Victim of Greed
By Tony Chuks Modungwo (Nigeria)
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On our way to Grace’s house, I telephoned Assistant Commissioner Ahmed.
“Get your men and meet me at 10 Campo Street,” I told him.
“Who are you?” ACP Ahmed asked curiously.
“Not important?” I responded curtly.
“What is happening at 10 Campo Street?”
“Come and find out.” I hung up.
Assistant commissioner Ahmed was a police officer I loved. He was diligent, dedicated and intelligent. He’d a growing reputation in the police. He had worked in many states doing what he loved: hunting down bad guys and making Nigeria a cleaner place. Assistant Commissioner Ahmed’s most spectacular piece of work had been the arrest of a very rich criminal who owned a three star hotel in Lagos. The man for several years had been seducing young girls who he later killed, remove their private parts, breasts, tongues and eyes, which he sold to his clients for rituals, either to acquire power or money. This had gone on for several years, before ACP Ahmed, busted the racket.
After this incident, he became a hero and he’d many admirers, of which I was one. When The Nation Newspaper interviewed him after the incident, he was quoted as saying, “It is my endeavor to eradicate crime in Lagos State. I desire no personal gain. I am doing it because that is the job I have signed for.”
I hated his boss because he was old, lazy and corrupt but refused to resign. He was a heartless officer. The worst was that he was sympathetic to the ruling party. Due to his political proclivity, he could no longer protect the interest of the populace, which was his duty. Anybody who was opposed to the principles of the ruling party became automatically his enemy. Some of PNP opponents were killed, maimed or jailed with his connivance. He was fond of telling stories of his glorious past. “Those days when police force was police force,” he was fond of saying. What he failed to realize was that people lived for the present, not the past.
The police commissioner’s inability to track down Biola’s kidnappers had seriously threatened his continued stay in office. Senator Harrison was highly disappointed in him and had made it a point of duty to blackmail him in high quarters. Although Senator Harrison was aware of his assistance to his party, his love for his daughter transcended party chauvinism. The commissioner knew that the wrong word in the right ear would have his career in ruins, but he couldn’t do anything about it. Senator Harrison was very influential. I telephoned him because I’m one of the people that prayed that the commissioner should lose his job to Assistant Commissioner Ahmed. That was why I wanted him to bask in whatever limelight, he could get, as the police officer who found Biola.
Grace lived in a bungalow. I wondered what was her profession to maintain such a house, but Komoko told me that Bone was responsible for the rent. “She is a typist in a company,” Komoko said.
We tiptoed to one of the windows of the sitting room and listened. Light was showing in the house and we could hear some movements. After some few minutes of careful listening, we heard Bone speaking to somebody on the phone.
“She even has a phone?” I said.
“Yes. Bone provided her everything that gives comfort,” Komoko replied.
“Why does Bone waste so much money on this girl?”
“She is very beautiful and Bone said she is sensational on bed,” Komoko answered.
“Yes. I’ve your daughter here with me,” we heard Bone saying.
“He’s phoning Senator Harrison,” Komoko said. I nodded my head.
“Go to Rainbow theatre at two o’clock and deposit ten millions naira in the big refuse container in the front,” Bone continued.
“This bastard is very ambitious,” I said, a cynical smile curving my lips as I noted the look of stunned surprise crossing Komoko’s face.
“Listen, don’t tell me that trash about going to the bank. It’s an open secret that you sleep with millions under your pillow. Do as instructed or you’ll never see your daughter again. And let me warn you. Keep the police out of this or your daughter will get hurt.”
“God! Bone really knows how to give orders,” Komoko said.
“Shut up,” I shouted angrily.
“No problem. Once you pay up, she will be with you for breakfast. You’ve heard what I said. The day is not getting younger. Get started,” Bone said and dropped the phone.
“Darling, did he agree to pay?” Grace asked.
“Certainly,” he said triumphantly.
“By this time tomorrow, we shall be on our way to Hollywood. I’ll love the place. Imagine living with those famous film actors and actresses. When are you going for the money?”
“ Before then dear, come and make love to me. You’re such a darling.”
Just about five minutes, we heard Grace moaning loudly.
“Komoko, Let’s go,” I said gallantly.
We forced the sitting-room door open. Grace was still moaning. The bedroom door was ajar and Grace’s animal noise was coming through. I told Komoko to go and search for where Biola was kept. I opened the bedroom’s door gently.
“I learnt she is a performer,” I said as I entered the room.
