Saturday, February 10, 2018

Years ago, a friend bought a house at Zone 4 in Wuse. I along with a few other friends of ours who were all members of a club I belonged then was invited to the 'opening party.'
The house owner had made so much money from a contract job which he was keeping away from many of us. When I asked him how it all happened, he simply said; “Japh, na God o.”
I was to know soon that in Abuja, people guarded their contacts jealously. No matter how close you were with anyone, you don’t carelessly reveal your source of a big deal to him or her. That was the kind of club I belonged in those days.
That Friday evening, we all set out to Wuse Zone 4. It was a warm and colourful gathering. All my friends – at least most of them, came in flashy cars. Amongst them however, I was the youngest; and probably the poorest. I arrived in a taxi with my pretty young wife whom every other man in attendance wished was his. We were dressed casually but we stole the day the moment we arrived.
I led the evening with gusto when I was handed the microphone. My wife told me days later that some of the women had told her that she was lucky to have had a very humorous person like me for keeps. A few also told her that she was indeed very beautiful. But all these acknowledgements faded into thin air the moment the women began to brag about their husbands’ flourishing businesses, the big high-charging schools their wards attended and their endless chain of vanities.
“We paid over two million naira to secure admission for my son in that school.” One said.
“Ha,” said another, “I will tell my husband about the school so we can take my daughter there.”
They talked about the many colourful things in their lives while my young wife sat there pretending to nibble at her cold salad. She had no expensive jewelry to talk about. She had no expensive car to brag about. Her husband hadn’t taken her to any oversea trip worthy of sharing the experience with anyone. Her only child was in a school whose forty thousand naira fee was still a challenge. It was a moment of disillusionment for her. My wife felt empty in their midst. Why did I bring her there? She kept thinking; her heart burning.
The alarm bell struck for me the moment I read her SMS on my phone where I sat with the boys having fun.
‘Let’s go home please.’
The ride back home was uneventful. We could only talk in monosyllables. In yeses and nos. I sensed from the way she responded to my gossip and probing that all was not well. But I couldn’t figure out what it was.
We lived in the coldness of that emotional war for two days more before I finally got to know what had happened. ‘They’ had infected my wife!
It was on our way to church on Sunday that she asked suddenly. “Why don’t you want to tell your friends to connect you? Does the party not reveal anything to you? How long do you want us to remain like this?”
By 'LIKE THIS' she meant that we needed to up our game to enjoy a better life but I was perplexed. I had two jobs that were draining me. On the sidelines, I had about three home-coaching classes that paid well too. My take home pay was a little close to two hundred thousand. Bills and debts were knocking me out and in pains I still trotted on.
It was that Sunday that she told me all the things that the women had talked about and how one of them asked her if she’d ever gone shopping in Dubai. That was when I realized that I had joined the wrong gang and must find a way to pull out immediately.
Three days later, I told my wife to pack my few clothing for me because I was traveling the next day.
"Traveling?" she threw apprehensively. "You never told me you were traveling."

