Ola Daniel: Nkechi The Pepper Seller

November 16, 2003, I was posted for my NYSC and Adetoun, my ‘angel-turned-sister’ as I fondly call her, wasn’t too happy it was to one of the States in the East. But I had no choice than to serve my father land. After 3 weeks, I was officially posted to a clinic at the outskirt of one of the remote villages in the State. Bachelor’s life wasn’t easy though, but I had to cope. I had to struggle between work, washing, sleeping, seeing friends, and annoyingly; cooking. ‘Cooking’- actually the times I didn’t eat at the canteen, I cooked Indomie. I really wished I had a lady that was helping out with the cooking. May be that was what brought me to my fate.

It was a sunny Saturday and I had nothing doing. I was chronically bored. It was in this loomy mood that I heard a lady hawked pepper. The catalyst that moved me off my bed is still to this moment a mystery. I swiftly dashed out and saw the lady; may be in her twenties. I was totally in awe of her beauty and the melodies in her specially trained hawking tones. I beckoned at her and then…..actually, I ignored the sprinkles of beards that were pointing at me, even though they were somewhat competitions with my ‘a-year-yet-not-grown’ beards and in my tribe, only a witch has beards. I muttered quietly “that’s my future wife, and that’s what matters to me”. I steered into her eyes for minutes and then still in the euphoria of my ‘wonderland’, ‘ignoringly’ she said “brother, why you dey look my eyes sote you con open your mouth yagada? You wan make fly enter am”

That broke the silence and startled my confidence for a while. I was left in a persistent vegetative state. Just lifeless! I had to change the ‘topic-to-be-discussed’ and sheepishly eulogised the redness of her pepper, as much as the tenacity she displayed while hawking it. She practically watched me displayed my unpremeditated ‘madness’, then she said “Oga, you wan buy pepper?!” I wittily said yes without thinking and I dipped my hand into my pockets and found nothing but a squeezed paper which I felt its hardness while my hand was still wandering about. I knew I had ridiculed myself in front of a village pepper seller.

She steered at me like a hunting ghost in search of its murderer and I had to cover up my stupidity by feigning complete ignorance of the disappearance of the money. I took the giant of faith and removed my hand with the hard paper but what I saw indeed saved my ass. It was a ₦500 note I had mistakenly washed with the trouser. It was nothing but a miracle. I confidently bought all the pepper on her tray and demanded to know where she resides to contact her whenever I need to get some pepper. She obligedly took me to her place and gave me her Econet number. My unnecessary constant visits at her place spoke loud my real intention and we could discuss any issue- and I mean any issue. It was always fun being around her and couple of times, her uncle who lived a distance away visited her. Guessed she must have explained to him how much I loved her and my marriage proposal. He suddenly became friendly and accommodating. They were fond of calling me “Docki” and she was given open permission to visit me at my rented apartment.

Oh, I forgot to tell you she didn’t complete her studies at the Technical School, but I loved her the way she was.

On one of the visits, she was engrossed with my mouth-watering-tongue-licking stories of the life I live in Lagos and my utmost intention “to marry a respectful Ibo girl”. Something led to something, we smooched and smooched and then……..and then nothing happened.

A month after our divinely orchestrated meeting, I completed my Youth Service program, then myself and Nkechi moved to Lagos, where I immediately got attached to a well-paying Hospital. Two months later, we walked down the aisle not minding the ‘beard’ and her being an orphan who incidentally was a dropped-out due to her paralysed perpetual fixation on the financial wheelchair.

The wedding was “not-too-elaborate-but-spicy” as one of my colleague once opined. Nkechi’s uncle was unable to come down to Lagos for the wedding on the basis that he was sick and “bla bla bla bla bla”. Anyways, that’s by-gone now.

Six months later, Nkechi was delivered of a baby girl. I thought the baby came to life earlier than expected but with no complications. Nkechi’s uncle sent a congratulatory letter and included the baby’s proposed name Nkem, “just to honour Nkechi’s deceased parents’ wish”; and we actually did respected their wish.

