The man had started counting his footsteps to keep away the growing feeling of dread as the sky began to lighten. He felt like he had been walking for days. This single-minded journey began a little after 3 am at the Ajah roundabout on the famously long Lekki- Epe Expressway.
No, he shook his head slightly, this journey started long before the early hours of this Thursday morning.
In his life, the man had known the basic comforts: he ate enough, had gone to school and even university. No matter how hard things got or how much his parents struggled, he never had to take up menial jobs or sell goods to pay his way like many of his classmates. He was lucky and he was grateful.
He thought to all the times he stood on stage with the rest of his small family; his little brother, his mother and his father, at church to give testimonies on the good things that the good Lord had done for them. Amen.
Those days seemed so far off from where he was now but some things never really change, he still wanted the same things, the big cars, the big houses and most of all; he wanted to take care of his mother and his brother, the first people he had loved, those he felt needed to be protected.
At first, the man was in no hurry. He graduated, it was not an exceptional graduation but it was better than most. He had completed his service year in Lagos and decided that this was the best place for him.
Anyone could be anything they wanted in Lagos. When he had first arrived; he felt the low thrum, the heartbeat of the city just beneath the cracking pavement. It thrilled him and it scared him. This place, he would come to realise, was mad.
It took him three months to get his first job. He had been squatting with a few of his NYSC buddies and shopping his CV and Bachelors degree in accounting up and down Broad Street and all over Surulere and Yaba.
The job was as a clerk for a foreign company trying to take root in Nigeria. It paid 45,000 naira. It was daunting but the man made it work for him, he saved arduously and spent the barest minimum on everything from clothing to transportation. Long treks were not a new experience.
He grew slowly from 45,000 to 70,000 and then he bought a second-hand laptop in Ikeja that he was sure was stolen but it worked and the price was fair. He wanted to take professional exams. That was years ago and he still had not taken those exams. His discovery of the profitability of the internet was slow in the beginning but he learned quickly how to tell people what they wanted to hear. His network of like-minded hustlers grew and he bought a new laptop and then a smart-phone.
When he rented his own apartment and bought a car, he quit his job.
The rewards were steady at first, he was very good at servicing his clients. He paid for his father’s funeral, he was sending money to his mother, he was funding his brother’s university fees.
However, business started to dwindle, clients were catching on and the SARS were closing in, he began to worry. He voiced his fears to his network and he was introduced to a new way to give the game an extra push. There were small conditions at first, these things always had conditions. He could not wear coloured underwear or drink alcohol on sacred days.
The conditions grew as the forces that gave him his success grew hungrier, the sacrifices began to demand more than money. First, it was girls to sleep with, then it was younger girls to take from their homes, then newborns. Last week, he got called into the grotto. The dirty old man that smelled so strongly of burning palm oil told him that they needed his mother’s soul, her Ori.
She would not die but she would be bedridden and need round the clock care. The man would have more than enough money to make her as comfortable as possible.
He would take the prepared soul to the Ajah roundabout at three am and walk along Lekki-Epe express-way back to the grotto, 26 kilometres in Aiyeteju.
Here he was in a white sheet, his designer clothes and shoes folded up neatly and stacked in his hands, his feet were sore and aching and he was itchy all over from the stares of the early risers along the street.
He thought of his mother who would be waking up soon only to drop and never rise as the same person again. He thought of rushing around for doctors and overseas medical treatments. He thought of the lying and what next the dirty old man would ask for. The sun was almost completely on the horizon now.
He kept walking.
Fauziyah has a strong passion for many things including media, art and communications. She has a bachelor’s degree in Management from the University of Wollongong and builds her home in the pages of books. Fauziyah swears by people, La Casera and green tea. In her free time, she daylights as a multimedia storyteller and avid supporter of all things African. She tweets via @Zee_Salaudeen.