THE EXCHANGE – PART 1

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‘What are we going to do now?’ the young girl asked naively with tears trickling down her pretty face.

‘We?’ the boy asked with a tinge of mockery in his voice, ‘that’s your cup of tea!’

‘I’m finished!’ she blurted with both arms on her head, ‘my parents would be mad if they find out about my condition.’

‘You’re lucky your parents would be mad; in my own case, they would skin me alive if they found out that their intelligent son awaiting his JAMB results is going to be a father very soon!’

‘What then becomes of me?’ she broke down in fresh tears; and in desperation held on to his leg tightly as though it was her only lifeline ‘you can’t put me in this condition and pretend that nothing has happened between us.’

‘Take your dirty hands off me at the count of three.  One…two…thr…’

He had barely finished his count when she complied.

‘God will judge you,’ she lamented, ‘you shall never go unpunished!’

‘My family name is far more important than anything else in the world. Do you want my parents to disown me? Listen to me, Miss Innocentee, you had better be on your way now; my uncle mustn’t meet you here.’

While the girl stared helplessly, he dragged her roughly out of his uncle’s apartment.

*******

‘No more fear of cholera!’ a handful of market women chanted as Honourable Abayomi Tella unveiled four sets of tap water for the community use.

‘Politicians like you are very rare!’ the leader of the community extolled, ‘as you have eased our water problem in this community, so shall the Almighty God ease your problems.’

‘Amen,’ Honourable Abayomi responded, ‘this is just a tip of the iceberg; I can assure you that once I’m voted in again, I would do more astounding things in this community.’

‘Long live Honourable Abayomi Tella! Long live Lagos State!’ the crowd cheered.

‘When I grow up, I would like to be like Honourable Abayomi,’ a little girl remarked, ‘he is so compassionate, unlike some wicked and selfish leaders that we have in this country…’

And while the accolades continued, Omoniyi watched the scene from afar. Fighting back tears from flowing down his cheeks, he knew that his life would never amount to any meaningful thing if he carried on with his present lifestyle.

‘If only my father had been alive,’ he muttered to himself, ‘things would have been different.’

‘What is the matter with you, Niyi?’ his accomplice, Jade, shoved him from behind.

‘I was just thinking aloud,’ he replied as he forced a smile, ‘I’m tired of the kind of shameful life I’m living.’

‘That’s strange coming from the unshakeable Iroko tree that oppresses all other trees in the forest,’ Jade replied.

‘Please, stop that rubbish talk,’ Niyi said, ‘let’s look at it this way, after oppressing all other tress, what then becomes of the oppressor? Do I have a good reckoning in the society? Who remembers me when I’m gone?’

‘Niyi, as long as you get our daily bread, what’s your business with a good name?’

‘I used to be less concerned with that before, but not now anymore. Take Honourable Abayomi, for instance, a well-respected politician, with records of charitable works within and without this neighbourhood. Everyone speak well of him, but nobody knows us. Don’t you desire a good name?’

The latter thought for a while and was silent.

‘But where would you start from?’ Jade asked, ‘I’m sure not with your late palm-wine tapper father, who left nothing but heaps of debts for you.’

Omoniyi bit his lower lip and blinked back the tears.

‘I’m sorry for hurting your feelings, Niyi, but that’s the simple truth.’

‘You’re right Jade. But one painful aspect is that this much talked- about Honourable goes about with clean records, and while using us as tools to carry out all manner of wickedness.’

‘Well, for now, I would advise you erase that thought completely from your mind. We have no other means of survival other than being a hooligan. And by the way, I hope you’re ready for the operation tonight? Or don’t you need the money badly to send to your poor sick mother back home in the village?’

‘Yes, I do,’ Omoniyi replied unhappily.

*******

‘Ssh! You had better tell us the truth or else…’ Omoniyi brandished an AK-47 gun before the gateman at the dead of the night.

‘I swear, I’ve just told you the truth and nothing but the truth,’ the old man trembled, ‘Professor Jacob travelled yesterday…’

Without mincing words, Omoniyi fired into the air and the helpless man fell on his knees with both arms in the air.

‘Please… d…do not… kill me, i… would confess…’

‘Speak up, old man!’ Jade kicked him from behind, ‘we have no time to waste…’

‘The Prof is around…he’s right at the pent-house…’

The man had barely finished speaking when the hoodlums ran towards the building and began to fire mercilessly.

