The blistering sun made Ebele turned the air-conditioning up, as the Third Mainland Bridge traffic crept along. Her high cheek bones, slim profile and intense facial features made for a formidable person. She wanted to crank down the window but was aware of area boys lurking around. Looking around, she thought she saw a familiar face in a battered car diagonal to her.
‘Surely not. It can’t be!’ She thought. She eased her car closer to the one in front so she could see inside the vehicle, now to her right. Ebele pressed the car horn and the man inside looked to his left.
‘It’s him..Segun’ she thought. She gave him a little wave which he replied to, but with a blank stare, meaning he did not recognise Ebele.
‘Segun Badmus..It’s Ebele.’ She shouted as she wound the window down.
‘Hi…’ he answered uncertainly.
‘Haba..you don’t remember me, Segun?’ she said.
‘Ah..my sister..It’s my eyes. I can’t see you very well’
‘Segun, you can still lie fluently even after so many years’
‘Really, my eyes are going. Anyway, how are you and the family nko?’
‘Which family? Segun. I am amazed you cannot remember me. Why don’t you park when we are away from the traffic so we can chat?’
Segun nodded, although he was now worried. Maybe somewhere in his past, he had dated this woman who now wanted to talk to him. Is there a child somewhere that he could now be held responsible for? He didn’t need or want this type of wahala.
Ok, as soon as they came off the bridge, he would accelerate away from this Ebele or whatever her name was. Unfortunately for Segun, his car engine stalled as he came off the bridge and he had to pull to the side. He levered his big frame out of the car, planting a fake smile on his face, as he walked with the aid of a cane to Ebele, who had parked behind him. Somewhere in this puffy face, was the residue of a once upon a time handsome man, that past long ago.
‘Ah, Ah, Ebele, this is your face? My goodness, you still look as hot and beautiful as you did almost..almost…all those years ago’ He said, trying to turn on the old charm.
He opened his arms out for a hug as Ebele out of the vehicle, came towards him. What he got instead, was a slap to his face.
‘You bastard, you jackass. You ruined my life and then disappeared but I knew karma would get you, you cripple’ Ebele shouted as passer-bys’ slowed to watch this developing drama.
‘What is it? Why the slap? Why this assault? I stopped because you asked me to and this is the thanks I get. Hmmmm…this is unfair’
‘Enter my car, sit down and shut up or I will be attack you and call my people to come and support me’
‘No need to shout or make a public display. I will do as you wish. No problem’ Segun moved around and entered her car thinking that he would charm his way through this..whatever it is.
She also entered her car, a late model large German make.
‘Now, Segun, it is obvious you don’t remember me so I will start from the top. We met in 1983, you were an aircraft engineer and I was in final year at University around Lagos. You pursued me and we had many dates in night clubs like Faze 2, Ozone, everywhere really. We had sex together for over a month and I was so in love with you, then you dumped me. When I found I was pregnant, I went to your house in Yaba, where you had instructed your house boy to ask me to leave. My parents would have disowned me if they knew, so I went to a clinic in Bariga for an abortion, where the butcher doctor messed up my womb. So now, Segun, I can’t have kids. But, I’ve done well professionally…do you know what I do?’
Stunned by the revelations, Segun could not speak and just shook his head.
‘I’m a cop, a deputy commissioner and I intend to give you the hell you gave me almost 30 years ago.’ As she spoke, an unmarked police car pulled up behind them and plain clothes officers surrounded the car. ‘I had called my boys from the bridge and they will now take you away for a holiday at the Shasigar detention centre where mosquitoes and other creatures are waiting to make your acquaintance.’
In this whirlwind of events, Segun was blustering and confused. All this was happening in a period of fifteen minutes.
