The Federal Government reached the decision to ease the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja. It was a catch-22 situation as the nation was grappling with a spike in the number of recorded COVID 19 cases where Kano had become a big concern for all. One week people were dropping dead like flies from “unknown causes” with the NCDC announcing single-digit numbers of the COVID infection, and the next week there’s a dramatic rise in the number of official cases only for the number to revert to single digits again as the governor relaxed the lockdown order to afford people two free days in a week to do as they pleased in the afternoon. When they talked about it at 225 Katakata Street, Josiah was clear about why this was happening:
“The gods are angry. The injustice meted out to Emir Sanusi is what they are paying for. One of the usurpers to his throne also died.”
“Please let’s not politicize this. Kano like Lagos is a densely populated environment where transmission will happen naturally given the way the people live. What we should be worried about is the inadequate testing, the crass ignorance of the populace and erratic decisions of the governor which continues to put them at risk.”
“They even imported fifty cases to Kaduna through the almajiris.”
“And that too.”
“What I don’t understand is curfew at certain hours and free movement at certain other hours. Do they have some pact with the virus to only come out at night but not in the day time?”
“What I think about that is that they want to discourage night gatherings as much as possible as that is the time when law enforcement is more difficult and when things will spiral out of control. Imagine it being possible for people to go out and party and drink at a time like this. Nightlife will get the virus moving at an unstoppable pace so for that reason I support the curfew. We will go out in the afternoon to look for what to eat and return home at night and lock ourselves inside and wait for the NCDC results.”
Before that conversation, however, there was the issue of the gunshot and the consequent removal of the violated policeman from the compound in the dead of night.
Compound members mostly stayed awake when Papa Efe sent them back to their rooms. They were whispering within their families what they thought had really happened. The three elders could not prevent them from seeing the evacuation of the stricken Inspector via the police vehicle. The man’s labored movement and the concern etched on the faces of his aiders was not lost on neighbours. Whatever it was, most of them reasoned, it would only remain a secret until sunrise that same day many believed.
Chisco hurried up the flight of stairs and got to Josephine’s rooms and knocked on the door. Josephine and Maya like most were seated in the sitting room and talking in low tones. Maya threw Josephine a quizzical look when she stepped out of the way for Chisco.
“My champion!” Josephine enthused as Chisco entered the room. Catching Maya’s expression she said, “No Maya, I did not invite him.”
“Na my brother. E no well. Abeg come give am injection. Malaria dey do am.”
“That’s true. I did not see you or Achike back down there. What happened to him?”
“Him faint so I go pour am water for backyard.”
“Is he vomiting?”
“E been dey spit blow-blow for mouth.”
“Does he have a temperature? Is his body hot?”
“No but him dey sweat plenty.”
“Where is he now?”
“Him wife Mama carry am for leg like pikin make him for sleep.”
“Hope you don’t mind Maya, let me go take a look at Achike.”
“No problem nurse. I understand.”
“You can sleep in the bed inside. There was no need for you to lie in this room in the first place. You are my guest.”
“Okay,” Maya said and hurried into the adjoining room.
Josephine pulled a drawer and grabbed a bag containing vital signs equipment and turned to go.
“You no carry medicine?”
“I have to look at him first. If I need to give him anything, you will come back here and bring the other bag. Let’s go.”
Jide found a corner in his bedroom and curled into it and covered his face with his hands. He was trembling. What just happened!
His wife turned and looked at him and said “Do one good thing in your life and let me go. People think you are a good man because you are young and handsome and cheerful. But I know you are not. At least not to me. You don’t like women. Why don’t you let me go? See how quickly you found a lover in this new place? Your kind are everwhere now. Free yourself and free me!”
If Jide’s wife noticed that her husband was stricken, she did well not show it. Emboldened by his uncharacteristic quiet she said “You better go and wash. You slept with a pig!”
She was right. He needed a bath. He could tell that the room was smelling of his horror. He could smell it on himself. He tried to replay the nights events in his mind but he still met a gaping hole in the middle. Everything was as he wanted at the start, the man was awesome, then suddenly he felt a presence in the room, followed by dizziness and oblivion, and when he realized himself again he saw that he had forced himself into his lover who was not prepared for that. But how did all that happen? Who had come into the room? Who had borrowed his penis and how?
