Uncle Bros., My Neighbour's Son

He is only 4-years old but he’s not stopped to baffle us all. He has shown his precocious tendencies way back as a toddler but his brain seem to have aged and matured too soon. Though his name is Emmanuel, my friend’s son and I call each other ‘Uncle Bros’ and he scarcely calls me ‘Uncle Felix’ save when he wants to sound a bit formal. In all fairness, he owns the original copyright of the brand name ‘Uncle Bros’ as it came as an offspring of his creative genius. And no one should bat an eyelid if he displaces and pushes out brand icons like Leke Alder and Charles Otudor out of the branding market anytime soon!

Emmanuel’s dad and I have been neighbours in the government estate where we live in Abuja. The apartments are not the classical ‘face-me-I-face -you’ type but have a semblance of it as it was custom-built for the lowest cadre of civil servants. Many of them sold their flats to reap the dividends of Obasanjo’s monetization policy, and used the proceeds to rent far cheaper apartments at the outskirts of the Abuja city centre, while some relocated to nearby Nasarrawa and Niger states respectively. Many of us who are not civil servants have become tenants of to civil servants who bought the apartments from their indigent colleagues.

My neighbour grew up in Benin City where I lived in for 3 years during which my crisp and burnished English accent was corrupted with Pidgin English ‘made in Bini’. As an NYSC physiotherapist, my first baptism into Pidgin was in the consulting room when an elderly woman with osteoarthritis of the knee came for treatment. While ‘clerking’ her, I enquired about the nature and characteristics of the pain to help me at a treatment plan. Mama answered, ‘my pikin, ai dey hear am inside’ stretching the phrase for emphasis while pointing her fingers to the source of pain. Confused and flustered, I hid my ignorance under the cloak of professionalism and managed to treat her that day.

It was not until I went to the ward to attend to another patient who had necrosis of his hip joint due to sickle-cell anemia that I decoded the phrase. Educated and young, I expected this patient to speak in ‘janded’ English accent when I took his case history. He also blurted out this ‘ai dey hear am inside’, and I had no option than to ask for its meaning. I wondered how on earth one would ‘hear’ pain instead of ‘feel’ it, but in Benin, pain has a voice, and only the victim ‘hears its villainous voice’! By the time my NYSC was over, I dumped my hallowed English for pidgin with its musical undulations. I began to say ‘Bros I dey double hail oh’ etc, when I meet a close friend on the streets of Benin.

Since Emmanuel’s dad grew up in Benin, we mutually call each other ‘Bros’ and being his ‘Uncle’, this kid’s genius reckoned that I should be called ‘Uncle Bros’ and the name has stuck with us all, and that’s what his parents call me as well. When he wants to strum my guitar, he’d yell at his dad to take him to ‘Uncle Bros’ house’. The pidgin bug hasn’t stung him yet but his grammatical theatrics only goes show that it’s only a matter of time before the ‘pidgin gene’ matures and becomes expressive.

Over year ago, little ‘Uncle Bros’ used to regale us with his homilies and displays as a ‘tele-evangelist and pastor’ in the mould of Chris Oyakhilome, whom he saw as his mentor. Uncle Bros would mount the ‘podium’- his mom’s kitchen stool- to preach to us, with his Bible stuck in his armpit. Clad in his stripped suit with knotted tie, Uncle Bros would convert his dad’s phone charger into a microphone to gleefully declare and echo pastor Chris’ popular refrain, ”So mightily grew the word of God and it prevailed’.

Uncle Bros toga as the kid pastor received a knock when he started nursery school couple of months back. He has caught the attention of a little girl, Sandra, and he no longer mounts the podium to preach again like a backslidden pastor whose soiled linen has been washed in the public. I wonder why he chuckles and giggles whenever Sandra is mentioned in his house. He shocked my auntie and me when he tried to impress her 5-years old daughter when they visited me last year. He painted the scene of a proud peacock trying to impress a female mate for when he heard that a little girl was in my house, he dropped everything that caught his attention and dashed into my apartment with breath-taking speed!

He boasted to my auntie and daughter that his mom is now his wife, and that when he grows up, he’d take her to the church and ‘do wedding’ with her. With mouth ajar, she listened as Uncle Bros strutted around to impress and boast about his mom, ostensibly to impress my auntie’s daughter I suppose. He brandished his toy gun and boasted that he’d shoot even the Policemen and soldiers, and will arrest us (offenders) and put us in prison. My auntie’s witty and impressionable daughter spurned his overtures and looked the other way until Uncle Bros went back to his parent’s apartment.

Uncle Bros and his dad are in for a never-ending romantic contest and the object of the conquest is his mom-wife! Each time his dad kisses the mom , he’d yell at his dad to “leave my wife alone” and his face gets furrowed with the mischievous smiles each time his mom beckons, “come and kiss mommy”. And whenever he refuses to eat his ‘Indomie noodles’ like he always does, his mom will threaten, “I won’t marry you again’, only for him to become apologetically patronizing. After forcing down the food down his guts and topping it with water he’s plead, ‘Mommy please marry me you hear.!”

Uncle Bros squealed recently after a trip to Wonderland -Abuja’s most popular amusement centre-with his mom. His mom’s phobia for heights took a hold of her when they both entered one of the formular-1cars that raced like legendary Michael across a tortuous rail track suspended from the ground at an elevated height of over 4 meters. Uncle Bros giggled and had fun at the expense of his mom who screamed and cried hysterically as the car made its breath-taking stunts above the earth’s surface. To cover and conceal her shame, Uncle Bros and his mom made a pact to not tell anyone about the incident. After all, lovers have secrets that no one else is permitted to be privvy to.hence ‘no kiss and tell’ is permitted by lovers!

Having not seen my neighbour for weeks, I walked over to his apartment to see them. As usual, he greeted me with ‘Bros I hail oooh’ and no sooner had I reclined on the sofa than Uncle Bros walked up to me to ‘kiss and tell’ on his mom, who was sitting nearby. To his mum’s chagrin, he chuckled loudly as he told me how his mom screamed out of fear as they rode in the car at the amusement park the previous day.

Like most lover boys are wont to do to the objects of their romantic adventures and conquests, Uncle Bros reneged on his vow to not ‘kiss and tell’. After another threat of divorce, he went down on his knees to apologize and plead with his mom to welcome him back and ‘marry him’ again. His dad usually is the chief audience who watches helplessly as this Oedipus complex soap opera plays itself out daily under the roof of a house he had bought over from the government as a civil servant from his savings. I wonder why little boys are ‘jealously in love’ with their mothers!

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