I arrived at Iwo road at exactly 9:27pm. It took a while before I could convince Emeka to lend me some money in addition to the one I retrieved from my suit, and so I arrived at Ibadan very late. He needed to be assured of when and how I will pay back. I stepped out of the garage to pick a cab, but after several failed attempts at convincing the cab drivers to let me pay fifty naira instead of sixty, I decided to cover some distance with my leg. A positive is that I’ll save money.
All my aspiration was to make my parents proud. I graduated from the higher institution as one of the brightest students. No, I didn’t make a first class, I finished with a second class lower, but I was immensely talented. I was a prospect. I got distracted by the love and respect I got from my lecturers and mates. I got carried away by the fame I got from being everyone’s favourite. I was a dancer, a MC/motivational speaker, and I was reasonably social. I won my departmental award for the Most Handsome four times in a role and even dated the campus queen. As a student of philosophy, I always pictured myself as an administrative manager of an oil company or big firms. I got some marketing and banking job offers after graduating, but I was determined not to go either way. I hate the pressure that comes with them. My resolve broke at some point and I tried one out, but I didn’t last 3 months on the job. I decided not to take up such jobs again; I have been waiting ever since. There are times when I thought of how awesome it would be to own a company but my big dream requires a big capital.
I arrived home to find my mother sweeping the front yard,
“Good morning ma,” I gestured at her to hand over the broom, yet she continued. I was having a bad day already, but that’s no excuse for me to give up on her.
“Mummy, hand over the broom, let me finish up.” I persuaded her, and then she stopped sweeping, spat out the mixture of saliva and chewing stick in her mouth and rained words on me.
“You are the most unreasonable son I have ever seen. Are you not ashamed of yourself? When will I start enjoying the gains of my hard labour on you?” I just stood there dumbfounded.
“You cannot talk? You don’t have anything to say? I have lived a reasonable part of my own life, I have done my part as a mother, and I am very sure your dead father will be grateful to me in heaven. I can no longer be responsible for your upkeep. I want to concentrate on your siblings now. If you like, spend the rest of your life in Emeka’s kiosk, I don’t care, but note that Emeka is responsible for his siblings’ tuitions and mother’s wellbeing.” She wrapped up her speech and walked away. Now, that made it the second time someone walked out on me today. After thorough verbal flogging too.
I wept within as I thought about how I had wasted the last four years of my life. I couldn’t hold back the tears when I thought about my mates who had carved fortunes for themselves, my mother’s outburst, and the echo of Morenike’s voice, it all felt like salt on my sore. I decided to take a bold step; leave my comfort zone. I went inside and checked the inner pocket of my suit for how much I had left; the suit my mother bought me for convocation. I will leave Owena and go to the city, not Lagos, Ibadan. I will go to Bade’s house and stay with him while I hustle, he will most likely help talk to connected people about job. He has always wanted me to come, but my pride wouldn’t let me. My answer was always “why should I go and become a liability on someone when my mother hasn’t sent me packing?” I guess time rewrote my fortune. I will leave for Ibadan the next day.
Earlier that morning I took a routine walk to the junction to read the newspapers. I couldn’t afford to buy one, so, I simply tipped the vendor with fifty naira and in return, he lets me go through all the papers. It didn’t take time before a caption caught my attention: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROMISES MORE JOBS; I shook my head and hissed with anger,
“Foolish people, when will they stop lying to us? We need a change in this country,” I murmured to myself.
“Prof, wetin you talk?” asked Emeka the vendor.
“No be this mumu government wey dey always lie to us. Set of incompetent thieves.”
“Haba! Prof, you vex finish this morning o, who offend you na?” I hid my desperation behind a smile and replied him, “no one jare my brother.”
Emeka is one of my biggest fans; he empathizes with me over my state of joblessness. There are days when he let me read the newspaper for free. Whenever I was downcast, I would stroll to his kiosk and listen to him argue with some other guys from the street. He doesn’t speak much, but he never stops to make me smile. He would imitate the Peak milk advert and say, “Prof, I know say one day one day, you go make us proud. No give up o, God go give you correct job soon.” He belongs to the class of ‘those who believe in me’. I was very comfortable with the pity he showered on me.
While I glanced through the newspaper, I soon caught sight of Morenike walking by. I had been asking her out for a while now, but she wouldn’t say yes. Initially I was very comfortable in the friend zone where she placed me, hoping to break the spell and win her heart eventually, but the tale changed when she migrated me from friend to brother zone, she started calling me ‘brother Kunle’. I am just 4 years older; we fall under the same age group. Adding the prefix ‘brother’ to my name just felt very odd. Morenike is humble and respectful, she doesn’t have a very pretty face, yet, she has a great body to make up for it. She is also very smart and that was the main reason I wanted her. She will complement me in certain ways.
I closed the page I was reading and called out to her, she halted when she heard her name and approached Emeka’s kiosk.
“Brother Kunle, good morning” she greeted,
“Morenike, do I have to plead before you stop this new habit of yours? Okay, please, stop calling me brother. The mutual respect we have for each other is enough.”
“Sir? You don’t give up, do you? Anyway when did you return from school? Are you guys on break?”
“We are not on break, I only came around to pick up the foodstuffs my mum got for me, I will be returning to school tomorrow.”
“Okay, that’s not bad. By the way, your hairdo is nice,” I added, trying to stroke her emotion.
“Thanks” she responded sharply.
“So, Morenikejimi,” I teased her further, “what exactly do I have to do to make you mine? What have I been doing wrong? Please tell me, I really need you in my life, I have a feeling you will usher in a reign of fortune into my life, our lives.”
She moved closer to me, smiled, and took a deep breath, “are you sure you want the answers to those questions?
“Yes, I am ready to do anything to have you,” I responded, feeling very confident about my chances.
“If you want to make me yours, you need to get a job.” At the sound of the word ‘job’ my heart sank within my chest. She continued,
“You have been doing everything wrong. You are too comfortable with being jobless, you sit around all day waiting for your mother to feed you, you merry in self-pity instead of pitying the poor woman, and you keep waiting for your dream job to come to you. If it doesn’t come, why not chase that dream and pursue happiness? Kunle, I like you, but I am scared that if I date you in your present state, we will run out of my luck. If you are so desperate to do anything to have me, why don’t you start by using that same energy to do everything you can to be a better man. You are too proud to start with. If the government can’t offer you a job, you are not too big to learn a trade or start a business. If you get a job, maybe I will consider giving you a chance, brother Kunle.” She wrapped up her speech, emphasizing on ‘brother’, and walked out on me respectfully.
“Prof, you go show later for the normal level?” Emeka asked as I exited his kiosk. Every afternoon, I always return to his kiosk with a pen and paper to gamble on my luck by staking my money on football fixtures. Did I ever win? Yes, at my second attempt at it, I guess I ran out of luck after that, but that didn’t stop me from trying again. I nodded my head grudgingly to intimate Emeka that I will be back by afternoon. You should know this, Emeka is also the ‘bread and akara’ merchant on my street. He had three businesses, and I had none. I was waiting for God’s time.
As I trekked, I thought about the cab drivers. Why do they inflate cab fee just because it’s night? “We are the architect of our own misfortune in this country”, I whispered to myself. Then I thought about my mother too, she wasn’t wrong to have spoken with such bitterness, she acted the way every good mother should. Minutes later, a police van pulled over and asked me to identify myself, I told them my name, but that wasn’t good enough,
“Do you have an identity card?” one of them questioned,
“But what?” he shut me up, “dis one na arm robber, make he join hin mate for back.”
I spent my first night in Ibadan in a cell.
To be continued….
Written By Femi Fragile
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