Events at a ‘Face-me-I-face-you” building: Michael’s generator serves him well until someone becomes smart!
Michael got back from work in time for another PHCN-moment. Usually, the neighborhood came alive in a sort of carnival if there was power supply – a competition of music and noise from loud speakers. Now twilight, the light orbs from the kerosene lamps of roadside pepper and condiment sellers had begun to appear all over the street. The warmth of February nights persisted- he did not forget to buy fuel for his generator as he made his way home. That generator…
“My brother welcome! How work?”
He responded to Ajuwon’s cheerful greeting. “We thank God o.”
His neighbor stood clad in a pink towel by the well as his teenage daughter filled the buckets. “Welcome, uncle.”
“Thank you dear.” He turned to the girl only for a brief moment, as the thoughts on his mind became words. “Ajuwon, my generator has a problem o! E no fit carry TV and fan together again. You know I just bought it now.” Michael complained bitterly.
He had finally yielded to his wife’s plea to buy a generator when serious heat rashes broke out all over his two sons. The younger, barely three years old, suffered the worst of it. When it came to his family’s health, he had learnt to lay aside any contesting demands.
“My brother most of the ones we have around now are China.” Ajuwon attempted at sympathy and consolation. “Even the one in my shop packed up after two months. I just got another model.”
Michael shook his head as he walked up the stairs. He couldn’t understand it. He carried the ten-litre keg to the back and refueled the generator. It came on at 7:30 till 10 or 11pm – removal of fuel subsidy colluding with the landlady’s rule. The aroma of Sisi’s special Wednesday Jollof rice filled the whole corridor and made his stomach growl as he stepped into his home.
“Welcome…why the frown on your face now?” She looked around frantically trying to place what annoyed her sweetheart. She knew he didn’t like to meet the house messy when he got in from work. She tried her best to keep things tidy but raising two energetic boys in a room-and-parlour was almost impossible work. Michael removed his shirt and threw it on the pile of toys and clothes on the two-seater. The lantern was bright enough to see those… “I met Ajuwon as I came into the compound. He complained about his generator, too.” Sisi stared at the man in disbelief. This matter wasn’t enough to spoil the atmosphere. But she knew better than to think aloud. “Did you know it should power even the fridge?”
“Sweetie, I think we should call Muri o. He helped us to buy it so he will know what to do.”
“I’ll call him from the office tomorrow. You have to make sure you’re around when he comes in so you can complain and switch on all the things we use in the house.” He added looking around, “Where are my boys?”
“Ha, thank God! You are back to your normal self! They went to church with Caroline. I wanted to join them but I’ll leave Caro to bring them now.”
“OK, in the mean time make I chop abeg! Sweetie, bring my jollof!”
The children were asleep, they were on the first film Sisi borrowed from her friend when the generator’s power dropped suddenly and the DVD-player went off. Michael rushed outside to the courtyard. The generator vibrated struggling to stay alive.
“Better call Muri this night o!” Sisi joined him as he stood over it in wonder.
Muri was at the house the next day. “I tink I know wetin happen but madam I no wan make you and oga make wahala over dis tin’ o.”
“What? Abeg help us fin’ solution jare!”
“E be like say somebody join hin light with your own. When you put on your gen e dey feed another line. I fit bring my broda make he con hep you check the wiring. I sure say na wetin happen be dat.”
Sisi’s eyes went dark. Who could have done such a thing? Maama? Olopa? Balo? Who? She ran for her BB.
“Sweetheart, someone has been sharing our generator with us o! Muri found out. He has gone to call an electrician.” She blurted all of it out. She wasn’t for any small-talk after some revelation like that.
“Hello, what did you say? I’m going to call the police for these people. I’m tired of their wahala. Don’t worry, I’ll be home as soon as I can.” Michael’s job took him out briefly on Saturdays but he usually worked half-day.
“Alright, later my dear.” It was time to address her neighbours. “Who are the thieves in this house o! Who be the thief wey no want make we enjoy our peace?” Sisi raved about the house.
“Na wetin dem steal again o! Who steal? Maama, Maama where our landlady dey o? Azeez go and call Maama from the mosque! The neighbours trying to enjoy the weekend at home came out to join her on the corridor. Some of the folks downstairs came up, too.
