Leaving Aba, we find that a section of the Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road has become impassable. Ahead of us I see mud-filled craters, into which a few daring SUVs and trucks venture. We are advised to make a U-Turn, go back the way we came, take a diversion. It is advice that we heed.
As we reconstruct our route, with a keke driver leading us, I think about the ways that we reshape ourselves to accommodate the intrusions and traumas of our lives.
Nigerians are famous for our happiness. When Nigeria finds new ways to bend and twist us into the most bizarre of shapes, we find even newer ways to laugh. We show off our battle scars. They are a perverse kind of comfort.
We rejoin the Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road, having supposedly avoided the worst of it. Still, our movement is slow and laboured, and I wonder what the portion of road we’d avoided must be like.
We pass abandoned fuel stations, once-hopeful metal signs buried under layers of dust. Weeds grow through cracks in the concrete, their green an obscene aberration. There is a stillness about the stations that draws one’s eye. Built to dispense life, they stand bereft. Empty but defiant. Dead but not silent. As if to say that deadness is itself a way of being.
We stop at Umokpo Village and I listen to a group of men talk. Their voices are unwavering as they say that yes, they believe their community has been forgotten.
‘Nothing like government here,’ one of them says. It sounds to me like a requiem for dead dreams.