Loosely based on true events.
According to Yoruba folklore, Ile-Ife was where man first came into being. Eledumare gave Oduduwa the long chain link that connected heaven and earth so he could climb down, the snail-shell that contained the sand that would cover the waters that filled the earth and form the ground where man would step, the chicken that was to spread the sand with its feet as Oduduwa poured it on the sea and the chameleon that would stamp its feet on the sand and make it solid ground. This was to be the home of man henceforth. Nobody knows who Oduduwa mated with that gave birth to his seven sons. All we know is that they multiplied and their seed filled the earth. This is not today’s tale.
Maybe it is because the Yorubas believe that Ife is where they were born and hence, where they would return at the end of their lives (they must, after all, go back ‘home’), I do not know, but the population of lunatics in Ife is beyond normal (I know a mad person is not a dead person but we know their normal reasoning is). Many people have argued (and are still doing so without coming to any conclusion) about what western city in Nigeria has the greater population of mentally deranged people: Ife or Ibadan. Both cities are swarming with them but the people pro-Ibadan have no concrete reason why a mad person should wander there, save for the size of the city, where it is most probable that their likes would be found at almost every street corner no matter what. This argument is not why I am here today.
The front of the bakery opposite Olorunsogo bus stop in the city of Ife, just about a ten minute walk after the famous roundabout is the home of one of such lunatics I speak. Her name is Asake. Rumour has it that her family members whispered her name into the breeze of an evening one day and it fell to the ears of all who had beeen walking in perfect ignorance. Her name travelled fast like wild fire to as many people as possible because her father had told Ifanire the priest that his only daughter must not be called were. The bakery-cum-home of Asake was once a thriving business for Mr. Sulaimon till she came along. People said it was the aroma of fresh bread, cakes and confectioneries that drew her there that first day after her long walk from Ibadan, where she had had a fight with a fellow lunatic, without a bite to eat all through her two weeks journey. They said her ribs had been perfectly visible, her feet had been filed with sores and her neck had been as long as igo maggi; that she had stood at the entrance of the bakery, shaking with hunger as she begged the people who entered and came out for food; that the hunger ‘turned’ her head more than it already was and she attacked Chief Gbajabiamila as he came out with a birthaday cake for his girlfriend, Aminat, who was studying veterinary medicine at the university; that Chief had used his influence to ensure the bakery had been closed under the guise of a failed health inspection due to the embarrassment he faced in front of a large crowd as Asake pounced on him and pummeled him with the last of her strength while he curled on the floor, screaming curses; that Asake had caught the health inspection officers when they came to lock up the bakery and had fought like the mad person she was and they had scrambled off after a colleague’s arm had been bitten and bits of flesh caught in between Asake’s grime-filled teeth; that she had screamed and warned that nobody ever crossed the front of her house ever again.
Of course, everybody forgot about her warning the next day and a mechanic in overalls was the first victim. Momodu was yelling into the mouthpiece of his Nokia 3310 mobile phone as he walked by, addressing his wife on what to cook for dinner when Asake tore at him, fastened her teeth on his exposed forearm and didn’t let go until the flesh came off. Two more incidents in three short weeks and people avoided her like the plague that she made herself to be.
I was new in Ife and was going home after my community development meeting in my green and white uniform. I had just bought a novel from a hawker who pushed his books on a wheelbarrow and after he had finished convincing me it was a must-read, I began my walk to the bus stop on the opposite side of the road where the bakery stood as the sweat wet my boxers underneath. The hawker had been screaming,
“Corper, no pass dia! Cross back! Asake dey dia! Corper!”
I knew no Asake, thus there was no reason to be afraid of her to the extent of crossing the road just to avoid her, and so I didn’t listen. Just after this thought crossed my mind, a woman with lice visibly crawling all over her matted brown hair and houseflies hovering just above appeared in front of me. Her face was dusty, like she had rolled in sand and her dark skin was covered in dirt. Her breasts, which had now become loose excess skin, spread over her upper abdomen, barely covered by the torn pink blouse she wore, and stopped just above her navel with dark pointed ends. She appeared angry and spoke with the worst case of halitosis I had the misfortune to encounter.
“Agunbaniro, oju e fo ni?!”
The first thing I did was to hold my breath as my eyes had begun to water. I couldn’t put my hand on my nose and risk infuriating her further. Then my brain told me that without a doubt, this had to be Asake. I opened my mouth to speak but no words came out.
“Shotop! Shotup! What are you say?! I beat you. Ma na e bashu bashu!”
Spittle from her mouth hit my face and some entered into my still opened mouth. I looked around me, nobody drew close. A small crowd had gathered on the opposite side of the road, waiting to see the outcome. She stretched out a dirty hand.
“Fun mi lowo, mo fe jeun.”
I had only my transport fare and was not ready to walk home or beg for free rides, and so, not knowing where the words came from, I spoke.
“Asake, omo re bi iyan, omo pataki bi iresi, omo ile owo, omo ile ola, omo to rewa, ma binu simi. Don’t be angry. I didn’t know I will meet you today but I will hold money always specially for you for next time.”
I didn’t know if she understood everything I said but she eyed me, dropped her hand and began to walk back to the door of the bakery. As I took my first step away from where I had stood for the past two minutes, she looked back.
“Ma gbagbe o.”
I nodded as she turned and continued her walk. Just then, a baby bawled on the opposite side of the road and simultaneously, we both turned to look. Its mother was sitting under a large umbrella where a woman roasted plantains. She brought out her left breast to nurse it and as if by magic, we both turned back and looked at Asake’s breasts. She raised her head as I took a step back in a bid to run. I wasn’t fast enough. She had covered the distance between us with a huge step and grabbed my right arm.
“Baby. I want baby.”
And she dragged me with unbelievable strength towards her pile of rags.
• Eledumare – God.
• Oduduwa – The first man on earth according to Yoruba folklore.
• Were – Lunatic.
• Igo maggi – A long-necked bottle used to store Maggi seasoning cubes in the 80’s.
• Agunbaniro – Youth corper.
• Oju e fo ni – Are you blind?
• Ma na e bashu bashu – I will beat you mercilessly.
• Fun mi lowo, mo fe jeun – give me money, I want to eat.
• Omo re bi iyan – Child of good fortune like pounded yam.
• Omo Pataki bi iresi – Child of importance like rice.
• Omo ile owo – child from a house of money.
• Omo ile ola – child from an affluent home.
• Omo to rewa – Beautiful child.
• Ma gbagbe – don’t forget.
DISCLAIMER / CLAIMER
• I did meet a mad woman with my friend, Yewande, who asked us for money and I had to promise to give her money the next time I saw her before she left us.
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Peace and God bless.