The Ojuelegba Pentecost

18 Park Road Aba 4

The driver was a middle aged man. He was tall and slim and looked boyish. He smoked his cigarettes leaning on the bonnet of his Peugeot J5 mini-bus, while a member of National Transportation Workers Union called out for his passengers. It was his turn to load passengers and his vehicle will be the only one loading for Aba. I was early. Two passengers who had come earlier had taken the two front seats. I took the window seat on the next row, which was directly behind the driver’s seat.

Ojuelegba never slept. I have just made it for the rumoured Aba Early Morning ‘J5’. While we waited, you could see that, there were different sorts of businesses going on at quick pace, all over the station. Beside us was a line of rickety cabs, making frequent to-and-fro dashes across the bridge, into the island to Obalende, another insomniac station. There was the suya spot, roast corn, roast plantain, and roast yam spot, fried plantain, fried yam, moi moi and akara spot. Sachet water, paracetamol and some pornographic magazines were also on the hawk. Petty traders took turns to do their businesses in a relay of day shifts to night shifts. Every one of them coveted and struggled for the spot, which brought them good sales, the night before.

There wasn’t electricity supply in the surroundings, but Ojuelegba’s hot embers  glowed in the dark. Loud music blared from torn, dirty, dark speakers. Bus conductors doubled their efforts to shout destinations and call out for passengers. Darkness reduced visibility and the functioning of other senses. There was also so much smoke. Open fires from old tyres, flagrant fragrances from burning kerosene and diesel, which repelled mosquitoes. Multiple little fire embers, flash their red coals from corn and plantain roasters, and suya barbecue spots. These glowed and ebbed in celebratory intermittency. Incense sticks, cigarettes, weed, and twigs, also were sending their clinched fists of spiral black smoke into the night. Their resistance banners of dark smoke stilled the night air. 

Along came the rattles and chatters of clinks and clangs, with high angry decibels, exploded by the hammers and crowbars of vulcanisers’ wheels and wielders’ cylinders. Alas, someday, they will march in protest and tear down the official curtains and the banners of the system that has made them ache in perpetuity. On their way, they would drive away the money changers, and rip the veil, just in time, they will glow, as the pentecost groans and orgasms their redemption, riding on the quake and wave, of their indomitable human spirits.

It was still dark but you could still see people trickling in from the four sides of the cross roads into the station. This would have been largely true until you noticed that a reasonable amount of men who left the station towards Lawanson Road into Ayilara Street were almost equal in number as those who came from Lawanson Road into the station. These were not passengers. They were the Okokomotopak ‘bloom of the park’ station-rats, they are ‘street’, crime recruiting reserves, or petty thieves. Like the old days, they leave the station to go to the next yard. 

There is a very strong rumour, that the man they call Pastor, who sells Indian hemp was stealing the vintage brains of his customers. They are now sapped, and diffused with ordinary cells. They say they see him there and that he is now in his village, where he ascended his grandfathers title Onwukwe as the Egwuatughi-Eziokwu of Ihie Ngwa. They also say, the uncle who quickly stands while pretending he never fell, was also seen. He held a live wrap in two of his right fingers, moving them away from his bumped up scared lips, while sipping back an escaping heavy dark smoke. He quickly hunched his nostrils with those lips, while exhaling and exhausting a pure light and feathery smoke. They say, he was sitting in front of the yard, that he now collects rents at one of the aunties yard. They say the uncle with the artillery shock was now a member of the volunteer neighbourhood vigilante group there. They also say the aunties there are not prostitutes, because they do not live in brothels.

The last uncle who left the station went straight into Lawanson Road. He tended to wait a little longer at the first crossroads before he was pulled to the left.

In front of him was the lonely wide open road of Lawanson. The has heard that the last rootless black fly, that launched into it was never seen again nor did it ever land. He peered ahead into the dark and confirmed for the umpteen time that he will need somebody to hold his hand, to guide him and to guard him. This was Lagos, this is street and this is the one area, where under the illumination of the daylight, human beings walk on this street with the help of cars, and the strike of a civil war rebel, still weighs heavy upon him.

