A Birthday To Remember

by Felix-Abrahams Obi

Based on a true-life story

Tired and worn out from the day’s toils, four guys; Ikem, Nna, Ogene and I kept vigil and stretched our yarns till the clock chimed at 12 midnight to herald a new day and a new year for some one else, Nne, who quietly slept in her bedroom. It was the first few seconds of 17th July 2007 that we had all been waiting for…her birthday! We had all crammed into my bedroom and regaled each other with jokes and banters as we lay at awkward angles across my mattress which rested on the rugged interior of my bedroom at Wuye District of Abuja. The bed sheet was rumpled and the crease lines looked more like fancy but rough frills on a lady’s skirt. From my window, I could see the security lights that blazing forth from Wonderland, the newest amusement park in Abuja run by one Lebanese guy. The rays pierced the dark night eerily punctuated by the chirps of insects.

Then I pick my phone and dial Nne’s number…she picks, and a cacophony of husky and croaked voices began to sing the familiar song, “happy birthday to you.” To add more humour, Ikem, Nna, Ogene and I sang the chorus in any key that we liked. A choir of toad, frog and crickets might do better than we did, but Nne thoroughly enjoyed herself. What with the adlibs that garnished the hoary texture of our voices whose key I learnt are missing on the classical music scale.I did a special number using my acquired “mallam accent” of Hausa which I picked up as an undergrad in Kano in the 1990s. My solo stanza I took went like this:

“Kai nyarinya.hafi ‘bad-day’ too yuu
“hafi bad-day, hafi bad-day, hafi bad-day too yuuuu.
“me I don pinish am por mai song,
” oba to mai buroda.to mudu alaaah!

Ikem, Nna and Ogene took their own solo using different accents: Igbo, Efik and Waffi versions of the birthday chorus. Nne’s laughed in great delight and it echoed from the phone’s loud speaker which I had turned on before we sang the special birthday song. It was a surprise that was not privy to hours before she retired to sleep. But we were not yet done with our plans to make Nne’s birthday memorable. The brain storming session lasted till 2.00 AM before Nna left my apartment to join his sister Nne at their own apartment, but he was barred from sharing any hints with her. Ikem, Ogene (my guests) and I sprawled at different positions in the living room and the bedroom respectively to enjoy the abridged sleep.

At dawn Ikem, Ogene and I reluctantly left Wuye Estate for the day’s business. Brushing the staleness of the night was not without complaints as we had only slept for a few hours after the all-male choir’s rendition for Nne. Timed phone exchanges between the four of us were all we needed to fine-tune our plans. At 5.00 PM Nna chauffeured his sister, Nne from Wuye to Wuse 2 to meet me and the five-some crew sped off to get some hot and oven-fresh suya that will be washed down by the chilled fruit juice and soft drinks we picked from Sahad Stores at Area 11, Garki. In another ten minutes, we arrived the popular Millennium Park which was opened in 2003 during Queen Elizabeth’s last visit to Nigeria for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Abuja.

Though Nne has stayed in Abuja for about a decade, she has never visited the park before, and that was the beginning of the thrill. We had arrived at the option because we wanted to have a loud but private outing with Nne. We had thought of having a buffet at the Hilton with all its panache and class. The live-music band at the Capital Bar or the traditional beats that echo from Zuma Restaurant at the ground flour of the hotel had their own attraction. But we commuted all that for our own option. The four-some; Ikem, Ogene, Nna and I had become a quartet that no live-band can displace, not without a fight. We wanted a no-holds-barred outing which the polished milieu of Transcorp Hilton would obviously rob us from enjoying. We wanted to indulge in all our subdued youthful mischief and naughtiness of boyhood which age and adulthood had stripped us of. Millennium Park‘s ambient nature was the perfect montage upon which our evening show was staged; all geared to give Nne a memorable birthday!

We rented some mats and laid them on the lush and well-shoveled lawn at one circumscribed corner of the park that had penetrable walls composed of small tress. We set the cake on the mat and surrounded it with the wrapped birthday gifts, fruit juice and soft drinks, while the quartet formed a concentric circle with Nne and the northern end of the circumference. A few poles away, a romantic couple reclined on a mat having some chit-chats and occasional laughter that love-birds are known for. Another guy stretched out his frame on another mat supposedly lost in his own thought without a care.

