I took a short vacation and travelled west. It was an impromptu decision I took after reading the last letter from Uncle Goke. I felt homesick. I was done with every academic activity except for my clearance that would be done before the NYSC programme. The only people I told about my journey were Oga Dan and the Manager of Vita Logistics. DJ Slam was away on political rally; he mobilised bodyguards for some politicians and had to be on ground to keep his dogs under tight leashes.
My first point of call was at Mr Goke’s house at Ibadan, a four-bedroom bungalow with a two-room boys quarters at Apata area of the city. He lectured at the sociology department of the University of Ibadan. He also owned two hectares of land along old Ife road where he farms. He went there on public holidays and weekends.
He was visibly surprised at the transformation he saw in me. I had grown taller and muscular compared to how I was five years before.
His first child, Oluwayemisi, had gained admission into the University of Ife and was away at school when I came. The son was in final year in secondary school, and the wife runs a Grocery shop built at the front of his house.
When I got there, I helped out the little way I could. I was with Madam at her shop after all morning chores, and Mr Goke had gone to work and the son to school. Madam left the shop at mid-day to the popular Dugbe market to replenish her stock. I was with the two paid sales girls she employed at the shop. Customers were trooping in and out of the shop from morning till evening. It was more hectic in the evening because the house was strategically located at a junction of three streets and as such returnees from work made their last-minute purchases at the shop before getting to their homes after the days’ activities.
Mr Goke had three cars in his compound- the Mitsubishi L200 Van used by the wife for her business, a Toyota RAV 4 used privately by the wife and a Toyota Camry 2. 2 used by him. I was proud of him as he had steadily climbed up the success ladder over the years. In fact, he had even developed a budding pot belly. He neither drank alcohol nor smoked but he entertained me with my Ultimate Lager when I came around. His wife sold chilled beverages in her shop.
I got to his house on a Thursday evening; I rested on Friday though I helped out at Madam’s shop then on Saturday we went to the farm with his son, Gbadebo. When we got to the farm, we changed into farm clothes. I wore an old cloth of his though it was undersized. It suited the purpose; we went plucking ripe maize and cutting down the stem of the plant. We later went to the Wife’s Garden and plucked ripe Okra, pepper, and vegetables. The harvest was reasonably large because the back of the Mitsubishi Van we went with was full.
After working for three hours, we settled down and roasted some fresh maize. We made a big fire and threw the maize in it without peeling off the husk. The fire cooked and roasted the maize, and then we peeled off the burnt husk, revealing well-cooked and delicious fresh maize grain. I ate six ears of maize and I was full. We drank from the chilled water bottle we brought from home before proceeding on the second round of work which was tidying up the farm and the area we cooked. We gathered all the maize stems that we cut down and the husks of the maize we ate and kept them on a plain ground to dry up for burning by the next visit to the farm. This would allow enough air into the farmland for other crops to thrive.
We got back home around 4:00 PM and went to offload our harvest at Madam’s shop. She immediately displayed the maize and vegetables in smaller portions on a table outside her shop. She sold off everything before retiring into the house at 8:00 PM. People returning home from work in the evening bought off the fresh farm produce. Madam shared the proceeds of the sale into two and gave her husband a portion. That is how they live their lives; there was mutual love and understanding. Uncle Goke then gave Gbadebo his pocket money out of the money. He offered me some money, but I declined. He was feeding me free of charge already. I owe this man my status today.
I left for Ijan, Ekiti on Saturday morning to return to Ibadan in four days before going back to the east.
My house was as I had left it. I had to break the padlock because I had lost the key. I got there at 9:00 AM and started to clean up until the afternoon. There were dust and thick cobwebs all over the place. I opened all doors and windows as I cleaned
Villagers came around when they noticed that someone was in the house. Everyone that saw me screamed out their surprise at how much I have grown over the years. My physical features had changed, save for my face. I left as a boy and returned as a man.
On Monday morning I went to my land. The two plots given to me by the community some years back. It has been left uncared for all this while and had been overgrown by trees and weed. I decided to keep myself busy while at home by clearing the land and fencing it.
I went around my home town. Some of the old butchers were still alive and selling. I saw some urchins on standby waiting for the butchers to throw something away. I greeted the butchers; they were happy to see me. The old women that sold vegetables and fruits remembered me and prayed for me as I gave them some money.
