This life! By Ibrahim Malumfashi
‘Peace unto the dwellers of this house. Are you in?’
A voice from outside the room echoes.
‘Peace is unto you also,’ it was a voice of an 8 year old child from within.
She entered inside the parlor, stood aghast when she saw a child without shirt looking at her.
‘Oh, there is nobody in the house but you?’
‘There is somebody, or do you think I am nobody?’ He answered innocently.
‘Peace to you, I am not here for angry words, I am just asking!
‘Okay oh, you mean to say words are classified into angry and merry ones? I don’t know, I am here alone taking care of the house.’
‘Please shut up! How can you take care of a house when you yourself is in need of a care taker, you must be mad.’
‘Mad, me? I am too young to indulge in that, which is the prerogative of adults or civil servants?’
Amazed; ‘why do you refer to civil servants as mad people?’
‘I heard that from my Dad. He always insists all civil servants are mad people. According to him it is foolhardy to receive monthly salary of N30, 000 while you need N60, 000 to feed your family.’
‘I am not sure I get you here, what is the rational thing to do?’
‘Let me highlight it fully for you. My Dad is of the opinion that monthly stipends collected by civil servants is akin to suicide, collecting it and keeping quite is hypocrisy.’
‘What then is the sane thing to do in this situation’, she said, finding a place to sit.
‘It is better for me to be called a thief than a mad person!’ He replied.
‘What! That is insane! A thief is not human.’
‘Is a mad person human then?’ He retorted back.
‘A mad person is better than a thief, what are you implying?’
‘Me? I will never accept peanut from any government to work for it, I am not a slave’.
‘Come one that is not slavery that is your worth?’
‘Half pay, no that is not my entitlement? I hope you are not in tow of the train of the mad people also?’
‘Are you insane, are you calling me a mad woman?’ She said, raising her voice.
‘Okay, take it cool, I am not referring to you as a mad person. But please tell me, you must be a civil servant also?’
‘Yes, I am one, so what?’ She shouted back.
‘Nothing…hmmmm,’ He replied childishly.
‘Please tell me, I won’t be angry with you again.’
‘It is okay, I have forgiven you. I am sure you are here to ask of a small favor as usual. Well let me tell you, the little that remains of the Gari is nowhere to be found. Dad just yesterday threw the small nylon bag inside the ceiling, after tying it well inside a bowl, for safe keeping.’
‘Why?’ She asked bewildered.
‘That is his tradition; he insists no more Gari soaking till close to the end of the month.’
‘Why? He must be mad!’
‘Yes he is!’ He answered.
‘Did I hear you right?’
‘Yes he is mad!’
‘Are you calling your Dad a mad person?’
‘Is it not you that prompted to say he must be mad?!’
‘Oh, I see. I am not here for drama. I come to fetch a little water, our taps and pots are dry for long.’
‘It is as if you are half deaf! There is nobody in the house. My older ones are right now at the market square where a public pipe is leaking to see if they scrum a jerry can, hours now they are not back.’
‘Is your pump also faulty like ours?’ She inquired.
‘No, no, not all. Mom always say to us, we never really have a pump in the house, the last time a drop was seen from the tap, since my younger sister’s weaning ceremony, that was 6 months ago.’
‘Where is your Mom then?’
‘She just strolled out to the commercial grinding machine area to find out what is keeping my older brother Kabir for the last 6 hours; I have not seen either of them.’
‘There must be a reason why your brother Kabir is this late?’
‘Of course, I know. I told Mom not to expect him until around 8 in the evening, but she laughed off and left.’
‘She must be worried that the grinding is taking this long, she needs to prepare food early.’
‘That is in order! What she doesn’t know is the almighty NEPA will not supply this side until about 7 in the evening and by that time the grinding woman must be in the Church praying, she will not be at home till around 8 PM. I know the itinerary.’
‘What if she wanted to tell him to go and grind the corn somewhere where NEPA is not a threat?!’
(Smiling),’ There is only one single grinding machine in our neighborhood that does not depend on NEPA; and yesterday when we were playing around, I heard Iya Tawakaltu telling her daughter, Tawa, that she should inform their father when he is back from the Mechanic Village she has gone to the mechanics to pick her grinding machine that was there for repairs.’
‘How comes at this your age you are so precocious?’
‘It is just the school of life, nothing else!’
