After His Death

By: Aremu Lukmon Umor

It was a night like no other that I had ever witnessed in my entire life, PHCN had struck that night as if trying to live up to their infamous name. I was taken aback to two days ago when they left us light from morning until late in the evening when I got back from work: I did not see the light, although, but one of my neighbours who did not go to work gave me a lowdown as he cursed bitterly.

I sat upright on my bed and lowered my head to the left as if trying to remember something, for some moment, I thought PHCN had restored power, but it was my eyes trying to adjust to the darkness. I rose and shuffled lazily toward my kerosene lamp, it took me a few minute before I could place a handle on the box of matches – I struck a stick on the box and the darkness slowly disappeared as the fire gained pace.

Sleep had gotten the better of me, I was far removed from this world that if a fire alarm should ring at that moment I would not wake. My father had always hated me for that.

“Olo’run iya ni e,” he would say in his crooked Ilorin dialect, who was I to talk back at him?

If I had had my life sucked away from me by this leech, who would have known about it? My father would “Leave him, let him sleep, he sleeps like a dead man,” could he not tell the difference between the dead and living? Days after, they would take my putrefied body, bathe it to negate the fresh smell of death, shroud it in white cloak, dump it in a wooden coffin that would have been built impromptu and still oozed fetid scent of dead trees, and they would tip me in the back of that Urvan with an apprehensive driver orchestrating the rickety wheels.

I could hear footsteps play in my head, even the dainty street-thief that always walked around the neighbourhood searching the next victim to prance on would not break into my room; I felt so safe, but yet I could not feel myself.
The chirps of these crickets could numb the ears, I could see them marvelling in the cloud of white smoke that cloaked everywhere here. I tried to cover my mouth with my hands, but I could not move it, I tried to run, but it felt as though my legs had been tied with giant manacles that could only be seen on slaves in the 1800s; only that these were bigger. I felt something depart my body with a force that was out of this world, something was chasing me. I tried to run, but my heavy body and numb parts could not help me further. A hand that I could not see hovered above my head and squashed me to the harsh soils, I was sweating, but I could not wipe it. The giant hand made a swivelling wave in the foggy oblivion, as images of what looked like my deeds on earth manifested in the looming rectangle that had formed just a few inches beneath it. I felt waves of amazement, surprise, and befuddlement soak me: a few faces that I could not tell who owned them were crying, I saw Laide, my beloved, expressionless, a few of my friends were drinking while the news of my death arrived; they doubted at first and then they drank away and blurted stuffs they would never say to my face.

My heart sank, my stomach lurched, and I felt as though I were trapped; trapped in a box that was gradually closing down on me. I sensed something cold depart the inside of me: all the numbness in my hands and feet gone, I swallowed my saliva, and batted my eyes – I am alive. The day was just recovering its sight from the blindness the night had caused, I heard a rapt on my day, it was a familiar sound, and I knew it was my friend – one of those friends that had laughed at me scornfully during my short pause away from earth. He said his good morning, but somehow, I had forgotten how things were done here – I did not return his greetings.


This City

Gradually I am beginning to pick up the city ways and I hate it. I hate everything this city packs; the marauding traffic logjam in its crevices and centres; the nightlife; the horns blaring from cars and tankers.


My friend told me that all these cars gallantly parading the fairly tarred roads of this city are all acquired through car loans. “Majority of the cars,” as he confessed. He told me of how his uncle had made them believe he bought his tear-nylon car with his own money until he lost his job and the company reclaimed their car.

His words still ring in my head with a fervent sensation as though the words are etched in my brain with hot iron.

I have only been away from this city for just three years and now that I am back, it feels like I have never been here, my entire life. I was born here and had spent eighteen years before my three-year quest away from the city. Although, I do not consider myself one of the city’s own, neither does the city consider me as part of it.

Although, I have only spent a few months here – since my arrival, I have started cursing my saliva away as these mad drivers do and also find fun in seeing their conductors throw tantrums at other passengers (but I don’t find it funny when the table turns toward me).

All the flowers the governor decides to plant – since the beginning of his tenure – are faring better than the people: the green plants seem to make the eyes of the people redder, making them pour their frustration at any given opportunity.

As I lumber down the inner city street that I live, moving my feet stiffly as if I had been carrying the burden of the city upon my frail shoulders all day, the utility pole that supplies electricity to each of the houses built with corrugated zinc and plank finishing shimmers fire-sparks as NEPA decides that it is our turn to see light. The voices of little children ring, their excited voices rising above the generator sounds, as they made toward their various rooms.

I stumble on a stone and my foot hurts, and I curse again and again, as I always do these recent days. I bend my head so that the entrance of Ile Baba-I-Loff-God accepts my frame. NEPA has taken the light again and I let my eyes adjust to the darkness that has now cloaked the passageway and the generator sounds are beginning to manifest like the trumpets notifying residents of the arrival of the last days. I curse again.

In the far North, I do not need to hastily complete basic tasks as; bathing, boarding a bus, fetching water and whatnots as I have learnt to do here . . . Okay, except when I hear the tunes of bullets singing in the ears of people fleeing the scenes of attacks by men waiting to be rewarded with 9-beautiful-virgins and of course no one wants to see a grave that early.


