By Osa-Mbonu Amadi
Before Ngozi died, I had seriously entertained the thought of buying a car, even if it meant foregoing or sacrificing my other responsibilities towards my mother and siblings. Although I was not married I had relations I was training in school.
When I discussed it with the late Sylva Eleanya, he laughed and asked me whether I was not better than Marcie, one of our brothers who had nothing else apart from one rickety car he rides, not as a commercial vehicle, but as a private car.
Marcie, our friend who was squatting with one of Sylva’s relations in one-room apartment in Agege, had a Mercedes Benz. Sylva and I never stopped wondering how Marcie, a car owner, could be squatting with Sam who had no car. To rub salt into an injury, Sam was also feeding Marcie!
Neither did it ever cease to amaze me how Marcie’s Mercedes Benz was able to move. It was almost a scrap of a car but Marcie had managed to pay a painter who used multiple layers of white paint to cover the dilapidated body of the car. From a distance, it would look like a car, until you entered inside it, then you will know how far!
It was said that a journalist had once asked the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi whether he was a Moslem. Gani, sensing where the journalist was going, answered: “Yes, I am a Moslem, but not Gumi’s type.”Gumi was an Islamic cleric whose faith Gani believed bordered along extremism. So also I told Sylva Eleanya several times that I wanted to own a car but not Marcie’s type!
We all made fun of Marcie and his white Mercedes Benz, advising him to sell the car and rent a room with the proceeds instead of squatting with Sam. But Marcie would not hear of such nonsense. He even begged money to fuel the car, and what surprised me most was that different types of ladies ran after Marcie as a car owner. He would dress in a large white babaringa, sat at the wheel of the epileptic car and cruise around town, always begging pedestrians to come and help him push the Mercedes Benz.
“Perhaps Ngozi wouldn’t have rejected you if you had that type of Marcie’s car,” Sylva jabbed at me.
“Abeg I no want,” I said, shrieking with laughter.
It reminds me also of Chris’ car. What a poetic title: Chris’ Car. Maybe I should write a children’s story book titled “Chris’ Car”. I can’t remember us ever getting to any of our destinations in peace without one trouble or the other from that car. Sometimes the engine would catch fire, and Chris would jump out, screaming, “My car! My car!”
One day we took the car to Yaba. After visiting a roadside mechanic at Jibowu, we drove to Yaba Tech, parked the car and went into a canteen to eat. When we finished eating and returned to the car the engine refused to start. We did all we could to no avail. We decided to leave the car there and return to it after attending to the business that took us to Yaba Tech.
It was almost 7.30 p.m. before we returned to the car. For almost half an hour, we tried everything possible, still there was no sound from the engine. “We must seek help from outside,” I advised Chris. A man helped us to call on phone an automobile electrician. After about an hour later, the electrician arrived. He did his best, yet the car refused to even cough.
The electrician got tired and left. It was past 9.00 p.m. Chris and I decided to leave the car there and go home. Before we left, we pushed it and park it farther from the roadside. Then Chris went inside to lock up the doors and windows. On instinct, he put the key into the ignition and turned it on. The engine roared into life!
That night as we were driving home I advised Chris to sell the car and save himself from all those heartaches and headaches. Bu he would not listen. I always become alarmed whenever we had an appointment and Chris said we would go with his car.
One Christmas, Chris decided to travel to the east with the car. The car never got to the east, or returned to Lagos.
There is a folk story we used to tell ourselves as kids many years ago under the moonlight. It is the story of the tortoise that had offended a spider on whose web the tortoise was crossing a river. The spider had cut the web and the tortoise fell into the river. As many small fishes rushed towards him, the tortoise begged them to take him ashore; that he will reward them by teaching them how to grow taller.
When they brought the tortoise ashore he asked the fishes to go and bring firewood, palm oil, and frying pan. The tortoise made a fire, set the frying pan on top of it and poured the palm oil. When the oil was hot the tortoise asked the fishes to start jumping into the frying pan. The first set of fishes that jumped in got fried and appeared taller. “See that I told you?” he said.
Others fishes started jumping into the frying pan. But one particular fish call “nwansoromihie” after watching the scenario told the tortoise: “I won’t be able to grow this growth by fire.” Nwansoromihie jumped back into the river. Some car owners are growing up by fire!
See you next week, by God’s grace.