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By AHMED DODO ALIYU
Monday, February 04, 2008
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Deals: is all about the adventurious story of young boys in my country Nigeria, who grew up facing some of the toughest form of survival in their poor environment, where different shady deals is previlient among them. The story illustrate how friends could sometime influence each other in achieving various aims and target goals.
BY AHMED DODO
“Money doesn’t come through hardness, tricks or strength, but through focus, hope and perseverance” Dodo
Deals! Almost all my mates were into it, then why shouldn’t I? This was part of some of the questions that kept tormenting my mind as I stared at the tiny piece of stolen fortune in my hand that morning. But what if she later finds out? The other part of my mind suddenly questioned. “I don’t know anything about it” I assured myself was exactly what I was going to say, if she eventually ask me.
My name is BOBO – though not my real name, why should I tell you my real name when I sometimes still regrets taking part in some of this deals I am about telling you.
I am going to use the name Bobo as my name – for this is actually the stories of young Bobo like me, who over the years have been associated with anything call deals. I belong to this generation that must carry out one deal or the other in order to survive and stay alive in our tough environments.
The stories of deals actually became part of me on a sunny afternoon, when two of my childhood friends visited me in my parents house – where I was still leaving on them as a parasite, despite my over independent age. Who was I to actually go stay on my own- when almost everything in our environment seems to grow on the high side everyday? Again I was still view as a child in the eyes of my caring parents, though I was almost clocking twenty-one years old.
“ Dis guy dey so? “ I had heard the voice of segun the taller of my friends inquired in pigin as my door pushed open and they both sauntered into my always arranged one room apartment in our large family compound.
“ My friend wake up, which kind yeye sleep you still dey sleep by dis time?” Segun questioned pulling off my cover cloth, a wrapper my mother had happily dashed me to use against the seasonal furious harmatttan that was now part of our environment.
“Wetin be your problem, I beg make una allow me enjoy my sleep” I pleaded back helplessly in pigin, covering back myself and tightly holding the cloth against my body incase the die hard segun pulls it again.
“Wake up! My friend – who no like sleep?” Segun hissed, pulling off the wrapper from my struggling hands. “Wake up see something – my guy” He
Had whispered slowly.
“Wetin – okey I don wake up – wetin dey happen? Or wetin I go do for you?,
Sleep if you wan sleep no body stop you” I complained, struggling up reluctantly from my warm bed.
“Deals! – my guy- na deals dey happen” Segun boasted, dangling a necklace across my face.
“ o boy make we go where we dey go – e be like say dis one still dey sleep” Kassim my other friend, a smiling guy of my age ,suggested.
I had sat stupefied, staring with awe at the piece of glittering chain with a round pendant engraved with tiny sparkling stones. Though very ignorant in any jewelry affairs then – my mind automatically told me this was a real thing.
I had sat hypnotized to one of the most beautiful necklace my innocent eyes had ever seen.
But my admiration, suddenly turned to fear as Segun on hearing footsteps outside my door, quickly dropped the necklace in his pocket, out of the sight of my innocent kid brother who had pushed his way into my room as usual whenever my friends come calling.
“Uncle Biscuit “He cried out holding segun by the trouser.
“Junior – yes! Your Biscuit – oh God! I don forget, don’t worry I go buy you biscuit when I come back “Segun assured him picking him up.
“Biscuit “Junior had repeated protesting in his hand
“Oya junior go collect biscuit from mama “I chipped in, my mind still on the necklace.
“ No biscuit “ junior still protested knowing that I was lying to get him out of the way
“ Come junior – oya mama” I barked with a tough voice.
“ Leave the little boy alone- wetin na biscuit the boy ask for- wetin be your own…?” Segun said, comforted the now relaxed junior who dropped down from his laps and frowned out of the room.
“ Why you no give am? - No be you e ask…” I asked with a grin.
“ Where I see am – I never take my hand touch one kobo for almost three days now” The ever jovial segun complained, not making any move to jump into my bed as was constant with him and some of my other visitors, especially the girls, as this was the only piece of furniture that young men of my age always thought wise to allowed in our rooms – this as traps to allow us easy access to the ever curious girls.
