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Can I see you for a minute

Can I see you for a minute please? Eno said. My heart skipped a beat. My stomach churned. My face struggled to wear that smile. Anytime anybody in Ebiet said can I see you for a minute, your heart couldn’t help but skip a beat.

I hadn’t been in Ebiet for about ten years. Not because I don’t like Ebiet or wouldn’t want to visit Ebiet but because the two key players who would have motivated me to visit Ebiet regularly had transited to the great beyond. The rest of the key players were global villagers who would transit through my terrain on their way to or from another part of the globe. The digital revolution has also made it such that I am able to maintain a healthy virtual relationship with these folks.

Virtual world and tangible worlds were worlds apart yet so near. I wanted to feel the essence of tangibility when I made up my mind to visit Ebiet. I dubbed it ‘homecoming’. I asked the town crier to announce my homecoming. Summon the elders, let them know that a true son of the soil was coming back. Let the maidens know. Let the youth know. Let the robbers know, let the witches and wizards know, let the palm wine tappers know, let the villagers know. “My noble kinsmen, make ready to receive me” was my message.

From the minute I walked through the international airport of my terrain to board the flight that was to convey me home, I knew that this dream would become a reality in a matter of hours.

“You are wearing such a lovely smile” the air hostess sitting in front of me announced.

“Thanks” I responded.

“You must be quite elated” she said.

“I think the English dictionary doesn’t have the right vocabulary yet to describe how I feel right now” I said.

“Wow. That must be special then” she went on.

“Cabin crew …” The voice of the captain interjected.

The huge bird gathered momentum and sped up. I felt it, lifting off the ground. I heard a baby scream from the bassinet seat to my left. I saw an elderly man cup his hands in prayers. I saw people bow their heart in humility. I saw one or two folks go to sleep straight away. I looked out through the windows. I saw the ground, the habitat. I saw the landscape get smaller and smaller. I saw the roads interconnected with small cars crawling on them like a mini model version of a city. I saw my terrain being left behind me. I smiled and laughed.

“Is this your first time to visit Ebiet?” she asked me.

“Noooo”

“Regular visitor or business trip?”

“Naaah” I replied.

“You must have hit a real jackpot, the way you have been smiling” the air hostess declared.

“Yes, you are right. I have hit a jackpot. My kinsmen!” I beamed.

“Alright, enjoy your flight” as she unstrapped herself to go prepare to serve the passengers.

The drums rolled out. The village poured out to the village square to receive a son of the soil who had come back.

Minstrels, jesters, poets, dancers, drummers, flautists, instrumentalists, you name them, gathered under the moon light to welcome a son of the soil. Fresh palm wine was served. A cow was slaughtered. Pestles pounded yam in the mortar, bellies were filled. People wrestled, sang, danced and perspired. New relationships were formed that night. New babies were made that night. In the air of excitement and merriment, things happened.

My wallet was severely injured and I was looking forward to my return journey. People had seen me in camera countless times and it always ended with a cry for help. How many people can you help? How many school fees can you assist with? How many medical bills can you help support? How many lawyer’s fees can you pay to try to reclaim a family land that was bullied away from the family? How many people can you help with payment for their bride prices and completions of their homes?

How many, how many, how many? These thoughts troubled my mind.

So you can imagine how I felt when another invite to speak with me in camera was put in. I had started preparing in my head, my defense mechanisms. ‘I have spent a lot of money on this item and that item. Leave your request with me, I will see what I can do. I am not promising anything just yet.’ These were all the thoughts forming in my mind as I walked over to the side of the building to speak with my distant cousin, Eno and her husband, in camera.

She swung around and grabbed me. She embraced me tight and wouldn’t let go. She sobbed and sobbed. I tried to calm her down. Whatever it was, we can deal with it, but please relax yourself.

“Ekpe Ikot, thank you for coming. I really appreciate your coming. You have shown that you are a true son of the soil. I can’t thank you enough. You don’t know what you have done for us. But thank you”

I was stunned. I stood speechless. I stood in total awe at the fact that my visit could rekindle such a sense of warmth in a family member.

