All New Series! Two Lives and a Soul by Ojay Aito

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Hey guys! New series “Two Lives and a Soul” by Ojay Aito now on African Stories. From the hilarious “Life of a Barrack Boy”, Ojay once again delivers a captivating yet fluid Nigeria story. “Two Lives and a Soul” is a story about…..let’s not let the cat out of the bag.. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did.

Two Lives and a Soul – Episode One
Tick-tock, tick-tock, I blinked twice as I stared at the table clock. Waiting. Waiting for it to come alive. Today, I just happened to be awake earlier than my alarm clock. Seated idly at my room desk, I traced the frame of the medieval time piece with my eyes. For the first time I imagined the scope of knowledge that had conceived the idea of creating a device that served two purposes. As the world grew older, innovations have led men to create devices that met more than one need. And after having read the Blue Ocean Strategy, it was easy for one to realize that such models have been long ingrained into the business world as well.
No, I’m neither into the whole hocus-pocus of the business world, nor into the scientific postulations of propagated theories. I’m just a twenty seven year old sales man, with a 1907 alarm clock as the only bequeathed property from my grandfather, a man I met before my brain could keep vivid memories. He died only a day to my christening. So my dad named me after him. His name was Eli.
As I held the tiny time device in the palm of my hand, my vision focused past the tiny fingers of the clock, unto the golden lining of its interior. But instead of seeing through the intricacies of the mechanism that make the tick-tock sound, as Hollywood would make us believe is possible, I saw something I had never seen in all the time I had this ‘priced’ possession. For the first time, I realized the golden lining had an inscription written inconspicuously along the circumference of the inner frame. Perhaps it was a farewell message that came from the design company.
My grandfather was a traveler, more like a pirate as I later grew to understand, so he had a few precious artifacts that had not a Naira’s worth in this day and on this side of the world.
It was just five minutes away from five o’clock when the tiny little knocker would come alive, hitting the two cones on its both sides; but before then I stood from my creaking flat wooden chair and moved towards the only source of light in the room with the metal device in my hands. I lifted it towards the dull white light, away from the thick shadows of the clothes by the wall. The inscription on the inside of the clock was guarded by the thick concave glass, which prevented me from tracing it with the tip my fingers. I thought about my grandfather for a sec. Johnny Depp in his thick pencil shadowed-eyes was the only well represented pirate I could imagine granddad looked like. Or was it the other way round?
As expected, the inscription wasn’t in English. Neither was it French, ‘cause I spoke both fluently. Didn’t look like Spanish or Portuguese either, thanks to the little exposure I got at Mary Hill, back in the day.
Was I the first to have noticed this? Well, I couldn’t think of anyone who had had it at this proximity for the past twenty two years. I tried again to read the statement. Although I never learnt about its history, I always thought of the alarm clock as a prize grandfather had won during his days of adventure. Except that right now, I thought of the possibility that it was, you know, a stolen piece, perhaps, not conspicuously missing from one of the Persian castles in the Middle East. Don’t blame me for that, blame the Pirates of the Caribbean for my weird imaginations.
I tried reading out the words which simply refused to make any sense still. It all of a sudden became a necessity that at least I tried to make some meaning to it, because I needed to be done with all of the distraction by the moment the alarm jolted on to life. That would be the start of my day, and to beat the traffic in a twenty first century Ambode Lagos, I couldn’t be at home by 5:30. Some of my colleagues at work insisted that if I only had to wake up by five in the morning, then I was one of the luckiest people in the city. Some of them had to leave their homes an hour before my wake up time. I sometimes wonder why they had to go home anyway. Anytime I thought about what they said, I profusely refused that my life should be anything worse than it already was. I believed there were those who had a choice of when to go to work, and I was sure they weren’t of a different human empirical nomenclature. Soon, someday, I would choose to wake by ten in the morning, and leave work say 11 that same morning, with my bank account looking like an international phone number. How about that for living in Lagos?
Aoys fun umendikayt ir gekumen, fun umendikayt ir vet tsurikkumen. I kept trying to pronounce the words as I moved away from the source of light, back towards the table. I dropped the time device on my rickety desk, as the seconds seemed to count down to my wake up time. I didn’t know why I just didn’t stop the alarm from going off, guess I was conditioned to hear it go off every day. As I moved away towards my mattress at the other corner of the room, I became conscious that the words I had read from the clock still clung to my tongue. At that point, I knew I had to shake it off vigorously. With the way my mind worked, my head could surprisingly keep nonsense information, and totally betray me when I had to remember vital data during the defense of a project at work. If I didn’t force it out, it could either become a song on my lips, or a cliché for greeting strangers on the street.
Umendikayt might just mean How do you do?
Tried as I may, the words still came off my lips one more time before the clock fingers finally struck five. The alarm came off hard and loud, like it beat right on my ear drums.
I moved towards the table clock and stuck my index finger between the tiny hammer and one of the bell cups. My finger vibrated somewhat, and I waited patiently for the time piece to stop its hammering but one minute after, the hammer still hit my finger at the same spot. I made a mental count of how long the alarm was suppose to last. With the speed of light, my mind spanned many years, even back to my days in boarding school. There was never a time it went this long. Two minutes, and it kept on with its vigorous hammering. And then the words came again. Before I knew it, I was speaking the unknown words out loud.
Aoys fun umendikayt ir gekumen, fun umendikayt ir vet tsurikkumen. Suddenly, I saw a dim shade of light haze out of the circumference of the clock’s frame. It shone brighter. And even brighter. And the vibration became harder, and even harder. The whole of my hand began to shake violently, till it spread through my entire body. I couldn’t pull out my finger from the device which now made the entire room glow with a fluorescent teal color. I screamed, but I wasn’t sure if my vocal cord was able to produce any sound, because I couldn’t hear a thing apart from the clock alarm which now seemed to beat from my chest.
The light from the table clock engulfed my whole body before I felt it finally disintegrate me into a million light particles.