On his right is the mirrors of the ECWA Church. The mirrors don’t judge him, however they are getting quite dusty now, yet more effort is invested in repainting the vintage wooden frames, to repent the ageing, of the original mahogany tree. Who knows who he is, whether or not he is, and if he is asked to identify and love who he is or what it is, he is, whether he could do that? The dusts make things even worse! This is not the best he knows can be, but this is the best he can and if he can live today, he surely will see tomorrow. And the nuances of the conflict’s various cranial, and dishevelling elements, with its compressed and ever brewing hangovers, have constantly left him with an overburdening aftertaste, sully mouth and an indelible debris of coloured eyes and bad behaviour. He was pulled into the left, accustomed and doing it with guilt. God is the rightful judge. He wept and demanded that the fair game should begin after those wood restorers on the other side of Ayilara have made sure that the house is rewired and the mirror dusted. And like they say, Let all men be liars.

On Ayilara, the aunties stood still, erect, on the right side, facing the left side of the street. The street shown in wet redness and in cheer of celebrity welcome entry. One auntie carried a massive white pillow, another, some cotton soft airy mattress, another a tray with a big jar of clean water  and an empty cup. They wore long sky blue skirts and white blouses. Their faces looked purposeful and determined, dead with ageless reserves and deposits of the meaning of empathy.

In his tear drenched face, the sounds of Ojuelegba resonated. It came back to him, as the motions of the pentecost rode the human spirits. In the numbness of his terrestrial awareness and the biting chill of the morning dew in his eye wide shutters, opens the mile thick door, of calm and clarity. Then, they all froze, moved gently by the passing breeze, his world in a castle, on a tray, left the night before on the seat of a swing, under the ancestral tree. You follow on as you are now led by the rueful cherub of your asphyxiated drowning brain cells. Drinking from the empty cup, the clean water from the big jar on the tray, you are stirred and stroked to the long blue skies and the light white clouds of your surrendered self. The aunties then step forward into the deep blood red carpet, lay you detoxed and distressed, to pass you up unto the deeper truth and down the higher deadness, you have cum and the pulsating rest.

You now understand the sounds of the Ojuelegba Pentecost in your own mother tongue. Your mouth quivers in gibberish and you begin to speak in the new tongue. I am somebody. I am a human being. I am beautiful. I am human. I am beautiful. They come to you, and you hear them speaking in various tongues, of all the people, where you had cried, searched for employment, sojourned and walked the streets, praising God. He, now, wiping your own sweat and wiping your own tear drenched face, praising God, in your own decipherable mother tongue, saying You have lived today, you will see tomorrow.

The bus conductor woke me up. I looked around. The bus was now full, filled with passengers, light travellers like me, all quiet and beaming with a sense of gratitude for the moment. I felt for my money. I had thoughtfully put it in the left pocket of my tight jeans trousers which I leaned tightly on the body of the bus. I took a quick glance at the passenger on my right hand side. I wondered how long I had dosed. I felt the money in my pocket, which brought my glance back to the left hand side and down to my pocket. I pulled the money out and handed it over to the conductor. I glanced at my wrist watch as I was returning my hands back to its position. It was fifteen minutes, I had dosed for fifteen minutes.

Leonard Chintua-Chigbu
Listening and Creative Communication Artist
BA Fine Art (Painting) University of Benin 1986

Promise To The Gods

18 Park Road Aba 2

In the next yard, the man whose name is Pastor, who sells Indian hemp, continued to walk around the blocks today bare bodied. He was between the alley gates of the next yard and that of 18 Park Road. He was bent over a woman. Now, he begins to raise his voice and started barking seriously. He stops suddenly and abruptly breaks into a loud laughter. He cools to wide grin with eyes popping out. Then he begins to smile. His breaking into a soft tender smile with all his facial muscles relaxed sober. Then he again began to smile some more. Clutched under his invisible priestly paws he once again looked into the eyes of the woman he had preyed upon. He moved his hands down from the sides of her head, down to the plateaux of her shoulders and finally dropped by his sides. Face to face and a foot apart, the woman’s head was bowed and his shoulders were arced. He turned to go back into the next yard. A little boy who had watched the scene raised his gaze. In full face, his eyes met with the the boy’s, and he smiled more brilliantly, absorbing the golden rays glowing between him and the little boy.