Bone quickly stood, pulled up his pants and charged at me like a bull. “What the hell are you doing here?” Grace quickly covered herself with a wrapper and jumped out of the window. Bone threw a punch at my face. I shifted my head and his fist whistled passes my ear. I had seen him in a couple of fights before and he kept them brief, but I wasn’t an amateur. I felt confident attacking Bone without his gun. Though he was bigger, that didn’t worry me. My karate instructor had taught me that strength was not the only prerequisite in fighting.
“Knowledge of where to hit and also when to hit are very important,” he had said. I’d specialized in head butt. I used to break bricks and tiles with my head. My forehead was as strong as concrete. A touch of it on anybody’s forehead would make it crack.
I gave Bone a knife-hand strike to the neck and he struck out with his fist. It caught me on the head and rocked my head back. I aimed a front kick at his knee but he blocked it. He continued hitting out at me.
When I whimpered under his blows, the brute unleashed a maniacal laugh. He punched me in the stomach with a blow that doubled me over. I fell to the floor. I picked myself up.
“This is for you, bastard,” Bone growled, levying a firm blow on my jaw. Crashing into the bed, I lay sprawled flat. Bone landed on top of me. We struggled and fell from the bed onto the floor, rolling, as we pummeled each other.
“You’ll learn your lesson, when I’m done with you,” Bone boasted.
Blood was flowing down my cheeks from a cut in my right eyelid. Bone continued to beat me mercilessly. I saw he was going to kill me if I didn’t do something urgent to safe my live. He’d got a real killer instinct. I struck out wildly. Then came the golden opportunity. Bloodied and exhausted, we waved back and forth, nearing collapsing. His head came near mine. Mustering everything I’d left, I gave him a head butt that put the steam out of him. He immediately collapsed and was unconscious. Sweat was oozing out of me. I was looking down on Bone with angry eyes when Assistant Commissioner Ahmed spoke behind me.
“What’s going on here?”
Before I could answer, Komoko appeared with Biola. He was shocked to see the police. I didn’t tell him I called them.
Assistant Commissioner Ahmed looked at Bone lying in a pool of his blood and ordered one of his men to phone for an ambulance. My clothes were soaked with blood and the wound was still bleeding.
“So this is what you invited me to come and see? Can you tell me what this is all about?” the Assistant Commissioner asked, eyeing Bone pityingly. He shook his head in amazement.
I removed my false beard; moustache and side bonds and he quickly recognized me.
“Chika!’ he exclaimed disbelievingly.
In Biola’s weak condition, the events of the few hours took every bit of her strength. Her knees buckled, and she collapsed in my arms. She hung limply in my arm. She looked terrible. I had never seen her look worse. She had wide circles around her eyes and she seemed dreadfully morose.
“Officer, before any chit-chat let’s get Biola to the hospital; she is very sick.” She was looking into space and didn’t even recognize me.
“When you finish, take the other vehicle and come back to the station,” the Assistant Commissioner told his men. They were doing the normal police protocol, taking photographs, and dusting the place for fingerprints.
Neighbors and curiosity seekers jammed the street in front of Grace’s house to watch the unfolding events.
Komoko, Biola and myself followed the Assistant Commissioner to the police station. At the police station, the Assistant Commissioner telephoned Senator Harrison. He was soon at the police station. He broke down into tears, when he saw Biola and she couldn’t recognize him. “Ahmed why are you keeping her here instead of the hospital?” he asked indignantly. She looked like, she was drugged or had experienced some tremendous shock.
“I wanted you to see her before we send her to the hospital.”
When Harrison looked around and saw me, he went wild.
“You again? This mischief maker,” he said, as he rushed at me. Assistant Commissioner Ahmed stepped in between us. He smashed his fist into his open palm. “You!”
It looked Senator Harrison had lost some weight. I realized that the past months of worry had taken its toll on his health.
“Take it easy Senator, he found your daughter. Can’t you see he has been wounded?” Senator Harrison tried to hide his surprise at the revelation; it must have come as a shock to him to discover that this nonentity had saved his daughter.
As Biola was being taken to the hospital, myriads of reporters and photographers arrived at the police station, with throngs of curious spectators. Their cameras flashed as Biola was being led to the police car. The police surrounded her to protect her from the surging crowd. Some of the reporters wanted an interview with Assistant Commissioner Ahmed, but he told them to come back the next day. They then rushed on Senator Harrison, all yelling questions at him at once as he walked toward his car. “How do you feel now that your daughter has been found? We learnt it was her boyfriend who rescued her? Did they arrest any of her kidnappers? Where is her mother? We learnt she has been very sick since her daughter was kidnapped? Is it a nervous breakdown or what?” the pressmen asked, without giving him chance to answer any of the previous questions.
