Friday, 20 October 2017


“Mummy, for months now, he has been acting up strangely. As if something is really wrong somewhere and it’s so painful I cannot wrap my hands around it. Firstly, he abruptly resigned from his lecturing job for God knows why, and for months ma, he was jobless. He had a lot of offers from public and private universities both here and abroad. You know he studied Crop production and processing…” she gave an inquisitive look, “I mean, teaching has been my husband’s life and passion all along, even before we got married. How the whole table turned so much so that he preferred remaining jobless to picking up a lecturing offer still beats my imagination. He was like that for several months until God started favouring him with contracts from this new administration. In fact, I don’t understand anymore, He’s like a shadow of himself these days” Udale explained with teary voice.
She was shaking like a chicken beaten under the rain. She was scared of a force that seems to be pulling Matthew away from her by every passing day and the most scary is her helplessness in the face of all of these. It’s quite unfortunate she personally had no privilege of motherly care right from infancy: Her parents, Baba that is and her mother got separated two years after she was born. Mama couldn’t live with Baba anymore because of reasons she referred to as ‘personal’. It had taken her mother five years after the birth of Ugbede, to give birth to Udale. Udale is so called as the full name is actually Ojodale which means ‘God vindicates’. So many mouths had begun to run, like defected pipe-borne water, regarding Mama’s inability to give birth to more children and Baba was even admonished many times to take another wife. Though Baba refused heeding their advice and kept holding onto faith alongside his wife, Mama felt it was being cruel on her own side to live rent free in the house of a man she has been unable to give ample number of children as she would have loved to. That was how Mama left the house, leaving her little children behind. No one has been able to correctly tell what became of Mama after she left the village up until now.
Ever since then, Baba has been everything to Udale and Ugbede her elder brother. While growing up, Udale knew and was aware of practically all the stress Baba and her brother went through to take her through the nursing school that brought her to the level she is today. Although, so many times since their marriage, Matthew had his way of making her feel incompetent at everything altogether, especially being aware of the fact that she grew up with a single parent. He is the prim and proper kind of man, while she is the hyperactive go-getter and that has caused the both of them some harsh argumentative periods. One of them would have to step down humbly at one point or the other, only then can they reach a timely conclusion on vital issues and Matthew being the calmest did the stepping down more often than not. This recent drift she was beginning to feel however, was really much more than the case of individual differences. It sure feels much more than that.
“Udale, you have to be friendly with yourself even more now. There is nothing to fear in the face of our God. Jesus is on top of it all…” Pastor Lydia started out with scripturally backed up words of encouragement. Haven listened to Udale’s explanation about her husband’s deeds, she felt obligated to put a call through to him. Even after Matthew was called in Udale’s presence, she still held on to her own firm belief and that’s exactly what is getting the fair elderly woman, Pastor Lydia, the wife of the senior pastor of Kingdom Destiny Ministries, confused. She has been Udale’s mother and mentor ever since she lived with them the brief period after her graduation. It was a tough time trying to reinstate self confidence and self-esteem into the then young girl that struggles and poverty had made her lose her identity in a quest to finding herself. She didn’t know what she was worth; despite her mental prowess fetched her close to an automatic job, she still had doubt in herself and whether her life was going to make any sense or just be as irrelevant as it were. Pastor Lydia was instrumental to her marrying Matthew who was then a vibrant and dedicated brother in the church. Everything about the young couple was so rosy in the first few years but it seems the storm that had hit their ship is bringing Udale back to the state she used to be so many years ago. Pastor Lydia got up from her seat and walked over to sit beside Udale who only left her bulky self, scattered on the rugged floor. Udale’s legs were placed on the transparent glass centre table while her back leaned against the chair behind her.
“I need you to pull yourself together Udale, it isn’t the time to cry yet” Pastor Lydia patted her back lovingly as she said those words. Udale could not say anything, she has always known her susceptibility to tears whenever she talked about anything causing her so much pain. She had been crying since she was done lamenting, she hopes keeping quiet would reduce the pain.
“He makes those statements Ma, and you just know he’s sincere but the crazy part is that he would joke about it being a joke.” Udale said
Pastor Lydia started nodding her head in the affirmative,
“When I showed pastor the text you sent to me last night, he called Matthew during the early hours of this morning and he maintained his statement about taking another wife was out of anger and that you were the one that stretched him beyond limits.”
“I knew that would be his response yet he said nothing to me before heading out for Lokoja today with his pregnant mistress” Udale interrupted before drawing a long hiss- Mtcheew.
“No!” Pastor Lydia cut in, clapping her hands quickly, “…don’t say wrong things from your mouth Udale because you are sad and angry. We both know that other woman is not his pregnant mistress, he already explained things to you.” She continued rebuking her while Udale dropped her head and just let the tears flow out freely.
“I don’t know what to think anymore mummy! The pregnant lady yesterday was so innocent. In fact, a devilish mind asked me to pour peppered water on her face, but on getting to the sitting room and seeing she was still greeting me, even after I snubbed her earlier on, was quite thrilling. I didn’t expect that though but I’m not one given to pretence. I couldn’t pretend as if I was fine and accept her hug just like that. I left them and walked out of the house… I needed to clear my head. Whatever she ate and how she settled in to sleep was not part of my business…” Udale said in frustration, “…I need to know the other wife he is taking. Lemme know who my replacement would be. At least, I have every right to know…”
Pastor Lydia got up, dragged down the squeezed edges of her chiffon dress before moving a bit from where Udale sat,
“Well, some men have wives they never married” she said on a note of finality.
