by Olumodeji Shola
You paused for a second, with your legs stiffed and cramp with indecision; and your consciousness endlessly trying to keep pace with the cascade of event around you, as though you’ve lost touch of reality. Your eyes glisten with joy and an ‘out of this world’ feeling surged through you as it dawned on you that you just won the second runner up in the Goal.com Nigeria and University of Sussex #WritingGamesNG competition. You are baffled with the way life has turned out, some months back as you grappled with depression, you asked God why the ill fated event occurred. You questioned God’s existence; you probed into his all powerful and all knowing nature. Now, as you eyes squint from the glassy brightness of the award plaque, you begin to make sense of it all. Never had the idea crossed your mind that one day you would appreciate the way things turned out. Later it would occur to you that if the unfortunate day didn’t come, you wouldn’t have won the award, because you would have passed out of NYSC five month earlier and you would by then deemed ineligible to contest for the competition that brought the award.
But before there was order, then came chaos.
The year ended with a bang, with you grinning from ear to ear like a chesterfield cat that you’re the latest graduate in town. ‘What a relief’ you mumbled, heaving out multitude of pent-up stress and pressure well up in you. Like the trivialities of any Nigerian graduate, you did not hesitate to rush over to facebook to announce this feat, with garnishes of pictures and pinches of hash tag added to taste.
The post, as of the norm, was celebrated with an unusual number of likes, the highest you’ve had this year. In the comment, you were hailed as the freshest graduate in town, while others made it worthy of note to welcome you to the ‘favor’ market; a phrase Nigerians use to pet their ego and the escape from the harsh reality of unemployment in the labor market. You bristle with eagerness and enthusiasm, this time; because you thought the society is to do your biddings. Your unassuming, innocent and broke self thought the world is oyster, waiting for your every command. Little did you know that the Nigerian Society is like a recalcitrant crop pest ready to suck dry the juice (life) out of any crop (citizen)
So, you found a sales attendant job at a recharge card retail firm close to your neighborhood in Warri; because you needed a job to keep you engaged, prior to service in May. You met with owner, whom you discussed with, that you just needed a job for a short term considering you will be heading for service just four month from that time; even though, deep within you, you know that a more cogent reason was that your up-keep allowance had stopped since you’re now a graduate, hence you are dead broke. The owner in his infinite mercy, said in quick response that, ‘he is pleased that a graduate can come down his high horses and forget his pride to look for a work in his private business’. You were informed that you’d be given a chance if you can pass through a week of training. You subconsciously waved it off away, thinking what kind of training can be more stressful than going through the University of Benin. True to your word, you passed the training and you started work as soon as possible.
Some months later….
So, life happened. It happened when you discovered during post school clearance that you wouldn’t be going with your mate to service in May, it was a mistake that wasn’t your fault but that of the school, but yours to bear the brunt, because hey, this is Nigeria and that’s how it is done. You were heartbroken, you cannot fathom that you won’t be joining this batch as your mate are poised to awash social media with their khaki pictures. You try any means up your sleeves, even had to call some top shot you know in the school, but all efforts proved abortive. You finally rectified the issue but it was already too late. You had miss 2015 batch A and 2015 batch B is 5 months away, which means your stay in the work is extended. You don’t like it, because, there is this feeling you can’t place your fingers on, that tells you that there is an accident lurking in the dark anytime soon, waiting to raise up his ugly face and clutched open his hand in the coldest embrace ever.
The rude awakening….
It was an afternoon like any other, a day you’d be rudely awakened to the harsh reality. You saw your jaw drop; an icy shiver ran through your body. With sheer disbelief, you felt your teeth chatter and a thick mist clouded your eyes at the sight of the gun placed on your temple. You’ve been robbed, with the robber carting away with company cash and personal properties. The day you dreaded had come; and sometimes knowing something in advance doesn’t take way the terror that comes when it happens.
As coincidence would want it, your dad was just driving past, and he heard all that has happened. He came over and drove you straight to the police station to report the matter. But prior before that, you made a call to your boss informing him of the unfortunate event. He came over, bribed the police on duty, to have you detained and locked up in the cell, citing accusation that you connived with the robbers.
Without waiting to hear your side of the story, you were treated as though, like thief caught red-handed, and commanded to pull all clothes, with only underwear remaining. You cried when you saw the category of people in the cell, staring at you with hopeless vacant eyes. As you go in, your dad squeezed some naira notes in your hands, you did not understand why, until a grotesque looking man who towered over you like a giant standing almost seven feet, strong and stoutly built approached you, and said with a guttural voice ‘where my fresher’s due’. You did not hesitate to kindly hand over the money in the most pleasant way you were ever brought up.
You were ushered to sleep on the bare concrete close to the plastic container for collection of urine in the dingy room with limited ventilation. You cried not from the foul putrefying stench which reeks of sweats, urine, fart and human waste in the room, you cried not from the thought of the possible implication of a stronger male cell mate taking advantage of you sexually, as you watched in movies; but great wracking sob tore at your chest as you beheld with horror and disbelief when you remembered the gross injustice, for been locked up in cell for a crime you didn’t commit, a crime you voluntarily reported, a crime that was never investigated by the police. You cried because you just tasted a morsel from the tasty cuisine of corruption. As you regretfully ponders the ill fated event, you cried as the thought of how your other course mates were in NYSC camps, serving the nation, posting pictures on social media, while you, who was once tipped for success, languished in the dingy cell of the Nigeria Police, hoping that someday you will taste the pleasant fantasy of freedom.
As you walked through your street looking forlorn in a heart rendering sort of ways, barely 24 hours after been detained, all prying eyes were on you, women with their hands at akimbo gathered in gossip groups, with their wrappers clutched midway in their chest, and breast trying so hard not to pop out of the over washed wrappers. Their eyes so condescending, some eyes filled with pity and empathy, others their eyes etched with stinging judgment, all staring at you, ready to bury you up in the grave of regrets and shame.
Days later, you sunk into throes of a deep seated state of depression. You spent long nights of anguish during which you have been constantly assailed by your thought. You spent wretched nights of unanswered questions; questions you rather evade, because you don’t have answers to them. You retort to sleeping because the pillow allows you the luxury of weeping and giving full expression to your pain and fear.
You pray to see the bigger picture someday, to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to have a reason to smile and nod in understanding of the ill fated event that has happened. Then, you began to once again live, when it became more poignantly than ever to you, that life is not a matter of holding good cards but of playing a poor hand well.
This entry was submitted as part of the Nigerian Voices competition organized by YNaija.com.
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