It was in our former house, a face-me-I-face-you compound of over twenty tenants that I shared some years with Oga as we called him. His parents were not like the typical yoruba’s who fought in the compound on very trivial things. His mother was an easy and self contented woman, his father rarely spoke to anyone, whenever he did, it was sure to be a response to a greeting or when any of his sons misbehaved.
In that compound, many people minded their business, though we – the children found our evening plays a time to bond and some, to talk about school and childish gossips. Ogoluwa food canteen was the closest thing I remember about that street. It was owned by one of the tenants in the compound and run by the entire family. Their hot amala, ewedu and omi-obe stew enticed me to reject food cooked at home.
Before our compound was gated, we always woke up to the street, those were the years when NEPA light was on 24/7 and young boys clad in pants rolled tyres on the tarmac road, before the road became a slurry sight.
It was also the years when we threw our rubbish in Baba Linda’s waterside house some twenty minutes walk from our house. Descending the hill to his waterside house was work but for the fruits we would pluck till we got tired of looking up into the tall almond trees, we relished in walking the distance, crawling down the hill with our sacks of waste balanced in plastic bowls over our heads. The eating of fresh succulent fruits propelling our legs to the waterside.
Oga was his nickname because he showed more intelligence than the rest of the kids but his real name; Nohim was even sweet to the ear. He was a kid when I was a teen so I always observed as they played in the compound.
By this time, I played less when the reality of growing up started dawning on me and the rest of my mates. We left the play – I call on, if your mama cook ogbono soup, who is in the garden, story story – to the upcoming and watched from the background as our childhood slipped away.
His parents were of meager living and could afford to send him to those street lessons hosted by semi-trained women in kpako houses, where they paid #50 everyday to learn how to read A – for Apple. This was the common practice for us the locals back in the early 2000’s.
When Oga returned, in the evening, he would sit the other kids who attended real schools in quote and start teaching them from what he learnt in his semi-school. His English was always a laugh but we loved him because he tried his best and he never let our laughter drown his zest and appetite – he was unabashedly self confident.
He was a child-leader and quite respectful, mother was one of those who saw the star in him, she it was who first called him by the nickname Oga, we all thought highly of him. He was the brightest among his peers, the most humane among the kids and the most respectful kid I ever knew at the time. He argued, had childish fights, stubborn though, he wasn’t perfect, none of us are.
Life took a nosedive the day I returned from school sometime in 2009, I was an undergraduate in the University of Benin, so I didn’t know much of what transpired in my absence though we could tell before then that something wasn’t right, not with his mother’s incestant travels and his withdrawal from the other kids.
Back to 2009, all mother and everyone told me was that his mother had taken him to the village; they said he had an ailment but no one could tell what it was. Later, we will find out he had epilepsy.
Aghast, something weakened in me but at that age, I thought probably it was just for a while and he would return in no time.
Years went by, no sign of him, I kept wondering and once in a while when his mother visited the father and his brothers leaving him behind somewhere in Oyo state, we anticipated that she would one day return with him but that never happened; there was no hope of Oga coming back – of Nohim seeing that the other kids had grown, some moved to new locations and some others were starting to sprout hair in their underarm.
There was no sign of him flying like we thought; maybe he could be a professor someday or a teacher but we knew he had the dream, it was there all the while we lived together.
Each day, every New Year our hope dimmed and it’s been almost a decade now, still no return of that kid, not even a hope; the flicker of a flying dream fizzled like burnt wood before sprinkled water.
We moved from the house some years ago but each time I think back or remember our old house, I see him, slim, creamy brown, boisterous and articulate and I can’t help deal with my pain of not seeing his dream fly, of not knowing what became of him, of his childhood dreams.
I am more pained and heartbroken that a sickness like epilepsy would clip the dreams of a kid full of life and hope. I cry knowing he could have been better, his condition treated and his dreams fly.
Everyone of his peers are now undergraduates while others are graduates already, some are under apprenticeship but our fine little star couldn’t fly his because of epilepsy, common epilepsy!
If yesterday was today, I could have helped no matter how little but I was also a kid and didn’t know my way in life. What a life!
Is there a chance for other kids with epilepsy?