Ajala! That is what they say my nickname could have been if I ‘stayed in one place’ in Yoruba land. I laughed because they also added, ‘someone that stayed in a place can never be Ajala, it is a name for a journey person’. They did not know that being born with many names felt slippery. I can never be trapped. Ajala core, Ukwuije near.
When I took this picture, home was near. It is what I would always do, going by the coast of the Atlantic as if to say: ‘your son is home;’ as if I were some son of the sea. That day though, I thought about a proverb spoken where I come from: ‘only the sun visits the sea, the sea does not visit the sun.’ It made me laugh. You know, I was meant to be riverine, or should I say ‘searine’, but… blood is blood, mind is mind, so mind your own business.
On a sojourn and almost ready to do ajala duties on this day in 2018, I felt if I can’t say hello to the main Atlantic, then I should make her happy cruising on its long rivers. Rivers and seas and oceans are in the same family after all, like siblings… like say my aunties. Bonny it was. I still remember Goodnews Ozioma Samuel Bassey being in the entourage dropping me off. She was afraid and said: ‘you were scared of water as a child, you loved it only when it was in the cup;’ but my sister was not totally right. If I lacked confidence of water transport, it would not have been that day, now when the cruise was on Confidence 2 vessel, a vessel that brought back childhood memories of the hovercraft.
Peter Moses was there on his gunboat, waving at me as I gave him a friendly salute then looked away, knowing his posture reminding me of my running away from a seafaring life many years back. We were meant to be sons of the sea together.
Going by sea on an adventure to Bonny Island felt like Jonah in the Belly of a floating fish, forced briefly on a path I stubbornly refused to follow. There was no grime to deal with though.
Through the stained glass wetted by the rain, I took a picture of the joy that is our pain: the flarestack. She stood like a virtue-less person, puffing smoke to choke us. I remembered the red skies by the sea and how those trips to the Atlantic were sometimes trips to comfort the ocean, telling her that one day the pains of oil will be gone. Black soot puffed from flared gas is not soothing.
The following day after this trip, I realized that it will be many months, maybe a year before I, son of the sea could say hello to the sea again. So the flarestack I saw en route Bonny became a mocking memory. It was as if she was shielding the sun and hiding in the haze of the rain, blowing dark, thick soot to my face.
Someone with my name tag was waiting to get me when I arrived Bonny, but the image of the flarestack stuck to my mind.
Now, I still remember her, the statue, I always do. I also remember the journey, the product of the ajala in my blood, because tomorrow, the clock will wind, and slow down and stop and restart at a spot. Tomorrow…
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