On the eve of the Corpus Christi - No. 24 Old Express Road, Aba.
Mama Obinna was a woman with big attitude, very robust and dark in complexion; she was a lanky woman, until she gave birth to her second child, Obinna, and it was then that people in the neighbourhood changed her nomenclature, from Madam Tessy to Mama Obinna, though basically because of the circumstances surrounding the birth of Obinna then. Even with her attitude, she was indescribably fearful. The tiniest and most harmless of insects scared her all the time. Notwithstanding her lack of courage, she was quite an industrious woman; very supportive and enduring. She didn’t acquire formal education, but she was naturally brilliant, most people thought she was a graduate. Frankly, she had never stepped into the four walls of a university before. Perhaps, that was what motivated her to vow to train all her children to at least the university level.
Mama Obinna displayed a very admirable quality, when her husband lost his job by struggling under the sun and in the rain to fend for the family. She did all that and was still very submissive to her husband.
She had a stationery store at the Ariaria International Market, Aba. Even at the 35th week of her second pregnancy, she was still managing the shop.
Her husband, Oga Andrew, as he was popularly known in the area, was formerly working with the Consolidated Breweries Awo, in Imo State. He was making arrangements to relocate his family to Awo, unfortunately the corporation downsized; he and some other colleagues were asked to resign. The man was irresponsible, to the level of drinking to stupor most of the time, though because he wanted to forget his distress. It was the drinking that was always causing problems in their matrimonial home. Although they were married for 9 years, even with 3 children, they still disagreed most of the time and most of the disagreements were on their private life. The man liked hanging out even at nights, whereas his wife was a very reserved person. She used to hang out with him before they got married, but she believed that having got married and now with kids to cater for, they needed to be more responsible, for every one naira saved counted and the more they saved, the better for them. There were very significant things to spend money on; things like school fees, house rent, feeding, Medicare, taking care of their old parents, and lots and lots of other miscellaneous things.
Secondly, the woman was a devout member of the Christ the King Catholic Parish, Aba. She was a strong member of the parish adult choir, whereas her husband was no better than a pagan. The latter lived an I-don’t-care life, whereas the former was collected. The man was hard-working though, but he was lackadaisical, flippant and careless with money. He could neither be categorized as rich nor as poor, but he was getting a steady income that guaranteed daily bread until he lost his job.
He could have made lots of savings, even before they had their first child, but he belonged to the class of people that tenaciously believed that there was still plenty of time to enjoy life. Each time his wife quarrelled with him over his recklessness, he would quote one adage, ’Nke onye riri ka obu ala mmuo’. By which he meant that life was too short and one should enjoy as much as one could possibly enjoy.
Obinna was both the second issue and the second son. He was a very brilliant boy. Even as a toddler, he displayed some attributes that make his mother’s heart to glow all the time
. He was always anxious to assist in domestic works, so long as he would be allowed to do so. All through his primary one, two and three, the boy never took second position in his class. It was chiefly his intelligence that prompted the parents to enrol him in a special school. One contradiction in Obinna’s life was that, while his mother was dark in complexion and his father sparingly fair, the boy, nonetheless, was sumptuously fair in complexion. At first sight, one would unmistakably imagine his parents were impeccably fair.
Sometime ago, when Obinna’s complexion became a bone of contention between the parents, the only explanation that solved that matter was that his maternal grandfather, was very fair. Most times, Mama Obinna wished that Obinna were her first son.
Tango was the first child, but he was just 11 months older than Obinna. His name was ThankGod, but people called him Tango, though because, while Obinna was imitating his parents to pronounce the name, it seemed too long and hard for him and thus, he called him Tango; ThankGod became popular by that nickname. ThankGod was the elder child, but Obinna was better off than him in so many ramifications, including academics and physical strength.
Comparing the two kids, Tango was more flamboyant, playful, and laggard, but he was magnanimous. Obinna was a very reserved boy, foresighted and independent-minded.
He was very uncompromising, even at that age, and that was his major shortfall, otherwise, he was the better child.
Adanna was the lastborn in the family and the only girl. She was very pretty and lanky in shape, just like her mother was before she gave birth to Obinna. Unlike her brothers, she was inordinately lazy, to an extent that disgusted her mother. Adanna never wanted anything that would stress her up. Whenever she was given a simple task to accomplish, tasks like washing of the dishes or, perhaps, tidying up the room, it was usually a tug of war. Obinna would end up accomplishing the task for her. Between her and Tango, she was Obinna’s favourite sibling, that he was always coming to her aid. In most cases, Tango approached Adanna to help him ask Obinna a favour. She wasn’t very bright academically but she never took the last position in her class. She had qualities in semblance with Tango. She was easy-going, quite accommodating, but cherished an ostentatious life. Many a time, her mother tried to convince her that they didn’t have the kind of money to provide all the things she always asked for.
Unfortunately, the woman’s explanations meant nothing to the kid. Adanna wanted to compete with rich kids in her class, to the extent that she asked for a special breakfast every morning, one egg atop her meal and bobo-juice to wash it down like her rich friends in the class did and a pocket money. Her mother nicknamed her lazy-born, because she could never do anything well without complaining of fatigue. When left alone in the shop, something must get missing; it was either money or stationery. It got to the point that her mother stopped allowing only her to be in the shop. She was 6 years old.
