OPEN DISGUISE: My Name (Fiction)

Posted: August 1, 2014 in Articles
Tags: , , , ,

Art by Hillary Cyril Ugochukwu

Art by Hillary Cyril Ugochukwu

by Hillary Cyril Ugochukwu

‘Okirikiri ka ana agba ukwu ose, anaghi ari ya elu (You can only run around a pepper tree, you can’t climb it)’ –An Igbo Adage

An Igbo adage says ‘ihe ojo gba afo, ya buru omenala’. One thing about african maxims; it loses some of its weight when translated to western lingua. But for the sake of comprehension, I will translate this adage to give a hint of the meaning to those who do not understand my language. It simply translates to ‘When evil persist it becomes a tradition.’ A tradition that can add life to culture or take life from culture.

My story tells of a nation where evil grows, a time when hypocrisy persists, a city where crime is a tradition, admist a people who are like the ‘ukwu ose’ (pepper tree) you cannot stand at a place to talk about them, or pluck them…you can only go round them to define them, to understand them and to be part of them. My name reflects it all.

I was born in 1998, and stiffened by Octobers dryness. I was told by my mother that time was what seperated me from been called the child of
independence. On 2nd of October, I cried my first tears on earth, few minutes past midnight, few minutes past October 1st, Nigeria’s independence. I grew up grateful to the clock for not letting me be the Nigerian child, but a child from Nigeria.

I am Igbo by identity and tribe, and Nigerian by western making. I was given an Igbo name by my parents because they didn’t know an english name they would give to me. The English names were always funny and at times meaningless to them, one of such was ‘Winterbottom’… They wanted a name with meaning as customary in igbo culture, hence they chose a name that exposed the world I was born into, a generation I am part of; a world of choas and trouble, of power and weakness, a dual world, an uncertain generation, and of a seemingly united country, so stiff and wreathed in imperfection that the seam is coming undone- a truth we all have refused to accept because we believe in another name; ‘Ogadimma’ (it shall be well) and yet I ask, When? When?…

As a child I learnt to read books that were higher than I was. A tradition I started when I was in my hometown. I read my uncles notebooks that were well preserved with dates like 1971, 1975 and 1980. I heard names like Chinua Achebe, Fela Kuti, Nelson Mandela, Wole Soyinka; the professor who as a child I was able to recognise by his rather white hair. My uncle Ikenga loves war history, so I got fond of the tales of Ojukwu and Gowon, Hitler and the Germans, Saddam and General Joe Achuzie the fiercest Biafran soldier. Before this tales of war, we were told the legendary folk tales of ‘Mbe and Alia’ (Tortoise and Ant). I was very voracious. I chewed books and vomited wisdom. This was how I know of Thomas Hobbes’ ‘Leviathan’, and the word ‘State of Nature’.

I left my hometown; Oguduasa in Isuikwuato, Abia state, at the age of seven. I lived the next three years in Benin, Aba and Owerri, each with
an uncle or relative. Those three cities changed me, but I never knew more was coming…things and people who would change me forever and
forge me into someone extraordinary.

After my stay in Owerri, I went to Mushin Lagos to live with my uncle Ikenga (and I still live there). Mushin is the bed rock of the raw ‘State of Nature’. Life in mushin is adventurous, and filled with enough drama and confusion, and only the fittest makes it out of this slump. Anyone who lived in Surulere in the 70s and 80s, would tell you that Mushin was back then the Ajegunle of today, filled with highly realistic and cunning individuals from all tribes of Nigeria with a common bond of poverty uniting them. Neighbouring towns like Surulere, Oshodi, Bariga, Isolo, Itire feel the little heat from the burning fire of trouble in the city. Different classes, different fates, people with dreams and families. There are the likes of Obi and Ada, Olu and Simbi, Fatimah and Musa; different tribes, different people all clamouring to make it here.

Mushin haven’t changed much today. The atmosphere is always tensed, and death hovers over every nuke and cranny. It is so densely populated that one only breathes the air which another had exhaled. The air have this odour arising from a natural concoction of scents-from marijuana, gutters, toilets and rubbish, heaps of dead decayed animals.

Houses are mainly of wood. They are called ‘batcher’ or ‘kwacko house’. Only few houses are of brick and block. The kwacko houses are built on top of gutters that carried all the filthy waters from all over Mushin. Many have their toilets inside the one room batcher they live in.
I remember an incident that happened sometime ago. I was walking on the street one hot afternoon when a gang war started in the area, and I was caught in the middle of it. Running, I found a house and ran into it for safety. I stayed there until the street was safe for me to return home to my uncle living in Ahmodu Street. When I told the man who harboured me that I wanted to make use of the toilet (for fear had pushed faeces close to my anus). He removed a plank from one side of the house to reveal a big gutter where they defecated. I swallowed my saliva and shook my head. I was dumbfounded. The wife and children were at one end of the same room gobbling a bowl of cold rice. I made use of the toilet anyway. Thank God I didn’t catch any disease. Mr Ola was a life saver …his name is all I know of him.

In Mushin, crime is commerce and commerce is the survival of the Mushin Ghetto. I and my uncle live at Ahmodu Street off Akala street
which is the hottest zone in Mushin….the norms are simple; rape, armed robbery, soddomy, child trafficking, ritual killings, gang war, broad daylight shooting, and drug pushing. In short, ghetto isn’t the word for it, hell is, and in the lips of everyone surviving in this slump, lies the phrase ‘This is Lagos’.

