‘Oh, my home, when shall I see my home?
When shall I see my native land?
I would never forget my home…
The heart-rending song from the inmates of the Kirikiri maximum prison echoed within the prison quarters as they weeded a large expanse of the field.
While the carol continued, Wilson, one of the inmates winced in pain. And just as he contemplated taking a momentary rest, the long cane from the prison guard landed on his bare back.
‘Lazy bone!’ the zealous guard yelled, ‘God punish you and your generation!’
And so, the day wore on as the inmates ended their day with weevil-infested watery beans.
‘Attention everyone!’ a loud voice blared through the prison’s public address system early the next day.
All eyes shifted towards the entrance of the main gate.
‘Happy independence everyone!’ the jailer greeted excitedly.
‘Go away!’ the irate inmates chorused.
‘What’s good about the independence?’
‘Our beloved country is marking her Independence today, for crying out loud,’ the jailer continued.
‘To hell with the independence! Nigeria is a damn country…’ majority of the inmates complained bitterly.
The jailer waited patiently as the inmates vented their grievances. But when he could no longer control the turmoil, he screamed at them.
‘Quiet; otherwise, no food for all of you today!’
A usual silence hung in the air; such that could project the sound of a falling pin.
‘You people should be ashamed of yourself,’ the jailer ranted, ‘this shows how shallow you are. Some citizens from other countries would gladly embrace their independence with ecstasy.’
He paused, shaking his head at their compelled repentance.
‘Without mincing words,’ he continued with a flicker of spark, ‘I’m here with a good news.’
The look of indifference on the faces of the inmates gradually melted and solidified into high expectations.
‘As a way to commemorate this year’s independence, the Federal Government has decided to release of some of the prisoners…’
The prison wall vibrated with shouts of ecstasy.
‘Please listen attentively everyone as I call out the names of the lucky people…’
Wilson’s fear grew in leaps and bounds. Suddenly, his gaze fell on Mr. Terminator, the prison bully. The look on the latter’s face shows he cared less about freedom, but surprisingly, the bully’s name was among the list of lucky inmates!
‘That’s all on the list,’ the jailer ended as he puts away the piece of paper into a folder, ‘the rest of you should wait for your turn.’
‘To hell with your freedom!’ Mr. Terminator roared.
Then suddenly, like a scene from a movie, the bully walked towards the jailer.
‘I don’t need your release; let Wilson take my place.’
A MONTH LATER…
Wilson stared at himself in the mirror. It was obvious anyone could literally take the census of his bones without having to feel him. A week before his imprisonment, he had prided himself as one of the few lucky Nigerians to use Nokia 3310 handset, but ironically, now the same phone had almost gone into extinction.
‘Life seemed like a hundred years gone past me,’ he muttered to himself as he leaned against the railings of the balcony. As though to reinforce his belief, a Prado Jeep car pulled into the next building and to his amazement, the occupier happened to be that ten-year-old primary school hawker he used to buy pap from.
‘I’ve lost it!’ Wilson lamented, ‘I’m finished!’
He shut his eyes, and in tears, began to relieve some of the events which happened in his younger years…
‘Of what use is education if it can’t fetch you good money,’ twelve-year-old Wilson had asked his friend on their way back to the dormitory.
‘You’re right, Willy, Ade concurred, ‘money does not respect education.’
The events fast-forwarded to ten years later…
Wilson was in a middle of a conversation amidst a handful of free newspaper readers.
‘There are some lucky people in this country who make money daily without actually working,’ he began, as he scanned through a newspaper headline.
‘Money don’t grow on trees young man,’ another reader countered him.
‘For some people it does,’ Wilson defended, ‘my best friend in school is in Germany now and makes a hell lot of money; ironically, he has abandoned me…’
The torrents of events skyrocketed to five years later…
‘So, can I check the contents of this suitcase?’ Wilson asked his boss the moment he arrived at the hotel.
‘Willy, we’re running out of time already,’ the man replied, ‘the whole of this suitcase contains packs of chocolates meant for our madam. A guy would be waiting for you at the airport in Karakas.’
Six hours later Wilson’s luggage was being scrutinized.
‘Young man, you’re under arrest for possession of hard drugs,’ security agents had informed Wilson at the airport.
The strings of events finally brought him to reality.
‘My life is a waste!’ he chanted as he made his way to the pharmacy.
‘Do you have CALAMINE LOTION?’ he asked in desperation.
‘Please, wait for your turn,’ the pharmacist insisted.
Wilson’s impatience soared as the pharmacist took his time attending to an elderly man before him.
‘And lest I forget, Baba,’ the pharmacist added, ‘I’ve bought those GCE past questions for you.’
‘Thank you,’ the elderly man beamed.
‘It’s my pleasure. I must admit that your child is lucky to have a caring father.’
‘Yes, he is; but those question papers are for me,’ the old man answered confidently.
Wilson gazed with mouth agape, wondering if he had heard the conversation between the pharmacist and the old man correctly?
‘I wasted my younger days,’ the old man continued, ‘now, I feel a strong urge to go back to school. Age, doesn’t matter much to me anymore.’
‘Unbelievable!’ Wilson trembled.
‘I have no power over the past; it’s already a finished project,’ the elderly man emphasized. ‘but I can determine my future by what I do today. Today, is the only blank space left for me to write on. It’s better I die trying than to give up unsung.’
Those words stung Wilson and he felt too ashamed to embark on his suicide mission.
‘Yes, young man, how many bottles of CALAMINE LOTION should I get for you?’ the pharmacist turned towards Wilson.
‘Oh, no!’ he scratched his head, ‘let me have a bottle of Vitamin C instead.’
‘There’s still a ray of hope for me,’ he muttered to himself as he left the place.
Final Remarks: Today is the only blank space you can write on. The past had already been taken. Life is a moving train. Rather than give up, keep moving!
Until I come again your way next week, KEEP MOVING!