“How much I dey owe you sef?” Olu asked Shehu, the vendor of a little but well-stocked container shop in a dirty little street in Aguda, Surulere. He had already put a crumpled stick of cigarette which he carefully retrieved from his pocket to his really black lips and lit up.
“How you go owe person money come forget?” The sarcasm in Shehu’s thickly accented Pidgin English was unmistakable.
Yahaya, who sat on the remains of a mortar that once served as an electric chair to many a tuber of yam sent to the afterlife of the human digestive system, marveled at the slow but measured movements of Olu as he dragged, inhaled and exhaled a rich slew of smoke with content from blackened lips – it was almost poetic. It always amused him the regular mannerisms of cigarette addicts.
“Why won’t he forget with his tobacco-addled brain?” Yahaya said in the local vernacular indigenous to Northern Nigeria to which Shehu laughed.
Suspicious that he had become the butt of a cruel joke, Olu snapped out of his tobacco-induced stupor with a curious look.
“Wetin dey make you laugh?”
Shehu responded in a more undecipherable flurry to which Olu shrugged and continued with his smoking.
“Na so una go take kill una sef one day. Person no go fit solve una quarrel if fight start.” He said as he blew smoke in the air nonchalantly.
“How?” Yahaya asked, stupefied.
“Ah, una no hear of two Aboki when quarrel? The matter dey court na. One man come drink Shekpe when the two Aboki start to quarrel. As e no understand wetin them dey talk, e no look them. Na so dem begin argue until one break bottle stab the other one…”
“Kai!” Shehu interjected.
“Yes oh! Them no die sha. When the matter go court, them ask the man as witness why e no separate fight and e say e no fit involve for wetin e no understand.”
Yahaya roared with laughter. “What a stupid man! Do you need to understand what two men are saying when one breaks a bottle with the intent to cause harm?”
“Na grammar you dey speak. If them want make e separate fight, them for quarrel for language when e understand. As them no quarrel for English, e mean say them no want make anybody separate them.”
Yahaya and Shehu looked at each other with surprise.
How you take know say dem no want make anybody separate them?” Shehu asked, bending to pick a toothpick from a pack he had just opened.
“You no know? Make I show you na.” He shifted a step away from them as if to create space for some massive demonstration with the cigarette which was now more ash than cigarette, hanging dangerously on his lips. He made a squatting stance like he had just mounted an invisible motorcycle.
“As soon as I hear bottle break, na so I go dey…” His voice trailed off as he retreated further away from where he stood with such speed that was both shocking and hilarious.
Yahaya and Shehu roared with laughter at an Olu who was almost ten paces away already. They continued to laugh as they watched Olu wave as he sashayed away without paying…again.