“Who am I?” A question I probably don’t have answer(s) for. I’ve lived for over two decades now and I still find it difficult to get a hold of my personality. A moment, I’m as happy as a pig in a muck and the other, I’m as helpless as a babe in arms. I shot myself out of my myself to discover who I often pretended to be. It was all a faux-pas, I was going to become only what I projected and that in itself is a rare privilege- I know of many who thought they’d be stars twinkling on a damsel’s lonely night but only turned out to be men whose ways were full of faults and prima-facie lack of ideas as their sojourns to greatness had more thorns than good turns. I am blessed to have a chance to say this about myself, full of hope and belief and this was all Agudugbe, Dare Balogun needed to make a mark. Perhaps, he would someday, but the last time I saw him, the marks he made were the marks on his body, suggestive of a young man who’s lost an idea of the promise he once exuded.

Agudugbe is one of the shortest human beings I’ve met in my life but he found it relatively easy to destroy all those bros we played football together. He is the fifth of his mother’s offsprings and to an enviable extent, one of the brightest. All Dare knew was football. He knew the rudiments and had great technical qualities. Any field he got to, he always made a difference by showing some lovely skills quite unbelievable from a boy, his age. Usually, he introduced me to people as he was a persistent street rover and I was just another boy who loves football but from a “you-must-be-a-doctor” home. We destroyed a lot of teams together; with wrappers of cigarettes beatifying the light bulb on containers of tin milks- our lovely trophy then. Agudugbe and I played football so often that we soon got well known all across the streets. We shared surnames but our paths were different despite the homogeneity of our passions.

I was attending one of the best nursery and primary schools around while he attended a school where the teachers’ main occupation is to peel melons and earn salaries at the end of the month. He had all the chance in the world to hone his football skills and soon went a step ahead of me on the pecking order, but he needed just more at that period.

I was his best teammate and our understanding was awesomely telepathic. As kids, we engaged in football gambling and most times, we only get selected by people, often, kids our age or elderly ones to play together. The good ones don’t risk their money! We were a deadly combo and playing behind Agudugbe was delightful. He never wasted my passes and always got the beautiful remarks. He had rare freedom and I was the “get inside” boy who had to keep close tabs on the time so I won’t get punished by my civil servant dad. Growing up was fun with Dare but the stories soon changed.

Who fit stop Agudugbe that time? He will waste you and tear you to shreds like a piece of wet tissue papers. Everyone was always scared of marking him because if you are against him, you must definitely have a bad day in office. I loved Agudugbe, I still love him! I usually took him home and we got really close at a point and then, the winds blew and the waves capsized the giant ship carrying the little magician. Things took a rapid turn for worse and for years, I didn’t see Agudugbe. I often wondered where he was! Some friends told me he had to leave our area because his dad needed him with his business. Some others said his mum didn’t like the fast popularity he was gaining from football so she decided to change his environment. Everything changed rapidly and the next time I saw my jolly good friend, I was almost crying.

I was in S.S.2 or thereabout when I saw him. He is 2 years older than I am so he had graduated from the secondary school exactly two years before I did. I greeted him with smiles like my lifelong ambition was finally achieved- sure, seeing him again was a lifelong dream but that moment changed it all. “How far?” he responded coldly. I just feigned some normal street skits and wondering all night who my teammate had turned to. I was probably not thankful enough to know our paths once seemed similar but it was as stark a contrast as a black man on a white robe. He had a dream but nobody had a dream for him! I had a dream but I had many people also dreaming for me.

I had a soft sofa to land on when I rolled down the steep slopes but he never had a step to climb up, talk less of rolling down. He lived in stagnancy and only depreciated from stagnancy to dormancy. That his talents got buried that quickly still makes me jitter at times; again, he’s one of the most talented humans I’ve come across in my life. Environmental shenanigans and familial discrepancies have till now killed Agudugbe’s dreams. I had a father who cared and a fervently praying mother. He had a father who died when he was hardly grown and a mother who died when he was about to get hard while growing. He lost his parents and nothing has been worth a picture in his life ever since.

I remember “Eje Oto”, his eldest brother. Oh My God! That bros can play fire and can also play with fire! Many times, he fought against cultists in our area and never got scathed, mainly because they liked his football prowess. He was too busy with his own life to even remember he has a brother called ” Agudugbe”! That family could have easily been a vintage footballing family from that town but no! They had no cushion. They had nobody to lean on so they looked like lazy men.

The last time I saw Agudugbe, he was really looking pale, frail and sad. He looked like a soul devoid of anything called “hope”! He simply lived the next day like the last and I wondered what might have been. He had lost his edge and telling him to start again, to give life a second shot was like teaching one’s grandmother to suck eggs. Obviously, from all I was able to investigate, he has tried many ways but none worked. He was now looking like a lazy man and I know Agudugbe, he was a bull on his own- a champion bull! Barge him on the ball and you’ll be the one hugging earth; bring him on in search of a goal and he will cry if he doesn’t produce the goods. And his dreams, his aspirations, my view and projections of him are all sunken like the eyes of the inhabitants of a land in famine.

The next time I see Dare Balogun, I’ll try to talk to him to see if he still sees hope as a veritable tool to recovery. I am here not because I’m special but because I have a cushion to rest my back on. I could afford to get it wrong once or twice and still get sprung up because someone believed in me. Agudugbe never had anyone to have faith in him to change his fate but I hope he has faith in God to change his fate.

Someday, I know he will be licked into shape with God on his side and he will reestablish the promise he once glowing showed. As I write, I don’t know where Agudugbe is but I’m sure he will still give life a whole new shot; a shot as heavy as his right-footed shot of old. Dreams may die but when the soul lives, achievements will find a leeway to the actualisation land where only songs of victory are sung.

Agudugbe; my jolly old friend! May you find peace while you reign and may you find calmness while it rains!

Rilwan Adetayo Balogun®

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