Efe was my best friend right from the university days. We were so close that most folks actually thought we were blood brothers.
I met Efe one sunny Monday when I was in a long queue to enter the campus shuttle going to the permanent site of the university, for my daily lectures. As usual, a lot of students had been on the line. Stronger, taller students who were already used to the daily hurdles of a school environment.
I was a newbie, an ajebo of some sorts. Where I come from, I was used to orderliness, but the people here seemed to care little or nothing about that. One minute they were all in a single file awaiting the never available school buses, and another minute the line breaks out at the sight of an approaching bus. They all scamper like mighty buffaloes springing in leaps towards the only entrance of the vehicle…
The strong ones often succeed in getting onto the bus, but the weak ones like me most times ended up on the dusty ground, bruised and hurt.
That day, I was determined to man up and be like the few strong students, so immediately I sighted a bus from the school gate, I quickly began the mad dash towards the oncoming vehicle, other students followed suit immediately. I ran as if my life depended on it, the more experienced ones soon ran past me and hopped on the bus… I could see the open door, I mustered all my strength and increased my pace, I succeeded in getting close enough to the door but I had no idea how to jump in, I wasn’t “skilled” in the art of bus jumping like the others.
I just kept running after the bus, soon the other students stopped in their tracks and began laughing, they couldn’t understand why I would choose to keep running after the bus instead of jumping in as was expected, nobody could guess my dilemma… I kept running.
Then a slim strong hand just extended out of the door and a big voice boomed “Grab my hands”, I was almost passing out, with whatever strength was left in me, I ran faster and grabbed hold of the hand, with such surprising strength from a hand that slim, he dragged me into the bus… When I got in, I saw the owner of the hand, slim, tall, strong looking Efe, I thanked him and from then we somehow became friends.
We started doing everything together, went to school together, dated girls from the same place, we rented an apartment and cohabited, we became practically inseparable.
Efe was fun to be around, he knew all the fun spots around campus, he knew the latest beer in town, which girl was easy to date and which club was having a strip party. He was so real… he lived his life like there was no tomorrow and above all, he was mighty caring. He could give his eye to save yours.
I remember one time when I was returning back to school, on the way I was attacked by hoodlums who took everything I had on me, including my school fees, pocket money and books… I got to campus feeling really sad and unsure of how I ‘ll survive the semester.
But Efe did the most surprising thing ever, he divided his small pocket money ( he was from a very humble background) into two equal parts, gave me half and took the other half, I refused but he insisted… that semester was a rough one, but in Efe’s words, we ”Rugged am together.
When we finally graduated, I was sad that I was going to be separated from the one true brother I had found in the university, but Efe in his usual manner laughed it off, he promised to always be in touch and made fun of how I cried easily like a woman.
We parted ways and for five years I didn’t hear or read from Efe. I tried all possible ways to reach out to him, but it seemed as if he had just vanished into thin air. I got a job with an Insurance firm and gradually, the sweet memories began to fade off… I started living a normal life, trying to live without my partner in everything, it was difficult but I pulled through.
Then one evening, after the close of work, I was returning home from work, tired and exhausted. I decided to drive through the less traffic congested wuse 2 road, listening to soft music blaring from the woofers of my BMW fx series, another car was heading towards me at full speed in the opposite direction, a Honda Accord car. I tried to apply the brakes, but it was too late… Whammmmmmmm
We ran into each other like a pack of eggs falling hard on concrete. The impact inflated my airbag, luckily it wasn’t life-threatening, my bumper was badly damaged though and the windscreen of the Honda shattered. I alighted from my car boiling with rage and ready to really deal with whoever was in that car.
“Madman, are you blind, don’t you know how to drive”
I shouted as I menacingly walked towards the Honda Accord, the driver came out with a few cuts on his forehead ready to also defend himself (you know Nigerians na) I kept ranting and screaming at the top of my voice. People that had seen the crash happen started gathering, not to help but just to watch how things would play out.
The driver was a tall lanky man of about my age, with a balding head and full moustache, he walked slowly towards me with mouth open as if he had just seen a ghost.
I kept screaming and getting ready for a faceoff:
“Idiot, driving like an animal, walahi you just bought market, I swear…
Then he just called my name:
I stopped out of shock. How on earth did he know my name?
I looked closely and a certain familiarity started to creep in… yes he was balding and a lot fairer but yes, it was my Efe, in flesh and blood… I couldn’t believe my eyes
I screamed out his name and Hugged him, the crowd was dumbfounded, they couldn’t get what was happening, they were expecting a fist off and here we were hugging each other like new found lovers.
But we cared less, we were so happy to see each other… we laughed, hugged, look at each other and hugged ourselves again.
I was so happy to see Efe.
He made a suggestion that we go somewhere and talk well and I agreed. We got into our cars but he wouldn’t start again, quickly he got into mine and we drove off with the crowd still perplexed at the turn of events, they just kept mumbling to themselves.
We talked and talked about life after school, I wanted to know why he had just disappeared into thin air like that with no communication. He apologized to me and explained that he had joined the Nigerian special forces immediately after NYSC and was sent to Iran for special training, as a result, he couldn’t reach out to anybody, he had just returned and was in the capital to see if he could reach anyone who knew my whereabouts… His stories almost brought tears to my eyes, I had missed this dude so very much.
I told him about how boring my life had been without him, I lived the six o clock life… woke up in the morning by 6 am, head to the office, close by six, take the one hour drive home, continue the same circle 6 days a week.
He laughed and promised me that now that he was back, he will make sure I had a social life… he was so very much like the Efe in school, nothing had changed about him, he was still jovial, carefree and full of life… I wondered how he was able to cope with the army.
