THEY CALL ME A-ZED
INTERMISSION: IN WHICH A-ZED NAVIGATES OSBORNE TRAFFIC AND REFLECTS ON BEING MOCKED BY FATE.
The man in the back seat leaned forward as I finished talking. “Human beings are wicked sha. Your story is touching. It made me feel bad, and then I became warm on the inside when you finally escaped. I’m so happy that you managed to get away from them. Not everyone is so lucky.”
I smiled into the darkness of the car. ‘Lucky.’ If only he knew. “You may think so, but I don’t think my life is one to which the word ‘luck’ can be applied.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t mean to be ungrateful or anything but I don’t consider myself lucky. I don’t mean I’m not happy I left there. I am. I remain convinced that if I didn’t leave that house, I would be dead by now. So, yes, I’m happy I got away. I’m talking about what happened after I left. I thought leaving would set everything right, but all it has done is to show me that life proceeds on its own terms. You really can’t do much to change it.”
“I don’t understand you. We all make choices. Those choices affect how our life turns out. Perhaps you made one wrong choice too many. Perhaps you failed to seize your opportunities. Perhaps you made wrong decisions.”
I slowed down. The reflective lights and barriers indicated we were approaching the toll gate, and even at that time of the night, there was a terrible traffic jam. We inched forward inch by slow inch, crawling closer to the toll booth. His words were awakening something in me. Could it be true, what this man was saying? We sat in silence as I handed over the toll, me collecting my thoughts, he expectant for an answer. Only when we came down the bridge and joined the mainland-bound traffic on Osbourne Road did I speak again.
“You talk about right and wrong choices, and truly, I get what you are saying. But aren’t you discounting something? Have you ever thought what part fate plays in a man’s life?”
“I have, and honestly, I think fate is just an excuse for those who are too weak to change their destiny. A man holds in his hand all he needs to change his destiny.”
He is fervent this one. His life has gone so well he forgets that not everyone has the chances and opportunities he has had.
“There’s something I haven’t told you. For a brief period in my life, I was doing quite well. I was even supporting myself and my family during my stay in university. Now look at where I am today.”
“It’s a long story, a lot longer than the story I just told you. My point is, a man may have the desire to make good of his life, the urge to do right, but may never be in the right place at the right time. It isn’t always about choices or desires. Sometimes, the universe simply doesn’t line up right.”
“I don’t agree. If a man wants something enough and works hard enough, it will come to him. Let’s not argue over this. We have quite some way to go, and I want to hear the rest of your story. I want to know why you had to let go of your dreams and blame him on fate.”
I should tell him. Perhaps he would see that it’s not all so straightforward.
“Ok then. Again, I warn you that this is a very long story, to give you fair warning. I may not finish it, especially as I can guarantee that you would interrupt me with questions.”
“Go ahead. I’m not going anywhere. Just start. Wherever it ends will do. In fact, I would be willing to pay extra for your time to get to the end of the story.”
“At the moment I left Lagale, I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with my life. The exigency of the moment precluded future planning, and meant that I focused all my energy and attention on the escape. I arrived home with scars on my back, a little over 58,000 Naira in my pocket, and a total lack of future plans other than making money and avoiding servitude to anyone ever again. I had seen the power money gave, and every time I touched the scars on my stomach, I promised myself I would make money, whatever it took. When I came back to Ibadan, all I wanted to do was make money, although I didn’t know how to proceed.
My mother did not share the same thoughts as me. One week after I returned and told her everything that happened, she had re-registered me in school, ignoring my protestations and excuses. We could not afford it but she found the money somehow. Today, I am grateful to her that she stuck to her decision and stopped me from going out on the streets and earning some money and respect like I wanted to, but I was a difficult child then. Education was not for me. It got so bad that mother had to travel with me one day to Lagos and report me to my Uncle Mufu. He brooked no arguments or discussions, and his firmness left no room for negotiation. I actually think he was the one paying my fees. Soon, I was going to school regularly, and I found that I even enjoyed it.
We were still poor when I finished secondary school. University did not look a likely possibility for me, and I wasn’t very sure I wanted to go. I saw how poor we were and I wanted to do something, anything, to get us and in particular Mother out of poverty. University wasn’t high on my list of priorities. I had passed my JAMB and WAEC and had begun the admission process into university, but my heart wasn’t in it. Again, Uncle Mufu came to my aid, first insisting that I complete and obtain my admission and then providing a car for me to use as a taxi and the frequent cash handouts that helped me survive the first few years of university. He was a godsend, was Uncle Mufu. It was thanks to Uncle Mufu that I was able to cope in the first few brutal months of school till I found my feet. He did not create a fuss whenever I had issues with the cab; if anything, he got more worried and supportive. In fact, when I later discovered he was my real father, I wasn’t even shocked. He was already a father-figure to me and I….”
“Wait a minute! I don’t understand. Are you saying your Uncle Mufu was your biological father”?
I sighed, and then I told him about Kassy and Chief George and Otunba and the strange incidents I had found myself embroiled in after I picked up two runs girls on the way back from Festac all those years ago. I could tell with every gasp he let out that the story surprised him. I decided not to mention that the person that almost had me killed was the president, I did however mention that this was when I found out that Uncle Mufu was my father.
