‘…for the kids at the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network, CRARN centre in Eket, Akwa Ibom State, and every misunderstood Nigerian child who has either been tortured, abandoned, maimed or even killed, especially on the spurious allegation of witchcraft …rejected by the same adults society who ordinarily should offer protection and care…
…with hope and prayers that one day the much needed relief that the Nigerian child deserves will come to them and that justice will finally get to be served on those heartless adult at whose hands the Eket kids continue to suffer…’
Ocheche Ayeni sat cross-legged on Uncle Alonge’s wooden chair. She sat as if she was practically glued to the flattened foam on the wooden chair set in the entrance of the old man’s kiosk. Her favourite rag doll clutched under her left armpit, she sat there waiting. Patiently.
It would have been better if it was just the inner foam of the dirty lice infested settee that was pouring out, yet that was not the case as the bulging spring also made sitting on the chair uncomfortable for her. Despite her discomfort however, she knew she had no choice. It was the spot she was instructed to sit and wait for Oyin Konde who had rushed across to the other side of the street facing Uncle Alonge’s kiosk to get more thread. That Uncle Alonge, the jolly old man from the next village with a face like a mass of rotten beef and a large tummy that giggles anytime he laughed.
The late afternoon sun shone through the leaves of the giant Ogehghe tree with bark like the skin of an aged crocodile and stood like a scary king near the kiosk, casting its flickering shadow on it. Though the day was winding down, the mild heat from the sun kept pouring down like bullets from a machine gun. Like a suiting balm however, the evening breeze was also present to caress Ocheche’s ebony skin; successfully removing her mind from the mild evening heat. The sight of the motion of the large golden ball that was the evening sun and the sweet evening breeze served to entrance the little girl as she sat with her face turned upward, as if hypnotized by the elements. In her mind, more out of reflect or by default, she wanted to make the most of the few minutes it will take Oyin Konde to go and get the thread she needed to complete the braiding of her hair.
Her mother had hurried home earlier with the excuse that she needed to go and attend to house chores and had left her with her market neighbour and closest friend, Aunty Funke. Aunty Funke, that dark lady with a set of canine teeth that bears a striking resemblance to that of a vampire. The little Ocheche was always wary of her anytime their paths crossed. She was so dark that her complexion blended perfectly with the night. It was her funny look and complexion that made Ocheche all the charier of her. To add that there was this weird scar that ran from her forehead through her cheek to her jaw, running down her chest and finally disappearing into her bra.
‘When Aunty Funke closes shop, she’ll bring you home’, those were her mother’s parting words as she lifted the basket of unfinished oranges on her head. She’d sell them the following day she murmured under her breath as she hurried off. Business had been anything but fair to her she complained before taking her leave. And her husband’s short temperedness did not help matters. She must hurry home to prepare dinner before the short, tick set man with limbs like that of an ape returned from his usual gravel lifting job at the quarry. How did Aunty Funke come by her strange set of teeth and the scar? These were the two questions in Ocheche’s mind as she watched her mother’s receding figure disappeared into the horizon. Oyin Konde the hair stylist braiding her hair was not yet done as at the time her mother decided she had had enough of the poor sales for the day. It was this, Aunty Funke’s promise to bring her home, her father’s temper and the poor sales of the day that was to blame for her mother leaving her in the care of her best friend, the weird witch-looking Aunty Funke Ocheche regretted. Ocheche sat still, watching the sky.