“Eno, listen. I know I have been gone for a long time. But I tell you what.”

“What ?” she asked.

“I won’t be gone for too long again like this. I will be back soon” I smiled as I made my statement.

“I will be here waiting for you when you return. I will be looking after your cows and goats and sheep. I shall farm that plot of land by the river. I will not let anybody take over the other plot of land over in Ikpat. My husband and I will take care of it for you, till you come back.” Eno concluded.

“Yes we will” her husband concurred.

We embraced and stayed in the warmth of that embrace…

 

Uwem Mbot Umana©2019

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13 Comments

  • Marcus-Philemon Omotayo Posted June 21, 2020 1:26 am

    I can see that Ekpe is a man who loved his home town and his kinsmen very much,inspite of him living outside the country.
    What worked well in the story was the expectations of everyone in the village for Ekpe to come home and how his welcome was like to festival.
    I really like the fact that they loved him and he loved them till everyone wanted to see him for a minute because they know he will listen.The fact that he had something to say to everyone and was ready to help in anyway he could and the relationship he had with everyone drew my attention the most.
    The writer did not tell us where Ekpe was traveling from and how the discussion with his cousin and her husband ended.He should have told us how their discussion ended and why Eno wanted to see him.

  • Joel-Levi Omotayo Posted June 21, 2020 1:04 am

    No place like home was a very strong feeling that could be felt in the story. No matter how long you have stayed outside the country home is still home.
    The entire village came out to welcome Ekpe Ikot, how Amazing? His kindness and sense of Responsibility and readiness to help his people really went well.
    His love and commitment to his people was what caught my attention the most, as he readily tried to listen and attend to their needs as individuals, and even made promise to help others later, he have a relationship with his people despite the fact that he did not live with them.
    Can I see you for a minute, was a statement that most people who wants to ask for a favour would say. This shows that they have confidence in him.
    The happy moments between Ekpe and his cousin and her husband didn’t end quite well. The story should have further contained how they concluded their discussions.

  • Paul Elakhe Posted June 20, 2020 11:31 am

    The crux of the story is the fact that Ekpe had a sense of responsibility towards his people. His heart skipped each time he heard the words” can I see you for a minute”. This showed that he felt obliged to help but was afraid of the overwhelming needs. So what worked well is Ekpe’s virtue of kindness, care and generosity towards his people.

    I liked the warm welcome, the embrace and the reception by his people. It means Ekpe had influenced their lives positively, one way or the other.

    My attention is drawn to Ekpe’s personality. He must be a man of influence in the society, because not all sons of the soil are welcomed this way. “People had seen him in camera countless times and it always ended with a cry for help”.

    The ending was nice, in that we know how Eno and her husband felt when Ekpe was returning abroad, but the writer should have told us of the villagers experience in general, e.g how they cried, embraced him and asked when he will be coming back. etc.

  • Dahunsi Samuel Posted June 19, 2020 2:59 pm

    Wow!

    The story, of which I couldn’t have thought of a more captivating title, depicts the homecoming of a well cultured orphan and true son of the soil, who had made it somewhere out of the shores of his hometown. What worked out well in the story is the fact that his homecoming turned out to be worth as there were, at least, two people (Eno and her husband) who sincerely valued and were delighted in his ‘tangible’ presence and loved the bond they shared far beyond material things. There could have been others who didn’t probably want to be seen as melodramatic.

    I laud the writer’s descriptive prowess as the scenarios literally played out in my imagination, especially the way he skillfully made us have a feel of how elated and enthusiastic Ekpe Ipot was, on returning home. There is truly no place like home. I also like how he made use of the personification ‘my wallet was severely injured…’ and likened an aeroplane preparing to take off to a huge bird gathering momentum.