I rode with a politician years ago in one of his many posh cars. We rode past a suburb and found many a peasant in their misery and poverty. The panes were dark tinted and wound up. There was no reason to wind them down because the car was only a few days old and the air conditioner was in perfect order. The tinted glass seemed to me like the gulf separating the rich man and Lazarus in paradise.
“Sir,” I said suddenly, “how do you big men feel whenever you drive past poor people like these?”
“Japheth,” he responded with a smirk spread upon his face, “do you want an honest answer?”
I gave him the nod.
“You see, the fact that we have and they don’t is what makes wealth so beautiful. It makes no sense when everyone is made rich. We are not meant to be equal.”
Grimacing, I told him he did not only sound disdainful and conceited, he was also being resentful and less concerned over the plights of the downtrodden.
“You should know sir that even if you feel that all men were not meant to be equal, it shouldn’t be expressly uttered in the manner that you just did. You are only privileged sir and..”
“Japheth, we need not argue over this. You said you wanted an honest answer, and I gave it to you. As a politician, I know exactly what you wanted to hear but if I had told you, you would have said it wasn’t an honest answer. You would have said it was because I am a politician. Do you think actors are the only people who could act? No, no, no. We politicians act better. I could begin to cry in your presence and pretend that I care about the plights of the people and you might be tempted to believe that I indeed care. But I gave you an honest answer Japheth; an honest one.”
I heaved a sigh. He went on smoothly;
“The poor always think that the rich hate them with a passion but I must tell you the truth, the reverse is the case. It is the poor who hate the rich with intense passion. The rich do not hate them as much. Too bad they hate themselves even more but the rich don’t. The rich introduce themselves to their children, exchange ideas and explore greater heights but the poor can’t do that for themselves. If you get very rich now and decide to still hang out with the poor people you knew before, they will kill you with envy. They only want to hear the bad things that happen to you, the battles you did not win and the calamity that you continually drag with you. They can’t sell an idea to you but if you do sell one to them, they will betray you. Betrayal is more common amongst the poor than it is amongst the rich.”
I said there were still good people amongst the poor.
“Yes,” he agreed. “There are quite a handful of them truly but one other problem with the poor is that they can never be satisfied.  No matter what you do for them, they will still find a reason to complain. They hate us and also hate themselves. That is the most painful thing about them. They are aggressive and intolerant. They think you owe them because you are privileged to be rich..”
He went on nonstop. Finally, he said something I will never forget. “Japheth; if I give you this car and you drive it home, only a few poor people will come to congratulate you. But if after a period of one month, the news breaks out that the car has been stolen, they will all come to empathize with you. That is the trademark of the poor; empathy!”
I was to know a few days later that he was right to an extent. I was chauffeured in a limo for the very first time and that experience brought to the fore that indeed there is a deep-rooted hatred buried in the heart of many a poor person; so deep it could consume everyone in a sweep.
That limo-ride experience which can be found in the subsequent chapter opened my eyes to a lot of things…

japheth prosper's writings online: FROM MY ACHIVES

japheth prosper's writings online: FROM MY ACHIVES

Thursday, January 10, 2013


       Everybody knew how Gibson loved fura d nunu while we were still in school.
       It was on Christmas day that I finally had time to visit them. When I heard weeks before that Christy, Gibson’s wife, had given birth to a bouncing baby boy, I was quite elated. Gibson and I were both in the same department in school and we did almost everything together.
       “Guy, I just had a bouncing baby boy and his name is Jonathan.” He had announced proudly that Sunday on the phone. From the manner he spoke, I sensed he was in the best of moods. Nothing gladdens a man’s heart than knowing he’s not only productive but has also got an evidence to prove to that effect. The birth of the new-born had shown that the couple was indeed fertile.
