Chapter 3: The Journey To Mbu
Life had be going well with Ani and his way of life had won many unscrupulous persons around his table. With his ill-gotten wealth and evil acts, two other traditional titles were confided on him. Even though many persons were not in support of it, he made his way easily in getting them through crooked means. Determines to use every means possible to deal with his opponent Eke who was still alive, he consulted some of his friends to help thought over the issue and come up with reasonable ideas on how to carry out the evil act properly and effectively without any trace of the conspirators.
Three months after the death of Nnenna, Eke came to know about it. Since he was on exile, he has no right to enter his village. He sent his condolences message to Obidiya through someone. Obidiya was touched by his message and was happy that Eke even while on exile had not forgotten his friend’s family. She made up her mind to visit him in the next long vacation with her son.
Both prepared one morning to travel to Mbu, a village in the Isi-Uzo in Enugu State, where Eke was living. Eke was happy to see the family of his friend Eze. He welcomed them warmly and presented them to his friends and neighbours. The sympathy Obidiya was given made her to have a fresh sorrow of the death of her husband. It was as if the whole story had been narrated to the whole villagers in Mbu by Eke. Yes, it was like that because Eke was seen as hero by the people of his maternal land. He fought a good fight and accepted the responsibility of his act boldly without compromise. Then, Eke’s mother was still alive though very old and might join her ancestors in no distance time. She was delighted to see Obidiya, who her Eke had told her many good things about. “Oh! You are now a big boy. A carbon copy of his father,” Eke said to Obi as he took him in to drop his luggage. Eke’s wife never wasted time in the greeting. A few minutes after the arrival of her guests, she dashed into the kitchen together with daughter and start cooking for her guests. Without wasting much time, Obi joined other children in the compound in fetching water and peeling cassava. His spontaneous used of his common senses was highly appreciated by many. “He is always willing to work,” Obidiya said. “Then you are doing a good job on him,” said Eke. “I must since he is the only one I had now. He is my daughter, my son, my husband, my brother and my sister,” Obidiya replied. Eke was sympathetically touched by her last statement. “Evil is really at work and it is gaining ground more than good. Poor woman! God will surely help you,” he said to himself in his mind.
Obidiya and her son stayed for two days in Eke’s house, and on the third day the journeyed back to Akuke Enugu.
While they were in the bus, Obi asked his mother: “Mma, our teacher told us that jesus died for us all while we were still sinners. How is that true?”
The mother looked at him with the side of her eyes and smiled. “Yes, He did. Is anything wrong with that?” She asked him. “No, nothing is wrong. But I am still confused. Did He died recently? Because the teacher said we were all born in sin, which we inherited from our first parents Ada and Eve,” he retorted. “Obi, leave me alone. Do I look like your teacher? That was what the bible said,” he relied pretending to be angry so that he could leave her to think about her life. Obi continued: “He must be a good man then to die for people he didn’t even know or lived with,” he said looking through the window of the bus as if he was referring the question to himself. “Yes, He is a good man, but don’t forget He is the Son of God.” “Yes, Mma, you are right. My teacher said something like that that very day. I could remembered vividly when she told us that God the Son died on the cross to redeemed mankind,” he said while nodding his head to affirm his statement.
Just after their discussion, a lady in the bus asked the rest of the passengers to be in the mood of prayers. The lady led the prayer. After two songs of worship, all was asked to pray to God in his own language, committing the journey into the hands of God so that all would arrive to his or her destination safely. The prayer lasted for about fifteen minutes after which the Lord’s Prayers was use to conclude it.
“Mma, does that mean that when one die for the sake of others, he or she will be called Jesus’s follower?” obi asked his mother.
“I thought we had finished that discussion?” she asked. “I just wanted be sure of what I am thinking because we may a test on it anytime from now,” he replied.
“You, must not wait to die for others before you become His follower. Helping people who are in need, saving people’s life that are in danger, and the like are parts of what you can do to be His followers also,” he said emotionally. “Okay, now I understood. How I wished I was able to save Nnenna from death just like Jesus Christ saved us from eternal death as my teacher said, she would have been here with us.” “Obi! Is enough. Close your eyes and sleep,” she commanded him. Immediately, he closed his eyes. Who knows what he was thinking. Only he alone could tell. Obi pondered over the words of his mother on how one could be a follower of Christ apart from dying. How he wished he was able to save the life of his father and sister from the chains of death.
