Life lessons from the Abuja-Keffi expressway



On 12 May 1996, I was knocked down by a car, along the Abuja-Keffi expressway, in Mararaba, Nasarawa state, Nigeria. I was just five years old, a small boy whose fingers almost always hung in my mama's. Nigerians call this 'mummy's handbag'; of course I was.

Cartoon by Chris JohnstonI remember in bits: it was immediately after Sunday service; we were standing by the road, waiting for it to be empty, we were ready to cross over to the other side.

'I will cross o,' I joked. Of course, the reply was a scream from my mother and other people around, 'No, no cross o!' But I was impatient; I just wanted to be the first to cross the road. Something new to try, you know. It has always been the nature of childhood to play with everything, to win over something, to assume everything must taste like your favourite chocolate.

The things that followed were: boom! Screeches, shouts of Jesus, etc.

I was right under the car, small me. Nobody understood how I left my mama's hand. Nobody understood why. Nobody understood why an accident will happen on a Sunday. Nobody.

I heard the shouts and cries. But I can't detail everything that happened. I woke up in the midst of people praying for me at the nearby hospital. Thankfully, a hospital was just by the junction of that road — an old hospital close to the famous mosque near the highway in Mararaba. (A google map search can help show you the site — that site of my death and life.)

These are some of the few things I remember about that day. Others are that, I was bedridden for over a year. No school, no plays; just hospital smell and food and surgeries and prayers and help from people. Some lessons this history has gifted me:

1. The driver that knocked me down became a friend of the family. This shows me the possibility of gold coming out of whatever situations we find ourselves — friendship is golden, and it came.


"It is perhaps one reason they say I am effeminate and carry a body that sings blues and juju and makosa and offbeats."


2. I became famous. Fellow Sunday school members got to know me, friends of mum and dad also became my friends. My name was in the mouth of everyone. Not gossip, but some words of hope for me, for my future. Of course it wouldn't have been gossip, for who gossips about an innocent five-year-old who himself is not aware of the semantics of adulthood and its puzzles?

3. After leaving the hospital, I was ordered not to play rough games. What deprivation! It's one reason I'm not mechanical up until today. While it is assumed that every boy is a soccer fan, I fit nowhere in that assumption. It is perhaps one reason they say I am effeminate and carry a body that sings blues and juju and makosa and offbeats. A body that plays girls — from waist shaking to breast beating to hairs to hopscotch to the love of water to the fear of being called a demon-possessed to the fear of being labelled a sissy. Nigerians call this woman wrapper.

4. I was assigned a private tutor who got me initiated into education and deep learning. Very lovely woman, I do not remember her name now.

5. I remember the hands that supported my body when I wanted to move, I remember the hands that fed me. People. It is not likely that I'd recall the people by their names, but it is not untrue to say that being bedridden brought a fresh feature of living: help. People. The part of the scriptures that says 'love your neighbour as yourself' largely captures every assistance people gave me and my family.

6. This was the beginning of my indoor life sports: fantasy, fantasy, fantasy — should I bother to tell you that this fantasy is what I use today in my reading, writing, understanding poetry, arts in general. 

7. I am grateful for life, grateful to be alive to share this story and to be able to share life and love with people.



David Ishaya OsuDavid Ishaya Osu is a Nigerian poet. His poems have appeared in: Atlas Poetica: A Journal of World Tanka, Birmingham Arts Journal, Tipton Poetry Journal, Watershed Review, The Missing Slate and elsewhere. David is a board member of the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, and he is currently polishing his debut poetry book.

Topic tags: David Ishaya Osu



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Existing comments

Me too David. I'm grateful for your story. And what a great smile you have.
Pam | 18 September 2017

I am both blessed and inspired through your flash memoir. Thank you for sharing. God bless.
Erica Chamlee | 08 November 2017


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