One dusty harmattan morning when the good Lord's North east trade winds brought cracked lips to the masses, wondrous grey hairs to the children and crocodile skin to the legs of those not insured with a 'Vaseline policy' or perhaps a 'palm oil policy' (as all fingers are not equal), lightening struck.
It was no ordinary strike.
It was stamped and addressed to the Skido household and measured very high on the 'Gbosa' scale.
Sir Skido's life changed unrecognisably. His car, bed, shoe, and eating habits changed. His dreams changed also. No more did he see the landlord evicting his family into the streets as the crowds jeered and the heavens opened up like a new book in the hands of a bookworm.
He now slept seeing himself contesting for the Local government chairman's seat and making witty speeches at exclusive gatherings with microphones bearing the logos' of NTA, CNN, MINAJ, and AIT clustered beneath his chin.
Such is the power of the lightening strike they call sudden wealth. No one dared to inquire about the source of this newly found wealth (at least not in public), for such questions are deemed rude in Lagos almost akin to asking the Oba how many children he had or asking a society woman her age.
The harmattan was yet to engage top gear when the unthinkable happened.
Lightening struck twice.
The 'Gbosa meter' exploded and Sir Skido decided to move out of the his Ajegunle neighbourhood. "How can a man of my class continue to live in this jungle city?" Sir Skido asked his friends over drinks.
As he was paying, his friends controlled their anger at Sir Skido's newly found "class" and smiled heartily through clenched teeth while they cursed him in their heart of hearts.
On his last day in Ajegunle, the large crowd that had gathered to help with the move were shocked to see a tiny pick-up truck parked outside the Skido family home and what more, the Skidos' were not properly dressed for the hard task of moving.
Sir Skido knew what they were all thinking but decided to play games with them. He served drinks and "small chop" of groundnuts and chin-chin and chatted nostalgically of his years in the area. Many shed a few tears. "Don't cry for me Ajegunle" pleaded Sir Skido. "For I go only across Lagos to my small house in Victoria Island. It's not as if I am going to die and go to heaven". "Or hell" shouted someone in the crowd causing roars of laughter.
Sir Skido pretended not to hear.
"For some of us, heaven is nearer than Victoria Island. We may never see you again" said an old man causing a murmur to sweep through the crowd as folks marveled at this nugget of 'suffer man' wisdom.
Soon it was time.
Sir Skido announced that as God had so buttered his bread he would not need any of his old property as his new place was fully furnished. "All I need you Alaye boys to do is load my three seater settee onto the pick-up trunk. Then I will go in and fetch my City and Guilds electricians' certificate and you people can have whatsoever you wish".
The air was thick with excitement and everyone braced themselves for what latter became referred to as the "harmattan rush". At this point Sir Skido's wife butt in, "that rotten settee is going nowhere. Ah-ah, what will the new neighbours think? You wan de-shine me bicos of ye-ye sentimental value? I no gree".
Sir Skido was hurt.
How dare this wife of a woman belittle him in public he thought. He lost his temper and pushed his wife aside then helped the Alaye boys with the settee. He then gathered his children out of the way and declared in jest "let the property massacre begin!"
What happened next surprised all including the participants. People rushed madly for the door all at once and got stuck. Alaye boys quick and nimble jumped in through the window. Vicious punches and elbows were freely dispersed and blood flooded freely. Some came out breathing heavily clutching radio sets, shirts, and children's clothes, cooking utensils and even bars of soap.
One group of elders too old and wise to struggle poked fun at the rat race called life.
Suddenly the one they called chronic bachelor burst out of a window with his T-shirt completely in tatters holding his spoils of war high above his head. "What good are two ladies scarves to an unemployed with neither wife nor girlfreind?" the elders teased. "I go sell am Tokunbo for market" came the reply.
Sir Skido saw friendly neighbours who had known each other for many years shove each other out of the way and muttered to himself "there is no friend or brother in property. First thing Monday morning I must write my will".
All this was months ago.
Today has brought new problems for Sir skido in his new house. His settee had come back to haunt him and his wife, true to type taunted him thus, "I told you not to bring the rotten settee but you just had to be "the man" in front of your friends. Shame Skido. Shame on you!" Saying that she marched into her jeep and went shopping.
Despite the central air conditioning the sweat poured forth.
Sir Skido eyed the long letter and contemplated reading it for the umpteenth time. He rubbed his eyes, put on his glasses and picked up the letter. His whole body shuddered as he began to read.
