‘It’s hard to believe that little girl of yesterday is now the MD of New Millennium Energy,’ papa shook his head in amazement.
‘I would rather die than work for a woman!’ mama mimicked, the moment the dispatch man left our house, ‘this shows that a woman can climb to any height in life.’
‘Congrats, once again Livinus,’ Mr Bassey smiled, ‘it’s high time you desist from making rash statements.’
Despite the ironical twist of event, the good news, however, had a humbling effect on papa. As much as mama teased him a greater part of that day, he endured every bit of it diligently like a soldier carrying out his boss’ commands.
The family was in for a big surprise shortly after supper as papa strolled out briefly and returned with a package wrapped in an old newspaper.
‘I can smell Suya meat,’ Kelechi muttered the moment he dropped the parcel on the table.
‘Yes, I bought Suya for everyone to celebrate my return to work.
‘Oh Suya meat!’ Chioma leapt from her seat, ‘I love the taste.’
‘Livinus, please where did you get that from?’
‘I picked it on the road,’ he mocked, ‘Cynthia, if I don’t know you very well, I would conclude you’re an enemy of progress…’
Mama hissed, as she grabbed the meat and shared it with everyone.
Our home came alive that night, papa spoke on end beginning with his conscription into the army during the Nigerian civil war, to how he met and wooed mama. At the peak of his tale, I became depressed as I recalled an extract from the conversation he had with his friend…
‘My investment on my girls won’t go beyond secondary school education…’
Of what use then is the job…the excitement? I pondered. Tired of his personal exploits, I took my leave, outside at the veranda.
What really is your ambition? An authoritative inner voice poked me. Suddenly, the scales fell from my eyes! I had always loved the idea of a tertiary education right from my secondary school days but the question of a choice of career had never really taken a proper form on my mind. As the question lingered, I felt a tingling at my back as though being tickled by a small feather. I shuddered and turned immediately, and there stood Kelechi, my immediate sibling, clutching an exercise book close to her chest,
‘What sort of rubbish play is that?’
‘I’m sorry,’ she chuckled, ‘please can you help me with my assignment?’
My initial reaction was to smack her for bringing it up at the wrong time but knowing her reticent personality made a huge difference.
‘This assignment is straightforward,’ I remarked as I read through, ‘your teacher requires you to just write on how you spent your last holiday that’s all.’
‘But what I’m I going to write? My last holiday was boring…you know… papa and mama, always arguing over money…’
‘Ssh! nobody expects you to have a perfect holiday. All your teacher wants to see is your creativity.’
‘But that would be telling a lie…’
‘Kelechi, will you shut up? This is just a matter of applying your imagination…okay, let me just give you an illustration…’
‘Holidays mean different things to different people…to some, it’s simply an avenue of relaxation…em…to another…it’s an opportunity to travel…and yet to some…its…an opportunity to learn a new skill or trade…’
‘Then the next paragraph…I had always admired well-sewn dresses…and so, when the opportunity came for me during my last holiday, I decided to learn a how to sew…’
‘Bravo! I heard a clap behind me. It was Bayo, one of my neighbours.
‘That was a brilliant piece,’ he clapped again. ‘I never knew you’re this creative.’
‘Thank you. I was just trying to gather some thoughts together for this my big-headed sister…’
‘Hey look! Your student is already dozing off,’ he directed my attention to the nodding Kelechi.
‘Come on wake up!’
‘I’m not sleeping,’ she replied drowsily, her eyes still closed.
‘She must be very tired, please take her in.’ he suggested.
I led the drowsy girl gently to join her other sleeping counterpart in the room and by the time I returned, surprisingly, Bayo was still there!’
‘Your creative prowess is an indication that you’ll make a good writer…’ he continued.
‘Well, I write short stories as a form of hobby…’
‘Wow, which means we have something in common,’ he smiled, ‘Anyway, I’m a Mass Communications undergraduate from the University of Lagos…’
It’s barely a year, Bayo moved in with his uncle, and our acquaintance had not gone beyond the normal greeting; but that evening, we spoke freely like best of friends.
‘From the little display I’ve seen, I’m curious to read some of your stories; I hope you don’t mind?’ he appeared serious.
‘Okay, but I don’t see any big deal in it…it’s just a hobby.’
‘Great things…start with small beginnings…you never can tell…’
He paused and looking around, he lowered his voice.
Is it true that you and Segun…that both of you, are now an item?’
An item! The meaning of that phrase flashed through my mind. Thanks to my habitual novel reading.
‘Or in a simpler term,’ he continued, ‘are you both in a relationship?’
‘No,’ I objected instantly, ‘who told you that rubbish?’
