A Day in the Life of Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle

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This is a story of a regular guy in Enugu. No, his real name is not Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle, of course. But I chose to name him after the timeless WAEC candidate just to hide his real identity. The guy is a hot-tempered punk, an ex-boxer and he knows the route I take to and fro work. See, if I can’t be handsomer let me at least remain as ugly as I am, with my face in one piece. So, let him remain Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle.

Ciroma woke up last Thursday sick of life. He has employment, something his former colleagues in the university and relations tell him he should be grateful for. But they don’t know the cost of living in Enugu, feeding, paying rent and bills of his one-room self-contained apartment, taking care of his car, sending money home etc. He is usually broke before the end of the month; he has plans for business that would compliment his income but is yet to save for it, in fact, he saves nothing. To cut cost, he has stopped driving his car to work, and has given up breakfast entirely and has cut his phone calls by three-quarter (now if you flash him he would flash you back two times (no shame, thank you!)). Still he sometimes wakes up, thinking the worst of himself. Last Thursday was one of such.

Like most extremely economic white-collar people in Enugu, Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle lives in Abakpa Nike and works in New Independence Layout. His apartment is located in the last floor of a three-storey block that had seen better days. But that is not the reason he hates this compound; he hates here because there are too much families for comfort. Too many wrapper-tying housewives and thousands of wailing dirty children. Adekunle wouldn’t have minded except that this battalion of children poise serious threat to his car. He had to handpick one of them, the dirtiest, biggest, angriest urchin, and pay him 100 naira per week to guard his car from mutilation while he, Chukwuma, is away at work. The other day, the little greedy bastard said something about a raise!

There was no electric power when Chukwuma woke up, which meant he couldn’t warm water for tea nor iron his best shirt. He had to settle for his third best shirt. But he was moderately happy that the lack of power had saved him breakfast. It is part of the austerity measure, skipping stinking breakfast. So he left for work. He walked down the stairs with extreme care to avoid falling over the wet stairs made so by his neigbours fetching water. Sometimes he was sure the idiots throw half of their buckets of water on the floor just so as to irritate him.

At the end of the stairs, Ciroma remembered to his dismay that he left his wallet in his room. He began to rush back upstairs, slipping twice and only held himself from falling by clutching the mucus-infested rail. Twice, too, he had to refrain from throwing some brainless child out of the case for being too slow to make way for the charging bull. He cursed them. By the time he returned to his room and back to the ground, he was out of breath. He is unfit, he knows, and has failed to maintain a fitness routine, shameful. But today wasn’t the time to mourn his fitness shortcoming. He—he stopped short. On top of his Toyoto was a raffia tray of onions!

‘What the fu…! Who put this nonsense on my car?’

No answer. Boiling, he made for the tray and grabbed it. The smell of half-putriding onions hit him like a blow in the nose. ‘Leave my onions for me!’ The voice struck him like an electric heater. He turned and looked at the woman, she wasn’t more than twenty-seven or eight but she must have given birth to thirteen kids, by the look of her skinny, bleached skin which reminded him of guga that people use to fetch water from wells in the north. She was wearing a dirty Chelsea jersey over her husband’s oversized jeans trousers.

‘My car is not a roof for drying rubbish.’

‘It is you that is rubbish. It is you. What do you call a car, this useless, stupid anakilija? You are not ashamed. Car owner indeed. Oya, drive your car make we see! Nonsense.’

‘Look at this woman o, so you cuss me for abusing my car…?’

‘Why won’t I curse you? Because of your useless car you abuse my onion. Idiot, bastard like you. Gimme my onion.’ She snatched the tray from him that he had been holding like a birthday cake. ‘Nonsense bastard. Why don’t you marry and raise your family and feed them with imported onions. Ashawo fucker like you. One minute one. Hopeless pretender. Asshole!’

Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle was tongue-tied. Imagine this useless woman that is below his standard by age, education, economy, common sense etc, abusing the hell out of him because an idiot put a ring in her fourth finger? Because  she is married and raising a football team she cannot feed, she now has immunity against the backhand slap that cures everything from malaria to diarrhoea of the mouth. The idiot husband could hear this, plus the ass neigbours, but they wouldn’t stop her, restrain the mad cow until he beat then they would come out and open their toilets and scream ‘you beat a married woman!’

Chukwuma let it pass and began to leave but the mad dog still had a few more round of ammunition to throw. ‘Bastard. Look at his k-legs. Bad luck is your portion forever. It will never be well with your generation…’

So much poison from one hole. By the time Adekunle got to the bus-stop, he was shaking with suppressed rage. The bus stop was unduly crowded with students, market women, business people and evil forces. He stood a mile from the stinking crowd and nursed his shattered ego. Buses for Old Park, New Layout, Emene continually came and went. Let them go, he reasoned, and break their necks, he wished.

But he had to get to work, someday, so when a New Independence bus came to a stop right in front of him, he had no choice, but no sooner had he stepped into the bus that a the dirty crowd rushed to board the bus. He hopped in and settled down and wouldn’t have cared one way if they all broke their ugly waists. But someone stepped on his shoe and he hit the leg a quick slap. A girl cried out.