Later, Obi woke up. “You this boy, did you sleep at all. Just few minutes ago that I asked you to sleep and you are already awake,” she said. “Madam, you don’t need to force him to sleep. Just stop talking with him and in a short time, you will see him dozing,” a passenger that was just behind her said. “Okay, since you don’t want to sleep, tell me a story my husband,” she said. “You husband! What a strong bond of love between a mother and a child. Okay tell your wife a story then,” said jovially by another passenger just beside Obidiya. Obi smiled and stated his story. “Story! Story!!” he said. “Story,” his mother and the passenger sitting beside her responded unanimously.
“Once upon a time, there was a man called Ibori. Ibori had three brothers who were very wealthy and rich but none of them had a male child. In James’ culture, having a male child or male children were considered as blessings from God and they are more valued than their female counterparts. Because of this, his brothers developed a strong hatred towards him as if he was the cause of their problem.
James was the only male child of his parents together with his two other younger sisters. They lived in the eastern part of Nigeria in West Africa. His parents were involved in petty business in a small market located three kilometres away from his home. The market days were usually Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. From the little earnings they used to make from sales, they were able to cater for their feeding and other needs. It could be said that it was out of luck and through divine providence that James was able to finish his Junior Secondary School. The struggle was not an easy one for his parents. James’ uncles were capable enough to assist his family financially for his academic pursuit and dreams but they were so reluctant to offer any assistance.
In many occasions, he had asked his father the reason why his uncles were acting that way to him as their brother, but his father always told him that when they were ready to help they would do so. This reason was not convincing to him, he knew his father was hiding the truth from him until one day when one of his cousins plainly told him the truth while they were playing. “You thought my father was not willing to help your parents?” James’ cousin said to him. “Well to me, it was a strange phenomenon. My father kept on telling me that whenever your father was ready, he would help my family financially,” he replied her. She continued: “My parents were not happy with your parents because of the issue of a male child. You were the only male child we had in our immediate extended family. That was the main reason for the hatred between your family and mine.” James gave a deep breath as she finished and left her sorrowfully.
The evening of that same day during supper, James took up the courage to ask his father the problem between him and his brothers. He only wanted to confirm what he was told by his cousin. “Father please, did you have any problem or conflict in the past with your brothers for them to be acting that way to you especially when it came to financial issues?” He asked his father with a shaky tone that denoted fear. “My son, how many times would I tell you that I had nothing against my brothers, your uncles? Could you force your fellow man to help you when he was not willing to do so? Sometimes in life as a man, you had to work for your salvation because if you should depend on others, they would fail you at the moment you least expected it,” he said. His wife looked at him with the side of her eyes with a facial expression telling him that she was not happy with his response to their son. After the meal, his sisters tidied up the place and all retired to rest while he went to the parlour to study.
James’ parent’s consolations were from their children. Their children were so blessed intellectually and character wise by nature to the extent that some of their neighbours envied them a lot. However, their only challenge was their economic state.
In the quest of getting a better job, James’s father later found one in a metal recycling company. The work was hectic and dangerous. Due to lack of safety devices for working sometimes, his father used to return home with injuries and bruises on his hands. In a local way at night after meal, his mother used to massage his father’s hands with hot water and later applied some local balm to help relieved him from the pain. This was what the young man was doing so as to make ends meet.
It has been the desire of his parents to see that all their children were educated no matter what it would cost them. His father was determined to go to any length to make it a reality. His mother continued with the petty business and at the end of the day, all their earnings would be put together and used for the common good of their family.
After his senior secondary school, it was now time for James to register for the national entrance examination into university. But there was one major problem: how to raise fund for his registration and enrolment for preparatory classes in preparation for the entrance examination. After all efforts made by his parents to raise the fund so as to meet up with the date for registration were abortive, they had to make recourse to some neighbours who could lend them money. One morning, James’ father went to see one of his good friends who was living not too far from them.