He listened for when the compound was quiet again and then he stole out to the bathroom with a bucket and soap dish and scrubbed himself as if he had spent the night in a pigsty. As he finished and came out of the bathroom he heard footsteps and voices of two people descending the staircase. A man and a woman. Jide stopped and hid next to the corridor entrance and watched and listened.
“You said you found him where?”
“Na there. In front of the man house. E be like say him see when the man shoot the gun then him come faint. Him stand there like electric pole until I go carry am.”
“And you say it is malaria. I think your brother is in shock. But I’ll see.”
Jide remembered that there was a man standing there when he ran out. Seeing Chisco now he knew it was Achike. Those were the two he knew well in the compound so far. If Achike was at the door and went into shock, then it was possible that he saw what had happened. He could have seen the intruder, or it could even have been he. But if it was Achike why then was Jide the one with the bloodied penis? What was Achike doing there in the first place?
It still did not make sense to Jide. But at least it was a lead. He was going to speak to Achike when he saw him. He was going to find answers.
Sure that she had done what needed to be done Eyonyam managed to get Achike to his feet in his torpid state and guided him into the bedroom and lay him beside his wife.
“Is he okay?” Evae asked her mother.
“Will he remember?”
“Unless someone talks to him about it.”
“Only Chisco knew he left the room at all and Chisco we can handle.”
“Yes, leave Chisco to me.”
“But why are we still protecting Papa?”
“Because we still live here and we are not innocent. If something bad is traced to him, people will look at us again. I can go back to Togo but your whole life is here now. Even your husband will turn against you.”
“But why won’t he just go away?”
There was a knock on the door and Eyonyam remembered that Chisco had gone to fetch the nurse.
“The nurse is here.”
“They can’t talk to him,” Evae said.
Chisco and the nurse entered the room.
“Good morning ma.” Josephine said. I heard Achike is sick.”
“Yes but e don well now.”
“How?” Chisco said.
“As you just comot him open eye come ask for water. I give am water him drink. Him come ask me where him wife dey, I come tell am say him wife dey inside. Him come say okay make him go meet him wife. Him come stand up enter room.”
“Na so, nurse.”
“Was his body hot? Did he complain of headache or anything?”
“No o. Maybe na heat been dey do am. I blow am breeze.”
“Can I see him?”
“Ah ahn nurse! Man wey wake up dey ask for him wife, wetin you think say dem dey do inside dia now? I tell you say de man don well. Abi you no know say I get husband before? I know how man wey well be.”
Josephine looked at Chisco and then at Eyonyam and then said: “Well, I guess there is nothing for me to do here then.”
“But me I dey get headache. You fit give me panadol?”
“Chisco will have to follow me to come and get it.”
“Okay. Thank you nurse. When my pikin and him husband wake I go tell dem to come tell you thank you.”
When they got back to Josephine’s she closed the door and turned and faced Chisco and said: “So why did you come here? Nothing was wrong with your brother.”
“Nurse. I no fit lie for you. My brother no well.”
“But his wife’s mother just said he is well and is banging his wife already.”
“I no understand. Somehow I no believe.”
“Do you think she is lying?”
“I no know but e get as e dey do me for body.”
“Nothing dey do you for body you idiot” Josephine said good-naturedly and went over to the drawer she kept her medical things and rummaged through for a card of paracetamol.
Maybe it was the relief that his brother was well that made Chisco to only then become aware that Josephine all that time only had her oversized tshirt and panties on.
Josephine was making an exaggerated twisting of her waist as she searched for the medicine, causing Chisco to become dizzy at the sight of her undulating bottom.
Then as if propelled by a remote control, Chisco closed in on her and held her waist and ground his stiffness into her soft bottom.
“What are you doing Ogbu” Josephine protested and eased up. “You think I don’t know you are fucking that woman?”
Chisco held her tight and cupped both her breasts in his hands and pressed them as he continued to push his groin against her backside.
“I no dey fuck am I swear!”
“So why did you not come to look for me?”
“I think say you don marry.”
“I mean when I came back to this compound. Did you see any husband here?”
“I no know say you still want me.”
“Well true, I don’t want you anymore so leave my breasts alone.”
“No. Leave me.”
“Your aunty is in your village.”