****
I became aware of life again as I shook violently from my bed. I breathed heavily without opening my eyes, but I was glad that it was all a dream. It had to be a dream, however surreal it was, it was only a nightmare. I felt soaked in my sweat, the cotton bed sheet sticking to my back. There seemed to be so much light in my room, and I tried hard to recollect whether I went to sleep without turning out the light. Finally I slowly opened my ears, squinting a little to the brightness of the fluorescent light screwed to the ceiling of my room. Again, I was sure it seemed brighter than normal.
As I opened my eyes fully, I realized that people stood over by bed staring down at me on either side. I blinked a few times and opened my eyes wide. They were there. Strange people I have never met in my life. Four ladies and… a guy. All five of them were black save for the one who stood by my right arm. She was young, beautiful, and white, with deep blue eyes and a European nose. I looked from side to side without moving my head. I didn’t know anyone here. And I wanted to scream. The eldest of the ladies quickly put her hand on my left shoulder, and the softness of her palm immediately calmed me.
“Hello son,” she said with a smile.
Son? I thought about it. This wasn’t my mother. Her skin looked fairer like she hadn’t been under the sun for months, with fewer wrinkles than my mum’s. The tone of her voice sounded pleasant. Who were this people? And where was I? I wanted to ask, but the softness I felt from her touch was also in her voice.
Yes, I remember! I was supposed to be getting ready for work. But wasn’t that a dream? And where was I now? This wasn’t my room? And these people, who were they? Where am I? All five people that surrounded my bed had genuine smiles on their faces, and the beautiful white lady on my right side suddenly bent over and pressed a kiss on my cheek. It kinda hurt, but it felt good.
“Sam, I’m glad to have you back. Thought I lost you,” she said.
Sam? I am no Sam. My name is Eli, and who are you? Who are all these people? I wanted to sit up from the bed. I was late for work. But as I tried, the woman who called me son touched me again, and I simply let back my head onto a very soft pillow. A pillow? I didn’t have any pillow. I hate using pillows, but this was soft too. Very soft. My eyes slowly closed, and I said to myself. This is only another dream. A dreadful dream from a beautiful nightmare?
“Hey buggie,” the guy who was by the end of my bed called out to me. I looked up at him, and a strong force pulled me towards him. “Soon, you would be home, okay?” He had a smile that looked like mine. In fact, apart from his cornrows and the crucifix pendant on his chest, two things I didn’t possess, I would say he was my reflection.
Soon I would be home. But really, where was I? And who were these people?

About Ojay Aito
Ojay Aito is the writer of the popular Barrack Boy Series “Life of a Barrack Boy”. A Chemist, he has since vied into the literary world, writing for metro journals and working as a radio producer.
As he patiently awaits the publishing of his debut novel, he continues to chunk out numerous works of fiction mainly on his blog barrackboy.com and a few fiction sites within and outside the country.
Two Lives And A Soul is a story that breaks out of the boundary of contemporary Nigerian fiction and sets a different stage for readers who have no reservations for the yet unimaginable…
He tweets via @1Ojay on Twitter.

