My encounter with the ZAKILOS started almost thirty-five years ago in Federal Government College Warri. I met this dark pretty girl about my age who seemed to know her way around  and did not appear to be afraid of the senior students. We struck a friendship and I found out she had a brother in an older class who was some kind of celebrity. They were both fondly called “zakilo” and my friend was so funny! She did not even try to be funny,  she just was. She would regale us with the most outrageous tales from her very interesting home and she had a repertoire of stories about her father’s prowess with the cane. She was a fantastic mimic and the things she taught me about mimicking an accent remain with me till date. Her brother was another story! You would think that having a popular brother in a senior class meant untold privileges but no way! He treated her like he would any other. I recall on one occasion another senior told him off for eating her food, this senior reminded him that his younger sister was a growing child who needed all her food; he retorted, “what about me? let me finish growing first and then she can grow! This guy was himself all the way. He was skinny and bow-legged and even then in his teens you could tell he would not keep his hair for long as he was already showing signs of baldness. He would enter the dining hall with his unmistakable swagger, sleeves rolled up, with a folded notebook tucked into his back pocket and sit astride a bench. (I struggle to recall seeing senior Efere sitting properly on the dining bench), and pull the pot of food his way. This guy was one of those characters you needed to meet only once in a lifetime. He had a larger-than-life personality. His younger sister who was my friend did not like chicken and he was always too happy to “help” eat her Sunday afternoon chicken. They were such fun people! he was never really my friend in the real sense but if I was good enough for his sister I was alright as a human being. From my friend we heard stories of the other family members who were in other schools.

Fast forward thirty years or so and I met a lady on FB who looked like them and sounded like the zakilos that I knew. I wasted no time in reaching out, and then joy upon joy I found out she was also a writer and she wrote uncannily like me- straight to the point and real. I knew without a doubt I had found another member of this wonderful family. We became firm virtual friends and when she had a book event I cancelled everything else to attend. Imagine my delight when I saw her brother whom I had not seen in years! When I introduced myself, he said “ehen, I knew it” and we picked up a conversation like we left it off yesterday. He was such a delightful conversationalist. We exchanged contacts and I realized there was a lot he could do for my budding writing career. I had been following his colourful career as an entertainment lawyer and from what I had read in the papers he was clearly making a mark where it mattered. I went home that day with a warm fuzzy feeling in my insides determined to keep the renewed friendship alive. Shortly after that meeting I moved back to Abuja and with all the challenges that moving to a new city could bring, I had a lot to deal with so when I heard he was holding one of his workshops in Ghana much as I wanted to make the trip I was unable to do so. I was sure I would not miss the next one. Alas! It was not to be! Sometime in March 2013, I had a heart attack and had to go out of social circulation for a few weeks. I was hardly back on my feet when the horribly unbelievable news came that Efere was gone! It’s  almost one year since that news came but I still shiver with the horror of what his family must be passing through. His parents  are alive and well and what it must mean to lose such a son! I can not even imagine it. From far away I feel such a big sense of loss. It seems like the world has a gaping hole because we are one zakilo short on this side of eternity. Maero has done her best to keep his memory fresh for us all but I can only imagine her personal pain. I lost an older sister years ago and the sense of loss is better imagined. As the one year anniversary draws near and we feel the pain of his passing afresh, here’s what I want to say to the Zakilo gang: it hurts and it will hurt for a long time to come, the pain will seem fresh everyday until one day you will wake up and find that a scab has settled over the fresh wound. With time it will become easier to live without him but the pain never really goes away. Live simply by putting one foot in front of the other, keep talking about him, keep carrying him in your hearts but learn to accept that he will never come back, eternity is a one way road and it is very far away. Efere’s life reminds me of the movie title “Fast and Furious”. He lived hard and squeezed more into forty-something years than most people put in eighty years.
Take heart Zakilo, the play is not over by a long shot, this is simply an interlude…

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