My cousins Nze and Emmanuel had to share a bedroom till they were in their early teens, as their house was smaller and tighter than a Titus sardines tin. Emmanuel used to wet the bed, so their father’s main intention was to saddle Nze with the responsibility of making sure Emma got up to pee. Nze had to either do that or get soaked with the urea of life. Emmanuel was also a restless sleeper, who either hugged the blanket, or tossed and turned all night, kicking wildly as he snored. Nze could not wait until he was rid of Emma, who was due to go off to boarding school soon. But until then, these troublesome nights were still there to be had.
One night during sleep, Nze felt someone tugging at him, like those street beggars from Chad. He thought it was his brother Emmanuel, so he said ‘Emma, please leave me alone, I want to sleep. I am as tired, as the excuses of our Nigerian leaders.’
Emma snapped ‘It is not me o. I am not in your way. Hian!”
Nze opened his eyes slightly and was confronted with the sight of a huge rat blowing gently and chewing on the tips of his fingers. He had gone to bed after eating a dinner of oats fufu featuring oha soup, without washing his hands. The rat loved ofe oha, too. Their eyes met for a moment before it scurried away into a crevice in the wall, as Nze screamed. It had also given him a Mike Tyson hair-cut, with a map of Nigeria shaped bald spot in the crown of his head. There were huge holes everywhere the rat had eaten lumps out of his hair.
Nze’s screams woke the whole house. Their father welding the fufu pestle quickly organized a search party for the rat. It was nowhere to found, as it had escaped into its tunnel deep in the bowels of their house, from which it would emerge to launch periodic attacks… just like the Sambisa Forest. And unlike Emma, rat could not go off to boarding school.
Trivia – an average rat’s lifespan is 2 to 3 years. Eat your heart out (no pun intended).
I know this single Nigerian chick that lived in an apartment shaped like a shoe. She returned from work one day, and saw a critter going through her garbage bag in the kitchen. It had crept in through the HVAC vents. That would not do, so she bought rat poison and doused some groundnuts with it. She set it on the floor, and left for work. That evening, the critter went into the loft, and cried throughout the night as it shrieked in pain from the poison. The nuisance from its yells of anguish far outweighed the inconvenience it would have caused from going and coming as it pleased. Then on the second night, the yells stopped. She was ecstatic, and did a little Shoki victory jig.
It was short-lived. The putrefying smells came, just like the plagues of Egypt. Splinter (let’s call it that) had crept into a vent in the room and was decaying there. She had to engage a pest company to locate and retrieve the carcass.
The most critical cause of pest invasion I ever witnessed was when my family moved houses to some new home in a nice leafy suburb in the mainlands of Lagos. However appearances can be deceitful and boy were we invaded by pests of every species.
In the first week, it was sandflies and gnats from the pits of hell. They bit everything moving outside before the sun went down. Playtime in the compound was a nightmare for everyone, and even Antimos (an insect repellant) would not work. Then my father noticed that the unused construction sand left in a corner of the house by the builders was what had attracted sandflies in their trillions. He donated the sand to a building site down the road. Problem solved – a bit.
Then the roaches came – in all colors. The worst cockroaches were the flying ones who take off awkwardly like a local aircraft missing a tire, when you tried to swat them. The roaches especially the loved dark corners of the house, like the store-room. I loved to mash them with my Cortina shoe heels till their abdomen jelly squished out.
My mum who is a germaphobe took the roach invasion personally – what would visitors say? She stashed her pesticide arsenal and tried different methods. We had the house fumigated. The pests disappeared for two weeks and then returned. We “fleeted” the house every morning before everyone left for school/work, and the non-sleeping areas of the house at night for an hour before bedtime. We tried Shelltox, Raid and all the popular products. We even mopped the floor with a mixture of water and kerosene, but one day the domestic help slipped and slid on it like a skating rink. Nothing worked like Baygon – a powerful insecticide with the potency of ogbunigwe. It was the kryptonite for the flying roaches and insects. Once the Baygon fluid made contact with the insect’s thorax, they were done for, and fell over on their backs like a willing runs girl. However Baygon was too potent, and irritated the lungs of my baby sister Kpomkwem. So we had to look for other solutions.
Once, I put off the kitchen lights for the night, and then remembered that I needed to fix myself a cup of Vitalo for a nightcap. I switched on the lights and there were roaches already having a town-hall meeting in the center of kitchen, by the sack of Abakiliki rice. I was here just 3 seconds ago! Hi guys. I emptied a can of Shelltox on them – the old school type with the push and pull level attached to a canister. Die, vermin, die.
Who has spread this pestilence for us to witness?
Later on, we discovered that the cockroaches had been creeping into the house through a broken pipe which needed to be closed off properly from outside. Once our handy-man sorted this out, the roach population dwindled, and went extinct.
But home invasions come in different forms. Months after we moved in, a notorious armed robbery gang which had been servicing that part of town, served notice on my street association to prepare for their arrival. They duly arrived the following night, and were operating, going from house to house, and carting away valuables. They nabbed one neighbour’s gold necklace set, and took another’s pot of stew. My next door neighbor’s 90 year old grandma Iya-Agba was not having that. Once the gang approached their gate, she raised an alarm yelling “Ole! Ajibole!! Ole!! Ajibole!!”
Her son-in-law tried to cover her mouth to prevent her from getting them all killed, but she shoved him aside and shouted even louder from the veranda window “Ole! Ajibole!! Ole!! Ajibole!!”
It somehow unnerved the robbers, and they backtracked, driving off in a hurry. Animals in human skin, as Fela once observed.
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Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Scott Griessel