-By Peace Opaleye
The streets have a name: Abiku, her face the shade of charcoal, beaten into that form by the sun under which she trod.
Abiku is not unlike me and you. Her heart beats with a passion for greatness, for a better life, but the cocoon within which she finds herself kicks against it, resisting her every move, telling her she must conform and so she does.
She is a shadow walker, goes unnoticed by us. We are too busy with our own lives to notice someone else’s and so she slips by us, her heart beating to the steady rythym of the drums of the street, her legs used to the repetitive dance steps.
You have probably met an Abiku, with a smile that never reaches her eyes, her wares expertly balanced on her malnourished frame, chasing every moving car for her daily bread.
She has probably yelled at you, “Oloriburuku ni, Ode!”, when you made her do a 50km dash with cocacola bottles on her head only to turn her back saying, “e no even cold sef”.
Abiku doesn’t hate you, rather she envies your freedom to choose what to put into your mouth based on it’s temperature. She envies you because you are not in the same cocoon she finds herself, closed in by environment, by family, or the lack thereof, by wealth.
Abiku is the tired-looking mother sitted beside you in the danfo, with two children on her lap and one tightly strapped to her back.
She is the Nigeriane girl running after you, screaming, “aunty help me, I dey hungry, God go bless you”. The one you chased away in harsh tones, probably even threatened with a knock.
Abiku is the robber that stole your brand new gold wristwatch in traffic at Obalende because he needed to feed his starving family, the one you cursed till infinity because you didn’t understand, didn’t know why, didn’t care.
He is the Agbero hanging haphazardly off the side of the molue. That cranky one that never smiles, always screams obscenities into your delicate ears, offending both your nasal and auditory senses.
Abiku is the market woman, who satisfies herself with the daily gossip, with who is up and who is down and who knows who. She struggles to fill the void in her heart with empty words from every passerby.
She is the woman of the night, with a low cut blouse and a slit up to her thighs, shivering in the night’s air. She is a victim of circumstance, pushed into this trade by the first violation that left her temple desolate. Her beckoning gaze has ended many a marriage, left many man a couple thousands poorer.
Abiku is the handicapped man, the struggling man, the one you don’t spare a second’s glance, the one you bluntly tell, “I refuse to pity you. We’re all in this hustle”, or maybe say it in your mind.
He is the Master’s degree holder, running helter skelter in the Lagos sun, seeking employment like a parched desert traveller seeks water.
Abiku is us, we are Abiku, because all of us have a story to tell, a dream to chase, a life to live, and most of us are dissatisfied with the hands that we are dealt.
We envy each other, forgetting that we are all the same street- Abiku- with different coloured cocoons, but cocoons nonetheless, preventing us from seeing the world as we ought to.
Written by Peace Opaleye