“ Look una dey waste my time o “ Kassim voice had suddenly cut across the room, my mind quickly re-flashing back to the hidden necklace in segun’s pocket.
“ Come guys wetin dey happen “ I found myself demanding suspiciously my eyes staying glued to the worn out chinos trouser on segun, knowing quite well that the trouser now housed one of the most expensive looking jewelry I had ever seen then.
“ I tell you say Na deal – you dey look me like mugu” Segun smiles and dangled the necklace across my curious face again.
“ God! Where dis one commot from?” I asked my hands stretched towards the necklace, my eyes hypnotized by the glittering chain and the sparking rainbow stones across the pendant.
“ Hey guys – look lets do this thing and get the hell out – time is going”” Kassim complained in real English, a language we all seldom use, preferring to flow in “ Naija slank” as we had corned for pigin language our dominant day to day medium of exchange and the most effective language quickly understood in the fast tempo world of deals.
“ Come cool down - wetin dey happen – who get chain?” I demanded confronting them.
“ Asabe!” kassim replied staring back at my inquisitive face
“Asabe!” I exclaimed surprisingly, my eyes still hypnotized to the necklace.
“ Yes Asabe – but na me get am now.” Kassim elaborated and retrieved the necklace from my reluctant hands.
“ Come segun wetin dey go on? I no understand “ I confessed looking confused and excited at the same time.
Segun had stared at me, smiled and dropped himself slowly on the bed.
“ Tell am the story now – at least he dey with us” He finally instructed kassim, who had now dropped the necklace in his kaftan pocket and had a wide grin on his happy face.
The early morning sun was still radiating in its warm glow as we set out to transact our first deal that day.
Though the story the confident talking Kassim had told me was disturbing, but I had no option then, but to come along and be part of a conspiracy.
Kassim had told me confidently that he had sleeked into his elder sister room Hajiya Asabe while she was in the bathroom and quietly stole the necklace the necklace.
He had accused her of being too stingy – a fact that Segun and I knew very well to be true . He had told us not to worry, assuring us that nothing would happen; reminding us that after all he had stole something from his parent house – not outside. This again we had nodded to, as this was part of the excuses we members of the deals world always use, whenever we strike a deal or better steal something at home.
The deals world his made up mostly rich kids from the elites and middle class commonly refers to as the “aje butters” and the third group made up mostly from the low income street kids with the sharp knowledge of the ever frightening world of deals.
I had tagged silently behind kassim and segun that morning as we made our way towards the rendezvous, where we were suppose to meet the buyer of our first deal. Segun confidently lead us away and we both followed silently with only the furious sound of the harmattan breeze whistling across our ears.
We finally arrived at a small tenement building, with few guys outside, who stared suspiciously at us and us at them. My mind kept debating silently within me. I kept asking myself if what we were about doing was really right. But the thought of holding or maybe owning a substantial amount of real crispy notes very soon, was too tempting and over whelming. Again the long fantasy and imaginations of dressing up in the latest “wares” (fashion) and fulfilling one or two “plans” stole any thought of right from my mind.
Yes – segun was right – young guys like us should be ashamed for not having a common five naira to buy biscuit for small ones like junior. Yes! A shameful thing to remain broke and silence in perjury, when right in the same house, you leave with some sisters that don’t mind spending thousands of naira on glittering chains, while you the the younger ones can not afford to buy the latest pairs of canvas or jeans and T – shirts in town. A very shameful thing indeed we had nodded and agreed to kassim’s complains that day.
In a few minutes we shall all be smiling to the market with wad of naira notes in our pockets. I thought silently, already visualizing the blue jean I saw on one of my under graduate cousin the last time. I knew my friends too were eager and I could imagine some visualized pictures on their minds. Well my mind was made up – let the worst happen – after all I cannot betray my two best friends after showing me the necklace. We had always do almost all our things together, right from childhood – so growing up and doing deals together now, should not change anything, I finally convinced myself as we were ushered into a small untidy compound with wooden doors that I quickly guessed leads into untidy small rooms.
Our guard one of the guys we had met outside, smiled at us with a corny eyes, a cigarette dangling on his thick lips. We all smiled back at him and stared frightfully at his tough looking frame. He commanded us to wait and disappeared into one of the rooms with a blue worn out cotton.