I went to greet Modupe’s Landlord “Baba Landlord”, who happened to be my namesake. Another tenant had taken over Modupe’s house. He was very surprised by my transformation. He asked if I ever ran into any member of Modupe’s family. I said no. He sent some fresh curses to them where ever they were, and I said, “Amen”.
Akin, Modupe’s boyfriend years back came to my house the next day Tuesday. I was at my plot of land working in the company of Tunde, a young Lad that was born just before I left for secondary school years back. He was the grandson of Baba landlord and had taken an immediate liking to me. He saw me going out of my house with my cutlass in the morning and had run to pick up his own cutlass to join me; he thought I was going to farm. He was named Babatunde then because he was born a day after his father died. The pregnant mother had cardiac arrest during her labour due to high blood pressure which had led to the caesarean section that produced him. He had been with his grandfather since then. He did not suck his mother’s breast. Baba Landlord has three daughters while in active service. His wife had died of cancer several years back, and he lost his first daughter who gave birth to Tunde. The other two daughters were in their husbands’ houses.
Things were not too rosy for Akin. His influential father had died six years back, and his wealth shared amongst relatives. Akin did not get much. He had graduated about three years back but was yet to get a job. None of his father’s acquaintances could help him. He had believed so much that his father’s connections would pave the way for him. He was disappointed in the city, so he had come back home to farm. And since he could not farm alone, he had put a young girl in the family way; at least, life must go on! He had said.
He apologised to me for taking sides with Modupe years back when we had a quarrel. He said Modupe and her family had relocated to Lagos with my money. Modupe gained admission into the University of Lagos to study secretariat studies while the mother shuttled between Nigeria and Dubai for business. He said they lived in Amuwo Odofin estate. He could not continue his relationship with Dupe after the death of his father because he was short of cash and could not continue to service the extravagant lifestyle he was living with Dupe. He was ashamed of himself as Modupe was then a Lagos girl with high taste and expectations.
He went to my house to get a cutlass, and together, the three of us worked on my land until the evening. We retired to my house and took our baths. I sent Tunde to buy a gallon of palm wine from “Baba Elemu”, the wine Taper. We sat outside the house on the terrace drinking and gisting, and before long there were about ten youths drinking and gisting. Baba Landlord joined us later with an additional gallon of freshly tapped wine.
Akin reminded the small forum to stop referring to me as Bolaji but Engineer. He told them it was not a small feat to achieve while Baba landlord went into a storytelling session about the white man’s technology called engineering. He held the listeners spellbound with lies that sounded like facts to my hearing.
Baba landlord was a police officer that had worked in several Cities before retiring in Lagos as a superintendent. He built his houses while still in service, and till date, his detractors said he built the houses out of bribe money called “egunje”
Every time he told a lie that surprised the small audience, and they exclaimed their disbelief, he told them to confirm from me. I simply said “beeni” it is so! Everyone was high on palm wine and would not remember the discussion by the next day. Akin was just enjoying himself laughing at their gullibility.
By Friday, the two plots of land were cleared. My friends that came to drink at my house all turned up with their Machetes the next morning, and we descended on the land, cutting down and uprooting trees. Of course, at night we drank ourselves into the night again, and this time, there was bush meat and some village girls too to spice up the forum. Three girls joined us from nowhere. These were girls that have had at least two kids in their father’s house and were ready to go home with any man as long as you could buy them drink and food and give them a little change to fend for their Kids.
I called a bricklayer to build a fence around the two plots of land while I contracted a local welder to build a gate for me. He was happy to charge me half of the amount I had expected to be charged for the job.
There were no more innocent girls in the village. All the little girls I left in the village had become baby mamas to some elusive boys. They roamed the village with their babies strapped to their backs while their boyfriends eke out their living by riding commercial motorcycles in Ado Ekiti, the capital City. Their only hope was to be married eventually to a widower or to be the second wife to a local rich farmer. It was sad to see how low our girls had degenerated.
They were shy to come to my house for fear of being ridiculed by the elderly, especially Baba Landlord, who has made my veranda his resting place in the afternoon, drinking palm wine until evening.