Udale felt like something hit her and immediately wiped her face with the back side of her hand, she didn’t understand what her spiritual mother just said. “Wife. Wife? Some men? Wife they never married?” she muttered to herself as though she wanted to totally absorb the elderly woman’s statement
“Mummy, what do you mean by some men have wives they never married? How can they be wives if they weren’t married?”
Pastor Lydia turned back to face her with eyes carrying further statements waiting to be spoken.
Matthew maintained a stern face even as Hon. Joshua Umoru walked past him to his seat. Back at Marist Brothers Ejule, where they both were secondary school mates, Josh, as he is often referred, had a great drive for politics. Everyone, especially Matthew who was his best friend knew about it. Josh continued through to Kogi state university where he obtained a Bachelor degree in Agriculture, pursued a lot of degrees and special courses both home and abroad. He had said, all those certificates were because of his political ambitions as he needed to have more than enough qualifications before the day opportunity would present itself. And the day really met him on the right ground. Though, his dream exceeds here, it was still wise to start up his political career from the level of a state commissioner for Agriculture. His appointment into this office by extension has been more or less an answered prayer to his best friend Matthew.
“See Mat, you can continue to run but you definitely cannot hide…” Josh started, bringing Matthew who looked very far away from the expansive office back.
“Clap for yourself Josh. She thinks there is something between Angela and I” Matthew replied in a subtle voice mimicking an attempt to clap his hands. Whether it was the voice or the statement, Matthew couldn’t really place what was so funny and made Josh laugh that loud. He continued looking at his friend with utmost astonishment and Josh knew better than to continue laughing with the stern glance he got.
“I’m sorry! I mean? Boyega’s wife can be an actress. That’s the issue with marrying all these American-bred ladies. She almost made me think she was crushing on me at a time with the way she behaved… Like she was seducing me right in front of her husband…” Josh started and had to pause as it was Matthew’s turn to let out a hysteric laughter.
“I remember that time you were just worried about what would become of our friendship with Boyega if his wife pushed you to herself that hard” Matthew commented, still laughing.
“Mehn! I haven’t seen such a lively and dramatic girl in the entirety of my adulthood. I don’t blame Udale for worrying. In fact, I would have been surprised if she didn’t.” Josh said with all sense of certainty.
Matthew swallowed,
“Well, I have a greater problem to worry over than her right now. Somebody has to leave, Josh.” Matthew said
“Really? But why? Of all your irrational sides I have seen in years, I never envisaged you not wanting to give shelter to a poor little girl.”
Matthew took in a deep breath, “You don’t understand Josh, do you?”
Josh calmed down seeing his friend was saying deep things that felt hard to gain expression.
“It gets worse by the day.” Matthew added with his head dejectedly dropped to the ground.
Josh stared bug-eyed at him for many seconds,
“For real? Hmmm! Mehn! You are in on some long train bro.” Josh voiced out as he fell back into the back rest of the rotating seat unable to believe his ears.
Episode 13
“Oh I thought the brother that got us all agitated in the office last week lived with you?”
Udale smiled broadly at that cocky statement, pulling the curtain, “Why did you ask?”
“Because I was almost fed up with ringing the doorbell. At a point I thought no one was in this house and wanted to leave before the security man insisted I exercised some more patience” Jane responded while using her hand to feel the large framed picture of her matron on the wall. The sitting room is quite expansive and beautifully laid out with vase flowers of different colours and sizes littered everywhere. No one would have imagined the stern-looking matron ever loving anything romantic, let alone having flowers occupy the bulk of her sitting room. But here we are! It’s just like Jane’s father’s house, just as she likes it.
“Oh dear! Ocholi had gone back to school Jane, he schools at Federal University Lokoja… Fine arts.” Udale responded to the almost absent-minded lady who was more concerned about letting her eyes dart from one side of the room to the other than she was with the seat offered her.
“Wow, that’s great. I would pass if told he was a literate with the way he looked that day” Jane scorned without showing any expression whatsoever on her face, Udale tittered lightly before responding to her,
“Young lady, you saw he was overworked that day. You were there when he said the car had issues, right? Don’t come here teasing my husband’s younger brother.” Udale sounded the warning jokingly. With her first finger pointing in Jane’s direction, she continued smiling as those words escaped her lips.
“Oh…!” Jane exclaimed. She brought her palms together in a pleading manner as she spoke, “Oga’s brother? Matron, I’m sorry o, I didn’t know”
Udale laughed her air out at the young lady’s gesture. This is why she enjoys Jane’s company a lot sometimes; she is comic and very free, like she has no worries in the entirety of her life.
“It’s OK Jane, please it’s too early” Udale managed to voice out when she could finally catch her breath, “…and to what do I owe this August visit this beautiful morning? You should have called, what if I wasn’t in town?”
Jane smiled and relaxed into her seat, “We are not in August by my own calendar. Moreover, if I didn’t meet you, I will just leave a word with your gateman, that one is not a big something! We are missing you so much in the office and I wanted to pay you a surprise visit today” she said all these without breaking to breathe.
“Aww! That’s so thoughtful of you my baby! You know how boring leave can be for me. I was still coming to work those times to while away time, nothing to do at home plus Ocholi was here. Now, I have so much to attend to at the moment. So I would rather observe my holidays my dear” Udale explained.