Apapa Lunatic

By: Aremu Lukman Umor

He woke up earlier and breezed in lately to avoid contact with Iya Juwon. The last time they met, he was seriously cursed. 

“You won’t pay me, eh? Don’t worry, o, I will deal with you!” Iya Juwon yelled.

He could not bear another round of her swear words that morning, so he left home very early to call at the factory he had just gotten job at. He was on a payroll of #12,500 per/month.

His first day at work was like moving a mountain. He couldn’t cope with the stress of the work which made his Indian supervisor chastise him.

“You this Nigerian, if you can’t work, I will pay you off and you won’t resume here any longer!!!” the man would scream, his large eyes popping as if they would jump out of their casings.

He would simply look away and continue with whatever he was doing. Although, he wanted to quit the job, but he needed to offset his debt.

It was month end already and he had grown tense in anticipation, he thought about what he would use his first salary for. He had managed to strike an accord with his creditors that made them give him until the end of the month before sitting on his neck. He smiled.

He would pay off his debt once these people settles him.

That day he left work early because there was little to do. He brought out his old school days note and swiped to the middle page and pricked the twin papers off to make some estimation on how to pay his debt. He slept off while doing this. 

He woke up late the following morning, and quickly doused his face with a hand of water and rushed his meal. ‘Dele quickly marched down to the Apapa’ bus park. He thanked his luck as he was the last passenger.

He saw many bystanders at the entrance of Eleganza and joined the onlookers. It was a male lunatic displaying and making different kind of utterances.

 “Kemi o! You left only me at home and you promised to come back early. You told me you are going Apapa to collect your salary so as to pay our debt and you didn’t come home with any. Where is my Kemi!”

He stood there staring in wonderment until he realised he was late already.

He ran quickly to his employee’s but there was letter waiting for him already. He picked up the message and it took him a while to realize what had happened.

You Are One of Them

As you drive past under bridge Ojuelegba, your eyes dart toward and about the new bus stop Fashola had just built. Then you remember that during your own time, you do not have the luxury of a sheltered bus stop. You grip your steering and lower the brake and ease the car to a stop; you have gotten this far.

You let the memory play narrow in your head like reel-to-reel as you watch conductors strain their voices and wave their hands– and their drivers hurrying to go – to beckon passengers to their Fanagon and LT buses. They don’t even wear uniforms again, you thought.

Back then when you first came to Lagos by stowing yourself into the back of that Ta’ n lese Mazda from Ibadan, you did not tell your parents and they were worried: it took you years to send a letter to Aperin; where you were born. Prior to your move to Badia, you had slept under the bridge: that was where you met Orji who introduced you to Musa, who was the unit chairman of NURTW in Ijora-Badia. It was him you served diligently by being a conductor. Although, you did not forget he thought you how to drive, after which he arranged a bus for you to work and deliver #3000 per day.

All that happened when you were trying to find your feet in Lagos.

You are a diehard Osupa fan, his song blares from your Daewoo car stereo; your speakers and woofers are all Daewoo: your tastes are a thing of envy among the union leaders. But all Sahidi Osupa was saying trailed off for some moment. You nodded your head as you made to fire your Big-For-Nothing back to life. You saw a conductor, and a driver trying to elude a gaunt-looking middle aged man, then you realised you had been there before.

Musa and you would quarrel after you must have counted your proceeds for the day and it would not have been complete.

Dilifa he no complete!” you would say – in crooked pidgin – through gritted teeth and Musa would smash his hands on the side mirror in rage after which he would warn you not to pay any agbero unless he ordered you to.

“Make we go another go come, let’s go another round trip.” He would finally say after a short pause, and then you would wonder if that was about the #300 you paid as due at the bus stop. Even though, you would silently thank God that Musa was not like Egbon Taiye that would fight and break his conductor’s head whenever he heard dilifa was not complete.

Ijora Badia, where you lived before was the place you and Musa always shared your earnings; deliver money #3000, conductor’s commission #1230, fuel money #4700 (full tank) and driver’s commission #1800 – your money might be increased if you worked hard and reached your daily deliver target. And every night, you and your oga made it a habit to lower balls from your bowel into the heap of dirt on Palex while smoking your time away until twelve in the morning. Because you were a chain smoker, your teeth became brown and a shade of black and your lips became charred as burnt firewood; even Musa lost a tooth, but his teeth was not as black-brown as yours was.

The day the Nigerian Army boys took up weapons and started maiming and killing conductors and agbero was the day your blessing began. Many boys in your garage were killed and even your padi and oga, Musa lost his leg during the fracas. But somehow, you managed to save the life of Tokyo and through his influence, you spiralled to the upper echelon of the union; where the real money was.

You take a deep breath and sigh, the scent of your expensive Tom Ford perfume wafting your nose dreamily, while the conductor, the agbero and driver argue and curse away. You bring your ignition back to life and the clatter of the engine components makes you realise you are one of them.