The new house built for me after the Alabi’s gang incident had an extended terrace where one could sit and relax while watching passers-by as they go to or return from their farms or market. It was a four-bedroom bungalow built with modern architecture and the first of its kind in my village. The floors of all the rooms were tiled wall to wall; the walls of the kitchen and the convenience rooms were all tiled. A well was also dug at the back of the house during the construction of the house. I bought a pumping machine and mounted a GP tank so that I could have access to water in my house as the plumbing job was properly done by the builders. I also bought some electronic gadgets and a medium-sized power generator to augment the inherent epileptic power supply. So, my house was always full whenever there was a power outage while an important programme was being telecast on TV, especially football matches.
My villagers were poor people, as we were basically peasant farmers. Money was very scarce, and on seeing the way and manner in which I was living in the village, they thought I was a rich man. Apart from those very close to me, none knew much about my life achievement and what I had been through in life. They saw the young boy that was given money by community and government years ago, a young boy that was given scholarship to university level and a good job waiting for him. So, they came to me with varied problems.
Some widows would come to my house very early in the morning to beg for money to feed or pay their children’s school fees. Some young baby mamas would stalk me till I was alone or when I am with Tunde alone. Then, they would fall on their knees, begging for assistance to start a business that could help them carter for their children’s needs. Many of the baby mamas had learnt one trade or the other but needed money to buy sewing machines, weaving machines, hair drier; the list was endless. I was helping everyone that came to me for help, and the news went viral throughout the Village and neighbouring communities that a philanthropist has arrived.
It was Baba landlord that spoke some senses to me.
“My son!” He had said while we were seated outside my house drinking palm wine mixed with legend extra stout. “A fool and his money are soon parted!”
“Meaning what, sir?” I asked.
“Our people are not good! They will milk you dry! In the end, when you are broke, they will say “we wonder what the fool did with his money”! It is good to help people; it is very, very good! But you must help yourself first! Not all of these people that come to you for help actually need help! Some are pathologically lazy and have refused to help themselves because they leach on people like you!”
“Have you started working?”
“No, sir!” I replied
“Then why are you spending money on people like you are working and your salary is in seven digits? And from my findings, you have not even gone for your NYSC programme!”
“Yes, I have not gone, sir!” I replied
You worked hard to train yourself in school. You disciplined yourself to save up some money! Not so?”
“That is correct, sir!”
“How many of these villagers that you are dashing out your money to would do what you are doing, having gone through what you have been through in life? Our people say that “it is the oily fingers that people will lick with you! Not the bloodied one” when you were toiling, no one was there! That is why you see that I buy my palm wine while coming to sit down here with you! I hate parasitic human beings! They will ruin you! For your information, my finding is that most of these villagers did not even know that you lost everything to Modupe and her mother; they did not know that you lost the scholarship due to the bank collapse years back! When they come to you, they come with the mindset of reaping from what the government has planted in one of theirs! They say it is government money! Our money!”
“Jesu Christi o!” I shouted. I was shocked.
“Look! I am a pensioner in this village, but nobody can come to me for any yeye help because we know ourselves. How can you come to me for money when I know you have a well-to-do son in Lagos or in Port Harcourt? How can you come to me when I had seen you and warned you to stop frolicking with a never-do-well boy that keeps pressing your breast under the orange tree every night until he impregnated you and left the village to ride Okada in Ado Ekiti? I know something about everyone in this village. That does not mean I do not help o! I do! I help those hospitalised that needs genuine financial assistance. I help those in need and not those in want!”
“Ha! Baba, I am short of words”, I said.
“Don’t worry, my son!” He said. “Just be cautious and learn to sometimes say no!”
My money was, indeed running low. It was time to leave the village. I had planned spending a week in the village, but I ended up spending two months. Village life was very exciting especially when you have some money in your pocket.
I gave Akin some money to start a small business. He wanted to go into trading cocoa. I reminded him to be careful not to end up like the legendary Alabi. I gave Baba Landlord some money too, but he refused until I told him it was for Tunde’s education and upkeep. He collected it and prayed for me. He said he felt he owe me something. He said he had gone to Lagos severally to help track down my mother to no avail before he gave up hope. He asked if she ever contacted me. I said I never met her and if I do I would not have known. He said there are things he needed to tell me about her, but I told him I was not interested, I told him to take care of Tunde. I had agreed with him that Tunde will move in with me immediately I settle down. That was when he told me that “a man can never fully settle down until the day he dies”!