Chapter 5: My Son, My Consolation
There was a tremendous progress in Obidiya’s trade. If one could say, luck was really on her side. Those with whom she started trade with could not compete with her. She made an extension of her stall so as to accommodate her wares. In order to give her son total freedom to focus squarely on his studies, she had to employ a girl of thirteen years old, who was given to her by Mama Akpan. She used to come to stay in obidiya’s shop immediately after school each day, and at the end of the month some token would be paid to her parents. That was the agreement and Obi’s mother did everything she could to respect the agreement. Many times, there had been issue of money missing, wrong account of things sold and the like. But Obidiya never for once worried herself about the whole thing. All she was after was to give her son the best in life. After all, that was the only seed from her womb that was still alive.
That year’s Christmas celebration was like the highest feast ever in Obidiya parents’ house. She brought many food items, clothes, kitchen wares, and the like home. Though her parents had already the news from friends and relatives how their daughter had been doing well in her business. It was during that period that she was told about the death of Eke’s wife. She wept bitterly when he heard about it. Though not too sure of who the culprits were, all fingers were pointing at Mazi Ani. At that moment, she wished God could give her His people just for a few seconds, the only thing she would use it for was to eliminate Ani. But the presence of her friend Uzoamaka still made her to have some atom of feelings for Ani her husband.
Obi was already in primary six, preparing to sear for the final exam called First School leaving Examination. Three months to the time, his mother didn’t hesitate enrolling him in a private lesson, which he usually attended after school. People were proud of Obi in their compound where they now live. Though not too far from their former compound, he used to go visit his friends when there was need. The amount of energy and seriousness he put in his study made their neighbours to love him more. He became a measuring stick for other children in his vicinity. Any children that misbehaved, he or she would be ask to take after the example of obi.
After the exam, he made an excellent grade and was admitted into the junior secondary school. Obi school was some kilometres from his house. He used to go with public transport.
One faithful day, Uzoamaka paid a visit to Obidiya. It was a surprising one indeed. “Who am I seeing?” Obidiya exclaimed as she set her eyes on Uzoamaka. The way the two embraced themselves told those around that, both had not seen each other for a long time. “How did you locate my shop woman?” Obidiya asked her. “Is anything hidden under the sun?” she asked. “No,” Obidiya replied. “Come and have a seat my good wife.” The two talked for long. The presence of her sales girl gave her opportunity to spend more time chatting with her guest. That very day, she closed for the day two hours before the normal time. She was really happy to see Uzoamaka again.
“Where is your husband Obi?” Uzoamaka asked when they got home. “Hmm! My sister, schools these days are turning into something else. Do you know that in Obi’s school, extra moral classes were compulsory?” she said. “How?” uzoamaka asked in dismay. “My sister, could we talk something important, I am tired of the policies in his school,” Obidiya said reluctantly.
That evening since she had already cooked, she had only to heat the food on fire and in less than ten minutes, the table would be ready. “Would you like to eat now while the food was still hot?” she asked her guest. “I would not taste anything until the man and owner of this beautiful house appeared,” replied her guest. “Please oh my sister, the owner of the house is my landlord, I am just his mere tenant oh,” Obidiya said jokingly. They both laughed and continued their gossip.
Uzoamaka narrated to her the current situation in her place, how her husband was really gaining ground and popularity among the villagers, and how people were accusing her husband in the killing of Eke’s wife. Whenever Obidiya thought of nemesis catching up with Ani, the thought of his wife her guest would arise a sense of pity for him. How she wished her guest was married to a different person other than Ani.
An hour later, the man of the house appeared like a king. “Good afternoon Madam,” Obi greeted. “Do you still remember her?” His mother asked him. “No, I can’t,” he replied pretending to be frowning his face. “Is aunty Uzoamaka, the wife of your uncle Ani.” “Okay, I now remember,” he said.
Obi tidy up himself and came to join them in the parlour. The food was ready and they all ate peacefully, chatting and laughing. Deep in him, he was not happy and was not fully involved in the discussion and chatting during the meal. This the two women noticed but misunderstood it to be tiredness.
