A healthy toddler dying of ‘natural causes’ was not a common occurrence. What you hear if the child had not been ill was that it fell from a storey building or was locked in a burning room or it fell in a well or it ingested poison or something as sensational. A baby going to sleep and not waking up was not something Mama Akunna had ever heard of. Being the child’s guardian and being so distrusted by all and sundry, she could not trust Akunna not to finally snuff life out of her, neither did she believe that compound members would be kind to her as they were the first time. That time it was Awero’s adultery and confession made it possible, even though she knew that many were still not deceived. Therefore as she stepped out of the house that morning with Dozie’s lifeless body strapped on her back, she knew that the only way she could escape scrutiny for the tragedy was for her to stage something sensational. She knew the commotion of the Iddo station well. She knew that people there were always flirting with disaster there. Traders would stay on the rail track until an approaching train was only meters away before they would gather their wares and scamper away. Street urchins found it a good spot to go and tempt fate on a daily basis, running around playing hide and seek. Mama Akunna reasoned that death on the rail track, if she could pull it off, was the sort of happenstance that could prevent her world from crumbling and possibly even buy her sympathy and aid if she came out of it.
It turned out easier than she had envisaged. She got to the track and found a broken keke stationed nearby. She walked up to it and stood for five minutes with the rapidly stiffening Dozie on her back without being noticed. Then she stealthily tied her wrapper to the frame of the tricycle and remained standing there. Lagos was full of weirdness, and so an old woman with a baby near a busy rail track was only another collector’s item. It was not until a train was near and things became frantic and people scrambled to get away and an old woman was seen struggling with her wrapper that people took notice.
Mama Akunna knew what would happen and was ready. When help came, rather than let them remove her from the danger, she clutched the two men and caused a struggle that kept them there long enough for the train to be just inches away before she let go of them and in the ensuing panic they rammed into the metal barricade that came down too late. She had slackened the head tie she used to hold Dozie on her back so she was able to swing him in front of her with his head aimed for a big stone on her path as she fell. She rolled away to safety as she heard his skull crack. When she ‘woke up’ seven hours later at LUTH, she made sure she cried Dozie’s name until Akunna and men of number 225 Katakata Street arrived by her bedside.
“Wey my pikin? Wey de only granpikin wey I get? Awero see wetin you do o! Awero if to say you no follow man you for dey alive look ya pikin o! Awero you don kill all Akunna pikin finish o! Awero oooo!”
“Calm down Mama. This is not Awero or anybody’s fault. It is the irresponsibility of Government and poor leadership and corruption that has robbed us of the infrastructural integrity befitting of an oil producing nation. This type of thing cannot happen in Dubai.” She heard someone say.
And so compound members and sympathizers and member of the press that thronged to her bedside consoled Mama Akunna. Then someone noticed that Akunna was no longer talking.
He was going back to Yaba Left.
Akunna’s phone fell from Tobi’s hand as he lost his senses. Akunna first picked it up and looked and saw the picture of his mother and bloodied son, before he ran out past a stricken Tobi to the elders whose council had just come to an end. They immediately rushed to the bus stop and headed for LUTH Idi-Araba where the report stated that victims had been transferred. The women and a few others who could not go stood at the frontage trying to understand what was happening when Tobi ambled out of the corridor looking like a walking dead man from a horror movie. His eyes were vapid, his shoulders slumped, and his spirit obliterated. Someone held him and shook him. He only returned a blank stare. “What happened to you, Tobi?”
“I stole the money. I am going to hell.”
“What are you saying?”
“I stole the money. I am going to hell.”
“Tobi don crase o! Make una call mama Tobi! Come see o! Tobi don crase!”
He moved exactly like those dead characters. He did not recognize anyone. He could not stand or sit still, it was as if his legs were motorized. He only wanted to keep walking.
“Where you dey go?”
“I stole the money. I am going to hell.”
He walked round the compound two times saying the same words. There was no one in their room. Feeling lucky that she had timed the dropping of the charm to perfection and that no one had seen her, Mama Tobi had quickly carried a basin of fufu and gone out to go and do her supply with the hope that on her return that she would see the result of her action. Indeed, when she returned two hours later the result of her action was there for her to see. By this time Tobi had circled the compound forty-eight times and was still walking. “I stole the money, I am going to hell.”
“Jesus ooooo!” Mama Tobi screamed and slammed herself on the floor on realizing what had happened.
“Somebody should hold Mama Tobi. What sort of bad luck is this ehn? Mama Tobi herself just got cured of madness. Now it is her son. Why are people just going mad since Buhari won reelection?”
Mama Tobi knew she had to put herself together so she could think. Without a doubt, Tobi needed to be committed so that he did not wear himself out while she found a way to undo what she had done. As soon as compound members were able to hold him down and took the decision to take him to the psychiatric hospital, she packed a small bag and headed back to Okitipupa.
When she woke up that morning, Mama Tobi did not know that at midnight that same day she would be standing naked in a forest holding a calabash with fire in it while a medicine man that did not as much as acknowledge her greeting the first time would be standing behind her and smacking his lips.
When the men left the hospital they sat at a bar at the motor park and reflected. It was a busy afternoon and there were many angry Nigerians about. A man who had only had a sip of his beer said to no one in particular:
“Una hear wetin happen for Abuja? Police wey suppose to protect us, wey leave the kidnapping for Kaduna/Abuja highway, wey leave the killing for Zamfara, wey no fit prevent kidnapping for Buhari hometown for Daura, waka for night arrest all the ashawo for Abuja carry dem go cell go dey rape them. Nigerians una don see this kind thing before?”
