by, Dec 31, 2012 at 01:55 AM (394 Views)
She approached our table. She was just another young girl. She was striking even in her dark green khaki pants and cream-colored short sleeve shirt. Her plaited hair came together tied neatly in a band, but I wasn't too impressed. There is a preponderance of beautiful young women in Lagos.
Just a few minutes earlier, I'd seen another young woman - I want to call her a girl, in a tight looking, nonetheless classy, mini dress; platform wedges and a beautiful moderate 'Fro. Three young to middle aged men were escorting her up the stairs to what I presume their room(s). I had stared for sometime which seemed like minutes before my sistas nudged. My eyes had met hers, questioning... but she had looked away. I swear she was innocent. She had looked away shyly. My inside churned a little, but I didn't get carried away as this is now norm. After all, she has to fend for herself, and perhaps her immediate family, I excused. All I could do was shrug, mind my business, many would have said, but for these, we are parents.
I'll never know what happened up there in their room; perhaps they were her siblings except that no mother would want her daughter loitering around looking so risquÃ© in a public place so late at night.
But there are many.
"Good evening, what can I get for you ma?" she asked.
Was I listening out for special girls tonight or what? She sounded so well educated.
"What do you have?" My two accompanying sistas asked.
We had been out celebrating a special occasion close to my lodging.
"Is it okay if I eat my food here since we are ordering dinner?"
"Mmm, let me find out, madam." She'd scratched her right temple, hugging the shiny silver serving tray, as she responded while walking away. I could have sworn she's a university student or graduate. I resolved to ask upon her return.
"We have jollof, white rice, poundo yam and eba with your choice of assorted meat or fish, ogbono or vegetable soup... And madam, yes, you can eat your food here."
The others ordered as I unburdened my carry-on tote, set my bowls, and dug into my long awaited Gbegiri and Ewedu plus fresh fish from Olaiya.
If you've never eaten at that joint, somewhere in Surulere, you have no idea what you're missing. Last time I'd visited, it was clean, good food, and the place to hear lots of current news. There, I had even met a menacing co-passenger on the same flight! It was 'the place' therefore, this trip, my hostess sista had surprised me with hot steaming delicacies as stated. The aroma and taste are worth every spoonful. Be sure to try it next time you visit the neighborhood. Forget the crowd; don't look at the giant pots Servers exploring for your choice of orishirishi; and please be sure you drink lots of bottled water plus doses of anti-diarrheal as needed, just in case.
"Star, Guinness and..." She had continued.
"What are you doing here?" I asked as I would a loved one. I'd focused familiarly for a quick minute, my heart boiling a bit as I hurriedly returned to my food, but stopped. This was the second young girl tonight. I looked back up and smiled.
"Why are you here, where is your mother, your parents?" I was gentler.
The gloss of the accumulation of aqueous humor signaled in basal understanding. She had been bold. She sighed harder, looking away several times as she hastily narrated some of her challenges. It was popular, yet strangely disturbing, in a land of plenty.
An oligarchy - where the house of representatives and senators make so much senseless money; where contracts are handed out to friends and cronies or family members; those who have no need for basic amenities of life, of which tertiary education is the most pressing for a girl this age, at 19.
Of course, she hated her job. She would work 24-hours a shift, three days a week to accumulate funds for her studies at one of the local colleges of technology. But it was almost never enough; she'd wiped her beautiful, reddened eyes, with the back of her smooth brown skin in amazing inner strength that reminds of lifelong experience. But, she's only 19.
To interrupt her tears, I reassured that I too have stories of struggle; journeys yet incomplete, but that along the way, we all get help, somehow. She had listened intently as if she found comfort in a few words I could share. She nodded that her dreams to become an engineer were solid. This was her second year, into her OND, Ordinary National Diploma, with determination for the higher HND.
"Where is your mother?" I asked again.
"She got married and moved away with her new husband and my younger brother." Her brows furrowed quickly in new but suppressed tears. She swallowed in a tight smile twice. Then, she straightened her face.
"But, I'm okay," she sniffed.
She wasn't okay, but she was a survivor. She stared at me and smiled again. "But I'm going to make it, madam." She nodded convincingly.
"Where do you live?"
"With my uncle and two brothers."
"That's good! Where?
She mentioned somewhere foreign to me, in Ogun State, more than a two-hour commute, for work alone, to begin at six every other morning.
"Is the pay good enough? Can it sustain your education and basic needs?" Certainly not, she'd shaken her head hastily. She went on to intimate of sexual degradation and demands from her boss with frequent threats of being fired if she didn't comply soon.
I have no clear recollection the rest of the conversation but I know she exchanged phone numbers with one of the sistas. Her story is neither strange nor unique.
It's every young, financially incapacitated, serious student's story.
But who am I to make a difference? What do I possibly have to make her situation better. Innumerable have similar long and short of it. Indeed, you can't help everyone, especially when you're struggling as well, but for the committed ones like these, sharing the little you have propels them forward, changes the course of their lives, and hopefully, they, in turn, can become better human beings.
That's all we need. That is all our children want. These are the narratives our leaders need to hear. In these girls' shoes, would you like to see your child?
Since that meeting, her spirit haunts. I'd scurried to the Internet to research her school fees. It's whopping N10, 000 for an application! She had said her fees for the semester was about N30, 000 or so, I don't recall exactly, but it was a lot more than she could afford even on her paltry part-time income. A job that exposes her vulnerability, an environment that can alter who she becomes, her future, for better or worse.
There's a profound weakness for hard-working children.
Our government has a responsibility to our youths.
Whether we like it or not, we will always find those who see potential in educating the mind, who move the progression of history forward for the better, in little things... little ways.
The young man to whom I write this tribute fought the cause. His spirit kept my fire burning between August and December 10, 2012, when I concluded this session. I had made a promise to celebrate him before the year folds. I could not forget that these same children were his cause, his short life. He fought and encouraged them with his dying breath, you know, like in Ghetto Dreams.
He was a silent soldier.
He should have been celebrated when he was alive.
(Your favorite symbols, being a techie, as well.)
It was April 25, 2010.
Your message came and I was surprised. I'd never heard from you before. I couldn't imagine why you could be writing. But I went ahead, out of curiosity, opened the mail and understood your request in your non-verbose manner of communication.
"Film Matters" was your interest. You wanted to collaborate somehow and I couldn't have been more pleased to work on a project free of charge, on my time. Unbeknownst to you, perhaps, your suggestion was at the core of my soul, my being, and my cause.
You would re-connect later. You had been busy and tired, you had written.
I waited but I needn't have.
The brotherhood of unrest is never explained or expressed for impetus or interest to become awakened. You just know...
You knew that in "Stories," in our chronicles, therein, our messages of hope.
That Narratives matter...
We found out about your big stories, in your productions, and letters to humanity, in the Daily Times. We read about the little personal stories, difficult to hide, bigger in consequence, however.
We couldn't have been more proud.
We couldn't have been more supportive, yet because of our clime, clandestine radicalism is yet pervasive... What to do?
What to do, Dapo? I wish you were still here. You probably would guess an answer.
Yours was a very short, short, life well spent.
You can't be forgotten.
And so, in your spirit, I reconnect with narratives...
Because, our stories matter; yes, they do.
For you Dapxin, this is for you. We miss you bad...
I had wanted to do your tribute in another way months ago but I held on to your memories the whole stretch, to stoke my embers, to keep the fire burning. This, I believe, was your cause.
The Way I Feel - ASA
Dapo - You rocked man!
...Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.