Arugboya v Eleyi: Lagos estate shenanigans (1)

I woke up to voices, at dawn or late in the afternoon I do not recall. Or so I thought. Was it a dream? Or did the shouts stir me from my very sweet reverie? I was making my way through some very beautiful twin hills at the time, I think. It is no matter. The words were said.

And I knew whose they were. “E ma jade!…eyii ni kpo?” The old woman was at it again. “You will leave!…so this useless one has a good station in society?” Almost a year now since Arugboya moved in next door, she has been troubled. My spirit was troubling her demons, you see.

At the beginning, she attempted to exercise elderly privilege. Before even moving in, while finishing touches were being made to what was beginning to look like a beautiful bungalow, she got her contractors to dump debris from the drains and workings from her house repairs, and so on, on my front lawn.

The day before, another old woman made the pretense of the drains being cleaned. I did think that odd. It made sense the next day.

If the drains were being cleaned, the debris that had turned my otherwise green front lawn to a dirty sandy beachfront would be my share of the negative externalities of the commons, wouldn’t it? Well, it wasn’t.

How to prove it? I couldn’t. So I bought the necessary equipment and removed the debris myself. On the bright side, being as one is not particularly desirous of needless exertions, I did find the task quite exhilarating. “Come to think of it, I have not seen that other old woman for a while,” Eleyi wondered. Did she run out of mischievous schemes?

Arugboya was adamant. She did not know. “O ti gbon! O ti ko gbon!” He is shaken! He has become wise! Yoruba is an interesting language. Our words reflect our duplicitous culture

Hitherto, the shenanigans in this Lagos estate were limited to the occasional excrement on my front lawn, whether that of man or animal, I couldn’t tell. They are good as manure, at least. Tiny ones, hmm. That must be a cat having fun at my expense. I thought one looked human once, very wide ones.

It could be those of a dog, perhaps. They feed them that well? Eleyi wondered at their good luck. Happy dogs! I mused, as I simply put sand over the proof of their surprisingly comfy lives to limit the stench. Well-fed dogs in bubu’s economy? Hmm.

Arugboya has been at her wits’ end. Realising it would not make sense after a while for her to keep having weekly house repairs as cover for the constant banging on the walls with heavy hammers, she sought help.

Are these walls made of steel, Mr Eleyi wondered. Metal on metal? She figured maybe shake him a little with “awon boys,” the riff-raff almost all neighbourhoods, no matter how highly placed, tend to have. Eleyi is not “fresh meat,” they warned.

Arugboya was adamant. She did not know. “O ti gbon! O ti ko gbon!” He is shaken! He has become wise! Yoruba is an interesting language. Our words reflect our duplicitous culture.

A single word, with just a change in intonation, could mean the exact opposite, or even something totally unrelated. A falling intonation of “gbon” means “shaken,” or “dejected.” A rising intonation of “gbon” means “wise.” Rock the boat, she bellowed! She should have let sleeping dogs lie.

She gave them bad intelligence, to their utmost chagrin. The nuisance trade requires a delicate balance. You want to project just enough potential misery to your intending victims. Push too much, you risk a strong reaction that will weigh on your notoriety and thus your returns.

And to be fair, these young lads are not particularly bad people. Most of the time, their intent is just to show that “hey, maybe you need someone to guard your gate, tend to your lawn perhaps?” And if they find the target is not game, they move on to the next project.

Besides, they tend to also do their due diligence before acting, thus avoiding an “eleyi,” who though easily mistaken for someone down on his luck, is actually an “onikpo.” That is, someone with some standing in society. They don’t want their mildly nefarious activities on the pages of the newspapers, for instance.

Or you never know, the guy with faded hoodies and mismatched flip-flops could easily be a member of the secret police, thus capable of meting out greater misery as revenge. Were our society to be blessed with good leaders, this smart lot will go places. Well, some of them do, as they go on to become state governors, senators, military generals, and even presidents.

Read also: Àwa ló kàn (It’s our turn)

In any case, Arugboya, who is in her dotage, acted with youthful exuberance. The irony. She did not make adequate enquiries from her coven of oldies, who knowing Mr Eleyi is an introvert of sorts, simply spread the “padlock” narrative hitherto. “Ati ti mole!” He wouldn’t dare step out of his house unnecessarily, “we have locked him up!” Which was just as well, until Arugboya thought she could get Eleyi to heel. That is, before she found out that “eleyi” was actually “onikpo to la gidi.” She should have asked.

As a first overt salvo, the boys let loose their monkey. No, I am not joking. A monkey. A very cute and clever one too. This one is just surveying the grounds, Eleyi thought. “You wanna play? Catch me if you can!”

What harm could a monkey do? It was just having fun. I hear a reverbrating sound and I look up to my roof. I was walking my grounds at the time, as I do on most days. It was my monkey friend! He had climbed the pole holding my cable antennae and was rocking it back and forth with such vigour as if intending to pull off the attachments.

The monkey was not a friend at all. Enraged, Mr Eleyi put the boys on notice: “no monkeys allowed here!” They laughed. It won’t be for long. Monkey pox happened. They hide their monkeys nowadays.

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