The sun was shining brightly above the sky on the high way heading towards the capital. Leaving the high way behind, on getting to the second roundabout to the capital, a luxurious bus stopped so passengers could alight.
After the second roundabout to the capital, by the left a tall building -Bank of the North, Kano was the first impression Ndu had things would be fine. The bus moved further into town and passed by the central market and finally stopped at New Road. The rest of the passengers climbed down and went their respective destinations. Ndu boarded a cab and left for the orientation camp.
At the end of the three week orientation, he was posted to his place of primary assignment. At Oduma street Sabon Gari, Kano, where the establishment secured a room for him, he was lying in the bed listening to a popular old rhythm and blues from his small transtor radio:
Babe I love you so (much)
I want you to know…
I promise you love…
He was restless in the bed, he turned from here to there and stared at the ceiling. He sat on the bed trying to focus his thought, and came out of the one room into the backyard.
Now, on the street of Oduma on this warm evening with one of the area lad who ran the street; Pali, for that was his name. Both could be of the same age.
“Pali, how na?” Ndu asked with a mixed feeling.
“I dey,” he replied and queried, “you are not looking fine this evening. Anything the matter?”
“Nothing. It’s just change of environment,” returned Ndu.
“Let’s walk down to Zak Avenue. There we can have some chilled drink,” suggested Pali.
They made towards Zak Avenue, popular with its many joints. Along the street one could see one or two joint(s) with white plastic chairs arranged in fours to a table. They moved to the most popular joint and sat down respectively. Few girls hung around here; girls ranging from eighteen to twenty five years of age.Two were sitting on the chairs while other lay on the mats in the corridor. Ndu wondered what those girls were upto. They were not looking wretched in any form.
A fair complexioned lady in skimpy red top and black jean trouser walked upto them and took their request.
“Star beer and you, Ndu?” Asked Pali.
“Gulder, a bottle of Gulder will do,” replied Ndu.
The fair complexioned lady disappeared into the inner room and re-appeared with two bottles of chilled drink and a packet of straw on a tray to their table.
“Get me a packet of B and H,” demanded Pali.
“Okay,” she went for the cigarette.
People were going about their business, and never seemed to be distracted by those who had taken seats that early evening to have some drinks. The fair complexioned lady emerged again with the packet of cigarette and offered it to Pali. He picked a stick from the packet. The lady left as they began to savour their chilled drink in the warm evening.
“You see, the rich have whatever they desire at their disposal,” Pali sipped his beer and dragged on his cigarette, “they send their children to the best schools or overseas’ schools. Some of these girls here are drop-outs. They could not further and this is where they ended up.”
“Not furthering their education does not mean they should end up here, in a joint. It’s a sign of laziness,” Ndu countered, sipping some beer.
“Madam, get us two plates of Isi ewu.” Pali called out to the woman preparing Isi ewu and continued, ” there are no jobs. That’s why you find these girls here, in a beer parlor.”
The Isi ewu was a delicacy of goat head. The madam brought them to the table, and served them herself. And she would collect her money instantly.
“Oh. I almost forgot you were waiting for the money.” Pali said and brought out a bundle of crisp notes from his trouser pocket and gave the woman her money. She left. Ndu raised his eyebrows, “How come?”
“How come what?”
“The bundle of money.”
“Never mind? But you don’t have a job.”
“Man has to survive,” emphasized Pali, “I hustle. I survive by hustling on the streets.”
Ndu stared at him suspiciously.
“I sell…” Pali ran his index finger across his nose, proclaiming his kind of business.
“Do your folks know that’s what you do?”
Pali shook his head, “No. None of my friends either, that’s reason why I have been trying to distance myself from them.”
“Who introduced you into the business?”
“It’s one of my men,” he downed his beer and demanded for additional bottles, “please, more beers.”
Pali smoked and puffed at his cigarette when more bottles were placed on the table. Lisa, a dark complexioned lady well acquainted with Pali joined them. Pali introduced her to Ndu and both exchanged pleasantries.
“What would you like to drink?” Pali asked with a meek smile.
“You know my brand so there’s no point asking.” She stood up to get her stout drink from the bar tender over the counter.
After two bottles of beer, Ndu became tipsy and resisted the third one while Pali continued to drink like a fish. The place was densely crowded by now and the ladies seemed to be attached to each table in the joint.
Night had fallen and well spent. Pali brought out the bundle of money and gave some to Ndu. Lisa later joined them with a friend of hers, a fair complexioned lady. Pali settled the bill and off they went down the street. The motorcyclists were scarce on the road; it was late and a few minutes to midnight.
Along the road down the street, the four of them were stopped by some policemen on duty.
“Stop! Hey, Stop there! From where?” one of the policemen asked, his riffle clutched in both hands like one ready to pull the trigger.
“Officer, we were coming from the joint,” asserted Pali.
“At this time of the night?” Barked the policeman.
“It’s your friend, you know me na, officer.” Declared Pali.
“You will have to explain to my Oga first.”
“It’s me, Pali.”
“I know, but you will identify yourself first to my Oga.” He directed them to his boss towards the parked pick-up van. The boss was quite paunchy; depite the buttoned up shirt, the belly jutted out.
“Identify yourselves,” shouted the paunch. Ndu produced his id card.
“You go sleep inside cell dis night. Na id card we go chop?” Hinted the paunchy officer.
Ndu withdrew and overhead Pali arguing with him, “You look me finish, na dis change you wan give?”
“I’m sorry, officer,” begged Pali.
