WHEN I GROW UP

Seth Doyle-4c55f6ef

It was another typical Saturday in May in Baba Gbenro’s compound in Ikorodu, Lagos. The day was beautiful, with the sun ablaze and the heat burning like fire. Across the open compound was the football field where some men and young boys were playing, showing off their skills to impress their spectators.

On one side of the football field were Abolarinwa and his small group of friends who ran around the field, kicking the ball to themselves with a strong sense of direction, playing like their lives depended on it. However, it was evident that they were having fun as they laughed and playfully pushed each other.

“Bolly bobo”

“Bolinsco”

“Omo latile”

“See how you are playing the ball like Ronaldo.”

“Oya give them back to back. Omo ologo 5G”

The chants came from some of the male occupants in Baba Gbenro’s house who had just finished playing their match and were cooling outside the house in the open compound. They laughed and clapped as they watched their neighbour’s son successfully take the ball past the other players. As he was fondly called, Bolly giggled slightly, his body shaking with laughter, his eyes shining with excitement and his legs ready to kick the ball.

Abolarinwa, who also went by the name ‘Bola’, was the last born son of Mr and Mrs Abayomi, who were popularly known as Baba Bola and Mama Bola. He had just clocked 10 years and was preparing to write his common entrance into secondary school. His father was a civil servant who worked in the Lagos State Ministry of Education, and his mother owned the small provisions shop in front of the house, which was never without customers. They had 4 children in total, comprising of 2 girls and 2 boys.

On this day, his mother was also outside picking the beans her family would eat later that night for dinner. Her daughter, who was her first child, manned her shop in her absence. Mama Bola shook her head, sighing loudly, and then turned to the men beside her.

“You people should leave my son alone. Stop hailing him like that. He is not going to be a footballer when he grows up. Instead, he will be a big medical doctor and work in a big hospital that will give him plenty money”.

She said happily while widening her hands to emphasize the ‘plenty’. The men looked at her with different expressions, ranging from amusement to indifference to annoyance.

Prosco, as he was fondly called, even though his real name was Jide, shook his head laughing. “See this woman, oh. Do you think his father will not support him if he says he wants to play football when he grows up?”

“He may be a young boy now, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what he is saying or doing.”

Mama Bola shook her head, retorting, “Iro ni (It’s a lie). Ah an! Shey you know his father better than me ni? I am very sure that his father will agree for him to be a doctor. He too wants what is best for his son.”

Chidi, known for flaunting his ‘small money’ and ‘big-boy lifestyle’ in the area, hissed with an irritated look. “Mama Bolly, it’s like you don’t know what you are saying. Have you not seen our Nigerian boys who are playing very well and making big money in Europe? Those boys that are shining up and down in their Gucci clothes and driving Ferrari”

“E fi sile. O da bi pe e ti gbo Project Mbappe ri? (Leave her alone. It’s like she hasn’t heard of Project Mbappe before)”, Wasiu said in a mocking manner. He was Iya Risi’s younger brother, who called himself a Ghetto Tech bro even though we know it’s a coded name for ‘Yahoo Yahoo’

Mama Nonso watched the scene from a corner where she was washing clothes and knew she had to speak up to support her friend. Yes, even though those footballers make big money and are very popular, she still thought they were irresponsible with no plan for their future.

“Eii…Shey these boys no dey hear the rubbish wey dem dey yarn for mouth? Your mama send una go Obodo Oyinbo as good children wey you be, you go con come back with rubbish for body dey call am tattoo. Dem go con talk say na the latest style be that. Na wetin dey reign for town be that”

“Mtchewww….” she hissed loudly. “Shameless boys’ wey no follow home training. Anuofia”

Her actions did not go unnoticed as the other parties turned to look at her with curious expressions. She took her time standing up whilst pushing back the big black bowl that had the clothes she was washing and tied her blue patterned wrapper around her waist tightly.

“You people should leave Mama Bola alone,” she said. “E no be like say she dey lie. Na correct talk she dey yarn for mouth. Shey una know wetin e mean to be big doctor for big hospital? See Dr. Nnamdi for General Hospital. Na God go bless that man. That man dey save lives wella. Shebi na him treat Mama Nkechi pikin wey almost die and the child body later do normal. Una wan compare that one to the small boys wey dey call themselves footballers. Shey no be all those boys wey go travel Obodo Oyinbo dey do anyhow because of small money?”

“Make we leave matter say dem dey make plenty money. When they don old finish, their body no fit play the ball again, wetin be their plan? For where dem go see money dey take care of their selves and their family? I dey ask you people now. Those ones wey no get future plan for themselves?” Mama Nonso said with her hands akimbo.

She looked in the direction of Mama Bola, who had a grateful expression on her face and was happy that she had a supporter on her side.

The men gaped at her, their expressions clashing between amusement and disbelief.

 “Don’t worry, Mama Bola. Na correct thing you dey do for your pikin and God wey dey for heaven know say you be correct African woman who want better thing for her pikin. You see all these boys wey their mouth dey run like tap water…,” she said, pointing to the men, “…no mind dem oh. Dem no sabi anything at all. Shebi, if they wan play football, make dem go play for their self no use your son take do experiment.”

Wasiu hissed, looking directly at Mama Nonso and walked away muttering incoherently. Chidi raised his voice at Mama Nonso, ready to start his usual arguments with her. It had become a regular occurrence most occupants of Baba Gbenro’s house even looked forward to. It wasn’t before the other members of the house came out to hear what had happened again between Mama Nonso and Chidi. It was surprising because everyone expected them to be on cordial terms as Chidi and Papa Nonso hailed from the same town in Imo State and the same neighbourhood.

Prosco shook his head laughing at the scene playing out before him. He turned to Mama Bola and shook his head pitifully.

“It is hard to believe that even in this 21st century, you African parents have not changed your archaic mentality. May God help you people oh. I have sha said my own.”

“E se o (Thank you). A ti gbo yin (We have heard you). Ekufe (Thank you for the love).”

Mama Bola scrunched her nose and turned it up at him. She then turned to watch the ongoing debacle between Mama Nonso and Chidi, which was already enjoying its fair share of spectators. Today was like every other day in Baba Gbenro’s house, with a special kind of drama or argument exclusive to each day. The day’s drama was proving to be entertaining as usual. Today just happened to be her turn, with her last born the topic of discussion.

*****************************************************************************

Abolarinwa sighed loudly and sat back in the navy blue swivel office chair, looking at the words he had just finished typing on his MacBook. He stood up to walk to the kitchen in his studio apartment, where he made a cup of coffee, reminiscing over the story he was still writing. The persons from his childhood, especially the occupants of the house where he grew up, had been exciting people with conflicting yet interesting personalities. It was no wonder why he felt inspired to pattern his characters after them.

The title character in the story may have borne his name, with both of them sharing certain similarities, but he was sure they were not exactly the same. Yes, his mother did want him to be a medical doctor, and his father, shocking his mother, didn’t mind his lastborn becoming the next Okocha or Rashidi Yekini. Abolarinwa, in his story, had always wanted to be a footballer, flying Nigeria’s flag high and singing Africa’s praises in the continent of Europe and in the world.

But he knew that the only play he was interested in was playing on words, captivating the hearts and minds of people through his compelling stories. And not just any kind of story, but stories from the eyes and hands of a Nigerian boy growing up in a typical Nigerian family and neighbourhood. His own African stories through the lives of the characters in the story waiting for him to complete their tale.

 


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What do you think?

  1. Such an interesting read Oluwatomi. The switch up at the end of the story got me though✨

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