“You’re all idiots and I don’t have time to talk to idiots. You want me to say something, so that you can quote me out of context? Go to hell,” he told them, as he walked through them, pushing aside some of these pain-in-the-ass journalists.
He had surprising antipathy toward the press in general, and as time passed, his bitterness increased. One reason for his mounting reserve was the constantly escalating onslaught of attention heaped on him by the media since he became a senator. Reporters and photographers were always chasing him from one end of town to another. The more he tried to evade them the more determined their attempts to invade his privacy.
“I understand the lethal intent of the press. They will go to any length to pursue anything they feel will produce exciting news. And If it’ll help sell their paper, they will even misquote you,” Senator Harrison explained to ACP Ahmed.
The pressmen hissed, complained of Senator Harrison’s arrogance and walked away. After Biola had been taken to the hospital, I asked Assistant Commissioner Ahmed to give me one of his men to bring one of the kidnappers.
“Where?” he asked.
“In our den,” I said, muffling a tired yawn.
“Your den? What does that mean?”
“I shall explain later.”
He ordered Corporal Komo to follow me. “Take Chika first to the hospital to get treated, then go with him to bring one of the suspects.” Mojo was still drowsy from the effect of the drug, when we got to our den. We carried him into the police van with the handcuff still on. I went to check where I’d kept my share of some of the operations and found it empty. Someone had stolen all I risked my life for. The money was about nine hundred thousand naira by my last check. I felt depressed. “A thief is always a thief,” I said out of disgust. Who said there was honor among thieves? At the station, Mojo was given paper to write his statement.
“Please officer now that I’m here, can you release my friend?”
“Who is that?”
“The man that bailed me, Kola.”
Assistant Commissioner Ahmed then ordered for the immediate release of Kola.
To my uttermost surprise Kola was looking unruffled after one week in the cell. I’d expected him to blow his lid on seeing me but instead he smiled. “You’re a very stubborn guy,” was all he said. The constable who released him had told him I found Biola.
“I shall see you when I’m through with the police,” I told him as he walked away from the station. “Kola, I’m sorry,” I said contritely. I suddenly realized that there was an aspect of Kola I hadn’t even suspected. Kola was a tough man, really tough.
Kola was my closest friend. In spite of all differences of background, of temperament, and often of conviction, the admiration and the trust between us remained, such that, each truly cared what happened to the other. This closeness between us cannot be explained; any more than one could explain the love between a man and a woman.
A doctor in Hilton’s Clinic confirmed that Biola was suffering from lost of memory due to drug addiction. He diagnosed the drug to be Heroin. He advised her father to fly her abroad because they had no facilities to treat her.
“But nothing works in this country?” Senator Harrison fumed. “When the hospitals are not complaining of shortage of drugs, it’ll be lack of facilities or the doctors will simply go on strike. Why do you open at all? To kill people?” he lamented.
The next day, he flew Biola abroad for treatment. All these didn’t worry me much till the doctor said that Biola was one and half months pregnant. “ So Shagasha was right. Mojo sexually abused Biola,” I soliloquized. I regretted not killing the bastard. The pregnancy was aborted before she was flown abroad.
Chief Duro was brought to the police station heavily guarded. On his arrival, he was taken to Assistant Commissioner’s office, where he was told his offence. He tried to deny. Mojo’s statement was given to him to read.
“How am I sure that Mojo wrote this?” he asked.
Mojo was brought out from his cell. Immediately, he saw him, he felt weak and disappointed. “I thought you were tough,” he told Mojo disdainfully.
“So it’s true you ordered my daughter to be kidnapped?” Senator Harrison asked offensively.
“Yes? I thought you enjoy kidnapping. Instead of thinking of policies, programs and approaches that will reposition our area, as the best in the country, you engaged in political killings, kidnapping, deceit, character assassination and rigging of election,” Chief Duro said caustically.
Uncomfortable and embarrassed, Senator Harrison glanced at the police, then back at Chief Duro, his anger beginning to flare.
“You’ll regret this. So when you found out you couldn’t do anything to me, you descended on my beloved daughter. You just don’t know when you’re defeated. I’m going to see to it that you’re put away for a long time,” Senator Harrison boasted.
