Follow the sun

7.38 AM

The streets are crowded

A glowing yellow ball

seats at a vantage point,

hiding behind rooftops.

Ike tiddled his flute

This early in the morning,

he had to go the farm.

He spent the first hour

lying on his back,

playing the instrument

then he buckled his belt,

and begun harvesting cassava.

Other kids his age would frown

at the thought of picking up a machete

or being stuck in a field

for most of their day.

They would rather play football

or shoot arrows at bush animals

but not Ike,

he didn’t see the need to play

when he had four younger siblings

relying on him.

Both his parents were gone

few rumors have settled across the village

regarding their disappearance.

Some say they couldn’t appease Sango

on the eve of the New Yam’s festival

as every man had to present his harvest

outside his hut.

In the still of the night,

Sango would descend on the land

and claim what is rightfully his.

However, the god was offended

by the measly bundle of cassava

at their doorstep.

He was so appalled that

he broke into the home

to kill them all.

Ike’s mother pleaded for the sake of her children,

asking Sango to spare her younglings

Pity overshadowed Sango’s wrath

so he agreed.

Others rumored that his parents

were so frustrated with their life,

and responsibilities

that they took off in the dead of the night

without so much as a farewell.

Ike doesn’t recall much from that night,

except that his mother sent him

into the other room in their minute two-room hut,

and instructed him to not come out

till dusk.

In the morning, his parents were missing.

In Ike’s world,

there was no time for football

but on this particular day,

the sun was deterrent to his job

He straightened his posture,

and in a burst of fury he exclaimed;

“Oh Osun, You know my heart and all I wish to do

is plowing the earth so I may feed my siblings.

I have no shilling,

only a leaky thatched roof above my head.

Why must I be cursed by the sun for my ambition?”

When he finished, the sun grew black

Ike froze in fear.

He wondered if the day of reckoning

the high priestess spoke so frequently of was nigh.

He could feel his heart implode in his chest

and minutes later, the sky became bright again

but something had changed.

The ember hue beamed eastward,

away from the field.

Ike picked up his machete and gear

He ran across the fields into adjacent farms.

He ran into the village,

past the maidens bearing terracotta pots upon their head

He crossed the village stream

and came to a halt at the east border of the village,

before the forbidden forest.

The forest was home to the gods

Only the high priestess and witch doctor

were welcome to enter for their customary rituals.

Without much pondering, Ike ran into the forest

He came to a halt at the foot of the tallest palm wine tree he’d seen.

That was the vantage point of the sun, he was certain.

He dropped his gear and tugged his weight up the tree.

Once at the top, he could see not only the village,

but other settlements,

even the city of Lagos,

where the traditional King lived.

He was amazed at the view surrounding him.

It occurred to him that he wanted more.

He wanted to explore life outside his village.

Eventually, he conceded to the blinding sun rays

and climbed down the tree against his wishes.

What he saw bemused him.

At the foot of the palm tree.

Ike was looking at a polythene bag

filled with iron ore.

He considered grabbing it

and running away

but he was no thief,

and besides, only a dumb fool

would steal from the gods.

“It’s yours,”

A familiar voice came from beside the tree

Ike stretched his neck to see his mother.

“The gods are rewarding your good will,

you could leave this village and live comfortably in Lagos,”

she continued, “or you can come with me, Ikechukwu.”

He wanted to wail and roll in the dust.

He had no strength left in him.

Eight years have passed since he last saw her

His eyes locked with his mother’s

and he knew if he left with her,

he wouldn’t have to toil the soil another day in his life.

He would have peace.

But, he wanted to be more

so he held her face, pecked her cheeks and bade farewell.

He grabbed the bag and begun his journey home,

away from the fading sun.

Neither Here nor There: Nigeria

I want to go to Nigeria, where the sun stays high and proud beaming down as palm trees morph into shadows pasted across our faces and the evening breeze sweeps fine sand beneath your slippers as we saunter into a supermarket in search of palm wine and ice-cream.

I want to go Nigeria where the houses in the city are made from bricks walls and aluminum rooftops, bearing no semblance whatsoever to historical buildings and mud huts with thatched roofs adorn the villages, creating better insulation than modern cooling units.

 

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I want to go to Nigeria where Jazz infused with beats from African Fuji drum feels the atmosphere, where culture fills the street, forcing us to groove. One of a kind.

I want to go to Nigeria where the granite kisses our feet in the safety of our abode sending chills through our spine.

I want to go to Nigeria where undiscovered talent roams the streets, raw and unrefined, savants fill the public school systems. Undiscovered. Lost.

I want to go to Nigeria where the sun scorches our skin; concentrating our melanin, where warm air intrudes our space, messages our skin as salty vapor diffuses to the surface.

I want to go to Nigeria where the traffic is as psychotic as the nation’s economy, where the rules to driving are non-existent and drivers have got no respect for the road and road side sellers barely respect their lives or anybody’s personal space.
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I want to go to Nigeria where Saturdays are for house chores and football games and Sundays, for church but the best part is anticipating the Jollof rice. Our so-called Sunday rice ritual.

I want to go to Nigeria where fear is frequently mistaken as respect and respect is perhaps misinterpreted as foolishness, where people heed to the rich for some bewildering reason and balding politicians run the nations meant for the youths.

I want to go to Nigeria where powdered milk, garri, groundnut and iced water is perhaps the most cherished dessert and Suya is the first course meal.

I want to go to Nigeria, where the market is big, variable and torturous to maneuver. The women echo in harmonious tunes wearing colorful materials whilst showcasing their products. The sound of bargains resounds in the air which is also saturated with different kinds of scents. The women gossip on ends about each passing consumer.

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I want to be in Nigeria, where one man struggles from five to eleven to make minimum wage. His two kids and pregnant wife smile regardless when he comes home and a frail stench of kerosene lingers in their environ. They sit together under the moonlight and he tells the tales his father told him of him about their forefather’s British colonization while flies buzz in their air. I want to be in Nigeria because this scenario depicts a typical day in their world,  an oil on canvas painting mixing green and white representing only one thing, Hope.

Unashamed. Hopeful— though  I’m neither here, neither there.