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

Surviving The Peace

18 Park Road Aba 3

The aunties who lived in the next yard now had children, and some of the aunties had their younger siblings from the village come to live with them. There were more children, and play was more fun. The aunties now went out more in the day, and returned later in the evenings. The children played in their groups. They were well mannered and well behaved. In some sort of comical ritualistic fervency, they hauled timely greetings at any passing adults. These were totally not unsolicited but as elders poured libation, knowing it’s the right thing, they religiously hunted the ancestors with these necessities. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, the children will say to every passing adult. The adults always also promptly replied. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, and sometimes they may add, be careful children, please play fair, please play well. Sometimes if the children observed the adult was in good moods, they may quickly add “Happy Survival!” The adult, unprepared but caught in the moment, will equally reply “Happy Survival!” Both parties will then burst a few suppressed surge of laughter.

Happy Survival! Adults usually exchanged these kinds of greetings among themselves in those days. Children listened, and often heard more than the words meant. Children giggled secretly, sometimes hilariously, sometimes at the backyard, they would stage a drama, mimicking peculiar adults public behaviours and would laugh out so loud at them.

The children carried the feel of this dramas over them. All day and sometimes with coded postures, they communicated among themselves. They used words with layered meanings. They giggled, laughed and sometimes were carried away even when they were amongst their parents or other adults.

These adults have survived the peace with their bare hands, the same way they had fought the war. It was difficult on them. Everything has been difficult on them. They have moved on and the nuances of the war’s various cranial, and dishevelling elements, with its compressed and brewed hangovers, have constantly left them with an overburdening aftertaste, sully mouth and an indelible debris of coloured eyes and bad behaviour. They are all surviving without intervention, counselling or outside assistance. In their villages, in their traditional institutions and various ways of knowing. They were conditioned to believe that God would be on their side when they are good. In the war, they knew and saw God on their side. They saw him as they were killed and plundered in war.

Now, if there is anything else to know, they want to know, whether he is not defeated now? How can they live without a God? As fallen hero, will he rise to Almighty again?

Those who spat up into the heavens, are yet to see the sputum all over their faces. It is really hard, it is extremely difficult to reconcile with your Chi.

On the street, children beamed with admiration and wonder on their faces, as they looked and argued about the colours on the walls of the houses, the motifs and signs painted on them. On others, you a saw a spring on their steps and energy as they darted across the street to touch things, run up the refuse dumps, and come back out again with finds and satisfaction.

From some houses, people looked at you and all the time, you saw them along with the houses and colours, or sometimes the houses as their backdrops. The houses had numbers on them. You can actually learn your numbers by following the houses down to the end of the street. If you counted on one side of the street alone, you could be calling only the odd numbers or the even numbers. If you looked on both sides, you would be calling them in serial order.

You could also go into all the stationary vehicles riddled with holes, pushed to the sidewalks along the street. You can sit and turn their steering wheels, step on their pedals or bounce on their seats while searching and calling out the house numbers. You did not see the empty bullets and the live ones, with pointed ends, scattered on the floor of the cars. You could not touch them or take them home for fear of what the adults could do to you. You did not also see the shelling and mortar cases stuck on wooden garage doors or the running roofing panels abruptly interrupted. No, in your mind, that red roof panel ran to its end and its ultimate completion was inherent.

The first house which usually starts with the odd number and the next one with the even number will stand face to face across the street. One could be a bungalow and the other a two story building with an elaborate balcony on each flour and several doors demarcated by double or single windows. On some houses, the numbers stood on top of the street name, and on some, it stood in front of it and on some, it was the numbers alone.

Children in the yards giggled and laughed a lot those days. Children did not have television programs nor did families have television sets. But they giggled and laughed a lot in those days. They saw enough laughter and had a lot of it, as they came to the front of the yard and looked into the street. Different acts came along. Some sang. Some showcased magical acts. Some flexed muscles and pulled stationary cars. Some were not former soldiers. None begged for alms. Others showed their war injuries and scars. Some told interesting stories, very long ones. Some did it for a shade, a cup of water, understanding and a long afternoon together. They temporarily suspended disbelief, and strode towards the apparition that beckoned them. They momentarily achieved closure and were war heroes returning to the applause of community and the embrace of family. Over new friends, new families and another place, other than the lone place, where they had slept the night before, they had reunited with part of their family. Happy Survival!

Then there was this uncle who comes along, whose peculiar nuance of the war’s various cranial and dishevelling elements, with compressed and brewed hangover, was called Artillery Shock. This uncle could not scrap the surface of his tongue, even when he was also constantly left with an overburdening aftertaste, sully mouth and an indelible debris coloured eyes and bad behaviour. Under the hot sun, along the street, he ran in vigilance. In peace time, he still ran in short steps, turning his head from left to right and back. He refused to speak, as he was not allowed to talk or make noise. When he ran up to you, he gazed demandingly and piercingly at your face. He looked to snatch the answer from your soul, and if you were unresponsive, he moved on. He ate whatever he had hurriedly and gave you what he did not eat, while still running or hopping. He never stopped. He never came into pastor’s place. He could not stop to come into pastor’s place and he did not have any of his smokes.

The evenings have eventual come. Some children in the yard are wiping the traces of sweat marks off their faces. Some have run quickly back into the rooms, flip the curtains, take a quick shot to see if they made the beds and everything is tidy. One is hurriedly washing a pile of dirty dishes and one is washing and hanging some wet clothes.

The aunties were returning from work. In some sort of comical ritualistic fervency, the children are hauling greetings at the aunties and other adults returning from work. Good evening, good evening, good evening. The aunties and other adults always also promptly replied. Good evening, good evening, good evening, and sometimes they may add, did you sweep the room? Did you make the bed? Did you wash the plates? Did you wash the clothes? One who was hurriedly hanging wet clothes, could not find any explaining why they were still wet and dripping water.

Sometimes if the children observed the adult was in good moods, they may quickly add “Happy Survival!” The adult, unprepared but caught in the moment, will equally reply “Happy Survival!” Both parties will then burst a few suppressed surge of laughter and giggles as the evening sun sets the dusk.

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

COFFEE ! Black.

I raised my voice today
It was reasonably, yet I felt vulnerable 

What came out was nice and formal, but without reporting the whole incident in its proper context, which this colleagues may be inclined to, some to damage could be done. For instance, if it’s casually said to the headteacher “he raised his voice at a child today, you know, but it was nothing, given that that child is a challenge” even as a gossip, let alone, a course of concern report, this would be damaging.

Nipping it at the bud, I turned myself in; I said to one of them, “I am sorry for raising my voice”
“We will address her stubbornness latter” Then she said, “I know how you feel. Don’t worry, it’s alright, it’s alright”.

Surprising fairness, and highly surprising. What do you call that feeling, when you are at someone’s mercy and you feel that that was undeserving of them or feel it could have been avoided? Pride? Ego? Human? Definitely humanising.

I have made so much progress in getting used to not being treated fairly, that I have become proper to the unnerving of my alter ego. 

I had lost my cool momentarily. All the same I was disheveled, chafed never quite as confident all day.
I blamed it on the coffee.

Listening and Creative Communications 

Leonard Chintua-Chigbu