‘Ebele, Ebele, please don’t do this. I’m sorry for the way I behaved then. I was a foolish man in those days. My health is not good right now and also people are waiting for me at home. Please, I beg you not to take this action’
‘Segun, you enjoyed me in those days so I will also enjoy your discomfort at the detention centre. Take him, boys’. With those words, Segun was dragged out of Ebele’s car, accompanied by more slaps and punches and placed in the back of the police car, wedged between two cops. His walking cane was thrown away, as Segun in a daze, was sped away with sirens back across the bridge. He kept begging the cops in the car to let him go but instead, he was whacked with a baton pulled out from under the front seat.
‘Mr Man, what did you do to madam? She is a bad enemy O. You steal her money?’ the dark cop with a scar on the side of the head asked.
Segun answered ‘No! I have never stolen money from anyone in my life. She says it is something from when she was young. Please, officer, what is her full name?’
‘Normally I won’t tell you anything but you seem to be the same age as my father so I will give you small respect. Deputy Commissioner Ebele Sam-Manuel.’
For the rest of the drive, Segun thought ‘Ebele..Sam Manuel…I can’t remember her at all..1985…Man, that was a long time ago. I can’t even remember what food I ate last week; let alone who I had sex with 3 decades ago. This is real problem oh’.
The drive lasted forty minutes, past Epe and onto a small island.There are no outward signs at the Shasigar Detention Centre when they got there. It was a relic of the Abacha days, when political detainees were held without trial in the most abject conditions. Segun had heard about it, after all, who hadn’t. The men dragged Segun past the desk sergeant, where his name was not even recorded, as he was placed in a dark, rank, underground dungeon in leg chains. He had been searched and had his wallet, mobile phones, keys, everything taken away.
In the dungeon, he was met with a welcome beating by the other inmates, who in this case did not recognise or respect his 54 years of age. They nicknamed him ‘Daddy’ and he was told each time he was called that, he had to respond to the speaker with ‘Yes, my Lord’. There were fourteen prisoners in a hole that at best would have taken only six. Segun did not sleep for the first two days while he shouted to be released, saying he was no criminal and he was being held on the orders of a crazy spurned woman. Eventually he settled down and thought about this woman and the lifestyle that brought him to this godforsaken place.
Segun Badmus was a playa, before the term was coined. With a good upbringing in the Surulere area of Lagos, he excelled in school eventually ending up studying for an aircraft engineering degree in the USA. Along the way, his debonair good looks, easy charm and height were a magnet for females starting in his teenage years. In America, he dated his landlady, a woman 20 years older. She taught him about sex and the art of making a woman feel she was the only one in a man’s life. Her favourite quote was ‘If you do it right, the woman will always keep coming back’.
He learnt well and he often set his sights on much older women. They bought him clothes, cars and gave him money.
When Segun returned to Nigeria, he became even smoother. His relationships never lasted, as he had a low boredom threshold. Whenever his employers sent him to abroad on training courses, he used a tried and tested plan to save money. Within two days of arriving there, he would find a lonely woman in a bar, chat her up and eventually end up staying at her place for the duration of the training to save his allowances.
Now, in this hot overcrowded cell, he had the time to reflect on his life. He thought of his old friends with whom he had lost touch with. The guys he went out on the prowl with, around Lagos’s glitzy nightclubs and wine bars throughout the eighties, had become born again Christians. He swore he would never turn to religion, as he remembered a quote about ‘Religion Being The Last Refuge For a Scoundrel’. Even Jagu, one of his pals, who had been a cocaine addict, was now a preacher. Even, Muriel, daughter of a high court judge had become a nun after having an ill fated relationship with Segun. Interestingly he never smoked or drank.
Segun used many parameters in dating, for instance by their professions with many lawyers, teachers and dentists encountered along that long journey of debauchery. Then by tribe, making sure he scored all representatives across one nation.
He remembered he had been a sex machine in those days, being able to go till the early hours of the morning before work and then picking up another girl on his way back from work. The pattern was clever. He worked at Ikeja Airport with girlfriends in Maryland, Ikorodu Road, Yaba, and then Customs, where he then lived. This route meant he could drive in one direction, whilst stopping to see all his girlfriends. The art of juggling many women was complex and he always called them ‘Sugar’ as he often forgot their names.