Nurse Jane just kept smiling mischievously as she told the matron of her ordeals at the office over the past one week. The other nurses as usual disliked her, she had no one to run to whenever she read, saw or heard any exciting news and that practically translated her into a much needed state of partial dumbness inasmuch as keeping quiet for thirty straight minutes was the greatest punishment anyone could met onto her. She’s got to survive anyway especially throughout the absence of her beloved matron. Something struck her though. She knew something somehow was wrong with the matron sitting in front of her, judging from the way her eyeballs have dug deep inside as it’s characteristics of one who had cried her eyes out overtime, same applies to her voice. Her voice was coarse and husky, it must have cracked from the excessive litres of tears she had drained from her tear-bank, Jane thought within herself before gathering the boldness to ask the questions on her mind.
“Mummy, I thought you finally took out your holidays to rest yet you don’t look YOU, what has been happening?”
Whether it’s the question or the ‘mummy’ Jane calls her at times like this that causes shudders to run down her spine, Udale didn’t know. One thing she know is that she is always thrown off balance these days. Matthew hasn’t called her since he left with that pregnant woman last week. Yes. True. He will always spend a maximum of two weeks whenever he goes for the job at Lokoja and return to spend the next one week at home. He runs that type of circle and she has grown to get used to it, at least since it started. That was why she wasn’t expecting him last week and decided to bring Laibe till the unfortunate sudden appearance happened. As it stands now, she doesn’t know his schedules anymore - when or not to expect him. Gradually their communication level is drifting farther apart and for all the times she thought about it, she blamed herself solely for it.
‘Perhaps if I had a child for him, he would be excited to come home to me’ or ‘What right do I have to stop him from having mistresses anyway, when there is not a single child in this house to call our own’, these thoughts puts her mind into severe torture and at all those times, she scratches her hair so rigorously, perhaps she could scratch reality off her mind.
“I’ll be fine Baby! I have a thirteen year old to look after now and she is really some loads of work” Udale responded, trying to coin out a little smile around her lips. Deep within, she knew all the things wrong with her right now has Laibe as the least cause of it.
“Oh! Really? You never told me about it.” Jane replied sitting up.
Udale raised her left brow and lowered the other one. She couldn’t trace the location Jane was driving from at the moment; they both are not mates in any regard at all. In fact, if Udale like other girls at her time, had married, she should have a daughter older than Jane. The age gap is that wide and she is not particularly someone to discuss family issues outside, so she wondered why the young girl felt disappointed for not being told. Well, let’s cover it up, it’s a good thing someone cares, Udale admonished herself.
“I’m sorry about that. She is my late elder brother’s daughter. The day Ocholi came to the hospital was the day he went to bring her”
Jane immediately burst into a hysteric laughter and Udale continued staring at her vacantly while she laughed unable to decipher whatever was so funny in the last statement because even the heartless know that the mention of the phrase ‘late brother’ is not comic.
“No wonder you looked like you saw a ghost when Nurse Ephraim came to tell you that you had an urgent visitor. I’m sure you related it to the news I came with about the rampart kidnap of girls. Matron, Matron, you can fear sha!” Jane spoke out after she saw the displeasure on her matron’s face as touching her laughter. She rattled the ending part of her statement in pidgin English, hitting her right hand softly against Udale’s thighs.
The matron heaved a sigh of relief before smiling back at Jane,
“Yes dear, I had to be scared. One, I stubbornly sent to bring my niece against my husband’s stern warnings. I mean? What do I tell her grandfather and my husband? That the girl was kidnapped? Ojo kiko” she explained and gesticulated with her hands in saying ‘God forbid’.
Every one of the ordeals of that day now made sense to Jane with this recent information… or revelation as the case may be. It’s now quite understandable and justifiable the actions of her matron that day.
“My baby, what can I offer you? It’s almost noon, so you can take yam and scrambled eggs right? Or is it noodles? Children of this generation.” Udale asked and laughed at the little joke she cracked
Jane’s response was as though she didn’t hear any of Udale’s last questions, “Mummy where is she now and when do I get to meet her? Your niece, that is.”
Udale who was about to stand up earlier sat back to answer the questions not knowing in what order to start,
“Ok! I enrolled her into JS1 at Aleka Academy and she has started school since Monday, that’s the answer to where she is now. About when you will get to meet her… ehrmm… hmmm…” Udale stammered as she tried to wrap her head around the best answer to give regarding a perfect meeting time for her two foster daughters.
“It is time for break, not time to sleep”
“Maybe she is waiting for us all to leave so she could steal from our bags”
“No, my mummy said Villagers don’t steal, they only take what is theirs”
“Yes! They don’t steal, they only say ‘my name it is Laibe’ when asked to introduce themselves”
Everyone burst into loud mocking laughter as the little boy that said the last statement mimicked the scenario. They stood barely an inch away from where Laibe sat, two boys and two other girls. They were so close and spoke loud deliberately so much so that even if Laibe wore a headphone over her ears, she would still hear them loud and clear. These four group of students - Helen, Rita, Mustapha and Simeon as she heard others call them - had made life very unbearable for her since she resumed. Ocholi had paid and done the necessary registrations at the cashiers’ office and was permitted to leave as the teacher on duty would take over from there. That was how Mr Emma, who was the teacher on duty that Monday morning accompanied her to JS1B, the second classroom on the block to the left almost immediately one exits the administrative block. She heard the students greet ‘Good morning Sir’ as she followed behind the tall and fair teacher into the classroom and after he was done responding to their greetings, he asked everyone to sit down. Mr Emma announced that they had a new member in their class and he would love her to introduce herself to her mates. Laibe, up till now, wished that time never came. She became extremely nervous and her palms began to sweat as she rubbed them against each other with her very big school bag strapped firmly to her back.
