There are people who ask me why I don’t meet boys anytime I travel. Why does it have to be a girl? Why does it have to be a fine girl? Why does it have to be a girl with glasses? Why does it have to be a girl on natural hair? Honestly, I don’t know. The simple truth is, I don’t seek these things out. I don’t seek anything out really. Things just seem to work out themselves most of the times. All things work together for good for them that love God, sawa? But maybe I know. And maybe it is intention. For example, if I am in a strange place and there are two girls and two boys hanging around and I am supposed to meet one of them and ask for directions, unless my village people are with me, I will definitely go and meet the girl. It is not because of any pervert reason. It is just what it is. I am sure the psychologists in the house will know why that is. It is not a bad thing. There is nothing evil about wanting to meet someone of the opposite sex. Even the first man saw the first woman and did not hesitate. He called her bone of his bone and gave her a name quickly. So why should I, descendant of the first man not take after my ancestor?
When I went to Niger state for the first time, I did not have the intention of meeting anybody really and I did not. Of course there was the little girl that sat beside me during the over ten hours journey but really, you can’t really call that a meeting, can you? It is true that if it was a small boy that was sitting beside me, I may not have noticed him throughout the whole ten hours journey and the poor boy would have suffered from lack of attention. But it was a girl and it was a good girl.
The second time I went to Niger, I went to lock myself up. I did not want to meet anyone and I did not even want to do much going out. I went there basically to read and reflect. I think I achieved that, only with a plus. I met a good friend. His name: Okehi. Yes, he is a male. Praise God, right?
Okehi is my father’s friend really, not mine. But then, when you are living alone with your father for two weeks, his friends tend to be your friends. They come around when he is not around and when you tell them he is not around, they sit down and turn you into their friends. It does not matter whether or not you like them or want to be their friend. They have already befriended you while you were not paying attention. Done deal.
But with Okehi, it did not happen like this. It happened slowly and calmly. Me and Okehi observed each other and I am not sure who decided to take the first step, whether it was me or him. But life happened and we ended up being friends, or so I think.
After spending some days with him, I started observing my father and Okehi and I began writing about Okehi. I planned to write a blog post on him, only him, and title it, A Man Called Okehi. But then, Ilorin came and Enugu came and Okehi has faded from my memory. So instead of writing a separate post for Okehi, I am just going to incorporate those writings here. If you are thinking Okehi is some boring fifty year old man or some cheeky young guy, then you are wrong. I do not know Okehi’s age but put him around thirty-five. I do not know okehi’s age because I do not really care about his age. Okehi is ageless. You can relate with him as an old man and you will get along. You can relate with him as a youth and there will be no wahala. That is Okehi for you. And so it did not for once occur to me to ask my father for okehi’s age. But let us put him around thirty. He has a wife and two children.
Okehi and I started getting along when for a week, we did not have light in our house in Kuta, Niger. But that was not the first time I would hear about Okehi. I would hear about Okehi for the first time one afternoon when my father returned from work and started complaining to me about Okehi.
My father keeps complaining to me about Okehi. I do not know what the problem is. For my dad, Okehi is too arrogant and argumentative. I mean, he did not say it like that but those were the words his indirect speech ministered to me. I did not want to believe it. Okehi was a good man. I mean, this man saved me from being stolen in the market.
But then, it is true what they say. You can only hide character for so long; the annoying thing always rears its (ugly) head. Okehi’s character reared its ugly head the evening my sister called to tell dad that she and mum were fighting. I was seated under the tree watching videos on YouTube when Okehi comes. He meets some Hausa boys sitting on the bench in front of us. Okehi greets me and I respond softly and return to my videos. Soon, the Hausa boys leave.
Then Okehi asks if we met them there.
No, they joined us, I say.
Okehi frowns. I cannot see the frown because it is dark but I can hear it in his voice . His voice frowned with him.
If I were the one, I would have sent them away, he says. I would have given them an approach that would make them go away.
I look up from my phone to see if Okehi is making a joke. He is not. He is really serious. I look at him again and almost laugh. What he is thinking? That he can come from Okene in Kogi and claim tree rights here in Kuta, Niger? I am sad and angry. I am angry that Okehi did this. I am angry that he proved my father to be true. I knew my father did not lie but I did not want to see proof of the truth. I did not want Okehi to buttress my father’s words for him. But he did. He did and it irked me. I recoils back into quiet and my phone.
I am in the bathroom the next day when Okehi and my father start to talk. The sound of water splashing on my skin almost deafens me but I can make out their voices, and my father’s laughter. They are talking about the light.
They have not brought light for three days now. Okehi is angry, talking about how this kind of nonsense cannot happen in New Bussa, how it is quite “frustrating” and “disheartening” that three days to the presidential election, there is no light in a town like Shiroro which has a dam that generates power for half of the country.
