By Victor Kwame Sampong
Mighty Diamonds in 1976, sang an all-time hit, titled Have Mercy and the lyrics of that song played in my mind over and over again, a reflection of what I was going through at the moment.
The first line was my current prayer and I sat in ‘a valley of decision’ trying to make up my mind on what next to do- “Have mercy on a good man and help him, we praise jah man” and the hook went like this, “Man was made to suffer, and woman was made to feel the pain. Stay by our side and guide us, we praise Jah man.”
It had happened to me once again. It has been one hell of a week for me and how I managed to find myself in this mess still beats me.
I had been informed a day earlier by a regular client that I’ll be bringing him to Port Harcourt from his school in Bayelsa the next day. So, I decided to do a half day on Monday instead, so as to rest myself and the car for the journey ahead.
It was a smooth ride to Sagbama (because I left very early) picked up my client, took a detour back to Yenagoa to pick up his friend, and stopped for breakfast at Kilimanjaro along Okilo Road before turning around to make the trip back to Port Harcourt. We encountered the famous Mbiama traffic on our way back. Slowly and steadily, we escaped after almost an hour spent around that axis.
We got to Port Harcourt and headed for Visa Karena Hotel where they had made reservations. They usually travel light, so they did not have many bags I could have helped them with. I stayed back to gist and rest before leaving. If I had a premonition of what was to come, maybe, just maybe I would have accepted to have dinner with them when they offered. I was trying to be a good guy, because having had breakfast on their tab, I didn’t want to be some kind of a pest. Home training no gree me. So I politely declined and left.
It was already raining by then. When I got to Rumuola I remembered I was supposed to get bread from Market Square. So I used the U-turn under the bridge and immediately found myself in a pool of water while facing the Restopark Filling Station. Worse of it, there was a Rav 4 Sports Utility Vehicle right in front of me that did not move because the woman inside was asking where the water was deep and where it was shallow. I kept pressing my horn to make her move while trying to keep my car from going off. It was an effort in futility as my car went off, just as she was about to move. With the help of some guys, I managed to push the car out of the water to the right side of the road. After several unsuccessful attempts to start the car, I gave up and called my mechanic.
Odinaka, my mechanic was very far. He was at Eleme on a job. So I had to endure till he got there, under heavy traffic conditions. But he did anyway because we go way back. He tried what he could to start it but his efforts too proved futile. The next step was to tow the car to his shop so we could properly assess the damage done by the water. He brought out a towing rope and connected his with mine and we set out for his job, somewhere along Rumuola Road.
Valley of decisions
I was already having a bad feeling about everything, as I kept blaming myself for not making good decisions when it mattered most. Should I have stayed back at the hotel to have dinner when it was offered? Should I have just proceeded to the house without buying the bread after leaving GRA. I got angrier and more disappointed with myself as I walked back home under the drizzling rain. I feared for the worst and hoped for the better.
My mind also took me back to my return from Uyo two weeks earlier. I had driven into a pool of water and something hit my car from underneath, bursting my bottom plate. We spent an extra three hours there, first getting a mechanic to loosen out the bottom plate, weld it together and fit it back. Could that be the genesis of this problem? I just did not know.
It was a long and hard night for me, and I could barely sleep.
I couldn’t wait for morning to come. And when it did, I was already at the shop waiting and calling Odinaka to come out. He eventually did at about 9 am. He tried again to start the ignition in the normal way, but it refused. It gave us glimmers of hope though because at some point, it was as if, it would start, then stop again. In such instances, water could be seen dropping out from the exhaust pipe. Some of his colleagues who came around were of the belief that it would start eventually as it was a normal thing for a car that had gone through the water.
So, we tried again some more until we heard a creaking sound like something just broke. We looked and checked under, only to find some broken pieces of the engine block on the ground. I knew then that there was trouble.
Soon after, the early assessments from other mechanics started pouring in. I almost cried, especially when one said a new engine would cost me about Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500,000). Who did I offend sef? Why was man made to suffer?
I knew I needed a drink or two to calm my nerves after what had just transpired and all the grim reports I heard. I stepped outside for a few minutes to sip a few bottles and returned. Odinaka had finished his preliminary assessment and his final report was not far from what had been said earlier.
I was told I had two options to play with. One of them was to buy a new engine, outright, while the other was to buy a half engine and a few parts.
After much deliberation, we settled for option two, since he assured me that he could get it up and running after that. It wasn’t even going to come cheap.
I had to start sourcing funds to finance half of it to enable him to start the process.
This was the worst moment of my life in the past year or so. My thoughts took me back to the last time I was without a car to drive for a long time and how I struggled to just eke out a living. I would not lie, a lot of thoughts ran through my head at the time when I could hardly meet my basic needs until I got back on my feet again. It was not a point I wanted to get to as in Nigeria, savings can run dry pretty fast, especially when the conveyor belt stops rolling.
Well, it took me almost a week to raise funds for a new engine as clients who were owing me good money couldn’t come through for me when it mattered the most.
Work is currently ongoing and hopefully, he’ll be done by the weekend I’ll see if the car would be anywhere close to what it was.
It was a valuable learning curve for me; one I won’t forget in a hurry! Yeah!
The universe played me, but like men always do, we surmount these challenges.
“Have mercy on a good man, and help him, we praise jah man… Man was made to suffer, and woman was made to feel the pain. Stay by our side and guide us, we praise Jah man.”