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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - teachers, windows, school, children, class, my father, footballer, God, prayers, hawk, wares, first wife, hospital.

When a sequence of events seems too good to be true, stop and ask questions. Well, I understand not all of us can find the courage to question seemingly good fortune when we are in a situation where it seems life has finally turned to unload its blessings on us. I grew up in one of the worst slums in Nigeria. My parents were bound with chains of abject poverty. If there were people who moved about with the mark of poverty like slaves of old, we surely did. Life was cruel on my siblings and I. We were three in number, two girls and a boy. We would often sit in front of our one-room hutch and wonder why our parents had to bring us into the world. We would pass you on the road and you would stop to have a second look at us because we reeked with acute poverty. My father was a bricklayer and my mother sold whatever she could to help the family. There were days all we could have for food was just a scoop of white garri soaked in water. Formal education was a luxury we could not afford. However, because we loved education, something we inherited from our father, we would go to school and listen to teachers from windows. We did assignment and never submitted them. We did them on the floor because we had no school notes and even if we had any, we would not have been allowed to submit them.

My brother Justice, had a genius mind, it was very painful to watch him waste. I and my younger sister were equally brilliant, but Justice was in a class of his own. The children in the classes we watched from windows were a bit too dull for our quick minds. Whenever teachers had questions to ask their classes, our hands were the first to go up, indicating we knew the answers. Teachers never bothered to ask us, they were kind enough to allow us watch and listen from classroom windows. However, one day, a teacher made a mistake and asked me to supply an answer to a question. I gladly gave her the answer she wanted and then recited her entire one-week lesson. She could not believe her ears. In shock her mouth hung open. When she recovered from the pleasant surprise, she waved at my siblings and I to enter the class. When we did, all the children in the class covered their nostrils and began to hiss and grumble. Our clothes were dirty and smelly.

The teacher shouted at the children to keep quiet and let us be. Grudgingly they did, but it wasn’t long before the teacher asked us to leave the class. We were really smelly. We left the school that day and swore never to go back and we never did. At home we decided to teach each other and read books we could borrow. As things got harder for us, my father began to drink heavily. He would go to a drink bar and douse himself in alcohol. At first we thought he was wasting the money we needed so much at home, but soon we found out he was drinking on credit. The lady who ran the bar had a crush on him and didn’t bother much about how much he owed her. However, when my father refused to send us and our mother away and move in with the lady as she wanted him to, she began harass my father to pay her the money he owed her. She would often come to our house with broad chested men and slap my father around. God saved us from her constant harassment when our landlord ejected us from our one room apartment for failure to pay house rent over a three-year period.

My father took us to an uncontested stretch of swampy land and built a shack on it. The shack had to be suspended above land because during rainy season, the land would be filled with so much water that you could mistake it for a stream. The shack had several steps which led into the two room apartment suspended above ground. During the rainy season, there were days we all would stay indoors because the flood outside was much. In spite of the fact that our new environment was worse, we seemed happier for a few reasons - our neighbours were as poor as we were, my father had stopped drinking and the lady he was owing no longer came around to beat him in front of us. Just off where we lived, there was free school for children like us whose parents could not afford to send to school. An ex-professional footballer who grew up in that community had set it up. We still looked terrible and smelt just like we did in the past; but we didn’t care. We were delighted to go to school. After the first day at school; I, my siblings and many other children were brought to the staff room where a white lady handed us new clothes, bathing soap and foot wears. Earlier in the day, teachers had given us school bags and exercise books. That day felt like Christmas. We sang, danced, jumped and cried so much that the white lady could not help but cry along with us. Imagine a horde of poverty stricken, eager-to-learn children singing and crying because someone gave them new clothes and shoes.

That day, I believed indeed there is a God in heaven. Every night we had prayed for God to send someone who would change our clothes and send us to school. He answered us our prayers through that Ex-footballer. What a God! On our way back home, we carried the gifts the school had given us on our heads and sang praises to God until we reached home. Not one child amongst us wore any piece of wear he or she received. We could not wait to show our parents the gifts God sent to us. As we sang on our way home, we caused no small stir. People would stop and wonder what an army of rag tag, dirty, children were singing to God for. We didn’t care, rather we enjoyed the attention we got. When we got home, every family had a reason to sing. Our neighborhood seemed as if Santa Clause had passed through it. The poor, unhappy hood was in a happy mood. In every corner, happy children were showing off what they were given in school that day.

The gifts didn’t stop coming in until we graduated from that school and got stuck in the next stage of our lives. After primary six, we could not go further in our quest for education. We had to start praying to God again to send another footballer to send us to school. Back then we believed only footballers cared for the poor. While we waited for another professional footballer to come with his truckload of gifts and school fees, things were changing around and in us. My hips were beginning to sprout and my once flat chest was shooting out. My sister wasn’t left out, she was going through the same changes, though at a slower pace. My own was happening as though it was being fast-tracked. Since we could not go to school, my mother asked me to help my family out with hawking a few edible items. I was willing to do whatever I could to see our condition change for good. I hawked everything my mother could buy for me to hawk. I had what they called good luck back then. Whatever I left with to hawk, I never came back with it.