‘You are wicked…’

‘You stepped on my fucking shoe!’

‘And so what?’ The girl, a tiny creature of twenty or so, got down. She was wearing a small skirt that could have been sown from a handkerchief. She would have been beautiful but for her large mouth. ‘You are a bastard,’ she roared. He would have got down and beaten daylight out of her but two passengers and the conductor were between him and the insult-venting machine. She fired. ‘Look at him, dirty pig. Animal of the lowest order. Origin of bursted condom. Your mother is a prostitute, your father is an armed robber and you a terrorists.’ Etc. She said many unprintable things, and Ciroma had no earphones to cover his ears, nor a knife to cut off his ears, anything to stop the flood. The useless driver refused to drive off, waiting for one passenger to complete the gang, and Ciroma kept being butchered. By the time the driver drove away, Ciroma felt and smelt like shit. This life!

It was a robotic CC Adekunle who got down from the bus in the bus stop. He crossed the road and made for the plaza housing his lousy company. The uniformed gate man was late in lifting the rope to swing the barrier pole up for him to pass. In a normal day the man, middle-age, hungry and greying, would leave the pole swung up at this time or lift it two good seconds before he approached. But today he moved in snail motion to the barrier, keeping Ciroma waiting. In truth, Ciroma could have lifted the barrrier himself and pass but he if he bothered he would no longer be a second class lower graduate of University of Benin. ‘My frien’ hurry up.’ Ciroma hissed.

‘Can’t you lift ordinary pole up.’ The man shot.

‘Why should I do your fucking job for you? If I were in my car will you expect me to get down raise the pole?’ He passed.

‘My friend carry your bad luck de go.’

‘It’s your father who has bad luck not me.’

‘Hehe. But I thank God I have a father. You nko? You are a bastard. Your mother is a village toilet and you are from a village toilet. Idiot, useless nonsensical. E shall never be well with you. Disease will kill you. Armed robbers will cripple you. Boko Haram will kidnap you and burn you alive in your car. Bastard, bombastic element… Come and fight me na. Bagger!’

And Adekunle was tempted to fight him, but even an angry Adekunle knows you can’t fight in your office. He would be fired and then his enemies will rejoice. But he would curse as much as he can.

‘Purrrr-purrrr!’ A car honked. Chukwuma stepped away as the car came in. Then he began very deflated and sapped of any energy to fight. He just turned and began to walk to his office. Three people have called him bastard this morning, perhaps it was time to have a long conversation with his mother. ‘Come and fight na,’ the gateman called. ‘Useless scallywag. Lucifer!’

I must stop here. This is only a morning in the life of Ciroma Chukwuma Adekunle and this is supposed to be about a full day. Yes, but I cannot go beyond this; I cannot talk about the whole day, because if I do Chukwuma will know I am referring to him, and, remember, he has hot temper and knows the route I take to and fro work. If I cannot become handsomer, let me, at least, remain as ugly as I am. I insist. Provoking a hot-tempered ex-boxer is not my idea of literature.

Tweets to @Oke4chukwu

The Testimony of a Civilised Goat

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Life was better for me when I was a goat, roaming shepherd-less in the bush, eating grass, yam peels and, once in between moons, stealing into a careless house and helping to disburden the barn of precious yam. But I thought that was diminishing, life as a goat. I wanted to walk on two legs, wear shoes, wear clothes and ride on machines. I also wanted to talk and laugh differentially, not bleating when I meant to laugh, bleating when I meant to cry, bleating when all I needed was to talk. It can be trying, life as a goat. So I clamoured for humanity. My fellow goats warned me against it; I remember they thought I was arrogant and wanted to become someone who owned goats and ate goat meat; but I knew it was jealousy. No one wanted to be born goat; no one who has courage wants to remain goat; they are cowards, I am not. I didn’t pay attention to them. I left and was born human.

I was conceived in the womb of a woman who didn’t want me. She was a student, from a family that was anything but rich. To make matters worse, my father was an abusive boyfriend who was a nightmare to my mother. And by the time she conceived me, he was a monster whose memory was a brutal reminder of her worse mistake, her disastrous past. Keeping me was something her emotions, nay sanity, couldn’t stomach. Something her time, energy and resources couldn’t accommodate. To end my career in her womb was a task that must be done. Because my mother was broke, she couldn’t afford medical surgery for this, she relied on cheap liquid solutions which her friends recommended, which had worked for her friends, which, I believe might have worked for her if I were a normal human being, but I wasn’t; I was a goat and it was my billy toughness that kept me. At the end of the first trimester my mother nearly gave up.

‘This evil child won’t go away,’ my mother announced to her friend.

‘We will do D and C,’ the friend said.

‘How do we raise the money?’

‘I don’t know. But we will; somehow.’

My mother sighed. ‘Please do this for me. I so so hate Bash. And I hate his baby.’

