ROAD TO NOWHERE
I remember those days when going to the village was the best thing ever. Those days that I had learned that cowries were once dowries, days that we dreamt of seeing that hue that made rounds on “tales by moonlight”. Those days that I craved “ahuruoku” and “urukuru”, a far cry from all the cushions and soft life I was accustomed to.
I remember those days like yesterday when going to the village was the best experience ever. I remember those days by the smell, the strong repugnant whiff coming out from some big earthen pot that housed cassava roots. I remember that funny conical mortar “okonko” that housed Akuako’s soup, that contraption that hardly allowed the soup to run dry. I remember the soup vividly, devoid of all the “Orishirishi” that we were used to in the city, laden with the spiciest pepper, child’s play to my mother's love for our palate, with funny names of fish that I had held up on till date— Nwamkpokilike.
I remember those days that a sea of worn-out slippers filled the doorsteps of my father's house, with curtains and rug reeking of sweat from bodies of my relatives scrambling for space to watch movies. I still remember the sounds they made when Rambo jumped off that cliff, with a few narrative champions among them who would say these movies like they were behind the scenes. I remember the disappointment on their faces when the movie ended or when my father's lister generator grounded to a stop. I still can see the people staying back, hoping by sheer luck for the generator to crank back to life.
I remember the freedom of association, how we shared joy in taking baths in the same buckets behind uncle Cyprain's house. I remember how we ate together in trays and bowls, taking mental notes of each and everyone's size of bolus — my cousin Nnamdi had a big one. I remember enjoying the little trek through “okpuhu” to go take a shit, whilst hearing those “kparakuku” birds that made the forest seem lonely. I remember the buzz from the flies scrambling for a slice of our feces even as we wove them away. I remember the bushes by those mpotede leaves, by that unique smell, mixed with waste and urine. I remember our hunt afterward, those days I had wanted to become one of them, hunting for “Ewi and Osa”, “juo nkwu ojukwu” and “tie nkikara aki”. Those days I had longed to see the ghosts that were rife in the folklores, those that were touted to reside in our ohia-ukwu, that particular one that slapped Chinenye-eze.
I remembered Chase-lady, Ago, Nwailezhie, Chinenye-eze, Ocean, Ekwengwu. Chaselady had a funny way of talking, Nwailezhie sold Agidi and stew, Ago chased us around, Chineneye saw a ghost, Ocean was my in-law that made us all laugh, Ekwengwu was an uncle that was so strong and a no-nonsense one.
I remember that early morning dew, the one that fades as soon as Akuako starts a ritual burning of “nkunku” debris. I miss the breakfast, a total deviation from our city bread, and cornflakes. I remember the cold cassava and the assurances from my cousins that the soup was hot. I miss those aluminum cups that were once blue or green, the ones that we drank from, straight from the “udu”, the same ones my cousins made sure were free from floaters before I drank.
I remember the sadness when told to go to bed when we were just enjoying the open-air conversations. I remembered the in-difference when told to come home to eat because we had already eaten at Mama Chibu’s house or mama Ebere’s. I remember the anger when my cousins dragged me back from ndi-ikpa, on my parent's orders whilst I was feeling at home at the Awulezis or the Madufor’s. I remember the hours before we left back to the city, a somber time of reflection, a reminder that the four walls of our city house would do a perfect job — no one leaving without permission.
I remembered the joy of traveling to my village Orodo, one that Ebiebi the barber at Nkwo-orodo always cherished, buying malt drinks for us to keep our heads steady as he mowed our hairs with those strange calipers. I remembered the bicycle rides from the market, with “Afo tire nmakwukwu” creaking from our weights.
That road now led to nowhere. Our kids will never know this joy. Our kids will never share these moments. That time was gone.
There was no love in the village again. Parents would be taking a risk leaving their kids on their own. The world has made our relatives strangers, made the once loving community evil, where mayhem and atrocity were the order of the day. The world has made the villages into a harbinger of evil, laden with poisons and poisonous hearts, ones that would kill or maim at the slightest chance.
That road now led to nowhere. Our kids will never know the joy of sharing, they will live their lives in solitude outside the confines of their kith and kin, substituting friends for relatives, enjoying life as if they fell from heaven and not from Orodo. They would remember the bottled water, exclusively from their parents’ stash, that they drank from. They would remember all the warnings not to step outside the compound. They will struggle to remember all the names of relatives to be afraid of. They will remember all the aunties that meant no good. They will fear death, sickness, poison, and wickedness. They will forget how to live as free citizens.
Our kids will not know those beautiful roads that led to many nice memories, their earliest recollections would be the fear and constant security consciousness around them while at home. They would not share in the better stories that revolved around soccer matches played around eke-ubaha rather it will seem like Armageddon to them. All they have heard in recent times were stories of kidnapping and death even more recent, of a phantom Fulani invasion. They will not know the joy of following the sound of Ekeleke nor the drums of Owu. They would only hear that we went to different villages at night to party just by following some music that rented the air. They will marvel that people walked at night without the fears of today. They will cringe at hearing that I drank and ate anywhere.
They will not forget the sandfly — all the details to forget a village totally, one that was all we ever had.
A village rejuvenation is needed. We needed a rethink, one that would foster cohesion and love. We need a refocus, one that will encourage the children to look inwards. We need family-oriented groups who would focus on projects that shine brighter lights on the people, ones that will bolster love and hope. We need to help them discard anger and hate, engaging them in activities that are void of politics rather than prosperity.
We needed arrowhead second-generation kids who are progressives if for nothing else, to tap into projects that will attract their likes. We needed them more than ever now if for nothing else, to close that gaping hole left by the uncertainties of today.
That road to nowhere might re-open, only if we choose.