Victims – Episode 21
A Story By Rosemary Okafor
She stood in front of the headmistress’ office tapping her right palm with the folded dusty credentials which has changed from its original color to dirty brown and smelt of rat pee.
She was lucky to found some of them holding up though poorly, others has giving way and had become food for rats and soldier Ants that made her house their abode when she came back two weeks ago.
For that past two weeks, she had leaved out of Uwa Musa’s charity, until the day Ifeoluwa came in with an empty plate and a gloomy face
“In na ci gaba dab a su yaran da iyali abunci, su iyali na ma za su ji yunwa (if I keep feeding her and those fatherless children she picked from the street, my family will starve too)” Baba Musa had said in Hausa but Ifeoluwa understood him
“Please my daughter, we just finished eating, there is nothing remaining to give her…tell her I will come and see her tomorrow morning” Uwa Musa had told Ife, sending the child back with an empty plate
“They were still eating when I got there, Musa’s mouth was oily when he came out” Ife had grumbled
In that sad situation, she managed a smile as she remembered Father Charles from Immaculate Heart Parish, Umudim Nnewi, who was said to have hidden his plate of Akpu and Onugbu soup when Nwamgbeke came to beg for food from him as usual, the story went that the poor Reverend Father had hidden the food inside the house and rushed out to meet the old woman and have forgotten to wash his smeared palm;
“Biko mama, enwenyi ihe din a ulo fada kita m ga enye gi maka umuaka, erechala Jin a Okuko ejiri bia onyinye ubochi uka (I am so sorry Ma, but I have nothing in my house now to help your children with, the church council has sold all the Cocks and yams brought for thanks given last Sunday, they want to use the money to further the work going on in the parish…)” the priest had said
You won’t blame Reverend Father, Nwamgbeke was always a pain in the neck of anyone she chose to disturb with her family problems and lack, coupled with the poor Father barely had enough to feed himself after two third of the collections must have gone to the Diocese
“Fada, Otito diri Jeso …(Father Glory be to Jesus)” Nwamgbeke had chanted
“Na ndu ebebe amem (Now and forever amen)” Father had responded
“Fada doo, Oburu ni Utara I na eluo, bunye nu mu na umu, ka ime be zia nu Opipia maka mgbahara njo ndi uwa (Please father, even if it is this Fufu and soup you are eating, give me and my children, at least you can do fasting for the sins of the world)” Nwamgbeke had pleaded to the Priest.
The story went round the Village, even the children nicknamed the Reverend Father; ‘ Father Ori-Akpu na Ofe Onugbu (Father fufu and bitterleaf soup eater)’ she didn’t know how true that story was, Nwamgbeke had told the story herself, and it always made her laugh when ever she set her eyes on the Reverend Father
She didn’t blame Baba Musa and his family, things were hard, and three square meal was so difficult to come by not to talk of giving out to extra three mouths,
That night, she folded her arms across her breast as Ogugua and Ife gulped multiple spoons of watery soaked Garri with salt, while she swallowed her spittle.
“Ehe…Za ki iya a Shiga yanzu (you fit go in now)” the messenger said to her, looking at her with disgust from hair to toe.
She knew why the lanky messenger, whose cap looked like a bicycle seat would look at her with disgust, if she was the Headmistress, she would not also allow herself as she was to enter inside the office;
Her once fitted gray suit was now like an empty bag of beans and she looked like a corn crow wearing it. With her cheeks sunk in and her bones visible, the once elegant cloth hung loose on her and moved on its own.
“Na gode, Thank you” she said and walked in
“Barka da asuba (Good morning)” Ukwuoma greeted the funny looking woman seated behind the wooden desk
She didn’t respond to her greeting neither did she look at her, she was busy flipping through the pages of a fashion magazine
“Sannu da aiki (How is work)” Ukwuoma added, desperately wishing that the woman would talk to her.
Without responding, the headmistress stretched her hand towards her, Ukwuoma guessed the woman wanted her Certificates and handed them over to her. The woman wiggled her nose as the stench from the papers slapped her nose, she put the documents aside;
“I am so sorry ma, but that is what was left of them after I came back from the IDP camp”
“watin you say you want sef?” the woman asked
It was not a surprise to Ukwuoma to hear the headmistress address her in Pigin, in fact, it was seen as normal for teachers around there to teach with Hausa language or Pigin.