“Introduce yourself to your classmates” she heard Mr Emma’s voice come through her ears again.
“I… My…” she started. As she stammered the beginning of her introduction, she felt impatient eyes staring at her. Their stares pierced through her skin and that doubled the original fear pendulum that was set rolling on her inside earlier. She swallowed and tried to calm herself before continuing, “My… my name… my name it is Laibe, Laibe Godwin”
Just when she thought she had successfully overcome fear and was expecting an applause or something, she watched the whole class roar in thunderous laughter. The laughter began like kick-starting a machine engine would. Someone, one of the biggest boys in the class named Kabir, let out a loud cough when the words were barely off her mouth and the others joined consecutively till the laughter circulated round the class like diffusing gases. She was left to feel like the ground could open up and swallow her from shame. She rolled her eyeballs to the side and saw how the tall teacher standing beside her was also struggling to lock his laughter deep within. She endured her world of shame for some minutes before the teacher gathered himself up to stop the students. They didn’t even heed his instructions till the cane in his hand landed angrily on the first table in the front row. Everyone sat up, those that had tears rolling down their cheeks from excessive laughter quickly cleaned it while they picked up the books that fled off their seats.
“The right thing to say is, my name is Laibe Godwin” Mr Emma corrected her introduction and made her repeat after him twice before offering her a seat. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, it was that same seat he hit some minutes ago, the first on the first row. As she walked over to take her seat, she felt eyes all over her, that type of stare when there is no freedom to laugh at all. That day has been her nightmare all the while. The only thing she had said in this class for the four days she’s been here was the edited version of her introduction whenever the other teachers asked. And as though it was a tradition or some form of modules operandi in this school, every single teacher that had taken her class since Monday had asked she introduced herself. She was grateful the teachers were not demanding anything other than her name. It was only the Business Studies teacher, Mrs Okigwe, that tried to press more into knowing other than just her name but when the woman saw the pleading helplessness on Laibe’s face, she let it slide and just carried on with her class.
Her aunty made lunch for her and packaged it in a lunchbox before driving her down to school this morning; she had taken over that responsibility after Ocholi travelled two days ago. Laibe misses her crush a great deal and the only memory left of him is what he showed, and later on gave her that afternoon they got back from the village. Laibe, however had some group of other bullies in the class who would cease her lunchbox during break, eat up everything in it and return an empty container back to her while these four students made mockery of her the whole length of the break time. She didn’t know what to do, she didn’t know who to report to. Even when she sees who to report to, as Mr Emma had told her to always report to him, how would she express herself? She had become dumb in class, not saying anything to anyone. Not as though she had nothing to say but then she lacked the best words with which to express herself and was afraid not to add more mockery lines to the ones she had earned already.
“Laibe is a bush girl… iya iya o”
The students started banging on her desk so she could raise her head up. She didn’t know what they wanted from her; they have taken her food and now she tries to just rest her head, she can’t do that as well? Why is everything in the Ankpa of her dreams turning sore for her? Perhaps she would be forced to report this unbearable one to Mr Emma but she hadn’t seen him since Monday. He obviously doesn’t take any subject in her class. Before she could say Jack Robinson, she felt one of the girls, Helen, pull hard at her hair. That’s painful; her hair though long and dark is very tough. So tough that at times, she dreaded passing a comb through it. She got up and the pitch of the song seem to triple. They followed her as she trudged towards the door in frustration. Her head was left dropping downwards, she couldn’t look at anyone of them, she just figured the direction of the exit in her mind and continued moving without looking. Just when she felt the whole class walking behind her, the voices began diminishing till she almost felt the everywhere become as quiet as a calm sea. She also felt feet running back to their seats with the tables sounding as it dragged on the cemented floor. Did a miracle happen? Laibe was confused but fear and shame didn’t let her raise her head up. Her uniform was already soaked in her own sweat and the maroon jacket made of wool, which is part of the uniform, didn’t help matters as well. She remained transfixed to the floor, perhaps whoever came in to save her from this agony and torture would eventually speak up, but no voice came through her ears. She imagined if it was the principal, or finally. maybe Mr Emma had come to her rescue again. Gradually, she admonished herself to gather courage and when she eventually did, she couldn’t believe her eyes as they popped out like large ShopRite doughnuts, stunned by who stood at the door of the classroom.
Episode 14
The principal didn’t know the best way to appease the extremely angered man standing before her. From the rigorous repeated wriggling of his hands and stamping of his feet hard against the rugged floor, even the blind would see that this man is greatly enraged. He had been raking right from the classroom and when the teachers around couldn’t curtail it anymore, they had to gently talk him into coming to the principal’s office to iron out issues.
The office, averagely spacious and coloured with lots of awards hanging on the walls, so much so that one would wonder how the barely twelve-year old school had achieved so much magnificent feat within that little space of time. Truly, it has. Owned by a British woman, the sophisticated Aleka Academy, Ankpa run with internationally standardized scheme of studies. A perfect blend of a white man’s idea with Africa’s beautiful and serene environment.
