Lola Opatayo

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Tales of a year: The Lagos dream


There is such a thing as “the Lagos dream”. It is the inspiration for my story today, it is the story of Okekene and his wife. Mr and Mrs Okekene got married with mutual consent (there is such a thing as a forced marriage and I will tell that story soon), they were members of one of the serious churches which frowned against forced marriage. Mrs Okekene was an housewife while her husband worked on his inherited piece of land as a farmer. His farm produce catered for the needs of his home and the rest he sold in the town on market days. Their finances were not impressive but it was enough, just enough for the growing family of four. Mr Okekene and his wife were happy and spent a lot of time laughing under the shade of the mango tree beside their house.
The trouble started when Ohaha his younger sister returned from Lagos. She had been working as a maid for a family and had only returned for the upcoming village celebration. She challenged Mr Okekene. Ohaha brought home wrappers not just for their mother, but also for her sisters-in-law including his wife who made the fatal mistake of saying:
“Ehn! Okekene never buy me dis kain cloth before! Eh my sister God go bless una!” She had also bought assorted biscuits for his children that even he had never seen before. They skipped about the street showing it to their friends and asked their father if he would keep buying it for them when it was finished.
Okekene chose to ignore the episode until two days later when the family went to his mother’s. It was the annual village harvest celebration when the villagers pounded a lot of yam, killed several chickens and goats (for the wealthy), and wore new clothes. Everyone celebrated it with at least a chicken or two, no matter how lean. This is what Okekene did. His wife carried the basket of food and two bottles of Fanta as his children walked on ahead in their new clothes.
Okekene and his wife did this every year. His mother was a widow and all her children were married except Ohaha the last child, who had been away at Lagos for five years. They celebrated with her because no one else would; his older siblings were either too poor or selfish to care. A crowd of people were gathered in front of the house and Okekene became afraid. He loved his mother greatly. He hurried on, but to his surprise everyone was feasting. There were beer bottles and bones strewn all over the place. The men laughed boisterously, slurping down their goat meat pepper soup. Okekene didn’t understand what was going on.
“Una jus dey come?” One of the men asked picking his brown teeth with his fingernails.
“Wetin dey happen?” Okekene asked confused, looking around. The men laughed, amused at his dumb expression.
“Na Ohaha!” another man answered slightly drunk. “Na Ohaha our queen! Na she kill goat, come buy all these drink. Okeke, money good!” he said with emphasis as the men burst into another round of laughter and the women amongst them giggled.
Okekene’s daughter had gone into the house and now emerged with a bottle of Sprite and fried meat in her other hand. When Okekene saw her oily mouth and orange stained dress, he was ashamed.
“Papa, papa I dey chop meat!” she said happily, she had never eaten meat of any kind like this before.
It was then that Okekene became dissatisfied with his life. Within that hour, he began to dream, not just any dream but the Lagos dream.

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