By- OLAGOKE AJANAKU
In Nigeria, the part of Africa where I come from, ‘village people’ is a slang used to refer to human forces from one’s place of origin or countryside who possesses diabolical powers. When the turn of events in a person’s life are awkward as in the case of the young man in the narrative below, it is often said that his ‘village people’ are after him.
Tunbosun stirred awake. His eyes caught sight of the wall-clock. It was half-past 7am.
Mogbe!(I am doomed!)
He jumped out of bed, did ‘pillar to post’ movements within his one-room apartment as though he was on fire.
Not today…oh God, of all days.
He had a job interview for 8. With a rush, he pulled out a bucket of water underneath his bunk and made for the bathroom. He had reached the entrance when he realized he left his sponge case behind.
He went back for it and hurried off to take his bath. In 5 minutes, he was done and was back in his room. And presto! he was dressed and all set.
Off to the bus terminus, he gathered pace, sped like a moving train, combing his hair along the way. At a cut through a sharp corner,
He bumped into a young girl with 5 crates of eggs seated on her head. The girl lose balance and hit the ground. Amidst the messy mix of broken eggshells and spilled yolks, she scrambled to her feet, grabbed Tunbosun’s neatly ironed ash colored suit, locked it tight in her fists, and rocked him back and forth to a continuous well composed rhythm of ‘hmmm…Bròdá, efún mi lówó eyin mi o. Aìjébe…hmmm, éeni lobìkankan leni o'(Brother, give me the money for my eggs o. If not, you’re going nowhere today).
Within the twinkle of an eye, a crowd gathered around them, many people with phones stretched out to capture the scene. Camera flashes shot at him from different angles as if he was the happening celebrity in town. Tunbosun had never been that embarrassed.
An elderly man intervened, asked the girl for the cost of her eggs.
Tunbosun didn’t even have up to half the cost. The girlheld on tight, bent on either getting her money or dragging him home to her mother.
Luckily for Tunbosun, some of the eggs had a safe landing and could still be salvaged. His debt reduced to ₦2000
After dropping ₦1000 of the ₦1200 on him, the girl held on still. People had to contribute to add up what was left before she let go his suit.
Tunbosun made it to the venue of the interview at 9 o’clock. He wondered if the hundreds of graduates he met there had also applied for the same job he put in for. It seemed the interview was yet to start.
Nigerians and African time. I wish I had taken my time.
His mouth gapped open when he learnt those were the second batch.
By midday that Monday, the scorching sun felt like Sahara desert experience for Tunbosun as he dragged himself along Lawanson, a busy commercial neighborhood in Lagos state. He had trekked about 5km from Yaba where he went for the interview, and was still heading to his place of residence in Itire, another 7km from Lawanson. The patches on his shoes with its flattened heels were evidence they had seen better days. His blurry eyes fell on a shop where chilled pure water was sold; just what he needed before he collapse. Hurriedly, he bought a sachet from the ₦20 left on him, drank half and poured the remaining over his aching head and burning face.
While he stayed under the shop’s awning to get a moment’s shield from the wrath of the Sun before hitting the road again, he looked down on the folder that encased his enviable Curriculum Vitae(CV), wondered if it was a curse to graduate with first class degree. He had gone for lots of interviews; the disqualifying factor was always his lack of years of working experience. This last one was quite unusual. The interview had gone smoothly, it all looked like his time had finally come until he was told the management’s salary scheme does not cover his level of qualification, so he couldn’t be employed. He was deflated, wished he could take the testimonial back to his alma mater and ask that some points be taken from it and shared amongst students who needed it. He studied Geology at Federal University of Technology Akure; a top university in the western part of Nigeria with the hope of working in an oil company. But with the situation of things, even if he were given employment at a filling station as a pump attendant, he would jump at it. He was still bemoaning his sorry state when the weather suddenly changed and it began raining. The downpour held him up for the next two hours. After it subsided, he got back on his way. Famished, he wished he could buy something to eat. But what can the precious ₦10 note left on him afford?
