BN Prose: The Pipeline by Rita Ohai

The sun has come up and I am sitting by the window that is still foggy with the dampness of the early morning rain. I am a terrible sight this morning, still dressed in my nightgown and my hair flying in all directions. The temperature of the  air conditioner is set as low as possible. I am hoping the chill from it will seep into my bones and chase away the uneasy feeling crawling within me. I hide here in my room as often as time and chance will allow me. Beyond the door to my room, down the corridor lies the source of my agony…

It was early October and my mum, Mrs. Inyang, was in good spirits as she prepared breakfast for my dad, my brother, Koko and I. The sweet smelling aroma of a well prepared meal sent us, the kids, jumping around the house in excitement as we awaited the great feast. Dad hurriedly got dressed for work and urged Koko to quit jumping on the couch and hurry with packing his books for school. A few minutes later, mum called out at the top of her voice saying ‘Food is ready, oh!’. Scrambling down the stairs, I found Koko already seated and dad making his way to the dining table. The look of the yam and egg stew was as good as the smell promised it would be, it was heavenly. Once we were seated and the grace was said, we dove into our meal. We were all carried away with the bliss of eating until mum cleared her throat and giving my dad a wink, she said ‘ Ima and Koko, I have some great news for you’. With looks of expectations written all over our faces, we craned our ears. I began to envision a surprise gift, a nicely wrapped new wristwatch or maybe a we were finally going to take that trip to the zoo she had always promised us. One look at Koko’s face told me he was lost in his own fantasy land. Just when I thought she had changed her mind about telling us this good news, she said ‘ You are both going to have a new brother’. It was not the kind of news we had been expecting but it was good news all the same. I rushed round the table to give her a hug and she held me close for a long time. Koko not knowing if it was manly enough to give people hugs simply stayed where he was, grinning.

Once we were through with breakfast, my dad and mum set out for work. He usually drops her off on his way to work. Every day, I walked Koko to and from school which was a walking distance from our home. Koko was a primary four student of Everday Montessori Primary School which resumed at eight o’clock each morning and closed at one o’clock in the afternoon. He was the captain of his class and so had to be early and punctual. He was not a very good athlete but what he lacked in height and build, he made up for in brains. He was an exceptional student who excelled in all his subject. I was awaiting the results from my just concluded Junior WAEC examination and got to stay home alone on school days. Sometimes, I visited Aunty Bunmi who ran a hair salon two houses away.  Since Koko and I were the only children of our parents, we spent a lot of time together, playing and fighting. I loved my family a lot and another brother did not seem like a bad idea. Honestly, it actually seemed like a great idea to have someone else to fuss over. I could not wait to tell Aunty Bunmi this latest bit of information.

Once I returned home from my brother’s school, I cleaned the dishes. Leaving the house unlocked, I ran to the hair salon and began narrating my news to aunty. I guess this is why I am sometimes called ‘radio’. I was so engrossed with telling my story and eventually watching some movies on her small black television that I lost track of time. I was half way was through my third movie when it suddenly occurred to me to check the time. It was three o’clock. Koko ought to have returned from school. My parents would return from work in about an hour and I had not yet prepared lunch. I rushed home hoping to find Koko. I checked his room and saw no sign of his school bag and shoes. My heart skipped a beat. I ran out of the house knocking on my neighbours’ doors, asking the same questions, hoping to find an answer. No one had any useful information to offer. I began to weep. Naked fear had found its way into my veins. Just when I thought things could not get any worse. The butter cream colour of my father’s Peugeot 504 car came into view, pulling its way leisurely towards our house. I knew I was done for. With nowhere to run, I prayed for the ground to swallow me. I was scared.