He and his crew had pioneered the act of creating a row with a girlfriend on a Friday, so the girl would be angry and not come over the weekend. This would free them up to see other women over this period and then make up with the regular girlfriend by the Monday. Marriage or marriages were only hiccups on the playa stage. He had married and divorced three times by the time he was 50. His creative mind made him have ready excuses for his wives, when he didn’t arrive home till the early hours. One of his best was to have an old car even though he could afford new ones. This way, he could always blame the car for stranding him somewhere, whilst he looked for a mechanic. He would then rub dirt on his hands as he came home to fake the breakdown. An angry wife would then calm down to look after her man. The advent of mobile phones threatened to curtail these excursions, but he quickly found a way round that by renting a flat his wife didn’t know about. Excuses were ready made because he often had to go repair planes at other airports across the country whilst often in reality; he was only 5 kilometres from home. Segun liked girls who came from outside Lagos, as he surmised these had no interest in getting pregnant.
He made many girls pregnant to such an extent, that he had an account at a clinic owned by a friend of his, for terminations.
The enemy of every playa is aging, not money. The many women of the Nigeria, USA, Britain, Germany and other places he had spent time in were now ghosts of his past. Often walking down high streets in these countries as well as Nigeria, he would run into ‘long time no see’ females, who would nod hellos to him, knowing they had had one night stands at sometime. Depressingly, he had found out that one of his ex girlfriends in Wales had developed dementia and often called his name in her delirium.
A car accident had damaged his left hip which made him reliant on a walking cane and the slim figure had ballooned into what he was now, overweight and the charm now gone.
His three ex wives somewhere, routinely must have cursed him and he saw his five children from the women periodically. He still worked at an airline but in the office due to his injury but retirement was not that far away, with his bones starting to creak. He had gone through life without a second thought for his actions, or the hurt he had caused over many decades, but he was now reflective on his lifestyle. He lived alone, cooked for himself and had not been with a woman for ages. It was now difficult to satisfy one woman, talk less of the three or four he had juggled in his distant past. Playa? He couldn’t even be a coach.
Night clubs wetin? Always bad for fifty something year old men to be hanging out in places like that. What would his old age be like? Like that of other playas? Would the memories of the women he had used and discarded keep him warm? Feed him?
Over the days he was kept at the detention centre, Segun dredged every incident, every woman, and every encounter in his life to the fore. He finally remembered Ebele, whom he had met at a fashion show at the University where he was a judge. The chase, the jokes he was an expert in, the sexual trysts, her laughter, her intelligence, his rapid boredom, his actions in getting rid of her. For the first time since a teenager, he was ashamed of whom he had become. This unfeeling man, who lacked emotional intelligence, had morphed his thoughts around in the most challenging of conditions. Playas have a shelf life, an expiry date. The joke about why his parents had not circumsised him for the pleasure of only one woman, had long worn thin.
Segun blinked in the bright sunlight as he limped out, after being freed fifteen days later. He looked haggard, was unwashed and stank as he wondered how to get home to Agege. A car horn sounded and as he looked at the vehicle, saw Ebele sat in it. He went over to her and leant over the door.
Before she spoke, he said ‘I now understand how much I hurt you, how your life has been in turmoil since the day we clapped eyes on each other. Maybe you think I deserve the punishment you have given me by locking me up. I deserve it. They say people shouldn’t have regrets but I now do. I gave broken hearts and minds to my ex wives, girlfriends and children. Maybe there is time to make amends, maybe not but I will try starting with you, Ebele. I am so sorry’ There were tears in his eyes as he spoke. Ebele too began to cry as she passed over his walking cane. ‘Do you want a ride to your home?’ She asked.
‘No, my life’s new journey begins here by walking up the road and finding a taxi.’
‘Ok’ she responded ‘Segun, I forgive you’
‘Thanks and bless you’ he replied as he began walking. An aged playa who was no longer one but a man in every sense.
Be respectful of the elderly for they have gone on a journey that others will go but boy oh boy, the journeys a lot of these middle aged playas have gone through!