(Continued from SEPT. 20th – Part Two)
Or else… Or else… ‘heads will roll on campus!
It is Friday morning. The hustle and bustle at Onne Motor Park has never disturbed Pa Sammy until today. Traffic had started to build up. Crowds of pedestrians, market women with babies strapped on their back as they struggled with setting up their merchandise, shoppers are seen making fast strides along the pavements outside the shops or trying to cross the main road to get to the other side of the market, either looking left and right and then left again before suddenly taking off on their heel like they were being pursued by a possessed madman!
Inside Onne Motor Park, there are noises of buses and taxis hooting, the main attraction, varieties of “FOOD IS READY” shops, fabric stores, electrical goods shops, pavement stalls with small items like imitation costume jewelry sold by Mallam Bashir who hardly makes eye contact with his customers, but spends a lot of time grinning at his small portable radio that’s usually balanced on his shoulders with some strange music blasting away – whatever it is that’s booming from that radio of his, is certainly all the company he needs in a day.
Within the inner caucus of the village meeting, Pa Sammy heard that He usually carries a matchet with him, hidden secretly away under his flowing shirt. No one ever saw this, except the day Osa tried robbing him. The mark carved below Osa’s left ear had been a result of the ordeal with Mallam Bashir, even though Osa had boasted that he received the cut while defending his mother from a group of armed robbers and within days, even while the wound was still as fresh as can be, still oozing blood, stained with indigo iodine and trying to escape the cotton wool plastered on it, He’d told the same story, but changed the characters. This time, He’d boasted it was during his fraternity initiation. Again, no one witnessed this. No one ever bothered to ask Osa’s mother or his father or even his sister Ovie, or even as close as look into the blood-shot eyes of Osa’s notorious friends when they come visiting him either. But in all, the message was sent. No one ever dare mess with Mallam Bashir since that incident.
On the other end close to the luxurious bus passengers waiting area are petty goods vendors attracting customers to buy their wares. Amidst all the bewilderment, one can still relish the delicious aroma of fried cocoyam served with spicy dried fish gravy, crayfish yam porridge garnished with oziza leaves, hot deep-fried bean cake and other nice flavored delicacies floating in the air, tempting passers-by to stop for some morning refreshment.
And then, there’s the usual gathering of campus students rushing to get into the over-worked Datsun-cabs, still covered in their early morning splash-wash, dripping water as their drivers chew on sticks, adjust the rear view mirror while they also use it to view themselves as they apply Saturday Night powder on their face and under their armpits – a casual daily personal hygiene habit! While their conductors holler and bawl to get passengers in and quick. Aba road! Campus Junction! – 2 chances!!
By the entrance of the motor park on the left hand side is a giant sign, hanging above the food store, it reads: “I-J-E-O-M-A – travel well Food is Ready” owned by Madame Cecelia. And there she is, a heavy set light skinned woman, robust and cheerful, the thickness of her dark toned brown powder in contrast with the complexion of her neck, her high cheek bones, painted in cheap glossy pink, contesting with her full large lips smeared with Vaseline. Always the same look, Decorated and glamorous. Glossy and animated, but always clean. She’s married to Papso, a trader with a two-toned 504 Peugeot and a parked white V-boot he usually only drives to church during Christmas and Easter. He also has a spare part dealership store in Emenike shopping complex and also another one in Diobu, all in Port Harcourt.
She’s shouting orders across to her canteen helpers to hurry up with setting up for the day and the same time, waving away the agitated flies parading and in desperate search of a good will hunting spot. Customers were beginning to fill up the entrance of the canteen. A long line of anxious passengers waiting to grab a bite of the tantalizing oil soaked bean cake served with dough-infused bread and rush off to catch their ride.
Pa Sammy watches in bewilderment as life revolves so fast in front of him, still holding on tight to the brown envelope, as he remembered the contents of the envelope again, he quickly clutched it close to his chest, like his life depended on it. Well, today his life does depend on this envelope. He has been sitting patiently at the entrance of the lotto store, where he had managed to secure through the help of his daughter Ovie.
But as of recent, his vendor newspaper business wasn’t booming like expected.
These days, passengers usually engage him in local discussions, while they quickly and craftily glance through pages of the paper. Sometimes, he gets paid for the few pages viewed, and sometimes he has to remind them to drop something or keep moving.
His favorite customers are the campus students, who’d come, pick up “Grapevine” and any other gossip related magazine, drop off the money and tell him to keep the change. What they see in that magazine, He still doesn’t understand why anyone would derive so much joy in reading about latest gossips or about a personal issue discussed publicly. The headlines have been carefully designed to attract these college girls. “Scandal!! Ex-Senator Exposed!! Or “Trouble!! Ex-beauty queen caught in the middle of an affair” or “Lecturer in double mess” – hmm. Such humiliation!
He’d tried once to open the pages and feel their amusement as they would when they open up a gossip column and get so excited and animated. He just never understood the message behind it. All he saw were stories of rich spoilt people showing off their new houses, cars or another extravagant wedding celebrated with such annoyance and display of wealth that eventually ends up in one of the magazine he’s now selling. Thank God he wasn’t invited in the first place, how would he have managed to waste his one and only saved up green Guinea brocade for an event where he wouldn’t have been noticed anyway, but as God would have it, He gets to sell their stories afterwards. No stress for him at all.
That thought has always compensated Pa Sammy for missing out on little things of life. To think of it, headlines like the high cost of petrol, the current political issues in the country, mis-management of power and un-employment was the least of their problem. The campus students, Hmm! Why should he bother himself, so far as they keep buying it, that’s okay by him.
The usual customers that irritate him are either the group of students in Political science department or the underpaid Sociology lecturers. They usually come in fours or sevens. After greeting him, they will begin their debate on an outline displayed and begin to confuse and convince themselves with their point of view “The propaganda of the interim government policy…” and then another will chip in angrily “Nigeria’s government is facing rising religious violence in the north, a long-simmering separatist movement in the oil-rich south and now a nationwide strike fueled by widespread anger over the end of fuel subsidies seen by many as one of the few benefits of living in the largely impoverished state” …
Pa Sammy will look at them, put his hands on his chest, and imagined it was his son, Osa discussing politics in a relevant way, and not conniving with gangs to cause trouble. He nods in acknowledgment with this youth whose passion and zeal for a better tomorrow was deep, contagious and rather alarming! As if they were already in the court of law or at a national assembly gathering addressing Mr. President himself – with no intent of buying the paper! In a way, He’d always enjoyed their company because they usually summarize the whole news message, makes him current and gives him a topic to discuss at his weekly town-hall meeting. But today he has a lot on his mind. If only… To be continued.