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Life of a Barack Boy. Episode 5

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Episode 5: Bail Ya Goat
Read all Episodes of Life of a Barack Boy by Ojay Aito Here

There are many advantages of living in the barracks; or let me say, growing up in the barracks. One was the fact that it was a perfect representation of what the country is. That is you have
people from every part of the nation in one single community. So it was easy to come across diverse culture, language, religion, and belief system. It was one of the best things that happened to us as children. Even though we never traveled to many parts of the country, we knew how someone from any part of country would act or react to things. It afforded us the luxury of understanding the very commonly used words of most languages. And if you easily ‘slide into the matter’, you already know what I meant when I say ‘commonly used words’. Unfortunately, this episode is not about words, or most used slangs in the barracks. It’s about the relationships and fun we had together as not just children, but barrack shildren.
Leggo, our closest neighbor who was the Chief Medical Officer of the division had (and still has, I think) two wives. We sometimes called him Doctor. The two women did not live under the same roof, or the same city for that matter, but all his children lived in the same house with him. So, ‘many’ wasn’t a word that was used to say the number of children that lived in that three
bedroom duplex of our neighbor’s house. We used ‘plenty’ and sometimes ‘numerous’, though the only difference between them and us was that they were all siblings, and we were a mixture
of siblings, cousins, nephews, and house helps. And because we shared a very large compound we had many things in common.
We shared two hectares of cassava and maize farm; we shared security; we shared a plot of green lawn turned soccer pitch, plus a few other luxuries. And responsibilities.
Because of what we got from farm and vegetable gardens, we didn’t visit the market everyday just to prepare a pot of soup. Remember we had a poultry. But with all these came a huge challenge: securing the farm.
We were on holidays at the time and we took on the
task of building bamboo fence around the farm. As soon as Doctor saw our little initiative, he made it a law. A rule. So with the help of a few friends and tenants, we drove the stakes deeper,
and raised the fence higher. What we intended to do as fun became work as soon as Doctor got involved. All our effort though didn’t stop the goats and other ruminants from breaking in and destroying
the cassava and maize stems. So we thought of what to do: we set traps, and built cells to keep any goat and sheep caught within our farm.
So once again we had some fun to wake up to, apart from the morning and evening sessions of playing football. We took shifts at the ‘gate house’- the entrance of the farm; we patrolled
round to check for any break-in of some sort. Even our dogs, Whiskey and Motty had some chasing to do. Trust me, we caught many goats. Many-many goats. That made Doctor feel good
that we were busy doing something worthwhile during the holiday. Soon, our cells were full, which resulted in another problem. We hadn’t really thought of what to do with the goats except to
starve them to death. But after a little over a week, we had over fifty goats, and of course an awesome idea.
People started coming to our house to beg for the release of their goats. After our parents were gone to work, we would host and receive a number of pleas from the barrack
men and women alike. “Come back when Doctor is back from work,” was always our respond. It was just fun seeing people come to our balcony every morning and afternoon. Some begged, some cursed, some cried, and some just stood there looking straight into our eyes like they wanted to hypnotize us. Of course, we were afraid that some of those women were witches, but my cousin Mudiaga and one of our neighbor’s son, Ochuko gave the rest of us the boldness to continue with our mission.
To create more fun we asked some of them to write guarantor’s letter promising that their goats would never stray to this part of the barrack again. It was a whole load of fun reading requests
and appeals from these wonderful women. We would laugh over grammatical blunders, and ask them to come back later in the evening when Doctor was back. Although many of them swore
to come back, but we never saw anyone come around when our neighbor’s father was home. We were sure their husbands warned them not to.
I can’t remember exactly, but I think it was Mudiaga, my cousin who brought up the idea that we released the goats on bail. Four days down the line, we had made a little fortune for ourselves,
our parents not knowing exactly the details of what we did. As long as we told them that we were simply trying to guard our precious farm, they didn’t push for any major detail.
To spice the fun, we would take on ‘flogging sessions’, where we spend time beating the goats to the point of coma. Ochuko was particular with breaking the horns, or one of the legs of
the animals. It was a brutally enjoyable experience for us. Sometimes, we would deliberately release one of the goats and let it run around the compound, then we would chase it as a form
game – The Arena? Anyone?.
In the space of three weeks our notoriety had spread around the barrack, and we were beginning to have enemies and fans alike. After the fourth week, the little group had become a
club where membership was extended to other ‘quarters’ boys and privileged fine barrack babes. Our effort at chasing and stopping the goats from entering into our farm was hugely appreciated by Doctor, who one day bought everyone of us catapults. But even the few goats that remained in the barracks had stopped coming anywhere close to a fifty metre radius of our compound. Soon splinter groups came out, and before we knew it there were no more goats in the barrack again.
But the game had to continue, the rave dared not cease. At this point, we resulted to go hunting for goats wherever the goats hid and brought them into our compound. We marked their bodies with paint so that should the goats find their way to the hands of the opposition, we would have a just cause to embark on an invasion of our opponent’s territory. It all got to the stage where we organized goat-fighting competitions within the barrack. There
were the feather weight, middle weight, and heavy weight categories; which resulted in us giving the goats names like Idiamin, Babangida, Maradona, Hulk Hogan, Undertaker, etc.
But it all came crashing down when schools started resuming from the long holidays, and our siblings and friends who attended federal schools started returning one after the other. I remember vividly the face of our special goat, Otegi, which got to the semi-finals of the competition… That was the first and only time I ever saw a goat smile.
It was a holiday well spent but one which did not make it to the pages of our English Language notebooks. Hehehe

