Waking up in the mornings always brought back a lot of memories for me. The stench always brought me back to reality. I used to dream a lot back in the days; dreams of a better life. My siblings used to mock me when ever I mustered enough courage to tell them about it. I stopped telling them when I turned ten. It was obvious that my dreams were just dreams…
I am the last child in my family. My father has fifteen children and my mother is the proud mother of five of those children. I said proud because children seemed to be a thing of pride and joy to her back in the days. She had given birth to three children before she met my father. My father actually chased her out of the house because he was told that I was the result of an affair between my mother and his friend. My mother was always called an ‘ashewo’ because the women in our settlement believed that she slept with different men for money. They were not telling lies.
Our settlement was made up of a few ‘erections’. That’s what my siblings and I used to call them because they do not qualify to be called houses. The ‘rich men’ in the settlement were the fishermen and lumbermen. They could afford to build houses with thick mud and roofs or with strong wood and roofs. Painting of houses seemed like a taboo as no one bothered to do that. Most of our neighbors were homeless and some of them slept in canoes or any other surface they came across.
Our settlement is called ‘Ile Omo Eja’. This name used to crack me up from the moment I knew its meaning; Home of the children of fishes. A very ironic name indeed, as most homes couldn’t afford fish except during occasions when some fishermen would be benevolent enough to sell fish at a reduced cost.
Ile Omo Eja is located in Ebute Metta Suburb of Lagos State. I seriously doubt that we are on any map of the city because there is no form of development in the settlement. The government probably thinks that we are catered for by the gods of the sea because we are so close to them.
You see, Ile Omo Eja is that settlement you see when you are on the third mainland bridge; on the part that leads to the island from Yaba and its environs. I’m sure some of you look down and see a lot of asses up in d air defecating in the morning. Yes, that is Ile Omo Eja! We do not have good water, electricity does not exist, there are absolutely no roads and there are no toilets. We do not even have the popular ‘shalanga’ that other areas are blessed with. You also see a lot of wood, right? There, you have it. That is my beloved hood.
I was born into poverty. My mother was made “husbandless” and as a result homeless. My father took his legitimate children as he called them to live with him, rather to hawk for him. He is a very lazy person and so he used his children more than laborers. My other three siblings lived with our mother so she had to make ends meet. She did this by sleeping with the rich men in our neighborhood. In return, the lumberman let us sleep in his wood shed at night, the fishermen gave her fish and the molue and danfo drivers gave her money. My mother believed that if she could make money with her body then we should be able to do same. My older siblings used to hawk, help chop wood and my only sister used to sell her body to make money to buy beans for the ‘akara’ she sold.
My siblings didn’t want me to end up like them because I always showed my zeal to become a learned person. They gathered the little monies they earned and paid my way through primary and secondary school. My mother wasn’t happy with their decision because she believed that they were wasting their money.
When I woke up in the mornings, my only inspirations were my siblings and the sun. The sun always looked so beautiful when it rises from the water. I drew strength from the sun. It was the sun that also brought me teacher Simi. Teacher Simi is the best thing that has happened to me after my siblings. She was posted to my school for her national youth service corps. Unlike our other teachers, she was young, neat and spoke only perfect English. I liked being around her as she helped me with my studies a lot. I soon became the talk of my hood because of my impeccable English.
Teacher Simi volunteered to serve in my school. She said when ever she came back from the states, she used to look down on our settlement and feel sorry for the kids that grew up there. She used her money for the development of our small school. The one year she spent in the school brought about immense development. The NYSC had never posted corps members to out school because they didn’t know that it existed. Teacher Simi changed all that. She made them post more people there and she made sure that all of them put in their best towards the development of the school. When she was to pass out, she conducted an exam for all of us in our final year.
My siblings had told me that they didn’t have any money to further my education as they wanted to start saving money so we could move out of that environment. I lost all hope but I continued to pray to the God of teacher Simi. When I wrote the exam she set, I just did it so that I would not disappoint her. On the day of her graduation party as she called it, I cried my eyes out because I was going to miss her. I didn’t know that her God had a lot in stock for me. When I got there, she introduced me as her pride and joy and made me sit beside her on the high table. I was blushing more than words can explain. Towards the end of the occasion, she called out three people and I was one of them. We scored the highest in her test. She told the crowd that we were all going to receive scholarships from her. We were elated.
The shocker happened when she mentioned the kinds of scholarship. The other two students would go to any school of their choice and she would foot all their bills until they graduate. I, for coming out first was given a scholarship to any school abroad as long as I pass my SATs or to any school in Nigeria if I didn’t. I would also move to her house in Ikoyi as she wanted to keep an eye on my progress until I am ready to be independent. I actually fainted before she was done talking. I ran home to tell my siblings the good news. We were all very happy.
I moved to Ikoyi and my siblings came to stay with me in the mini flat that teacher Simi allocated to me in her father’s estate. She gave my brothers jobs and my sister started learning fashion designing. I passed my exams in flying colors and teacher Simi was elated. She got all my travel documents ready in a very short while.
I went to Ile Omo Eja with my siblings to visit our mother and we were treated like royalty. My mother was visibly glowing with pride and on that day I couldn’t feel any resentment towards her. We also went to introduce my sister’s fiancé to her. He is an engineer who saw her in the estate and vowed to marry her in spite of her past. My father who had denied me in the past also came to make demands of what I should buy for him on my way back from ‘Jant’.
Sitting down in this airport right now, all I can feel is gratitude. Whenever I see myself on any reflecting surface I smile. I have been polished and I now glow. My dark handsomeness is now evident. I have even started modeling and its all thanks to aunty Simi and her mighty God. The announcer has called us to start boarding. I’m off to get a better life.
Good Luck Patrick Jennifer!
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