    What caught my attention, subconsciously, was the fact that Ekpe Ikot really wanted to make known his coming to all and sundry, even the witches and wizards. My point is, usually in a typical Nigerian village setting, there’s this concept of some so-called diabolical ill minded ‘village people’ responsible for the misfortunes of potential indigenes, which has made some successful returnees to tread with caution and have their homecoming done ‘low key’, in a bid not to show off and attract the prying eyes of the wicked ‘village people’. Such was not the same here and I must commend Ekpe Ikot’s courage and positive vibe, to even throw a party. Worthy of mention is his selflessness and generosity, he gave back tangibly to his community.

    What could the writer have done differently? I really can’t figure out one. He probably could have given more details about Ekpe Ikot, his terrain and social status, but I’m assuming it’s left to our imaginations.

  • John Asiedet Posted June 19, 2020 12:58 pm

    The Topic; Can I see you for a Minute – is call to remembrance on everyone.
    The story though a fiction points us to the fact that there exists an Ebiet where we need to visit. This Ebiet to me does not necessarily mean a village, home or origin, it includes even as important as our reading culture which we have distanced our selves from for numerous reasons.
    Like the writer wrote all and sundry were invited irrespective of the possible threat they would have been to the writers home coming. According to the writer his wallet was severally injured but the need for assistance continued coming till he found a safe haven with the reply “I will get back to you”, and then the expressions Eno gave as she embraced for along time and waiting for his return. The same way as important as our reading culture is expecting our return not without several injuries on our new found way of life without this culture but garnished with so much care and readiness to reinstate our brains to the development the culture offers. Indeed to me it is doing the unusual so as to get the full unusual package.

  • Benedicta Quaye Posted June 18, 2020 9:45 pm

    Title of the story displays a notion beyond what it intends “CAN I SEE YOU FOR A MIINUTE”
    The story tends to express the saying that no matter where anyone is in the world far away from home, HOME will always be where the heart belongs. I like how the author displayed Ekpe Ikot’s enthusiasm of returning home. It was obvious from the interaction he had with the air hostess. His excitement was beyond just returning home. It shows how his returning home had an impact on the community and family as well. The excitement it gave the community and family because of his return. The author in his story portrayed how in most people upon their return home tend to battle between how to help their family and community as whole while also not being stable financially. The thoughts that run through the average head on how to help people financially even when you know your “wallet would be severely injured considering the fact that you would have to return back “ Although drowning in his own thoughts , having the conversation with his cousin made him feel at ease knowing that though he was thinking about how to be of help everyone up one his return his family members were also showing him that they got his back. His expression when he spoke with his cousin shows how enthused he was. What I liked the most about the story is that even when you think of helping others there’s someone out there ready to extend the same help to you even when you’ve not asked. In my opinion this is a great story because of the expressions used by the author. The story depicts what happens in modern society lately.

  • Aimée Posted June 18, 2020 2:20 pm

    What a plot twist!

    Hearing those words, “Can I see you for a minute please?”, one would think someone has gotten into trouble. I like how the writer captured my attention with the title. Reading this story shows how deep-rooted Ekpe was. The story portrays the lifestyle of Africans who live outside of their home countries but their hearts are still at home. They do all they can to make life bearable for the families; sending money to support them in every way necessary.

    What worked well was the joy Ekpe had for his homecoming. The feeling of being needed and being able to help others was greatly expressed and admired, even the air hostess thought something tremendous had happened to him. The entire village was celebrating the return of Ekpe. This should tell others that, even though you are living a dandy lifestyle, do not forget the roots from which you came. At the call from his cousin, he was on his way back home. Despite the fact his motivation had been lost and going home was not happening anytime soon, his heart leaped for joy when he got the call. Indeed, we need more sons like Ekpe who would be excited to return to their roots.

    I liked how the writer portrayed the mixed feelings from Ekpe, even though he expressed the joy of being able to support his kinfolks, he also knew it was a great responsibility. How many people he had to cater for; this only shows that people living outside of their home country should not have to bear all the burden of the family or community members because no one knows how they have struggled to get to where they are or if they are still struggling but putting up a cover for the world.

    The writer should explain figures of speech or big English words used in stories to help young readers understand better.

