I marked my birthday recently and my gift to the world then was this random chronicle of my life. In no particular order, I present to you twenty-four facts that shaped my life. I’ve arranged them in series for your reading pleasure.
I came hard as nails. Ferocious, tight-faced, pulling on my umbilical cord as I heard the doc bark his PUSH, PUSH orders. I didn’t shed a tear for I had no time for trivialities. I had my orders, and I couldn’t wait to get down to the business of fulfilling them.
Love softened me. Mom and Dad were new custodians, largely inexperienced but somehow they learnt to cope. I should beat my chest boldly and say, I afforded them the know-how with which the handled the rest of my siblings. Mum learnt to strap me behind her. Dad offered his chest as my resting place. They both learnt to feed me forcefully, When I had my eagled-eyes wide open and without force when I teetered on the threshold of dreamland. Appetite was something I constantly lacked in my early years. Besides my parents, the love kept pouring in from uncles, aunties and cousins old enough to be uncles and aunties. I was cuddled, dandled, caressed, kissed and rocked at all times. Whenever little me needed anything, All I had to do was ask and a whole lot of people would fight themselves over who should fulfil my wish. This was probably because I oozed novelty. My birth was a breath of fresh air for everyone.
Little sister arrived. Prior to her birth, dad had never seen any new-born as tiny as she came. He was scared stiff when he learnt that she weighed just around 3 measly kilos. “Is she alright? Dad asked unable to contain his worry. The Doctor replies, “She’s the healthiest one I have seen in a very long time”. That was it. She was the perfect definition ofthe “Big things come in small packages” saying. Strong. Feisty. Hyper-active. She was all over the house. Climbing shelves, tables, chairs and even crawling under them with ease. She was indeed a menace. At some point, mom still recalls, I wasseriously reprimanded for trying to climb out of the house through the window. And my defence was, “It was Ebun that taught me now”. Now I realise how lame that excuse was. Though, the truth remains that, I was speaking the truth back then. I learnt to play dangerously courtesy of my sister.
I became responsible for a whole lot of other people. With the arrival of my Kid brothers, Mom and Dad constantly reminded of my position and responsibility as the eldest. You would think I had scores of them-but they were only two. And I always had to look out for them. The elderone was a pain in the butt. That boy so loved to cry. Once, our parents dropped us off at a neighbour’s so as to attend a programme in church. This dude (that’s what he is now) cried for three hours non-stop. We were all pissed that day, to say the least. The only way we could have managed to hush him was to threaten him with the rod. But even that wasn’t a viable option. The outcome of a flogging session was the resulting crying session. Unfortunately for us, he was already conducting one effortlessly. We (including the frustrated maid) all had to wait patiently till my parents came back before he surrendered. His wailing ability aside, dude earned the name Idiagbon (after the never smiling general who served as deputy to former head of state, Gen. Buhari) cause you never caught him smiling.
I was pals with baby of the house, not necessarily because he was less trouble but because he always had what I needed. As is common with most LBs, the younger dude often got away with things we (his elder siblings) didn’t. Guess it would be inappropriate to use the word impunity here. I also knew how to obtain those things he had gotten that I was not eligible to ask for from source. Just a little brainwashing and it would all be mine. Need I say, my convincing power began to wane as he grew? He’s all grown and understands better now. As I speak, the tables have turned. I have been paying for all I took back then.
Between Dad and Mum lay a thinly-veiled equilibrium. Dad was very indulging; Mum was extremely disciplining. It wasn’t as if each of them lacked the other quality, they just had one in excess of the other. Dad was indulging, but whenever he wanted something to stay sacrosanct, it would be all written all over him, and God help you if you dare flout those orders. Mom always wanted us to act right. Whenever got the chance to overdo things or play excessively with our neighbours’ kids (unless of course you decided to slip out and damn the consequence). But beneath her strict ways was a tender love, so pure and pristine. I still wonder sometimes if one could ever find that kind of balance anywhere else.
Acting responsibly. Sometime in the early-nineties, Kayode, an older friend walked up to me. The world will end this night. He told me something would be released from God-knows-where, that as soon as we sniffed it, we would all be history (he actually meant nuclear bombs). I was shell-shocked! How could the world be ending when I had just started to live? I felt a mix of injustice and fear seeping through my vessels. I was usually this scared whenever I saw the films, ‘Burning hell’ or ‘The Grim Reaper’. I kept the fear to myself. If the world was truly ending, I had to keep my folks from feeling the way I felt. I thought. I was barely seven, yet I felt a sense of responsibility. That I owed it to them. We all went to bed happy. I cried myself silently to sleep. Then I was stunned from sleep when I heard my name. I opened my eyes. It was morning. My sister was at it again. She made that habit of kicking everyone towake as soon as she had woken. I was glad the nuke didn’t go off afterall.
NEPA brought a different kind of light into my childhood.People say it’s a shame that power has been nothing to write home about in the country for decades now. But for me and my friends, NEPA was a source of ecstacy. Imagine this crazy boredom tearing us up. We would be seated, trying to share jokes or even attempting to play the dissing game, and then a bulb suddenly comes on after many days of power outage. UP NEPA! We would chant, running around in a jubilant frenzy, patting and hugging ourselves as if it was Rashidi Yekini who just scored the goal that won us the World Cup.
Peter Rufai was impregnable, Jay Jay was a myth,and so was the Super Eagles’ team of ‘94. I rarely watched football. Cartoons and Children films like Home Alone ranked higher on my scale of preference. Despite this aversion, I knew quite a lot about the Super Eagles’ team and the successes they achieved. You just couldn’t miss it. They were on the lips of everyone.From family to neighbours to friends my age, the story was all same. PeterRufai was an obstacle in goal, Stephen Keshi was a rock, Jay Jay was magical, Siasia was an enigma, Amokachi ‘da bull’ was unplayable. Yekini could score with his eyes closed. I learnt the names of these players by heart even when I couldn’t recognise most of them.
To be continued.