At a point, he was so exhausted from trekking that his legs could almost not bear his weight any more, hunger tugged at the walls of his stomach. For the first time, Tunbosun envied the beggars he saw begging by the roadside. He would have joined them if not for his not having a rod and a bowl to collect alms. Just like he was too qualified for the job position, he was also too overdressed for the alms begging, coupled with his not being maimed in any part of his body. Then, he thought of an idea in that line—corporate begging.
Tunbosun took a strategic position by a junction, judging the pockets of passersby by their appearance. As a middle-aged woman, gaily dressed in a native skirt and blouse approached, Tunbosun cleared his throat.
“Good afternoon madam, I lost my wallet, please assist me on my journey with any amount.”
“Hian! Able-bodied man like you begging for alms, you should be ashamed of yourself,” replied the woman, eyeing him over and over again as she went on her way.
Tunbosun was flushed with embarrassment, he wanted to give up but he was too weak to walk. He decided to give it more trial, if just to get transport fare back home.
As a group of people approached, he singled out a plump man, corporately dressed in suit like himself to lay his plea at his feet.
“Good afternoon sir…,” he repeated his cooked-up fabrication.
“Eeyah,” said the man in pity,
“Sorry I don’t have much on me, please manage this token.” The man tucked a squeezed Naira note into his hand and went his way.
“Thank you sir,” said Tunbosun excitingly. He checked the money he was given and wished he could withdraw his gratitude. His eyes stared in shock at a dirty ₦20 note.
What choice has a beggar?
He tucked it in his pocket. He was now ₦20 richer. But ₦30 could barely solve his problem. He tried some more. Tired and weary, he quit segregating and made his plea to just anyone who cared to listen.
He had called the attention of a man before realizing he was a sales person.
“Oroki! Oroki!!” shouted the man. “Yesss. It cures indigestion and constipation. Just ₦100,” advertised the man, looking at Tunbosun with expectation.
Tunbosun giggled within, he wanted to wave the man off but he let out the lines he had made up instead. In pity, the man gave him money. The ₦200 note felt like he just won a jackpot, he almost hugged the man.
Straight away, he headed to the bus terminus. By this time, office workers had closed for the day. The place was jam-packed with commuters. Buses were scarce. After a while of waiting, one came by.
‘Itire! Wole pelu 100 nai…’ the bus conductor’s voice hung mid-sentence as crowds raced towards the bus.
Tunbosun made it through the rush that almost cost a leg and got a comfortable seat by the window. The peppery sensation that ran down his right leg was indication he had suffered bruises.
At the revving sound of the bus’s engine came the hoarse voice of the conductor, ‘Gbe bodi e oga mi. Owo lati waju, mi o ni change o.’(Move your body i.e the bus, my boss. Hand over your fare from the front, I don’t have change).
The Conductor began collecting the fares.
Before it got to Tunbosun’s turn, he reached for his wallet at the hip pocket of his trouser, and out came his empty hand. He dug in again, fumbled there for what seemed an eternity. At last it came out again, empty. He was sure he had it at the terminus. Confused, he went for other pockets as if some teleporting had taken place, even reached for his breast pocket that he could never have placed anything, not to talk of a wallet. Then it dawned clearly his pocket had been picked.
Along came the Conductor. With bloodshot eyes tossed at him, and a clear-cut gesture sent in his direction,
“Oga, wey your money?” he heard him say.
Tunbosun was dumbfounded. As he managed to explain his predicament, the conductor cut him short.
“Prof. I no wan hear story. Wey my money?”
Tunbosun wished he could vanish into thin air. His next set of words came out in stutters.
At the conductor’s request, the driver stopped the Bus. Tunbosun was ousted out.
Luckily, the bus had covered an appreciable distance. He dragged himself the rest of the way as though he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Daylight was fading away when he arrived home. On opening his door, he was greeted by a stream of water. He had forgotten to shut the windows. Many of his belongings had been drenched by the rain.
“What a day!” he muttered as he sank into the bed. Staring at the white ceiling in reminiscence, he concluded there was no one who would hear of his ordeal and not advise him to see a pastor for deliverance as he was being followed by his village people. He forced a wry smile and drifted off. – YA