“Iya Azeez, wey your husband?” “My husband?” “Yes, where your husband?” “You wan talk say na my husban’ steal something? I no go take dat kine insult o! Wetin dem steal sef?”
“As if you no know wetin all of una for this house dey do. I know say you dey jealous of us! Na we be the first people wey go buy new Honda generator?”
“Dem steal your generator?”
“E for even better to steal the generator o- Muri say somebody dey steal the light from our generator.”
Muri returned with the electrician to where the generator connection terminated. The electrician fumbled with the wires on the switchboard. Maama, the landlady, met them there with a panting Azeez in tow.
“Nepa-man I see your oga last week! Wetin you come do again?” Her shawl draped loosely over her head, Tesibiu rolled around the fingers on her left hand. The white handkerchief in her other hand went constantly to her forehead.
“Your tenants are thieves o! They have been sharing our generator with us illegally! This electrician just found out.”
“Mr. electrician, I think say you be Nepa-man. But..eh..Sisi next time, tell me first before you begin call people anyhow because you know say dis na my house.”
The electrician went about the job with a convoy behind him: Sisi, Maama, Muri, Iya Azeez, and Sakiratu. The curious group shuffled along to the ground floor. A proper professional had done the work. He showed them how the wires laid so close to the original house wiring that no one would have known. The crowd followed as he finally got to where the wire went into the ceiling and obviously into Bernard’s room! Balo walked in about that time surprised to see the crowd on the corridor. His “Maama, ki lo n sele? Wetin happen?” bounced off the passage walls and announced him appropriately. The intense voice nearly made the electrician fall from the stool he stood on. The latest addition to his followers was a dark, huge man. Terrifying! Maama turned to him immediately.
“Balo, I no know say na thief I rent house o! This Bernard be criminal proper!”
“Hey!” Sisi screamed. “He has been tapping the light from our generator!”
“Wey the man? My boys will deal with him!”
The sound of a parking okada reached them from outside. Sisi ran outside quickly to meet her husband. “S.H, we have caught the thief! It is Bernard!”
“Where’s he? Let me show him that I’m no fool. Is he mad or what!” “Michael, take am easy.” Maama turned peacemaker! “You know dis na my house. I no go allow dis make tin continue.”
Our people say if God wan catch person… Bernard chose the perfect time to walk in with his wife and children. Sakiratu held Sisi with her all strength as she lunged at him. “Ole! Thief! Ole!”
“What is this rubbish? Don’t insult my husband o! Na your own husband be thief!”
Muri faced the man. “Oga, dis generator no fit serve two families. You for buy your own if to say you need light when Nepa no dey.”
“What are you talking about? Which generator? Whose generator?” Michael rolled up his sleeves. “I will show u that I’m not just a salesman at Oke-Arin for nothing!”
Balo stood between Michael and Bernard. His tremendous muscles easily restrained Michael from hitting at Bernard. The baby Bernard’s wife carried was already bawling.
“Carry your baby inside jare!” Maama took charge of the situation. “Everybody e don do! Oge Mama take your pikins into the room. Now oga Bernard, which wire be dis?”
“I be electrician? How I go know?”
“You beta answer me or na dis night you go comot my house!”
“E no possible. I no owe u one day rent. No threaten me at all at all.”
Balo turned to him. The no-nonsense glint in his eye made him back down a bit.
“O da, if you no get anytin to hide den let the electrician finish his job.”
The electrician went into the room as the crowd anticipated a climax to the event. It wasn’t hard to locate the socket.
“Oga, this is the socket the wire leads to.” Michael looked irritated and glared at Bernard who kept up his innocentee look. In one swift move, Michael ran upstairs to start the generator. He then came back down to the crime scene. The electrician plugged in the TV plug he saw nearest the socket. The shhsshh from the TV drew ‘haaas’ from everybody and they turned as one to Bernard and his wife. The shame overwhelmed her as she bowed her head but Bernard, dear Bernard! He just stared wildly at the sea of judgmental eyes before him. Though embarrassed and disgraced, he only smiled guiltily and scratched his head feebly with both hands. That night Michael’s generator powered bulbs, TV, fan, and fridge.