He had a beautiful clean smile. He had the perfect set of white clean teeth. They were saying precisely what lied beneath his heart. Over of his heart, was a generous lump of tender flesh, kneaded to a seasoned dough, pampered and marinated under a brown ornate skin. His heart pounded and his gentle muscles rippled to the music and dance of the known distant vibes. Laced over his skin was the stems and pinnacles of the sprawling black hair, flowing from the Abyssinian mountains, plucked from the banks of the Nile river, to the dense foliage of her Mediterranean tributaries, glistening under the hues and shades of the ebony son, who has been crying and dying for the missing humanity in men.

His luscious black beard touched his heart because he tilted and bowed his head to the small man, and his teeth continued to swim in cleanliness, hedged by his umber brown lips, containing the pull of waters that gathered, and continued to gather as the smile prolonged.

His bare brown torso was tucked into a beautiful tailored pair of smart black trousers, flowing down to his knees, down to his ankles, to the embroidered yellow motif on the back of his black bedroom slippers.

He was still smiling, but his shoulder was now at ease. The woman he had barked at, was still serious and was explaining how she had no money and could not afford to send the boy to school yet. He encouraged her to do it. He said the boy sings the songs better than those who are going to school. He sings war songs, but he also sings school assembly songs, even when he hasn’t been there yet. He is a clever boy, he must have heard it from those who go to school. Send him there, we must survive the peace.

In the next yard, two of the little girls who had survived the war with their mother, were leaving. The uncle who lived with them had gotten a baby boy with their mom who worked as a nurse. They are moving to another part of town to resettle as a normal family. Uncles were becoming fathers. But this did not happen to the little boy and his sister. The uncle who lived with them had married another woman, where he had been transferred after he was called back by the Post&Telegraph. They had been eventually alone lately.

Street children worked the streets, even when school children walked on the street. Only one school wore uniform and their pupils were rarely seen on the street. The boy’s mother loved school uniforms and loved this school too. The number of children walking the streets also grew at the time of day when school children were returning from school. All children on the street had some clothing and those returning from school also had some clothing, but none of the fades and shades they wore were close to the colours or combinations of a school uniform. All children were street.

Back in the village, long before the war, the woman’s father did not have a male child. The dwindling of his estate, took the first dive, six months after she was born, the month her father died. The uncles apportioned what they had considered sufficient in, farm crops, palm and raphia tress for her mother to carter for her household. Later, everything was then taken from them, the year before the war ended, when the woman’s mother died. Since then, she has resorted to leasing land from others for subsistence, and to maintain her mother’s aged maid.

Being unmarried and a mother to a son and a little girl, living in the city and coming to the village from there was the perfect arrangement for a disinherited girl child. However she made frequent trips to the village, to support her mother’s aged maid, who became her step mother, after she gave birth to her only sister, who was now deceased. She leased land from others for her step mom to farm, and to support her living and feeding in the city.

In recent months she has made more frequent trips to the village. Now, it still seems, she might still make more trips to the village.

She pulled up the inner edge of the mattress adjacent to the wall under the pillow. She pulls out an old Van Heusen men’s black long tie, fallen unto the floor, under the coils of the eight springs bed. She carefully opens the wider end of the old Van Heusen men’s black tie. She carefully pulls out all the notes and coins. She carefully counted everything, subtracting the amounts her friend had given her to hide away for her from her husband.

The money fell short again by more than half of what her neigbour, Imios International Tailor who runs the little tailoring shop in-front of the yard, had promised her to make her son’s school uniform. She came to realise that, even with her frequent trips to the little village farm, the proceeds from the garri and palm oil would hardly bubble to the surface of a secure saveable secure. It all too soon, evaporated into higher levels of her unsaturated daily survivals and other expediencies.

She wondered what else would be the reason why her encounter with the man who sold Indian hemp, took her back to the solemn promise she’d made to her ancestors. A promise she agreed to, to deter the river Goddess from taking her son back to the great beyond. The promise that she will commit to sending him to school to be educated, to the best of her ability.

She also remembered, how recently, she had this promise day flashback, when, during the war, her son had walked past that famed ‘shelter of trees’, before the shelter was bombed that same afternoon by enemy planes.