As I succeeded at it, my confidence to sell just about anything grew. After a while, I noticed something worrisome about that. Ninety percent of those who bought from me were men. They would often want to take me to the back of their shops or to their house to buy more. When I began to refuse them, it began to take long for me to sell my wares. I was too ashamed to go back home with my wares. By this time everyone already knew that I never come home with my wares. I was too ashamed to see that change, so I would trek the whole town to make sure I came back with my tray empty.  In my trotting, I met a man who was eager to buy from me as I was eager to sell my wares. This man busted my belief about footballers being the only ones who cared for the poor. He was an angel, an angel for many years. Did he later change? Hmm…

Mr. Jegede, was a nice man. He would buy my wares for himself and for the people around him. I did not know what he did for a living, but he drove big cars and wore expensive Dan chiki (Agbada). His generous and free spending nature made me shudder. It didn’t matter what I had to sell, this man would buy them. If I was returning home from selling my wares and had some left, he would call me and buy the leftovers. It was as if he loved to see my tray empty as much as I did. A time came when Mr. Jegede would ask me drop my tray of wares and spend some time with he and his friends. I loved to listen to him and his friends discuss politics. Having a piquant mind, I would memorize words I have not heard before and ask my brother to find their meanings later. In the evenings when I would want to return, he would count out the worth of my wares and give it to me. He would also add a few change on it for my transportation back home. I never boarded a bus back home, I would walk back and add the change to the much I made that day. My mother would count the money I brought home and would notice that there was an extra fifteen or twenty Naira and would wonder how it came about. I would tell her I inflated the price of my wares.

She would kneel me down and begin to bless me with her hand placed on my head. I loved it a lot when she did that. My hardworking nature made us best of friends. It gladdened my heart to see that our family knew where the next meal would come from. At this stage I had forgotten about going to school. My brother Justice, had also given up on school and had begun to learn how to make shoes. My younger sister was frustrated and unhappy that we could not go to school. She would sit at home all day and read everything she could lay her hands on, even newspapers that were far older than she was. She took the role of cooking for us and keeping the house clean. She would often say that she was saving up to go back to school, but she had no job. However, one evening, after I had returned from selling oranges, I caught her undressing for a group of boys. They would watch her naked body for a while and give her five Naira each. If they wanted to touch her breasts, they would double the amount. I was horrified by what I saw.

I knew I had to do something immediately to stop the boys and my sister from that madness. I charged at the boys and fought them like a lion. While my sister hurried to dress up, I tore up the boys with my nails. When I was done with them I saw my sister running back home. I went after her, wrestled her to the ground and unleashed several blows to her face. By the time I was done with her, her face was swollen in several places. My parents and brother were shocked to see her in that condition, to cover up for her, I told my parents and brother that I had a fight with her. She was surprised to see me cover up for her. The event made me much more determined to hawk whatever I could, to save my family from poverty. I felt that if we had money, my sister would not have to undress for boys just to save up money to go back to school. The next day I asked her to join me to go hawk, but she refused. She was the tender type who would prefer to sell under a tree or a shed. As for me, I was the type ready to do any labour so long as there would be a reward at the end of it. I took the wares meant for she and I and set out to hawk them. Thankfully Mr. Jegede was on hand to buy much of them from me.

After some time, Mr. Jegede told me in front of his friends that he loved me and would like to marry me. His words turned my head and left me sleepless for days. By this time, I had sprouted in all the places I needed to as a woman. I and my sister had the privilege of taking much of our father’s exceptional handsome looks. Nature had blended his looks into us in an alluring, feminine, curvy fashion. If my father had lived in today’s world, he would have made tons of money from modelling.  Even in his old age, he still cuts the figure of a model hunk. On numerous occasions I saw my mother chase off ladies who tried to seduce my father. Weeks passed and I still did not tell anyone what Mr. Jegede had said to me. Marriage wasn’t really a subject on my mind then. I was still very tender. What occupied my thoughts most was how to save my family from poverty. Sadly, for me, Mr. Jegede seemed like the route out of poverty for us. Though I continued to go to him to buy things from me, I did not give him any answer about his proposal. About a month later he repeated his proposal to me. By this time, he had stopped me from hawking. Whatever I had to sell, I would take it to him and he would buy them all and send me back home.

He and I kept at this for about three more months without my giving him any answer. I was forced to give him an answer when tragedy struck us from double fronts. A building my father was working on had collapsed and buried him under its rubble. When he was dug out of the rubble, several bones in his body had been broken and he was in coma. There was no money to pay his hospital bill. While we ran around for money to save my father, a heavy downpour swept away our wooden house. Suddenly we had nowhere to live and my father who could have built another shack for us, was in the hospital fighting to stay alive. I had to run to Mr. Jegede for help. When I met him, I could not say a word. Each time I tried to say something, I would begin to cry. He had to take me in his hands and calmed me before I could narrate to him our ordeal. As soon as he heard my story, he swung to action. He did not only pay my father’s hospital bills, he actually took him to a better hospital and then paid for a flat which we moved into.

The above true life story was written by Mrs. Efe Johnson (actual name withheld) and was edited by editorial team. Her story is different from other true life stories you have read here. We thank God for the blessing she is today to many people.

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