Chief Duro was later prosecuted and found guilty. He was jailed for five years. Mojo was jailed for ten years.
Bone died after two weeks in the hospital. He’d internal bleeding which wasn’t detected in time. I’d told Assistant Commissioner of Police and Senator Harrison everything that night when things cooled down. I was certain that ACP Ahmed would shed no tears over the death of Bone. After all, Bone was just a criminal, not a class of individual for which ACP Ahmed had great regard. The police also released Komoko and gave him a probation period of six months, during which time his activities would be closely monitored. If he was found not to have changed, he would be arrested and locked up, the Assistant Commissioner told him. When I left the police station, I went to our flat in Palm Avenue. I was surprised that I met our properties intact. The next day, I went to see Kola and my parents.
Kola and Toyin gave me a warm reception as if nothing happened. But when I got to our house, opposite was the case. My father’s attitude towards me hadn’t changed one bit.
“So Chika you’ve decided to die because of a girl?” he asked.
“You don’t understand dad, I love her.”
“Understand what? Your mates are now employed. They help their parents in training their younger ones. This period of high unemployment, when people guard their jobs jealously, you threw yours away and ran away with a girl. You’re now telling me I don’t understand. Understand what? You’re a bad influence in this house. This family will be doomed if we’ve two people like you.”
“Please Chika leave this girl alone and do something with your life,” my mother pleaded.
I left that day promising to leave Biola, but right inside me I knew I was lying. I started to look for work. I bought newspapers daily and applied for all the vacancies I was qualified for. I was called for a few interviews, but I never heard anything after the interviews. My clothes started to tear. My shoes got worn out. I lived on the gifts from friends, especially Kola, which was inadequate because Biola had exposed me to so much money. The one-year advance Biola paid for the flat expired and the Landlord wanted another one-year advance. Life became a nightmare.
But why was Senator Harrison so vituperative about my relationship with Biola? I wondered. After thinking for a while. I concluded that Senator Harrison’s poor background must be the cause. He’d known poverty and hated it, just like I did. He’d succeeded in getting rich and didn’t want anybody or anything that would remind him of his painful past.
My presence in Biola’s life had reminded him of the pains poverty could cause and had turned him to a human dynamo. Why this bestial and awkward animosity? Why these crippling incongruities and inanities? Why this untoward romance with bigotry? The psychological pressures that drove him to such behavior was the need to prove himself, the sense that societal rules didn’t apply to him. It wasn’t my fault that I was born into a poor family. Neither, was it my fault that his darling daughter found me attractive.
The trick, I supposed, was to try my best, not to take Senator Harrison’s behavior too personally and to stay out of his way as much as I could. I could, however, do my best to understand the forces that had brought about my regular collision with him.
Despite the emotional blows I’d been dealt by Senator Harrison, I decided the only way to go forward was to systemically recover the bits and pieces of myself that I’d given away to the search for Biola. I must gather what is left of my life. I knew it was a daunting task; this process of putting my life together; but I’d no alternative.
It was time, now, that I made some decisions concerning exactly how I wanted to live in the future. And this brought me full circle to my joblessness.
I was lying on the rug in the sitting room one evening contemplating how to sell some of the furniture, when the doorbell rang. Why couldn’t life ever be simple? I hesitated before I went to open the door. A man in a blue uniform was at the door.
“Yes? Can I help you?” I asked unconvincingly, because if anybody needed help, it was I.
“Are you Chika, sir?” he inquired courteously.
“Yes, why do you ask?”
“My boss told me to come with you,” he responded politely.
“Who is your boss?” I inquired
“What for?” I asked unenthusiastically. I despised Senator Harrison. He was the last person I wanted to see at any time, especially at this moment.
“I don’t know, sir.”
“Go and tell him I don’t want to come.”
“Please sir, he said I should come with you. He even told me to wait for you if you were out.”
“What makes him believe I want to see him? I’ll rather die than to be ordered around by your boss. Go and tell him I’m not coming.”
“He wants to go to the airport with you to receive Biola .My eyes changed from anger, to incredulity, and finally, unrestrained joy.
“Why in hell didn’t you say so sooner?” I told him to come in and sit down while I changed. I proudly donned my best black suit; Biola bought for me some months before. As I dressed, I thought how much I’d missed Biola while she was away for the past three months. I stole an admiring glance at my profile in the mirror, and strutted after the driver to the car, proud as a peacock. The traffic was light so it didn’t take much time to get to Victoria Island.