Dear Sir Skido,
You dey craze?
What lame excuse do you have for the multiple attempts you have made on the lives of my family? In Ajegunle you never gave us any problems but since your arrival in Victoria Island your attitude towards us has changed. Are you now ashamed of us after so many years of cohabitation? You feel your ascent up the social scale calls for a severance of all old acquaintances whose faces no more fit eh? You wan kill us all eh?
Sir Skido, you leave me no choice. I hereby declare war on you and your family with immediate effect. I Chief Ekute Rattus Muridae, the third by the powers vested in me by God almighty and in my position as the leader of this family decree a state of emergency in this house forthwith.
May I however implore you to study and understand why during the Second World War the Rats of Tobruk were so named and more recently why the victorious Desert Rats were so named during the gulf war? So you really want to annihilate us eh?
You are not the first to attempt the impossible. Let me teach you a lesson from history.
Many many years ago our forefathers had established themselves in Hamelin Germany and were basically running things at grass root level when a Flute playing nobody pranced into town wearing a colourful Hugo Boss jacket. (I say flute because if I refer to him as the Pied Piper of Hamelin , his proper nickname, you and that Coconut brain of yours will think him to be a pipe smoker).
He won a contract to exterminate my forefathers. He used music. Chai! See how relations fit disgrace person! My forefathers foolishly danced in the streets to the flute this deceiver was playing. When they got to the River Weser he changed tune, opting for a Sir Shina-ish rhytym. Ol' boy, the Rats raced into the sea and drowned.
Never in the history of humanity have non-swimmers rushed to a watery grave like my forefathers. Ah, well the swine in the Bible did it ke? At least they could plead diminished responsibility, as it was evil spirits that lead them astray. What excuse do my forefathers have eh?
The story continues thus; the Piper returned for his fee but the mayor must have had Naija blood for he claimed armed robbers had just left his office having cleaned him out completely.
The Piper cried bitterly for he knew that numerous companies and private individuals all glad to see the back of my forefathers had donated large sums of money towards his fees. Alas the '419' came to light when the news reached the Piper two weeks later that the mayor was building a big house in his mother's village and was paying cash for everything.
Furthermore he was now referred to as "Mayor keep the change" on account of his lavish generosity to the shopkeepers of Hamelin. Next came the repercusion.
The Pied Piper returned to town with an even more flamboyant jacket and blew a re-mixed version of his Rat killer tune. This time all the children followed him while the parents looked on smiling. It was like the Children's Day march past at Tafawa Balewa square.
The Mayor even waved at them from the giant window in his office. The Piper led them to the caves in Koppen Hill and all were never seen again.
The moral of this story is simple. Man wey say Ekute no go sleep, im sef no go sleep. So you want to kill us? Your mama no born you well at all!
May I inform you that since arriving at Victoria Island we too have been making contacts with Rats who live with great men from all works of life.
In fact, we don open eye finish. We now network with fellow Rats from all over the world. You know Ben? The one wey Michael Jackson sing about. Well the grand son is now a big man in Hollywood and has promised to send us arms and technology to finish you. You useless man. Right now as I write this letter with blood (not red ink), three Hollywood stars of the Muridae family are organising a charity benefit to raise money for the suffering Rats of Lagos. They are none other than Chief and Chief Mrs Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Chief Professor Master Splinter, the Ninjistu don .
May I inform you that Master Splinter will be smuggled into the country in two weeks to begin guerrilla warfare training in a disused Shalanga (pit latrine) somewhere in Ikorodu. Did you not see how well he trained those Area boys to become the Teenage mutant ninja tortoise eh? When he finishes with us I'm sure we will be ready to take over the whole country if we so please. Sir Skido, you don enta.
So your children now watch Rugrats eh? I know you wish to insult me with style. We shall see.
Please inform your offspring the cat that died for whom they cried so much was killed by me. Ha ha. No be curiosity kill am, ha ha ha. I no fit laugh. I have read the post-mortem report (remember I have cousins in every pathology laboratory and veterinary surgery in this Lagos state), Warfarin poisoning my foot.
I bet you think your cat eat the Ratsbane you left out for us eh? All the so-called Rat poison is no more than an afternoon snack to us. We store the Warfarin they contain in our livers and it doesn't harm us. Unlike your Ajebuta Ologbo. I set a bait for him with one of my sons and he fell for it. The same happened to that silly hawk that used to terrorise the neighbourhood. It took four of my daughters to finish him off. If you don't believe you are welcomed to buy another cat. And mind you, I will never run out of children for madam dey born seven times a year and each time na six or seven pickin dey come out. Even sef ,when I hungry I dey chop some. So you want to kill us eh? You go die o!
