A Brief History of Three Kolos – Tega Ogenechovwen


Tega Oghenechovwen


The first leaned against the gate of my mother’s bungalow in Warri, singing to his dark self. We came out when he was on ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb...’ He stopped and said my young aunty who was living with us, and whose name was also Mary, had a little lamb for him too. He said he had proposed marriage to my aunty at Warri Market, and that she had said yes. He said that as he smiled his appreciation at her, a bloody lamb slipped out from the bottom of her skirt. He just wanted to see the lamb —their love lamb. Was that too much to ask for, eh?

“I command you!” My mother jumped, screaming. “You satanic spirit, get lost!” He looked back over his shoulders, then faced her slowly. “Amen,” he said, crossing himself.

When the big ones weren’t watching, my brother and I put our lunch of rice and stew in a plastic bag and tossed it to him. He slurped, hands shaking like a locomotive engine, jaws moving with savage speed. In appreciation he taught us how to conjugate rotten verbs and make girls have lambs for us. When he was done, he became a wild dog slamming our gate. “Mary, my Mary!” he barked. “Where my lamb?”

And Aunty Mary, big as she was, she wee-weed on her body every time she heard her name from his mouth.

Sometimes the man would sit in front of the barber shop that played the evergreen songs of Victor Olaiya at the beginning of our street. It was fascinating because he was kolo and had forgotten himself but would not forget Victor Olaiya or my aunty.

The man left on one blustery day in May. Aunty Mary had crossed Jakpa Road without looking left or right, because he was following closely behind her. A van that would have hit Aunty Mary swerved and picked him as he jumped into the road in pursuit of her. The van dropped him on the divider in a sorry pile. He wanted to say adieu to Aunty Mary who stood shell-shocked on the other side of the road, but the blood spurting from his mouth would not allow.

The second had the ponderous beauty of deep-water creatures. I knew of her during my NYSC days in Makurdi. She hung around the back gate of Benue State University and introduced herself as Queen Zainab when you stared too long at her, and would ask what nasty thing you’d heard about her. If you so much as mentioned Alhaji, she would yawn in an incredible way, like a reticulated python preparing to swallow a hearty meal.

There was a tatafo to her kolo. It was said that she was once a Theatre Arts student of the university and while there, had been the entertainment theatre of an Alhaji who even bought her an Okpolo-eyed Benz. Some said Alhaji got her pregnant and looked the other way. So she threatened to send his family the nude pictures they’d taken together, and in order to stop her, he made her kolo. It was also said that the spell of her kolo would only be broken if she crossed the old River Benue bridge without being forced or carried over.

When word spread that Queen Zainab was wandering towards the old bridge, market women around would shut down business and run to the mouth of the bridge. Passersby and okada riders would gather there too. They would all sing, urging her to cross to the other side and get well. She matched their songs with superior kukere dance moves. In another world, it would have been the welcoming of a valiant queen that had returned from saving the earth from extraterrestrial invasions with the scabbard of her beauty.

One day I happened to be at the show. Queen Zainab studied the rusted steel of the bridge with the cynical bearing of a risk analyst, started to cross and then stopped.

“Cross. Over,” I mumbled feverishly. “Please!” She sniffed as if gathering the scent of what lay ahead. Almost everyone was shouting at her now. Her face squeezed out a bitter smile. She looked at me as if for advice. “Cross!” I yelled, gesturing towards the bridge. She shook her head slowly, turned and walked away, shoulders fallen, as though she knew she had disappointed everyone. Again.

Queen Zainab went missing for days. Nobody cared. Nobody.

Then one suspiciously bright morning, a fisherman found her floating on the River Benue, her bloated body nibbled at by the fishes. Her beauty, her deep-water beauty… intact.

Can anyone forget the third? The idiotic shaking of his massive head? His long, dirty dreadlocks lashing left and right? He could have been one of proud warriors in the ancestral savannahs with the way his thick muscles rippled and his bones creaked as he pranced around Jos. Naked. His hands pulled and smashed whatever was close by. His bloodshot eyes rolled and rolled even when asleep. Sometimes he would squat in public and sweat out a generous amount of greenish poop. Before the Area Boys could grab him, he would spring and land on one of the tall dogonyaro trees around, gibbering and gnashing his thirty-two. He was such a kolo, that guy.

He bit a bullmastiff that tried to bite him. So they said.

He picked up a 2-by-2 and lashed the bottom of a pudgy police officer who refused to let a poor okada rider be. So they said.

He even smashed his own head against the ATM on Bauchi Road until the terrified machine retched out ten crispy one thousand naira notes for his troubles. Well, so they said.

Let’s just say he wanted to give people more things to say. That was why, one silent night, he pranced into a NEPA facility in Rayfield, held on to a buzzing electrical installation and pooooof! That was it for him.