Senator Harrison and Mrs. Harrison were at the door immediately the car stopped. He smiled at me. “Welcome, Chika.” Senator Harrison’s enthusiasm was obviously unfeigned. Such gesture on the part of Senator Harrison was uncharacteristic. He had been nasty to me from the beginning. Or he didn’t know whom he was smiling at, I wondered. Was it possible that this old bastard could be amiable?
“Chika, thank you, for saving my daughter. Her kidnapping was the worst and most fearful episode of my life,” Mrs Harrison said. She was very economical in the use of words. Mrs. Harrison was a humble person, so different from her husband. She was devoid of any form of snobbery.
“I’m happy to see you. You’ve earned my respect. In fact, you’re worthy of my daughter,” Senator Harrison said. “ I’m grateful for all you did to rescue Biola. I’ve been in the U.S. to see how she was responding to treatment. Luckily she is well again. She was to come back by ten o’clock tonight and that was why I sent the driver to bring you so that we can go to the airport to meet her but a few minutes the driver left she came in. She said she couldn’t wait any longer to see you. She’s right now in her room. She arrived with the first flight.”
I thanked him and went to Biola’s room. Biola was looking bright like a new coin. She was impeccably dressed as ever. She rushed into my arms immediately I stepped into the room.
“Chika dear, I’ve been longing to see you.”
“I missed you,” I said. “How do you feel?”
“I’m just fine, but the treatment was so painful. I wished you were by my side.”
“I’m grateful to God that you are back. Let’s forget the painful past.”
Her incredible beauty startled me. I wasn’t certain exactly how I’d expected her to look, but after so harrowing a time, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find her a shadow of her former self. Instead, she was breathtakingly beautiful. She’d always been a lovely lady, but she now possessed a warmth and vibrancy, which was discernible.
We went and sat on her bed. “I have been longing for you for such a long time,” Biola said, as she took my hand and guided it to her breast. Her nipple sprang into life and a shiver rode through her body. I went to the door and turned the key and joined her on the bed again.
There was the comforting warmth of Biola body next to mine. She shivered when my tongue licked against a hardening nipple and my hands gently cupped her breasts as I buried my face against their softness. My hands caressed her waist, then slid along the slight curving of hip and across the tautness of her stomach. They moved slowly along her slender thighs, exploring the delicate inner areas that were so sensitive to my touch.
“Biola’s eyelids closed as my thighs pressed against hers, parting them. And then I was a part of her. My hips moved against hers, and her response joined mine. Biola cried out with the exquisite pleasure, which always came with our lovemaking. It left her breathtakingly weak and trembling, yet with a fulfillment that no other person could give her.
As we lay exhausted on the bed, Biola told me that her father had given his consent for her to marry me. She gently caressed her forefinger along my handsome profile and said softly, “I told him I would commit suicide rather than marry someone else,” she said. “My mum equally told my dad to allow me marries the man of my choice.” There were tears of happiness in her eyes.
For Biola, it was a great personal victory. After a long battle, she’d overcome every obstacle, pushed aside all objections, defeated her overpowering father and had her way. What a day! It’s a marvelous, unforgettable day. The day our mutual dreams came through, after interminable struggle. Seeing Biola’s joy, I didn’t think the time was right to tell her that my parents were against the marriage.
For me everything looked brighter than before; the environment, mankind, in fact, everything. They all look gay, good and lovable.
“But Biola I have no job?” I said, wishing as the words left my mouth that it had not.
She rose to lean on one elbow and stared searchingly into my face.
“What? All these time?” Her gaze sharpened with concern.
“Yes. The ministry terminated my appointment before I came back.”
“I shall talk to my father. He’ll find you something to do.”
“No, don’t tell him. I shall get a job soon.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. You don’t need just a job but a well paying one. But whether you are employed or not I want us to marry soon.”
“I’ve not sought the consent of my parents.”
“Then do that.” She smiled encouragement. She slowly, seductively, brushed the tips of her naked breasts against my chest. A kind of despairing desire seized me as she lowered her frame on top of me.
“However, you may deny it, Chika,” Biola said in a low voice, “you’d like me to touch you like this always. You’ll never be able to forget my touch, nor I yours.”
She closed her eyes as she offered her lips for a kiss. I gave her a tender kiss and she pressed her pelvis provocatively against mine.
“Biola you’re such a darling,” I murmured, my amusement tingling my voice. “You’ve such an appetite, so have I.” I rolled her beneath me and kneed her legs apart.