This promise she made, perfunctory at the time, was gradually becoming her life’s purpose and a reason now, she wants to survive the peace. She strongly believed the ancestors had sent the man from the next yard, who sells Indian hemp, whose name is called Pastor, to speak to her soul.

Later that week, the uncle who lived with us, who had married another woman, when he was transferred to another town, after he was called back by the Post&Telegraph, sent us money.

My mother jumped at the money, ran to the second hand stalls of the Ahia Ohuru market, rummaged the charity wares and brought home some amazing and beautifully tailored boys clothes.

I was eight years old when I wore the school uniform she loved and dreamed of. A white shirt, a red short and a brown pair of school sandals. She took me to Constitution Crescent and enrolled me in Sancta Maria, the premium Catholic elementary school where the elite and their children were educated.

In the next yard, the police had made another raid to Pastor’s place, the second time in a week. The uncles who were arrested have been released for lack of evidence. They’ve come back to buy and smoke some little more and to thank the Pastor for the bail.

Leonard Chintua-Chigbu
Listening and Creative Communication Artist
BA Fine Art (Painting) University of Benin 1986

SIXTEEN villages no Sex

At least no marriages were allowed between the peoples and villages of Mbutu Ngwa. Mbutu happened to be one of Ngwa’s sons who had had sixteen sons of his own.

It was therefore logical to contemplate, and reasonable to understand; that those sixteen brothers would envision a larger family and future where their boys would marry girls brought in from far flung villages, which equally ensured incestuous behaviours or offspring from such acts were circumvented among their descendants.

For a productive day and less distraction to the dedicated hours in the farms, men farmed separately from women, the latter being closer home for the children. Sex on the other hand was never a recreational activity. Redundancy or tiredness was inexcusable so was siesta while the sun shone.

Diana’s American dream was well on its way. Now that she could afford it, she also had an additional reason for dreaming a vacation in Switzerland that summer. She has heard so much about the Geneva Lake, the colours and the beauty of the Main Gate to the United Nations with mounted flags. There was the Beautiful Vicotira Hall and so on. While meeting Sylvester was one of the possibilities, she would not let that become the central focus of her holiday plan.

After an extensive profiling and matching of their common and compatibility data, Sylvester was provided with options of mates for a possible long term relationship. He took a chance on Diana, who had earlier indicated interest on his profile. Sylvester was Swiss and lived in Geneva, while Diana was Canadian but worked in the United States. Both were busy and had some flickers of Africa in their backgrounds.

Diana drove from the quiet neighbourhood of Kennesaw to Georgia State University where she would meet Sylvester over launch. His call had been entirely a surprise and was bordering on the spooky.

Though Diana had all guards on, launch with Sylvester that afternoon turned out to be fun to say the least. She found him quiet and intelligent. He apologised for the surprise and explained that the timing of the journey was all work related and somewhat out of his control.

The next day’s evening, Diana drove Sylvester back to her house for a dinner.

“Kennesaw, your town is a beautiful neighbourhood” says Sylvester.

“Yes indeed, the ‘Big Shanty Grade’ has come a long way since 1830 America” says Diana, proud to refer to Kennesaw by its earliest name.

They talked about everything from work to school and youth. At their shared moment of harmless hubris, race issues became approachable and they were both comfortable with the topic and at each other’s perspectives.

For over a century into history, oral traditions and moral conditions, shaped by vested communal interests, later became a relatable foothold, for Christian and Catholic missionary work and the colonial cephalisation, of ‘savage’ cultures, who lived and multiplied, off the coast of the bight of Biafra.

Out of the glimmers of the air around them came those translucent pellets that fragmented their scales. Their brains knew it, their eyes dropped and tears came drooling down. It was a little more than love, but one unknown to them before then. They both held each other kissed and cried; all barriers were melted, and between them, the essence of their common ancestry, whiffed a revered fragrance; entrapping the air around them.

Today, still in their minds, regardless of what corners of the world these strangers meet, ‘Onye Mbutu Amairilaisii’ does not only ignite a warm and safe kindred passion, it also sets off a tone, for a platonic relationship where marriage and sex is taboo.

Say how you feel.

Leonard Chintua-Chigbu
Listening and Creative Communication Artiste
BA Fine Art (Painting) University of Benin 1986


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