I drove to a small hangout I occasionally visited, we got in and ordered for some drinks. I requested for softs but Efe would have none of it, he asked the bartender to bring in some hard brewed whiskey. I told him how long ago I had tasted the alcohol, he just laughed it off.
The drink was served along with grilled catfish and prawn fillings diced with pizza chips and lemon toppings. It was such an eccentric atmosphere, one I had missed for so long. I enjoyed his company so much that I kept drinking and drinking, finally, the alcohol had its toll on me and I started vomiting.
Efe kept laughing hard at my low alcohol tolerance, he grabbed me by the arms and gently dragged me towards my car. He threw me in the passenger’s seat and got in the driver’s seat. He began searching for the keys and I just chuckled and slowly used my right thumb to start the car. He was obviously impressed.
I slowly gave him the directions to my house and he started driving with loud music blaring from the speakers, as the music blared, Efe sang along. Efe was still Efe, music loving and loud…
When I think of that day, I wished I had driven the car, I wished I hadn’t gotten so drunk, I wished we hadn’t even gone to that spot, I wished I hadn’t even passed that route… maybe things would have been different now, maybe I wouldn’t have this load of a burden on my soul now.
After 30 minutes, we got close to the Local airport, I could tell because even though I was drunk, my mind was still very sharp. We came across a checkpoint with four policemen, two on each side of the road.
Efe slowed down as was expected, I was half conscious but in a drunken state, I could barely move a morsel. When the car stopped, the policeman on my side flashed his bright light into the vehicle, he saw me sprawled helplessly on the passenger side mumbling incomprehensible nonsense.
The usual highway police interrogation began, He was asked to provide the particulars of the car he was driving, In his usual Jovial manner Efe tried joking with them, he told them that the car belonged to his friend, me, that they should give him some minutes to talk to me. Just then the other police officer whispers to the man I suspected to be their squad leader, he ordered Efe to stop in his tracks.
Efe, wondering what the whole drama was about, stopped. The officer ordered him to hands up in the air. Surprised, Efe began explaining to them that he was a member of the armed forces and in fact had his id card with him, he made to put his hands in his back pocket to bring out his wallet and Gbammmmmmmmm was the next sound I heard… He had been shot straight in the chest by an overzealous officer who thought he was reaching out for a gun…
Immediately I had the gunshot, the alcohol level in my eyes seemed to have evaporated, I jumped down from the vehicle with unimaginable energy and ran towards him, the officers ordered me to stop but I didn’t, I got to his dying frame and lifted him in my arms crying profusely.
The officers pounced on me, dragged me away and searched the dying Efe. When they discovered that truly he was a member of the armed forces from his I.d card, they ran into their patrol vans and drove off, leaving a drunk me behind with a bloodied friend.
I somehow managed to drag him into the car and drove him hurriedly to the hospital, I got to the gates with such speed the gatemen knew there was an emergency, and quickly opened the gate.
I alighted from the vehicle and screamed for a stretcher, one was brought and Efe was wheeled into the hospital. The doctors came and I explained what happens in very incoherent sentences because I still had alcohol in my system. After listening to me, they insisted I provided a police report citing hospital policies as a basis. I tried to explain to them that he was shot by the police, how on earth he expected the same police to issue a police report in such instance. The Doctors were adamant, I was mad with rage, I rushed over to the Bleeding Efe, and he was slowly slipping into shock. I was confused, didn’t know what to do… I tried to hold him in my arms, assure him that all was well. He kept spewing out blood, he slowly put his hand in his back pocket and brought out his id card. Quickly I collected it and ran to the doctors.
On confirming that he was a member of the Armed forces, Efe was wheeled into the theatre.
The doctors tried all they could, but he was beyond saving, in less than 45 minutes, Efe was dead, as dead as a doornail… I was shattered.
I couldn’t control my grieve when the news was broken to me, I fell into shock and was rushed to the emergency room for medical attention.
I was in the hospital for three days, I didn’t want to wake up… I wanted to die too, I felt guilty, like I was responsible for his death, like if I had been sane enough to drive he probably would have been alive, I felt like I had caused the death of the only one person that had made my life worth living, the only brother I had in life… up till this day, I keep having that constant condemnation that I had caused the death of my only true friend.
A week later, the army authorities came to Efe’s body, I was invited for debriefing and I explained in full what transpired that night, as much as I could remember. I found out that he had listed me as his next of kin, I was chosen by the army to follow a team of officers to announce his demise to his mother and newly pregnant wife…
I almost declined, but it was the only thing I could do for a man that gave his life for me…
Efe was eventually buried in the Army officers’ mess close to the presidential villa, I attended his burial and was sad for two straight weeks, I couldn’t even go to the office.
Three years later, I am happily married with two kids and living in a nice comfy house. One day, I am sitting watching television in the house when my new wife comes in pleading that she wants to watch a new television reality show… that she wanted to see her favourite contestant win.
I turned changed the station and to her preferred choice and the TV show began, it was the big brother Naija show… I lost interest halfway and was about dozing off when one of the housemates caught my attention… He had long hair like dreads, was dark and tall. I looked closer, the figure formed a face in my brain, he looked so much like somebody I knew.
My wife saw my unusual stare and said:
Baby, this one your eyes are concentrated on Efe like this, are you also his fan?
Efe! Yes, the name rang an instant bell. Immediately the images formed in my brain became much clearer… standing right in front of me on television was Efe, my very Efe, darker, with hair now, but still my Efe.
I had watched Efe buried deep in the ground at the cemetery and here he was live on TV! My mouth slowly opened in wonder as I gradually passed into oblivion.