Baba Nkechi has a grave love for Nigeria, he even christened his unborn son Goodluck in honor of President Goodluck Jonathan on being the first from minority to attain such heights. He preferred local football leagues to European, on the night the Flying Eagles would win the African cup of Nation he’ll place a bet, a foolish enterprise – his entire life saving, N25,000.00 – and watch eagerly with a bottle of Star cradled securely between his left arm and rib cage as his team marched on to victory, N150,000.00 was the stake, his wife will wear that condescending look when he returns home at about 10:45 pm, singing “winner o…. winner, Nosa you don win o, winner! – hiccupping at intervals,
“What is that?! please keep your voice down and try not to wake our girl” she’ll scold.
“See…, shebi I tell you, hahahahahahaha” almost shoving the little black and white slip that had the winning numbers – his friends with apprehensive eyes had told him to protect it with his life.
“Sinachi” He chuckled as if a joke only he could hear was told,
“Yes Nnayi” She answered bubbly, quickly wiping both hands on her threadbare wrapper
“Take this one and cook Oha and Pepper soup” buffeting her back with N5,000.00, something he had not done since their marriage six years ago!
“Imela, Imela…” She will burst into songs, dancing in a frenzy, shaking her waist from side to side not even her protruding tummy could curtail her joy! Past memories swept like a flood, how she used to attend village festivals with fellow maids and they would dance till dusk, basking in hoots and cheers from able-bodied young men, she always thought she’ll get married to one of them, but…
Nkechi stood at the entrance of their one room apartment unable to grasp what was happening – too used to Mama weeping and shaking wildly and Papa staggering, stuttering and sniggering – was frightened when she saw Mama dancing and Papa seated on the ash cushion chair smiling, then mama’s sudden halt from her dancing…
“Mama, Mama” She poked her back to consciousness….
“Oh my dear, quick go get a big pot from Mama Zainab so we can cook rice and stew!” Quickly hugging and shooing her off
“What are we celebrating, is mommy bringing the baby that’s making her belly swell” Her 5 year old brain sort answers as her tiny feet raced fast despite objections from her protruding belly. “Hmm, Uzor and Segun will no longer call me Garri Girl because I ate Garri almost every day!” She smiled
Papa Nkechi invested most of the proceeds from the lottery in clothing business. His first order had the best returns, plus he didn’t have to pay rent for a shop because of it alarming prices, all he did was settle the Agbero’s with change and they’ll let him peddle his goods under the pedestrian bridge.
He loved the market his spot brought to him, being just few meters from the bus top, his stand was hard to miss especially when they heard the price and saw its quality, they “bent down and selected”.
“Tee-Tops, Tee-Tops, Five, Five Hundred here, buy two get one free! E don dey finish o” He hollered and rang his bell.
He was committed to his business and kept late nights no more – he now had a 21” TV – and this endeared his wife and daughter to him more.
He had heard unspeakable tales about it but never expected it to hit him…
“Run, They dey come o!” were the fleeting words and it dawned immediately, “Environmental agent AKA Evil Spirits because they always appeared unexpectedly and were the only people you can’t settle, he saw his fellow road traders stuffing their goods into baggo bags and scampering for safety, he laced his too having played this escape routine countless times in his mind, he could walk through it with his eyes closed – dump goods in the building that housed the transformer. He could almost feel the deafening sound of sirens at his heels but he didn’t flinch instead preached his perturbed heart “walk calmly least you get spotted, walk calmly don’t attract attention”, when he got to the spot, it could have been a clean slide if only…
He will later learn that his hand had touched a live wire that almost sapped the last drop of life out of him save for passerby’s who planked him out of it.
He regained consciousness on the third day feeling as dry as Harmattan wind, his tongue tasted like dust from the Sahara and his head felt a ton, he tried to get up but found his left hand in cast slung on a pole. He was greeted to the pale awakening face of his wife who had Nkechi sleeping on her lap and Goodluck sucking milk intently from her bosom. He tried to say Nne but all that came out was raspy sounds he could hardly hear
“Chei, Nnayi you’re awake, what should I bring you, do you want water oh! food oh! doh?” deftly taking Goodluck off her bosom and handing him over to Nkechi who was still recovering from being ousted from her cozy abode, she yawned loudly and rubbed her eyes lethargically to meet Papa’s
“Papa, Papa, You awake, I missed you!” She cried!
Months sailed by and his pitch black hand swung back and forth like a door with loose hinges, only his didn’t creak! The doctors said he wouldn’t use it again but he did not let that deter him from street trading. He doesn’t still understand why Nne did get this, this is all he had.
“Nne this is where I invested my betting money, how are we going to eat? You want me to go stay inside the main market but you know their prices are too high and which customer will want to enter inside inside market, hmm, Nne you need to understand, I can’t stop selling my market in the streets… except the people who did this to me promise to pay for the front shop he said jokingly.
Two weeks later Papa Nkechi will return to the bustling streets of Nyanyan market with a Ghana-must-go full of goods from Onitsha. He would have to stand few meters before the bridge because someone else took his spot and wouldn’t let go, he’ll hiss and unwarp his wares. The people he dreaded will come once again without warning, they’ll impound all his goods. He wouldn’t plead, wail or roll on the tarred road like others did, only trek calmly to his house – over 20 kilometers, when he gets home, his wife will ask how sale was and he will respond “good, so good I sold out before dusk”. She’ll smile and think,
“Maybe I’m just been too apprehensive about it, maybe, just maybe Nnayi is right, and he can make it from selling goods on the streets” He will smile back and plead
“Cook my favorite, let me rest my head”
He will wake up to a bright blinding light, a place surreal with plush cushions, red velvet curtains he has never seen, a 42” Television – the one he has always wanted! Mama Nkechi will stroll in majestically bearing Nkechi and Goodluck, they’ll sit to eat Oha soup – his favorite soup, wearing smiles like a mask, they wouldn’t eat or talk.