If there is a place most unsuitable for writing, it is Samkos Plaza. Riddled with the unending drone of motor engines and the cries of marketers, the park made me feel noisy inside and drained my mind of creativity.
My walk there was like one on a wasteland, and the air reeked of weed smoke and faeces dumped in caked mud. The heat suggested the park is nestling amidst a thousand suns, and the ground was parched.
Yet, if there is a place most suitable for sourcing story ideas, it is also Samkos Plaza. Located in Awka in the southeastern Nigeria, and owned by a former police commissioner who has a flair for deflating the tyres of vehicles occupying his parking space, Samkos Plaza tells the story of a park swarming with misfits, although it serves mainly as a bus station for mass transits from various parts of the country.
These misfits, ranging from questionable beggars to a queer park manager, are what won my attention.
At first, I pitied the beggars, but when I caught a blind one punching the buttons of a phone and a cripple smoking weed, I could not contain my shock. In addition, a woman among them is known to curse people who ignore her cries, and another was publicly battered by her husband after he caught her begging while returning from his frequent trip.
Then there are the local marketers whose brutal air and untruthfulness has earned the name ‘Agboro’, meaning ‘con artist’. Employed by the various mass transits in the park, they would do anything to ensure passengers boarded their buses. They would crowd around one; struggle for one’s bag and sometimes damage it in the course; and even literally heft one onto a bus.
At the end of their daily hassling, they join the weed dealers and smokers in numerous nooks, drawing on and puffing out the smoke of weed. One might wonder why this weed-smoking gang are allowed to deal freely in the park, despite the fact that the landlord was a police commissioner. Soon, however, I discovered the dealers pay rent and that police officers even patronise them.
Each time I try to pull my eyes away from the misconduct, the sight of children hawking confronts me. It seems law enforcers here treat child abuse even more casually than weed smoking. These children hover around moving vehicles, dressed in rags and carrying, on their heads, all sorts of items – breadfruit, stickers, assorted bottled drinks, etc. Merged, they are a walking market, and three dying in a motor accident while hawking did not daunt their zeal.
Every day, it appears, there is a new mad person in the park. The men rove about face down, looking for the stubs of weed to smoke; and they exhibit some sort of intelligence. A female one, in particular, would not accept a free meal that does not include meat, a soft drink, and water – no wonder she is pregnant; and her impregnator: is he saner or madder?
Other misfits are the wheelbarrow pushers who, though always haggard and dirty, earn more than an average writer and the park manager who chants every morning, breaking cola nut and offering the ground some in prayer to the gods, that they may favour him against his competitors on that day.
In all, one could set a story in Samkos Plaza and it becomes a bestseller. You should see the pigeons.