There is no Ajebutter in Mushin – Let me tell you what an Ajebutter means. An Ajebutter is a nickname for rich, spoilt, dependant kids, Ajekwacko is the opposite.
No one speaks correct English here, but deep rooted Lagos pigdin English with a Yoruba accent. I can’t forget my first week in Mushin. My uncle sent me to buy cowbell milk, popularly called ‘Abiola’.
‘Sir good afternoon, I want to buy cowbell milk worth of fifty naira.’ I told the shop keeper who sold both provisions and ogogoro at the same time.
His reply was shocking.
‘Yeye!!! na mi you dey yan gramma for, Ajebutter! Common comot for here. I no blame your papa, Oleshi..mtcheew.’ He thundered.
Just for milk. I’ve never forgotten this. Since then I only spoke English correctly when I’m with my uncle Ikenga.
Everyone’s psyche is built with the phrase of ‘shine your eyes’. To survive, you must be fearless and cunning and smart and a good liar. The lies saved me many times.

I have lived in Mushin with my uncle for six years before I could fully know how everything works. In Akinboyi street, stalls are hauled with young teenagers prostituting, & Alaka is where Agboro boys use guns as their third leg for walking, and hawk drugs like sachet water popurlarly known as pure water.
At least this is the general idea, but one side of the story. In this ghetto, good people live in abundance even as rusty as it is. Good things do come from Nazareth, if you know what I mean. It was on this same ghetto that I met Nwanyimma, an unfortunate good soul whose fate and mine entwined.

You see, Mushin holds the truth about my name, a name I have come to value for its vision and truth. I may have questioned my parents for the name when people make jest of me, saying that it sounded ridiculous. But this is who I am. I am Igbo, and my name is UWAEKWENDOZI (The world refuses fixing).
HILLARY UGOCHUKWU UZOMBA is a student of Art History, Alvan ikoku Federal College of Education, Nigeria. He blogs @ His works have appeared on African Star News, Network Africa, ‘Nigerian Newspoint’ Newspaper, BLACK COMMUNION POETRY ANTHOLOGY. He took 3rd position at the AKWAIBOM@25 poetry competition, 1st place at SWORDS OF WORDS, Words Bleeding Letters Poetry Slam, organised by Lyriversity FUTO. His first volume of poems will soon be out. You may reach him on twitter- @hillarycyril

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

  1. Ezeamalukwuo says:

    I must confess that I had my moments of doubt, though to the raw-ness and roughness of this piece when the writer gave it to me. But with patience and attention, and also with the permission of the writer every step of the way. I must say that this is one of the finest piece of fiction on this blog.
    In the words of Ernest Hemingway, I say; The Prose is Clean, it is honest and true, and reaffirms courage and strength in the face of struggle and strifle.
    This writeup got me goggling Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, State of Nature among other words. This is an intellectual piece, as well as a pseduo-biography. This is a painting of the Nigerian Society, Nigeria is the mushin that we know…and we all are struggling, living each day without knowing what tomorrow will bring. I love the African-ness, the Nigerian-ness, the Igbo-ness of this write up. I must keep it up, more grease to your elbow, and keep it coming…we need guys like you.

  2. Lawrence Madu C says:

    SWEET GOD OF ALL THINGS LEGIT!!! i’m mesmerised
    This article hit all 12-corners of my triangular heart!! I meannnn!!!! Gaddemm!! Solar where do you guys get this writing skills from sef? when is the book coming out? make i pre order.

  3. SWEET GOD OF ALL THINGS LEGIT!!! i’m mesmerised
    This article hit all 12-corners of my triangular heart!! I meannnn!!!! Gaddemm!! Solar where do you guys get this writing skills from sef? when is the book coming out? make i pre order

  4. Grrraciano says:

    Thumbs up… write better… write more

    .I’ve got an hungry EYEseepeasea n a choking EARfseesea for pieces like this!!!

  5. Chinaza says:

    My oh my! Who said this is not a masterpiece? This is really a piece of something very great.. When are my getting the hardcopy?

  6. ndike says:

    Hillary u are wicked in writing. Kudos

  7. ndike says:

    Nice work bro.

  8. Prinkah says:

    Wow! Speechless…this is surely a master piece!

  9. asktimi says:

    Exceptional… this dude just won my heart, with open arms i’ll receive him to TALESMEN if need be. he has greatness in him. nice work bro

  10. Anene Francis says:

    No need repeating words. I second all the comments above. This is pure talent. Keep up the good work mr Cyril.
    (Do check:’hypocisty’ (hypocrisy) and ‘admist’ (amidst).

  11. Tim Nwaobilo says:

    O no!
    This guy just gave me shivers. brilliant writing. no camouflage. Raw. Direct. Awesome. please does this story have a part 2? I am inspired by this. I will write.

    this guy sucked me in. slowly. stealthily. till I became UWAEKWENDOZI.

  12. Hillary says:

    part 2 is on its way…..

  13. Neofloetry says:

    UWAEKWENDOZI! Hillarious, this is a smooth write. Your story reminds me of my growing up in such an environment in the old Port Harcourt Township. You just inspired me to complete my abandoned project. Well done.

  14. ikejimba obinna says:

    hilary! Am so humbled by your genius. If i must confess, you have a way of telling one to go to hell and he starts looking up to the journey. Kudos!

  15. Pablo says:

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    you, simply type in google: svetsern traffic tips

  16. Daniel Promise says:

    wow. Its reallg a big one to swallow. I saw courage attached too one this little but great piece.

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