****
Ojay Aito blogs weekly at ojayaito.com and he is @1ojay on twitter.

Other Posts on African Stories
Love on the 25th by Uneñ Ameji
Beautiful Stranger by Tomi Adesina
All Fun and Games by Tomi Adesina
Life of a Barack Boy by Ojay Aito

Life of a Barack Boy. Episode 4

Episode 4: Kingsley, My Dear Cousin

Read all Episodes of Life of a Barack Boy by Ojay Aito Here

My cousin, Kingsley was the most stubborn of us all. Back in the days when we were young, we always searched for trouble everywhere, and when we didn’t find any, we created one. Our bodies itched when we didn’t have anything doing. I was 4 when I understood what it meant to be addicted to drugs….yes I am that smart. Not that we took i-gbo or ‘coke’ (actually we always had a lot of the other good coke, guess it was why we had a lot of energy), but we just couldn’t help staying away from trouble, and Kingsley was our ring leader – he was the dare-devil and we were always trying to keep up.
And no, we were not terrible kids, we just had a little too much adrenaline in our blood streams, plus we were boys. We had our off days and today in focus was one: we were washed, dressed, fed and reminded of our behaviors. Can’t remember if we were on one of our mid-term breaks or long holidays but I’m sure it wasn’t a weekend because my parents went to work and we all waited eagerly for 4pm to ‘knack’ so NTA would come on the TV. (Not that we could tell the time, by gazing at the clock, but we just instinctively knew when the time was up for SuperTed or Vultron: the defender of the universe… Where are those cartoon characters now? Dem for don old die).
Anyway, I was beginning to get restless just lying down on the bed (that was how my aunties punished us: compulsive afternoon siesta. Yeah, there were very few 6-letter words I could spell at the age of 4 too. SIESTA was one), and I knew Kingsley would be super-restless. Not long before, he stood up from the bed grumbling that he wanted to go to the toilet (that was our most handy excuse because no one wanted us to wet the bed.) I waited a little while before I took cue.
Ten minutes later, we were tumbling around the tiny space left in the sitting room, our aunties were busy at the backyard…In hushed voice, Kingsley called my attention to something around the dining area. I was curious, as excitement seeped into my veins.
“What is it?” I asked. He pointed to the refrigerator (bet you had those small steel rimmed thermocool fridges too).
“What?” I asked again. He pointed at the fridge, this time his tiny finger almost touching the steel rim. Then he said, “Lick the edge, it’s very sweet. Someone must have put sugar here.”
I looked at him in the face, I knew he was lying but I couldn’t allow the idea of something sweet pass me by.
I guess he saw the contemplation in my face because he said “I’m going to lick it all o if you don’t want.”
I stopped him, then stretched out my tongue to taste the stupid sweet fridge… Of course you know nah, the thing shocked me, shocked my soul, shocked my spirit join. But the good thing was that I didn’t shout. Actually, I screamed, but it was like the shock muted my voice. My cousin laughed non-stop. I felt like killing him, actually I did in my mind, but had to wait to do in the physical. A tear rolled down my face, and I fought the rest away. I went back to bed and didn’t need to beg sleep to come.
I was woken up at about a quarter to 7pm for dinner (my aunties would have preferred that I slept through till when they were through with their never ending chores, but they knew I wouldn’t sleep at night if I wasn’t awake now, and therefore cause more wahala for everyone). So after dinner, we were washed and changed into our PJs and allowed to run around the house and wait for our parents to come home.
It was then I got the idea. Wow… I stared at our KDK standing fan (if you guys didn’t have one then, it only means you must have been very very poor o. Anyway…). I moved towards it, pressed the #3 button, and allowed the breeze to blow me. I even sang into the fan (it gives a different feel to your voice, did you ever try it?). When I was done with my plan I went in search of Kingsley.
“What is it?” He asked. I pointed to the fan.
“What?” He asked again. Then I started singing into the fan. He immediately started singing into the fan as well, taking up the challenge. Everything is always a challenge and competition for Kingsley. So here I came it my idea:
“I just stopped the fan with my finger, and you can’t do it. Never!” I threw the challenge at him, hoping he wouldn’t see the lousiness at my try at retaliation. Like I was fooled with the idea of sugar, so was he corrupted and blindfolded with the idea of challenge.
“You can never stop the fan, but I did!” I pushed again, hoping that he wouldn’t say I do it in his presence. But my dear cousin didn’t even ask, before I could tease more, he simply stuck his index finger through the gauze….
The scream from my dear cousin broke through the air. The scream was so loud that it frightened me at the instant. I started shouting in resonance. I think my scream was even louder than his. There was blood on our PJs and everywhere. Our aunties were by our side almost at the instance, demanding what, and how, who, because they didn’t who wasn’t hurt. Kingsley was pointing his blooding finger at me trying to tell them I was the one who caused it (caused what?). I pointed back at him screaming louder to cover whatever he was trying to say. Tears was in both of our eyes, but mine was tears of joy…
I went late to bed that night long after my cousin was tucked into bed with his bloody finger banded in plaster. I even dreamed that I had a ride in a sport car with Pierce Brosnan, while my cousin was left behind because of his bad finger (James Bond wouldn’t have a liability with him, except if the liability was a lady). When I woke early the next day, I could see the tear stain on the right side of my cousin’s face (he must have cried in his dream as well). I felt quite sorry.
Kingsley didn’t have to write a single thing for the next one week; in fact, I was asked to wash his socks. After 3 days, I was wishing I was the one who had a cut on the finger. The attention was getting too much. I feigned stomach pain so that at least I got some ‘pele’ and ‘doh’, but all I got was Flagil, ‘oh mine’.
“Your sugar is becoming too much,” my mum said.
“Stella, I beg no forget to bring more Flagil come from work for these children, dem need am, especially Osereme.
My hands were on my head (in my mind).
My own don meet me.