“My good friend, I hoped all was well,” he said to Ibori. “A toad does not run in the day time for nothing, either something is chasing it or it is chasing something,” replied Ibori. They both sat in front of a bottle of dry gin. “Could we take some gin before we could start our discussion? He asked Ibori. “Oh! Why not? That would even open our mind and brought forth good ideas and suggestions in view of proffering a tangible solution to my problem,” Ibori said. Two small glass cups were half filled with the gin and they both sipped the entire content in a twinkle of an eye. “Okay! What was your the reason for your visit?” He asked Ibori. “Well as I earlier said, something important and pertinent brought me to your house. I came to ask you for some money so that I could register my son James for the national examination into the university. I would pay instalmentally till I could be able to clear the whole debt,” said Ibori. “But how could your brothers be heartless and insensitive to your plights just because they were unable to have male children. Were you the cause? There was no cause for alarm. Why were we friends for! How much could be enough for you that you could afford to pay back at the end of the day?” He said. “My good friend what you said was true. I would not be tempted to take what I would not be able to pay back at the end of the day. I would need at least fifteen thousand naira,” he replied him. His friend immediately stood up, went inside his house and came out with a bundle of cash and handed it to him. “Please could you count them just to be sure? Sometimes one could make mistake and at the end of the day blamed the receiver,” he said to Ibori. After a few seconds, Ibori said: “I counted sixteen thousand naira.” “Were you sure? Please could you count it again?” He asked him. Ibori counted if for the third time and it was sixteen thousand naira as he earlier said. “You saw what I was telling you. You did well by counting it,” he said to him. Ibori extending his hand to give him back the one thousand naira note that was extra, his friend immediately said: “That could serve you to buy a bottle of gin to keep body and soul together. You could take it.” Ibori was on cloud nine. He thanked him very well and took his leave.
Arriving home that morning, he met no one in the house. All his children had gone out to assist their mother in the market because it was a Saturday. He took his garden tools and went to work in his garden just close to his house. In the afternoon, he had lunch alone and continued with his work in the garden. The good news was made known to all while they were having their supper. James was very happy that he could finally register for both the examination and the preparatory classes. That night before they retired to sleep, Ibori called his son for a discussion. He said: “My son, you could see that your parents were not folding their hands doing nothing about your academic problems. The only way you could pay us back was to succeed in your entrance examination. You owed us nothing than to perform well and gain admission into the university.” Both chatted for over two hours. At the end of their discussion, he expressed his gratitude to him and to the entire family members for all their sacrifices and promised to make them happy and satisfied at the end.
The time for registration finally arrived but James was in a state of dilemma. He had to make one choice between two. The first choice was to register in a federal university that was less expensive but highly corrupt and the second was to register in a state university that was expensive and less corrupt. One might be lucky to pass the entrance examination and be given admission without any complication but in rare cases. James prayed that he should be among the lucky ones because he knew full well that his parents were poor. After much deliberations and consolations, he finally opted for federal university. Six months before the examination, he started his preparatory classes. The classes were every day except Saturdays and Sundays. James adopted a very good study strategy that could help him to succeed. After the classes, he would go straight to the State Library for three or five hours of studies. He did this with some of his friends for two months. Later, he started borrowing textbooks from his friend for studies and would return them back to them after use. At midnight, he would woke up and studied for about four hours and slept a little before it was dawn.
It was a difficult exercise for him because, in all these, he still made himself sometimes available in assisting his mother in marketing her wares and doing other house chores. He feared that if at the end of the day, his parents were unable to pay what they would be asked to pay for him to be given admission, what would be his fate. However, he kept on being optimistic in all his plans and hoped that he would make it.
The day for the entrance examination arrived and he went to write it. Before leaving the house, his mother called him and asked him to kneel down in front of her so that she could pray for his success. Kneeling down in front of her, she spat on the palms of her hands, said a short prayer with them closed to her mouth and rubbed them on her son’s head. “My son, you could now go in peace. The spirit of God would surely guide and see you through,” she said. James stood up quietly, thanked her and left.
The exam was successful and he grinned from ear to ear that very day. From all indications, he was very sure of passing the examination. A month later the result was out. His entire surrounding was filled with sorrow and grief because his name was not among those who succeeded. He could not tell what might have happened or where the problem was. However, rumour had it that, sometimes, the seats or positions of successful candidates were sold to parents who were wealthy and influential in the society for their wards after they must have paid a substantial amount of money to the university authorities. “What a failure and a fall. Where could I start from? How could I be able to look for another money to register him against next year? How would that be possible? How I wished I could see other means to raise fund for him,” he said to himself as he laid on his bed that night filled with the thought of his son’s failure. James was downed in the dumps after his failure. The effect of it was felt by the entire family. Many family friends came to console them. Many never expected what happened to him. For some, it might be that his result and place were sold to someone else who was able to bribe his way into the university. Depressed and confused in the whole thing, James did not know where to start from but he had to start somewhere. It was a challenging moment for him. He almost decided not to write the examination again and look for something else to do in life since he got his fingers burnt in previous one.