We had all stared quietly at the room, then back at each other, all of us contemplating what the next action might be. God! – That was one of the most frightening days of in life. The setting looked phony and tough for my liking.
But all the same I had remained quite, my eyes never leaving the door and ready to scamper if the need arises.
Our thick lips guard finally emerged few minutes later, his smile now broader and his eyes more corny. He commanded me and kassim to remain outside and instructed segun to come along with him. Segun quickly protested, insisting that we must all come along. Thick lips smiled wolfishly at us and succumbed, then lead us into the room with the blue curtain, with my mind beating faster than it natural pace.
! ! ! ! ! !
Much to my surprised, blue curtain room was not untidy as I had earlier thought and visualized. Instead we were ushered into a neat tidy room with a round Arabian rug – where three elderly men sat drinking tea. Again to my amazement the room was not so small – at least my eyes could pick out the shape of a woman as she pretends to be asleep on a wide mattress.
Thick lips instructed us to pick a space and drop our frames, which we all did gladly, our eyes staring suspiciously at three couples of strange eyes that stared back at us.
“Who be all dis people?” one of the three men, the fattest among them demanded, staring angrily at thick lips.
“Alhaji – na the boys wey I tell you about be dis” Thick lips quickly replied.
“ Na all of dem get something for me? Alhaji demanded again his eyes now staring curiously at us.
“ No alhaji – Na dis my friend get the thing – we be him friend – we all dey together…” Segun quickly answered, becoming our spoke man.
“ Me I no dey like too much eyes for market – especially market from small, small boys like una. Una market too dey bring wahala…”Alhaji complained sipping from his steaming jug.
We all remained quite; my heart was now beating faster and at the same excited.
“ Make I see wetin una bring – whither Na better thing” Alhaji finally said pretending not to show any concern about us.
“ dis na the correct original thing” segun boasted with a smile, as he slowly brought out the necklace from his pocket ceremoniously.
I watched closely as the eyes of the other two men with Alhaji, quickly transformed into facilitations as segun dangles the beautiful necklace proudly before our eyes. I caught the sight of the female figure on the bed as she tries to pip across the room at the necklace. Even the corny looking thick lips, caught his breath on sighting the glittering pendant. But surprisingly not for alhaji, who just stared indifferently at the necklace without betraying his feelings. He stretched out his left hand after some minutes and segun happily dropped the necklace to him.
Alhaji had stared at the beautiful piece – the way a cheat stares at a conman. He turned the necklace up, side and down in his thick hands, dangled it to and fro across our curious faces, then finally dropped it into a small silver scale beside him. He noted the weight and finally stared up t our novice faces, his creamy fat face now registering into something that looked like a grin.
“ dis thing just fine for face – e no get weight and na eighteen carat” He had finally announced to our disappointment, but not to his two companions and thick lips who had all nodded in agreement to his verdict.
What is carat? , What weight? , Fine for face, eighteen carat? , What the hell is this corny looking man saying?. Who cares what number the chain carries. All we came here for is real money – not long corny talks about carat or weight. I had thought silently in my mind as I stole glances at my two friends, who were now both wearing a visible frown on their faces and I had quickly followed suite.
“ Alhaji dis Na the correct gold o – Na from Mecca dem bring am, make you check am well well.” Kassim finally interjected defensively, his face still in a frown.
“ Nothing concern me from where he commot from – me Na the weight and carat concern me. How much una wan sell am?” Alhaji had demanded, the supposed grin on his face vanished.
“ How much you go buy am?” Segun had answered, taking his place again as our spoke man and we all trusted him as a shrewd good bargainer.
“ Look I get many things to do…why you go ask me say how much I go buy am? – No be una get una thing – see me see wahala o “ Alhaji said his face screwing with surprise at his two companions who nodded with sympathy at him.
I had stole some secret glances at my two friends, knowing deeply that none of us knew the actual worth of the necklace, nor could we all fixed a reasonable price for it at that moment. I quickly detect the confusion on our faces as we all stared quietly at each other.
