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Andikan Umoh: The silence in the street struck me -“we shall all die”

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A couple of years ago I laid on my bed, tossing and turning. The sounds of the cars driving past filled the air. The street was busy with vendors selling street food from one end of the street to the other. People sat in groups drinking and eating by the roadside while some others visually were couples just causally on a date. The men trying to impress the ladies with the bursting flavours of Nigerian street foods. 

The street was full of flavours, voices, joys and was the life of the city. You could never miss mama Iyabo who fried Akara and sold the freshest bread. On this street was a mixed array of suya, roast chicken, Boli with a special sauce to accompany it which you could eat with either fried or grilled fish, kuli kuli. Name any street food and You’d find it on this busy street of Akan drive. Where my house sat right in the middle of this street. From my window, I enjoyed a 180C view of all the vendors and their regular customers. 

Some voices started to sound familiar. I knew when uncle Okon arrived. He was the loudest vendor and you could not miss him. He sold the best pepper soup, though his soups were not as good as the others, his rice and stew were the best. He always had cold drinks, perfect for the mix and his space was big enough.  With a larger seating area for the people to seat out and enjoy. He used this as an excuse to play loud music. His playlist was not my favourite. He played a lot of highlife while that went well with the vibes of his eatery, only the uncles and the aunties liked to go there.

 The youngsters, we liked to sit in daddy Obong’s joint. He played afrobeat and his playlist was lit. There was no day you go to daddy Obong’s Joint and would leave unsatisfied. He was chatty, vibrant and his wife was the best cook. His place was always packed and his customers’ queue was always long. Overflowing to his neighbours. 

In such a busy street where the sound of music, car horns, people singing, shouting and laughing all blurred into each other. I got used to it. As I had found the cheapest house here and could not afford rent elsewhere, I got used to it and despite the noise, I slept through it all. I enjoyed living here.  But that night was my first on this street. I could hear all the noise and I was unable to sleep. There weren’t many nights like this as I got used to it.  Tonight is unlike that night.

Tonight is different because the silence in the street struck me. In the dead silence, I found no sleep. The street of Akpan has become mute. The loud music has all faded away, the people have disappeared and the shops have now closed. In a day if you catch 2 to 3 suya stands, some Boli stands and a few hawkers then it is a good day. But there would be no buyers for the sellers. 

Tonight standing by the window, I noticed the hawkers walking around with their cart full since the start of the day. No buyers, where had they all gone? 

They ran for their lives. 

The virus has chased them into their cocoons. 

The virus has taken daddy Obong and his wife. 

But they were not the only ones it took. Many more vendors, buyers, my father and even my best friend. 

Are we fighting yet another war? 

A war against the race?

For the first time we now have a common enemy and the human race they are after. 

Not our sex, colour or gender

But our freedom.

Today, tomorrow and for as long as we do not know, 

The streets  will continue to look like  how I pictured the streets in my grandmother’s war stories 

With dead bodies littered about. 

Except that these dead bodies are not littered on the street. 

Scattering dead bodies about is their mission. 

These bodies are not littered in the street or the hospitals 

They are in their houses. 

Waiting to die or to be killed. 

Either way, we shall all die. 

________________________

Andikan Umoh is an avid read at NewsWireNGR…. andikan.umoh@hotmail.com 

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