Eaves of Burj Khalifa

by Lakunle Jaiyesimi

Sitting right beside a boiling pot of Akamu, I had great thoughts about great WHOs and great WHATs to write about. I have just traveled home to my parents and needed to recreate my misplaced solitude in what could be said to be a chaotic neighbourhood. So, I stepped valiantly into that eerily dark and lonely night, silently situated at my father’s yard. To think!

Just as commoners snored the world over, pouring up smokes of slumber in unison, noble countries – disconnected – went up in flames and buried their young in blood, while the old watched and died with despair engraved in their hearts; it was happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Middle East, Jos, Ivory Coast, the Republics of Unknown and now, in Our Heads.

Reports filed in of Unidentified Flying Objects floating atop the ancient shrine at Jerusalem; and I wondered, ‘What is it I’m missing?’

I had thoughts of invoking my pen to speak of the stripping of nations of their honour; people, of their pride; and institutions, their prestige. My brain throbbed with the spasms of the pregnant night, poking the rigid skull to give way; to give way, for it to stand naked to the caress of the luscious night.

I had thoughts of becoming a raconteur of sorts, to stand on the eaves of Burj Khalifa (only that it has none) and beckon listeners to dance to my stories.

Opening lines: Abuja is host to many unspeakable intrigues! While Nigeria’s President, doubling as ECOWAS Chairman, steps into the Ivorian quandary, Egypt and Tunisia being at their boiling points, Jos degenerates…and degenerates like an intrepid failure of a dog, never looking back, never listening to the whistling of the Hunter. Doomed for damnation! Indomitably…

Standing naked before the flying wings of that night, with only a wish to be led to the edge of all creation, a slight movement in the ball of darkness around the corner stole my attention. I crash-landed! A rat? A thief? Or could it be an apparition?

I was well brought up, not to overlook the presence of rats in the vicinity, or thieves who prowl in the neighbourhood. Both must be brought down at any cost. So, I picked up a stone. This will do great damage to the rat. If it were a thief; at least, it will open a tap of blood in his head. So, I commenced my long, winding journey towards the…what if it were an apparition? Ahem, I would have been lifeless for death would have knocked out what was left of the life that had been desecrated by fear.

Lo and behold, it was not a rat! It was neither a thief. Looking closely with eyes wide open, I noticed it was not an apparition, either.

It was rather an apathy-stricken family of three – skin-hugging-bone father, back-bent-and-skinny wife and their near-death malnourished daughter, on their God-forsaken way to Church. A night Vigil!

So, that slight movement in the unknown darkness that crashed my spiritual levitation of angry thoughts was made by this ugly – so, many would have thought in contemporary terms – family of homeless beggars, who have come to perennially stay at my father’s yard.

I lost my train of thoughts about the intrigues in Abuja and the crises in all and more of Ivory Coast, Egypt and Tunisia; refocusing my attention on the emerging world of a dying family. At their departure, father sat me on the only jagged stone under a dogoyaro tree at the frontage of the house, while he pulled a stool to sit his age-jagged buttocks.

The cool evening breeze coupled with the lingering eerie feelings I had was awesome for me, coming as a prodigal from a hustling, nay, riotous city called Lagos.

Father impregnated his narrative about Goodluck Adoke with the coughs of old age he has recently turned into a trademark. This narrative was a response to my request to know what a dying family was doing at his yard.

Goodluck Adoke, being the second child and first son of a family of eight, he enjoyed (or more aptly, suffered), while growing up, an overwhelming attention from relatives and friends. He was as a result decidedly determined to achieve all he could. He knew he had also to go for the jugular, against all odds. He had pressure mounted on him!

Stepping out of the comforts of the house of his father, the head chief of their village, Kuruje, at the tender age of sixteen, armed with the sweet memory of being the most brilliant in high school, he gave no thought to whatever the University would do to him. Not that he cared!

