I am a madman. I am a very mad man. Before you call me one, I’ll have you know that I know already. And I accept it. One reason I don’t argue this is that only mad men argue against fact. Yeah, there was a time I was that mad and would spend hours arguing for my sanity. I’m past that now… wait, so maybe I’m not really mad? Or maybe I just got tired. Another reason I don’t argue this is that I saw somewhere that “once a mad man realises he is mad, his healing begins”. So yeah, this is me taking baby steps. Again, maybe I’m not as mad as you think.
It’s tough being mad in Nigeria. The competition is really tight. Ohh, you didn’t realise it has become a competition? Well, look around. Everyone seems to be trying to outdo the other in the display of lunacy. For instance, if I ask you why you think I’m mad, you might say it’s because of the things I do. Well, I’m not denying that the things I do may be a bit “off”, but at least, I haven’t killed myself to kill others. I mean, I have never ever even considered it. And I’m the mad one. You want to talk about how I look; my dressing or lack of it? In this place where the ones we now call mad are the ones who bother complaining about the ones who dress mad. You must be a comedian. Wait, I hope that wasn’t insulting? I love comedians. Plus, I hear everyone wears their hearts on their sleeves these days and I could get in trouble for being insensitive. Anyways, long story short: your country, Nigeria, is a madhouse. But that’s not what today’s story is about. I’m madder than usual today and it’s because I didn’t get my change.
It was a bright Saturday morning. The sun was up early and blazing. The heat roasting my scalp threatened to melt away what was still holding whatever was left of my sanity together. Despite the heat which was a letdown, the day still seemed pregnant with adventure, and adventures are what I live for. So, I got up from my abode, braving the sun and seeking what the day had in store for me. Before any adventures though, I had to get my cigarettes. It was a daily ritual. Five fine sticks of Benson’s every single day for as long as I can remember. I never miss it. I have tried weed before, but it doesn’t sit well with me – too crude I presume. I could make do with Marlboros too, but Benson’s sticks are the real deal. And so I headed off to the Bank to get them.
“Iya Bankole! Iya Banky! Ahh Nawa o.”
I could hear Okoye, screaming for the Bank Manager immediately he saw me coming.
“Iya Banky, your friend, sorry, your customer is here oo,” he said, not bothering to hide his mocking grin.
“No dey call am my friend, Okoye. Warn yourself,” the Bank Manager retorted.
I wondered why she was getting annoyed. Anyway, there were other adventures to get to, and I wasn’t going to be deterred by anyone. I dipped my hand into my pocket and brought out a hundred naira note as I have done so many times, and handed it over to her. The Bank was filled with all sorts: rice, beans, canned sardines, groundnuts and the likes. But the manager knew what I wanted; there was no confusion, no need to say anything. It was clear: five Benson’s sticks as usual. She took the money and went in while I waited expectantly.
When she came back, I could tell something was wrong. She handed me the sticks of cigarette, which I received in my right hand. Then, I stretched my left hand to her, expectantly. She looked at me and shook her head. There would be no change today. I got her message, but I didn’t understand it. This was our normal routine every day for years now: I give her a #100 note; she returns with five Bensons, which I receive with my right hand; I stretch out my left hand, and she drops #50 in it. Simple. But today’s was turning out to be something different. So, I stood there, left hand still outstretched, flashing her my biggest smile and waiting for the ritual to be complete. After a long while in which she realised I wasn’t going to leave, she called Okoye to help her out with the dilemma.
“Oga, no change today. Come dey go”. Okoye was finally speaking to me after laughing at the Manager for minutes. He was also gesticulating widely while speaking to me. I wasn’t deaf, I was just mad. I wonder why he was being dramatic.
“Oga no change today. Comot! No change today!”
Getting tired of the whole situation, I asked “why no change today?”
“Things don change.”
“Who change am?”
“Ahh. Ehn, na Jubril cause am. Na him bring change.”
“Na Jubril suppose bring my change or na him bring change?” I asked.
At this point, I was getting confused already. The same feeling was mirrored on Okoye’s face as he began to scratch his head.
“Na the two jare. Wo come dey go. No change. Iya Banky you know say na you dey make me follow mad person yarn.”
Ignoring the comment, I asked “who be Jubril?”
This time it was the Manager who answered “our president”.
“So una president say he go bring change, instead he con carry my change. Na why I no get change?”
“No be thief be dat? Who make am president?”
“Na we kuku vote am.”
At this point, Okoye replied, “No say we o. Na you vote am. I no vote am o.”
“Calm down now. At least you vote am the first time.”
“No be say I like am that time sef, I just say make person try new thing to see new result. Make person no be like mad man wey dey do same thing same way come dey expect new result,” he glanced at me as if to be assured that I wasn’t taking any offence, and then continued, “when I see say Jubril no get anything to offer, I no vote am. So no dey call we. Na una vote am again abeg.”
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“So una get chance to comot this person wey carry my change, but una still leave am? Una sure say una no dey craze?” I asked, not able to make sense of it anymore.
“Err… emm… E no simple like that,” the manager replied. At this point, I realised that these people were just as confused as I was and at the very least, I won’t be receiving any change. At least not today. So I shook my head in pity, turned around and left the Bank.
Even though I’m still mad – or madder than usual – because of the way the day started, the day is still young; adventure still beckons and like I said, I won’t be deterred. We meuvee!