“You don’t tell me to be calm young woman!” Matthew yelled, pointing his first finger at the principal, Aunty Theresa, popularly called Aunty Tee “…Wait a minute! Is this how you let children bully one another under your watch? I am very, very disappointed in you all, very very.”
He pointed from the principal in front of him, to the teacher on duty and the form teacher of Laibe’s class standing behind him as he said the last part of ‘very, very disappointed in you all’. The other teachers courteously dropped their head to face the ground as he turned to point at them. Apart from his height and stature which is already intimidating enough as it were, the thunderous voice he waa out with made shudders run down everyone’s spine.
“We sincerely apologise sir. It is their break time and students should normally not be left in class, same applies to teachers. We, however, take it as a little act of negligence on our own part and we promise it won’t repeat itself ever again” Aunty Tee voiced with the little more confidence she could mutter. Her voice was unusually as calm as a still stream and even if a pin fell while she spoke, everyone would still hear it. At the same time, anyone listening to her would know she isn’t threatened, instead, she is being polite. What more is expected from the principal of such a large school?
The plight of the man that had bluntly refused to take the seat offered him in front of her was quite understandable and there was no sense in her trying to be defensive or playing the blame game at this point. Not with the type of tensed atmosphere the man had successfully created in the administrative block thus far, his voice literally shaking the foundations of the building. If truly what this guardian met today had been happening all along, she expected the poor girl who is the victim to come report. That’s how it is done. The school is very large, no doubt, but students had good rapport with their teachers including herself, in spite of her elevated position as the principal. The management board and staff try as much as it depends on them to create a homely and friendly atmosphere especially for the ‘Johnny Just comes’ – JJC, as the freshmen are fondly referred. Maybe the girl who is standing at the entrance to her office, looking as timid as a snail withdrawn into its shell, wasn’t in the know of all of this; which is close to impossible. The deed is done anyways and she should be humble and wise enough to clean the mess. Of course that was why the proprietress put her there as the overall eye.
“This poor girl was brought from the village barely a week ago. I was rest assured of the discipline and principled tenets of this particular school when my wife messaged me about it. I didn’t find it reasonable objecting to it, I still haven’t replied her messages. I’m just coming back from Lokoja for the first time in the last week and felt like dropping by to check how she is fairing in school, only to see this horrible sight. Her classmates ridiculing and making mockery of her…” he voice rose higher with every new word.
“We apologise deeply sir for the embarrassment. We are very sorr…”
“Sorry for yourself Young woman!” Matthew snapped, “…I’ll take my daughter away from here if this happens again.”
Laibe’s heart missed a beat when he heard her uncle’s statement. ‘Daughter?’ Did he just call her his daughter? Is her uncle accepting her stay in his house finally? Has he adopted her as daughter as her aunty Udale had always wanted him to? She smiled as those thoughts made her mouth feel as if it was filled with sugar. She crave for the love of at least a foster father in her life. She had only had a grandfather all along. Her father died when she was barely three in a ghastly motor accident on one of his trips to oba, a very large market where people from all over the state come to sell and buy things at cheaper prices. She remembered hugging him that morning and he promised to buy her usual - cheese balls, whenever he is returning. She stayed anticipating and waiting for her father in vain. It was the next day that an ambulance drove into Baba’s compound and some men requesting to see her mother and Baba. Laibe really didn’t understand much but seeing tears dropping down Baba’s face, she knew something horrible had happened. Her mother cried her eyes out, rolled on the mud floor as sympathisers tried to hold her down and stop her from injuring herself in the process. She was only three, all she did was hold on to her mother’s wrapper as if so as to prevent the older woman from leaving her too. A week passed and only then did she realise that her father was never going to come back with her snacks. She didn’t cry, maybe because she was a child, no one knows. She only jerks up whenever she closed her eyes to sleep; she would see her father’s ‘pick-up’ van over thrown and summersaulting at an extremely high speed into the bush. From that time onward, she dreaded cars of any form. For months she battled with sleep and fell ill over and over again as a result. Something inside her scares her. It scared her that cars would always kill one when people are at home waiting for you. In fact, only God can fathom the fear lit in her heart everyday she is being driven down to and back from school since Monday. Her heartbeat only normalizes when she steps down from the car. She had gone the past ten years without a father and if only her uncle can assume a father figure in her life henceforth she would be most grateful.
“The Js1 class is filled with children with different manners from their diverse primary schools, Sir. We are committed to instilling discipline, knowledge and culture into them within the shortest possible time Sir. We apologise for this particular event, Sir. It’s the first of its kind, I can assure you. We guarantee her of the best in this place, Sir. ‘For a better tomorrow’ is our motto.” Aunty Tee assured him, ensuring that the repeated ‘Sirs’ was heard clearly
Matthew didn’t loosen his face. He left it that way - tied, angry, and unwelcoming.
“We are deeply sorry sir!” The three teachers behind him apologised as well and at this point Matthew cautioned himself and heaved a sigh of relief.
“That would be all for now.” He said and got up. Laibe could not look up at her uncle in the eye. Apart from her small stature, she was burning with fear on the inside. She kept her face down and clung onto the door frame like she would penetrate it.
