As promised guys, I’ll be doing features from other enthusiasts from time to time. This one is hands down the best short I had the pleasure of reading last year.
The Lights of Ceuta was written by Jimi Osheidu, a writer/OAP currently in the F.C.T. More importantly, Jimi is an all round creative! I’m not even kidding. He’s everything from a walking jukebox to someone who can run commentary on a hockey game.
Enjoy the piece.
The first time I heard of it, I was watching Newsline on NTA. Dad was still Principal at that school where they let teachers speak in vernacular to the students since that was the only way they could effectively communicate with the students. It was Frank Olize who was on the Panasonic TV that made our neighbours green with envy for years until they left us behind and bought plasma TVs. Frank Olize was talking about a Nigerian who had travelled to Europe by road, his name was Newton Jibunoh. Before then I had no idea you could go to Europe by road.
I asked my Dad: “can one go to Europe by road?”
He answered: “it’s a very long journey, and you have to cross the Mediterranean Sea at some point, but yes, one can travel to Europe by road.”
It was years later before the idea crossed my mind again, by then we had moved to Minna, I was in my third year in the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Victor my friend was showing me pictures of Igho in London. Igho was part of the students alongside me who got indefinitely suspended for “membership of unregistered associations”, most students knew this was just a nice way of saying cultism, but in some cases that was exactly what it was, membership of clubs that the school didn’t recognise.
Me, I was part of “the Nobles”, we weren’t as fly as say “Quest boys” but we got our fair share of the action, or the ‘booty’, as Ahmed would say with that leering look on his face. Well, while I spent an entire session loafing around at Victor’s place at F-layout, when my parents thought I was attending lectures, Igho had managed to get to England by road. There were about six of us at the house that day, Ahmed and his ‘handbag’ Jemila, Victor, Ali, and Charles. Igho claimed we would need not less than #200,000 cash to make the trip, but once we got to Spain, all we had to do was contact his cousin Maro and we were fine.
I liked the idea of it, but I didn’t know if I had the balls to go through with it, I imagined watching my favourite team Real Madrid play at the Bernabeau, or to hear a Catalan girl with hazel coloured eyes say “Te Amo” to me. I was blissfully in this daydream when I got off the okada in front of our house, my sister Oreka was outside, the terror on her face told me my secret was out.
“You shouldn’t go in now, Dr Alabi just told Dad that you have been expelled from school since last year, he is threatening to kill you himself”.
I walked in regardless, I was big brother, I couldn’t show fear, the walk to the living room felt like the Israelite’s journey to the promised land.”
“and where are you coming from?, Can’t you speak?”
I tried to say something, but I was stunned by the punch he landed in my gut, my insides felt like a gremlin was going to work in it with a jackhammer, who knew he still had that much strength. The rest of that day was a blur, I know I shoved him back after he wouldn’t stop striking me. I remember Momsy crying softly in the corner, I remember grabbing some clothes, all my cash and my Nas’ Stillmatic CD and leaving through the back gate.
I got back to Victor’s place and told him I was down, Ahmed joined us with a bottle of Lord’s dry gin and we started to plan. I knew Momsy had #350,000 of the Women’s Cooperative money hidden in the floor safe at the shop, getting in would be easy; I sometimes sleep in the shop to deter thieves and I knew the burglary proof grille was a mere facade. Ahmed said Jemila could give #150,000, the rest he would get from his brother under the pretext of ‘project money’. Victor promised to come along with me if I would loan him #100,000, he planned to get the rest from sale of his things in the room and rent from the next occupants of his room, his rent had been due for the past month anyway, they were new students and they didn’t know who the owner of was, so Victor was their estate agent.
According to Igho, we were meant to head for Benin, Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania then Morocco, according to Igho, we would be able to see the lights of Ceuta in Spain from Morocco. We were so excited we couldn’t wait for midnight. I don’t know if my parents tried to call me, my phone was long dead.
Victor and I left F-layout at 11:30pm, we had drained the last of the gin for some courage. We stopped the okada at the mosque and walked the rest of the way to the market. The market was deathly quiet at that time of the day. We got to the shop without incident, I gently loosened the blocks surrounding the metal grille over the window, then eased out six louvers so we could climb in. I made quick work of the floor safe, Momsy never bothered to lock it since no one outside the family knew of its existence. I put the cash in Victor’s fanny pack and he climbed out of the window. I was fixing the floor boards back when I heard the voice:
“wai ne’, even louder this time.
Then I heard the sounds of running feet, and then the market came alive, yells of “Barawo” rent the air. Someone was pounding on the door of Momsy shop. “Mama Osebi, who they there, thief don enter una shop o, we dey pursue am”, “who dey inside?”.
I had no choice but to answer: “na me Osebi, I dey inside”
“comot make we go catch am”
I join the chase, by the time I get to the market gate, a small crowd had gathered, Victor was in a bloody pulp, his eyes were swollen shut, how did this happen so fast? Someone hands me the fanny pack, the money is inside.
“which kain sleep you dey sleep wey you no know say thief enter”
Someone says: ’”I see as him dey comot from your mama shop window, him come dey run”
The same speaker kicks Victor in the ribs, he groans softly. One of the vigilante men rolls two tyres from the spare parts shop. An okada man drains fuel from his tank, and they set Victor ablaze. He tries to get up when they set him on fire, they strike him across the head with a metal rod, he falls to the ground twitching.
I stand there clutching the fanny pack, unable to avert my eyes from the flames, the acrid smell of smoke burns my nose but I don’t flinch… till this day I still can’t stand the smell of roasting goat meat.
The featured image by Roqeebah O. is of Maryland, Lagos.
You can find more of Jimi’s writings here.