“I want to teach Madam…”
The woman looked at her with mockery;
“For this place, everybody wan become teacher, if hungry catch them small, them go run enter teaching mtchewww…” Mrs Headmistress muttered
“Oya watin you fit teach for here?”
“I can teach English and mathematics very well, though I major in Mathematics”
“Ehen…” the headmistress said, looking at Ukwuoma again
Ukwuoma prayed she got the job, this would be the forth school she had been to since that day, the first school had disqualified her on the basis of religion, while the second schools needed a French teacher and all she knew in French was ‘Jomapel’ and ‘coman tapel tu’
“You don teach before?” The headmistress asked her
“Yes! Yes… In fact I have been teaching for the past six years”
“Ehen…Okay…but we no dey pay plenty money o…na three thousand I fit pay you o, you know say money no dey we even get luck sef come get small children way gree come school, for this side eh, na beg we they beg them make them come school”
“Ma… I have a son…I also want him to be registered here…”
“waayoo ! You dey fine job abi you dey fine school for your pikin?”
“Work ma…school for my Pikin…ehee…both ma”
The woman looked at her again;
“I go comot him school fees from your money o…”
She had no better option; three thousand naira can help them put food in their bellies no matter how little. It wasn’t the kind of work she would want to take on a normal circumstance but then, this is not a normal circumstance
“Na gode” Ukwuoma said left the office.
“A kiyaye abun Kyama! (No to Abomination)”
“Kar a kazantar da Ramadan! (Don’t defile Ramadan)”
“tsirara na Shaitan ne (unclothedness is of the devil)”
The women were covered in blacks from head to toe, except from the nets that provided a space for sight, every other part of them were covered, while the men among them were on black caftans and caps.
There were many of them blocking the entrance of the federal house of assembly, with the national media organizations panning their cameras to get better shots and pictures of the protesters
“we say no to bringing any Beauty pageant in Nigeria!”
“It is disrespect to Allah and the Islam!”
“We the Shiite Muslims Stand against it!”
“They want to defile the holy month of Ramadan and insult Allah and his Prophet, we say no to this blasphemy!!!”
The young Shiite spoke with vigor, perspirations dropping from his face and arms pit, damping his cloth, the sun was high and scourged without mercy,
While the men on Agbada and suits in the House fought with words and chairs;
“This is a circular state Honorable, your religion shouldn’t affect what the next person chose to do with his or her live”
“Religion has always played an important role in this Nation whether we like it or not, and Islam cannot keep quiet while some group of prostitute marketers defile the holy month!”
“People have the right to do whatever they want to do with their lives irrespective of your religion, if you don’t like it, switch off your TV period!”
“Senator Ibe! You are a cow for making that statement! Will you allow this rubbish during your religion Lent period?”
“You are the cow senator Ali, you are the cow!
Lekwa nu Aturu Awusa a o , you want to rub your stupid religion on all of us…?
‘Fiam!!! ’ Senator Ibe didn’t see that coming, but he staggered like a blind ma as the big bottle of Eva water hit the back of his head, forcing his jaw to kiss his chest
“Chineke me! ndi a egbu o nu mo, onye luru m Ihe kena (My God, this people have killed me, who threw that thing on me)” Ibe screamed
Senator Walter pulled his shoe and threw it at Senator Ali
“Anumpama! Nkita rachakwa gi anya dia (Idiot, may local dogs lick out your eye balls)
In less than minutes, objects and humans were flying and diving each other while the senate president squeezed himself out of the scene from the back door.
Imam Husayn stood up after he had watched the drama for a while, he needed that conflict in the House of Assembly in other to perfect his other plan.
The young man that spoke during the Protest fascinates him, the kind of strength, zeal and vigor he would want to recruit in his sect, now that he wanted to gradually dispose Yusuf but there was still time.
He needed Yusuf still, he had been the commander to the sect for a very long time, changing him without any concrete reason may affect the movement. He thought of Issah and shook his head, he liked Issah, but he was still being careful not to entrust so much on him, he saw the zeal and brutality on Issah and it fascinates him as well as scared him.
He dialed a number and waited impatiently
“Yes…it is time…on a highly populated market…Yes…Allah will reward you and your men greatly…
He had to drive the message deeper to the Presidency, this was no longer a dance, it was a war which he most win.
Two days later, two bombs rocked the city of Abuja, one was in Garki International Market, and the other was left in the boot of a rickety car in a commercial motor park.
To be continued
⬅️ PREVIOUS episode