This broke my tiny heart. I loved my mother. I believe it is one of human frailties, to love. Love was something I didn’t know of as a goat. It is a weakness goats, wisely, don’t entertain but as a creature making its transition into humanity, I felt love, or at least, I knew it. I believe love is a byproduct of genetics. Hatred is sometime you grow to learn in the world, but love is something you are born with. Perhaps that is why humans refer to mating as lovemaking. So I loved my mother, by default, but after she said she hated me, I hated her a little. And my father, I hated most.

But I was determined to live. I wasn’t going back to being a goat so soon. I wanted to show my mother I was worthy of a complete term in her womb. I wanted to get to meet her and comfort her and make her happy. I had completed the first trial (trimester) and I was determined to see through the second one (knowing that my mother cannot get rid of me at the final trimester). So I fought hard, and began kicking the wall of the womb at just fourteen weeks old, five inches tall and weighing twelve grammes with my brains, muscles and heart still forming. I think this doesn’t make sense, not to my mother who was, in fact, primiparous; it didn’t make sense to me. The only sense was survival, my survival. So I fought and fought until my mother fell ill. I don’t know if the evil friend raised the money for the surgery to terminate me but even if she had, my mother was too ill to consider it.

By now my grandparents knew that their daughter was pregnant. They were poor but they understood life more than my mother and, for them, there was no thought for abortion. They were the Christian kind that believed children were gifts from God, even if they were fathered by Lucifer. They tried to reach my father to get him take responsibility but the devil denied involvement. He cursed them. My grandparents considered suing him in the child welfare court but they were a little afraid of him, a little wary of the stress of the inconsistencies of Nigerian legal system, a little uncertain of the verdict, a little too broke to finance the suit, a little too busy to see it to the end and, perhaps, a little unsure of the veracity of their daughter’s claim of her child’s paternity.

By a stroke of luck, the universities went on their annual ASUU strike and my last few weeks in the womb were made easier for me. My mother still cursed me in the privacy of her frustrations, but I was spared the loud vitriol of her campus tag-team and the secondary starving of me through starving herself. Her mother forced her to eat. I even enjoyed antenatal care, if you call that an enjoyment, I do.

Goodluck Jonathan was president, in the height of his popularity, when I was born, I believe that made my grandmother whose meager salary got increased by his administration, name me Goodluck. My grandfather named me Olujimi (God has compensated me); my mother called me Asedanu (an effort perpetually fruitless); my surname, Tunji. The acronym of my name is GOAT (Once a goat, forever a goat I suppose).

My mother barely breastfed me beyond twelve weeks before she dropped me with her mother and returned to school. My mother’s mother was a menial worker at the library so I was left in the care of the sea of cousins, brothers and sisters in the compound. I think they took turns to miss school to baby-sit me. A task they hated. They treated me like trash, or better than trash to say the truth; a little lower than a goat, actually; and I grew up feeding on pap, dust, tears and misery. No, it had nothing to do with growing. I think it was surviving; I was surviving and dying, swinging between the two: surviving, dying, surviving, dying…

My goal was to survive, maintain a strong hold on survival and begin to live. Sometimes I dreamed of not just living but living far from my present, this confinement in penury and lovelessness. The more I grew the less I found human life worth living. As a goat I had little parental care, now, as a human being it was far less. Life as a human being was terrible. My mother made it more terrible when she came home for holidays. It was hell when she graduated and came home to wait for her compulsory national youth service. It was at this time that I learnt to talk and my first word was ‘mama’, and my last word for a long time for my mother beat me with a small fresh stick, my size as she said, until my buttocks were red with pain and rejection.

‘He is wild,’ she said when a relation asked what my offense was. An irony because as a goat I was anything but wild, even humans testify to that hence they call us domestic animals. But by virtue of transforming into humans I have become wild, undomesticated by the same species that birthed civilization. I had come to humanity because I was tired of a life of being a goat, eating grass and bleating for basic communication. Now as a human being I was tired of life completely, I couldn’t even see grass to eat and crying was the only communication.

One day, I was five or so, still yet to begin school, my mother, whom I call Aunty, done with NYSC but mercifully jobless, came home to see that I have torn my pair of trousers, one of the two or three pairs I owned. This pair had been with me for three years now. When the journey started it was a full length trouser handed over by a generous cousin, now it was three-quarter long and would, I suspect, someday become knickers and still serve me. The pair of trousers was like second skin to my lower part and I was sorry to see it tear below the zip as I chase grasshopper, my only sport. My mother beat me so hard, this time with a stick a little above my size, that she might have killed me if I wasn’t goat-tough, perhaps she wanted me dead, and was achieving her aim when I suddenly turned into a goat. Terrified, my mother’s face twisted into an ugly bowl of flesh that I had never known she was capable of, that would have frightened the men who had found her desirable; she let go of me as though I was a monster or something dangerous other than a goat, and ran out of the compound wailing like a mad woman.

I left the house through a small opening in the zinc wall and joined my family of goats. I have trod as human but I am back to where I belong, a happy goat.

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