It’s been a decade now but we’ve been struggling with the persistent decay of Nkem’s health. August 14, 2010, she was officially diagnosed a Sickle-Cell Anaemia patient. I thought through the Report and couldn’t logically reconcile how the combination of ‘AS’ and an ‘AA’ could possibly result into a ‘SS’. I was an ‘AA’ until I read Nkem’s series of medical test results. “Was?”-no, I’m still.

That was our fate stormy fate until Nkem was at it again and the medical personnel requested a blood transfusion and a DNA test. Nkechi had to stay back at the Hospital and then I came home for some running-rounds. I took the test result home that night, shovelled in into our family medical file in my wife’s wardrobe and then the next thing I saw was…………………………….

Nkechi’s uncle’s medical test report during his ailment 10 years ago was part of the documents in the file. Never knew her uncle was a Rheumatic, and he didn’t look like one. I had to return the things I moved out of the wardrobe and then a paper flipped off.

It was a letter for Nkechi from her uncle congratulating her for the safe delivery of “our daughter”, how it wasn’t easy for him to let go of “my belle for that Docki boy” and how “he believe am say I be your uncle true true”.

I was stunned but I needed more confirmation. “Wait, what more confirmation?”, I inquired but since there was no one to answer my question, I rechecked the medical report belonging to her uncle, and then he was an ‘AA’. That explained Nkem’s mysterious genotype.

I felt like strangling myself and was unbecoming for some minutes. At least I felt like injecting Nkechi with a Mitochondrial toxin.

Don’t bother about the name, it’s a poison.

In the midst of the horrible ‘feelings’, Kelvin coughed in his room from his sleep, I rushed down there and then the thought streamed quietly in, “whose is Kelvin? Mine or Uncle’s?

 

Joseph Udofia: My NYSC Experience (Part 1)

THE DIGNITY OF THE SCHEME

The stamping of footsteps during parades, the early morning drills, the regimented schedules among others, were the hallmark of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Camp. The training, administered by highly disciplined soldiers strives at instilling a high level of discipline into members of the NYSC. One can only expect that Corps Members discharge their 11- month long duties with the highest level of discipline and dignity.

However, a few months after discharge from the 3-week long Camp, this dignity is called into question.

Corps Members, often called “Corpers”, seen as a Paramilitary organisation should command a lot of respect – The type bestowed upon soldiers. In some cases, this is true. In my Place of Primary Assignment (PPA) for example, the Uniform means you get to ride on motorcycles across military check Point while others get to push their motorcycles across the check point. The uniform invites salutes from members of the Community, amidst chants of “Corper, Corper” from all angles. The uniform means your employer can trust you to deliver when called upon to do so. The uniform means you are a government property and if anyone dares lift a finger against a you, a battalion of soldiers will be at your doorstep in seconds – well that is the general saying. In some other communities, the uniform is nothing more than a covering.

In some communities, corps members are seen as government property in a different light, like many government controlled schemes – abandoned and neglected. This translates to reduced fares, lifts and some free gifts which are not necessarily dignifying. Corps members go as far as standing on highways, putting themselves in harm’s way in search of lifts from strangers, to their destination. Worse still, Corpers turn themselves to bootlickers, paying unsolicited courtesy calls to important dignitaries in the community, in a bid to eat the crumbs from their table.

I partook in the electioneering process that brought in the present administration. While the process was adjudged free and fair, it could have been fairer. In the build up to the elections, several political parties held meeting with Corps members, who were to be Presiding Officers for the elections, doling out tens of thousands of naira, to swing results in their favour. As the adage goes, he who pays the piper dictates the tune.

The dignity of the scheme is also called into question due to the ridiculously low stipends paid as monthly allowances to corps members. N19,800 an amount, considered too low to sustain Corpers for a month, forces members to engage in illegal activities just to make ends meet. While I took on teaching jobs to increase the size of my pocket, it wasn’t unusual to see Adejobi Adeola, switch names to Barinedum Koate in order to be enlisted to partake of the N600,000 given out by Shell Nigeria to every indigene of the Bodo and B/Dere Communities of Ogoniland, as compensation for oil spillage.

