He ran out of the house before her shoe could hit him, laughing on his way out as he searched his tool bag for his bottle of dry gin. Mama Tolu was still yelling very inventive curses in his wake before shutting the door and muttering to herself. Kayode started his day with his ritual shot of cheap alcohol and planned on spending most of the day inebriated but for that he needed money.
His phone rang out and a grin creeped on his face. Money was to be made.
“Yes this is engineer kayode, Director of Kayode Electrical services” he answered with pride in his voice
“Kayode, I don’t have your power today. If you know what’s good for you better start coming to fix this work you started or return my money”
“Oga na you?,-”
“Who else will it be? Don’t pretend like you don’t know my voice before I send boys for you”
“I’m on my way sir, e never reach like that now” the pride wilting to disappointment.
Kayode ends the call and tosses the phone into his bag and rummages through again for his bottle.
His grumbling stomach guides his steps towards the nearest food joint, thinking of the story he would tell mama Ibeji this time that would extend his credit.
He gets to the shop and the smell of steaming pots of soup just leaving the coal fire affect his sensibilities.
” mama Ibeji the woman that was meant to be mine but stolen from me by a sharper guy, it’s a good thing you opened this restaurant so I can eat your food even if I can’t eat the one that your husband is eating” as he smacks his lips at the sight of the overflowing woman
” this man I hope you brought money today, it’s not everyday you’ll be using sweet words to eat, go and eat your wife’s food she needs it eaten sometimes too” she replies not trying to hide her smile
“That one?” he scoffs
“Please bring me 3 amala with ewedu and four hefty pieces of meat, mix it oh! You know how I like it”
The restaurant owner goes to bring his order and Kayode promptly starts to devour his meal, not before he loosens his belt to proper accept the punishment he’s about to put his stomach through.
” Ehn mama Ibeji, I don’t have money now oh but let me go and come back. You know I can’t run away from you. ”
“Your bill is now 3000 naira, please pay before I send boys to collect my money Kayode. This isn’t charity” she says with all traces of laughter gone from her voice.
The electrician smiles his most charming smile at her but his effort is lost on the woman as thoughts of her money already preoccupy her mind.
Whilst all this was going on, his phone has been ringing in his bag but the sound has been muffled and Kayode had no intentions of picking either way. He walks towards his betting spot to see what kind of quick money could be made before the day is done, totally forgetting about his already promised job. The pub is agog with activity as bets are being furiously placed on different ongoing football matches and topics of state of the economy linger in the air in different sections. Sensing this he decides to have a little fun and asks “This change of a thing self, I don’t understand it” and the house takes the topic and runs with it. With every self proclaimed politician present dropping their own version of facts and opinions on the current government.
Kayode settled into a bench and takes out his bottle, seeing the blue light from his phone pulsing, he puts it on silent and zips the bag shut.
The conversation around him and the bottle in his hand are the only things that matter in his world at the moment as his meal takes a toll on him and he slowly drifts off into a gentle food induced deep sleep.
Rough hands shake him out of his deep lull and Kayode opens his eyes to two men wearing the Nigerian police force uniform.
“Are you Engineer Kayode of Kayode electrical services ?”
“No, I’m not”
“Foolish man,” a quick slap resounds across the electricians face
“Yes sir, it’s me, I’m the one sir”
“You’re coming with us then, you’re being charged with fraud”
“Sir, I’m a humble elect-elect sir, I don’t know how to defraud sir, we don’t do it in my family”
“Shut up.” Another slap touches his face and mutes the electrician finally
” we’ve been searching for you all day, you have a customer that has pressed charges against you and here you are sleeping off drunk in the middle of the day” The policeman slaps him again out of annoyance.
“You can explain yourself from the station, follow us. Quick”
“Yes sir, I’m coming sir” Kayode immediately regrets his decision earlier of ignoring his client but remains quiet for fear of another slap across his already smarting face.
They get to the station and Kayode is bundled inside a cell and ignored for most of the day amidst his numerous pleas that it is a minor misunderstanding.
As evening draws closer, a dark skinned woman with two faint tribal marks on either side of her face steps into the dingy police station and asks to speak with the officer in charge.
“Good evening officers , my name is Feyani, I’m here for Mr. Kayode”
“What’s your business with him? We’re under strict orders not to release him for at least a day, so you can come and pay his bail tomorrow”
“I’m a very good friend and he’s a troublemaker but I heard about him being locked up, in that case could you at least do me a favour officers?”
“Madam, this is a Police station not a free house”
“Officer, I know but please just give this food to him” she implores with her eyes and the officers line of sight fall directly on her sweat stained cleavage.
She opens her bag and brings out a steaming cooler filled to the brim with jollof rice and different types of assorted,mouth-watering pieces of beef. The aroma changes the smell of the dilapidated station and the eyes of the two officers widen subtly but the woman notes it and knows she’s won.
“Please officers, don’t let him die hungry. Thank you and God bless you. Please keep up the good work.”
She leaves the building and walks back towards a van parked out of the line of the sight of the station.
“See the kind food she bring for that man,she like am die oh”
The first officer that dealt with the woman speaks up
“O boy hungry dey beat me. She no know say we must taste the food incase of poison, as the law demands.” The second officer that was sitting behind the counter replies. He rummages inside his desk for two spoons and passes one to his partner. They move towards a line bench and sit astride it placing the Meal between them. As the first officer opens the cooler ,the aroma hits them and they begin to hurriedly devour the rice with steam leaving their mouths between spoonfuls but the heat doesn’t deter them a bit.