  • Charles Adegoke Posted June 18, 2020 1:58 pm

    CAN I SEE YOU FOR A MINUTE was an interesting story, highly fascinating and descriptive in nature. The trend of the story is such that catches my attention from the beginning to the end. Hardly could I stop reading nor lay my hand on something else until the end of the story. Ekpe Ikot can be seen from the perspective of the story as a homely boy years back in Ebiet . His quest to visit Ebiet despite the demise of his biological parents must have been rekindled by the geinuie love he has for his people. The rowsy welcome accorded him by his kindred wouldn’t have been enough for him to think of visiting again if not for the captivating words from Eno “ Ekpe Ikot, Thank you for coming, I really appreciate your coming. You have shown that you are a true son of the soil. I can’t thank you enough . You don’t know what you have done for us . But thank you” This statement by Eno really demonstrates the genuine difference between the virtual world and the reality, originality,emotions that are attached to the tangible world. Also Ekpe Ikot statement “ sending the town crier to tell everyone, the maidens, the elderly, the women and indeed everyone that a true son of the soil is coming really emphasized his genuine love for his people.

  • Abraham Thompson Posted June 18, 2020 9:56 am

    This is such a wonderful piece . . . I think being a son of the soil and by that I mean a TRUE son of the soil is not just a title to be worn on the sleeve but really goes way way beyond that. Sure to the uninformed it’s a feel good title but not to the informed. The responsibilities that go with such a title could sometimes be ginomous and herculean because there’s always one problem or the other to attend to. With some many issues to take care of, the opportunity cost of an action needs to be well thought out deeply.

    Our communities need TRUE sons of the soil whose hearts are connected to step up to the plate. Sure it might seem like a difficult task, but then the satisfaction derived can not be quantified because you’re pursing a course bigger than you which is at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

  • Paul Afolabi Posted June 17, 2020 3:23 pm

    This is a beautiful, beautiful story. The atmosphere is wonderful just the way it is.

    In some passages, the phrasing is clearly not English. But even at that, the meaning is so clear and concise.

    “Can I see you for a minute please? Eno said. My heart skipped a beat” I so much love the twist after this, young readers would most likely think that the story was headed towards romance.

    As much as Ekpe was reluctant towards coming home, he put in so much energy and showed excitement towards preparing to come home. “Let the robbers know, let the witches and wizards know, let the palm wine tappers know, let the villagers know”, this is a brilliant description of Ekpe as an interesting and very comical young man.

    “You must have hit a real jackpot, the way to have been smiling” the air hostess declared, “Yes you are right. I have hit a jackpot. My kinsmen!” This makes a lot of sense to me for a realistic Ekpe-Hostess interaction. And in contrast to the earlier depiction of unwillingness to visit home, he truly missed home and couldn’t wait to be reunited with his kinsmen. Home will always be where one’s heart is, and clearly, Ekpe missed home so much.

    The whole story depicts truism. Perfect picture of what happens in a lot of African society; young men travel abroad in search of a better life and hesitate to visit home because of myriad reasons but their heart is at home, they miss home. Finally, the last person that he attended to who showed concern for him and his well being clearly reinforces the need to always genuinely care about people. As it is said “the chicken sweats but we never get to know because it’s covered in feathers”.

    This story is written so well, the excitement/despair is well depicted; you have an excellent gift of carving and weaving emotions into your narrations. It’s tempting to think that direct language is the easiest for us to understand, but sometimes we respond better to more creative wording. The use figurative language in this story is perfect.

    You demonstrated Ekpe’s strength well, through both actions and dialogue, superb!
    The story could, however, be enhanced through deeper characterization, by including family members who he was well knit with, and showing interactions between him and those relatives e.g siblings.

    Thank you for writing this! I love it so much!!!

  • Ogba Amarachi David Posted June 17, 2020 12:02 pm

    Can I see you for a minute?

