Trans Ekulu is my dream area in Enugu. Long before I first stepped foot on it, the name held a special fancy for me. Trans Ekulu has the kind of sound that revealed a glimpse of excellence and rang a bell of promise, the same way names like United States, Linda Ikeji, Things Fall Apart, Bluetooth, and others intrigued me long before I know enough about them. When I finally saw Trans Ekulu it was fair, with well-tarred roads, impressive high gated walls, light traffic and the occasional overdue rubbish point that ESWAMA refused to pack until a big shot complained. Trans Ekulu is fine but New Haven, Independence Layout and sections of GRA seem more beautiful, but I don’t care, none of them sounds like Trans Ekulu. Trans Ekulu. Sigh.
My richest friend lives in Trans Ekulu. My rich friend, I should say because all most of my friends are either broke or lying about their true financial status. A couple of months back, I decided to do something about the theory that says that you are as reach as your five closest friends and, to my dismay, I discovered my top five friends were financially anonymous. My rich friend wasn’t in my first five, he wasn’t even in my age grade, he should be at least eight years older than I (who cares?). I promoted him. He is a nice chap, generous with a decent sense of humour. But he is a marathon drinker and crazy about women. If I am to count all his girlfriends, I will run out of fingers and toes. He loves them and spent a lot on them. The other day, he told me how he bought a gown of thirty-five thousand naira for a girl he met a week before. I died a little.
This is by the way. I usually see this rich friend (let’s call him Richard) once a month and we chat three or four times a month. We are not so close, yet so close. Last Sunday, I went to Trans Ekulu to see my friend. Richard was at home, seated in his spacious sitting and dull. Usually, he was alert and ready to crack a joke or dissolve into a mass of laughter when I cracked one. Today, he barely smiled when he welcomed me.
“What is wrong?” I said to him.
He hissed and said nothing.
“Did she break your heart?” I picked up his copy of Secrets of a Millionaire Mind.
“No girl fit break my heart.’ He said.
I sat down on the sofa, this sofa and the entire furniture cost him a fortune. Everything in this apartment actually cost a fortune. CNN was on. Trump, Russia, whatever. I opened the book; my friend was picking his nose. I made a mental note not to shake his hand. Perhaps, chop knuckle. “Something is bothering you,” I said. “You want to tell me now or when we go out?”
‘I no dey go out today o,” he said.
“No be everyday persin dey comot na.”
“Yes,” but I didn’t agree. I crossed my legs and concentrated on the book. He would tell me at his own time. The trick for getting gist is to not pursue gist. You probably know this; great gossips know this. Masking your curiosity and dismissing the significance of the gist would reduce the guardedness of the person over the secretive or embarrassment imports in the story. If you leave your bait long enough in the water, the fish will get hooked.
“One girl called me this morning,” he said. It is always a girl, I knew. I kept quiet. Richard only spoke good English when he had something serious to say. He hissed.
“What did you even cook?” I said. Richard never cooked. I know this very well but talking about food will make him talk about going out—or why we can’t go out today.
“Nna, this girl called me,” he said in Igbo, “and said that she dreamed that I died in an accident with my car.”
I closed the book. Though he spoke in Igbo which meant what he said was very serious, I couldn’t resist making light of the statement. “She has malaria?”
He almost smiled. He relaxed, somewhat. “Nna, the something surprised me o.”
“Who is she to you?”
“Na one girl way we been de run thing but she later enter church come talk say she no dey do.”
Silence. CNN Sport. “You watch Chelsea match yesterday?” He said no. “Hazard score one powerful goal,” I lied. He hmmed. I rose to my feet and walked to my fan socket. “So you are not going out today because a girl dreamed that you died?”
“Her dream usually comes through,” he said in Igbo. “See, these things are real. The devil de fight me but I don win am.” He returned to Igbo: “Now that the scheme of the devil is revealed he is powerless. She say make I no drive my motor today. And na the right thing be that.”
“So, how are you going to do for food? I can cook for you, you know?”
He laughed. “You sabi cook?”
“I paid my school fees with cookery.” I haven’t cooked anything besides noodles and tea this month.
“People go purge tire.”
“Thank God she didn’t say you will die of purging.”
He chuckled, rather uneasily. “Guy, this thing dey serious o.”
“Why didn’t you pray then?”
“I pray na.”
“You don’t believe in your prayers? Are you doubting your prayers or the power of God?”
“Person suppose dey careful. She talk say make I no drive that car today.”
“Ehen,” he said, “tomorrow, I go drive.”
I suppressed a snort. “Do you believe that evil witches have power?” he said yes. “Do you believe that witches have calendar? Do they have Monday and weekend and January and August and ten o’clock and 9.30am?”
“Witches no dey use time na.”
“Then why can’t you go out today. If witches wan mess you up, they go mess you up any time. These people don’t sleep. God, too, doesn’t sleep and you believe in God. Today is Sunday, why should God protect you on Monday but won’t do that today? Is God on holiday today?”
He didn’t utter a word. I said nothing. He must be the next speaker. Let him say something, let him open his mouth and give me words with which to hang him. He spoke: “Guy, warning na warning.”
“The warning of the devil supersedes the protection of God?”
“You no go understand?” he said in resignation. But I understood all well. He believed in the power of God, he believed that the power of God is above that of the devil and that God can protect him, but he wasn’t sure. He knew his ways are not as pure as he would want, so he was afraid. He had left openings, now, he was afraid the devil might attack him through his leakages and destroy him. I nearly smiled.
“If the devil wants to kill you, he won’t go and ask your ex-girlfriend for permission. He would strike immediately. The fact that he asks for permission means he can’t do nothing. And if he can do something, he will whether you go out or not.” I paused. He said nothing, I continued: “As I am, no one can kill me. If I die today, I just died. Nobody fit. If you don’t have faith, key into mine. Let’s go eat jor. See, as you dey dull. Come jore make we go eat, make sun beat you small. Na wah to you.”
“Nna, na true you dey talk o.” But he didn’t look convinced.
There is Monday or Tuesday in the land of the dead o. if somebody wan kill you, him go kill you. Any day. But God no go gree. If you remain here, you are saying that you don’t believe in the power of God. Personally, no body fit tell me where to go and where not to go. In fact, we must drive this car today, we must. We have to prove the devil a liar. If you don’t go out today, tomorrow somebody will come and say you died in your bed, so you have to start sleeping on the mat. E no make sense. At all.”
He stamped to his feet. Na so bro. “Wetin sef. Make I go bath. Why person go just dey curfew. I be prisoner. Nothing dey happen!”
“Stay there they fear.” I switched to Igbo: “But guy, you no get liver.” (I said “guy” and “liver” in English. What is “guy” and “liver” in your language?).
“No be say, I dey fear just that snake wey only you see fit be python o.”
“This one no be snake,” I said; “na ordinary stick. And even if na snake I go use am tire my trouser. Arrant nonsense.”
Richard ran to the bathroom. I picked up the remote and changed to African Magic. The only magic I believe in is the one I see on TV.
“But eh,” my friend said from the bathroom. “If we go out, we no go drink o. We go just eat, chill small and come back.”
That one na lie, I said but not aloud. No need to argue with. We would drink if we had to. In fact, I must drink when we go out just to prove to him that I don’t take orders from the devil or conform in fear of the devil. I cannot be intimidated.
Pass me the bottle.
The image here is that of Sergey Mavrodi the founder of MMM. I am not saying that he is the devil, but considering what MMM did to us people, he is not that far.