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Jagunlabi's Garden - a short long story

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Sugomu woke up one morning to find with alarm that someone had planted a farm in the front yard of his home. It stretched from fence tofence and up to the foot-wide bed of pebbles which skirted the entire house all around. He could indeed also recognise the lush green young plants ; they were ganja seedlings.

Sugomu knew who had done this, or did strongly suspect who had done this. They had of course been planted by the cohorts of the President a legendarily evil person who seemed ever so ubiquitous in his propensity to commit malevolent acts; and his name was Jagunlabi . Nearly everyone in the country had hidden dislike and distrust ofthis person and which they ever so often openly discuss in outpourings of distress. But there was never the concerted courage to confront and challenge him , to seek redress for his wickedness and to permanently topple him over. Indeed Jagunlabi seemed to most a convenient symbol to blame every woe upon, and if he did not exist they would be faced with the unpalatable option of taking responsibility for their own shortcomings. And thus it had come to be known that whenever weeds appear in your front yard in alarming quantities , Jagunlabi and his cohorts had obviously been hard at work.

After discussing the problem with his wife Kari-ile , Sugomu being devoutly religious also agreed with her that Jagunlabi's weed farm was atest by the almighty God to find how well Sugomu would bear his cross. Hoping nevertheless that this misfortune might not have cometo him as a result of some unknown sin, Sugomu sought solace in the local church. And there he vigorously danced , vigorously prayed , vigorously tendered holy curses, and vigorously sent great sums of money to the heavenly throne ; the prime wish of his heart being for Jagunlabi and his cohorts to disappear in a puff of smoke, and for the evil weed garden before his house to be consumed by holy fire. But Jagunlabi neither died nor left, and his weed farm grew taller day by day. In surrender Sugomu accepted his Pastor's advice, which had also been give as a face-saving plea, that Jagunlabi had been by God put in his position as head of the country and so it was proper for Sugomu and everyone else in their miserable positions to reverence him, for Jagunlabi’s tenancy has indeed been approved by God . And therefore Jagunlabi's farm grew taller and taller everyday. And Sugomu rejoiced in a discovery that his neighbour’s garden was indeed worse than his own garden.

Sugomu's other great passion was the game of football. He would ever boast of his ability to remember the name of all the great football players in Europe, but never could he remember the name of the local government chairman, from whom he ought to have primarily sought redress over the matter of Jagunlabi’s garden. But even though Sugomu had never met this person, he agreed with everyone else , who had also never met this person, that he was a thief , criminal and liar , who must eventually end up in hell fire. And so being a lover of football, Sugomu bought himself subscriptions to watch a dozen football channel on TV, an occupation which kept him and his thoughts far away from the sad reality of the weed farm that was thriving in his front yard ,and choking the lives out of all other beneficial plants. And very often after his favourite team had either won or lost a match, Sugomu would hustle over to the bar near the end of the street and buy himself a beer or two or three . And after which he returned home, being sufficiently rendered uncaring about the weed farm that he would find still growing in front of his house.

To Sugomu, the greatest football team in Europe was Chancy FC of London ; and on the day this glorious team won the European League Sugomu danced past the weed farm in front of his house, danced merrily up the street and danced all the way to the bar near the end of the street. There he met Dadandindin , a bicycle repairer who earned a thousand Naira and quite often much less in a day; and Dadandindin who also thought Chancy FC was the greatest football team in the universe, bought Sugomu two bottles of beer because his joy had never been so much. And Sugomu had in retaliation bought Dadandindin three bottles, and merrily they flowed with the bonhomie all around the rowdy bar.Next day the entire members of Chancy FC team would receive three hundred million Naira each as match bonus, which was money none of them actually had a great need for; Dadandindin would go back to earning a thousand Naira a day at his back breaking job as a bicycle mechanic , and there would still be Jagunlabi's farm in front of Sugomu's house. The plants had now grown so tall that they obscured sunlight from penetrating through to the windows, but the neighbour’s garden was much worse. And therefore Sugomu minded less.

Thus, every day Sugomu sought comfort from Jagunlabi's audacious plantation and many other real and imagined cruelness of Jagunlabi,between his church fetish , his football fetish , his imbibitions fetish . his blame-it-all-on-Jagunlabi fetish ; and life went on quite tolerably.

One day Sugomu's son Danasungbo , who was in many ways wiser in the ways of the world than his father, rolled himself a fat bomber cigar from the leaves of the small trees growing in the front yard of his father’s house, put one end between his lips, set fire to the other end and sucked greedily at the acrid smoke , which brought him into a coughing fit and made his eyes red as hot coals of fire. Observing from afar, Sugomu marvelled at how this activity seemed to calm the usually frisky lad, and made Danasungbo to grin merrily at everyone like a prime idiot. And so impressed was he with his son’s new character that Sugomu approached his son, begged of him the burning cigar and himself took three mighty drags. And together they sat father and son at the threshold of their home, smoking bits of Jagunlabi's garden, and all was irie . And so also did Jagunlabi’s garden grow much thicker and flourish without hindrance till it became worse than the neighbour’s garden. And Sugomu minded no more. It is well.

~ Rotimi Ogunjobi 23/05/2014

Footnote:

“The principle of civic engagement underscores the most basic principle of democratic governance, i.e. that sovereignty resides ultimately in the people (the citizenry). Civic engagement is about the right of the people to define the public good, determine the policies by which they will seek the good, and reform or replace institutions that do not serve that good. Civic engagement can also be summarized as a means of working together to make a difference in the civil life of our communities and developing the combination of skills, knowledge, values, and motivation in order to make that difference.It means promoting a quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes

~ From Wikipedia “

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