WHO I AM!
“Gboom, boom, dum.”
You may be thinking what that is. My condolences, this should not be how a new novel should begin. But don’t forget this is not a new novel, it just happened to be a part codification of my life. This is how my life is. This is how I have lived my life. What actually is sounding is the rattle of guns and home-made grenade openly used on the street. It is a gang war and it happens every time. We are used to it already, so we know where to hide, what to do and what not to do.
My name is Olayinka, you could call me Yinka in short. The meaning of my Yoruba name literally means Wealth surrounds me, but in actual fact wealth and me are far away, and I think will remain as far as the east is to the west.
Why then do I keep that name? Well it gives me a hyping, a hope, a belief that one day one day; the boy of the street will be rich and I am sure there would be an audience who experience that wonderful experience that I would be experiencing very soon. Don’t mind my pun on experience, it is just my way of saying things.
The gang battle going on the street I am misfortune to be is between the EIYE and the Iwo; this is a pitch for such occasions like Coliseum for the romans and Old Trafford for united. Aiyedade street id the pitch for this massacre but there is no referee. The main aim is to get control of the street and all other things attached, you may be wondering why? In the street, that is where there is money. In a village like ours, the people who control the little money available are the masters, forget about any OBA. Everybody in this village wants money, money, money. There is no other language but money in this tiny big village.
“Gboom, boom, dum.” Rattled again with force
I am currently hiding, waiting, impatiently waiting, because whoever win must be someone who is good. I would always like the EIYE to win but whoever wins is whoever wins, in this place you don’t go with whoever you want to go with permanently. You always change sides. You may think I am being weak-livered by changing sides. NO, Not at all that is how the street runs over here; especially for a non-gang member like me, you decide not to change sides and stay with the opposition as you call it and you die. I am not joking you die. Well if you would bear that cost not me not me at all. I still have plans of making wealth surround me before I die. No matter what you say. Death and I must be far away and even if others have to die for me to live, so be it. The great dreams of orphans lie me always come to pass, no matter what.
I think I am 12 years old, but am not sure; no one to help me with the accuracy. My best friend and I are currently hiding under the palm wine seller’s table crouched down with about eleven others. So were in when the battle began, some rushed in, in the middle of the onslaught. Unfortunately, the palm-wine seller is not currently available I guess she trusts her things will be safe. Well actually it will be, the gang masters have what is called honour of some kind. And destroying, pillaging or stealing steals on purpose was a taint, so we didn’t do that. Pardon me. They, it is they who didn’t do that not the innocent poor villagers who has been consistently denied of access to these goods and he sees it, in a day like this without any seller: manna from heaven.
On the street, you must be with a gang to survive and as I said be ready to change them like clothing. Whoever wins the battle, I am going with them.
I slumped back immediately totally flat on the floor, that was a new weapon, a very different weapon that just sounded now. The owner of that was definitely the winner. It will surprise you I already know all the sounds of guns and the names of them, the Dane gun originally used by our hunters in the declining forest. The Opoku, with space for more cartridges made by our very own local blacksmith. I know the sound of Okupo, the wife of death. That immediately it touches a substance, with force it explodes, its foetus shrapnel bursting out like the jetting of a geyser. I know the sound of the only AK-47 stolen from the police.
This conflict is organized with 11 men representing both sides with the weapons of their choice. The winners are determined by the people who have a last man standing or if the opponent was too weak, a white feather was shown by only the captain, once the captain was dead. No surrender was on the table. Looks savage right, well the money gotten s not a small thing and could be said to worth it. On a brilliant Wednesday as this, sawmill alone cuts down about fifty three trees, that is about fifty-thousand Naira per one at average. The cocoa depot about two hundred thousand per day talk less of the other small industries combined but still it is a village, there is a curse that drives people away from it.
Why I don’t just run away, you might be thinking. Well first of, the enticement of the village for those it wants is high. Secondly ad a child of the street I was taken, I am owned. I can’t leave the street dazzling street that c\owns me except by a higher force. If I did, it was an abomination, I can’t ever escape from. Leave the street I die either by natural or supernatural means. Just because I know the secrets of the street which I must not tell other people. When I do so, the street ids dead. Nobody wants the street to die, definitely not me or the chiefs of the village. If I decide to flee it would have been better O had not been born.
“Winner o o o,Winner, Winner o o o, winner pata patrta we go win for ever winner, parta pata we go win for ever winner….” Those were the words that echoed after the almost two hours battle as the purple glaze of the sun shone on the horizon.
I moved away slowly from under the table after the rush to the street by my co-tenants under the table. “Who won?” I asked Ishak. “Eiye won o.” He said as he rushed to meet up with other people on the dusty street.
