I do not know now where I got the impression from, that Lawanson market was the market with highest priced goods in the whole of Surulere and Idi-Araba market which is barely 500meters away was the cheapest. I think the women who own stalls in the market are more serious than those in other markets with a wider variety of goods and that is why this morning, I took my body to Lawanson to buy the plantains and vegetables I needed to make the meal my spirit had been craving for nearly a month.
Slightly afraid for my patent leather shoes and their ability to survive the potopoto that is the rainy season’s constant shadow, I trudged into the market with my scarf hazardously perched on my head- testament that I go to an uncool church, and the belt of my gown threatening to let go of the struggle. Flitting from stall to stall to get all I needed before heading home to face my laundry and work reports, I barely flinched at the prices the women chanted, I would just bring out my purse and frown at the dwindling pile of naira notes before extracting the right one, even the price of the plantains did not faze me. I smiled at them and whispered ‘you’re worth it baby’ and the seller’s effusive thanks made me suspect that the population of plantain benders in the area was poor indeed.
When I made the turn into Olatilewa and walked a few meters, I saw something amazingly beautiful- a woman and a young girl, selling farm produce and blocking a section of the road. I rushed to them to buy eggs, I hadn’t seen any eggs at the market- the egg sellers hadn’t come yet, they said. After buying the eggs, the ugwu caught my eye, they looked fresher than the ugwu I had bought earlier. I strolled over to the ugwu section and found that each massive bundle was only fifty naira, I quickly selected four bundles and waited for my turn to be attended to.
A young woman came to me and asked how much a bundle was, I told her the price and she frowned before turning to the young girl (who was in charge of vegetables while the woman was in charge of eggs and fresh groundnuts and fresh corn) and asking her to sell three bundles for a hundred naira. I turned my full body to look at her, she had to have known that even at fifty naira for a bundle it was almost like giving it away, that she couldn’t see better anywhere- I’d had just bought three-hundred-naira worth of the same vegetable that was only slightly bigger than the fifty-naira bundle. Do you have a conscience? I wanted to ask.
After arranging my purchases on the kitchen counter and washing the items that needed washing, and just before slicing the onions and yellow peppers that I would sauté in butter as the base of my vegetable sauce, I went to the ‘U’ section of my playlist where many of my favourite songs can be found. From Flavour’s Ukwu nwanyi Owerri, Blue’s U make me wanna, Under the sea from The Little Mermaid, MI’s Undisputed- which my brothers remixed the chorus to hail anyone who’s feeling like a bad guy, Billy Joel’s Uptown girl (yes, Westlife weren’t the original singers) to the ultimate fuckoff song- Used to love you by John Legend and the Mbaise anthem- Uwa Chiga Achiga by Dr Sir Warrior and Oriental Brothers. I was stirring the chopped onions and peppers in the pan when Ras Kimono’s Under Pressure began to play. And I smiled, the same smile that always accompanied remembering Ras Kimono.
Ras Kimono hails from Onicha Olona just as my father’s friend Uncle John, now Ras Kimono might tell you he comes from Zion or something but before he became a rasta anything, he was first an ordinary young man from Onicha Olona. My brother Obinna and I (Ikenna was too young to factor in this story, for most part of it, he wasn’t even born yet) always looked forward to Uncle John’s visits, not only because he was a wonderful storyteller (like my father) who didn’t talk to us like we were slightly retarded (why do adults act like children have no sense?) but almost as equals. We mostly looked forward to seeing him because he brought us news about Ras Kimono.
At the time, our secret ambition was to become rastafarians (we were five/six and three/four years old respectively) and grow long locs which we would rock back and forth as we strummed our guitars and jammed with Bob Marley (I didn’t know Bob Marley had died until I was seven and even then, I didn’t even know he had died before I was born until I was nine). We also wanted to be rockstars but Uncle John was going to introduce us to Ras Kimono when we finished primary school, the road to being a Reggae singer seemed surer.
I turned off the gas cooker to listen to the song more intently, closing my eyes and remembered singing the same song as a child in primary school. It struck me how apt the song was for 2017, better suited for this time than the twenty or so years ago that Ras Kimono in a fit of despair and frustration, penned the song and went to the studio to record it. At that time, it would be hard for anyone to believe things could get worse and the stranglehold of Abacha could be looked back at with nostalgia. I wondered if my own child would think of this era and think it was better, just as I think the 1980s are immeasurably better than now.
‘God forbid’ I muttered
Maybe Ras Kimono knew it wouldn’t get better and that’s why he packed himself and his family to greener pastures after releasing Under Pressure. I wonder if he knew that Nigeria would become a breeding ground for the desperation that kills the conscience and deadens empathy, if he had been offered a peek at the future Nigeria and he had turned tail, leaving the country he loved for the assurance of a better life. You know what’s funny? Uncle John left Nigeria at almost the same time.