That night obi and his mother slept in the parlour while their bedroom was sacrificed to for their guest. As they laid to sleep, his mother asked: “I noticed you were not happy while we were eating this evening. What was the problem?” he was quiet. “Am I not talking you?” She asked him. “Mma was it not her husband that killed my father?” She instantly stretched out her hand and cover his mouth with her palm. “Don’t said that aloud. Don’t you know she might hear what you are saying?” She reacted. She never asked him any further question for she had understood her son very well. Unfortunately for them, at that time, Uzoamaka was awake, and she heard what Obi said. She was troubled that night. She thought how Obidiya’s husband appeared to her in a dream, telling her to help his family. She tried consoling herself with the fact that, Obidiya was financially balance and it was no more an obligation for her to look after Eze’s family. That night, she didn’t have a good night rest because she was troubled about the whole thing.
The following morning, since it was Saturday, Obi was in the house busy with house chores while his mother and her guest went to market after the breakfast. People had come to know Obi as one who could narrate stories. He was very good at that. Whenever he was with his friends, he liked telling them stories, both real and unreal life stories. He was very good at putting words together to come up with an interesting story.
The next day being Sunday was the birthday of one of the landlord’s children. Everything was set for the party. Many children were invited to take part. After the dancing, eating, and singing, the landlord pleaded with Obi to tell the children a story before they could depart to their various homes. It was a big challenge. The crowd was frightening because they were not only children, even adults were there, including the landlord’s friends. “He is a good story teller,” the landlord said to one of his friends sitting beside him. “Is that so? Then let’s us hear he has to tell us today.”
Obi cleared his throat and started:
“Once upon a time, there lived a boy called Stephen. He was born and brought up in the Eastern part of Nigeria. His parents were local farmers who engaged in subsistence farming. As one from a poor family, he has to work for his daily bread every blessed day he came to experience in his life. At the age of seven, he started his primary school. As one who started going to school late, he was a laughing stock to all his classmates. In a class of thirty pupils, he was just like an elder brother to others. Despite all the mockery from his classmates, he never gave up.
Some days for him were spent in the farm while others days, he used to come to school three hours before the dismissal time. In many occasions, the school authority has cautioned his parents to find a lasting solution to their son’s problem so that he could be coming to school early. Stephen’s parents had no choice than to continue with the situation. His parents really had good intention to send him to school so that he could be like others in his vicinity, who lives have been transformed for good through western education. That was the desire of his parents for him. The little income his parents used to make form their farm products when sold was used in catering for Stephen’s school fees and others.
Few metres from Stephen’s house was a mansion built by a young man by name Paul, who was a doctor by profession. Story had it that, Paul’s parents labour night and day, made all sacrifices possible to see their son through school from primary level to tertiary level. At first, people were making mockery of Paul’s father based on that that he extent of sacrifice for his son’s education nearly cost him his life. But at the end of the day, all those who were making mockery of him regretted their action. That mansion was the only house made up of cement and metal roof in the whole of Paul’s vicinity. This was what Stephen father saw and decided to do the same for his son. However, he had a different story to tell.
The completion of Stephen’s primary school was just out of the grace of God. His father was almost giving up but the mother vowed to go to any mile to see that her son finished his education. One fateful day while they were eating, Stephen’s mother asked her husband: “But we could not just abandon the school of our son like that. What could we do?” “Woman you should not be asking me that question. Could you not see how much we sacrificed for him to complete his primary education? Please I needed rest,” he replied her. “Well as for me, I have vowed that our son would surely continue with his education no matter what it would cost us,” she said. “Good and fine. I would be there to support you woman,” He said as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
Two months to the resumption date for Stephen to start his junior secondary school, his parents went to register him but this time around not in a government school that was cheap and almost free for all citizens but into a private school. Just the fees alone what was discouraged his father but his mother remained firm in her decision to train her child. After they collected the prospectus, they all returned home. “Woman, where would you get all that money from? Hoped you were aware of what you were about to embarked on.” He asked her. She was silent. At that moment, she was thinking on possible means on how to engage herself in some petit trade at the central market where she could be trading some wares in order to raise fund for her son’s school demands. “If Paul’s parents could do it, I would do it,” she said to herself.
