Useni was the first in a family of 5; his father, mother and 2 sisters. A brilliant chap. The ideal ‘A’ student way back who was not lucky-or so it seem.
I won’t mention areas, names and all so as to protect the family name. So please, bear with me.
Close to the end of secondary school, he had to drop out because his folks couldn’t pay his school fees.
It was not like that prior to that time anyway; his father, a senior staff at a sugar company, one of the most talented men I’ve ever met (asides my dad), did everything for the family. While their mother had basic education, she was into all kinds of chores to make ends meet. Wash clothes for rich people, she was one time a nanny, she sold firewood, pap, made hair for other women, name it. As long as it brings money, she’ll bend her back to work.
The children, from Useni to Toun, the last born, they were brilliant kids. Top of their class at all levels.
After a while, their dad retired and went into transport business. Driving the old 504 wagon for his rich friend, Alhaji Show-Show. He’d load from the garage and drive to Lagos when transportation was just #1:50k. I’m referring to the ’80s.
Asides driving, he was a good mechanic. He’d repair his car himself, to the envy of ‘booda Yekini mecho’. Sometimes booda Yekini will deny him use of his garage. The man will always smile and beg until booda Yekini will bend. “Amo mo lo betiro mi o!” Don’t use my petrol.
One day the news came that the sugar company where Useni’s dad worked had just started paying their gratuity.
Useni told me, “what my dad got is enough to set us up for life. Buy a house, cars and send myself and my kid sisters to school”. He said with excitement in his eyes. I was happy for him.
I’d punch other kids in the face for mocking him at the football field. Because he’d come in his school shorts, with two big holes at the back, patched with his mother’s Ankara.
You see, it was common sight way back then to see kids with ‘butt peeping holes’ on their shorts. Sometimes due to wear & tear or too much play.
Useni’s mom will cut her wrapper, usually a matching color and stitch them to the butt holes. Useni will wear them to school proudly and most times to go help his mother sell ‘ogi tutu’ (pap), ‘eko elewe’ (agidi) with his sister trailing behind, with different legs of slippers, carry ‘akara’ in a show glass.
People will laugh at him. Despite all, you’ll never hear Useni say a word, fight or return insults. He was my best friend and I felt I owe him a duty, to beat up those who mocked him because he couldn’t afford what they had. I was more like his body guard.
As soon as Useni’s dad got his pay, #1.7m (I hear), he proceeded to buy a house, two cars – a white 504 SR and another white Mercedes Benz 230. Then he married a new wife. The yellow bleaching Hajia that sells fish pepper soup at a bar not far from their 1 room apartment. Then the dreams tumbled and their dad refused them joining him and he also denied them saying, “na dem mama be witch wey make me poor since”.
Useni told me about it. I was bitter. If I was bigger, I’d beaten his dad back to his senses. I hated him. In fact, I stopped greeting him.
The man turned to alcohol. And he’d always come to drink at the bar close to where his family lived.
They’ll come to him at the bar, begging him for money to eat, he’ll ask them, ” iya yin aje nko? What about your mother the witch? Go to her to feed you!”
He’ll push them away. Sometimes, he’d stand up and dance to Ayinla Omowura, Kollington, Ayinde Barrister while he pays for cartons of beer and plates of pepper soup.
Useni’s mom toiled day and night. She began to have health issues. No one cared to help, maybe a few people.
Useni had stopped school because the mother can’t pay his school fees. His dad refused to pay either. It was alleged he said to his immediate younger brother who had gone to plead with him to assist his son, “…I dey suspect you. That boy looks like you. I suspect he’s your son not mine. His legs, eyes and co looks exactly like yours”.
They quarreled and that one pulled away. Occasionally stopping by to drop food stuffs for them and inviting Useni to do menial jobs whenever he can find one.
They suffered, terribly while their father enjoyed himself about town.
A few years after, while a rich woman and her daughter and her friend who live around the area waited for mama Useni to fry their akara, Useni heard the two young girls arguing over a certain formula and calculation in chemistry. Useni watched as one calculated something related to volume in some gas or so, pardon me, I hate chemistry. Then he decided to intervene. Gave them 2 different approach to solving the question. The ladies argued, but he told them, “submit my answer to your teacher. If you score zero, pass by and call me an olodo”.
A few days later, the ladies returned, it so happened that Useni was right after all.
The girls mom became interested in Useni. She wanted him to assist her daughter. Then one day asked Useni, ” what’s your score in WAEC?” Useni replied, “I dropped out because my folks can’t afford my school fees”. He went on to narrate his story and the woman cried.
She paid for his WAEC and off set his school fees. Useni wrote the exams, of course along with the girl and they all made “A’s”.
He was introduced to the girls father after he demanded to know, ” who’s that boy you people said assisted Nike?”
The man was an architect based in the US then. Rich, comfortable, drives a Volvo and a Citroen. Tall, smart man. He invited Useni to his house first after meeting him at his mother’s akara joint. He got interested in him and decided to sponsor him through the university.
He scored 220 in JAMB to study medicine. Instead they offered him Bio-Chemistry. He opted for Civil Engineering. The man’s daughter got Pharmacy, both attended same school. The two families became close and their richness reflected on Useni’s mom and sisters too.
Useni’s father ventured into a business and was swindled. His drinking habit got worse. His yellow ‘pawpaw’ wife started giving him issues.
If she’s not bringing men to their matrimonial home, she’s attending parties and keeping late nights.
As she got worse, he drank more.
Now, to avoid people mocking him, he drank far from home. From his house, he’d have to cross a stream. He’d cross to and on his way back most times, end up in the stream. Good samaritans will help take him home.
He had gone to drink as usual one time and it rained. The locally constructed bridge had some loose edged. He tripped, fell into the stream and because the rain was heavy, it dragged him far away, hitting his head against a rock. He went missing for days and was found by a farmer after his body was washed ashore.
Useni said, “…we just agreed to all reunite…he just apologized to me and my sisters. He wanted me to beg my mom to forgive him…what a cruel way to die!” Amidst sobs.
Useni’s younger sister got scholarship to study abroad. After which she returned with a husband and went back with her mother to go live with her.
Useni served in Anambra with Nike and both got engaged and are now married. Both are living in the States, with Useni managing a firm under Nike’s father.
Almost 30years on, with 4 kids, Useni’s step mom passed and his uncles invited him to come take possession of his father’s house.
He has 1 step brother and 2 step sisters. I asked, “will you ask them to leave the house, considering what their mother did to your mom and dad?”
“Nope. I’ll rebuild the house, each one of them will take a flat and we’d rent out the rest. Let them collect the rent to keep body and soul together. I’m not interested in any inheritance. God has settled me”.
Some times in life, when we go through a challenge, we think God is wicked.
When we pray and hope and the challenge won’t go away, we get depressed.
Forgetting that so many times, it is in that challenge that our break through is buried.
Maybe like in Useni’s story, if the father had not towed that path, maybe they would not have reached their goals today.
I encourage you to be steadfast no matter the situation and know that for every challenge that come your way, it is not to kill you but to build you for the greatness ahead.
Make what you may of this story, just don’t give up.
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I’m done, I’m gone, I’m ghost!