My father says something and laughs. Okehi doesn’t. For Okehi it is always about winning, about being right. For him, every discussion is an argument, it is each man trying to state his own view of things and trying to make you see why his own view is “the” view. For Okehi, it is never about reason. Or perhaps it “is” about reason, just that for him reason is not subjecting a matter to much thinking or emotional process. For him, reason is always logical, always mathematical, always formulaic.
I dry myself in the bathroom and move on. Okehi’s voice is nowhere to be found. Father says he has gone to the mosque to pray. Yes, Okehi is a muslim. But you’d never know.
Okehi moves around with a stink of doubt and disbelief following him around like mess. He believes that there will be jungle action – ballot snatching – tomorrow and he believes that there will be jungle justice and he believes that they will not bring light. He is charging his phone with the power bank already and when my father tries to charge the power bank, he gives a snort of doubt. My father knows this and laughs. Okehi laughs too.
We are going to the market. On the way, we pass the signboard of the primary school. I am just noticing it for the first time and I make a mental note to visit there before I leave. Behind us, the rocky mountain stretches endlessly into the sky
On our fourth day of blackout, Micah comes around to talk politics with my dad. He is the one who tells us why we’ve not been having light. During the three days of our nonstop light, the people at the Shiroro dam had been trying to switch off the light but the control had spoilt so they could not switch off the lights. When on the third day, they finally fixed it and made to put the light off, the citizens of Gwada ambushed them and beat them up, sticks and blows and slaps and injuries. It was with that that the power people disconnected the light right from the dam and since then, they had not gone back to reconnect us.
I heard this story and I shook my head in anger. This same thing had happened last year. These Kuta people were so myopic in their thinking, always taking foolish actions without considering the consequences.
But then, this post is not even about Okehi. It is about another person entirely. It is about a girl, Precious. Precious from Unilorin.
I am writing this from Enugu. But before coming here, I was in Unilorin. I went to Ilorin with a couple of guys to meet with our friends with whom we were going to Enugu. Because our driver is extremely fast, we travelled from Ife to Ilorin in about two hours thirty minutes. Incredible. On getting there, we were famished. We were tired and hungry and wanted to just get to where we were going.
We got to Ilorin in the sun and after getting lost once or twice because we were depending on Google Maps, we found ourselves in the university. After settling down for one hour, we were restless. And we needed to eat. And our hosts were not around. We had to sort ourselves out.
We found ourselves in a restaurant where we ate yellow fufu and meat and then wished we had not eaten anything because an empty stomach is better than a confused stomach. After the unfortunate incident, we took a walk around the school. That was when we saw Precious. Precious was a friend of one of our guys. When he introduced her to us, she responded in a friendly manner, in a way that made me want to talk to her more, to ask her questions. And there was a smile with which precious talked. She would first smile and then she would talk. A smile preceded every speech. And then there was the laugh, the small knowing funny laugh that precious laughed anytime you said something funny. Precious was a beautiful girl. We all spoke with her and we all played together. We wanted to go to her hostel to see what her room looked like but precious has soldiers for gatemen so men are not allowed into her hostel. Owing to this fact, she decided to see us back to where our host lodged us instead. Precious trekked back with us and then went back to her own hostel. That was not the peak of it.
I knew precious was really precious when night came and hunger returned violently. Still no word from our hosts. We came together and decided that we had to find something to eat if we did not want to sleep on earth and wake up in heaven. And so we settled for bread and akara. One of us chatted up Precious and asked her where we could get akara. Instead of telling us that, she asked how many we were and then said she would get back to us. In about thirty minutes, Precious knocked on our door with her friend. She was carrying a sack and inside the sack was bread and akara and water for the nine of us that came from OAU. I did not know how much this meant until I finished eating and asked my friend how much we paid for the food and he said,
She did not collect anything.
She did not collect any money from us. She bought it for us.
And at that moment, I felt humbled. Precious fed nine strangers without asking for payment, without any hope of any reward. There is kindness in the human heart.
I am writing this because I am still awed that she spent about two thousand naira on us and because if not for Precious, perhaps I would not be able to write anything again in this life.
So Precious, this is my own small way of saying thank you. I know there is nothing we can do or say to return the favor but remember that you are immortalized in our hearts and our memories will never forget you. thank you for being lovely, for being beautiful. Thank you Precious.
PS. I am on my way back to Ife. I am coming back with a thousand stories. I will share a number of them here. I will write about Favour, the beautiful girl that stole my heart in Enugu. I will write about the Anang people of Akwa Ibom. I will write about Mary and Blessing and Chioma and our reunion after two years of separation. I will write about another Chioma, another Chioma entirely. I will write about the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus. I will write about the biggest library in this region. I will write and write and write. Until then, let me enjoy this long ride through River Benue. Bye bye.
5 thoughts on “Okehi and The Girl From Ilorin”
Another scintillating piece. Keep it up, Ajala.
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Thank you, Upje!
Wow,this is awesome. I enjoyed every bit of it.
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I enjoyed writing it too
nice one dear, may the ink never dry. i await your other stories.
also, we are grateful to Precious for not letting you starve.