Episode 2: One Good Look Deserves Another
Read Episode 1 of Life of a Barack Boy by Ojay Aito Here
Ahh, I forgot to tell you my name at the beginning. First, let me ask you again, how well can you pronounce non-yoruba names? I ask because I had a big problem with my friends who purposely or innocently murdered my name. Not that the name is so difficult to pronounce – at least it’s not as bad as Ughapkoteni, or Ekpeogharanetse, or even the Yourba name, Ikushebiala (death is like a dream), but my friends were just so notorious for destroying any ounce of self-respect you could muster at any given time in their company…..Trust me, I always replied them hot. Barrack boy no dey carry last.
My name is Osereme Izobofolo Oluwabunmi Joel Aito, but for official use it was, and is simply Osereme Joel Aito. I for don die if to sey them know the rest of my name. But as simple and sweet as my official name is, you would feel like killing yourself after my friends finished pronouncing the name. How on earth Osereme metamorphosed into ‘Assignment’ and then something like Osa–ere– –meeeeh!!!! (you run and bleat like a goat “meeeeh”), is left only to the weird imaginations of my barrack friends. And you dared not protest your new name. That was the only way it won’t stick… I mean for too long. I wasn’t surprised whe my Aunty called me Agric on a good day. I didn’t blame her though, because she probably had overheard my friends call me Agric Fowl. The worse was my mum calling me Salami. Initially I
protested and screamed against the nick name, but subconsciously, I embraced it. So whenever she called me by the name my father gave me, and I didn’t answer quickly, she would revert to “Salami!” which would cause me to scream out in frustration from anywhere I was.
Well, as luck would have it, my dad stumbled on a nick name for me, which I love so much. It has brought more than good fortune for me. One fateful evening after he indulged himself in watching us play football in the lawn of our compound, I scored a fantastic goal that made him shout from his chair, “Ojay the player!” It was later I
realized O. J. was simply coined out of my initials. So this was the sobriquet I used throughout my university days. Just recently, during my radio training programme, I discovered my name wasn’t simply Ojay, but Ahw-jay! Yes, with the triphthong. But you should understand that before Ojay or Ahwjay came to be, many water don pass under bridge, many iron don done for inside fire.
Sorry for the long intro…It was absolutely necessary.
We never had a nuclear family while we lived in the barracks. My mum was raised in a polygamous family, so she grew up having to eat from the same basin with about 17 or more of her siblings. So a way to make up for the polyandry family she could never have was to take in as many nephews and nieces and uncles and grand uncles’ cousins as possible. Our house was the real Fuji House of Commotion, not the one you saw on TV. My dad didn’t complain, the only thing he did was to make sure his own children weren’t abused in any way. But were we? Well, if oppression from my aunties was a form of abuse, then I would say, “Yes!! We
were” And we retaliated in ways you could never imagine.
My closest Cousin, Collins, who was about a year younger than I, left home to my neighbor’s house on a Tuesday morning (we must have been on holidays then). We called him Leku-Leku, because he was always talking, and never liked staying
indoors. After few minutes he came rushing into our room. I was hanging on one side of my bunk when he crashed into the door.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Come, come, come.”
“Come for what? To where?” I asked again, balancing my weight on the bed.
“Sshhh,” He put his finger over his mouth. “Follow me,” he beckoned with his hands.
And so we crept out of the room, out of the house, until we were in the corridor of our neighbor’s house. Our neighbor’s children were seven. The eldest, Nalegu, wasn’t in the veranda
where most of them were. Collins nudged me and then disappeared into the passage that led to the rooms. I followed noiselessly. There in the corridor behind all the noise from the sitting room, Collins motioned for me to keep things calm and steady. We crept on all fours till we came to the door of the third room. My
dear cousin pointed at the door which stood right over us; it meant: this was our destination, at least that was what I understood from the sign language. I wasn’t wrong.
He straightened his body into a bend, arms on his knees. I followed suit. Then he pointed into the keyhole in the door, and peeped through. A small smile crisped his face, what was he looking at? I thought. When it was my turn to peep, the curiosity
on my face blurred my vision. I didn’t see anything. I looked at Collins, like what was he trying to do here. Was this one of his pranks? My facial gesture asked him. I received a ‘no’ and a ‘yes’, which meant there was something I really needed to
see. He peeped through and was smiling almost immediately again. I didn’t wait for my turn, I shoved him slightly and took another peep. Then I saw. Or did I see?
Yes! I saw. I see-saw. Wow, I consciously began to take a permanent posture at the front of the ‘pin-hole camera’. Wow, this was very, very… my cousin shoved me, it was a little bit hard. I moved aside for him to take his turn. I was counting the
seconds in my head. The image of what I saw was screaming in my head. Am I supposed to tell you what I saw? You don’t mean it! What if my pastor gets to read this story, or my dad, or rather, my children? Did you say all join? If I hear….
My turn: I pushed Collins this time around, and quickly fed my hungry eyes. Oh my, my. Uhh. Ahhh! Okay. Calm down, I’ll tell you: it was Nalegu on his bed with someone. I know that face. Oh boy! Yes, that was the pkoff-pkoff seller who lived
in Block 43, beside the old Armory. What was her name again o… A heavy push from my cousin sent me rolling on the concrete floor. We hadn’t blown our presence yet, but the pain I felt at the back of my skull reeled through my head that I didn’t care if we blew our cover or not. Why would Collins have hit me so hard? In
impulsive retaliation, I landed a heavy blow on his left chin and almost sent him convulsing. All this was a soundless encounter. Who would dare make a noise? You won die?. I hadn’t peeped for a micro-mini second when Collins landed an equally
heavy punch on my mid-rib. I screamed in a soundless terror.
We dragged each other to the backyard through the back door and continued our wrestling. Before we knew it our faces were red, dresses soiled with clay sand, and the fighting continued.
In the barracks, no one stops a fight. You fight until you are
tired and yelled for help. That’s the only way help can come. Before we knew it, some ‘quarters’ boys and girls had gathered, Nalegu and his pkoff-pkoff bed-mate inclusive. It was my elder brother that came to our rescue. Minutes later when we were asked what caused the fight, neither of us was able to
say. We just panted and looked from one person to the other, then back at each other. No way we would tell. That was the telepathic agreement between my cousin, Collins and I.
When my mum’s sister who was a nurse got back from work, she asked the same thing. But who born you make you talk. I had a broken nose, Collins had a bloodstained eye. When my mum got back from work she asked the same question, but we knew the
best way to help matters was not to say anything. Not even a lie. Cause as soon as one lie comes out, both of us had to keep on lying the exact kind of lie. When my dad came home, he didn’t say anything and we knew that was the worst thing that could ever happen to us.
You all must have an idea what happened later…Next week!
Ojay Aito blogs weekly at ojayaito.com and he is @1ojay on twitter.
Episode 2: One Good Look Deserves Another