Today, I meant to focus on something that concerns Nigerian youngsters who are supporters of politicians. Worried about the alarming speed with which their hatefulness and counter-hatefulness is thickening into gunpowder, I thought raising the alarm would adequately forewarn them. That plan subsisted until the inevitable lanky voice in me that rises in the nick of time, intermittently, whispered its characteristic sense. It reasoned that rather than taking some of these things too seriously, I should seek to reduce my personal stress by laughing at myself, publicly.
As is my wont, I go with it; even as I believe that I shall in the very near future come back to take up that matter of urgent national importance. Meanwhile, let me regale you with at least two servings of stories lifted from my mischief-laden childhood. I spent an alarming chunk of my wee years playing pranks. Yes, I played pranks on my mum, my dad, my teachers, everybody: I spared no one!
I can’t tell if this pranksciousness was a function of my bloodline or where I grew up. In the wee 1970s and 1980s, Bekumu, the fishing peninsula in next-door Cameroon where I spent the first two decades but two of my life, was nowhere close to being an ideal place to groom a child. It offered no luxury, no electricity, no potable water, no land let alone air transportation, nothing, nothing. I may, therefore, perhaps have sought to balance the equation by reaching beyond even Mount Everest-like heights just to spice up what otherwise was a drab life.
I confess that as a child I had fun, wicked fun, at the expense of others. I enjoyed myself to the fullest: I made people ‘cry;’ I caused my parents sleepless nights during which time they may never have ceased praying I don’t miss the way when I grow up. This precocious prankster had no good second.
Let me start with the unforgettable prank I played on my own mother. I may have been nine or 10 at the time. I don’t remember what I had done but she had beaten me with a piece of firewood, something that was very unlike her. As soon as she hit me, I crumbled, threw up my legs in the air like a beheaded cock, and faked death laying motionless.
Why did I do that? It was just pure puerile mischief. I knew she would panic since I was her only surviving son, my three brothers having all died mysteriously. Instantly, she went nuts, screaming, begging God, cursing herself and pouring water on me.
The drama lasted 10 minutes. When I finally ‘came to,’ she sat me on her lap, fed me egg, fish, meat, rice and such other children best while calling me the sweetest of pet names in the book. However, the most memorable gain of that prank was that she never touched me again. Excellent!
A child who fools his mum by feigning death after she hit him with a piece of wood must be monstrously mischievous. I plead guilty as charged. At the time, I knew that, as her only surviving son, such a prank would scare her to no end. Nearly 39 years after, I still feel very good about that mischief!
Going forward, let me confess to another very funny prank. Childhood is sweet. Imagine all that no-holds-barred freedom to commit and walk away. A child gets away with just about everything.
During my childhood heyday, I got away with so much. I would have given anything to remain a child forever. Now, I want you and me to laugh over the first and last time I tried to procure love potion. The things one has done in this life ehn!
At the time, I must have been 12 or 13, 14 max. I don’t like the word, crush. So, let’s say I had feelings for this 12, 13-year-old pretty girl. Her name was Udeme.
In that Cameroonian fishing port where I grew up, Udeme’s family house was two, three-minute stroll from mine. A friend (may his soul rest in peace), noticing I over-frequented her yard, got me to tell him everything. He then recommended an old man who could give us ‘ibok ima’ (Akwa Ibom for love potion). The old man listened to us quite intently.
The fee he requested was so slender that my hawk-eyed petty trader mum never noticed any pilfering from her strong box. My friend and I left with a concoction, half-walking, half-running. For three days, I would apply the stuff on my tongue, and with my co-lover boy in tow, relocate to nearby Udeme. That meant, I exchanged no greetings.
Remember, anyone I speak to must fall in love with me or do my bidding. Alas, for weeks Udeme simply refused to appear on my sight radar. Exasperated, I decided to test the potency of the love potion on my own dad. Sssh, not like that.
My mum and sisters having travelled and suspecting dad would be hungry, I ‘potioned’ my tongue, and went to him:
‘Dad, are you hungry?’ ‘Yes, Da.’
‘Can I cook rice for you?’ ‘No.’
Even as a child, I knew that the love potion was not the talisman my friend had bragged me into. We rushed back to the old man to retrieve our money. A very interesting conversation ensued. That was the day I experienced firsthand that ‘wen koni man dai, koni man beri am!’
‘No, my sons, not so,’ the Jazz-man fooled us softly. ‘The thing was meant to be used in days, not weeks as you have done. You should have come back after three days for renewal. Please, bring additional money for another potion that can last a year.’
Of course, I refused. And with that were buried such romantic ambitions and strategems. That taught something fundamental: never cut corners. Strangely, I never saw Udeme again, to this day!
God bless Nigeria!