“ Alhaji dis na your business – na something wey you dey buy everyday, just tell us how much you go buy am, make we hear – kobo albarka” Segun had challenged him, coming to our rescue.
“ Okey – five thousand Naira “ Alhaji had priced, smiling, knowing we were all novice in the business.
“ Haba! Five thousand Naira Alhaji!” I had busted out angrily to the surprise of everybody, including myself.
“ Five wetin? - Haba! Alhaji - like say we pick am…” segun had grumbled, coming to my support.
Alhaji had stared quietly at him, and then rested his eyes on the female figure who had now sat up and paying more attention to our discussion.
“ Come how you see thing…?” He had asked her with a grin.
“ Make I see am” She replied, arranging a white lace material on her beautiful curved waist as she stood up.
We had all stared admiringly at her beautiful face, Alhaji companions smiling more broadly and making room for her as she bends down and collected the necklace from Alhaji ‘s outstretched hand.
We all watched silently as she expertly turned the necklace in her gold filled fingers. I quickly counted six rings at a role, with three gold rings in each of her three first fingers.
“Hard something for dem Alhaji, the thing no bad – make una try settle…” She finally sang out in her sweet charming voice, her face wearing a seductive smile at the three of us.
“ Okey! If you say so” Alhaji struggled, then turn back to address us “ How much una wan sell am last?”
“ Last na fifteen thousand – buy am or leave am…” karim suddenly shot out to our surprise.
Alhaji stared surprisingly at him, then at segun who stared back at him, then at kassim who nodded silently.
‘ Fifen thousand! , okey listen for the sake say dis my woman say make I hard something , asper say na women sabi dis thing pass us and again for the sake of another day …the last price wey I fit pay for dis una market na…
He paused deliberately to take a sip from his long forgotten mug. We had all stared attentively at him, my heart pounding with an increased pace and my breath almost whispered out of my nose.
The lady pushed herself closer to alhaji and refilled his jug with hot steaming tea from a kittle nearby.
“ Come bring cups for our Guests make dem take tea warm body, the weather take style cold today small” Alhaji said , instructing thick lips, as if he was just noticing our shivering for the first time.
Like I had expected, we all quickly declined, assuring him and his associates that we were all okey. All we wanted at that particular moment was an end to the transaction and the hell out of the corny looking setting.
Why not the offer of the tea since, which we might have gladly accepted, to cool the furious cold that had escorted us into his compound. I thought silently, my eyes stealing a glance at the lady who was now trying on the necklace on her neck.
“ Yes! As I was saying – the only thing wey make me wan buy dis thing na bicos na my woman go use am. Honestly if no be so, I for no even look am – bicos market like dis too dey bring trouble and me I no dey like trouble…no be say we dey fear am…” He had added with a sip , then turned to admired the lady who now had the necklace beautiful fixed on her long neck
“ Alhaji how much you wan pay for dis market ?, time dey go and we get many things to do” kassim voiced out beside me, to the surprise of Alhaji , his two companions and thick lips ,who had all stared quietly at him. I could see embarrassment written all over the lady face, her slim hands had suspended across the necklace.
Yes kassim was right; we have many other things to do ourselves, who want to talk about trouble now. Come on! Split it out – what are you ready to pay? , I quarreled silently in my mind, waiting for or expecting an angry reaction from Alhaji or a rough barking and slaps from the still surprised looking thick lips, who I guessed was just waiting for a ago ahead from his boss. But to my surprised, Alhaji had suddenly busted into a short paroxysm, chuckling, his face creasing into a corny smile.
“ Yes young man- time is money. Bring ten thousand for dis young men, make dem go do wetin dem wan do.” He had finally instructed the lady, over his subsiding chuckle.
We had no option that day, than to collect the ten thousand naira from Alhaji, since the risk of marketing the necklace elsewhere was something we were not ready to take and worst we knew nobody else then that could buy a stolen necklace. Finally the thought of our parent getting to know in the process of marketing it was another thing we feared might happened.
Kassim had stepped forward, collected the ten thousand from the lady, who I noticed was very happy to part with the five bundles of twenty naira notes, the highest money we had all held in our lives then.
I had took a final look at the beautiful necklace on the neck of the lady, deep inside me I was sad that a beautiful thing like this was going out cheaply, but all the same I joined my friends to bade Alhaji and his group a not too satisfactory farewell.
