Journey to Afikpo (Ebonyi State, Nigeria) : Day 3.

Day 3 — 21.08.2011

Yesterday I took a walk, straight up Eke Market Road, to Eke Market itself, but stopped when I reached the end of the road. My walk did not last beyond 30 minutes, because I walk quite fast. Yet there are things I saw which should be told – and this is not assuming I am bestowed with a gift that makes me able to tell Afikpo in full. For even if I am blessed with such gift, I consider it preposterous to even attempt telling Afikpo in full – I have said once that I have a fractured identity, and until now it has never been more evident. How do I even assume I can tell all that there is to a town I barely know? I only come questioningly, ‘naked I stand,’ ‘a prodigal.’

In Eke Market Road it is easy to see Survival. So there is commerce, travel (mobility), food, fixtures, relaxation, technology, and (tele)communication; all of these are vestiges fixed on this road, and which hopefully I will explore in greater detail in subsequent posts.

I concerned myself, yesterday, with finding commerce as a highlight of survival. The fact is that on both sides of the road there are stores, kiosks, banks, each with a different name, product, service, and perhaps a divergent range of vision. If seen on a wider and more intricate range, one sees the living quarters behind those shops – for instance, Uncle Otu’s house, where I reside, is behind one of the shops. I use ‘behind’ for the sake of an observer who is seeing the commercial detail first, even before the living detail. And this fact makes me think that survival entails that one considers sustenance first, even before pleasure. This is almost irrefutable; but I consider that it is only true for a certain group of people on a peculiar social standing. For those who live way above the poverty line, who knows?

When I speak of range of vision as a highlight of each shop, I am speaking of some measure of difference that is stamped on individual businesses. Why would, for instance, two persons sell the same goods proximately? Is there a disdain for competition? Especially if we consider that these ‘competitors’ speak well with each other, even refer customers to the other. It is, I propose, the idea of survival is to be considered as a duad. On the first, higher plane, the reason for commerce is to feed oneself, family, and afford the essentials of life (things are possessed as usus facti). On a lower plane, the retailer (even wholesaler) wants business to improve so that an acceptable social standing is attained. Do not consider that the Abbot in Eco’s The Name of the Rose says “the people of God are now given to commerce” in reference to desecration of holy things and places. If we are not given to commerce, what else should we be given to, in this material (fleeting) world?

Less philosophically (I admit, the lure of intricate considerations is endearing), I find novelty in what I consider as ‘radio from a horn speaker.’ Obviously, somewhere at the end of the road, where Eke Market road branches into Ndibe Beach road, someone has connected his radio to a horn speaker, and has mounted the horn speaker on a wooden pole so that it faces the opposite direction, blasting music and whatever else radio offers. But what interests me, as often, is the music from the radio. This time the presenter introduces P-Square’s latest album (I forget the name), and one of the songs from the album is played. It is characteristic of the duo (words like: She must chop my money…I don’t care). I am disturbed (I am always disturbed when I listen to this duo) that their music is yet to transcend desultory concerns (why are they always preoccupied with the negative? You go see danger…wahala dey..I don’t care…which kain yawa be this…) They are giving us what we want, I guess, with our insistence on up-beat tunes, dancehall, etc. etc. I wonder if it is wrong to assume that getting older as a musician should improve one’s aesthetic and vision. Take this message to P-Square on my behalf: Get squared and grow up!

I am pleased that earlier I heard Fatai Rolling Dollars, O kere. His voice, as always, comes as feverish, assertive, and compulsive. I am left with the conviction that there is a marked difference between boys and men.

Today I am mostly indoors – I overspent yesterday (yes, I have a daily cash-quota). There is much to be written, even more to be read, even more to be dreamt.

First published in daily instalments on www.sarabamag.com between 19 — 29 August 2011
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© Emmanuel Iduma, 2011