       Days crawled pass slowly and dragged into weeks. I had planned to pay them a visit but trust what work, traffic and family could do to a man. Each day, a gnawing guilt sat in my chest knowing that it wasn’t fair what I was doing.
       “You’re, a bad man Japheth,” I constantly heard a voice telling me deep down my subconscious.
       Finally, free on Christmas day, I decided to pay them the much anticipated visit. They were all at home. Three other visitors; a woman, a young lady and an elderly man, were seated sipping juice. I took the seat facing the TV.
       “At last the mountain has decided to come to Moses,” Christy beamed chirpily. We shook hands and minutes later, baby Jonathan was calmly resting in my lap. Christy had - like every good mother would - breastfed him very well and the baby was in a joyous mood.
       “Good guy; Jonathan,” I said playfully making the baby giggle and shriek with excitement.
       Just then Gibson sauntered into the sitting room from the bathroom. He guffawed when our eyes met.
       “I wasn’t expecting you to come,” he puckered. “I thought you would wait until my son becomes the president of the country before you visit us…”
       We chortled at that and then the elderly man announced that he was leaving.
       The woman and the young lady – her daughter perhaps - also stood up to leave. Christy saw them off leaving me with her husband and the infant who had begun to sleep.
       “What can I offer you, guy?” Gibson was standing in front of the refrigerator.
       I blinked, “anything soft.”
       “Fresh milk… chilled; very fresh!”
       Shrugging, I gave him the nod. I used to know how he loved fura da nunu when we were in school. Those days, Gibson had over ten Fulani women who constantly supplied him the fresh cow milk. He had carried along the love for milk to this day.
       “You and milk,” I grinned as he poured me a glass-full.
       Thick, nourishing and very chilled! I drank it with so much relish as we both sat across the table.
       “Who supplied this one?” I echoed excitedly as he poured me a second glass. I hadn’t tasted cow milk that was that nourishing and satisfying before. The taste was simply out of this world. No wonder Gibson has been shinning like a new coin. I thought almost aloud.
       “You like it?”
       I nodded in the affirmative. “Man, I want to be introduced to the supplier right away. Can you introduce me to her?”
       He said he was going to arrange something.
       My mind was on the fresh milk as I drove home. It had soothed my heart and made me feel so good. I kept telling myself that I hadn’t been feeding on the right diet all along. Enough of this junk food Man! I almost yelled at myself.
       The next day, true to his words, Gibson supplied me a bottle which I kept in the fridge and guarded jealously. I told my wife and the maid not to go near it.
       “What is good for the goose…” my wife tried to make a protest but I cut her short painlessly.
       “This one is not good for the gander. It’s a concoction for jedi-jedi…”
       With that, I had the supplies all to myself.
       Three days later I called Gibson for more of the supplies. It had become to me like cocaine and I was glad I had developed an addiction.
       “I had a fight with Christy last night” Gibson muted from the other end.
       He had a fight with his wife; so what? What had that got to do with our supplies? What was my business if Christy had suddenly gone mad? That was their business, not mine!
       All I wanted was my milk and nothing more.
       “Gibson,” I sighed dispassionately. “What is my business if you had a fight with Christy?”
       “Hey Man,” his voice rose with indignation. “You don’t bite the finger that feeds you. Come over and let’s make it up with her…”
       I felt my heart jump into my stomach. What in heaven’s name was he talking about?
       “Gibson… Gibson, what is the meaning of that?” I stuttered curiously.
       “Wake up Man.”
       “What? What? What do you mean?”
       “Listen guy, Christy is the source…”
       “I don’t understand!”
       Time stood still.
       The hairs at the back of my neck bristled; my heart fell into my mouth and cold shiver permeated my entire body as I heard him say;
       “Japheth, the fresh milk came from Christy…”