Barely ten minutes past the woman’s exit , two men dressed in Nigerian police officers uniforms step into the prison, they ignore the two men sleeping on a bench and go behind the counter , a quick search yields the keys to the prison cell.
Kayode is grabbed from his cell amidst his own sleep and taken outside where a black van awaits with a female driver. The two men toss him into the back of the van and enter with him, one taps the roof of the van twice and the vehicle drives off.
The smell of rain tinged with dust hung in the air of Coker street and mixed with the stench oozing from the murky gutters to cause laboured breathing. Like so many other rundown neighbourhoods in the small, overcrowded town, Coker street accommodated a stretch of dirty, washed houses crammed together with wooden sheds in front of them that displayed food, fruit items for sale. Okada bikes were parked all over the place and most of them were mounted by lean, dark skinned men who the locals called “abokis or okadamen”. Their daredevil modes of speeding through pot-holed roads and dirt streets while ferrying alarmed passengers turned the town into one mazy racetrack and Coker street was their start and end point. It was here that they converged after a busy day to chat loudly in Hausa while drinking and smoking all sorts.
Within a closed shed located somewhere in the middle of the narrow street, a dozen aboki men sat on rough benches lamenting the bad state of things in the economy when two men dressed in black entered the dark building. Only a lone candle burned low at the far end of the room and so the men were not noticed immediately. One of the aboki men was speaking in a low, guttural voice.
“Kai, if to say i don know before, I for don carry everything, my okada dey go back north. Walahi.”
“Bwari. Bwari, wetin you tok na true,” supported a stout man sitting by the wall; his English, heavily accented with Hausa. He continued, beating his bare chest, “imagine me, Ali-.. I… I go buy cigar from that Bimpe gyel this efenin… and she tell me one stick, one stick,” he raised a finger dramatcally, “…na sepenti naira-”
“ha! Kai a wu zu bi lai!” the other men cursed in unison.
“-walahi talahi,” Ali continued, “Bensin. From porty naira yesterday e come dey seventi naira today and she no gree sell for me.”
The man shrugged his shoulders in disappointment. The soft, yellow glow of the candle registered shock on the faces of the small audience and there was brief silence.
“una well done o.” a voice broken in. A dozen heads turned to identify the intruder.
“well done,” came the murmured replies.
“how una dey?” the first man asked. It wasn’t much of a question than it was a statement and he barely acknowledged their murmurs of “we dey” before making his intentions known by unrolling a wad of crisp five hundred naira notes with a sinister smile on his face. For the next hour people on Coker street would hear loud bangs, shouts and swearing emanating from the gloomy shed but no one dared ventured near. When the noise subsided, the two men garbed thoroughly in black briskly walked out of the shed followed by a pair of limping aboki men who had dark patches of blood on their loose shirts and trousers. They were the friends, Ali and Bwari and the other occupants of the room remained within either seriously wounded or viciously knocked out.
A gleaming, black jeep was parked a short distance further up the street and all four men clambered into it and the vehicle sped off.
Balogun could not have known that his wife-beating days were about to come to an end and even if he did, he would not have believed it. On a fine evening , he sat in a corner of the dirty and rowdy Ojo street, drinking cheap whiskey from plastic sachets with his friend, Alayi. His plan was to get drunk enough on the strong alcohol to return home and give Sikira, his wife, a brutal beating.
By midnight, Balogun’s eyes had become thin slits of red pebbles bulging from his dark, grim face. His voice was a mean growl, rumbling above the racket of loud music and energetic gyrations of hemp-addled oloshos and ruffians who loiter the dirtiest backstreets of Lagos Mainland day and night.
“Alaye,” he addressed his friend, “I don ready go house. Drink up.” Halfway between pushing a thin slice of paper between his lips and ripping the top-half off, Alayi managed a look of dismay.
Abruptly, Balogun stood from his bench then hunched his huge frame to exit the shed and enter the crowded street. He swung an arm forward and growled. “fi mi le jare!” Alayi had tried to restrain his friend one last time but now he reclined on the vacant bench, quietly rubbing his haggard jaw for his failed efforts. “weréy ni e oh!” he managed at last.
Further up the street, Balogun walked up to the junction and waited for a molue to convey him to Baraki where his small, wooden house, crouched like hundred others in the infamous town, sinking into the murky lagoon. It took ten minutes for a yellow, rickety bus to noisily arrive at the junction where Balogun stood with his eyes closed, drifting in and out of consciousness. A frail, lanky, conductor perched precariously on the edge of the rundown vehicle called out “Baraki! Waso. Baraki! Waso,” as the bus rattled to a stop at the junction. As Balogun stepped off the curb to board the vehicle, a head, positioned beside the driver turned around to look at him. Balogun took note of the face, betrayed in the darkness by yellow beams blinking down from the ineffectual traffic lights above and an alarm went off in his inebriated skull. Yet all his hefty body could manage was a slight hesitation when the charcoal face staring back at him smiled. More unfortunate for Balogun was that he was too drunk to notice the dangly bus conductor slip behind him, but he felt a prick in his neck when the needle pierced through.
The effect was immediate. The big, brute of a wife-beater, managed only a couple more drunken swings of his burly arms before he was bundled into the empty bus and taken away in the opposite direction. The driver and his conductor ceased calling out the names of different bus-stops and only the rattling sound of the molue persisted in the eerie night.
By Temisan and Tony