‘Don’t worry…but…has he been…disturbing you?’
‘He’s been acting funny towards me lately…’
‘My dear, you have to be very careful…you have a bright future ahead of you…don’t allow anybody ruin it…by now you should have known that Segun has a bad reputation with girls. I don’t want you to…’
He paused abruptly the moment an SUV pulled in front of the house. Segun had just arrived.
‘Nnenna, I would see you later…’
‘Please, stay…I don’t want to face him alone.’
The door opened and Segun and his friends alighted. The crew were all clad in a white T-shirt with the inscription of a young man on it.
‘Nena, how are you?’ Segun waved as he led his allies to an open space in front of his mother’s shop.
‘Nena!’ Bayo repeated silently, ‘oh I see, he even has a pet name for you.’
‘I guess, they’re coming from a political rally,’ I ignored his previous remark.
A Few minutes later, another vehicle parked behind the SUV; and all the occupants also clad in similar T-shirt as the former, united with their political contemporaries.
‘I want to thank you all for your presence and contributions during the rally,’ Segun addressed…
‘We’re not getting it right in the way we’re projecting the image of our candidate, Honourable Subair. Common sense demands that we project him as a true Nigerian…so, in line with that, we’re going to remove some of the posters and replace them with the ones revealing our Honourable clad in the attires of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria…’
‘Well said!’ his supporters cheered him.
‘The guy is really making sense,’ Bayo whispered, ‘but the bad thing is that when the candidate becomes the elected, things turn for the worse…’
‘There is no better candidate for that position the chairman of Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government, other than Honourable Subair,’ Segun continued.
‘Kosi Subair!’ he chanted.
‘Kosi bo!’ his supporters replied.
‘What’s the meaning of that?’ I asked.
‘It means that without Subair, there won’t be any election,’ Bayo answered solemnly, ‘and that’s the height of desperation; most times, these politicians go as far as using human sacrifices to achieve their selfish ambition…’
I felt a cold shiver through my veins. Human sacrifice? Oh my God!
‘I didn’t mean to scare you, Nnenna,’ Bayo stared at me in astonishment. ‘I’m certain that with prayers, none of us shall fall prey…’
‘Amen in Jesus name.’
‘Let’s forget all these talks on politics,’ he smiled, ‘back to our discussion; please when I’m I getting your stories?’
Papa’s joy knew no bounds as he prepared for work the next day. And for the first time in my entire life, he kissed mama before our very eyes.
‘Nkem, please take care of yourself and the girls.’
‘And you too,’ she smiled shyly, ‘Bye.’
‘Papa bye!’ my sisters waved.
Meanwhile, a weight of sadness rested at the entrance of my heart. I was still angry with him. Mama elbowed me discretely.
‘Bye!’ I faked a smile, ‘Friday is still the deadline for the purchase of my JAMB examination form…’
‘Bookworm!’ he pulled my cheeks and hurriedly left to join the staff bus.
That Tuesday morning was not just papa’s happiest moments; it was also mama’s; as she made remarkable sales that day.
‘There is no better way to treat your father well from a hard day’s job than a sumptuous meal,’ she beamed from ear to ear as she prepared papa’s favourite later in the evening.
‘The secret of a rich meal is money,’ I remarked, ‘Julie is not the only one with superb culinary skills.’
An hour passed and there was no sign of papa.
Anxiety began to build up…
‘What could have kept this man by now?’ mama sighed as she tried his number the umpteenth time.
‘Still switched off!’ she heaved a sigh of confusion.
‘Maybe his battery is flat,’ Chioma suggested.
In as much as I relished my brief moments with Bayo yesterday, a wave of fear suddenly intercepted my euphoria as I recalled what he told me about what some desperate politicians are capable of doing by engaging in human sacrifice.
‘Oh my God!’ mama lamented, ‘where is my Livinus?’
‘Mama, let’s pray,’ Kelechi muttered in her usual way.
‘Oh please leave me alone!’ she shouted at the top of her voice, ‘you girls should do that…’
‘Ma..mama…’ I stammered, unsure of what to say, ‘with the elections around the corner…what if papa…had fallen into the…the hands…of…’
‘No, it can’t be! Your father is not that gullible…’ she paused and instantly tapped her fingers.
‘I know it…yes I know it…I’m suspecting a foul play between your father and his female boss…’
‘Your phone is ringing,’ Kelechi handed her the phone.
‘Unknown number!’ she sighed, ‘who could that be? I’m so scared…’
‘Please pick it!’ we all urged her.
‘Hello…’ she began…’hello…’ she paused after a few seconds later and flung the phone on the chair.