By Deoye Falade
It so far looked like the best he’s seen his father bring in. White of hair, strong and sturdy, it had a confident look about it as it pranced royally in the pen. Yes, it’s the best ram his father had ever brought in for the Sallah celebration. Maybe dad has hit it big, Mukhtar thought. Or maybe it’s because Saheed, his elder brother was sponsored to the Hajj this time around by their Mosque. Last year’s celebration was low key, the ram was small and skinny and it couldn’t go round the people they wanted to share it with. This will surely be a good celebration, and Mukhtar was as excited as ever.
He loved watching the ram eat, as much as he loved feeding it. Mukhtar had just been promoted into his final year in secondary school so he was afforded a lot of free time. He sought every opportunity to go into the nearby field to fetch grass with his friends so they could pile the pen and watch the ram move its jaw from side to side as it ate. He even tried to eat like that once at dinner; his grandmother noticed and thought he was becoming epileptic. For three days the old woman kept staring at him whenever he was eating to be sure her grandson wasn’t manifesting signs of warapa and he couldn’t tell her the truth. Which was worse: having to explain why he was eating like a ruminant or being monitored for signs of epilepsy? He chose the latter.
Sometimes, Mukhtar wanted to untie the ram and walk it to the open field to graze but was scared he would lose control of the ram and it would run off. He had a small frame compared to some of his friends. Hamid was bigger and singlehandedly took two rams on a leash to the field every morning. All Mukhtar did was cut grass. Hamid was the brawn in his group of friends, and the only other Muslim. Their other friends in the neighbourhood practiced Christianity but always came over during Sallah, just as he went over during Christmas and Easter. Festive periods had a certain thrill about them and the boys didn’t care where they spent it as long as they were free to roam the streets, moving from one friend’s house to the other to eat and drink lots of soft drinks without restrictions.
It was during one of such feeding periods when he went to cut grass alongside Hamid who was as usual, holding his father’s rams by their leash that they overheard some other boys talk about going taking their rams to a fight in the evening. Up until then, Mukhtar always went to see fights but he never participated in one because the field where the fights took place was a far off and he wasn’t sure he could handle such a distance with a ram. So he asked Hamid,
“How far Mido, make we go see this fight?”
“Yes o, before nko. We fit even carry yourram go.”
“Mad man, carry ram make my papa kill me abi? You no well.”
“You too dey fear sef. Your ram big naa. He go fit win fight well. You know say these two rams wey I hold for here no big reach your own.”
Mukhtar thought about it. Watching rams fight was exciting; having his ram in the fight would simply be awesome. The problem was sneaking the ram out of the house without his father’s knowledge. Mido would handle the ram but first he had to be sure his father wouldn’t be in.
“So how we go do am Mido? You know say na weekend we dey and Pop man go dey house.”
“No worry guy, dem dey go mosque for evening today. I hear when my papa dey talk say Imam get meeting with all the men. When dem don go mosque, we go carry your ram go field.
“Correct. Mido, you no sabi book but all this scammer sense full your head.”
“Sharrap there, you wey sabi book but you no fit handle common ram nko?”
They both laughed as they continued throwing jibes at each other, while they also strategized on the fights they would pick. As was the tradition, every fighting ram needed a name – something fierce and intimidating. They both had never named a fighting ram before but they knew of many names from the fights they’ve attended. There was Scarface, Hulk, Pepe Pepper, John Cena, Undertaker and a host of other badass names chosen from movies, sports, infamous criminals etc.
They settled for Shina Rambo.********************
It was almost as if they’d walked into a trade fair for rams by the time they got to the field. There were different rings for rams to fight according to their size and estimated weight categories – lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight. Mukhtar’s ram fell into the heavyweight category and he was taken to pick an opponent. The opposing ram was called Hitler and for a minute, Mukhtar was scared Rambo would not make it through. Luckily for him, Mido had some fighting experience that belied his age. He had seen Hitler in a fight with three middleweights a day before and he knew that a fresh Rambo would scale through.
Rambo attacked like a ram possessed. Being set free for just one day in the company of other rams was like a shot of steroids. After taking three steps back and then clattering into Hitler, the opponent was already on its heels and the owner had to pull his ram out of the fight; victory.
Rambo was moved into the next round to fight one of the meanest rams in the competition. From where Mukhtar stood, he could hear spectators talk about the prowess of Awilo, the super ram. Awilo was said to be so mean that it would keep ramming an opponent even when it’s down. They said the ram was so insane that they feared for its opponent. Awilo had never been defeated and it would take something special to defeat it.
“Make the opponent better go buy SK from Sikiru if he wan win. If dem give the ram SK, he go charge well.”
SK. Cannabis. Indian hemp.
Mukhtar urgently motioned to Mido to come over. He was worried for Rambo but he also wanted to win desperately. When Mido got to him he expressed his fears and added what he overheard the spectators said. Mido agreed, a little SK would help Rambo attack without relenting. They went over to Sikiru who was surrounded by a crowd of ram owners who wanted to supercharge their champions for the next round. Mido paid N50 and got a parcel (small quantity) of SK. Sikiru advised that they only give their ram half a parcel so it doesn’t overcharged. However, Mukhtar reasoned that half a parcel wouldn’t do much considering what he’d heard about Awilo so he told Mido to feed Rambo the entire parcel.
Supercharged, they dragged Rambo into the ring to face Awilo. What happened afterwards would be on the lips of spectators for years to come. After five insane clashes of horns and heads, Awilo turned and ran. Everyone was surprised. Awilo, the champion of champions ran off, smashing into the crowd to clear a path. Mido was ecstatic, he carried Mukhtar on his shoulder and started singing.
Winner oh oh oh, winnerWinner oh oh oh, winnerRambo you don win o, winnerPata pata, you go win foreverWinner!
Mukhtar didn’t care about the crowd singing behind him. He didn’t care if his father would scold or flog him for taking the ram out to a fight. Rambo won. He did something daring and Rambo became a champion. It was while they were rejoicing that Rambo broke free from Mido’s loose grip and took off.
But Rambo ran like hell.
By the time they rounded a corner into the next street, Rambo was a bloodied mess on the floor, rammed by a vehicle.
At that point, Mukhtar wished he was the one on the floor in place of Rambo.