There I was the other day as I sat alone at Jabi Lake resort, a serene man-made creation in the heart of Abuja, the Nigerian Federal Capital, starring at the gentle wave of the lake and thinking what the tide would bring for me in the year of the Lord 2014. Lost in thought, my mind reeled back to events of the year past and mentally I concluded that I truly had a lot to thank God for. It was while in this reverie, that I felt a gentle breeze bristle the nape of my neck… suddenly, I had this creepy feeling that I was not really alone. Swiftly, I looked behind but there was no soul stalking me, yet the feeling won’t go away. Much as I tried to regain my composure, it persisted.
So, I rechecked and there he was. My shadow, giving me the creeps. Why would my own shadow give me such a fright? My shadow follows me everywhere, well… almost everywhere – for I have found out that he has a compulsive fear for dark places and only there can I really escape him. I do not like it. When I first became aware of it, it was kind of cute and quaint – you know, somebody who follows in my footsteps I thought. But as I grew older, as innocence faded, I couldn’t help but notice how dutifully Mr. Shadow kept dogging me. There is a point when persistence becomes nuisance and it had reached that.
I asked, requested, remonstrated, threatened and even begged; but no, he would not give it up. He loomed a few paces behind me; sometimes for a change he would walk ahead of me. No conversation was complete without him. My most intimate secrets, he was privy to them. My only escape was the dark. But how long can man, a creature of the light, stay in the dark? Only in my sleeping hours did I find some respite but that was of little use to me, for I didn’t care whether he was sleeping next to me; what bothered me was my eerie awareness of his presence.
Starring back at him, I realize he is truly the only companion who has been with me for as long as I can remember, a fellow who knows all about me yet won’t squeal, openly praise me for doing good or admonish me whenever I did wrong nor abandon our acquaintance, like some fair weather friends would do, no matter the situation? So I asked him how he can tolerate me for so long without complaint. He smiled back at me, copying my facial expression with his silhouette. Well, this is not the first time I have initiated a conversation with my shadow. We’ve had many in the past always climaxing in the same conclusion. But that day he exhibited a rather jovial if not sarcastic mood.
ME: Pally how far?
MY SHADOW: (Grunts) Hmmm
ME: Why do you enjoy creeping on me like that?
MY SHADOW: Why? Because I like it. Were you scared?
ME: Not really
MY SHADOW: He laughed heartily. “Ogbeni! I hear you. By the way, wetin you dey think for hours, sitting alone here? Hope no bi say you wan jump inside dat water o. If you try am, you are on your own, ehen!”
ME: Jump inside where? Far from it. I was only looking back on the year past and thanking God for all HIS blessings.
MY SHADOW: “But at a point you look worried and I can guess wetin dey your mind. Na dis politicians and dia yo-yo politics dey trouble you abi?”
ME: “How did you know?”
MY SHADOW: (He retorted) “I know you more than you know yourself, my friend! Why are you so bothered about these rogues?” He asks?
ME: Startled but not scared I take a long dour look at him. I mutter. “So you are not a useless twerp after all”
Now, he let out a guttural, quite ugly and disturbing laughter. Showing the mad part of his personae that I often find irritating. I braced myself for what was coming…
MY SHADOW: “Why won’t you just leave these sick bastards alone” he tells me still racking in spasms emanating from his sick laughter.
I am neither shocked nor surprised. On the contrary, to my surprise, I am kind of happy that he has at last spoken this way!
ME: “How do you know how angry I am at my countrymen for their complacency as they watch the ‘politician bastard’ corrode the very pillars on which my country stand?”
MY SHADOW: (without emotions) “I have been with you for so long, I wonder why you have not realized that your country is a lost cause!”
ME: “And how would you know that, you inanimate fool?’’ I am quite miffed at his statement.
MY SHADOW: Abi I lie? Siddon there dey o, make you dey look me like Ozuor somebody!
ME: “Are you trying to abuse me?” I fixed him an angry look. But he appeared not to notice. He continued with his tirade.
MY SHADOW: “I follow you everywhere, Mr. Journalist, remember? I am with you every day when you shake hands with these same people who bother you so much in your silent moments. As a matter of fact, my man, I dey shame for you when you shake hands with these people who give you sleepless nights.”
The ‘bugger’ actually shook his head which at that moment I felt like rattling and spinning in full circle. He even shocks me further.
MY SHADOW: “You see Ogbeni Journalist, we shadows do talk too. The other day you sneered at one of these thieves behind his back, I mean that governor fellow who has turned state funds into his personal estate, his shadow and I had a good silent laugh, why couldn’t you simply tell the man to his face that he was a thief, a bloody rogue? But no, there you were with your recorder asking him patronizing questions and giving the fool the opportunity of colouring his lie” …” As a matter of fact, we shadows are so fed up with your hypocrisy that we are thinking of cross-carpeting too!”
ME: Patronizing questions, me?! You are not serious!
MY SHADOW: He burst out angrily in an indignant tone “Yes you! na so I talk. Wetin you wan do, slap me?” He waved a long shadowy finger in my face. What a sinister gesture!
“Let me tell you, we shall shame all of them in our own unique way and you better believe it. In fact we shall soon launch our Association of Concerned Shadows of Nigeria (ACSN) of which I am championing”
ME: Wonders shall never end. “And what do you intend to gain with such gathering?”
MY SHADOWS: “Well, for one, we shall openly encourage our members to abandon any and all of these rogues in power with corrupt IMAGES. Imagine the scenario of a big wig politician addressing a mammoth crowd at a political rally in full glare of the lights without his shadow in sight to accompany him as he spews out his bag of lies?! What can be more disgraceful than that? I am sure you will agree with me that a man without his shadow cannot be trusted. Na Ghost or Dracula bi dat na?!”
MY SHADOW: He glared at me incredulously, “What is Haah?! I have even come up with a coinage for the act which I am sure will soon become very popular with Nigerians …OKAY, check this out, ”And his shadow left him to his folly” how about that. I am very confident it will soon enter the National lexicon!”
Have I gone quite mad? I reel around, half hoping he won’t do the same, he does! Somebody help me….
At this point my shadow extended his theatrics…
I laughed and he laughed. I got angry, the corners of my mouth crinkling with contempt. He did the same. I tore my hair out. He repeated it action for action. Eeh! E gba mi o!!!
Finally, darkness settled in on that part of the resort I was seated and he fled leaving me alone in peace. Ah, the joy of being alone with nothing for company but inanimate things. I talked to the water, the trees, and my books about my problem. They listened without interrupting. As I sat in pitch darkness, no person could listen as well as them and I loved them for that. I spoke, they nodded in silent acquiescence. They did not imitate me. I quite liked that.
But soon enough the park lights were switched on by some unseen hands…and quite! There he was again. It brought my shadow back, somewhat chastened. But it never lasted long. He would be up to his tricks again, trust him.
Thus it is that I now confide in you. Oh, yes, you reading this! I do not know where else to turn for people will not listen to me. They do not understand. I thought I would find a more sympathetic audience in you. Can you see him? He is here, My All Knowing Shadow that is. I stare at him, he stares back, not content with his imitations of me! I ask again, can you see him? Please tell me what to do?