But Chisco did not relent. He continued to grind against Josephine and then began to feel her pushing her bottom back into him. Emboldened, he put his hands under her t-shirt and took her bare breast in his hands and kneaded and twiddled her nipples. A soft mourn escaped her and that was Chisco’s cue to turn her around and pull the t-shirt over her head and into a corner of the room and attack her bare body. They groped in the standing position for a while then Josephine found his stiffness and went on her knees and began to suck. Chisco threw his head to the back and held on to Josephine’s as delicious sensations coursed through his body. He then pulled out of her mouth and made her turn around and place her hands on the wall while he went down on her from behind. Josephine moaned louder and touched her own breasts and pushed her bottom into his face and when she could not take it anymore she went on all fours and invited him into her. Chisco placed his open hands on both cheeks of her supple bottom and spread them and then guided his stiffness into her and began to thrust. Slowly at first and then with increasing pace to match Josephine’s waist that was like rubber. They were at it for ten solid minutes before she began to shiver and Chisco also let himself go. They climaxed loudly and then collapsed on the floor and started to chuckle like two idiots.
“Ogbu you just raped me,” she said when she could talk again.
“Ah ahn. How?”
“I said no but you still fucked me.”
“But your body dey tell me yes.”
“You will see me on twitter.”
“Wetin be that?”
“Never mind,” she said and continued to giggle. Chisco laughed out loud as well.
Lord that felt good!
“Don’t come near me again if you touch that woman. I don’t want somebody to come and jazz me.”
“I no go near am aswear. I no even know wetin push me.”
“Eh hen! I said it!”
“No I mean say, well, sometimes as man you know say you fit think am. But I don see say nothing sweet pass you.”
“And I don dey feel somehow about that woman. E get as my body dey do me since I carry my brother enter there.”
“I no know. If to say I dey village I for go find out.”
“Find out how?”
“Nurse you no go understand.”
“Hmmm. Shaa don’t put me in competition with anybody in this compound.”
“I get my own house. I go leave here for morning.”
All the while, Maya was standing by the adjoining room watching. If she did not know better, she would have concluded that those two were in love. It was the first time she had seen two adults making love in the flesh. They were so good for each other, and they spoke candidly as well.
It was something she had not known in a long time.
Oh Ndi, she thought.
Now she knew why she came back.
Now she knew what she wanted from him.
The meeting started early. Men, women and children were all in attendance. No one was going to miss this one.
“Okay good morning everyone,” Mr Zubi began. “You all know why we are here. I don’t want to waste your time because we should not be gathering like this because of the new law on social distancing, even though we all know that it is only God that will save those of us that live the way we do because we do not even have the space for the social distancing. But that is by the way. I will make it brief.
“Last night, someone managed to enter this compound and attacked the policeman. The person did not know that the man had a gun with which he scared the intruder away. Why we have called this meeting is to emphasize the need for us to be more security conscious. Please keep your eyes open. If you see someone you do not know, stop them and question them. Some people have forgotten that we are all in this hunger battle together.”
“But wait o, Mr. Zubi. What was the nature of the attack on the oga olopa? Because we saw that you people tied him wrapper like he had just come out of labour.”
“It was Irikefe. The glint in his eyes as he said that made the men in the know uncomfortable.
“We did not tie him wrapper.”
“This is not necessary Irikefe,” Mr. Cosmas interjected. The way he looked into the eyes of Irikefe was enough to convey the message Mr. Cosmas wanted to pass. Back off young man!
Irikefe nodded smugly and walked back into the compound.
“All right. You all understand that don’t you? That we are all now responsible for our security?”
“Ah…we don’t have a choice ni…Today it is one million boys, tomorrow it is one thousand men. We are running from coro and also running from people. We will not wait for any of them to come and kill us.”
“True Mama Cowbell.”
“So we will do as you say. Mbgo my neighbors?”
“Yes we will.”
“Erm Mr. Zubi. I want to tell all of you that I am now selling agbo corona.”
“What is that?”
“It is Agbo that will epp us fight the corona o. This corona is just strong malaria. No difference. Abeg when we have malaria what do we do? We drink agbo. I have correct agbo from Okeigbo in Ondo. From tomorrow I will not sell rice anymore. I will sell agbo for my shop. If you want the one I cook, you will get it. Hundred naira per cup. If you want dry one to go and cook by yourself, you will also get it.”