Dad parked the car in front of the house. As mum stepped out of the car, she took one look at my teary face and knew something was amiss. She hurried to my side and asked why I looked so worried. Not knowing what her reaction would be, I took a step back and with a shaky voice said ‘I cannot find Koko’. She looked at me like I had gone mad. My father, trying hard not to panic, asked me to explain what I meant. I began to weep profusely as I recounted the incident to him. Once I was done telling my story, mum in her fury landed a hot slap on my face. She demanded that I produce her son. I was lost. Dad decided to take control of the situation and ushered us into the car. We drove to Koko’s school. There were a few people in sight. No one had seen my brother since the close of school. my mother started screaming at me. My dad ran out of the school gate hoping to squeeze some answers from passers-by, trying to organize a search party. I shamelessly sat on the floor of the school compound.

A few minutes after the school premises was thoroughly searched, the security man pulled my dad aside and told him that he just heard over the news that a vandalised pipeline not far from the school had caught fire. Bodies had been badly burnt and many feared dead. Without thinking, we rushed to the site. The horrible smell of burning and decaying bodies assaulted our nostrils. Some volunteers tried to quench the fire to no avail. The fire fighting team of the government had just arrived. They were pulling people’s bodies out of the danger zone. Agony was written on everyone’s face. The people who had been trying to scoop fuel from the leakage had been hit the hardest. All that was left of many of them were charred pieces of bones. Some of the onlookers had survived but with grave injuries. Their cry for help was heart wrenching. It was among this group of people that we searched. It was among this group of people that we found Koko and two of his classmates. My brother’s chest, arms and legs were burnt beyond recognition. He face was wrinkled with pain. He could barely speak.

We rushed Koko and his friends to the hospital. The doctor who attended to Koko said that he would live but with serious health complications for the rest of his life. The fire had destroyed most of my brothers speech organs and surgery would have to be performed to fully restore the use of fingers. Upon hearing this, my mum broke into tears. My dad held her close. I stood alone, devastated. We later learnt from his classmate, Chuka, who sustained injuries to his back, that at the close of school, they had decided to make the trip home themselves after waiting endlessly without being picked by their guardians. On the way home, they saw a throng of people with buckets and gallons hurrying down a path. With childlike curiosity, they sought to find out what the frenzy was about. When they arrived the scene of the activity, they found hoards of people scooping fuel into containers. They stood watching for a while and just as they decided to leave, they were hit with a wave of fire. All he remembers after that moment was feeling excruciating pain.

….Koko has since returned from the hospital. The scars from that incident are boldly drawn on his body. He has not yet regained the use of his fingers. The nurse who visits him daily says proper use of his hands may take a while. He barely smiles anymore. Sometimes, I hear him cry when I pass by his room at night. My parents do not speak to me anymore. Every time I see them looking at Koko, I feel their resentment towards me build. I do not like being the cause of so much pain. I wish I had not gotten carried away with watching television that day. I wish I had picked him up from school on time. I wonder what I can do to make this right. How will I continue to live with the consequences of my actions staring me in the face?

Photo Credit:

22 Comments on BN Prose: The Pipeline by Rita Ohai
  • bleeding heart October 13, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    WOW! that sunk right into my bones…on the verge of tears. I honestly understand your plight. I blame myself for my sister getting HIV everyday. I feel if i had paid more attention to the people she dated, asked a little more question, poke nosed a little more deeper in her affairs i might have, just might have noticed something different about whom ever she got it from. And this is someone who dated few ‘safe” men. I don’t live for myself anymore…i do hers and my part together and hope it would lessen the pain on my parents heart, reduce the pain inflicted in my heart by my father’s tears when he first heard the news, stop the flow of my tears as i hear her crying in her room night after night, but above all, help her forget her condition and let joy in abundantly.
    Even though the situation remains same, dealing with it gets easier with time if you continue to seek God’s face. Blaming yourself continuously does not do anything but creates more havoc. Instead, invest all that emotions in prayers and positive action to make the problem lighter on the person.

    • Nneka October 13, 2010 at 7:04 pm


      My response is a little off-topic, but your comment is surely a reminder that we ‘normal everyday’ people are not untouchable or invincible to HIV/AIDS. I wish your sister and family the very best.

      Great article Rita and thanks for sharing.

