The air was putrid.
The stench of the overflowing gutter near by was a breath of fresh air in comparison to the public toilet and its acidic urine smell. The woman cooking over an open fire was only a stone throw away from the public toilet and the smoke from her fire only made the air more stuffy.
Adanna’s stomach grumbled at the sight of the hot rice and stew been served, reminding her of the dinner she missed the previous night. But as quickly as the thought came, it was quenched by the horrible smell of the local car park. She clutched her bag tightly and followed her dad’s foot steps quietly, as she tried to avoid the muddy ground.
It was only 5am but the car park was bustling with people.
Hawkers, drivers, conductors, load bearers and travellers alike, trying to talk over each other inorder to be heard, made the park rowdy.
She bowed her head lower as she tried to focus on her dad’s green slippered feet in the darkness, while dragging her younger sister. They had walked for a little while, when her dad’s feet suddenly stopped at a bus.
“Abuja here! Abuja here!” The conductor shouted in a deep raspy voice.
“Abuja, how much?”
“How many people wan travel oga?”
“Just her.” Mr Nwankwo looked over his shoulder at his daughter Adanna, who held a little traveling bag in one hand and her younger sister’s hand in the other.
She looked so much like her mother, big brown eyes, light chocolate skin and full black hair that was currently braided and packed in a ponytail.
“Bring 2k baba.”
“2k? It’s just Abuja na, It’s not even far.”
“Oya carry her yourself na?” The conductor turned away from them and continued his routine shouts.
Slowly the bus started filling up and Adanna was still standing with her father and younger sister, Ogechi.
Eventually, Adanna watched her father as his rubbed his head in frustration and brought out 3 crumbled one thousand naira notes from his pocket.
“Take!” He handed 2 bills to the conductor who received it quickly.
“Oya enter!” Adanna looked at her father and younger sister again and all of a sudden wanted to cancel her journey. But she had waited for this day, prayed for the day she will leave Lokoja and board a bus to her state of deployment. Now the time had come, she wondered how her dad and younger sister will fend.
“Daddy I don’t have to go. I don’t want to go again.”
“What? Nonsense. This is what we have been praying for. Now you have been called to serve your country be strong and go for it.”
Her dad slienced her by pulling her in for a warm hug. “You will be fine.”
She felt the tears pool instantly but she willed herself not to cry.
Once her dad let her go, she squatted a little, till she was eye to eye with her younger sister.
“I will miss you so much. Be good Oge and try and help daddy out in the house okay?”
“Okay.” Oge, Adanna’s 13 year old sister said. Adanna slipped a 500naira note into her sister’s hand and pulled her in for a hug. “Use that to buy something for yourself and don’t let daddy know I gave you money.”
“Okay.” Oge tightened her hold on her sister before letting go.
Adanna straightened and looked at her dad. “Bye bye Daddy” She managed a small watery smile before she climbed into the bus and took the last available seat near the door.
“Take this Adanna. Use it and buy yourself something in Camp.” Her father gave her a couple of bills and by the time Adana opened them up, it summed up to 8000naira.
“Daddy!” She looked at her father in shock.
“This is too much.” Where did he get such money from? she wasn’t even expecting any money. Things were really tough for them and she knew it.
“Daddy… I will be fine.” She tried to give the money back but he just closed the bus door and took a few steps back.
“Be a good girl my darling.”
The bus moved slowly out of the park in a rickety way until it hit the road.
Adanna tried several times to get another glimpse of her dad and sister but couldn’t.
Her Tears had gathered again and other passengers were staring but she didn’t care.
She didnt know how her dad got the money but she was sure it was all he had.
It reminded her of the day he came back home with hundreds of thousands to pay her final year school fees a few months ago. She had come home devastated at the possibility of missing her final year exams due to fees but her father went out one night and returned with the fees full payment.
She had expressed her worries about how he got such money but he had told her that all she needed to worry about was passing out with flying colours. Which she did.
Adanna tucked the money in her purse and push it inside her small travelling bag, which she clutched too desperately.
She was as uncertain of Abuja as she was leaving her family.
Regardless, she was ready to obey the clarion’s call and succeed greatly while doing it.
Adanna watched absent mindedly as trees and houses passed in a blur until she fell into a troubled sleep.