“The women talk say most of the men rape dem raw, then de ones wey no fit go buy condom use pure water nylon cover dem preek.”
“That is callous!”
“The IG told the national assembly yesterday that those officers would be investigated and brought to book.”
“But wetin ashawo do dem na?”
“Ashawo no be work my brother.”
“Ashawo wey dey since the time of Abraham? Ashawo wey even the prophets of dat time dey use dey help theirsef when preaching don tire dem? Ruth abi Naomi wey we dey use sing today no be ashawo? Mary Magdalene wey some pipo say na Jesus babe no be ashawo hin be? Why dem no go leave awa gehs to hustle in peace? Men like dem dey kill and kidnap everyday but na dis gehs dem fit go catch?”
“They also arraigned Senator Adeleke over the same WAEC matter. PDP said the original plan was to poison him in detention.”
“No wonder Buhari said the IG of police is losing weight fighting insecurity. He is busy chasing rats when there are stray elephants in the room. It can be exhausting.”
“How more clueless can a President be? He is probably saying that so that people will look at his long neck and pity him that he is also hardworking and losing weight.”
“Did he not just return from Sudan?”
“It was London he went to.”
“They said it was Sudan. That Jubrin went to visit his real family. That was why all the people that went to look for him in London did not find him. He was not there.”
“Well, my happiness is that the Presidential elections tribunal has commenced sitting. Femi Aribisala has already told the tribunal to declare Atiku President. I cannot wait. Jubrin can thereafter return to Afghanistan if he wants.”
“The first thing the President of the Court of Appeal who heads the five-man panel of judges said is that lawyers, the press, and everyone should not make details of proceedings public. What are they hiding?”
“They don’t want the public to see the progress and make up its mind. They want to finish and come and tell us that so and so has won.”
“I wish them good luck.”
“Abeg leave Goodluck out of it. Wish them Atiku. If anyone can pull this off, that is the man.”
“Meanwhile Peter Obi that has not been doing anything and has suffered a heart attack.”
“It is a lie. He only had a fever and went to the doctor and returned to his office the same day. Nigerians shaaa!”
“Governor Ganduje, the agbada ATM of all people is trying to remove the Emir of Kano over corruption charges. The State’s corruption commission has already invited the Emir’s brothers and uncle to question them about the Emirates funds.”
“Shameless country. I blame the people that reelected him.”
“He rigged. His fight with Sanusi is because Sanusi called for a free and fair election and condemned the thuggery carried out by Ganduje’s men during the elections.”
“Rigging or no rigging, Kwara showed us that when people are united for a political cause they have their way. Power belongs to the people! It also happened in Sudan. These politicians ride on the lethargy of the populace to commit atrocities and remain in power.”
Outside the bar, another group was discussing Barcelona’s shock Champions’ league exit at the hands of Liverpool.
“Messi loss inside stadium. Una wey dey call am GOAT, yesterday him dey run like ewu. Make una clear road for Ronaldo abeg!”
“One thing Liverpool’s victory showed is that the team that runs more wins a football game. Those guys fought for the cause. It was sheer grit and graft and determination. Talent is never enough.”
“It is happening to Barcelona for two successive years throwing away three-goal leads. This will call for an inquest. It takes more than Messi.”
“Poor Liverpool. They deserve the league as well. Our own Iheanacho denied them that.”
“That one? Shey they said all he does is to come home and sleep with Nollywood actresses. Since he started that, he has not known the way to goal anymore.”
“Such promising talent. Don’t be surprised if he makes the squad for the Nations Cup. You know the national team is a rehabilitation home. All you need is a Godfather.”
After one hour and two rounds of drinks paid for by Mr. Cosmas, the men from Katakata street decided it was time they returned to the compound. They shook hands with their new friends and stepped out to board buses home. Then someone said:
“Well, the only good thing is that today Price Harry and Meghan Markle will show the world their royal baby.”
“Abeg make I hear word” someone else said.
They had not known at that time that Tobi had lost his mind. They did not also know that that night, they would be having two compound members as roommates at the psychiatric hospital.
That same evening, Chisco followed Josephine until she disappeared into a compound that had a large black gate two streets away. He waited outside until she reemerged three hours later escorted by a man he recognized as a doctor from God Dey hospital. He went straight to Wasiu’s room and ordered a large wrap of marijuana and went to the uncompleted building to contemplate his love life.
Achike told Evae without mincing words that he would not allow her to be exchanged for Irikefe and Castro. Without waiting for Evae to say anything, he locked the door and made love to her as if to remind her of what she would be missing if she attempted to sacrifice herself for the compound.
Irikefe and Castro were so loving life with Agbonyibo that they made Agbonyibo promise them that they would have regular getaways to go ‘hustle’ and have fun when they returned home.
One person that had the worst evening of them all however was Maya.
She came home in an Uber from the psychiatric hospital and decided to stop at the supermarket at the beginning of the street to buy ice cream to assuage her little sister Clementina whom she knew would be traumatized with the events of that day, especially with their mother suddenly packing a bag and traveling to a town whose name they could not even pronounce, when she saw Ndifreke changing tyres for a beautiful widow in her thirties who had three young children and drove a Land Cruiser. She was a private woman who did not interact much and was famed for her devotion to her family. Maya stood at a distance and watched as Ndifreke finished changing the tyre and put back the jack and wheel spanner in the boot and wanted to leave and then stopped when the woman said something. He seemed to contemplate for a moment before he nodded and followed her into the compound.
Maya thought that it was ominous that just as they closed the gate behind them there was a power cut and the entire street became dark.
It felt like curtains drawn at the end of a chapter.
TO BE CONTINUED.