The NYSC Officials are not left out. In my PPA for instance, the Local Government Inspector often handpicked females to be the Corper Liason Officer (CLO). The reason was not far-fetched. The Local Government Officials and powerful members of the community usually need a little booty-shaking to stir them to support the Corpers financially. While every corps member reported to the Local Government Council on NYSC uniforms, our beautiful CLOs appeared in erogenous garments. Well who knows, maybe they are not erogenous, just maybe I need to keep up with the latest fashion trends.

While some others have defied this terrible trend and truly upheld the dignity of the scheme, a lot need to be done to preserve the scheme from being brought to disrepute. My senior colleague at my PPA painted the school in 2013, a colleague and I set up a Reference Library, a junior colleague plans to donate computers to the school among others. People in other places are making positive contributions in other to preserve the motto of the scheme – Service and Humility.

The dignity of the scheme is under threat and a lot needs to be done to address these issues before it is too late. A stitch in time they say, saves nine.

 

Hamza Fetuga: Book Review of Khaled Hosseini’s “And the Mountains Echoed”

I’ve heard a lot about Khaled’s books. From friends to goodreads.com and finally Quora, I was awash with tales of how great his books are, so I decided to give it a spin. I purchased two of his books, And the Mountain Echoed and the Kite Runner earlier this year; and I’m glad I did.

And the Mountains Echoed is an exceptional story about two Afghan siblings, Abdullah and Pari, who lost their mother when Pari was born, and had to survive under underwhelming conditions in a village called Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, a very hardworking man, would do anything, ranging from digging of wells, to menial work at construction sites, just to make ends meet for his family. He cared dearly for his children and made a good storyteller. Every night, his kids would look forward to hearing a bedtime story, often to get disappointed because he was usually tired from the day’s toil.

When Pari was two years old, she was sold to a wealthy family in the flourishing capital, Kabul for an arguably worthy cause. Her father wanted Pari to be educated and lacking nothing. Saboor’s brother-in-law, Nabi who worked as a chef at the Wahdati’s was responsible for brokering the deal. His intentions however were rather questionable.

Nabi was awestruck and in love with his boss’ sterile wife, Nila. The Wahdati’s marriage was strained and dysfunctional up until the moment Pari came in their lives. Prior to this time, Nila would spend several hours chatting with Nabi, who drove her around the city, and was fully aware of all her sexcapades. Pari’s arrival heralded a rekindling in the marriage life of the Wahdati’s and subsequently, Nabi lost all the attention he previously enjoyed and craved for.

Meanwhile, Abdullah had left his father’s village shortly after Pari’s departure as he didn’t feel whole anymore. The firm bond between his sister and him had been broken overnight — unannounced and unanticipated, and unfortunately, he couldn’t do anything to stop it.

As the story unfolds, Mr Wahdati fell terribly ill and suffered from paralysis. Nila couldn’t keep up with her nagging mother, endless influx of visitors into the house and especially, taking care of Mr Wahdati’s needs. Hence, she fled to Paris with Pari who was still very young, never to return again, leaving Saboor to cater for Mr Wahdati. In spite of the monotony and arduousness of the task, he stood by Mr Wahdati till the last of his days.

With the overthrow of the government of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the country deteriorated and Kabul had its fair share of the ruin. The once-elegant house of the Wahdati’s deteriorated as the war wore on, though Nabi managed to maintain its interiors. Nabi later found out Mr Wahdati had been in love with him from the day he was recruited. After Mr Wahdati’s demise, Nabi refused to remarry. He highlighted his clearly-thought-out reasons, which raises questions on what people look out for in marriages or companionship.

With the influx of humanitarian Aid workers into Kabul, there was a high demand for housing. Nabi generously gave out the house to Dr Markos, a plastic surgeon, and his colleagues. The story of Dr Markos and Thalia, his childhood friend, is another sweet tale of undying love- one that isn’t deterred by distance or facial beauty. The doctor was greatly responsible for connecting Pari to her roots by carefully following Nabi’s instruction before his death. This eventually led to the reunion of brother and sister amidst bursts of emotions

Reading this book, I got a picture of the happenings during the Afghan war and the role the Taliban played. Khaled spices the story up with various important aspects of Afghan culture ranging from the food, their language (Farsi) and their poetry. The poetry was highlighted when Nila once said

“Even your graffiti artists spray Rumi on the walls”

Earlier in the book, there was a brief scene where two schoolboys were trying to woo teenage Pari’s stepmother’s sister with some catchy lines from Rumi’s large collection of poems.