It was already past 6pm and from our vantage point, we could see the beautiful fountain that splashed the grasses at the Unity Garden which overlooks Transcorp Hilton Hotel, and the receding sun cast its golden hue over the Millennium Park. Without a well-rehearsed script, Ogene signaled on Ikem to commence proceedings .His opening remarks were enough to crack everyone’s rib, especially Nne’s for in his words, “We are not giving you this treat from the bottom of our hearts because, the Bible said that the heart of man is desperately wicked.”

I had picked a knife from the kitchenette in my office earlier for Nne to cut the cake. Our negotiation with a roving photographer in the park was staled by his insistence on printing a copy for N200 which was rather high. We had forgotten our digital cameras at home and had to resort to our mobile phones to be able to capture the smile of joy on her face. After the cake was cut, we unleashed our uninhibited foolery as we danced like drunken men to the beat of the songs of Sammy Okposo which blared from Ikem’s laptop. We pulled out our shoes and towed the line of the undignified as we wriggled our waistline and waved white handerchiefs as though we’re having a praise party. I regaled Nne with my ‘galala’ dance steps which AJ City guys had popularized in Naija while the Ikem,Ogene and Nna all did their solo performances. We didn’t care about any disapproving glances from other park visitors for silhouetted images of trees in the park would have shrouded such. Morever, “kolomental’ , that jive word popularized by the Naija hiphop star has become an acceptable word for anyone who’d dance uninhibitedly like King David of old.
But the outing was not all about sheer madness of youth for it was punctuated with an acoustic feel. An acoustic guitarist who plied his career as a freelance troubadour played and sang lovely birthday, romantic and gospel songs for the celebrant. The chords were smooth, and his voice crisp and soothing. In a matter of minutes he doled out a medley of sing-along songs that made the evening a remarkable one. He got a chunk of cake and some tip after Ikem (a multi-instrumentalist) did a special birthday song for Nne using the guitar. Nna himself could play the drums but majored in bass guitar though a practicing architect like Ikem. Ogene and I can hardly play any musical

instrument but we loved music all the same, though we work as health professionals in the development sector.

Our rowdiness and noisy jokes and laughter came to a halt as dusk swallowed the fading rays of the sun. The park had no lights on the trees save a few points were security lights beamed. For security reasons, we thought it wise to leave since security personnel did not patrol around to check for possible miscreants and hoodlums that love to hide under the cloak of darkness to unleash terror on innocent folks. Moreso, Ikem’s laptop had vital documents that had no back-up especially the last semester results of his undergraduate students at UNN. As we matched towards the entrance, some love-birds whispered to each other’s ears and it was obvious they made no haste like us. But who wouldn’t be lost in the loving embrace of his/her lover!

Not done with the evening and the birthday mood still high, we head straight to the popular Calabar Kitchen at Area 11, Garki. The lure of edikaikong soup, white soup (ofe nsala), egusi and oha soup pulled us was irresistible. And we salivated as we waited for our meals to be served. I licked my soup with utter delight as the bolls of “semovita’ trudged down my guts. Still in the birthday mood, I tasted Nne’s ofensala but Ikem would not let me indulge in the pleasant mischief of licking his edikaikong and the seasoned chunk of catfish that was an obstacle to his fingers. Selfishly, I licked my own egusi soup mixed with oha, and munched the goat meat that was served with it. The waiters wrapped the remaining pieces of goat meat, chicken and catfish in a foil and parceled them as take-away packs while we cracked more jokes in readiness to head back to Wuye for a deserved rest. The newscasters of popular television station, AIT read the 8pm news which we didn’t pay much attention to save for occasional glances at the TV set.

A guy walks in casually with his hand in his pocket and makes an announcement.

“Bring out all your money and handsets”

We brushed aside his words for we thought it looked like another comedy scene replete in here in Naija. Moreso, he looked rather unserious and fidgeted as he doled out his command. How could four heavy guys obey such a flail command? Hysterical shouts by girls from the main lounge made us wonder what the evening was turning into. We were in a dazed and confused state for a transient moment until the reality hit home in seconds.

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Teejay July 21, 2007 - 11:48 am

A remarkable piece. You are guys are lucky so just take your material loss stoically u still have ur lives intact and thank God for that……

Owena July 20, 2007 - 9:31 am

Ah pele o! Thank God you all came out of that situation with both your arms and legs attached in the right place. The cards can be cancelled so they can not be used again and money can be earned again as long as you are able-bodied and strong. The nerve of those policemen asking for 'folder' money sha… my people o!


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