On the 14th of December 2012, I was on my way to work when I met Chibuzor, a good looking and vibrant young man. The way he dressed coupled with what he held in his hands, a bunch of banana fruits on his left hand, a sack bag carried on his head and another banana fruit half naked on his right hand, it was apparent he was coming from a village. How such village was close to Ibadan, I can’t say.

Like a lost sheep, Chibuzor looked right, then left, then right again for oncoming vehicles and finally, he looked up for airplanes, or so I thought. He might have heard that you should do that to avoid accident with vehicles and aircrafts. He wanted to cross the road. I chose to ignore him.

My choice to ignore him was not borne out of pride, I was on my way to the office and if I had to be in trouble, it shouldn’t be with my boss. I was to be paid my salary in person, the company and the bank had some transaction problems. I had to rush or get there late.

Arriving late at office would attract the sixth out of seven queries which would be succeeded by a SACK letter. My boss is not to blame anyway; sleeping is my hobby and no thanks to everyday traffic congestions, I am the record late comer in my place of work. I stood waiting for a cab when Chibuzor said to me “Oga, Abeg I need ya help”.

I again chose to ignore him but he moved closer to me. He brought out, from the sack bag he carried, another banana fruit, cut off the apex, peeled off the “back or bark” and began eating it. Within me, I guessed, he must have read or heard about the nutritional value of banana; the fructose, sucrose and glucose. He continued, “I dey go the place inside this paper”. He brought out a piece of paper containing his destination address.

To avoid time wastage, I chose to ignore the fact that he didn’t greet me before asking for help. I took the paper from him and read the address. Fortunately for him, I knew where he was going but helping him could put me in trouble again

Interestingly, he was to visit Mr. Nwakpa, the stubborn tenant using the second flat in my father’s property. It was the third house on the street right behind me and him. I pointed to the place and described which flat he was to go. “Oh, you’re going to my place” I said. “Eh, Chineke, thank you. I dey very lucky. Thank you sir” He replied.

Before I was able to get a cab, Chibuzor didn’t go to the place. He went on to narrate how a guy asked him to ask for Island Street in Iwo Road. I told him it was a lie. He then confessed that I was the angel of his life that day. Did I dress like Gabriel? I would’ve told him he was the devil of my life that day if he made me miss the oncoming cab.

I got to the office at exactly 7:59am. A minute more and I would be late. I escaped the sixth query. My boss put on something, more of a smirk than a smile with the former well concealed under the latter. It was like he got copies of queries for me in his drawers. He couldn’t reduce the number of copies he had on my account that day and I wasn’t going to allow any of such reductions until my next promotion.

“Mr Solomon” he called me in a voice that indicated mockery. “you have been very lucky, I have said that if you come any later than 8:00am, I won’t pay you”. In my mind I thought in many ways how a man can be happy with being so sadistic. So complacent! He wouldn’t pay me? With Christmas close at the door? I chose to be indifferent. At least, he wouldn’t be offended.

Mr Nwakpa, as I said is the most stubborn tenant in the neighbourhood. The reason he has not been evicted is that he paid five years rent and was just in his second year. He has every good qualities of a bad man. He is also blessed with a wife who is his driving force. The only problem they have is related to the Law of Magnetism; like poles do not attract, but they do.

Mr. Nwakpa is the one you can call a no-nonsense man. I mean he doesn’t give or take a damn. He greets nobody. He has no friend and no enemy. Anytime he makes trouble, his anthem is always “No family for Lagos”. I always remind him this is not Lagos, it is Ibadan.

Before I got home, Chibuzor had narrated how I became his angel to Mr Nwakpa, who was surprised that I helped someone get to him, or so I thought. He did not know how he was going to say thank you. Or how does one appreciate someone who is your problem and helps you out? It’s a Yoruba adage.

Ten days after I helped Chibuzor, Mr. Nwakpa greeted me for the first time; in a voice that indicated compulsion. “Thank you for helping my nephew Mr. Solomon”, he said. I had my first chance to talk to him on good terms. I would use that opportunity. They say it only comes but once.

“Mr Nwakpa” I called in a deep, solemn voice. “What benefit is there in living together than being of help when it matters most? We are a family, we should tolerate one another.” I concluded.

After seconds of silence, he talked. If the expression on his face was any indication, he was convicted. “It’s not that I hate everybody, I only don’t like being cheated and insulted, I’m sorry for every wrong thing I might have done” He said. We embraced each other and that kindled our communal living.

The second day was Christmas. Before I could go out and greet anybody, Mr Nwakpa was the first I saw. He came in with a greeting card and a heavy meal of rice and meat, complemented with salad. I saw Mr. Nwakpa beam with smile as he said “Merry Christmas.  I almost could not believe my ears. It was then I remembered once more that no man is completely bad. This man’s habit is the one you can Yorubalistically describe as that of someone who doesn’t want to be grounded with Monkey. “Ma fi Obo lomi”.

After that I saw Chibuzor come in with his version of gift well wrapped in Christmas wrappers. When I opened it, the content included; a pod of kolanuts, bitter Kola, Alligator pepper, a bunch of banana, a piece of bush meat. What shall we expect from him? After all “Oun a ni laagbe laruge” we value what we have.

Chibuzor’s gift was the best I received this Christmas. Mr Nwakpa’s rice was my first food. It was a fascinating experience. If Mr. Nwakpa could give me so much, what will you do? I therefore decree that “As many that didn’t give me Christmas gifts are given the second chance to rethink” he who has ears…


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