No matter how hard things get, those who want to survive will find a way. They will push through every obstacle even with tears in their eyes and pains in their hearts. They will believe that so long as they keep going, help will come somehow. Even when help seem not to come, they will still keep going; they don’t turn back, they don’t give up and surely they don’t give in. They know that it’s only a matter of time for the season to change and the rains will come again. They will look for opportunities everywhere they turn and see how to change their estate in life. They know that others have been where they are today, and some failed while others made it. They want to make it and so will learn how to. HUNGER REPUBLIC is a glance into how some made it.


Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overall and looks like work.” I didn’t know what Thomas Edison looked like but in my mind’s eyes he looked like Dad; no one told me about Edison more. I never understood a word Dad said. In fact, I never understood a word of what my parents said. They wanted me to grow up fast and when I did and almost ended up in juvenile detention, Mother thought it was time I go to school in her home country. Maybe it was my punishment as a rebel, but it became my OPPORTUNITY to see life from my own goggles.
Until I came to Cush Island, I never appreciated the lessons my parents taught me. My father often told me that when he was young his father said, “When you are less than eighteen years whatever your parents do for you are your rights, but when you are over eighteen they are privileges. It shaped me up and made me determined to make him proud.”
I was always pissed whenever he said that. I felt he was taking advantage of me. I wasn’t even eighteen years and he was telling me about rights and privileges. I panicked (well, that’s what I always told myself then) and the remaining is history.

Meeting and living with people who were not nearly as privileged as I was got me thinking about life differently. Andre was the person who made me understand the meaning of opportunity.

According to him, “As hard as things were, there were people who still made it big. One difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich had an uncanny ability to recognize opportunities and took risks to achieve them; sometimes these risks were tantamount to crime. That’s why most people think the rich are criminals.”

“How do I develop this uncanny ability, Andre?” I asked.

“You just keep jumping,” he chuckled. “That’s the smart guy talking. In Hunger Republic, the Smart believe in searching for opportunities. They keep jumping on things; they look for it in the News; they look for it in day to day conversations; they look at the environment, events and occurrences to see if there is any way they can profit from them. They try out new things and businesses. The time, resources and money they put in to make profit is extraordinary and overwhelming for the average Hungerian that just sit down to what their hands can reach. The average Hungerian is afraid of taking risks.”

After Andre rented a classy apartment in the bright side of town, he became the one we all listened to; perhaps he was right after all. My admiration for him grew and I was tempted to do things exactly his way, but I just couldn’t get myself to follow his pattern. I didn’t just want to become rich. I wanted to build something I loved. I wanted to be happy watching my enterprise and products grow and go around the world.

Although I valued Andre’s friendship, being close to him often chocked the life out of me. He was just too direct, wealth-driven and ambitious for my liking. What was life without a purpose? What was the point in spending your life running after different opportunities just to make money? I felt more comfortable with Prince to whom life was simpler. To him, you don’t need to have all the money in the world. His inclination was setting a reachable goal and achieving it, as you avoid unnecessary risks that could taint your reputation, land you in jail or get you killed. Go to school, get a good job, and pursue your dreams but stay far away from unnecessary risks that can land you in trouble.

“Be cautious and be wary of any opportunity that has a chance of hurting your reputation. A good name is better than precious ointment,” he advised me when I echoed Andre’s thoughts.

“That’s Andre. Can you do what he does?”


“If you have all the money in the world and there is no business or product to your name, will you be fulfilled?”


“So please do what makes you happy. I understand Andre. This Island kills dreams and in fact there are people who will stand in your way to stop you from succeeding. No encouragement and no one believe that I can live on my music. Some think I will end up regretting.” He paused, and smiling asked, “Did Andre talk about risks?”


“This is the risk I am willing to take. What risks are you willing to take?”
I didn’t have to answer.

About three years after graduation, Andre appeared to have been right. I was broke as I worked on setting up a business, while both my graduate friends taught infants in a private school where they earned less than three dollars daily. The Proprietress of the school was a middle aged lady that everyone referred to as Big Mama. I met her when she organized a party to celebrate her appointment as Secretary of the Metropolitan Council. The mix of guests revealed her true nature; you had the wealthy and poor, educated and uneducated, old and young, male and female. Meeting an entrepreneur gave me some sort of respite.