A week to resumption date, she was able to raise 80% of the entire fees she was asked to pay. She thought it wise to see the school management to plead if she could be given the grace to pay off the balance in a month time while her son resumed school with on the date of resumption. After she explained her condition, her request was granted. Her husband was totally taken aback on how his wife was progressing in her all her moves. The poor woman was very sure that if her son could go to school and finish, he would surely wipe her tears of sorrow and suffering. She saw herself having a son that people could look up to for help. She blamed her parents for not offering her the opportunity to go to school. And from her present condition, she did not want her son to pass through the same condition in future. She strongly believed that once her son was able to complete his education, the story of her life would change automatically for good.
Stephen was able to finish his junior secondary school but was unable to pass the final examination to senior secondary school. This was a shocked and a hit to his parents. The worst part of everything was that, they were still owing the fee for that final examination. Confused on what to do, she made up her mind to start working as a labourer on people’s farm every morning and at evening, she would go and sell her wares in the central market. This was what she was doing for six months. Finally, she was able to raise the amount to offset the last debt and pay for the final examination. This time around, Stephen succeeded by chance just with a difference of two points. The average pass mark was forty and he got forty two.
It was a painful and sacrificial journey from the parts of all. Stephen did all his best to see that he made his parents proud. During holidays, their neighbours used to call his mother “Mother of an Engineer.” Many saw Stephen as a future engineer because in his secondary, he joined the technical section and really learnt a lot. The State examination into university in was around the corner. The fee involved was high. The petit trade and labouring work of his mother could not solve it. After much deliberation, his father sold his lands in order to raise fund. This particular act by his father touched moved him emotionally. These lands were the only property his father inherited from his grandfather that he in return would inherit from his father as the first and only son.
On the eve of the examination, the three were sitting on the floor after meal. His father said: “My son, I knew you would be surprised of what I did. Yes, you had every reason to be perplexed. But I did it for a reason, for a better tomorrow. You would live to appreciate it. I knew when you would start working and earning salary, you would buy even more than those we sold.” His mother as Stephen to kneel down in front of her. She spitted into her palms, said a silent prayer and rubbed her palms on his head. According to their tradition, that was how parents used to bless their children when they were embarking on a serious journey or event in life.
The examination went successfully and two weeks later, the result was out. Another news like a two-edged sword. Stephen passed the exam. But the problem now was to cater for the fees. His mother cried bitterly over the whole situation. She was how her dream would be shattered in a twinkle of an eye. It was crystal clear to him and his parents that they could nothing. While at home, his parents made him understood that they did their best by bring him up to level he was. He thanked them and decided to look for manual jobs around where he could be working to keep body and soul together.
Three weeks of resumption, Stephen was still in the house. The mother prayed for a miracle like the one Jesus did in turning water into wine or the feeding of five thousand men with two fish and five loaves of bread to happen but nothing was forth coming. Throughout that period, she was in great sorrow and regret that what she started, she was unable to finish. Stephen on his side was not happy but what could he do. He had to take his fate like that. He never gave up. He continued working and searching for greener pastures.
One of Stephen’s friend invited him to come to the city so that he could get a better job doing. After sharing the idea with his parents. Without hesitation, they gave him their accord and blessing. That fateful morning, Stephen set off for his journey to the city.
On their way going, they were attacked by some armed robbers. The armed men took every valuable things they could find but there was a little problem. There was a woman with a baby. She was asked by the armed men to give all what she had or else they would kill her baby. She had already given all what she possessed but they never believed her. Immediately one of the gun men pointed his pistol on the child, as he was about to shoot, Stephen quickly cover the baby and the mother, backing them. With the force that pushed him, the mother and her child to the ground, the bullet hit him just by the side if upper arm without his humerus. Quickly the armed men left the scene.
All were surprised how he did it and the courage he had. A piece of clothe was used to tie round Stephen’s arm. He felt the pain but kept a smiling face. All the passengers were short of words. Many thought the woman was Stephen’s mother, only for them to release that it was not true. They all boarded the bus again quickly and continued their journey. When the bus arrived its final destination, all alighted and each took his or her direction thanking God for saving their lives. Stephen was taken to the nearest hospital accompanied by the mother she saved her baby.