As we lay on the bed, Biola turned to look at me with a serious look on her face. Her gaze narrowed thoughtfully as if a sudden thought had struck her.
“What is the problem? You look disturbed,” I said.
“Out of excitement I’ve forgotten that there was a condition attached to the approval for us to marry.”
“And what is the condition?”
“You must go to the hospital to check your genotype,” Biola murmured.
Biola didn’t miss the slight start of surprise I was unable to suppress. “But why?”
“I am AS.”
“Biola, your mother worries me. She looks miserable.”
“Is there anything you can tell me about her that I should know?”
Biola considered for sometime whether to tell me or not, before she finally spoke. “The death of my younger brother had a shattering effect on her.”
“What really killed him?”
“He died of sickle-cell anemia. After this tragedy, my mother began to seal herself from other people. She sat quiet and withdrawn in her room most time weeping. She used to be a vivacious lady. A hard shell of aloofness formed over her emotions, and her radiant smile appeared infrequently. She grew to dislike unfamiliar places and equally avoided unfamiliar people. It was only in cozy family gatherings, where she could count on the warmth and understanding of familiar people did she unwind.”
“When did he die?”
“He died twenty years ago, but till today, my mother hasn’t got over it.”
“At what age did he die?”
“He was seven years old, when he died.”
“Is that the reason, your parents insisted I must check my genotype?”
“Yes. Sickle-sell anemia victims surround my father and mother. It has been a harrowing experience. My mother’s sister died at thirty, my father’s two brother also died very young because of the sickness.”
Most Nigerians never checked their genotype before marriage to determine their chances of having children with sickle cells. Many considered the matter of who would be or would not be afflicted, to be a matter in the hands of God. A few people did understand the hereditary pattern of the disease, but many did not. Very few people stayed away from prospective mate because there was a history of sickle cell in their family.
For over a year I had nothing more than to marry Biola, but now the reality of the situation filled me with trepidation. I tried to decide whether or not to marry Biola. I knew her father was a rugged character. As much as I loved money, I felt that I’d lose my independence and separate identity to her family. Kola had warned me to be ready to become Mr. Biola Harrison. It was a question of marrying Biola and being taken over by her family. I need more time to think, which I didn’t have.
“Now, tell me, how did you find out where I was being held?”
For several moments, I described the grisly details of my brush with hardened criminals and with death in order to rescue her.
“Oh Chika, I was so frightened. I’ve never been so frightened before.” She shook her head in torment. “One night I woke up to find Mojo trying to mount on me. I struggled up and pushed him down.” Biola raised her eyelids, and tears welled up in her eyes. His eyes flashed angrily. I was so frightened. He tore off my dress and we engaged in another struggle. He overpowered and raped me. The bastard stripped me of my dignity.”
“Mojo is an unmitigated bastard. I regretted not killing him. However, it’s over and done with. Mojo is in jail and the other members of his gang were killed, the night of your rescue.”
“Chika, do you think you’ll ever forgive me?”
“For doing what?”
“For succumbing to rape. Mojo kept me constantly drugged and sexually abused.”
“It wasn’t your fault. Let’s accept what we can’t change and don’t dwell on it. When you love someone, you don’t love only those things that are good about her.”
“The two months I was kept in that farm seemed like eternity to me. Life with those scoundrels had been difficult, and I feel relieved to be done with them. Mojo was so ghastly and evil.”
“Let’s us go down to meet your father, I went to thank him for giving his consent for us to marry.”
Senator Harrison glances up and put aside the newspaper he’d been reading when we entered his living room. Senator Harrison had his picture with the president up to life-size on the wall of his living room.
“Please seat down Chika. I know it had been a happy reunion.”
“Yes, sir. And I’m here to thank you for giving your consent for me to marry Biola.”
He pressed a switch near him and a bell rang somewhere inside the house. Steward in uniform appeared immediately.
“Ask Chika, what he’ll like to drink?”
“What do I offer you, sir?” the steward asked.
“You acted so courageously, to the point of risking your life for Biola’s sake. It actually proved to me beyond reasonable doubt that you love her.”
Biola smiled with satisfaction. Our eyes transmitted a silent message of love.
“Sanusi, get me some whiskey,” he told the steward. “Apparently, you’re some kind of a hero. This was what the police could not do.”
“Thank you, sir. I did it for love.”
Biola’s face beamed with pleasure.