You keep on scandalising my good name, calling us vermin, claiming we eat your useless City and Guilds certificate and claiming we spread disease. What disease? Go to London and ask about the Bubonic plague. That is disease! Where a quarter of the population dies and those alive live in fear. That is the disease we can bring.
Sir Skido, we haven't started with you o! Was it not just one bite I gave you last year and you succumbed to Rat bite fever. If not for that antibiotic wey the doctor give you na coffin you for dey now and I for don chop your right eye comot by now as na im dey hungry me pass. By the way, did you get diarrhoea with those drugs? I eat some you left on the table and belle come turn me well- well. Take ya time o!
I know you are petrified and looking to make peace. It's too late. A white flag will not cut it.
I will sit down at a round table conference with you only if Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, Jesse Jackson and the presido of Naija are present with full guarantees for my safety.
And just a word of advice, you are wasting time with those rusted rat traps harbouring mouldy bread and bits of rotten fish as bait.
Right now we possess the technology to take the bait off without detonating the trap.
Furthermore, we are now high class and would no more contemplate eating such nonsense even if it were served on a platter of gold.
Finally to make sure you don't get any sleep here are my war plans.
Sabotaging of electric cables will start next week. We will chew off insulation causing sparks and fires. This will occur by 4 am to ensure the house burns down with you in it.
I have already told you about the Ninjistu training. We will attack you in the bath when your eyes are closed in a pack of sixty. I have sons who when they bite will not let go unto death. As for your baby in the cot use that useless imagination of yours.
Biological warfare excites me the most. We all carry fleas called Xenopsylla Cheopis. Chai! What a name. They in turn are the sole distributors of Yersinia Pestis the producers of the Bubonic plague. For the now the fleas are happily living off our blood but should anything happen to us they have vowed to attack you in twenty four hours thus gifting you with the plague.
When Lagos people find out that the plague was caused by Sir Skido's stupendous behaviour, your house will be burnt to the ground while your children will be awarded the 'tyre medal' (you understand don't you? Tyre, petrol, matches, boom!).
We are also making arrangements to import Endemic Typhus as soon as possible.
So you want to kill us? Go ahead then.
Chief Ekute Rattus Muridae the third.
Sir Skido put the letter on his laps and sighed. He didn't hear his wife come in and jumped when she spoke.Sir Skido promtly told her they would be moving back to Ajegunle as this situation was too big for him to handle.
"Over my dead body. Move out for rats? Tuffia! Skido ,you are not a man at all" said Lady Skido. "That might be true but whatever you might call me I'm still alive".
Lady Skido sat next to her husband and read the letter. They sat in silence bar the occasional hissing from Lady Skido as she turned the pages of the letter. She tore the letter to shreds as soon as she had finished and whispered to her husband "the rats are afraid"
"How can you say that?"
"Chief Ekute uses his sons as bait. Where is the courage in that? Can't he die fighting for his people? I will sort him out!" said Lady Skido.
"How my wife?"
"I've been out to see a friend who had a similar problem. First we kill off all the fleas, and stop putting out ratsbane or traps. Next we start leaving out good bits of food for them. This will lull them into a false sense of security. Next we leave out kai kai spiked with infertility drugs. In no time they will all be sterile alcoholics with no fleas biting their backs. Life go just dey sweet them so.When we build a bar for them with free flowing Kai kai in the garden, long throat no go let them dey suspicious. After one week of free booze we will change the bar's door to open one way only, hence trapping all the rats inside By now the bar will double up as a gas chamber. As the now drunkard rats will all be hooked on Kai kai they will come in to be gassed.
As for those who refuse to come out to drink we shall recommence ratsbane and procure some tough cats. Them go sabi say dis one no be Tom and Jerry matter at all" said Lady Skido.
"Na die!" screamed Sir Skido."But women get sense o! Abeg come sitdon for my lap jo".
Lady Skido shifted her bulk onto Sir Skido who received her with open arms. Their combined weight caused the settee to sag . Chief Ekute was woken up from sleep. He heard giggling and saw he's roof moving. "They laugh despite my letter" he said to himself. He turned over to his wife Chief Mrs Ekute who was neck deep in the travails in labour and said, "I smell a rat. A big stinking rat
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© 2000 Babawilly