Part 3 took us to the house of the Chairman of the Ceremonies Committee to negotiate a date for the final burial ceremony of my father.
The story continues…..
DEAR FATHER: Part 4
This time, I recognised the language. My hand went into the right back pocket of my trousers and came out with a five hundred naira note.
“We can never forget home people sir, it’s just that the distance is far,” I said, placing the note on the table in front of him.
“Aaaah, new money!” he exclaimed, took the note and started admiring it as if he was seeing a five hundred naira note for the first time in his life. After that, it was talk of what we would need for the ceremony. I was also told to drop a thousand naira to be shared among the other nameless members of the Ceremonies Committee.
“Daddy, you’ve not answered my question.”
It was my little daughter. I had forgotten about them and their questions while my mind was roaming in the past.
“What was the question?”
“I said why does grandpa have a gap-tooth and you don’t.”
“You didn’t say, you asked.” I tried to correct her.
“Okay, I asked; why does grandpa have a gap-tooth and you don’t?”
I glanced at my wife who all the time had been sitting quietly beside me, then asked the inquisitor:
“And why do you ask?”
“But daddy, didn’t you tell us that we are not supposed to answer a question with a question?” She countered.
“Yes, I did. But you see, sometimes, you need another question to help you understand the first one and answer it well,” I said, trying to wriggle myself out of her genuine accusation.
“Then here is another question to help you answer it very well,” she said.
This one never gives up, I thought as she added, “Don’t you think that the gap-tooth makes grandpa look cute?”
Cute! I never thought that of my dad all his life.
“Sure, it does make him look cute and I think that’s why he was able to marry two wives and probably had a concubine as well,” I answered her, feeling smart, but I only succeeded in inviting more trouble from my cross-examiner.
“Daddy, what’s a concubine?” She pestered me on.
“Well, it’s a female friend that a married man has, who is not exactly his wife.”
“Do you have a concubine?”
Holy Moses! I looked at my wife who was smiling wickedly.
“No, I don’t,” I ventured, sensing that the cross-examination was far from over.
“So, you don’t have any female friend?”
“Of course, I do have a few female friends.”
“Which means you have more than one concubine?”
“Of course not!” I almost shouted that out.
She looked at me the way a prosecutor would look at a defendant during cross-examination before saying to the presiding judge, ‘That’ll be all for now, my Lord.’
“Ehm, you see, they are not exactly the same.” I added as an after-thought.
I could see that she didn’t see any difference between the two. I felt she wanted to say, ‘Daddy, just say yes or no’, so I continued, “In the case of the concubine, the man sleeps with the woman but that is not the case with mere female friends.”
I was praying silently that she would not take it further and, thank God, she didn’t. At ten, maybe she understood what it meant for a man to sleep with a woman. With all the television that kids now watch, who knows how much they know?
Now, Papa, it’s my turn to ask you: Did you actually have a concubine? I remember there was this woman who used to cook food and bring for us during the new yam festival. I remember too that you used to send us to give her some tubers of yam after sharing for my mum and my step mum. I knew all my aunties and I’m sure she wasn’t one of them. Was she just a mere female friend to you?
The phone rang. I jumped at the sound and the children burst out laughing.
‘Hello,’ I said cautiously into the phone, as if expecting to hear your voice. But it was Ehizele, my eldest sister.
‘Where are you?’
‘Good morning Sister, we are in the village.’
‘Didn’t I tell you not to go to the village?’
‘You did Sister, but……..hello, hello….’ The line was dead.
Sister (that’s what we fondly call her) was obviously cross with me for not heeding her advice. She had called earlier to inform me of the kidnapping of a tenant in her house in the village. I’m sure Papa you would remember him. He’s the doctor that used to treat you at home – the one from Benin City. The story was that he had been abducted and the kidnappers were asking for a ransom of five million naira. Yes, five million naira! I know this would sound very strange to you, but that’s what is happening in Nigeria today. It started in the Niger Delta, where militant indigenes decided to initiate a way of compensating themselves after waiting in vain for the government to meet their demands. They wanted to be compensated for what they called the plundering of their resources and exploitation of their means of livelihood through the exploration activities of multinational oil companies operating in the region. They started abducting expatriate oil workers and extracting huge ransoms from their employers. It soon graduated into the kidnapping of political opponents and their relatives, children and other family members of wealthy citizens, people residing abroad who visit home on holidays, and anyone who appeared to be a soft target for extortion.
The government’s clampdown on these activities in the Niger Delta region forced the syndicates and other criminals who soon joined them to relocate to other towns and cities, and even university campuses. I once penned some lines from my random thoughts about the phenomenon:
Meet my friends:
All honourable men and no fiends,
Who ply a noble trade
For which they bear no shame.
They say justice is their aim
Their leading lights were quenched for the same
Harangued and hanged but around in minds
Fighting fiercely and fearlessly for free lease
To treasures divinely deposited in their fields.
Now they must play their harmless game
of hide and seek
And if in it they find some gain
So be it!
My sister’s concern for our safety was quite genuine and well appreciated. But how was I to explain to the children that we wouldn’t be going to see their grandma for fear of being kidnapped?
Papa, I know you will find all this hard to believe. You knew about ‘419’ or ‘Yahoo Boys’ who fraudulently obtain huge sums of money from unsuspecting and, often, greedy victims. Did I tell you about my experience with these fraudsters when I was teaching at Western Boys’ High School Benin City? I don’t think so.
I used to do kabu kabu with my two-door Nissan Cherry car from Benin-City to Ekpoma early in the mornings before going to teach and also in the evenings after closing. One day, I picked two young men who told me they were students of Edo State University. Attempts to get more passengers failed as it was still very early and I was cautious not to be caught by the agberos patrolling the Ramat Park area in search of interlopers on their territory. A previous experience with them was not palatable and I had learnt to avoid their wahala. So, I left with just two passengers with the hope that I might get a full load on the return journey.
On getting to Iruekpen, about a couple of kilometres before their stated destination, they begged me to take them to their uncle’s house to collect a parcel before dropping them off at the campus gate. I obliged them and on arrival they invited me inside, ostensibly to introduce me to their uncle and commend my kindness to him. It turned out, as they told me, that the so-called uncle was not at home. But they proceeded to show me a shiny aluminum box containing what looked like blank currency notes…….
To be continued.
What happened next? Find out in the next part…..coming soon!
Meanwhile, you may follow the link below to see other aspects of my sojourn, captured in the recently published book OLD SCHOOL.
Order your copy from the location closest to you via this link: http://www.newsplus.ng/old-school-now-available-near/
Or get a soft copy at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PGRB14Y/ref=mp_s_a_1_6…
GOD BLESS YOU.