There is a thing about the iPhone dream here in 9ja. It is where most roads point to; that direction to the prestigious. Everyone wants to get an iPhone, a particular group more than most. It’s one thing to be a fine boy. It’s another to be a fine boy with an iPhone. An iPhone makes you attractive to different things and people, half to your own good, half to your own detriment.
The word client was a thing white-collared business folks threw back and forth in conversations. Now, it’s thrown around recklessly in street music, among young people in claustrophobic towns and cities. You hear it in slums where a gang of area boys and cultists are shrouded in clouds of marijuana smoke. You hear it around the canal where a junkie is taking a shit; from the mist of carefree secondary school teenagers; even from the mouths of Christian and Muslim mothers.
There are prayers for clients these days. It’s the first thing boys whisper once it’s twelve or so in the morning.
“God bless my hustle.”
Blessing meant a white unfortunate individual generous with dollars, pounds or Euros. It meant newer or latest models of iPhones. It meant lavish spending and slick cars.
My twin brother, Obi, walked up to me one evening and said.
“Ebuka, abeg if you get pesin wey wan sell iPhone, hala me. I need am urgently.”
That was all I needed to confirm my suspicions.
Adigun, whose mother sold roasted corn down our street, died last week. He died from an alleged severe stomach pain during his youth corps service. He met his end at twenty-six, just few months after he bought a Toyota Camry. Some years back, he was just as irrelevant as most street boys and university undergrads. Later while in school, he got into a business that involved some kind of trade off Amazon. He became a big boy within months. He owned two iPhones, of course.
At his candle night, friends and street boys who knew him patrolled every neighbourhood across town, lifting frames of his pictures and crying into the darkness.
“Oro nla le da, e e e, eyin ti e wo susu, ti e pa Adigun o, oro nla le da.” They were lyrics of a dirge blaming some kind of vicious spiritual force or a wicked human for taking Adigun away harshly from his newly derived tenderness in life.
It was a pretense, the weeping and swinging at the cruel air. The boys who cried the loudest knew or at least suspected what happened. Adigun was a yahoo-boy who needed to up his game. He consulted the shrine of a juju priest for rituals; something about increasing the inflow and steadiness of cash and entrapping wealthy white clients. The juju priest had him swallow a live frog. Days later after Adigun’s demise, spineless rumours formed that minutes before his death, something had croaked loudly inside him.
When a boy starts to sing, “ice, ice, ice on my wrist. Ice on my neck,” when his favourite musicians are American trap artists who mumble lyrics and sing about luxury and girls, you know there’s a problem. When he locks his hair or dyes it in loud colours, defiant to parental orders, you know. When he gets a laptop and holds vigils throughout the night, you know. If he cries “omo see ride o!” anytime a dashing car whips past, you know. Or when he outrightly wishes to renew his iPhone to the latest model. You know there’s a stranger dimension to this problem when every other Sunday, his tithe envelopes in church are fat.
When you hear from across his ends of the room, “Guy, na picker wey get confirm rate I need. Sharp sharp, make this money land, as dollar dey hot so.” You are not as worried of that problem as much as you’re now excited. You can convince him to loan you some cash. And if this deal of his is huge, he can even help your mom replenish her food store. She’ll pray and smile.
“May the living God I serve continue to bless this your hustle, my son.”
Your father, however, cannot hear of it.
SARS officers are not your usual potbellied, tired Nigerian policemen. They are usually more composed, angrier, ready to dispose slaps and if there’s any need, a stray bullet or two.
Somewhere in a very busy market road, five police officers stopped a hummer jeep. One minute all lives haggled, advertised, debated and contemplated under the sphere of rush hours. The next moment, there was a pause and an immediate shift on to a scene where there was a naked mad man dancing at the very top of his grey hummer jeep, screaming hysterically at the crowd.
“Make huna dey video me! These greedy officers don profile me. Calling me yahoo-boy. Me yahoo-boy? Nonsense! Huna never see anything. I go show huna say I be confirm Edo boy. I no be Yoruba o. Abeg, make huna dey video me! I be respectable businessman.”
“Yes, show dem. Na so dem dey always do. Stupid police people,” voices from the crowds had begun to say.
One of the five men in loose black uniforms began smiling in a timid, guilty way, snailing away from the coverage of angry eyes and flashing cameras. The others were dumbfounded. The only option was to let things die down without making any arrest or looting.
You don’t try this with SARS, though: running mad and berserk, stripping to attract attention. Before that instinct to go wild makes a move into you, you’re already down at gun point, your cheeks confused and dazzled by the barrage of slaps.
SARS officers shot an alleged teenage yahoo boy dead last week. In retaliation, a mob of street boys attacked two policemen at a T-junction with a large pot-hole where vehicles are forced to slow down, and drivers of all sorts give a handful of palm-enclosed bribes. One of the two policemen was left for dead in a pool of blood. The other died after being dealt a metallic blow to his face. I know because I was the one who devilishly swung the bar. The murdered teenager was my twin brother, Obi. My father had smuggled me out of town wrapped delicately in the boot of his Honda, while relentless police raids ravaged our streets…
is an undergraduate of English from the University of Lagos. His first published e-book is a psychological short story titled You and It. Yahoo Boy is his second work. His third short story is forthcoming.