“Forgive me dear,” he turned to Biola, “I did all I did, because I didn’t want to see your life ruined. We love Biola and want her to have a happy and secure future. But I’ve seen you’re very happy with this relationship and were equally ready to risk anything for it. Hence all I only wanted was for you to be happy, I’d no option than to consent to your marriage.”
“Thank you, dad. I’m very happy that at last you’ve given your consent for me to marry the man I love.”
I left Senator Harrison’s house straight to the hospital. My genotype was checked and I was AA. From the hospital, I went to see my parents. Not because they will give their consent to my marrying Biola, but just for formality. Nothing, not even my parents, could divert me from what I had come to believe was my manifest destiny.
“Please dad, I’ve come to see you,” I told my father as I entered.
“What for?” he asked suspiciously.
“I’ve come to seek your consent to marry Biola.”
He eyed me reproachfully. “You must be out of your mind. Did you seek my consent before you eloped with her? Do what pleases you. But never bring her to this house,” he said emphatically.
“But dad…” He left me clinging his bible shaking his head in disgust. I knew he was going to the church. My mother begged me not to marry Biola. “Chika, please leave this girl and look for another girl to marry.”
“Come mom, tell me your reason for your being against my marrying Biola?”
When she didn’t say anything, I continued. “Is it just because my father doesn’t want me to? Has the girl done anything bad to you? Or simply because her father is rich?”
“No, son. She isn’t from our tribe. She doesn’t understand our language nor our culture.”
“What? Tribe? So mom you show tribal royalty?”
“Who does not? Don’t be deceived, ours is a conglomeration of nations. Tribal loyalty and ethnic antagonism will not allow for national unity.”
“Oh mom, forget about Biola being from another tribe. What she has done for me, no woman from our tribe has ever done it. For our language and culture she’ll learn. I love Biola and that is all that matters to me,” I explained earnestly.
“And no woman from our tribe has given you the troubles she has given you.”
“It wasn’t her own making. She is a fine girl.”
“Chika, don’t you think that the lady is older than you?”
“What is wrong with that, mom? You don’t stop loving someone because she’s older, when her character is fine.”
“I know your mind is made up, but please be careful.”
“There is nothing to be careful about. Her father has even given his consent.” I assured her, understandingly.
“I wish you luck.”
Despite most convincing arguments against marrying Biola, an inner voice kept on insisting more and more that I went ahead. So far, my conscience had not deceived me, therefore in this case, I followed its dictates.
I went ahead to marry Biola. It was written in the bible, “Man shall leave his father and mother and take a wife and they shall become one flesh. What God has put together let no man put asunder?”
It was so strange to be able to come and go like this without the least restraint to Senator Harrison’s house. What a sorrow, we even parted even at nights. Biola obsessed me. She inhabited a permanent corner of my memory. Whenever, I knew we were to meet, I took particular pains with my dress. Finally, after a week of bliss, time come for our engagement. For the first time in her life, I put a ring on Biola’s finger. It made her feel funny. I was brimming with pleasure. We were together, whenever, we could and she was remarkably tender with me. The engagement ring was a emerald and diamond delivered by an exclusive Lagos jewelry store.
Staring at this dazzling gem, her mother smilingly shook her head and said, “I hope this union will bring you immense joy. I was very happy when Biola told me the result of your genotype,” she said, after the guests had left.
“Ma’ am I sorry, Biola told me that you lost your son to sickle cell anemia.”
“Hmm! It was a terrible experience. After Biola was born, each time I was pregnant, I prayed fervently for a boy. I’d three miscarriages. When I’d the last one, my husband went abroad for a month to overcome the disappointment. He was anxious for a heir and it was my desire to give him one.”
“But this preference of African men for male children is rather unfair,” Biola said.
“It is our culture for a man to take over from his father after the women have been married. The birth of Tunji, therefore meant more to me than arrival of just another child. The baby was the crowning of our marriage, the fruit of my hours of prayers, I felt. I was proud and happy in the beauty of my child, one of the handsomest babies one could imagine, with lovely face, dark hair, strikingly clear bright eyes, and light skin. When he smiled, there were two little dimples in his chubby cheeks.”
“You must’ve been very happy,” I said.