‘Ah, please don’t shoot me…’ a shrill voice followed suit.

‘Can we have those documents, or your life would go for it?’ Niyi charged at him.

‘They are not here…please…they…’

Before the victim realized it, a quick bullet paralyzed one of his legs.

‘Aaaaah!!’ screamed Prof as the bullet pierced his leg, before dropping down on the rug moaning in the pool of his own blood.

‘That’s just a tip of the iceberg for you Professor Jacob,’ Jade sneered, ‘one more resistance would eject you fast from this planet…’

‘Please…please…the documents…check the documents…right under the rug…’

********

‘That was a smooth operation. Well done, boys!’ Honourable Abayomi Tella, patted Omoniyi and Jade when he met the duo in a secluded place. Disguised in the outfit of a clergy man, Honourable Abayomi handed the hoodlums the payment in exchange for the documents.

‘Thank you, sir.’

‘That would teach that bastard professor a lesson,’ the Honourable sniggered, ‘but you guys have to make yourselves scarce for a while…’

‘There’s no need for that,’ Omoniyi argued, ‘we’re professionals.’

‘You’re right, but the Professor Jacob I know too well, would not leave any stone un-turned. You must disappear as soon as possible!’

‘Niyi, what do you think?’ Jade turned to his accomplice.

‘Well, it would be an opportunity to see my poor mother.’

The Honourable brought out his phone which had been muted all the while.

‘Thirty missed calls!’ he muttered to himself.

‘You guys must leave this town immediately,’ he warned, ‘l need to go and prepare for the commissioning of a new orphanage tomorrow.’

**********

‘You’re welcome, my son,’ Madam Deborah embraced her son as he entered the poorly ventilated room.

‘Thank you, mama,’ a large lump settled in his throat as he spoke.

Looking round about him, the only change he noticed since he left the village two years ago was the cataract which had almost invaded one of his mother’s eyes.

‘Why didn’t you tell me about that thing on your eye?’ he noted as he stared at his excited mother.

‘My son, don’t worry about that, Ola had given me some herbs to take care of that’

‘What about Ronke?’ he probed, ‘has she returned to her husband?’

‘No; she had gone to hawk fruits and won’t be back till evening.’

A look of dissatisfaction overwhelmed Omoniyi as he brought out the stuff he bought for his mother from his bag.

‘Omoniyi, you mean all these are for me?’ the one-eyed lady exclaimed in astonishment.

‘Yes, and many more, mama.’

Despite the hero’s welcome he received from his neighbours, Niyi still could not stop worrying about his poor background. His father had died as a palm wine tapper leaving several debts behind. His mother, on the other hand, was now a shadow of herself, and life as a hoodlum in the city, is not a legacy to leave behind for anyone.

If I leave my destiny in the hands of chance alone, this awful trend would continue. He reasoned.

A day to his departure to Lagos, he found an old photograph amongst the junk his mother set aside for burning. His curiousity soared when he found out the images were that of his mother in the arms of a man, who bore no resemblance with his late father.

One interrogation led to the other, and in the end, the long hidden truth came to the fore; the man in the photograph was his real father.

‘What’s his name?’

‘Yomi, he was my first love…’

‘And so why didn’t he marry you?’

Madam Deborah hesitated and sighed.

‘I got pregnant as a teenager…’ she began, ‘it was actually a mistake, but in the end, the young man denied ever having anything to do with me…it was at that point that, Jejelaiye, your step-father came in and  saved me from my shame.’

‘So where is my father now?’

‘I don’t know. His family relocated to Ghana several years ago. Abayomi Tella was…’

Niyi was stunned.  Could it be the same Honourable Abayomi Tella, he worked for?

‘Thank you, mama for this information. You have made my short visit worthwhile.’

*********

As the date for the general elections approached, several political campaign programs also intensified. Honourable Abayomi Tella was in the comfort of his home one day when a courier delivered a parcel from an unidentified source.

Opening the parcel, his mind skipped at the photograph before him.

‘My detractors are at work!’ he fumed, ‘Deborah sure has a hand in this.’

Picking his phone, he dialed Omoniyi’s number.

‘Hello Niyi,’ he began, ‘I need you for a very critical assignment; an old flame is threatening my political career. Please meet me at papa’s shrine for more briefing.’

Niyi smiled to himself at the bar, where he sat.

‘The battle has just began,’ he muttered.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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