As her uncle moved towards the door, she didn’t know what to expect. Her heart was anticipating a hug. Like a father would embrace a long lost but found daughter. Would that be so much? OK, a smile at least. She had never seen a smile dance around his lips before. A smile should do. But she got none. None whatsoever. She only felt her uncle dash out of the office in a flash like a wave that almost swept her off her feet. She didn’t know if she felt like crying, after he left her standing there like that without a word, or not. She didn’t understand; the man never say anything to her, and right here that he is passionately defending her before her teachers, he still said nothing to her.
“Laibe… Lai…” The principal screamed from her seat.
“Ma!” Laibe jerked back from her thoughts.
“I have been calling you. What is on your mind?” Aunty Tee paused as though she needed a response and on a second thought continued, “…Who were the students mocking you in the class?”
Laibe kept staring blankly at her principal. Was she supposed to know the names of those students? Even if she did, would she implicate some other people’s children? She has always gotten used to taking blames, accepting others peoples’ faults and even going ahead to receive punishments on their behalves. She doubt if she would be able to point out any of them.
“Alright, you don’t know their names? Mr Jibrin, lead us to her class, she would surely know their faces when we get there. Those students must receive ample doses of punishment for bullying their new classmate.” Aunty Tee stood up, rearranged her dress and walked out of the office after Mr Jibrin. Laibe was the last to step out and if given the opportunity to say anything, she would beg Aunty Tee not to punish anyone on her behalf.
“Baba, number le le no” Omachoko told Baba that ‘the phone number he was dialling wasn’t connecting’ while handing back Baba’s handset to him. Due to the last scenario that almost rose Baba’s blood pressure – the rampant kidnap mantra- aunty Udale gave the old man some money while they were leaving to buy a phone no matter how small. Baba later sent Omachoko to go get him a handset, portable and affordable from Aloma. Because Omachoko had to use his old rickety bicycle to get down there (and the bicycle really showed how old it is by breaking down nothing less than three times), Baba could have easily sent Edogbanya since the latter worked there, but as it’s characteristics of the old man, his spirit seem to click with some particular people. Reasons best known to him as he never discloses. The Nokia3310 has been Baba’s saving grace for a week now, at least he gets to know the wellbeing of his granddaughter by calling Udale. Laibe’s voice over the phone sends shudders down his spine. His spirit is not at rest with Laibe’s stay at Ankpa yet he couldn’t raise any alarm. Udale is his only child left for Christ’s sake, she couldn’t harm her own little niece, would she? It didn’t seem so, at least up until yesterday morning when he last spoke with them. Udale said she was taking Laibe to school and that was a thing of joy to the old man. He had always known how Laibe wanted to go to school and be truly education. The number isn’t going through now, he may have to try later in the evening. The thought didn’t comfort him though. Omachoko followed the elderly man as he walked into the house from under the mango tree they have been standing. The strength of the network inside the house is always weak so one needed to step outside like this to get better and clearer reception.
Omachoko quietly took his seat on one of the old armed chairs beside Baba and just watched with astonishment how the old man effortlessly found his way around the house, considering that his vision grew dimmer by the day. Baba took his bowl of ofofolo and drank passionately from it before offering it to Omachoko. The young man collected it courteously and gulped some quantity down his throat before returning it onto the stool. One may not be able to categorically pinpoint why Baba liked the young man Omachoko, but this must surely be one of the reasons. Baba always see him as hard working – trying to maintain the legacy his father had left behind. Baba also see his younger version in Omachoko, except of course for the dreadlocks, and so accord him an undeserved level of respect.
“Baba, na lo t’Ankpa” Omachoko finally spoke up after minutes of deafening silence. He said ‘Baba, I’ll be going to Ankpa”. His fingers has been stroking his little chunk of beards tenderly all along as his mind ran over the best way to present this to Baba. He tried also to imagine Baba’s possible response and some likely questions he would ask.
Baba didn’t know if those words sank well in him or if his ears were deceiving him again. He sat up and turned in Omachoko’s direction. His eyes were blood shot and that somehow scared Omachoko. All the while the young man had been contemplating this decision, the only thing that worried him was how Baba was going to take it. They have grown closer in the past week and as its said that the aged gets to a point they become kids again wanting love, acceptance and availability, it wouldn’t be nice to get this close to his heart and dash off all of a sudden. Still, he wasn’t sure if that is the real problem. He waited till Baba gave a response which was a deep question, asking what his reason for deciding to go to Ankpa is. Omachoko tried in futility to enumerate cogent reasons that informed this decision to leave the village. He thought of using his new business idea as a reason but the fact is his large farm would suffer in his absence. Eventhough he had asked one of his cousins to look after it, everyone, however, know that none can take care of a property as good as its owner. Especially a skilled owner like Omachoko. That farm is his and family’s only source of livelihood. Why then is he contemplating abandoning it? Perhaps what he was going to do in Ankpa would improve the state of the farm… or would turn his whole life’s boat from the farming business altogether. He wasn’t sure. He had much plans as it were and the last statement of the old man that threw him off guard was when he asked if his decision to go to Ankpa had Laibe as its precursor. Omachoko swallowed deeply as he looked on at Baba. He didn’t know the best answer to give but surely, Laibe couldn’t have gone scot free after all.
