Because our generation needs a voice

Efe Paul Azino: Dream Country

Picture: Chi Modu

Picture: Chi Modu

They stream in from as early as 7 in the morning; students, traders, petty thieves, hardened criminals, drifters. Drawn to this hallowed space where they meld into a singular desire for a better life. A desire that thins out and disappears before they can grasp it. Just like the smoke from Haji’s exotic marijuana. The marijuana that brings them to Ogidan Street each morning.

Ogidan Street is host to about twenty or so buildings, separated into opposite rows by a narrow dirt road that draws its stomach in to hold pools of water every time it rains. Haji, a 6ft8 middle-aged man with large hands that turn up leathery palms, is lord here.

His three storey contraption, a cluster of one-bedroom apartments, is smack in the middle of Ogidan. A lean corridor littered with cooking stoves, wooden stools and crying children, leads you all the way to the back of the building, where it opens up into a small oval space that serves as a laundry, Haji’s Gym, and point of purchase.

A few conservative clients make their purchase and stay right here to use. Many head out back into the open and do their business on the street, some standing, others sitting on a fallen stone pillar that used to be an electricity pole in its previous life.

Residents try not to hazard a sideway glance as they walk through the band of smoking dreamers on the one hand, and Haji’s nondescript building on the other. Straight faced, noses turned up in judgement, they hurry past, the faint smell of marijuana smoke briefly clinging to their clothes in a futile attempt to grasp them.

Nobody makes a public complaint. Not Haji’s tenants. Not the other residents of Ogidan Street. No clandestine S.W.A.T-like swooping in by the police. Nothing. Misgivings are simply swallowed and breathed out in private spaces. Everyone fears the big man. Business booms.

The joint constitutes of those who come in the morning and leave minutes later to pursue mediocre concerns, and those who stay, from sun up till sun down, churning over excellent dreams in heightened states of consciousness.

They range from legitimate dreamers to illegitimate hustlers; footballers hoping to make it from the local circuit to Europe, musicians trying to get their demos into the right hands, apprentice traders from the nearby Alaba market who want more than their masters can offer, petty thieves who leave one day and return the next as whispers of a robbery gone bad, their dead bodies on an obscure sidewalk by Okokomaiko bus-stop.

Ogidan is their country, Haji their government, classless denizens with only dreams to spare.

PS: A poet used to dream here :)

Widely regarded as one of Nigeria’s leading spoken word poets, Efe Paul Azino has been a headline performer in many of the nation’s premier performance poetry venues including Taruwa, Anthill, Naija Poetry Slam, and Freedomhall amongst others.

His poems, essays and short stories have been featured in magazines and journals across the world. His forthcoming collection, When the Revolution Spoke, is due out in 2014.

He blogs at: www.efepaulspeaks.com

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