****
Ojay Aito blogs weekly at ojayaito.com and he is @1ojay on twitter.

Other Posts on African Stories
Love on the 25th by Uneñ Ameji
Beautiful Stranger by Tomi Adesina
All Fun and Games by Tomi Adesina
Life of a Barack Boy by Ojay Aito

Life as a Barack Boy. Episode 3

Episode 3: Iya Rasaki
Read all Episodes of Life of a Barack Boy by Ojay Aito Here
I will introduce some people in this episode but elaborate on their identities in latter episodes. One is Iya Rasaki also called Iya Adijah, or Iya Memunah. In fact, calling her by any of her children’s name would do and she had nine of them that I knew of: Sule, Memunah, Isa, Sikirah, Sala, Rasaki, Adijah, Rakia, and Ramoni. One could say she had nine names plus one.
The thing is, this family lived in our Boy’s Quarters. Their father, Baba Sule had two wives: Iya Rasaki – with her nine children and Iya Bose with her three children. Don’t ask me what Baba Sule did for a living because words fail me and I have no intention of going into that today. Today is about how Iya Rasaki interfered with our life which was a constant….good interference, bad interference.
Once upon a time during one of our holidays, we were all at home – my siblings and cousins – all boys. The girls had travelled out of town. We had serious plans of playing football that morning but had to wait just a little while so that our neighbor’s father, Baba Nalegu, would leave for work. He was the Assistant Chief Medical Doctor of the Division. Not that he would have stopped us from playing soccer, but if he found out what our early plans were, he would allocate portions of farm space for his own children to work on so that they wouldn’t have time to play and so we all waited eagerly just for their sake. Not that we waited idly, no.
Bruno, my cousin who was also called Mudiaga was on the deck of the house, trying to pluck mangoes. At this height he didn’t need to stretch for any of the sumptuously ripe fruits. It was a “Twist and Chop Time” – TCT we named the time we spent on the deck. My plan was to join him, but I was a little scared – the fear of superstitious beliefs. I had just drank a cup of garri to top the breakfast we had eaten at 8 am. So I was trying to calculate how long it would take my intestines to digest the garri before I climbed up to the deck for TCT. My siblings were in the house dancing to the song, Mister Morrinson, Shaba…remember that song?
My elder brother, Jerry was glued to the cartoon showing on TV. Thank God for AIT, they were the best thing that happened to Nigerian television broadcasting. Collins who was my partner in crime was trying to do his assignment mostly because our home-lesson teacher would come in the afternoon and there was Desmond (my eldest cousin), Efe, Kingsley, Jo (my youngest brother), and me, Osas. The Seven Lucky Kids!
At about 8:30am, our Doctor-Farmer neighbor left for work, but we knew better than to start playing immediately. The old Doctor was full of surprises. I decided to climb up to meet Mudiaga, after deciding against going to pick Iyeye with Rasaki and Damusa, our BQ tenants. Mudiaga welcomed me with a seductively ripe mango and I quickly forgot about the superstitions my mum scared us with. We talked about so many things at the same time, one topic not necessarily leading to the other but finding expressions as soon as they came to mind. But one thing that stayed longest in our conversation was the topic about Sala, one of the daughters of Iya Rasaki. Mudiaga liked this girl like crazy, he could do anything for her, but he was always tongue-tied whenever it was time to talk to her. I discovered that the six wonderfully sexy mangoes set aside from the rest were for her. Oh boy. Don’t ‘axe’ me how old we were then. Age is just a number they say and I believe you’d agree with me.
Our attention shifted down the street where we saw couple of girls coming up from the stream. We stood straight so we could get a good view of these young barrack ladies at the distant. Mudiaga was already thinking aloud. He wished he attended Army Children School were all the mature girls attended, instead of the Command Children School which was filled with too many Ajebotas, and mummy’s girls (the word Ajebota wasn’t used in our early). We watched as they came closer. They knew us, our names and all, but because they couldn’t speak correct English, all they did was smile and hoped we would say something to them. Or so we thought. Just then Mudiaga shouted “Good morning.” The reply was spontaneous and simultaneous, which meant we could say something more deliberate.
I was thinking of what to say but Mudiaga was way fast in ideas. “Anything for me?” He asked. First, we heard some rumbling, and then someone among them hissed.