I swear, since seeing your face, the whole world is fraud and fantasy,
The garden is bewildered as to what is leaf or blossom.
The distracted birds can’t distinguish the birdseed from the snare

Another important thing Khaled did was highlight the human part of war-torn Afghanistan. Amidst all the fighting, I could sense the disconnect between the average people, and the Afghan government and their supporters. Virtually all characters in the book who were in Afghanistan during the war were victims, leaving me with the impression that the war wasn’t a true reflection of the grievances of the common people. While reading, I had to pause severally to ponder or argue certain seemingly sincere actions carried out by different characters. Several philosophical arguments are highlighted in this book.

I was marveled by how palpable Khaled’s descriptions of old age were. It made me spend time imagining how people come to terms with the fact that they’re aging and certain parts of their minds and bodies were getting vestigial.

Overall, it was a super amazing experience. Awesome story told through great writing. Definitely my best book this year so far.

Rating: 9.3/10

Ola Daniel : My Sold Selling Point

 

Not again! He just left the kids and i without even uttering a word as to his where about. Most probably, a third party would have thought he vexingly left the house due to his perpetual complaint of ‘it’s better not to add salt! Is your hand salty?!!’

He forcefully smashed the door of his car and drove angrily without minding the wailing cute chick being crushed by his car with its blood and intestine irritatingly on the cemented ground.

July 7, 2007 was indeed a day to remember. I personally call it the ‘7th’ or better still the ‘perfection’. We had been dating for 6 faithful years and that special day made it the 7th year. Can you now see how special that day was? It was indeed a ‘sweet’ day, at least for me.

I hurriedly packed some of my newest outfits and I was sure I didn’t forget my sexy spaghetti dress. I was sure I was going to ‘give it to him hot’. I had always been keeping ‘it’ for so many years and I had concluded I was going to give my ‘husband’ the next second after my wedding ceremony. But this time around, i was sure the old cherished vow was broken in my heart even before I left my house that day. The thought of ‘how would it be, would i enjoy it?’ was anxiously in my head throughout the journey.

That night, i was more than happy i gave my body to the ‘love of my life’; at least he was my husband-to-be. He had always been demanding for it; so that night, it was a golden jackpot for him. But for me, it was a sweet sensational experience!

The relationship became sweeter and fulfilling as he was always fond of being around me; wouldn’t know if it was a show of greater degree of his love for me, or because we always end up sweating on one another. We were never concerned if the love was genuine or not, but we were sure the affection was vividly overwhelming and we wanted nothing but to walk majestically to the exalted altar. Was the altar really exalted or we were the one exalted?

Five months after our ‘heaven-on-earth’ wedding, my sweet home turned sour and I could only imagine if I were a destitute in my own home. He makes great details of minute deeds and harshly reacts as if I were a slave in his ‘kingdom’. When I cook, instead of receiving a romantic peck, I get pecked as if he were a vulture. He shuns every avenue for us to have deep talks and only visits my ‘world’ whenever his mood doesn’t give way to throwing some cash at any of his numerous whores. I became a relegated slave and a ‘nonentity’ entity in my own home. He suspects every of my moves and checks my phones on daily basis to see if there is any ‘advance’ from guys. The most annoying was when he came from his office on a certain Friday. I already planned to make sure he smiles at me that day. I set the dinner table with different delicious cuisine; arranged his wardrobe; laid the bed, arranged his shelf and of course worn my sexy night gown. As i was moving close to give him a warm hug, i received the hottest slap of my life and i felt like peeing inside my sexy night gown. He pushed me and shouted ‘You are shameless! You’ve been having sexual affairs with Saka!!’

