at home in itu

i followed mrs. usanga to her village in itu local government area yesterday. these days i never know what someone means when they say they live in the village. i find that they could mean marble staircases and satellite television or no running water, and various stages in between. what i found was a completely different side of itu that i hadn't seen when i followed my aunt campaigning for the governor at the itu secretariat a couple of weeks ago.

construction giant julius berger felled all the electric wires last year under the auspices of bringing an access road to mrs. usanga's village, though none ever materialized. the residents rewired the place, only to have nepa come in subsequently and pull the wires down again. so, absent a road, i left the taxi at the highway as we made our way down a steep bank and across a narrow path to her modest home.

it is cozy, quaint, painted a friendly peach and green. she has a tv, ice box, everything you find in town except for electricity. mrs. usanga stays here with her son, a housegirl, and tenants who rent out an adjacent room. they have a little boy, no more than two, whom she affectionately calls "We Thank God," a literal translation of his name, Abasisosong.

we spent a good two hours talking and looking at old pictures, until i'd exhausted all my questions, before we sat down to a delicious meal of ekpangkukwo. i've been finding it quite challenging to interview people. the little bits of information i need as a writer differ greatly from the bits i want as a daughter, trying to connect with a mother who is gone. what i do get, in the end, leaves me somewhat unsatisfied on both ends.

nevertheless, i left with my belly full, a stack of forty-year-old photos, and a bunch of plantain and two coconuts from her farm. would have been a great day all around had the police not stopped us for hours at a checkpoint after we left the village and confiscated the taxi, just to collect the N1000 I paid the driver for his services, before they agreed to release the car.

how will eight grown men with families split little little money? naija, abeg. --AL.


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