Sailing, nay, struggling through academics, he was beaten to coming tops by the exceptionally more brilliant colleagues. Yet, after about eight more years had been added to what four years was standard duration for his course – no thanks to the incessant strike actions embarked upon by lecturers and students unrest, Goodluck Adoke managed a cosmetic smile on his aging face at the graduation ceremony organized on his behalf, gathering the hem of his green grown as he paced around. Finally, he was out of the incubator! “But to where?”

Father interrupted himself by downing the glass of water mother brought a few minutes before. He hesitated a while before continuing. “In the journey of life,” father said, “there are phases!” These phases, he made me know, make a man metamorphose into whatever he would eventually become. Visions and realities…. Realities and the absence of spiritual achievements properly ground a man in unexpected maturity. That’s if he learns from them, anyway!

The subtle dreams of becoming, on leaving the university, the nation’s President, a head of Industry, an ambassador to a developed country or at least, a fascinating object for the inquisitive eyes of all, faded away with the pressure of family needs and the over-indulgence of his Oliver-twist girlfriend. Endlessly searching for a ‘befitting’ job, Goodluck finally settled for a bank job. To him, it was an opportunity to mingle with the elite class, with a chance at heading the Industry someday and to make an impression. To acquaintances, it was a well-paying job with which one may really not need anything.

Two years down the line, with the interplay of dreams and realities and the absence of spiritual achievements, the world seemed to weigh heavily upon Goodluck’s shoulders. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the downsizing exercise that rocked the pillars of his bank.

In spite of his faith, fate had it that he was one of those sacked and asked to go home and search for job elsewhere. Obviously, father could not relate the story as well as Goodluck himself would have done.

Father, however, seemed to lay more emphasis on the last twist of Goodluck’s tale as he told it with a careful tone of finality, picking his words, checking and ensuring I was getting the message.

Nature harbours no vacuum! It is quite impossible to build a flame of visions and watch as mere fate brings it to flicker to death without doing anything to rekindle it. This is what usually brought many outstanding men to the brink of desperation, crime and then, collapse. Having being pushed to the wall by frustration, they seek a way to push back, to defend…to survive. Afterall, life is about the survival of the fittest.

Goodluck Adoke was nabbed in the company of others by the police at one of the branches of Intercontinental Bank. They went that fateful day to utilize the Automated Teller Machine to cash the quarter of a million bucks they forced Alhaji Olorunnisomo –a neighbor of Goodluck and a Banker, himself – to cough out. He was threatened to pay the money without which his family would be kidnapped and possibly killed.

The Alhaji promptly paid the money as requested into the designated account and immediately alerted the bank authorities to do their job. The excitement of the gang on receiving the Cre

dit alert made them throw all caution to the wind. The ATM did not dispense cash to the account owner (trust the bank to activate the required security system) and foolishly expectedly, the gang obeyed their instinct of greed and walked into the banking hall to complain. What happened next is a story that can be glimpsed in a so-so-so-and-so tabloid of so-so-so-and-so date. The gang was grounded, publicly disgraced and bankrupted.

Goodluck Adoke could no longer get his feet on his balcony without first peeping through the keyhole to ensure that no one was around to see him. The shame was murderous!

Father sighed now like it was a personal story he was telling and belched a little like he was drunk on water, “So, the third night after he was released from police custody on bail, he packed his properties, clothes and family and trekked a long distance to this town, where he was sure no one knew neither him nor his story. He would be safe here, he thought to himself.”

Living on alms and with a shelter without a lock, he has come to know a peace he never knew all of his life – the quietness, the peace! He is sure no organization could retrench him or any boss sack him after a series of query letters and panel investigations. He lived off the sympathetic side of humans, who on their own were slaving out at their workplaces, en-shackled with the fear of retrenchment.

Without embellishing reality, he has since remained content with his poverty.

Father downed another cup of water and I jumped out of my dream where I imagined sitting on the eaves of Burj Khalifa, writing about the staged wars in Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Egypt, London and Libya; about the scientific tsunamis and all-what-nots. Writing is not what I should do now but get back to my corporate work, slaving myself out to avoid being a victim of callous retrenchment.

This is the reality!

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