Anything from where?” One of them asked.
Nothing for you o, na your type dem dey talk?” another added. That was below the belt and the little remark cut a deep wound into my cousin’s ego. He wanted to jump down from the one storey high deck. He’d done it before, in fact we all had done it before but that was when we had a high dose of adrenaline pumped into our blood stream. Mudiaga always had excess of adrenaline in him, so I didn’t blame him for getting angry; all I did was to put a hand over his shoulder to calm him. He shoved my hand aside…
All of una dey kraze,” Mudiaga shouted.
Na you and all of your family dey kraze!” shouted one who seemed to match my cousin in stature and words. That sparked the fire in Mudiaga. I felt like saying something in hot refute so that my cousin didn’t feel alone (not that he needed me anyway, I tell you, he could take on a battalion if necessary) but I didn’t know what I might say that would cause real damage.
See you o, you no even fit waka well, you get one bow leg and one K-leg.” Mudiaga seemed to shift into gear two and he moved to the next before any of them could respond.
See this one, the br***s wey you carry for chest big pass the basin you of water you put for head. Idiot, fat pig.” I began to laugh, my cousin was winning the battle of wits and it was hilarious to watch. They didn’t hesitate too long to reply as they came up the hill,
“Na your mama be fat pig” Now this got me angry, ‘how dare you abuse my mother?’ I wanted to say F you, but I knew it wasn’t applicable with this set of Bs.
You dey kraze, all of una dey mad.” I said instead.
Mudiaga came back on point, “Why una wait? Una t*t* dey smell dey, make una dey go, or I go release dog for una.”
“Na your p***s dey smell
” they all at once started casting profane words
All of una mama t*t* don sour” Mudiaga said and we laughed at that.
Your father, your mama, and all of una for una house dey kraze.”
When your papa come resume duty for our gate, na bingo I go send make e chop him p***s.” Now that was the killer bomb from my cousin. The profanities continued till the girls moved on to the front of our compound. I felt it was enough, but Mudiaga saw another opportunity. Still on the deck, we went round to meet them. They were now walking ahead, turning each time to send a curse.
See that one big y**sh! Mr Abu for School 2 go don nak you taya. As you old reach, na still primary 2 you dey. Before you reach primary 4 you go don born 3 children…” Mudiaga continued.
By this time, Efe and Jerry had come outside to see what was going on. Some of our neighbor’s children too had come out.
“Na all your sisters go get belle for Mr Abu” Shouted the girls.
“Make I throw one mango target that your big y***sh, make the thing burst” Mudiaga said. At that moment he threw one unripe mango at the girls, and lo and behold it went straight at the rubber basin on one of their heads. It broke the basin and the water emptied on the girl’s body like a baptism. I couldn’t believe my eyes, not even Mudiaga or any other person.
At the instance, I saw a flash forward, a terrible one. All the girls immediately poured their water away to defend their friend. They called for Mudiaga to come down from the deck to buy another basin and fetch back their water. Before long, Mudiaga was physically fighting with the fat girl. Everyone was outside trying to quell the upsurge. Nothing was working, some of the barrack girls and gone to call for back-up. Things were really going to get bad.
You go kill me today o, you go kill me” the fat girl was shouting, with one swollen eye, holding to Mudiaga’s torn shirt. They tried separating them and it was like they were glued together. It was an opportunity for the boys to pull the girls away, touching and feeling their ‘vitals’. If you saw me at this time, you won’t have an inking I was part of the instigators of the fight. I sat calmly and innocently by the threshold of my father’s house, watching free home video.
This was the moment IYA RASAKI came into the scene. She demanded what the matter was, and 15 minutes later, the girl had a clean blouse on, a new and bigger basin, and all of them had clean fresh tap water in their basins, instead of their stupid dirty stream water. They were ready to continue their trip back home. This was when the troop that was sent for by the girls arrived, but once again, the peaceful and wise Iya Rasaki settled everything… We thank God, ahhh…