    • victoria! October 14, 2010 at 10:23 am

      dear bleeding hr8, ur sister dsnt hv to liv wit dat ‘problem’ as u put it. i feel for her doe but dere’s a solution. bring her to shiloh@canaanland,ota. december 7th-11th december 2010.or take her to any gud healing ministry, God’s more than enuf for her complete healing,u dnt nid to bring moni or anytin special, just cum wit ur violent faith and trust. GOD is able. it is well wit u and ur family! takia dear.

    • Amour October 15, 2010 at 12:11 pm

      Please don’t blame yourself. Plus, it might sound like a joke but there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING impossible with God. Keep praying for her. We serve a Jehovah Rapha and by His stripes we were healed. May God strengthen you all in the place of prayer and give your family peace.

    • gorgeous October 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      wow, super sad. Your story that is. This is why all women should get their men tested before any kind of intercourse. Condoms slip off and they do break. I remember when i had a scare, i already couldn’t live with the fact of such a reality and was planning my exit just in case. But we thank GOD oh! Your sister as hard as it seems, can turn her situation into positivity. She can take this advantage to do and achieve all the things she wants to in her life. She can join groups and campaign for health care benefits for people with her condition. It is not her fault as we lack the ability sometimes to make good judgment and are deceived very well. This virus definitely doesn’t show on the face. I have seen a man with AIDS that looked so yummy and scrumptious. But he was full blown, and available to date/dating. So people should be extremely careful and get tested before you even use a condom. Condom should be used to “try” to prevent pregnancy NOT STD’s. Women be safe, because we are mostly the disadvantaged ones in sexual situations. We catch diseases easier than men, especially married women who are disadvantaged to have unprotected sex with their husbands all the time. If you know your man is a philanderer please make him get tested before have intercourse, even when married. Protect your life and if you have kids, protect their future by being healthy and staying alive. No one will do your job for you as a mother, if you are not there. Stay safe and healthy.peace.x

  • labby October 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Wow…this makes me cryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

  • Myne Whitman October 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    OMG, this is a heart wrenching story, I had to read it again and again. Such pain and agony so well captured and told so simply.

  • D.O.T.M.H October 13, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    wow… so so sad (I need to remind myself that it’s just a story)

  • Miss B October 13, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    God bless you Rita…I absolutely love

  • Sasha October 13, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    So touching…..this cud have happened to anyone. Life is so unfair…..sigh

  • Reallaw October 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Rita babe, U’ve come of age! Well written! Your fans in Benin are rooting for u! 🙂

  • Mary007 October 13, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I would love to be positive but this is a no-no story for bellanaija standard for all other prose this is way below standard, I am sorry I had to say this, I love reading I had to force myself to read half of it

    • bcgeorge October 14, 2010 at 11:42 am

      maybe u need to push urself harder and read the other half, then it would make sense to you…nothinpersonaimjustsaying…….

    • Alero October 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm

      Standard?!Blah-blah.Please send a STANDARD,WELL WRITTEN Story to ‘d like to read it.Until then, reserve ur ill-comments.Am out!

  • fokasibe October 13, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    so sad……………… :-(:-(:-(:-(:-(:-(

  • Gino October 14, 2010 at 2:10 am

    many love Rita, ur the best, great job. keep it coming girl.

  • nkemgi October 14, 2010 at 10:34 am

    nicely written

  • Alero October 14, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Ima,if ur story is based on true life,then I feel ur pains.But to get forgiveness, u must first forgive urself.Now u have to take the place of Koko’s nurse sometimes.Relieve ur mom of some work.Try & do most of the chores if not all.Aplogise to ur parents & let them see u are truly sorry.Such a sad story.

  • lizzy October 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    i hope this is just a story. if it is, nice one and if not, then its really sad.

  • Ronnie October 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    This is one sad story…and it’s so sad that somewhere out there, this is someone’s reality…makes me thank God for my life!Great story.

  • Atilade October 14, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    9ce one!

  • Amour October 15, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Nice story…I hate sad endings so. Next time, I shall scroll to see the nature of comments before reading the story. My poor little heart can’t take it 🙁 which is why I generally refrain from Danielle Steel books.

    You write beautifully by the way. Well done.

  • Post a comment