Please don’t tell me you are thinking it is Saka of the MTN I don port advert? He said. I was stunningly surprised with my mouth agape. I’m sure you don’t still understand what was going on. Saka is our…our…Saka is our ‘mallam’ Gate man! I was mad at hearing this allegation, but i was feeling too demeaned to even utter a word. I couldn’t hold it any more when he said ‘you have no value!’. I wondered for days to get the conceptual analysis and deep meaning of the words ‘no value’. Two weeks later, uncle Akin visited and i hurriedly dashed into the kitchen to prepare the breakfast. I was about coming to the living room when I noticed a quick change in their topic of discussion. ‘Did I just hear my name’? I had to hide behind the door to get a flint what was going on. Uncle Akin inquired why my husband treats me ‘that way’ and he whisperingly replied, ‘uncle, that woman gave herself too cheap to me before our wedding. If she could give herself to me without waiting until we were married, then she can be giving it out to anybody that cares to taste it’. I realised he lost trust in me the moment I gave my virginity to him before our wedding. It was then it dawned on me the beautiful nonsense i did. I thought I did him good, but 7th July, 2007 took away my real joy. I wish he is still begging to have my virginity! I have no choice than to live in perpetual damnation and boredom, consciously awaiting my earthly grave.

This writer tweets from @dkingschamber

Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo: Best Served Cold – Episode 10

He scratched his head, cusp his face and stood for the second time that evening. I had never seen him so disturbed. He was always calm. ‘I think I might be partially responsible for his disappearance. I think I triggered it by writing him that cheque’  ‘What cheque?  I wrote him a cheque of 500 million to open an endowment account for your kids. I totally didn’t consider it as important when he was kidnapped. It didn’t even occur to me to check if the money was ever lodged into an account in his name’  Mama looked at him as if he was uttering some vulgar words not expected of a man of his age. I could hardly believe my ears. My Dad bought a husband for his dearly beloved daughter. And the hired husband duped his supposed father in law. What can I say?  Was he ever in love with me? I asked. ‘Shouldn’t the money have simply been an extra motivation? You cannot claim to love a woman and then be wicked enough to dupe her father and dump your own family. But I knew Mama could not have been that callous so I didn’t bother asking her if she and her family were part of the scheme. There are people who prefer to live with what they have and be happy and Mama and her husband are a perfect example of that; and there are people who are so poor the only thing they have is money.  “Haaa, haaa, haaa, haaaa! I heard Mama wail.

I gawked at him as he recounted the pains of the past. Indeed, the old man had gone through a whole lot and I again had a clearer view of why he had to do what he did for Gboye.  ‘Jide called me today. Sandra is marking her birthday her 50th birthday this weekend and Moyo, your sister is getting married by the end of the year. She is getting married to Gboye…..  .  .  .  .  .

How does a son ever think such callousness is the best repayment for good parenting?  I thought of how best to have my pound of flesh on Gboye despite the fact that he is the father of my son. We were all lost in our different thoughts when Mama said ‘Olagboye has not had his bath, let us attend to the one what we have and mourn the absconding son later’  The ritual of bathing Olagboye and Daddy rocking him continued even though he was now about three years old. It was while bathing Olagboye that Mama brought up the issue again. I was sitting on the edge of the bed preparing Olagboye’s clothing with Mama bathing him when she brought up the issue again.  ‘What are you going to do? Even with a long distance between us, I could see tears in her eyes.  ‘I don’t know. What I know for sure is that he doesn’t deserve any of us, if he won’t call to tell us what made him leave us all and in the circumstances he did’  ‘Adenike, he is your husband. Don’t you want him back?  Mama, if I didn’t know all these things I now know, I will do anything to have him back in my arms but then Mama, how will I live with such a person every day. How can I wake up on the same bed with him every morning knowing full well he is nothing but a charming chameleon?  ‘I understand my daughter’ she sighed. ‘But what could have made him do it? If there was ever a lesson his Father rang in his ears, it was that you must not earn money from dubious means’  ‘I know that Mama, I know you and all I see radiating from you is virtue inspite of your circumstances. Each day I see pride in your eyes, only that it is pride for what you have earned by working honestly with your hands. I cannot understand how he could have done this. He told Dad he needed to cater for Anuoluwapo, Olatumise and Iretiola but he abandoned them too. He is a charming chameleon, a very charming one’ I concluded.