“Erm Mama Cowbell. I don’t think that is right,” Josiah said.
“She is right,” Mr Cosmas said. As long as there is no known cure for this thing, everything anyone can do is right until proven otherwise. Did you not read the article by Professor Soludo during the week? We have to be creative and find our own way out of this very bad situation. Mama Cowbell is not entirely wrong about the malaria assumption, after all, the symptoms of the disease mimics the symptoms of malaria and many who have conquered the virus have testified that they took malaria cocktails together with everything else they were given. We cannot rule out anything. Who says Mama Cowbell’s agbo cannot be the solution we need? Look at Madagascar. The world may not be taking them seriously, and I don’t know why, but no one has died there of the virus and there is no lockdown because they found a cure they believed in and their lives are pretty much back to normal. I will say carry on Mama Cowbell but let us know what the ingredients of the agbo are. You should not give anyone anything they don’t know.”
“Well, I think you are right Cosmas. I have also heard that exposure to the sun, peppersoup consumption, inhalation of steam with lemon help too. Ginger, garlic, and turmeric cocktails help too. Governor Makinde said he used carrots and black seed oil to cure his.” Ndifreke said.
“Like I said, we cannot rule out anything. Now that they have opened Lagos and we will go back to our danfos, it is even more imperative that you take your agbo and whatever else you know daily, especially when you return from your hustle. I for one will be stopping at Mama Cowbell’s shop to help myself. The doom-mongers are saying dead bodies will litter the streets because they have eased the lockdown too soon, but I say that that will not happen if we remain aware, do what we have to do as much as practicable. If Mama Cowbell has agbo for us, please take the agbo. It is better than doing nothing.”
“So now tell us what is inside this your agbo Mama Cowbell.”
“Thank you Pastor o! I have inside it akerejopon, asofeyeje, osopa, awapa, dogonyaro, koropo, ewe akintola, egungunarugbo, agbalumo, efirinla. I will combine it for you and it will chase the fever away. You can buy the leaves or you buy the one I have cooked from tomorrow morning. I will come out by 6 in the morning and close by 9. I will come out again by 6 in the evening till 9 everyday. One hundred naira per cup.”
“Between 9 in the morning and 6 in the evening you can even sell your rice.”
“If I see somebody to epp me why not?”
“Please can we give Mama Cowbell a round of applause!” Mr Zubi enthused.
“Oya everybody repeat after me. We shall not die!”
“We shall not die!”
“I said we shall not die!”
“We shall not die.”
“I believe Mama Cowbell because of the dongoyaro which is called neem leaves. It is one of the ingredients in the Madagascan remedy. Everybody repeat again, We shall not die!”
As this went on Jide Falomo was deep in thought. The boy Irikefe obviously knew something. Something about the way the man Cosmas hushed him. The way he trotted off also told a story in itself.
Jide stole out of the now raucous gathering and went in search of Irikefe. He found him by the well at the backyard.
“Hi. I’m Jide” the new tenant said.
“Pleased to meet you.”
They made to shake hands but remembered social distancing and both kept their hands to themselves and laughed at the awkward moment.
“I saw what happened out there. I know you know more but they don’t want you to say.”
“I know everything that happens in this compound.”
“Yes. I always warn them and they never listen. And everything I warn them about always happens. I don’t know when they will begin to take me seriously because even the worst – death – has happened but they still won’t listen to me.”
“Oh I see. I can imagine your frustration. But what do you know about last night?”
“Simple. Three witches died in this compound and we were all sent packing because of it. Okay we came back and two of the most wicked of the witches also came from their graves. Did you not hear the pounding in the kitchen last night?”
“Yes I did.”
“That was Mama Akunna. She and her boyfriend Agbonyibo came back. While she was cooking in the kitchen, Agbonyibo went and raped the policeman.”
“Agbonyibo was a homosexual rapist. He scattered Achike’s nyash in this compound and his spirit came back and did the same thing to the policemen. Don’t ask me how he did it. I just know he did. You can ask Mr. Cosmas. He knows those things.”
Jide Falomo began to feel light-headed. He could hear Irikefe rattling on but the words were not making any meaning to him. He needed to lie down.
From a far place he could hear Irikefe saying “Are you alright? Oga Jide! Are you alright?”
TO BE CONTINUED.