Her staff was in charge of the coordination, with the hustler Andre playing a strategic role of Chief-organizer. He looked smart and cute in his red t-shirt and blue jeans. He ran around in business fashion barking orders to his team mates like a football coach. He walked to where Prince stood with Julia, Marylyn and me. He smiled, shook our hands and took off. Prince was dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt, red tie and a pair of black trousers, and he looked like he couldn’t wait to man the stage. He was to perform before the Mayor gave his address.

When I got the invitation to the event from Andre and Prince, I decided to attend with Marylyn, a friend I made in school. Standing there in a pink flowery gown and a pair of simple red sandals, you wouldn’t be able to imagine that this calm, non-descript young lady bagged a first class in Economics. Lyn was five feet four inches tall and wasn’t one you could refer to as a beauty like Julia, but her wide bright eyes and ready smile made her extremely pretty. She was an exquisite go-getter. Marylyn hailed from Lagoon, the Capital Province of Cush Island, but she had lived all her life in Bonny. She was from a fairly well-to-do background but dressed simply, talked humbly, and was down to earth street-smart. She was one course mate I had taken a liking to; Andre too.

Prince attended the event with his girlfriend, Julia. She was poor, but I didn’t even dare buy the shoes and clothes she wore. Her appearance was everything to her. Julia was about six feet tall and was blessed with hairs that flowed to her lower back. She was dark, curvy and extremely attractive. The strange thing was that she rarely smiled. She always wore an angry expression and an aggressive demeanour. This, however, seem to make people pay more attention. Maybe it was the eerie combination of beauty and aggression that fascinated them like it did me. Although Prince would never hear of it, I was convinced that Julia was a player and didn’t care for anything else other than money. She once confided in me. “I will get rich or die trying.”

Prince didn’t want to know whether Julia was a good person or not, because he was madly in love with her. Sadly, I hoped that she cared a little for him. Summarily, it’s enough to say that while Prince loved her so much that he made music in her name, she wasn’t going to eat love and lyrics. Whenever I looked at Prince’s outfit that costs less than fifteen dollars and Julia’s red gown that costs over fifty dollars, not mentioning her heels, my countenance fell. Let’s not make the story about people.

Big Mama’s party wasn’t the first time I saw Prince perform on stage, but it felt like it. He was new and fresh every time. I couldn’t imagine that he would give up music for a rat race because of hunger. Everyone danced to his song, Julia You Are My One and Only. You could see from Big Mama’s body language that she was proud of him. She had heard that he wasn’t just good at teaching kids. From that day she became one of his most influential fans. She talked about him with the Mayor, Fred Smith, and other dignitaries sitting close to her. After Prince’s performance, the atmosphere buzzed as the Mayor got up to address the audience.

He wore a grey three-piece suit that reflected affluence. Smith was tall, dark and looked to be in his early forties. With a broad smile exuding confidence, he lauded the qualities of Big Mama. “She is an industrious and humble person whom I had recommended to the Party. I believe in what she does for the City, her Foundation for the less privileged and educational programmes are worthy of emulation. I know that her presence in the Council will serve the interest of all citizens. I want to use this opportunity to reassure the good citizens of Bonny City that we will do our best to bring prosperity to your doorsteps….”

The stories about him in the streets were horrid tales of a conscienceless politician, but as I listened it felt like this was a different person. I knew he was a smooth and persuasive communicator, but he appeared sincere and intelligent. I decided I would get to meet him sometime in the near future.

After the ceremony, I joined the workers to clean up Big Mama’s compound; it was a blue modest Duplex in the heart of the City. As we worked, I noticed something unpleasant that irritated me to my bones. It was Julia. The sight of her hooping from one guest to the other was appalling. Prince would kill for her and won’t even look at another woman, but she acted as if she was marketing some products.

I confronted her. “Prince is looking for you.”

She sighed. “Has he finished singing? Okay, I’m coming,” she said looking to pounce on another guest.

“No, you are coming with me now. Why are you meeting these men, Julia?”

“A girl got’ta eat,” she said outlandishly with an inimical smile.

I went berserk, “What’s the matter with you? Prince loves you. You want to throw that away for what? I -”