While in the hospital, the husband to the woman who he saved the life of her baby arrived. When the story was narrated to the man, she was shocked. He marvelled at the courage of Stephen. Filled with mixed feelings, he lack words to express himself. After he left the hospital, the couple took him to their house and he stayed there for a week. It was in the couple’s house that the prayers of Stephen and that of his parents were answered. After Stephen narrated to them his life story and his reason for coming to the city, they accepted to assist him financially in his education.
A week later, man decided to take Stephen back to his home to see his parents. When the Stephen saw them from afar, she ran to welcome her son with his visitor. Embracing Stephen with vivacity and happiness, she mistakenly pressed him where he had injury. His movement and reaction made it clear to his mother that something was wrong. “What happened to you son?” She asked him hastily. “Oh mama there was no problem. Let’s go inside, ” he said. Turning to her visitor she said: “Nno Sah.” Which means you are welcome Sir in Stephen’s dialect. “Thank you,” he replied.
As they were inside, all what that happened was made known to Stephen’s parents. There the visitor promised to take care of Stephen’s school expenses till he graduated from university. At the hearing of this, the mother stood up, shouted out joy and ran outside. There she knelt down in the middle of her compound and started crying. “What was the meaning of that woman?” He asked her. “That was the particular spot I knelt and prayed for me son the very day he left my home to the city,” she said. Her shout attracted the attention of neighbours who came to see for themselves. When they heard the news, they congratulated Stephen and thanked their visitor for his kind gestures and recognition of what Stephen did.
Stephen joined at the second part of the academic session. He was very dedicated his studies. That was how the dreams and aspirations of his mother were revived back. Stephen saw himself in the future working as an Engineer. As one who would be earning good salary, planned bring his parents to the city, putting them in a good living condition while he tried to put a good structure in his home. He dreamt of making his parents to be the happiest people on earth after all what they went through for his sake. He also had in plan to reward the couple that changed his life in any way he could and also extend help to others around him who could not afford to go to school because of lack of fund.
As an Engineer to be, he dreamt of travelling to many countries based on career purposes in order for him to be in a better position in his profession. He saw how the woman and the man who were sowing in tears then for his sake would start to reap in joy and happiness. Seeing the importance of education, he planned in the future to train in school at least two persons from his village up till university level if resources permit him when he would have started working and earning salary then. This he said he would continue to every year so as to help reduce the number of illiterate in his village.
He planned to marry at the age of thirty with his own private house and cars for himself and for his wife with three children maximum. His choice of wife was the one that would take good care of his parents very well especially his mother.”
The end of my story.
A round of applause was given to him. All were amazed. “You see what I was telling you about him? I told you this boy is wonderful and talented,” landlord said to one of his friends. “Yes, indeed, I can now believe you. He talks with courage and boldness, with a commanding spirit. I admire his courage. By the way, where is his father?” the guest asked. “My brother, sometimes, this our world is wicked. His father is late. His mother is the woman with brown wrapper sitting close to my wife. As the story goes, it was said that his father was killed by his brother, his uncle,” landlord replied. “Having a child like him, will be a consolation to his mother. She will never regret in life because this boy will surely go places in life if he is well guided and trained.” The landlord replied: “In that area, his mother is up and doing. She is ready to sacrifice anything for him just to see that his academic activities are going well.” “One a very good day, I will like to talk with his mother,” one of the landlord’s guest. “Why not now?” he asked. “No, not now. Some other day will be good,” he replied.
People wondered how a boy of his boy could sit down and formulate a story of that nature. Obi received many gifts even more than the chief celebrant of the day. His mother knew that the story had something to with his father her husband. Uzoamaka was overwhelmed of everything. While people were busy clapping for Obi, she went straight to him and hugged him. Since that day, Obi was nicknamed “Storyteller.”
The eve before her departure, Uzoamaka had good time with her friend and wife. The joy of Eke’s returns was really bubbling in her. He had received insults from people because of the behaviour of her husband. Though Obidiya was not happy about the return of Eke, but what could she do. She could not prevent him for coming back to his father land. For her, what was important was life and not mere property or place of birth. She expressed her dissatisfaction concerning the return of Eke, knowing full well who Ani was. This she didn’t hide from Uzoamaka. Uzoamaka was in support of Obidiya’s thoughts, she had never for once supported or encouraged her husband in his evil acts.
The following day being Monday, both went to the market, and from there Uzoamaka embarked on her journey back to her home.