Episode 15
They had to stop, to watch, as the gateman opened the huge black gate so as to enable Matthew’s Ford Endeavour drive into the compound. As usual, Udale felt her heart skip a beat again, instead of being elated that her husband had arrived after a week. He hadn’t told her prior to this time and the recent surprise stunts he had been pulling lately didn’t sit too well with her at all. Udale glanced over her shoulders and noticed Jane’s broad smile as her husband approached them. Whether it was his huge stature which became even more obvious in the brown suit he is wearing today or the intimidating walking steps he gently took towards them that necessitated such breadth of smiles, it beats Udale’s imaginations. She kept calm, praying silently that the young nurse wouldn’t try anything funny today. They both have had very good company since she’s been here and if not that she needed to go, Udale would have asked she stayed back or possible spend the night. Jane was young, she acted and thought so innocently like a child without worries. That’s Udale’s life’s dream - the day she would wake up and they would be absolutely nothing else to worry about any longer, not even her childless state.
“Matron, I know this is patron” Jane said, giggling excitedly. If she had lowered her voice just an inch more, Matthew who already was quite close to them wouldn’t have heard a thing. Udale quickly nodded in the affirmative as Jane almost threw caution to the winds. Frankly, the older woman know nothing about what was so much exciting to Jane. She was at the moment behaving like the typical ‘daddy’s little princess’ who leap for joy after finally seeing the daddy she had been expecting for a very long time.
“Good afternoon Patron” Jane greeted as soon as Matthew was at where they stood.
Matthew looked down at her from his height and was tempted to let out a resounding laughter at the ‘patron’ part of the greeting, he only allowed a dry smile dance around his face as he responded,
“Good afternoon, my dear girl” in a rather welcoming fatherly tone.
This was unexpected to his wife and she almost didn’t remember to greet before Jane’s over curious reactions got her back.
“Matron, aren’t you going to introduce Patron to me?”
Udale quickly cleared her throat and smiled faintly. “You are welcome Sunshine.” she said, giving him a light side hug before continuing. She hoped he wasn’t going to shun her when her brain asked her to attempt hugging him. They have collected harsh words to say to each other in the past fading months. In fact, the events last week, especially about the pregnant Angela, cumulated it all. He didn’t pick up her calls neither did he respond to her text messages since he left here, and the most hurting silence was that on the text bearing the information about Laibe’s enrolment into the prestigious Aleka Academy. Thankfully, he is matured enough not to create a scene before the young girl he should decipher was her junior colleague because of the uniform she is having on, even though it’s his first time of meeting her.
“Meet Ms Jane, former Patron Odaudu’s daughter” Udale said, watching Jane squeeze her palms in each other with head bowed as though she suddenly became a shy baby.
“Yes! So much resemblance” Matthew affirmed and stretched out a hand to her.
Jane took it courteously as the initial display of shyness seem to have vanished all of a sudden, “Most times I’m afraid because my father appears to know everyone.”
Matthew and Udale burst into laughter at that response.
“Of course, Philip Odaudu is a good man and one of the best chief nursing officers that hospital had ever had.” Matthew replied as soon as he was able to stop himself from laughing.
“Well, Mummy, your darling wife here is fast at his heels and would beat his records in no time from now. Isn’t that so Mummy?” Jane turned to face the smiling Udale. The question didn’t appear like a question with the way her lips turned at the sides to form an inverted U as she said ‘Mummy’.
“You are such a smart girl, I’m so pleased to meet you.” Matthew confessed and that made Udale look up at him to be sure she heard correctly. Her husband had become so closed up recently to everyone, like he was enclosed in a metallic box of some sort. Having and hearing him commend someone, especially that she is a young girl came strange through Udale’s ears.
“Thank you sir. But Mummy would only be pleased with me if I excused her and her husband soon enough…” the couple started another resounding round of laughter but Jane’s face was still expressionless. Udale wonders how the young lady does it sometimes – create and make everyone laugh while still wearing a straight face. Jane continued, without waiting for the laughter to die down, “…that said, I’ll be leaving now sir and ma. I’ll pop in some other time. Mummy, thank you for hosting me and for the boiled yam and mashed eggs.”
“C’mon baby! You are welcome anytime. I truly appreciate your coming” Udale expressed her sincere appreciations and Jane cowered lightly before stepping backwards.
“How are you going? Is that your car I saw outside beside the gate?” Matthew asked and Jane nodded her head up and down like monitor lizard.
Udale looked surprised as she saw the sincere concern on her husband’s face for the first time in a long while and as Jane walked briskly towards the gate, she arranged the order and format with which her discourse with Matthew would ensue.
“Baba called on my way…” Matthew interrupted her thinking while pressing down the knob of the entrance door.
“Hope all is well?” Udale asked, looking dazed.
Matthew shrugged as he walked into their large sitting room. “The old man should know the wellbeing of his only granddaughter right? I guess that was why he called. He kept saying your line wasn’t reachable…”
Udale tried to stop her head from looking for trouble where there is none. Having Matthew respond that receptively to Jane was one big testimony for her so that even when it looked like her ears heard him stress the part of ‘his ONLY granddaughter’, she admonished herself to let it slide. He has been the topmost on her list of prayer points lately, it’s as if God is beginning to answer her prayers and soften his heart.
“And if we are going to adopt Laibe as our daughter, then you should wake up to your responsibilities as her mother. She is being mocked and traumatised by her classmates” Matthew said, dropping the bag in his hand on one of the couches and heading towards the kitchen.
Udale who had lazily sank into the chair as soon as she entered the sitting room dragged herself up and followed Matthew into the kitchen. She didn’t understand his last statement. Laibe and her haven’t seen nor spoken to him for a week now, how come he knew about whichever classmate was mocking her.