His uncles were with a grin like a Cheshire cat. It was as if they had been praying for the failure of their nephew. The situation destabilised James’ father psychologically but after sometime, he came back to himself and moved on with life. The issue of paying back his debt became a serious problem to him after he had a physical accident in his place of work. The edge of a sharp metal pierced through below his wrist while he was working. This accident made his father remain at home for over three months. Nevertheless, the lender understood his condition and never bordered to ask him when he was supposed to pay back.
The discouragement and depression became intense when some of James’ friends visited him two days before their departure to university. They consoled him and encouraged him to have hope in the next entrance examination. The most annoying part of the whole thing was not that he failed the examination but his inability to figure out where the problem was. Had it been he was able to identify the problem, he would have known the next time to take in preparation for next year’s own.
His father’s stay at home brought economic crises in his house. Things started becoming difficult for them financially. The hope of writing the entrance examination the following year was gradually fading away. The future was really dark and uncertain. Being the first child and the only son, he had to do something. He thought of going to find a job in his father’s place of work, with the hope that he could get it after he must have explained his condition and that of his father to them. Though at first, his father was not in support of him going to work where he was working but with the firm position of his wife for the idea, he later accepted.
Two days after their discussion, James went and talked with the manager of the company. After some minutes of discussion, he was asked to start work a week later. It was another good news to the family. His parents especially his father, explained to him how risky the job was due to lack of protective measures not been provided by the management.
He was employed in the physical separation unit, where metals were been separated from other non-metal materials. At first, the job was difficult for him but as time went on, he started becoming used to the system. Apart from the little injuries he usually sustained during the course of his work, he hardly had time to rest. He used to start work at 8 am and finished at 4 pm. From his place of work to his home could take him an hour and thirty minutes on foot. He preferred going on foot in order to make some savings. His entire family members pleaded with him to persevere in the job. It was true that since he started working, things were been ameliorated in one way or the other in the economic aspect of the family.
Three months after he got a job, his father felt seriously ill and was taken to the hospital. After a few laboratory tests, it was discovered that Ibori was having diabetics type 2. This was another financial stress on the family. But in all, James strived harder in making ends meet. His four months salary was used to off-set his father’s debt and his hospital bills. Sixty percent of the hospital bill was paid by his father’s friend who loaned them money.
One fateful day, one of his uncles paid them a visit after they heard that their brother was diagnosed of diabetics. From his actions and words, his visit was not a visit in the real sense of it but a mockery to Ibori’s family. He advised his brother to send James for an apprenticeship where he could learn practical training and development of hand skills. “Well my brother, your idea was not a bad one,” Ibori said. “Yes, there you were. I could be of great help if you did not mind. I have a friend who could accept him in his woodwork shop,” Ibori’s brother said. “But why that idea of yours? Was it because you were envious of me and hated me and my family for no just cause? We all knew the cause of the enmity between you and I, together with our brothers. You all could be of help to me and to my family but you categorically refused to act, thinking that nothing good could come out of my family. Were you not ashamed of yourself when you asked me to send my son for an apprenticeship? You could take you leave now,” he said in anger. The young man quietly stood up, gave Ibori an asymmetrical smile and left.
When James came back from work that very day, he discovered that his father was irate. He tried to find out from him the cause of his anger but he was not in the mood to talk to him. Common sense demanded that he had to wait for a favourable time to ask him again, which he did.
The next morning, after their morning prayer, he approached his father and asked him why he was irritated the day before. “My son it was one of your uncles,” he said. “Which of them? He asked. “Osa, Taye’s’ father,” he replied. “What did he say? He came again to make a mockery of us like his brothers or he came to pay you a visit because you were sick?” James asked his father. “Not a mockery that time but an insult on my face. My brothers have driven me up the wall,” retorted his father. His father narrated the whole incident to him. James was fit to be tied when he heard about everything. Right there he decided to see his uncle Osa because he got a bone to pick with him, but his father calmed him down and told that there was still hope for him to make it in going to university. James saw the action of his uncle as an embarrassment and an insult not only to his family but to him in particular.