‘You are confusing me, is that the name of your school, life?’
(Smiling profusely) ‘Ma’am, I am not yet ripe for school!’
‘What is preventing you from attending school?’
‘Why are you in the habit of lying; why would your father prevent you from schooling?’
‘Where is the money? Imam, my eldest brother is in the University. Maijidda, his younger sister is in the college. Isa, my other brother is right now in Primary school. Every term my father must cough out about N90, 000 for their fees. That is why he decided I take a rest. I have been resting since then.’
‘What do you mean, just because other siblings are studying, will that prevent your father from enrolling you?’
‘It seems to me as if you have not been to school yourself?’
‘Why do you say that?’
‘Let me ask you 30,000 times 3, how much is that?’
‘90, 000,’ she replied.
‘How many months do we have in a term, don’t even bother to answer, 3 months ko? Have you forgotten that Father earns N30, 000 per month?’
‘Is your Father so useless that he can’t afford to do any other thing to supplement his income?’
‘Then what is the challenge?’
‘I don’t know!’
‘A boy like you this intelligent, I am sure you know? Why don’t you tell me how he can supplement his income?’
‘There is only one thing he can do,’ He said shyly.
She rose from her seat in anger. ‘Stealing? No my son! You mean theft?’
Smiling sarcastically; ‘is it a crime to steal?’
‘Stealing is a crime my son!’
‘If it is, why then do we see on the Telly various sizes of Ghana-Must-Go exchanging hands on the floor of the National Assembly?’
Silence all round.
‘What is wrong, why are you silent?’ He prodded.
‘Why are you crying, are you bitten by an ant, why the tears?’
She wiped away the tears with a portion of her wrapper, she managed just few words.’ It is nothing, I just pity you.’
‘Pitying me, come on don’t worry, nothing will happen to me, my Dad always assure me that nothing will happen to us little ones from the madness of this administration’
‘It amazes me with the way you use words as if you are an adult?’
‘My father taught me all these!’
‘You mean your father is teaching you all these?’
‘Yes and many more. I told you I have not been to four walls of any school. All my schooling is from life! This is a just a tip of iceberg. Yesterday I heard him saying how he wishes that the world will come to an end, soon. I hear him calling on God to declare the end of the world, anytime. I also heard him saying our leaders are the most unscrupulous people he has ever come across. I heard him shouting, we don’t have leaders but looters, cheaters, hoodlums and thieves of the highest order. When I confronted him on all these….’
She couldn’t wait to hear more, she said. ‘I concur, we are in so many disorders.’
‘No I don’t think so. Ours is just one thing! He added!
‘Poverty, what do you mean?
‘Lack of Naira, you mean you don’t understand that? I mean abject poverty.
‘I am not sure I follow you on that!’
‘You liar! He shouted.’
‘Don’t be a fool you naughty…. Are you saying I am lying?’
‘No, not all! My father always tells me who ever do not know about stinging poverty in this country, must either be a liar or a mad person.’
‘Why is your father teaching you all these?’
‘To make me ready for future eventualities.’
‘Like what and what?’
‘Challenges of life!’
‘But he is around to help you out, why?’
‘He always tells me that even if he is dead, I will be up to the task.’
‘What is it that will kill him?’
‘Challenges of life, like armed robbery; kidnappings; prostitution; adultery; fornication and lesbianism. Include killings and destructions; corruption and aggrandizement; so many challenges….
(Sighing, he heard her talking to herself). ‘May God pour curses on these useless leaders. May God destroy the destroyers of innocent souls like this one. May God put them in the same tests as many of us are in. Oh God, if they are going to change their then ways bring succor to them, if not kill them. Kill every one amongst them!’
‘Why are you praying for destruction also, have you enrolled into our school?’ He said smiling.
‘School of life!’
‘Bastards!’She said once again.
(Laughing). You are sounding just like Dad.’
‘May God curse all of them! How I wish I can locate where God is hiding that trumpet, I would have blown the damn thing; let the world ends today. Useless leaders!’
She picked her headgear, at the door she said to him, ‘tell your Mom I was here and if there is any remnant of tuwo she should send it to us. We have not eaten since morning.
‘I will tell her.’ She left. He sat there alone ruminating.‘ This woman must be mad. If Mom gives them the remnant, on what are we going to survive?’