“Sorry for yourself,” retorted the paunchy officer.
Pali settled with him and they were allowed to leave. The first police man was holding back the two ladies and Ndu.
“You may allow them go.” Shouted the paunchy officer.
Pali jogged Ndu’s back and they trotted off with the ladies. Pali never felt any ire against the men in uniform in such a time.
At a T-junction where the roads met or diverged, a lodging house stood by along the right side of the street; they stepped into the lobby. A uniformed receptionist was over the counter and a bit drowsy.
“We need two rooms for the night,” said Pali, “upstairs.”
The uniformed receptionist brought out her record book and scribbled down the details she had obtained, and led them upstairs.
Ndu first got to his room when they saw the room’s number on the wall above the door. He bade Pali and Lisa farewell. Inside the damp smelling room, he sat on the bed while the fair complexioned lady stared round the grubby room. They climbed onto the bed; light switched off, and decended to quenching their amorous desires. Going on and on. Then, they slept off. Inside Pali’s room, he dropped his peddling ring on the table beside the bed and engaged Lisa in a wild cravings.
Since Pali started his peddling of coke, he had had no permanent place of living. He could only come around his parents abode, slept or stayed for a while. He was fond of Ndu, because Ndu hailed from his maternal home. Ndu wondered if the NDLEA men had not marked Pali all the while. A fellow named Dankano had introduced Pali to the main man – Sarko who fronted for the king pins. Sarko saw Pali was competent for the job and accepted him as his peddler.
Although, Pali had gone ealier on to a medicine man at a near by village in Kano for the medicine man to fortify him for the task ahead. When he got to the medicine man’s place, there were a lot of people waiting to see the medicine man. He took a bold step forward and sat down. No going back since he had decided to come forth. The queue continued till it got to his turn. He stepped in the room. It had a mixed smell of incense, and cigarette the medicine man was smoking. Though, the cigarette was lying on a heap of ashes of previously smoked cigarettes as the smoke drifted up a corner of the room. The medicine man offered Pali a seat opposite his and he sat down.
“What can we do for you, mister man?” the medicine man had asked him.
“Em… I want you to help me,” announced Pali, “I was employed by a syndicate to help them peddle some snuff and I want you to fortify me for the task ahead.”
The medicine man consulted his oracle by casting seven pieces of cowrie shells on the floor and scrawled a few lines on the floor with a clay.
“You will have to buy a white cock, a white ram, three cobra’s eggs and three eggs of an eagle. You will be around by midnight so we can go together to Baja hill.”
Pali had frightened when he heard the medicine man mention Baja hill. The hill was renowned for evil of all sorts. The medicine man emphasized it was vital he was around, and the sooner the better.
“But I can not get some of those items myself. I’m afraid,” muttered Pali.
“In that case you drop your money so we get into business. My assistant will get all those items by tomorrow.” Promised the medicine man as he dragged his cigarette, that had got to its butt, for the first time.
Pali brought out a bundle of money from his inner left jacket pocket and dropped the money in the calabash bowl on the floor after the medicine man had told him the changes for the charm.
“I take my leave now. Till tomorrow.”
“Okay, safe journey, and remember the earlier, the better.”
He came out of the smoky room and left behind few people waiting to see the medicine man. He walked down the dirt road to the tarred road. People living around the vicinity were staring at him as he walked, perhaps, they had the impression he had gone to see the medicine man.
The next day, the place was a bit crowded by prospective fortune seekers. The assistant to the medicine man saw him as he approached the house. Most medicine men had their shrines outside, but here was one in his smoky room where he consulted his oracle and would drag his cigarette at intervals. The assistant took him to a corner and the medicine man saw him briefly and he was told the charm had begun save the white ram and cock that would be slaughtered in his presence after which they would proceed to Baja hill at midnight.
Five minutes to midnight they were at Baja hill track road. The medicine man was leading the way, followed by Pali and the assistant respectively. At the entrance, the guard had allowed them entrance after they had bribed their way through.
On a spot that looked like it ham received that gone to the great beyond, the medicine man dug the frozen ground. He brought out a sack and then placed it into the dug spot after some incantation and invocation had been chanted and invoked by the medicine man, he ran sandstones over it.
“They shall not harm you. Any place there is danger you shall not be present. When it comes, you shall be a minute ahead of those seeking to harm you.” He ran sandstones over the spot again. “When danger is in the front you shall be behind. If behind you shall be in the front.” He ran sandstones over the spot the third time and backed out.
As they walked down the hill towards the exit, Pali wondered what would have happened to the carcasses of the ram and cock the medicine man had slaughtered before they left for the hill.
An owlish shrillness was heard as they left the guard and Baja hill. Pali looked haggard as they boarded a taxi they had hired, to the medicind man’s place. He was perplexed as police men were not on check points, who would always be on the road at night at strategic points. They climbed down from the taxi and paid the man off. He maundered along with the duo to the medicine man’s house. He brought out a ring and gave Pali.
“After your bath, put this ring on when leaving for the peddling.” He cautioned and cleared his throat. “It’s potency will last when you do not sleep with a woman while wearing the ring. Is that understood?”
“Yes Baba.” Pali collected the ring and inserted it in his index finger.
“One more thing, always remember to renew it every six months.”
The medicine man persuaded him to sleep in his place, but he insisted he was going that early morning for he was pertinacious that moment. And off, he was spurred on to his destination after he had bade goodbye to the medicine man and his assistant.
The road was clear for there were no police again as the spunky cyclist speeded up along the deserted road.