The year was almost ending, and he needed to put more efforts in his preparation for the entrance examination. This time around, he registered earlier for the preparatory classes for an evening session and made it mandatory for himself to be attending classes immediately after he dismissed from work. It was not an easy task for him. Sometimes, he used to sleep in the classroom while lessons were going on due to tiredness. His parents and siblings kept on encouraging him especially when in moments when he would feel like abandoning everything that had to do with his studies. He had emaciated very well due to the stress of combining the preparatory classes and work. However, he was challenged and awaken from his slumber when his friends from the university came home during vacation. The story and good things they told him about life in university gingered him and boosted his morale. He resumed his normal programme for studies which he used to do in the middle of the night. Sometimes, he would get a bucket half filled with water and put his feet inside so that he could be awaked throughout the night while studying. In many occasions in the middle of the night, his mother and siblings had woken him up after he might have dozed off while studying. When his house was noisy, he would go to his father’s garden and sat under a tree to study.
His physical appearance could tell everyone that James was passing through a difficult moment but it was for good. Many thought he was sick because of it. One fateful day in the classroom, James was sleeping while the lesson was going on. The teacher saw him as he bent his head, with the thought that he was been distracted by something below his desk, the teacher asked him: “James could you give us an example of an oxidative substance?” Immediately the person sitting beside him tapped him on his shoulder. As soon as he woke up, he said: “Newton.” The whole classroom was filled with laughter. Many laughed off their head at his. His response was as a result of what he read on “Motion” the previous day in physics and in the process of trying to recall what he read, he dozed off. From that day onwards, he was nicknamed Newton and many started calling him James Newton.
Two weeks to the entrance examination, he demanded a break in his place of work to enable him to prepare effectively for it. It was granted to him without any delay and complication. Throughout the two weeks, he was indoor. Eating was no more his problem. He hardly ate as before. This caught the attention of his father, who tried to make him understood that starving himself could not solve the problem but would rather worsen it. He was advised not to neglect his health because only a healthy person could go to school. The piece of advice fell on deaf ears. Only the mother and siblings knew what was happening. Anytime he was served meal, at the end of the day sometimes, he would returned the meal the way it was or only ate a little of it.
The exam day finally arrived. The mother prayed for him as usual. During the examination, in a hall of one hundred and fifty candidates, all persons who were in the same examination hall with James were asked by the invigilators to pay some amount of money so that they could be assisted illegally. At the end of the day, 98% paid but two other persons and James could not pay. They insisted that they could write the examination without their assistance. It was not because they never wanted to pay but because they had no money. However, something dramatic happened in the examination hall. Thirty minutes to the end of the examination, those who were having some questions unanswered were asked to get assistance from James and his colleagues.
Due to some problems the results of the examination were delayed. This raised panic and fear on James. He was not at easy starting from the day the results were supposed to be out. Three weeks after the exact date the results were supposed to be out, it was announced on the radio that the results were out. He went to check for his name and lo and behold, his name was there and he was given admission to study medicine. He was lifted and carried by his friends from the examination centre to his house, amidst joy, singing and gyration,
His entire community members were perplexed as they saw a group of boys carrying someone amidst singing and dancing. Arriving in front of James’ house, the shout and singing became intense. His parents and siblings came out and saw their son and brother being lifted up by some young boys singing. They asked what the matter was. Immediately the wordings of the song changed:
The great lion has made it finally lo lo lo lo lo.
No matter the great lion’s condition in the forest, he was not meant to eat grass but flesh because that was how it was made by nature lo lo lo lo lo.
The great Newton has made it finally. He is called doctor Newton and not James Newton as it used to be lo lo lo lo lo.
The dance attracted many passers-by and neighbours who came to see for themselves what was going on. James parents and siblings joined in the singing and dancing. It was a moment of joy and happiness for the entire family and they celebrated the success.”
That is end of my story!
There was total silence. Few passengers were attentive to the story were amazed. Being shy as many faces where looking at him, he bent his head and pretended as one sleeping. “Good job boy! You can go for a story competition then,” someone commended. “Where did you get the story from? Who narrated it to you first?” the woman sitting close to Obi’s mother asked. “My father, when he was still alive,” he replied. Instant pity and sympathy took over the woman. “Ewoo! Chineke moo! You mean your father is dead. Sorry my son, sorry madam. Accept my sympathy and condolences over the death of your husband. Such is life,” she said to her emotionally. “Thank you madam. God bless you for the concern,” she replied. Another voice from behind said: “May the good Lord grant you the fortitude to bear the lost. Amen.” Obidiya could no longer hold her tears. It was obvious that she was already tears. “Is okay madam. God knows why. He gives and takes, and we human beings can’t question any of His action.”
Arriving home that day after a wonderful journey though hectic for them, Obidiya was able to organised herself and prepare for the week ahead to continue with her daily life activities. Mama Akpan was happy to see her back.