When I was young, though not yet old enough, I lived in Herbert Macaulay Way, Lagos, less than 2 kilometers away from the popular Makoko, a shanty overlooking one of the most expensive real estates in Africa. In Those days, the neighborhood of Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba from Ebutte Meta was mainly built for the middle class European Staffs. There were also flashes of South Americans all around, mainly from Brazil; I think we called them Saro. As the British were retreating following our independence (I am told, for I am yet to believe that), they sold those houses to our fathers. Some were magnanimous enough by out rightly dashing their houses out to Nigerians, who had been nice to them, while their stay in Nigeria lasted. I can count some of such houses in my neighborhoods, Queen Street, Moleye, Bornu way, Muritala Muhammed Way, the list is endless. The Brazilians too were good to us, remember, some of them even married Lagosians and stayed behind. I got my first mini Chess board from a Swede, she was tired of Nigeria, when her hubby died, dashed out most her belongings and flew away to Europe. When you go to Herbert Macaulay Ways, Queen Street, Omoleye Street etc within that neighborhood, you are bound to see architectural designs synonymous mainly with South Americans and the British. Those are the relics and the last vestiges of the era and timelines of the ‘dinosaurs’’-most especially the British in Nigeria.
Then, Makoko situated in the outer fringes of the Lagos Lagoon was like a melting pot for kids from diverse background, rich or poor. In actual fact, in those days Nigeria is yet to witness a class war between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, what confronted us as a nation was predominantly the traces of racial inequality-the ‘we’ and ‘them’. ’We’ being the aborigines as Nigerians, while ‘them’, were the Europeans or ‘white folks’, who were still very much around, in spite of our independence. Makoko was where we play as kids within the neighborhood. There was a Saw Mill around, with its raw materials like logs, coming from as far as Epe and Ikorodu on the waters. When they dropped those logs tied together with twain on the waters, as kids we like playing with fish, though don’t get me wrong ,we were not ‘Mammy water’, it was purely for fun. So we devised an ingenious method to play with the most ‘beautiful fish’ around. In those days fish liked playing with kids, I don’t know about now. How? Good, we would stand on those logs and forced ourselves to excrete in the water, while stooping like a Spiderman on the floating logs. As each tiny excreta dropped in the water (with a reverse law of gravity in place, ’What goes down, must surely comes up’), a fish MUST surely darts in pursuit of any of our baits at all cost .We were kids and we were just looking for fun, so we would shout….’See, this big one, see this big one..!’…We jumped, we clapped and we danced to our glory.
After all, the pranks and funs, with no cares in the world, we have to go home for lunch (mainly ‘gari’,or ‘fufu’ with ‘ewedu’ and ‘egusi’ soup. Delicacies like rice was always a preserve or reserve for special occasions, august visitors or for Christmas). However, we were always wrong; we were going home not only for lunch but to the waiting hands of our ‘no nonsense’ parents and elders… ‘Come here, little ….(unprintable),where have you been…’.Disciplining a child as of then was a prerogative, not only of one’s parents but also the community at large. All those are now gone into memory of those who cares to remember.
Now, ‘as kids’ no fun, everyone stay behind thick walls, afraid of ‘Boko Harams’ of this world, afraid of ‘human-nappers’(sorry, replace ‘human’ with kid, but in actual sense of literary license, it should be- human. A kidnapped 80 years old mummy or old daddy could not be said to be kids as we witness now-a-days), afraid of the ‘men in blacks’ by road junctions, demanding for ‘20 cards’, afraid of everything and anything that has two legs must be feared, the four legged ones are pets. And so, now we are glued to ‘1000’ inches TVs and ‘500’ inches Pcs, Ipods, Ipads, BBs,play stations etc. Our world is fast becoming an exclusive and reclusive community of people, though tie together by history, geography of time and space, commerce and bond of humanity but extremely pull apart by profound FEAR .Quite unfortunate, we live a lonely life amidst a valley of multitudes of people.
Humanity is gradually losing the essence of life, a growing global village, gradually being swallowed up in an endless ocean of uncertainty, suspicion and apprehension. The spirit of ‘Me’, ’I’, ’My family’ has taken over and replaced what is left of our community. ‘What I can get by hook or crook for myself and my family’ has taken over ‘what is in there for my people, my community or my nation’.
In this age and era, an unfortunate neighbor can take its last breath all alone, rotten for days without its closest neighbor’s attention. And then, we continue to wonder why there are more evils and corruptions, in our time: We wonder why crime rates are souring: why kidnappers are on the prowls: why ritual killing is now a profession: why prostitution has a contact address and sign board: why an armed robber is a god father and touts are law makers. We wonder why a professor or a lettered man dies in abject penury, while an area boy lives in affluence. So much the more, we wonder why crooks and criminals are being celebrated, while hardworking folks go to bed with empty belly. And so much the less, we begin to consider the authenticity that; there are ghosts among us, who initiated any of such negative demeanors in our society. And we blame the gods for being unfair. We so soon forget that when the walls of a city are broken, wolves and predators permeate and multiply.
However, we can take solace and thank God that nobody knows, thank Heavens that nobody feels it, thank Providence that nobody notices nor cares: So, I am sorry for reminding us all. But for me, how I wish I could turn back the hands of time…to the time when we were innocent, with a virgin heart…And ‘God loves the small kids….’ was our song.’