A Coward Dies…
On a street is my mother’s fufu shop.
This won’t be the first time you’ve heard of my mother’s fufu shop. No, it’s not, but I’ve not described our shop to you yet.
During closure of my mother’s fufu shop, we close the door and pass through a dwarf-sized window behind the shop. Yes, we bend our heads, put out one leg out of the window first making sure we’re bent well and then cross over the other leg. Doom betides the human that does not lower their head well before putting their legs across. They will never forget it after the first experience of a near-blackout.
But of course! Not everyone knows this. It’s majorly an in-house knowledge plus a natural information to anyone with sense. Let’s deviate from my mother’s fufu shop now.
On this same street is a lanky, just-a-bit-tall man nicknamed Mbaise after his hometown in Imo state. The proverb, “a coward dies ten times before his death” was coined just after Mbaise was born (most probably). I think he perhaps has a Kenyan ancestry with the way he runs at the slightest sounds.
This particular street is accustomed to police raids, illegal arrests, intimidation and what nots. The scrap dealers have learned to spot the police in their muftis whether they’re using a police van or not. Normally, they look out well before they pass the information that “ndị eke abiala” before the young men pick races to avoid being caught.
Do you think they should stand because they are not guilty? I think so, too. But there’s a popular saying that “I no follow, 5k.” However, Mbaise runs at the slightest glance of men wearing ordinary black polos. He runs when keke drivers swerve into the street. He runs when business people come and look all mean and macho. He even runs when someone else is being chased. In summary, Mbaise runs anyhow, and it is irritating.
One early morning, a keke stopped just after my mother’s fufu shop to sell their iron scraps. There were four, brutal looking, tall young men wearing red and black. Before they stopped their keke, Mbaise had already spotted them and disappeared.
Nobody knew he had disappeared until one of the buyers went to call another buyer who wasn’t outside when the young men came only to realize that the buyer was no longer in his shop. We found out later that the disappeared buyer had run away through his backyard because Mbaise went to him seconds ago to tell him to run because ndị eke nọ around. It was a “loss” day for that buyer.
This morning, I am bringing out the fufu from the bag and putting into the bucket when the shouts rise from outside. I quickly stand, walk outside to survey what the disturbance was. There was a police van in the street. The scrap dealers—buyers and sellers are watching keenly, preparing to run at the slightest act of violence from the police men. I stand and watch, too. I know I won’t be arrested, but I am enjoying the scene and the tension. The police alight from the van with the usual gra gra, as we all wait and watch.
The police men walk calmly to one of the ogas seated in their corner. They seem to be having a peaceful conversation and everyone on my side is relaxing. The police are probably here to familiarize with the chairmen, and the chairmen will eventually give them “fuel money.”
Suddenly the policemen turn and are yelling, “hol’ am, hol’ it there. Stop before I shoot. Stop that young man.” Everybody stirs again. We’re confused. What is happening? They are not here for arrests, are they? Then we see him running: Mbaise. He dives past the van from the other direction to our side. The other young men get ready to run. I walk back a bit into the shop planning to disappear from the window into the house if any “unnecessary something” happens.
Three police men chase him and yell at Mbaise to stop. Now, I imagine the heat surging through his body in his desperate attempt to escape from people who didn’t come for him initially. I imagine his heart pounding and threatening to give up in fear.
Few of the young men yell at him to stop, “why you dey run? Abeg no carry your wahala come here o. Dem no dey arrest you, Mbaise.” I know that at this point, Mbaise was unhearing, seeing only routes from where he can escape from like a hunted prey.
He’s just heading to my mother’s fufu shop with the policemen at his heels. The others slowly give way so they won’t be caught, but not running in anyway. I look first with a slight fear, then with shock as Mbaise runs into our shop. I open my mouth to talk, but I was too late.
Kpum!! Mbaise falls back with a heavy thud back into our shop, clutches his face, his legs drawn, wincing and screaming, “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.” He is yet another victim of my mother’s fufu shop’s exit.
He lays there screaming and the officers jump on him and tear him away, handcuff him and jump into their vehicle, saluting the chairmen and most likely, God, for providing a willing victim for them.