    For me this story is interesting. I enjoyed every bit of it.
    Lots of things worked well in this story but I will say the important ones.
    First Ekpe Ikot had his reasons why he didn’t bother to come back to Ebiet just like every African man would reason.
    He said “The two key players who would have motivated him had transited to the great beyond”. That’s to say his parents are dead. Relationship of a man with his parents makes the person to always feel like being at home even when he don’t want to go, their calls will certainly push him back home. So in the case of Ekpe Ikot there was none to call him back.
    Second, the way drums rolled out… Villagers arrived at the village square to receive a son of soil.
    Third, when he got the call from Eno asking him “can I see you for a minute? ”
    He recognized that there’s different between the virtual world and tangible word. So he made up his mind to visit Ebiet so as to feel the essence of tangibility. Ekpe Ikot rekindle a sense of warmth to the family members, which made him recognize how important he is…then he said “I won’t be gone for too long again like this. I will be back soon.”

    What I love most about the story is the pattern of writing used by the author.
    He used descriptive writing which made the story organized -chronological, spatial and order of importance.
    While I was reading I was picturing all I was reading which made me enjoy the story.
    He also made use of specific adjectives and noun in the story which help to give life to the picture in mind.
    There is use of figurative language,that is phrasing that goes beyond the literal meaning of words to get a message or point across.
    Example of such in this story is “The huge bird gathered momentum… “. And “…hit a real jackpot…”

    What caught my attention is the tittle of the story “CAN I SEE YOU FOR A MINUTE?
    This title develops my curiosity while offering a strong sense of what the story is all about.
    The question enhance my understanding of what the story is about.

    I appreciate the author of this story Uwem Mbot Umana for such creativity.
    Thank you!
    More of this Sir!!!

  • Yemi Adebiyi Posted June 17, 2020 10:49 am

    Ekpe Ikot’s mood of a person that hit a jackppt at homecoming was aptly described by the flight hostess. He was happyvand full of reunion operations with his kinsmen at Ebiet after many years abroad. He wasn’t disappointed as drums were rolled out at the feast for his welcome. But this was short lived as he realised that his people needed his financial assistance to solve personal , family and community problems. All private discussion with individuals led to parting with some cast. It was asif the whole community had been waiting for his arrival

    When he had exhausted nearly all the cash he had, his relation Eno and husband sought his attention for private talk. Ekpe thought it was going to be the usual demand for cash and he resolved not to bulge at such request. But he was surprised at the enthusiasm displayed by the couple and their offer of assistance to help him to oversee and grow his inherited assets at no cost to him. They were contended that he came and would continued to come.This was unexpected and it made the story interesting.
    I like most how the general mood in the plane at take off was described by the author through the eyes of Ekpe whose own happiness look was captured by the hostess.
    Short and sharp tale of homecoming.
    .

  • Mary-Joan Nwaogu Posted June 16, 2020 5:56 pm

    Wow a great homecoming of a dear son of the soil. It is only a true son of the soil that can understand the true feelings of a village life. Kinsmen waiting to receive a great son that would take away their sorrows. A son that would solve internal quarrels between kindreds. A great son that would provide physical, emotional and psychological warmth for his people. A son that can bring succour to the land. A son that can put food on the table of those who have perpetually been on 0-0-1 or 1-0-1 food formular. A son that assist in making sure that’s one indigent children return to school by paying their school fees, dues and fines. A son that can assist elderly men and women with the payment of their family/village meeting dues and subscriptions.

    In some cases, the youths would await and prepare heavily for a great son if the soil that would financially assist them with their marriage rights. Construction of social centres sometimes await this great son.

    However your wallet is, a great son coming home after many years would most probably leave with an empty wallet. Some would cut short their scheduled stay to return because their wallet had become empty. This great son of Every is not alone. Many son’s of the soil face this. What can they do? The society has made it so.

    The current concentrates on the centre. The royal father’s now rule the local settings from the cities as if they operate virtual royal kingship. Social amenities are not provided locally. All these and many more create loopholes that make the people await their saviours – their sons that have been successful in foreign lands. Do the people bother about how their sons make their income? Not really. They are only concerned about solving their problems.

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