But we knew better… Two hours later, all seven of us sat in the living room, planning. There was still going to be an aftermath, but we wanted to cushion it…so we planned and because all the ladies in the house had travelled about a fortnight ago when our holiday began (I think they went for a wedding in Enugu, can’t remember exactly), the house hadn’t been anywhere near parity when it came to cleanliness and tidiness. This always made mum shout when she gets back from work. She called my aunty and sisters to cut short their holiday and get back home.
So our plan was to make the whole house sparkling. The duty was shared and we began work, all seven of us, Rasaki and Isa coming to assist. We swept all the rooms, stores, kitchen (except our parents room which was locked), and mopped.
Cleaned the poultry, fed the chickens, manicured the flower beds, raked the dry leaves from the lawn, washed the dishes (and the plate rack we seldom washed), cleaned the louvers and windows, dusted the balcony furniture with damp cloth, washed our own clothes and kitchen napkins, took away cobwebs, fed bingo and locked him up in his cage, washed the toilets and bathrooms, in fact we would have painted the house if there was paint in the store.
We waited for our home lesson teacher, but when he didn’t show up at 3 pm, we thought it a splendid idea to call mum at work and ask her what she would like for dinner when she got back. She just said it casually that she would like fried rice, but she would be too tired to prepare it when she got back. We didn’t tell her we were
going to prepare it. So Sala and Rakia were called on to prepare the food, with close supervision from Mudiaga of course.
A quarter of six in the evening, Mumcee returned from work. And she was amazed, dazed, astonished, astounded, thrilled, surprised, flabbergasted and boggled. She was dumbstruck. When she went into the kitchen to find what to eat, an alarm system went out in her head.
“Who cooked this food?” she asked.
“All of us,” was the answer we gave her. She stepped back from the pot of food and looked at us squarely in the eyes. We just smiled sheepishly. She didn’t trust us, but looking at Jo, my kid brother, all suspicions evaporated. She enjoyed the food and demanded for more. Then she noticed we all sat in the sitting room watching TV and reading something, none of us were outside playing football, or Hide and Seek. Her prayers were being answered, she must have thought.
“Why are you children not playing football?” she asked. We all rumbled different things at the same time.
“Well, I’m so impressed with all of you. Collins, give me my bag,” she stretched her hand towards the cushion where her bag laid. She opened her purse and gave us N20 each. Now it was our turn to be flabbergasted and surprised. This wasn’t Christmas day, we had to remind ourselves. Then she asked us to go play.
We didn’t play football for long because we didn’t want to be caught unawares. We expected Iya Rasaki to come report the happenings of the day. So Desmond was stationed at the door to intervene. At 8 pm, it was time for the national soap,Check-Mate, on NTA. Iya Rasaki never visited after this time, so we all let down our guards and patted ourselves at the back for a job well done.
Half way into the soap opera, everyone including my dad, glued to the TV, enjoying the suspense, a crooked knock sounded on the door, followed by the heavily accented Igbira voice of Iya Rasaki, the first wife of Baba Sule. All seven of us froze in time and space… this wasn’t happening. It was Mudiaga Mumcee sent to go open the door. It took like ten years before the key in the key hole turned and finally opened. By the time, all of us except Mudiaga had vanished upstairs into our room.
The whole story was told my parent in Iya Rasaki’s version. Mudiaga was in the middle of the parlour, hands at his back, receiving tongue lashes from Mumcee. My Dad didn’t utter a word.
We were all called downstairs and received serious warning of our lives.
“Sorry, ma,” we all mumbled.
“Sorry for yourselves. No wonder you people poisoned me with that stupid rice.
“Desmond,” she called my eldest cousin, “Since you people have shown you are capable of doing house chores well, from tomorrow, you would be the one washing my clothes and Dad’s clothes instead of over working the girls.”
“Yes, ma,” Desmond said, and was about leaving.
“No, no, I’m not through. Tomorrow, all seven of you will harvest the cassava in the farm, peel, and take to the grinder, then fry. All of you, including you, Jo. If you like shed crocodile tears from now till next year.”
“Yes mum.”
“All of you, you are dismissed.” She finally said after some seconds of silence. That was the first and last time my mum used the word ‘dismissed’ for us. And that was the first and last time in my life I peeled cassava and made from cassava garri.