fura d nunu:   Fresh cow milk mixed with millet; a fine delicacy popular with the Fulani.

 jedi-jedi:   An ailment that requires herbal treatment.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

UNEDITED SHORT STORY ... By Japheth Prosper

The cat and the mouse were very good friends and always were often seen together. There was no place the cat would go that the mouse didn’t know about. They shared almost everything in common.
One day, the mouse visited the cat and when they had both played for a while, they went out together to the river where they hoped to fetch some crabs.
They strolled along the sea shore together and after a while, each found a stray crab. No one loved crabs like the cat and his bosom friend. As the animals were about to eat their lunch, something strange happened.
“Please, spare our lives,” the crabs pleaded. “Spare our lives and we shall reward you.”
Dazed, the two friends stared at each other. Never before had they heard crabs talk. Who taught them how to talk? They wondered. They were very hungry and nothing could stop them from having the crabs for lunch.
“We are hungry.” They both chorused in unison. “We must have you for lunch for we don’t want to starve.
“Spare us and we shall make you have ten lives!” the crabs pleaded.
“Ten lives!” The mouse and the cat gaped. “How? What do you mean by that?”
The crabs went on to tell them a long story. They said they both were sisters and that they had both lain nine eggs each and had hidden them in the sands. “They will have nine lives and it will be difficult for anyone to harm you.” They said.
“But I thought you said ten lives?” asked the cat curiously.
“Yes,” the two sister-crabs replied. “We haven’t laid the tenth ones yet. If you spare our lives, we shall lay them for you. With the tenth one, you’ll both live forever.”
The two friends looked at one another.
“Excuse us for a while,” said the cat narrowly. He held his friend’s arm and led him a few steps away from the crabs. “Do you think they are telling us the truth?” he asked the mouse.
“No,” threw the other in negation. “I don’t believe them. If they had such eggs, they would have eaten them up themselves so they too could have ten lives.
“Should we spare their lives?” asked the cat.
“I don’t think that’s a wise decision.” The mouse replied. “I am famished and I must have a crab for lunch.”
“But these are crabs that can talk…” Heaved the cat
“What difference does it make?” the mouse threw angrily. He was now growing very impatient.
“I think we should spare their lives,” the cat went on. “We could have nuts for lunch today. Please let us…”
The mouse wasn’t listening to his friend anymore. He hurried to meet the crabs, pounced on one of them and began to nibble at it with considerable appetite.
His friend, the cat was furious.
“I told you, we should spare their lives!” he screamed but the mouse was already halfway gone with its meal.
The other crab immediately broke down and began to cry and mourn the loss of her dear sister.
The cat came and touched the crab tenderly and in sympathy, muttered, “Don’t cry dear. I am very sorry over the death of your sister…”
As he said those words, the mouse continued to nibble at the crab as if all his life depended on it. His friend, the cat was forever angry with that callous display.
“You didn’t need to do that. They were going to give us ten lives.” He lamented, staring woodenly at his friend.
“And how do you know they weren’t lying to us?” returned the mouse sarcastically.
The cat turned to the living crab. “What is it again you said about the ten lives?”
“Come with me,” said the crab tearfully.
“But you must promise not to kill me…”
“I will not harm you,” said the cat with a nod. “Lead me at once to your eggs.”
The crab led the cat to a place where true to her words; nine eggs were buried in the sand.
“You must swallow the eggs at once and as you do, no harm shall befall you.” The crab remarked with much emphasis now.
The cat began to swallow the eggs as directed by the crab one after the other. When he had swallowed all the eggs, he looked at the crab and echoed;
“So, how do I know that this is indeed true?”
The crab led the cat to the summit of the mountain. The mouse who had finished eating the crab and still very much in doubt of what the crab had told his friend, followed the two behind.
When they’d reached the summit of the mountain, the crab directed the cat to throw himself down.
“I am scared,” cried the cat.
“You have nine lives now,” said the crab in response. “You will throw yourself down nine times and no harm shall befall you.”
The cat heaved a long sigh, grinned and off he went. He threw himself down and as he dropped down the valley, the mouse cringed.
But no sooner had he thrown himself, than he came up again smiling.
His friend, the mouse gaped in awe.
The cat went down again the second time and dropped down the valley. His friend he mouse cringed, still fearing that he might die.
But no sooner had he thrown himself the second time, than he came up again smiling.
Again, his friend, the mouse gaped in awe.
“You can do that again,” said the crab nodding.
“Yes, I can,” the cat chuckled proudly and off again he went. He threw himself down and as he dropped down the valley, the mouse cringed thinking he might die.
But no sooner had he thrown himself down the third time, than he came up again smiling.
Again, his friend, the mouse gaped in awe. Now, it was obvious to the mouse that the cat had indeed become a kind of supernatural being with its new status. Envy raged in his heart and he regretted that he killed the other crab. If he had known, he would have spared her life and perhaps by now, he too would have had nine lives like his friend. If only he was patient…
“You can do it again,” said the crab to the cat. The latter had thrown himself eight times already.
“And if I come up this time you shall let me have the last egg?” the cat narrowed excitedly.
“Yes,” replied the crab waxing its pincers, “And that will make you live forever!”
The cat laughed out loud and his voice echoed far into the distant hill. He was so excited that he was going to be the only animal in the world that would live forever. Not even man was so graciously blessed. He reasoned.
“I shall live forever!” he screamed and beat his hand on his chest excitedly.
His friend, the mouse was not happy with this development. Jealousy raged in his stomach endlessly and he wondered what to do to free himself from the pain of that burning strife. It was sufficient enough that the cat already had nine lives but that he could live forever tormented the mouse greatly. If that happened, the cat would be worshiped like a deity by other animals. No! The mouse shook his head in fury.
Just then, the cat threw himself down the ninth time and dropped down the valley but the mouse did not cringe any more neither did he fear that his friend might die. He was now nursing the bitterness of not being as lucky as the cat.
No sooner had the cat thrown himself down the valley the ninth time, than he came up smiling and hoping to find his friend, the mouse, awestruck. His mind was so preoccupied with the thoughts of swallowing the last egg which would make him live forever.
It was when he reached the summit of the mountain that he paused and felt his heart knock against his ribs. There on the mountain-top lay his friend, the mouse, nibbling at the crab that had just given him nine lives. The mouse was now cracking the shell of the crab now with his teeth. Never before had the cat been so infuriated.
The anger was so intense that his eyes glowed and suddenly, whiskers appeared on both sides of his cheeks. His most trusted friend had not only betrayed him but had just made it impossible for him to live forever.
In a rage, he pounced on the mouse and showed it no mercy. Perhaps he could find the crab’s egg in his stomach. The cat thought painfully. Angrily, it ripped his friend’s stomach to pieces and began mournfully to search for the crab’s tenth egg.
Till this day, even though he still had nine lives, the cat had not only developed strong aversion for the mouse, it had also refused to give up the search for the tenth egg. And to this day, anywhere he sights the mouse he pounces on him with so much hatred in his heart; ripping it to pieces to search for the tenth egg.