Thursday, 12 January 2017

TIAMIYU APAOKAGI: THE HUMAN BAOBAB

Someone has said that when you come to have relationship with a man who is not your blood but has over the years been your friend and confidante, then he is worthy of being considered your brother.
Such is the case of Tiamiyu Aremu, my driver of almost 5 years now.



Driver?


That is a mischaracterisation.
He has been my Chief Security Officer too.


He once cleared the road for me when street urchins a.k.a Area Boys blocked us on my way from a political campaign rally. The rally had gone well and as we made to leave, these boys blocked us asking for money. I made some money available to them expecting the road to clear immediately. But no sooner had I given them than another set came forward. I gave them too. Then another set appeared.


This was the point I saw the other side of my driver.
He got down from his seat and in an awe-inspiring display, threw those boys off the road one after the other. Some he caught by the neck and others by the bands of their trousers. He just threw them as if they were 1.5kg chickens.


The boys perceived a greater force had visited them and so they gave way and some of them fled.
That day I called him into my living room and gave him some money.
I looked at him from head to toe and gave him a new name too – Apaokagi.
The full version is ‘Apa o ka’gi Ose’, meaning ‘The arms cannot circle the Baobab tree’.
No, you can’t give the Baobab a hug with your arms wrapped around it.


Apaokagi is a human Baobab.


He is a six feet plus tall man, very big and barrel-chested. He is about 40 years old and already at that age, he is an Army Veteran. He has seen action in real theatres of war like Liberia, Sierra Leone and during the early stages of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East of Nigeria.


On the day I personally interviewed him for the job, he introduced himself as “Tiamiyu Aremu, former Bombardier of the Nigerian Army, 35 years old from Ilota, Kwara State”
“Bombardier?” I asked puzzled.
“Yes sah, another name for Corporal”


“Oh I see. Apart from driving, what else can you do, Bombardier Aremu?”


“I fit do intelligence sah!”
I laughed.


After a few more questions and a perusal of his records, I told him to go and collect the car keys from my secretary.


I was to understand what he meant by ‘intelligence’ later and that was how my regard and respect for this obedient, loyal and studious, though not seriously educated member of my staff skyrocketed.


Apaokagi had been ‘missing’ one afternoon. It was a day I did not have much work to do so we went home very early.


Around 4:30pm I asked my domestic servant to call him in. He came back to say Apaokagi was nowhere to be found. We called his cell-phone but the poor thing rang at the gatehouse where he left it charging.


After about two hours he appeared.
In a voice mixed with relief and anger I shouted at him:
“Where have you been?”


“Siamon sir!” He stiffened to attention “I go do intelligence sir”
“What intelligence? I employed you to drive me around. What is it with this your intelligence gan?”


“Ah Siamon sir, abeg no vex o. E get one day when we pass junction there na him I smell weed for that place. I come tell myself say some ‘gbana’ boys go dey there. As I reach there today I come see them they share some money wey dem thief come from operation”.


“Kini gbogbo eleyi t’o n so yi?” (What is all these gibberish you are saying?)


“Siamon, I sorry sir. So I go call Police. As I tell the DPO na him talk say dem dey look for some boys. So I tell am say make he come look these ones. So dem carry two SARS motor follow me go arrest them”.


Some moments later we heard some gentle knock at the gate. I ordered the gate opened and there, standing and gazing with respect at Apaokagi were members of the executive committee of our Landlords’ Association. They had come to thank Apaokagi for that singular act of bravery and sense of duty. The members of the community had shown concern about those boys but nobody had been bold enough to take the kind of action that my driver took.
I asked them inside and we chatted for a little while more over some fried chicken and cold drinks.
***********************************************************
 

The more serious of the awe-inspiring and respect-inducing exploits of Apaokagi happened two weekends ago.

A community-based organisation in a nearby community had invited me to give a talk to the youths of the area on the dignity of human labour.


I gave it my best shot and I believe it went well judging by the reactions and the type of questions asked at the end of the presentation.


Then the MC announced that the youths would like to give me a present. I was asked to stand up and after some effusive praise, was given a beautifully designed bag that contained some items.
Apaokagi took the bag off me and carried it into the car.


On our way home, he told me what was in the bag, two tins of maltina drink, some pastries, a glass cup and a keyholder.
I nodded and we drove back home in silence.

At about midnight, I heard gunshots from the general direction of an uncompleted building located about 5 plots from my house.
That building is where our local, armed night-guards, about ten of them do assemble to watch over my street at night.
As we drove into my street earlier in the evening, I noticed that Apaokagi stopped and parked in front of that uncompleted building.
He asked me to get down.
“Why should I get down here when I’m yet to reach my house?” I tried to conceal my anger.
“Siamon sir, I beg no vex. I dey suspect the keyholder dem give you sir”
“So? I don’t get you”.
“Yessir!”
“What?” I shouted this time.
“Siamonn, e get something dem dey call tracker. That thing wey dem fit trace our car reach house. E be like say na him that keyholder be. Dem use am well well for we when we dey Liberia. The people there go come greet us and give us keyholders. We wey no sabi say na dangerous thing, we go come hang our keys on them. Some soldiers wey dey off duty, na so dem get them killed that time”.
“Ehn if you are so suspicious of it, why not just throw the thing into the bush and let’s go home?”
“No sir, that way we no go fit catch the thief wey wan come rob us sir”
At that point, his words began to make sense.
So I gave up.
We left the car there and walked the short distance home.
****************************************************
Apaokagi’s strategy had been to mislead whoever was coming to rob us to that building and having alerted the guards ahead, that was what happened.
The guards had taken different positions expecting the unwanted visitors. They had even left the street gate unlocked to give the robbers a false sense of security.
When they got to where my car was parked, one of them tried to open the lock, he had a pistol on his right hand as he tried the lock with his left. A guard shot him on the right shoulder forcing him to drop the gun. His friends, three of them, turned back to run, only to be confronted by our guards’ automatic weapons. One of them made a dash for it anyway but Apaokagi caught him with a bullet to his right chest.
The other two raised their hands, excreta and urine drenched their jeans.
Someone had called the nearby Police patrol team. The leader of the team shined his torch on them. Apaokagi and I instantly recognised one of the youths at the ceremony the other day.
**************************************************
In the morning, I called Apaokagi into my room.
I and my wife prayed for him.


At that moment, I told him that I had doubled his salary from forty thousand naira to eighty thousand.


I also decided that I would pay for his two eldest sons’ education up to university level.
 


But I haven’t told him yet.
 

And neither should you! Hehehe!
 

Apaokagi is a human baobab; and I want this baobab around me for a long time yet!

Please leave Trump matter alone and face Nigeria.
Happy weekend everyone!
Omi Tuntun, Igba Otun!

Credit: Kehinde Ayoola J P

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