Tuesday, 8 May 2012
We had finally made it to Nigeria. After a long flight from London to Lagos, we then had to take a local flight to Enugu. At that point I had already become tired of planes and had become very irritable.
After the stress of handling our luggage and trying to avoid bumping into other travellers, we made it out of the airport to a vehicle waiting for us.
A slim man stood by the family sized car; he looked like he had been waiting there for some time. The man saw us and began approaching; he beamed a bright smile and let out a shout of joy.
"Oga! Madam! Welcome! Welcome ohh!"
My father laughed and the two shook hands and hugged briefly; he came over to my mother and greeted her too.
"KC?! How are you?" my mother said smiling.
"I dey ooh! I dey! We thank God." KC replied smiling as he turned to me and my sister.
Being the well-trained children that we were, Peace & I greeted KC before he greeted us.
"KC, so you're still this slim...like a chewing stick! Aren't you eating enough?" my mother asked jokingly.
KC didn't reply he just laughed as he and my father began loading our luggage into the boot.
KC was our driver...well; he was actually the driver for my family in Nigeria and he had been their driver for some time. I couldn’t say I remembered KC. I only knew his face from some of the photos we had back home in London.
After my parents and KC were done exchanging pleasantries, we all got in and begun our journey. KC and my parents were chatting away about the usual things: politics, the differences between ‘home’ & UK, how much me and my sister have grown and haven’t become spoilt like those other ‘useless children’ back in London; …that bit was something my mum often pointed out when talking about my sister and I.
I was already starting to sweat from the heat and Peace wasn’t making things easier. She was starting to dose off as she leant on me, and she was starting to sweat also; whatever anti-perspirant she was wearing wasn’t working very well.
“Peace! Lean off me man! You smell.” I said impatiently.
My sister didn’t even budge. She just kissed her teeth at me.
“You shouldn’t even be talking about who stinks; your b.o is just making me dizzy.”
I tried to nudge her off, but she was proving stubborn.
As my camera was packed in my luggage, I decided to take some mental pictures of the sights of the city. Everything seemed so interesting; the cars, the noise, the people even the trees...everything felt new… as if I hadn't seen such things before.
Back in London I hardly appreciated such things, but here in Nigeria I seemed to be intrigued by them.
A little smile spread across my face as I looked at everything around. I then looked over at my father who was at the front looking out of the window. I could just about see a small smile on the side of his face too. He seemed quite happy to be back.
As child I remember some of the stories he would tell my mum, about where he grew up. Some of the stories were sad, like when he was re-telling the things he could remember from the war; and some amusing like the time he and his brother were in the village and they saw a masquerade being chased by two-dogs.
My father never really spoke to me and Peace about these things. We used to sneak out from our bedrooms and eavesdrop while my mum & dad spoke in the living-room.
As KC was driving, an Okada pulled up in front of us; KC impatiently pressed down on the horn and threw insults at him through the open window.
"Abeg, comot from de road joh! Non-entity!...anuofia!"
I began laughing. My father smiled a little and gestured for KC to calm down. KC kissed his at the Okada driver as we over took him. The Okada simply ignored him. My mother however didn't find it funny at all...she was more concerned.
"Biko, Kelechi! Take it easy, you know these Okada men are sometimes irresponsible drivers."
"Madam, I'm sorry, no vex oh; but that na de only way these yeye people go fit understand...everyday they'll be riding stupidly on the roads. If to say de driver get helmet, I for just jam am wit' dis moto."
Though Peace was half asleep she heard that last comment from KC.
"Hmm. KC, you're a joker." she mumbled.
At that point my father turned to Peace.
"Ada, call him 'Uncle Kelechi', he's not your mate." my father said calmly.
KC didn't seem bothered.
"No mind ya papa...it's fine. Just call me Uncle KC." he said happily.
As time went on Peace had drifted off fully into sleep, but this time she was leaning on mum, who had also dosed off.
My father and ‘Uncle KC’ had finished their conversation, so he decided then to speak to me.
“Mikel, look around you; these streets are where I grew up, where I sold goods to help support my mother and siblings; where I saw and heard various things. As I look around I see the dramatic changes this city has gone through.” My father’s voice had a solemn tone to it.
As he continued my interest slowly grew. The traffic around us seemed to be getting less and less congested; cars and other vehicles started flowing a bit more freely.
“Obi, this place holds a lot of memories for me…many, many memories. While we’re here I will share some of them with you. You’re growing into a man, so I know you may appreciate what I’ll tell you.” My father stopped talking. He seemed to be lost in thought.
I began to wonder what things he wanted to tell me. Part of me wanted my father to continue talking; to continue and tell me everything he had to say; but he just remained silent, causing me to be swallowed up by curiosity. I reminded myself that this wasn’t going to be easy for my dad. Although he wasn’t saying a lot I knew this was probably the most he had opened to anyone. My heart felt warm with appreciation for my father’s efforts; and of course I knew that I also had to put in effort if me and my dad were going to make any progress together.
I tried to mentally prepare myself for anything that came during our time in Nigeria; whatever happened I would just embrace it.
I prayed a short prayer for me and my father, and then I leaned my head back and enjoyed the rest of car ride home.