See you next week!
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Ojay Aito blogs weekly at ojayaito.com and he is @1ojay on twitter.

Life of a Barack Boy. Episode 2

Episode 2: One Good Look Deserves Another
Read Episode 1 of Life of a Barack Boy by Ojay Aito Here
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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!
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Ojay Aito blogs weekly at ojayaito.com and he is @1ojay on twitter.

Life of a Barack Boy -Ojay Aito

Hey guys!
A New week! A New Author! African Stories is thrilled to bring you a new author with a completely different genre and style of writing. Ojay Aito, a story teller and a graduate of Industrial Chemistry finds he likes ink better than chemicals. His online series “Life of a Barack Boy” debuting today on African Stories tells the tales of living within the fortified four walls and the life form that rules it. Taking inspiration from everyday living in Nigerian barracks, Ojay amply puts down the mirror images and hopes to spare you the horror of experiencing life with a man in uniform.
We hope you find it refreshing and different as we did.


Life of a Barack Boy
Episode 1: In The Beginning

There are a few things you can’t change about yourself. One of them is where you were born. Yeah, guess you know already – I was born in the barracks. First, let me ‘axe’ you, “How many barracks are there in Nigeria? I mean all military and paramilitary barracks combined. Guess no one has really thought about it, not even the Defence Minister. Imagine there was an association of all ex-barracks boys and how nice it would be to be the spoke man of the group.
You would never need to bother about how well your spoken English sounds, because everyone would understand the basis of your colloquialism. Communication ends in your understanding not necessarily how well it is passed or so they think.
Second question most people never really thought about: Which is the origin of the Pidgin English? Was it from the Niger Delta as widely insisted on, or was it from the barracks? Well, I might not have a factual answer to that, but I do know for certain that the Pidgin English is a living language and the lingua franca of the barrack world. It has passed through different stages of evolution and has not only survived but thrived wonderfully as against other indigenous languages, and even the original English language.
Back in the days, our parents would warn us, and sometimes even spank us when we seem to fall short of necessary words to express our feelings in the white man’s language. Little did they know that people like us will make millions of Naira simply by becoming Pidgin English voice-over artistes.
Still on the characteristics of this lingua franca of ours, what language would take two English words and merge it into one of itself if not the Pidgin English? For example the words “wound” and “injure” can simply be “wounjure” in Pidgin English not necessarily depending of the gravity of the wound or injury, but of the person that just inflicted the damage…lots of example coming in the course of this piece. This write-up isn’t to help support the need to preserve this language of ours, because like I said, it lives and it will take care of itself.
I am set to lead you into the first twenty years of my life – just a bit of what I can put into words. You will find out that you are familiar with the stories being told; bring back the memories and perhaps take you on a reverie into ‘Barryland’ as known as Barrack Land – the formative years of our lives not only as ‘barrack-children’ but also as Nigerians in the late eighties and early Nineties – a period where uniform ruled.
The episodes of this script will depend on how I remember my past (and yours too). I am called a barrack boy surmising that my dad is a barrack man and my mum a barrack man’s wife. But that isn’t the real case in my family. My dad isn’t a military man. He is a Teacher, an academic. It’s my mum who is an Officer. It’s just like having your mother as the President of the country, and
your dad is the First Gentleman of the Nation. Not that my mum acted in the father role at home, but my family was different, having orderlies salute my mother with rapt attention and just bow and say “Welcome Sir” to my dad when they come home from work at the end of the day.
From this little introduction, you can get a glimpse that my family is what we referred to as the ‘Ajebo’ part of the barrack family. Not that I acted like an ‘Ajebo’, but it was impossible for others in the main barrack blocks not to see us who lived in the quarters as fortunate, and therefore special. This came with many advantages and disadvantages as well. There were two worlds, and two different life styles in the barrack. The children of privates and junior uniform men who were the majority went to the notorious Army Children School, which has about 8 to 10 different schools in one. While we the officers’ children attended Command Children School. We had school shuttles
come to pick us from our respective homes and then drop us off after school. We had special shops we went to get our groceries; we had telephones in our houses, water running in our taps, security guards at our gates, laundry services every weekend, and many more. And what did my real barrack boys get? Nothing. Okay,
they had to share the toilet with two or three other families when the plumbing was bad(it was almost always bad anyway); they had to share laundry rooms and stores every day, they didn’t have any security (apart from pilferers around, the Shina Rambos never really got a chance to come into the barracks).
But with all the differences between us, we still had part of our lives interwoven – Neither side complete without the other. And we had soul friends from across spiced with arch enemies from within. And life could never be sweeter than that of a
barrack life.
There was always something cooking.
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Ojay Aito blogs weekly at ojayaito.com and he is @1ojay on twitter.