The urge to do this piece has been biting me for more than a week now but the day job and other avoidable man-made factors have hampered me. I have however brought myself to do this hoping it will reach the exact person(s) for whom it is meant, and pass the message it is meant to pass in its entirety.
Grateful for the gift of life a few mornings ago, my mind went back to what my immediate family went through a few years ago, starting from sometime in 1999 till 2011/early 2012. I actually do not know what brought about the conviviality but I am pretty sure it must be the fact that we have turned the corner.
I grew up not as an ‘ajebutter’ and not exactly as a ‘pako’. I was lucky to be in between the two. More like the best of both worlds. My parents were not rich at all, neither were they paupers. They worked hard, only short of slaving, to make us comfortable. There was the feeling of having more than we did, which Mom and Dad made us feel. We felt no lack, but we did not have undue privileges.
Father was about the number six man in one of the best selling newspaper companies then. I remember quite well how he was always on transfer to Ilaro, Calabar and Lagos. He made sure we were comfortable. He in fact went as far as leaving his Volkswagen Beetle with us to ease our movement to school daily. Mother worked in one of the banks consumed by Soludo’s recapitalization; specifically one of the banks that became Skye Bank today. She rose through the ranks only to be retired after her last promotion.
The last promotion looked like the dawn of a new era because all of a sudden we could replace our black and white television with a brand new colour TV and a video player. Our three bedroom ‘face-me-I-slap-you’ apartment was given a total facelift. Things were looking up, or so we thought. However after about half a year or thereabouts, she was retired along with a few others.
Coincidentally, Father’s place of work also started having issues and went belly under in the year 2001.
That was about the same time I was due for admission into the university. Things became very hard. Mother’s provision store at Bodija market, which she opened after retirement could not sustain us. Father could not get another job, and when he did, he had to make do with being a Reporter, many steps backward from being News Editor. It was so bad that some of the establishments were leaving him to work for free under the guise of observing what he had to offer.
The hard times bit hard. I cannot say how we lived but in ways beyond our understanding as children, help came, even if some were associated by snide remarks and a big feeling of mockery. I remember there was a time Momma and my younger ones trekked from our house around Iwo Road area in Ibadan to attend midweek service at Sango where our church is. I remember quite vividly sometime in my 1st year in the university when a classmate asked me for a bottle of drink and I declined because “I am broke”. The reply I got cut me like hot knife through butter – “Seye, why are you always broke?”
I will not forget the day Father called me into his room to give me the money with which I was meant to find my way back to school. I already owed a few friends in school and by the time the two thousand naira I was given touched my palms, I knew I was in for some embarrassment. He left to go and keep another appointment in his bid to get a new job. I stood rooted to the spot in his bedroom as rain of tears streamed from my eyes. My real tears were shed when I got back to school with just five hundred naira.
We suffered, lack and the suffering built a mansion in my family home then. We had help from some sources, but it was not enough as there was no job to bring in the resources required to sustain a family of just three children. My immediate younger brother wore only one uniform and managed to finish his O levels. It was always from debt to debt that I felt things would only get worse. Little brother had to stay back at home for many days because his school fees were not affordable.
We lived from hand to mouth. One meal was always missing per day. Breakfast was delayed many times and sometimes dinner was a ‘sumptuous’ meal of “akara” and “eko” (cold pap), something we were not used to from the start. This we ate with relish, as if we were eating something of note. People rose, but they also had their own challenges. We lived on some people’s charity. I cannot write it all.
Father attempted to write a book and he did successfully only for his ‘brethren’ to betray him. They said they stopped the sale of the books but it was later discovered that the books were sold at their Church convention and the proceeds developed wings. On that day, no one had the smallest naira denomination in the house. We sold Mother’s soft drink bottles to be able to eat on this fateful day. I remember sitting under the orange tree in front of the house, crying my eyes out. I had to take a loan from my bosom friend to go submit a job application.
I got a job and at a time was earning double what Dad earned, even when my salary was peanuts as a casual staff supervisor. Things were tight but we stood strong and firm. I would not deny that the occasional grumble surfaced. The complaints were obvious, the mockery from perceived friends and those who benefited when things were good was too loud not to be noticed. This piece will only try, not reveal it all.
We however somehow have turned the corner in the last two years. Things have continued to look up and have taken a leap in the last one year. Father, I can say feels comfortable enough to give some gifts without looking at how much it cost him now. The good times are coming back again. We see it, we feel it in my family again. We are not all broke again. The head is the head again. Thing have improved again, and can only get better.
For you my friend, know that whatever you face at the moment is only for a while. Though the tough times may be here, they will go. The brutal times are here now, it will pass (in fact every situation has a lifespan- it has expiry date). Please stay strong and believe, just as I did, that you will smile again. This is for someone, just know and keep your heart to it that “tough times never last, tough people do”.
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