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Laura Nnamdi: My Visit to Akwakuma Market



Is there a genre of writing wherein it’s allowed to mix fiction and nonfiction? Real life events and mere imagination? That is what I am about to do. If there isn’t, maybe, just maybe such a style would be credited to my name. You know, like the Shakespearean style of poetry. Maybe there is and I am just too lazy to check. I actually am too lazy to check.

So I went to a market in Owerri, the capital of an eastern state in Nigeria known as Imo, a state in a state of dilapidation (all thanks to….no be from my mouth una go hear say Simbi is no longer a girl).

This was my first time going to this market. I tried to “strong my face” so as not to tell the whole world I was a novice. Wondering why I said “world” instead of the whole market? Well, we Nigerians love exaggerating. The only thing that can’t be exaggerated in this country is our problems. And the corruption. It’s beyond exaggeration. I tend to deviate, so please, let’s go back to Akwakuma.

I got down from the motorcycle (I would have said “bike,” but then again, maybe, just maybe this piece will get to a foreign audience, and I wouldn’t want my foreign audience being confused. You know, just like our leaders, we Nigerians love so much to make foreigners comfortable at the expense of our own comfort. We love their lifestyle and we want to be like them, speak like them, dress like them and live like them. But I should bother about my local audience. What if motorcycle is too big a word? This is my mind speaking. I have a lot of conversations with my mind, in my head, with myself. Okay, I’m deviating again.) I dropped from the bike—the motorcycle; I feel this is better, let’s make everyone happy.

Locals take bike, foreigners take motorcycle. But why do I even bother? Dropped? Maybe I should say alighted instead, to give this piece the sophistication that would make it go to oyinbo land. Laura, you are deviating again. Okay, sorry. My bad.

Back to Akwakuma market. I dropped—alighted from the bike—the motorcycle, and a fair lady just standing there beckoned to me, “Sister, what do you want to buy?” A thousand and one thoughts passed through me—my mind…you know I am my mind and my mind is me. So my mind and I are one. Stop deviating! Okay.

What if she was one of the “touch and follow” people or the “talk to me and follow me” people. I feel obliged to explain what these phrases mean, you know, perchance I get to have that oyinbo audience. But no. We read their books and we consult their dictionary for their big big grammar, so indulge me and consult our books or our people and get the meaning of “touch and follow” people and the likes.

I smiled. She looked harmless. I told her, “Soup things.” She smiled and replied with, “Okay. But just in case, we sell makeup and the likes.” Okay. Moving on.

I got into the market, spotted a young girl with ugwu and waterleaf in a wheel barrow, I consulted my list: “Ugwu 50, Waterleaf 200.” Okay. Beside her was a very handsome young man. Tall, dark and dangerous. I remembered my sister’s words: Price very well o. Actually, I hate pricing. Why should we price? Do we price when we go to the big stalls and malls? We pay for the artificial air in their shops and the expensive paintings and interiors, but shouldn’t we pay for the polluted air the market women suffer? And the scorching sun that beat down on their heads? Haggle. We Nigerians simply say price, but with a different pronunciation, but I need to be considerate to my foreign readers (if at all there will be any). See the way I am going out of my way to explain things to the oyinbo people I am not sure will read this piece? That is how our leaders treat us, at their expense. But I am following my leaders, recreating the examples shown to me.

Back to Akwakuma. The young man, devilishly cute. Why? Why do we have to attribute cuteness and enjoyment to the devil? God is beauty. God loves enjoyment. There is enjoyment in heaven. So yes, the young man. Godly handsome. My undoing. Should I act a novice in the market or be the wife material? Maybe he would ask for my number.

Why is he in the market buying ugwu? Maybe he is single. A Godly cute man who goes to the market? Or maybe it is for his pregnant wife. I did a quick check. No ring. I sighed in relief, rather audibly. I made my choice: wife material! I would price, show him I can manage his money well. I would price the waterleaf that sells for 4 for ₦200 to 3 for ₦100. Isn’t that what our society calls wife material? A woman who can go to the market with ₦500 and cook a very rich soup that contains every vitamin and animal you can think of? While normal ladies (who aren’t wife material) would spend ₦2000 or there about? But why should I conform to society? I hate “pricing”—haggling. Why should I haggle to prove a point to a man who isn’t asking for it? I don’t want to be the society’s idea of a wife material. Society is depressing. I don’t want to be a depressed wife material (I chuckled here). A depressed wife “material” will be difficult to “iron” (out).

I bought the waterleaf for 4 for ₦200. And the ugwu for ₦50. I moved on from her wheelbarrow, her dusty wheelbarrow and the really cute man, to go deeper into Akwakuma market.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Laura Chioma Nnamdi is a Christian, poet, content creator, writer, lawyer, and human rights enthusiast. She can eat rice as much as everyday all week. She’s a helpless romantic and can’t live without everything chocolates. She is on IG @yesabbagirl but is currently on a social media detox. Email: [email protected]