We had all stubbornly ignored thick lips who insisted we must “see him” before we go. We had told him point blank that we were not parting with a dime!, reminding him that the whole transaction had been to his boss favor, so therefore he should go see him for his settlement.
The lady had finally piped out on hearing our voices inside the compound. Then with a seductive voice had commanded thick lips to allow us to go.
And with this we became initiated members of the tempting world of deals.
We had all stood and denied any knowledge about the missing necklace, few days after it was discovered. Though we had shared the money into three parts with me and segun insisting that kassim takes the highest share, despite his willingness to share equally with both of us. We had stood loyally with each other, defending and protecting ourselves, knowing that we had all kept our shares hidden, till the heat goes down. And what a scandalous heat it was. Not even the treat of bringing in the police, mallams and herbalists could scare us into betraying ourselves. Then finally like any other thing, the matter died down. With families, friends and some few foes, advising hajia Asabe to take heart and leave everything to God. Which she eventually did, since she actually had no any other option than to let go, this after much conviction that kassim and his friends had nothing to do with it. She mourned openly for some few days, and then eventually forget about the missing twenty three carat necklace, worth times three the price we had stupidly and blindly sold it for to Alhaji and his seductive mistress.
Well we had no option too, than to bring out our respective shares and indulge our selves with the latest wares in town and a little fun here and there. But to our disappointment all was a short indulgement, the fun and excitement only lasted for some few weeks. Then from then on, we became full members of the world of deals. We collected jewelries and other fast deals from our “Ajebutters “ friends and help act as middle men whenever they brought or stole something from home, either from an unsuspecting mother, sister or girlfriend.
We find ourselves eventually journing deep and deeper into the world of deals. one of the most popular deals of then was the illusive MERCURY DEAL. We had suckered ourselves into the believe of getting easy money from mercury, with the REDONE becoming the most sort after. Without much say we had entered and joined other group of youths in searching desperately for the mysterious and illusive little substance.
We scouted and traveled far and wide, but all in vain. For at the end of the whole thing, none of us was able to sell the magnetic and transparent looking liquid substance.
I could remember kassim of always boasting to make sure to buy a new necklace for his sister, to compensate her for the one we stole and sold.
We had all agreed with him, with the promise to contribute from her shares, immediately our mercury deal clicks. But like I said – nothing really came out from the mercury deals and the promise to buy Hajiya Asabe a new necklace, became a pipe dream. Not even the consoling news of a new deal – scouting and selling of precious stones, another craze in the deals world, could bring us the collective desired of replacing the missing necklace. At the end the supposed genuine stones we were able to lay our hands on , were constantly rejected by the always prudent and shrewd looking Lebanese business men that were supposed to buy them.
And standing alone in my mum’s room and still debating within myself of what to do with the new stolen necklace in my hand, I contemplated silently my ears wide and open to any sound outside. Should I because I was broke with no penny in my pocket or elsewhere, steal my poor mother’s only precious jewelry or not?. What if she later finds out? I don’t know anything as always, I heard a challenging voice inside me urging me on. But are all the lies and temporary enjoyment worth it? What about God? The calmer and comforting part of my mind questioned. Then I heard the voices of my two deals friends inside our compound.
“ Junior come I have something for you” I heard segun voice loudly from where I was still standing.
No! – No more deals! – I resolved to myself, dropping the small gold necklace back into the small box that had always housed it since I first saw it with my mum as a kid. Then replacing the box exactly where I found it, I strolled empty handed out of the room. Time to go inform my accomplices about the good news. I thought silently. No more stealing or moving of anything from home again: Necklace or whatsoever from our various stores.
I had promised moving my mum only gold necklace, but promises are sometime broken and I wont be the first nor the last to break one.
Though things are relatively hard for us presently: But I thought I could remember reading somewhere that “ Tough times never last – but tough people do”
I heard the excited whimpering voice of junior and allowed myself a satisfactory smile, then I pushed open my cotton and entered my room, to confront my two loyal childhood friends and break what might be a bad news to them . But who cares! – My mind was already made up anyway…No more deals.
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