On Naija street, actually not one of those small streets, I mean a major road in Port Harcourt City like Rumuola road and a renowned place like its junction. You’d meet different characters enough to affect your day if you pay it any attention.
From fellow workers waiting for buses and taxis going their way, to hurry to work, to the hawkers selling handkerchiefs and face masks, you’ll see the Mallams dressed in long wears and caps, to the Agbero trying to load taxis and buses, calling on passengers to board one going a particular direction, and further to the beggars with flags that seem to be an emblem of a registered body, mostly always people seeking for funds for surgery to remove unusual growths, while playing the popular Igbo song, Ekwueme, actually an Igbo chant by Osinachi Nwachukwu and Prospa Ochimna which everyone has agreed can compel a thief to return stolen items to the owner.
Today I’m not particularly fascinated by anything. I am rushing to the office because I woke up by 7:30 am and started preparing to get to the office by 7:45 am. It’s obviously not possible because it’s 8:11 am already but you can’t tell me anything; I am getting to work by 7:45 am and that’s on period!
So today I’m taking in the Hausa traders we call Mallam. They love to wear the white or brown colors of those long wears. I’ve asked my colleague what it’s called and she said it is Agbaya. So I guess that’s the name of those outfits? Today I’m not paying attention to the Agberos shouting “mile 1! Mile 1! Waterlines!! St John’s!!!”
They like to call me to change my dollars or pounds to Naira, those mallams, and I wonder if I’ve ever had any reason to earn in Naira. These days I’ve been thinking of earning in Dollars a lot. And I don’t even know the exchange rates! I watched the mallam catcall a girl and soon they are exchanging words. The mallam tries some insults and the girl insults him right back, asking him why she should even consider “an aboki wey no dey baff”.
There I took note of them. The legs look clean. They all look clean. They must have rubbed ori because the legs shine. But my mind drifts to those that pack dustbins and supply water for a fee when your landlord doesn’t pump water. I heard they sleep by the roadside, all of them. And they are so united.
The other days when I take a different street while I go to work, I always see them with their trucks of gallons queuing up to fetch water. And I’ll hold my breath because I don’t want my day messed by the odor that can hit my nostrils from these boys that look the same all year round. They barely change their torn dark polos and shorts, ever. I always wonder whether those will also grow to become those mallams wearing white and brown Agbayas at the junction, asking me to come to change my nonexistent Dollars to Naira every day, and sure, they will always be on Naija street regardless of what path they turn.
And then I walk pass the mallams exchanging words with the girl, holding my breath this time, not for the odor but the thick harsh scent of their strong perfumes. Each time it hits me, I always remember why my friend Lola jokes about any strong perfume I get “smelling like mallam’s”, asking whether Mallam dashed me.
And today I’m thinking of Lola. I’m wondering how she is. That is what you do on Naija street; memories get resurrected or the future is imagined. So I think of how life changes and people come and go. Who would have ever thought that I and Lola would not just be physically miles apart but emotionally so? And the only thing we share now is the status we view when any of us decides to post on WhatsApp.
On Naija street, you will always think of life and not in black and white. You will think of life in all its shades and spices. On Naija street, I always have thoughts each day even on days like this when I’m not ready to think…