The House on the Hill

The roast corn he was mowing sat undisturbed on the sheet; tiny motes from the inside of the charred maize jutted from its incoherent eat-mark. His body stiffened gradually; the part of his eyes that bore black was a shade of milk; murky fluid that looked as though it were slime trickled from his mouth and smeared the left part of his cheek. Kasali sprawled on his bed to a state of oblivious nothingness.

Thiam crawled from his cot and lumbered up his father’s bed, a grimace enlivened his face, and he crackled like wild fire. He gazed at the limp form on the bed; there was a child-like enthusiasm about him as if he were tickled by his mother. Then he poked the rigid limb on the soft mattress.

“Taddie,” He chortled.

He smiled: his daddy was onto one of his sly moments again. Soon he rolled back to as far back as his tender memory could carry him; to the time when he would roll on their furry floor mat with Quaker smeared face; that time when his Taddie would give him a piggyback ride and his mother would scream pet names he did not know, but understood were his and his father’s.

Father love – and in short, parental love – was something he had known from his early days; he was the pupil of his parents’ eyes.

He drove his hands toward Kasali’s belly button in a vain attempt to wake him up, he pulled his hands, but it gave way limply.

The enveloping darkness embroidered itself on the sleek panes of the house on the hill. The moon shone brightly with its luminance seeping through the holes of the exotic cream curtains. The lights from the drooping chandelier flickered while the grey lamp followed, never to turn on again as the room plunged into a sporadic blackness.

His eyes caught the thickening fluid on Taddie’s cheek, his eyes lit up with enthusiasm; he made to touch it and soiled it on his pate, instead. Thiam’s face parted into a somewhat reassuring grin; Kasali’s milky eyes stared on, lifelessly.

A sudden whistle of wind pierced through the room, the window shield fluttered, making it sound like a relentless howl. Thiam took a sharp turn, and for a moment, his mind leapt; he had no idea of what was happening until he found the voice to cry.

One of those Operations

They did not see him when he pulled the shiny metal off his pocket; they peered through the vehicle windows as the images of where they were receded with every step on the throttle, some were sleeping, oblivious of their situation. The metal felt cold on his body and it was beginning to make him shiver; he was not to fear; his victims should.

He carefully rotated his head from right to left as though he were a police corporal waiting to be tipped by a bus driver. He buried it down deep to the left pocket of his Armani coat.

These people are blind, he thought.

This was going to be the last of his numerous operations and his first out of retirement. He had decided to get a new life; a life he would not be afraid to live, that which no one would have to chase him through pavements, that life which his mind would be at rest, but he needed money to make his fiancée’s dream come alive.
He bent down and made to sniff the metal; Ashaka was a nice fellow, he gave him this tool.

All he wanted to do was get the job done – not to draw blood. But his greatest element was shock; fear and docile apprehension: an apprehension that was already evident by the looks of these innocent people who had earlier prayed to reach their destination safely.

Thirty minutes into the journey, in the wilderness that was to be Okeokuta Expressway, he sucked in air and made to pull out the gun. The Berretta 93R slid off his pocket with a familiar sleekness and for once he felt powerful as he was before he decided to lay down the arms.

Whisteling Pine

At gunpoint we march, our hands flailing while the thin long rust mouth of Maxim guns sneer at us.
“How did we get to this stage?” my father asks, but the belligerent gaze my mother pours him makes him recoil, abruptly.
Every time my father’s revolutionary bout rears its head, my mother always have a noose to tame him; and today, she’s shown that just perfectly.
“Lep ai!” one of the soldiers screams, his eyes darting like a horrified rat.
We file on a single harmonic line that snakes through from below the whistling pines toward that shallow end on Balogun Kuku’s compound.
They have not lashed us yet; that white lieutenant is presently penning our names to a sutured parchment, while that gaunt looking white general is busy sizing up Iya Meta’s flappy breasts. Baba Meta snarls.
A few of us have escaped, but these men who speak through their nose prefer to give a chase – as if they know this land more than us. I hear them speak in muffled tones, the ocean breeze and its crisp voice whispers gently to my ears.
The memory of Agbadagiri seems to be a few minute away from being snatched away from me forever: the jaguars I play with, the cooing of that white dove close to my aba, the snarls of lions and the roars of our kinsmen tearing through the green leaves and thorns of the spear grasses during the monthly leopard hunt. All these will be gone in a moment.
I closed my eyes savouring the touch of bravery that picks at me this time, I gnash my teeth that they nearly spurt blood from my gums. This moment is sweet, for what shall I say of me being a man to be killed by another?
There are no ropes binding us, no manacles on our feet, no agadagodo to our mouths, only the three rifles and the fear of the unknown. From nearby, I hear the leaves rustle, I turn back to look, someone is trying an imperfect mimicry of the clan’s deaf man pantomime; the fingers were black, it is the warlord.
As the bodies begin to unfurl from the camouflage of the leaves, we see hope, our future and the battle to rescue our motherland. The griot brings out his flute to sing. The hoot pierces through the ears of everyone – we all recognised it. Before they realise what is going on, Kurunmi strikes, and from then a new era begins.