The next day, it was the same story. NEPA had failed to bring the light throughout yesterday. Everyone was hoping today would be a different story as the irregular puffing and huffing of the ‘I-better-pass-my-neighbor’ generator that we were using then had to be on throughout the night, thus disturbing not only the mosquito filled night of our neighbors but also defeating my purpose for staying up all night. I was preparing for a spelling competition and the competition was no small thing. It’s surprising that at such a young age, there was a keen desire for success in me. I had been affected by my situation. I knew I deserved a better life and after seeing teachers getting so much respect and leading good lives, I decided that an education was the only way to change my story. This realization hit me in primary 4. Before then, I hadn’t really taken education too seriously. All I knew was that little children went to primary school and big children went to secondary school; the parents were in a class of their own. I looked at the back of the textbook to get my answers especially in math and just formulated my own solution and put the right answer at the hand, the popular ‘wuru-wuru’ to the answer. Subsequently, I became more education conscious and found out I was actually quite intelligent. I however still lived for the holidays, especially the summer holidays. Unlike the privileged kids, I didn’t travel during holidays; I had something better to look forward to, Summer School. Summer school was where children expressed themselves but in an educational environment and the excursions were always anticipated.
The summer of 2003 was especially memorable for me. I had turned 10 earlier that year. The age of wiseness, maturity, responsibility; sadly the year of also going away to boarding school. There still was no light. My cousins and I then decided to go out and play, as it was really hot indoors. We even strolled to Mallam Audu. He was the Mallam at the end of the street. At that age when there was no Shoprite, Mallam Audu was every child’s sweet fantasy realized. We then went to Efe and Ejiro’s house; in hindsight, they were quite cute. My elder cousin, Modupe had a thing for Jite, the youngest one. They had dogs; it was thus always daring to venture into their house, it was our own Gulder ultimate search. Their house always had this really welcoming smell; how I imagine an English house would smell. I loved their house. Lots of memories in that house, with its grey and soft couches. It was getting a bit late and we had to return home. Once home we started a game of Ludo. It was heated. Everyone was in it to win it. Somehow I noticed that Modupe was cheating, a fight thus broke out. It didn’t end well, everyone then went their own way, as the younger one I felt bad for fighting with her. I looked up to her. She was downstairs, so I went to meet her and she was running away. I pestered her anyways and she was trying to avoid me, I then started chasing after her. We went round the back, where we usually washed clothes. Then came to the front where above us, there was sort of a balcony where we spread clothes and had the occasional parties. From the balcony, one could see a vast expanse of Surelere. We usually spoke to the girls in the next house but not on the same street as us.
As we emerged in front, by the corner of my eyes, I saw something falling down and stretched out my hands to catch it in the belief that it was probably a piece of clothing. It was unusually heavier than I expected a piece of clothing to feel. It thus slipped from my hand. I looked down and couldn’t believe it. It was Olajide. 4 years old Olajide. Why would Olajide be as lifeless as a piece of clothing? Why would he even be falling in the first place? Was he alive? What if I hadn’t broken the fall? A lot of questions ran through my mind. I looked up and straight into Modupe’ gaping wide mouth. The look on her face said it all. She was scared. Scared that she had just lost her junior brother, scared that it was all her fault because she hadn’t been looking after him, scared that she would never get another opportunity to tell him she loved him. I heard shrieking, it became louder; I wanted to find out who was making such a racket. It was as though the person was standing right next to me, as if the person was inside me; it was me. Blood had begun to sip out from his head. I knew because, my feet suddenly felt wet and it wasn’t water. My cousin’s blood was on my feet. I don’t recall seeing any adults downstairs, we didn’t have phones then, the memories are a bit sketchy, so I can’t recall how an ambulance came to be in front of the compound.
Needless to say, it was another sleepless night for me, unknown to me at that time, all the thoughts running through my head were so called conspiracies theories which all turned out to be untrue. Olajide was fine. He was fine, the feeling on hearing that was as though the ice bucket challenge had been invented back then; and I felt as cool as people who accepted the challenge must have felt. Minds were clear, tensions were reduced and sanity was regained.
Just as the saying goes, it’s the same hand you use to chastise a child, you use to draw him back. It was time to question Olajide on his thought process when he decided to kill himself. In his bored innocent state, Olajide had decided to act out a scene in the popular children cartoon, Superman. Assuming children had kryptonite enabled flying abilities. In his pursuit of his flying ambitions, he had decided to go to the balcony, stand on the railing and surrender to the winds. In hindsight, it’s a funny story, but thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. The proverb what an old person sees sitting down, a child won’t standing up started making sense to me. After everything, I started seeing myself as a hero, so when my mother asked me to wash plate the next day, I felt really underappreciated. Hadn’t I just saved a life the previous day? What did this people want from me? I still wash plates till this day; amongst other really annoying chores I wasn’t exposed to at the age of 10.