“All who saw me with my infant son were struck with my happiness. The child appeared to be glowing with health. The revelation that Tunji suffered from sickle cell anemia struck me with savage force. For that moment, I lived in the particular sunless world reserved for the mothers of sickle cell anemia patients. For me, there was no more exquisite torture than watching helplessly as my beloved child suffered extreme pain. Tunji, like every other child, looked to me for protection. When the crisis and the pain came, he always cried, ‘Mom help me. Mom helps me.’ In the hospital, each time he cried out seemed like a sword thrust into the bottom of my heart. One minute, Tunji could be playing happily and normally. The next, the crisis has started, that would take him to the brink of death.”
“How about dad, didn’t he help?” Biola asked.
“He was a very busy person, so I was the one always in the hospital. When he saw how stressful, it was, he hired a nurse to assist me. She usually gave first aid, when needed, before we rushed Tunji to the hospital. The first time, Tunji was diagnosed to have sickle cell anemia, my reaction was a vigorous resolve to fight; somehow, somewhere, there must be a specialist who can help. One after the other, I consulted different specialists. One-by-one they tried all they could. All failed. I discovered I was alone,” she said, cleaning tears from her eyes.
“Trying to control the waves of anxiety and frustration that kept rolling over me, I sought answers by throwing myself into the church. I was formerly a catholic; I left for the Pentecostal church. Believers Chapel had strong belief in the healing power of faith and prayer. Having realized that no doctor could cure my son, I decided to wrest from God the miracle which medical science denied me. ‘God is just’, I decreed, and plunged into renewed attempt to win his mercy by the fervent passion of my prayers.”
“But it is said that God doesn’t give to a person a cross, he cannot bear. Is that statement true with your experience?” Biola asked.
“It is very difficult for me to answer. Hours after hours, I prayed, either in the house, in the office, in the church. The periods, Tunji was well; I dared to hope that, ‘God has heard me,’I cried. As years passed and one crisis followed another, I refused to believe that God had abandoned me. Instead I decided that I must be unworthy of receiving a miracle. I felt God had rejected my prayers, therefore I must find someone who was closer to God to intercede on my behalf. I went to see Pastor James. Pastor James who had tremendous hypnotic power, tried and failed.
“The greatest support a woman in my situation needed was the love and understanding of her husband and friends. My husband’s contribution, whenever, he was around wasn’t much, but he was rarely around. I’d very few friends. I wasn’t good at making friends. As one precarious year followed another, emotional stress took a terrible toll on my health. The battle against Tunji’s sickness left me physically and emotionally drained. At times of crises, I spared myself nothing, sitting up day and night beside Tunji’s bed. Constant worries over Tunji’s health completely undermined mine. I developed hypertension. I’d shortness of breath. My breath often came in quick, painful gasps. The doctor diagnosed that I was suffering from hypertension brought on by my worry over the health of my son.”
“With all this problem of your own, how were you able to help other people?” I asked.
“The compulsion to fight other people’s battle and help bear their crosses stemmed in part from my own frustration. Nothing was more discouraging and debilitating than to be permanently confronted with a situation which never changes and which cannot be changed, no matter how hard one tried. Once God sends such a cross, it must be borne. Having realized this, I threw myself into helping those who can be helped as a means of self-preservation. Many of the problems in this country, unlike the sickle cell anemia, hold out some promise of hope. By helping others, like the blind, orphans, I was actually trying to keep a grip on my sanity.”
“I thought there’s a traditional medicine capable of curing the disease?” I asked.
“If there is any, I never came across it. The doctors kept their ministrations, exhausting every means known to science to stop the crises. Two weeks to Tunji’s seventh birthday, Tunji surrendered to death. I was devastated. I was so much devastated, that, willingly I gave up any pleasure – they meant so little to me.
“How did you meet my father?” Biola asked.
“We met through a friend of mine. I went to a party in my friend’s flat in Surulere when I newly returned from Britain where I went to obtain my doctorate degree in English. He was handsome, bold and financially comfortable. After two years of courtship, we wedded in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Falomo.”
The truth was that she held Senator Harrison in disdain. She was aware of his going out with other women and never forgave him for it. Her nonchalance of her husband’s attitude was just window dressing.
Many Nigerians didn’t know Mrs. Harrison was sick, the few who’d some inkling had only hazy ideas as to the nature of the ailment. When she missed a public function, Senator Harrison always explained that she was out of the country or had a cold. Unaware of her ordeal, journalists wrongly ascribed her remoteness to being an introvert.
The years of worry left a look of sadness settled permanently on her face; when she spoke to people, she often appeared preoccupied and deep in gloom. As she devoted herself to her philanthropic work, her social appearances reduced. When she did emerge, she was silent, seemingly cold, and withdrawn.