Efe’s left hand rubbed his neck as he convinced me to go for the competition, I spared his faded bIack jean a glance and returned my gaze to his face.
“Efe are you sure of what you have just told me? Even if I would like to win the prize, I wouldn’t want to fool myself.”
“He just tell me say na big prize, even sef federal government dey sponsor the tin”
“I just hope you are sure of what you are saying.”
“Bros, I no dey lie; if I dey lie make i…”
“That’s alright Efe, I will be there.”
I got to the venue at 8 a.m. prompt, prepared to dazzle the judges with my ability to laugh genuinely, the queue was long and there were lots of people; male, female, adult, child and so on. I replayed what Efe had told me in my head; “Bros my broad wey dey work with Opa Williams, talk say them dey do one competition in honour of Independence day- Nigeria at 50, he say anybody wey fit laugh 5o genuine laugh go collect big prize from ‘Nite of a Thousand Laughs’. I know say you sabi laugh well, well and this your current condition, get as e be.’ A smile escaped my lips as I visualized Efe rubbing his neck as he gave me the news.
I hadn’t expected to see this multitude-about a thousand people, but it seemed I was not the only with condition wey get as e be. Soon enough it was my turn, the hilarious nature of the competition and the serious look on the judges’ face as they reeled out the rules sent my first laugh out, the next one came out of my chest bemoaning the state of the nation, the third laugh asked me if I really thought we were independent, and so I became like Jamal Malik of The Slum Dog Millionaire but unlike him I was having a reason for every laugh that proceeded from my mouth.
Laugh number 49 did not spare me, it said to me- you are laughing at your very own stupidity and 50 said free gift will not kill me.
I got up and some other desperado took the seat. I moved to the large hall where all the participants sat waiting to hear the results. Murmurs of what the prize was floated in the air, some said it was a trip to America, others said it was a presidential hand –shake. A fat woman in Blue Iro and Buba prayed in tongues by my side, I couldn’t wait for the suspense to end.
At 2 p.m., Opa Williams and Ali Baba walked in to announce the winners, “Erin Ojo”- My name was announced by Opa Williams, I jumped up but I couldn’t shout for joy because I did not know what the prize was. Ali Baba’s next statement left me in further suspense, “Erin was the only one that laughed genuinely, we have our winner!”