Author Topic: Experiences of a Lagos Boy  (Read 442 times)

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Offline martina

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Experiences of a Lagos Boy

Episode 6: The Strength of the Tongue

I have not always been the quiet and gentle fellow you know today, I was quite troublesome and fearless in my younger days. I remember those years spent living with my uncle's family in Akowonjo, that was where I challenged the compound's bully, Chikoku.

Chikoku was that boy who would not hesitate to beat small boys like us to nonsense and we were all careful around him. We had all witnessed Chikoku beating his younger brother (Amaechi) to stupor, breaking bottles and smashing chairs on the equally stubborn Amaechi's head and we were afraid of him leaving his indelible autograph on us. Chikoku was only jovial when he had lost heavily gambling in card games, which he played with other boys at the backyard as they smoked marijuana then. He would run to us (whenever he had lost all his money to his opponents) smiling like a hyena and pleading to be lent money to continue playing, we lent him money but he never returned them so we stopped lending him. He noticed our resolve and began offering us his personal possessions in exchange for whatever we could give him. I remember that I got my first Timberland shoes and a Jersey just for four hundred naira (#400), far beneath the original worth of the items but that is the life of a gambler for you!

I cannot now remember what brought that confrontation between Chikoku and me where he threatened to beat me up, I was afraid for I knew he meant it and when I saw that he was moving dangerously close to me, I darted to our room.

Luckily, I made it inside before he could reach me and I went to the window to look at him feeling pained that he had not caught me. He began threatening me.

'See ehn, make you no come out o, no just come out, otherwise...hmn!' he said fuming with anger and pointing at me through the window.

I stood inside staring at him from the window while sticking out my tongue and pulling down my eye lids to mock him. It was at this moment that I became engulfed by a stupid bravado, I was tired of his bullying nature and I felt it was time to stand up to him and call off his bluff!

'Wetin self, na only you? I ask, na only you for this house? You go just dey find trouble, dey find small small children wey you go fit beat wen your mates dem dey outside dey fight dem mates, aagbaya!' my heart was at first pounding, I had to check to see if I was not mad, I had just challenged the almighty Chikoku! My friends, who stood outside at this time found it hard to believe I had just uttered those words, they knew I was brave, but not this type of foolish courage I was exhibiting.

Chikoku was shocked. He could not believe I had uttered those words, he looked at me again to be sure I was the one talking. His eyes had not being deceiving him, it was me quite alright.

'You, shey you go come outside?' he said pointing a finger at my direction.

'Will you just keep quiet already!' I shouted with God's knows what strength in a polished English which even then was my turf. I had seen the surprise on his face and I was enjoying it! 'See, make I tell you, na because tree near tree na'im make monkey dey show skills o, if I come out hen, I go show you say khaki no be leather!

'Thaaa, swallow ram!' I shouted again as he pointed his finger at me about to utter more threats before I cut in ferociously, 'if you no sabi me, you never hear about me? Go ask about me o, me wey dey take head bend iron, carry teeth chew bottle to pieces, no cross my path o!' I said and flung the blinds close before sitting on the settee.

As I sat on the settee and heard Chikoku fuming outside, I began shivering with cold, what have I just done, I asked myself. My friends were proud that I stood up to Chikoku, I could hear them snickering as Chikoku walked away, but I was not proud of myself. I knew I would always feel hunted in that compound till I go beg Chikoku with money.

Chikoku was enraged but like a lioness stalking its prey, he waited patiently. I refused stepping out that day till my uncle's wife reminded me that we were short of water and I had to fill up the drum that evening. I could not say there was a predator patiently stalking its prey hiding somewhere outside. I was now living in mortal fear of Chikoku and dreaded meeting him outside, I now regretted all that my foolish courage had made me vomit that morning.

I peeped through the window, scanned the compound carefully with my eyes and saw no trace of Chikoku. Maybe he had gone out to his usual joint where he normally bought hemp, maybe he would not return till I was done fetching water, maybe... so many "maybes" filtered through my mind that evening and I felt I could risk stepping outside to get the water.

So, I stepped out to get the water. I went for the first round in a stealthy manner and poured the water into the drum, there was no sign of Chikoku anywhere. I went for the second and still, no Chikoku. I began to gain confidence and even whistled and walked with the swagger of a conqueror as I went for the third round. Maybe Chikoku wasn't even around, I thought.

I returned with the third basin of water on my head still enjoying the tune I was whistling. I pushed the compound's gate open and lo and behold, there was Chikoku welcoming me. My heart began pounding as I froze and felt like sinking into the ground. Images of Amaechi broken head and wounded body floated in quick succession across my face like a film shown in a cinema. My bravado was in my mouth and my body was not in consonance with my mouth. I began shaking and water poured off my basin to the ground.

'Shey you say na you dey take head bend iron, carry teeth chew bottle ba?' he asked with the calmness of a tiger approaching a stagnated and frightened prey.

'Ehm...ehm...Chikoku, na play I dey play o, who I be to come dey challenge you nah?' I pleaded for clemency.

'Twah, twah,' the first two slaps came mildly on my cheeks and I knew then that Chikoku would never be a good Christian and listen to the gospel of Jesus Christ who admonished us all to forgive our enemies seventy times seven times. I had to start screaming for help before my uncle came to my rescue, he vehemently warned Chikoku to stay away from me else there will be dire consequences. Luckily, my friends were not around them to see me humiliated but Chikoku avoided from me from that day forward, as I avoided him also.

You see, in Lagos, if you can not lay claim to physical strength, you must have that of the tongue. To not have any at all could prove disastrous. I might not have had the strength to defeat Chikoku physically, but I once defeated him with my tongue! Hehehe!

Well, I know what you want to say after reading this story, I know you want to say I was a courageous boy! Thank you for the compliment, thank you, thank you, I dedicate my victory to my ancestors (Ibegwu) buried far away in Igala soil, hahaha!

© Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy 2018


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