“I saw your text on Monday so decided to drop by at the school on my way from Lokoja this morning. Thankfully, it was their break time and I was able to get the teacher on duty to lead me to her class after the security man at their gate had worried my soul out with loads of questions. I was embarrassed on getting to the entrance of her class to find her almost running off because some group of students were singing scornful songs for the innocent girl…” He bit his lips angrily, “I was so enraged. It took the persistent calming voice of their principal to quench the flaming fire in me. So annoying...” he let out a dry hiss.
Udale forgot her mouth wide open as her husband narrated the whole story while pouring himself cold water he picked up from the fridge into a tumbler.
“What!” Udale exclaimed involuntarily just when he sipped out of the water in his hand. Many things constituted that exclamation. One being that she didn’t imagine bullies still existed. The last time she heard of such was her own days in primary school, more so that Aleka Academy was a private school and not one of those public schools around where everyone takes law into his or her hands. Well, it’s quite understandable; those children making up the Js1 class came from different background – some from public primary schools and others from private ones alike - and those with vices would need to be dealt with so as to get rid of it. Secondly, it could only mean one thing if Matthew could drop by to check on Laibe. Thirdly and finally, he sounds like he is agreeing to adopting Laibe as his own, was that not why he used the word ‘our’?. All these lifted her legs with the speed with which they quickly flashed through her mind till she was in her husband’s arms. She leaned her head against his chest tiredly wrapping her hands around his waist.
Matthew held her with his right hand as the other one was still holding the tumbler.
“You scared me Sunshine!” Udale said in a sultry tone.
Matthew dropped the cup on top of the fridge and held her face up till his nose was touching hers. “I am so sorry Baby!” He responded. He calls her ‘Baby’ only at times like this when he is calm and in a good mood, otherwise, he calls her by her first name ‘Udale’.
Udale blinked shyly. “You acted so friendly and normally with Jane, even though you are meeting her for the first time today but you flared out on seeing Laibe. You didn’t even say a word to her up till now. To think that Laibe is just some months shy of thirteen, she is only a girl.”
Matthew withdrew from her and walked back into the sitting room saying “You will not understand” all the way through.
She stood for some minutes trying to imagine what was that unexplainable before going after him. Because the chairs were made of quality woods and other materials, it didn’t matter how weighty she was as she sat on the handle of the chair on which Matthew sat.
“Honey, you told me you wanted to take another wife.”
“And your craze started when you saw pregnant Angela, huh?” Matthew cut in on her, smiling teasingly as he used his hand to draw her soft cheeks.
Udale smiled, “Well, what would you rather a helpless woman do? My position was threatened because I have not given you any child and you gave me attitudes to back it up.” She wrapped her hand round his neck and jokingly threatened to suffocate him.
Matthew just kept grinning from ear to ear as he watched his wife play like the baby he used to know again. He had watched the young, soft and innocent lady he married many years ago harden by every passing day. At some points he feared she would become inhumane with the way she was going and her only source of worry has been this childlessness issue. He is not particularly disturbed about it. Of course, there are so many things calling for his worrying self at the moment but his wife never seem to understand that worry won’t form the agile sperm that would fertilize her. If only she knew what he knows.
“You may even be the architectural designer for the commencement of that relationship” he added quietly.
Alarm tried to sound on her head as she had few minutes to ponder on that ambiguous statement, she rather chose to rebuke it,
“There may have to be a cold day in hell that day then. I’ll rather die than arrange another wife for you Matthew. I love you that personally.” She said, bringing his head to come rest on her bosom. She meant what she just said even when it appears Matthew was only teasing her with that. She is not one to bring another woman for her husband to impregnate because of her inability to conceive. Moreover, the doctor haven’t categorically pinpointed who was responsible for this infertility. On her own side, she can claim to be hale unless proven otherwise. She hadn’t done anything harmful all her life, no abortion, no consumption of illicit drugs, in fact Matthew met her as a virgin so it couldn’t have been coming from her. Inasmuch as she also trusted her husband a great deal, his recent ‘you don’t understand’ language is making her to suspect him. She kept repeating ‘God forbid’ in her head as she moved his head on her bosom. She was nearly successful with that when the entrance door creaked and presented Laibe before them. They quickly sat up as she approached them. She was sweating profusely and her eyeballs look extremely worn out. Udale looked up at the wall clock. 2:45pm. Was it just her eyes? Laibe’s school uniform appear oversized on her this evening. Maybe, it’s been that way all along and she wasn’t keen enough to take note.
“Aunty, Uncle, go- good e-vi-ning” she stammered her greetings that way.
“Why are you home so early? I should come pick you up by 5!” Udale broke out in curiosity neglecting the young girl’s greetings and taking a glimpse at the wall clock for the second time. She knew the training Laibe will get in that school would be tremendous, it’s commendable enough she is greeting them in English in barely a week, she should gain good mastery of English in no time.
Laibe’s tension reduced when he saw her uncle smile in response to her greetings. A step forward. Maybe, he would find her worthy to be spoken to very soon. Her shivering palms were firmly interlocked in one another as she squeezed them. Perhaps, it was what happened that was so inexpressible for her or she had issues with how best to present it again. No one could understand exactly what went through her mind as she stood before them with confusion wrinkling her face.
To be Continued...


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