We waited for over a year before we heard from Gboye again. It was Emeka who tracked him down and told him of the responsibility he left behind in Nigeria. When Emeka told me this over the phone, I complained he shouldn’t have bothered but he said he had no peace of mind. He had to talk to the Organizers of the Uzbekistan Conference who gave him Gboye’s number. He called the next day after Emeka gave him my number and threatened to expose him among his International network of business friends. He had no choice but to comply.  He came back to Nigeria after four years of kidnapping himself. Of course, he had no explanations. He orchestrated everything. His Dad disowned and unfortunately died of heart attack three days after his return. Mama didn’t tell him of the fact that we knew a year earlier that he was alive. She said she couldn’t bring herself to tell him and that the shock will take him to the grave and truly the shock and disappointment killed him. He died without forgiving his son. But Mama couldn’t do same. She accepted him back. Even though I didn’t really want him in my life any more, he was the first to bring up the subject saying we could not deceive ourselves into a forced marriage. He loved me but was scared of the commitment and responsibility; he also needed to fulfill the dream of owning a business empire. And it was why he ran. Of course I knew the idiot was lying so I didn’t bother arguing. The time spent arguing will be better channeled towards planning his doom. I told him to get the hell out of my life. I refused to grant him any form of access to Olagboye.  . He built Mama a new home, the poor woman asked me if she should move into it and I could not deny the woman access to what she rightfully deserved. How mothers can be so forgiving still baffles me. He said he had created an eight hundred million endowment account for Olagboye but I told him not to bother. My son does not need filthy money.  That was the last time I saw him until he walked into my office today claiming he didn’t know I was in charge of the office. How could he not know? And why will they put him in charge of merger and acquisitions when he owns 58 % equity in the company?

I honked at the majestic gate of Dad’s house. I had once told him I wanted to move out but he begged me with tears not to take Olagboye from him. When I suggested that he could come over to my house every evening to have his ‘rocking’ session, he refused. Anyway, I had a second thought. James, who had been our gate keeper since I was seventeen, opened the gate; I waited for him to fully throw the gate open before driving in.  ‘Welcome madam’  Thank you James, how are you? Please bring everything in the car’ I left the car door ajar and I ‘snailed’ into the house.  ‘Mummy……’  I had shining eyes as I gathered my son into my arms. I was proud of the handsome little boy he had become.  ‘You are tired, sit down’ he ordered and sauntered off, I watched his back as he ran off and I could see the shape of his father in his tender body. He came back with my favorite fruit juice and a tumbler. He set it before me, poured it into the tumbler which already had ice and handed over to me. ‘Tell me how your day was?  He is my closest ally and partner in crime. How a seven year old could be as brilliant as he is simply amazes me. Dad once joked that he is a chip of the old block, after all, his father and mother that is Gboye and I are ‘book people’. We gist like adults and often the wisdom from his young mind guides me. I still haven’t told him about his dad. Maybe Mama has told him. It’s possible he had been introduced to Gboye while on a visit to Mama’s house. If he knew, he hasn’t asked me. And I don’t know what I will tell him the day he chooses to ask. The question will come soon, I can guarantee that.

After Dinner and safely tucking Olagboye in bed, Dad dropped another bombshell on me. He said Mum had an affair while I was two years old. He was outside the country trying to tie up a business deal. She told him about it. He had a hard time forgiving her especially when the fruit of that escapade came to limelight. Mum got pregnant. He allowed her have the baby. Jide, dad’s unmarried friend and his fiancé accepted the baby girl, and Dad and Mum moved on with their lives although Mum never conceived again.  It was shocking.

I gawked at him as he recounted the pains of the past. Indeed, the old man had gone through a whole lot and I again had a clearer view of why he had to do what he did for Gboye.  ‘Jide called me today. Sandra is marking her birthday her 50th birthday this weekend and Moyo, your sister is getting married by the end of the year. She is getting married to Gboye…..  .  .  .  .  .

THE END

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