back. You felt bad, argued and told her ‘‘you’re a man’’. Grandma came from her room after hearing her daughter-in law talking at the topmost of her voice, saying ‘‘omo ire kin rede oru’’ that a good child doesn’t do night crawling.
It was the night you asked Mother when you’ll get your complete freedom as a young man and Grandma replied that a man is still the son of his mother. You said you aren’t disputing that but what matters is the freedom of a man. Again, Grandma turned to Mother’s mouthpiece and responded that you are unmarried. What has marriage got to do with freedom! Your frowning face that almost made your cheekbones popped out exclaimed. It was the night you explained why you’re keeping late nights. It was the night mother told you if father had not joined his ancestors, you won’t join in singing ‘enjoyment for the people, igbadun for the nation’.
Mother became softer after that night but she expressed her fears that father may pay her a homely visit for letting you walk out of the vineyard where he was a great shepherd. Mother was concerned about the tales on the lips of father’s sheep. Definitely they were sad when they saw you on streets walking-talking, donning customised fez caps to avoid the scorching sun that would melt ‘ori’.
Everybody in the neighbourhood knew you. They called you different nicknames. They asked you questions. You answered and convinced them to accept the ideology that is spreading like wildfire. They came knocking on the door countless times. Grandma was tired of opening and sitting. Then she called for a carpenter to put a door-net to prevent parasitic blood suckers from flying in while the door is opened for your visitors. You gave out many things. They respected you because there was plentiful of ‘epo’ red palm oil to lick.
Some days that you were absent from neighbourhood, the check-ins on you were astronomical. Mother wondered if you had become the Elisha of an Elijah in your group. Sometimes, they would sit outside, hoping for your return. Grandma thought her grandson had been appointed and has refused to share the news with other relatives. Later, she knew that the abrupt pause in the cups of rice, pieces of Maggi cubes, rolls of Sunlight detergent, had caused the unending overflow. One day, she planned calling you but Mother resisted since it would amount to disturbance which may make you lose focus and you may be sanctioned by the ogas at the top for picking calls instead of strategizing on how to brainwash villagers to sweep away ‘umbrellaic’ dirt. Yet, she screamed at a woman whose baby cried loudly. It sounded like a grinding machine with a leaked silencer. Then, Mother began to put it in morning prayer that you should come back home very soon so that she can be relieved of ‘‘he’s not at home’’ job.
That morning you returned and moved out quickly to attend to the long queue, Grandma raised her hands into the air, knelt down in the central of the squared sitting room, with her stomach leaning against the arm of the old wooden chair and she muttered some inaudible words. Most likely, it should be ‘thank God, I can now rest’. You remember mother had gone to the bank to confirm if her pension had been paid after not receiving ‘tun-tun, tun-tun’ credit alert message for days.
At last you won the Saturday battle that had people queuing and scattering queues and rearranging the long lines and folding their hands into their pockets and purse after they got ‘change’ from political foot soldiers who distributed notes. You remember some listened to you after you three notes of Azikwe’s head.
You remember you soothed people, telling them that sixteen years of sitting under the umbrella was like covering the head with a basket. People are now disgusted. It is like they have ‘rugun oyin’. The ‘change’ sermon preached in buses, door-to-door, town-to-town is now a ‘‘don’t follow what I say’’ abi what should it be called.
People now remember Freebies Chapter 1 verse 1 that reads: ‘free meals everyday to pupils of public primary schools’ but when they open the ‘Change’ holy book, they can’t find it. Which kind absence without leave did that verse take? As if that is not sufficient to make people to become certified wailers, the parochial appointments are disheartening. What happened to your holy book is filled with manna? What is going on in that rocky house? Who is high amongst them all? Who is drugged? Well, the appointment of that man closer to ninety just confirmed the excessive intake of political marijuana.
Where is the compass for direction self? It is padded again! What of the man who you read about on your phone? You remember you jumped up that day when he ‘laied’ on the television.
Writer: Farouk Ayorinsola Obisanya (FAB)