“So no, he wasn’t my uncle per se, not in the sense of being a parent’s sibling. And yes, he was my father. He told me himself. But I never stopped calling him Uncle. It was too late to switch to calling him ‘Dad’, if you understand what I mean.”
“I understand. Old habits die hard.”
“Sorry for interrupting you. So what happened after you you started driving the red cab and finished school?”
“This is the hard part of the story to tell.”
“Ok then. Take it slow. It is your story. I am just a very curious listener. Any how you want to tell it will do.”
“Ok sir. But for you to adequately follow me, I have to give you some background information.”
Death dogged me.
Death was a big, dark monster with eyes that sucked out hope and cold fangs that paralyzed me with fear. Its icy presence brooded, looking over my shoulder and daring me to take my next step. Its voice cackled at my dread and it marched triumphant at my side, luxuriating in my paralysis. It didn’t get what it wanted, and after to failing to succeed in traffic at Ojota, being disappointed by the quack doctors in Ibadan and being thwarted throughout my stay on campus, Death decided I and Mother were too stubborn and had cheated it of its desire a few times too many and left me for a while and switched targets.
Death came for Uncle Mufu.
The Nigerian political landscape is a rough and unfriendly scene at the best of times, and in the lead-up and immediate aftermath of elections, it becomes an even more unpredictable and violent place. Uncle Mufu moved in the corridors of power, not overtly drawing attention to himself but close enough to the seat of power to wield considerable influence. A man such has that gathered both personal and political enemies and rivals, and more than a few were prepared to bid their time and take their chances when they got them.
One of them was more impatient and determined than the others. The president had barely been kicked out of office when he made his move. He didn’t need to make a second attempt. The bullet was accurate and fatal.
It is one thing for your father to die. It is another for your benefactor and pillar of support to die. It is yet another thing when father and benefactor are one and the same, and died in your arms. I have never forgotten the feeling of disgust and impotent rage I felt as I picked his brains off of my shirt and trousers. Nothing can ever wipe away the smell of blood and the slippery, slightly spongy feel of still-warm brain matter passing through my fingers.
To make matters worse for me, around this time Mother fell sick again.
She had been ill for a while, but she had made progress when Uncle Mufu brought her to Lagos, and was back on her feet and had returned to Ibadan, even though she was still weak. I talked to her almost every day, and she sounded stronger each morning. Everyone around her testified she almost back to her normal bubbly self. When Uncle Mufu was killed, the news hit her hard, and she had a stroke.
When I got the call, I rushed down from Lagos to Ibadan, driving like a mad man and praying all through the journey. I pulled up in front of her house, my heart beating like a crazed drummer. The house was as silent as a cemetery, and my fear increased. There were no children playing in front, no sounds of pots clanging or water running or neighbors quarreling. My feet echoed as I climbed up the stairs and walked along the corridor, fear eating at my belly
“Dem don carry am go hospital.”
I nearly jumped out of my skin. The little girl was looking at me from the balcony with something resembling laughter on her face as she saw how startled I was. Her thin gown clung to her chest and I could see the outline of her ribs. I recognized her gaunt, drawn face. It was Lolade, one of the neighbor’s children.
“How are you, Lolade? Which hospital them carry am go?”
“UCH. My mama say make you call am when you reach here. She go tell you.”
“Thank you.” I was already making my way back to the car, fumbling for my phone in my pocket.
I got directions and raced to the hospital, pulling up in a cloud of dust and noise. I ran in to find Lolade’s mum pacing the corridor.
”Doctor say we lucky say we bring am here when we bring am, say she for die.”
Her quivering finger pointed out my mother on a stretcher being wheeled into the ward. She looked very pale and in great pain, and was unconscious. A nurse was beckoning.
“Are you her son?”
I nodded, unable to trust myself to speak.
“She had a stroke, and we fear there’s still a blood clot somewhere in her brain. She would need surgery soon, but we need to stabilize her first. We can’t wait past this week, though. By then it may be too late.”
I shuddered in fear.
“We need you to sign these forms, and go to our accounts department and settle the bills before we can start any treatment. Please pay as quickly as possible, so we can do what we need to do.”
I collected the forms with shaky hands, my Adam’s apple moving up and down as I tried to get saliva past the lump in my throat. The invoice buried among the prescriptions and registration forms made my mouth even drier. I did not have anywhere near the sum quoted there, and I had less than a week to raise the money.
The traffic on Osbourne was barely moving, but I spotted a gap and sped up. I closed the gap and slowed down and downshifted, then looked at my passenger in the rearview mirror. He was leaning forward, his face showing his expectation and curiosity, waiting for me to continue. He waited as I maneuvered my way round some slow moving cars, and then he couldn’t wait anymore.
“I’m sorry about Uncle Mufu, and sorry that you had to see him die. But I’m curious about your mother. What happened after you saw the invoice? Did you manage to get the money? What did you do next?”
“When I left the nurse, I went outside and thought long and hard. Then I called someone I know now I should never have called. I called Akeem.”
THEY CALL ME A-ZED
Written by @ToluBablo
Based on MY NAME IS A-ZED by @thetoolsman
NEXT WEEK: EPISODE 6: AWON BAD GUYZ
READ ALL OF A-ZED’s ADVENTURES BY CLICKING HERE
THEY CALL ME A-ZED Continues next week Thursday at 10:00 am