Thursday, December 24, 2020
Ontario, Canada

hen mom jokes about the "details" of the story, I have this urge to retell it as I remember. It is one of those childhood memories that trying to unravel has been quite a blur. "They" said it was a "planned" escape from the village. Hmm, but this is really how it happened.....my version of, "How I landed in Lagos" after that last family Christmas in 1989.


Few nights prior, we had thrown banga and bisco (fireworks) to send 1989 away forever! We hurriedly went to the stream that Harmattan afternoon after packing our bags, ready to leave for the next village. The Christmas festivities wrapped up and as usual people started racing back to the city anxious to resume work, after the merriment and typical over indulgence of the season! As for my family, we were Lagos bound.

Well, 1990 was our year to move forward. So we thought... to finally join dad who was transferred from Port-Harcourt to the mega city. It was time for the family to settle in one place after months of dad shuttling back and forth. A big move as far as my small mind could imagine; going to Lagos was like going "abroad!" It was not like visiting for a short holiday, we were actually moving to plant roots in Eko.

Lagos, the land that flows with milk and honey! The land of skyscrapers, loud music, noisy streets, terrible traffic, Molue, colourful attires, street parties and block of flats: apartments. Indeed more charming compared to Chinda's compound in Port-Harcourt where we lived and watched goats in labour! Where we played and cooked with "kom kom" (cans) and ran away from the landlord who seized soccer balls and walked around the yard barefoot tying only a wrapper or towel!

For the big move, we were to board the "Young Shall Grow" luxurious bus to Lagos from Aba, the nearest city to the village. That was how the plan was supposed to unfold. But how would you feed in Lagos when there is no longer a job? How would you take care of your family, eh? And when is the best time to break the news? Before, during or after Christmas? I guess Dad did not want to "spoil" our Christmas.

Back at the stream, some of us waddled while those that could swim plunged in and splashed. "Umutakiri ya, unu gwujubele?" (These children, haven't you played enough?). We heard some adults yell. Only if they knew why we were playing so much! Oh, let the water wash away our tears. Let it drown the sounds of screaming and harsh words! Afterwards, we retrieved our belongings from the trees ...vaseline, clothes, slippers. With red eyes and pale skins, we wobbled back to the house, not knowing what the future had in store because Lagos was now a mirage. Mother's village was the safe haven for the time being.

"We found your bag in grandma's "gwongworo" (truck)." My aunty said with a lavish smile. I stood there wondering what she was talking about. And why she was visiting my mother's village late at night. But all I could remember was running off to the stream that afternoon. Yes, our bags were packed; my polythene bag with some clothes and shoes. We were playing near grandma's old pickup truck and I left the bag on the driver's seat.

"So you hid your bag there so that you could follow me to Lagos, eh?" My aunty said laughing and teasing me.

Oh, Oh, they all thought I "planted" my bag in the truck as an escape plan? I did not even know aunty was still in the village! Everything happened so quickly, it was all blurry as I went with aunty back to my father's village and left for Aba the following morning, en route to Lagos. I don't know if I cried, or if I was excited, but I knew things would be different.

I sat in the back seat of aunty's beige "tortoise" (Volkswagen beetle), in between two relatives (would- be lodgers) looking for the "good" life in Lagos. I remember the flask of jollof rice and hardboiled eggs I held onto tightly for most of the journey. We stopped at Ore to bargain for mounds of displayed white granules (garri)! After what seemed like the entire day, we meandered through Lagos and arrived in Satellite Town. I was in Grade 4 (Primary 5).

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!