I always sense it in my heart that Eiye will likely win, they had the vibe, the gusto, that charisma which is uncommon. They had been fighting for the ownership of the street for a long-time never winning. I guess thus was their time to shine. I do hope their reign will not be short as other gangs will not sit down idly. The battle was always at random time but it always had a fixed pitch.
The red blood streaming towards me was best avoided, bodies with ornaments of different sort littered the ground. This was Africa, everything could serve as protection, I saw a bone lining the neck of a dying man, and he stared with me, with eyes of familiarity as he tore off his shirt to dress a gap in his leg while his head was oozing blood, so already clotting. I turned my eye away toward the palace. /there were others in worst condition n than him, my fore-runners had carefully used a nearby street to get to the palace. The villagers always try not to see life as it is. I had a heart and was ready to see men suffering. They had chosen their fate with their hands. I crossed over to the side of the street were the throne room was. But after stepping enough blood to make my bear-footed feet wet with the red colour.
The OBA of our land had his own throne but that was just de-facto, the throne room I am going to is owned now by the head of the winner gang. I was going to give my allegiance to the man who had conquered. The faster you were able to congratulate the group the more merit you had in their eyes. I knew I would be the one of the earliest as I didn’t follow another route but still there were some others who wouldn’t come. Like Ishak, they found it derogatory to be changing sides. He was a fool, but I guessed he was proud to be that. The street was not about being foolishly loyal, it was about knowing when who was who at any time, my friend didn’t recognize that and I hope he don’t shoot himself in the leg. There were no permanent friends. You might be attacked for betrayal but it was better to be on the safer side of knowing who to follow than blindly following anyone. I entered into the room.
I have gotten to the place, some of my street friends are already here, apart from Ishak and his friends. Sanni is bowing down to the king with his red garment, he obviously had changed his cloth to red, the colour of Eiye. Eiye always have a feel for blood, and red seem the best replicate. Sanni is giving the man money. We right here in the street are either stinky poor or stinky rich. I mean literal stinky as there fund is gotten from nefarious activities. And literal stinky poorness as you definitely don’t want to move near that poorness or been seen with it. I am in the second group, so you understand my predicament. I did have some fund but not enough to sacrifice on the altar of giving. But people are giving all kinds of things, what will I give. But still I have to give my allegiance. I was next in line. Still wondering what I want to give him.
“Congratulations. Your highness. On your victory. I am here to plead my allegiance I say.” “Hmmm.” I heard, I dared to look him in the face, I noticed, he was staring at me, right through me. “Come on, if you want to see me. See me. Don’t look at me like I am not there.” I said in my mind. Death was the reply if I had said it aloud. But outside I was smiling, hoping that he would let me go scot-free but I knew it was a fool’s paradise to hope for. “Should I still be asking you foe what you want to offer?” “Aaah…I have everything to offer.” My heart was pounding, pounding; this time pounding harder than a mortar and pestle. I was waiting, watching whether a miracle would happen. The gang king repeated my statement. “Anything.” He turned his eye away from me and then back to me. “You surprise me Yinka.” He knows my name that is trouble. “Surprise.” I remoistened, to be on the street I always had too surprise every time, after doing something great, something greater was always expected, always higher than the past standard given. “But you would do something for me.” Why should I do something for you I thought, the two goons are his back with only red trousers could do the job. I believed. “I will willingly do it, once it is within my power.” “Whoa you didn’t tell me you have super-powers.” “No, I don’t mean super-power, I mean within my ability.” “Within your ability?” He retorted, “since when on the street have you done what is only within your power.” He confronted me. I was fearful, I was speechless. I only knew him from far; but he knew me, had someone being eavesdropping on me. I stood still in his presence and it seems the seconds were turning into minutes and minutes into hours, inside my mind.
After about five seconds; he said, “you will do something for me.” I replied in the affirmatively almost immediately. He moved his hand in a way to show I was to come nearer. I did so; fearfully. Wondering whether he wanted to knock me on my head like the guy before me. I was nervous. He took me by my ear and spoke into it. “Wawu.” I said out of shock. He had been given me an impossible mission. Very impossible one. True, many rumours had gone about it but handed over to do it was a moral quandary, should I or should I not? My mind was raging like an inferno, back and forth. It was not bad, it is good, it is bad, it is not good. So my mind went. But something else was also nagging me. That still small voice I had not heard for years woke up from its slumber. “You are not to do it.” The other voice in me was like, “do it, gauge the alternative well and you would see death is the other option.” true, no one had ever failed to do what the gang had instructed. If I wanted to keep myself alive I had to do it. But at what cost, at what cost. I murmured as I left the throne-room. Looking over my shoulder to see whether he still kept an interest in me but he was focused on the next person who had brought red garments. I groaned, here was I lefty with an ultimatum of a week to complete the task. Or else,” my head would be served on a platter.” those were his exact words, I remembered. Stepping into the night.