Obinna was alone in the shop when Oga Andrew, his father, came in. The man actually came to collect some money from his wife in respect of the drinks and other necessities he wanted to buy for hosting his club members that were to visit him the next day, as he had already told Mama Obinna. The club members took turns in hosting themselves.
The boy was sitting down on a mat, struggling with his Primary Science homework, when his father came in. The homework was to be submitted the following day. A school uniform was carelessly dumped on the floor alongside two army-colour school bags. A school sandal was neatly kept at one corner by the doorstep; it was Obinna’s, together with another school uniform folded and neatly kept on a side stool, beside where Obinna sat.
“Obinna, what are you doing and why is everywhere scattered?” His father asked him. “Are these not the school uniforms that your mother bought just last week?”
“Good evening Papa.” Obinna greeted, avoiding an eye contact.
“Why are your school uniforms on the floor, Obinna? Do you know how much each of those materials cost in the market and the cost of sewing them?”
“Papa, they are not mine. It’s Adanna and Tango that kept them on the floor; look at my own on the chair” Obinna defended.
“Why don’t you pick them up for your siblings, Obinna? By the way, where is Adanna and Tango?” He glanced at the paper he was holding.
“Papa, I don’t know where Adanna went to, but Tango is at home.”
“You don’t know where Adanna went to; this is serious. You children will never kill me, because I didn’t kill my own parents. Where is your mother?”
“Mama went to Church; she said that they have choir practice today against Corpus Christi tomorrow”
“Choir what…? This woman is really trying my patience. I thought I told her that my club members would visit me tomorrow. Did she give you some money to give me?” The man asked authoritatively.
“She didn’t give me any money ooh…maybe she forgot”
“Where are the sales you have made this evening?” The man interrogated, as if he had come to audit his wife.
“No sales Papa, just one man that came to buy paper and I owe him a balance of 400 naira. The man brought 1000 naira note and I didn’t have any cash here.”
“I hope you didn’t ask him to take back his money?”
“No Papa. The money is in the locker.”
“You mean your mother went to church and she didn’t give you any money to keep for me? This woman is really trying my patience. Do you know where she keeps her money?”
“If there is no money in the locker, it means she must have removed all of them.” He said then continued with his homework.
“Check inside that locker if she left some money there, do that quickly.”
“Papa, no money there, I checked it before” he replied childishly.
“Will you get up from there and check, Obinna! What is that rubbish you are even doing by the way? Hope this is not the book I gave you money to buy in the morning that you are tearing like a Christmas flower?”
“Papa, this is my homework, I want to finish it on time, because, once it gets dark, I will not be able to do it again”. Then he got up and checked the locker. “You see, I told you, there is no money there”
“Wait; let me check that locker myself. This woman is really daring me and I am going to teach her a lesson one of these days.” He pushed himself inside the shop; he had a premonition that Obinna was telling him lies.
“But Papa, did you give her any money to keep for you?”
“Will you shut up that filthy mouth of yours? You, this boy, you are just something else. Now, listen, when your mother comes back; tell her I came here and that I said she should not forget to buy the drinks since she left with all her money. Did you hear what I said you should tell her?”
“Good. You said you have not seen Adanna?”
“Yes Papa, I have not seen her ooh, maybe they are having extramural classes”
“Perhaps, you are trying to cover up for her. Whatsoever, she would meet me at home tonight.” He tried adjusting his belt.
“Papa, will you flog her when you see her?”
“Does that bother you? Better deliver my message or I will give you your own lashes when you come home. That assignment of yours you will have to put it aside and concentrate; how would you even know when people come to buy something?”
“But, Papa, if I don’t finish this assignment, my teacher will flog me ooh”
“Don’t worry; when you come home I will help you to finish your assignment”.
“That is cheating; our teacher said that helping someone to do assignment is exam malpractice. They told us to do it ourselves; this assignment is called ’do it yourself’. Don’t worry; I am mindful of the shop”.
“Okay, Mr Do it yourself, go ahead, but better be watchful, and don’t fail to deliver my message”.
“Papa, I have not paid my PTA levy”
“Look, Obinna, I have told you to be patient, I don’t have enough money now. Do you think that we pluck money from a tree? Even your teachers don’t disturb students the way you disturb your parents about money. If I had the money, I would give you. I know how important it is for you, but you should understand the situation, don’t say any word again; just be watchful. Don’t keep late. If your mother is not back by 5:30, close the shop and come home. I will ask Tango and Adanna to come and keep you company”
“Papa, I don’t need them here; they will distract me here”
“Obi…nna, haba, I am off”. He walked away slightly disappointed. He walked some meters away, and then he decided to go back to the shop. “Obinna! Obin...na!” He shouted as he returned.
Obinna was very busy with the homework he was doing that he didn’t even notice the presence of his father. He was startled when he saw him, though after a couple of seconds that the man stood there. “Ah, Papa, you returned?” He asked his father, he didn’t know what else he could say.
“Obi….nna! Did you not say you would be mindful of the shop? Do you know how long I have been standing here? Put that book aside and concentrate. I shall put on the generator so you can finish your homework. Meanwhile give me the money in the locker”
“Hmmm, Papa, this is the only money here ooh, how will I even give the man his balance?”
The father became angry and said, “What sort of a boy are you, Obinna? Give me that money right away.”
“Obinna, my darling, sorry I took so long.” Obinna’s mother said. “I bought you ice cream, you will like it.”
“Mama thank you, Papa came here…,” Obinna replied.
“Again? Hope he didn’t pack all my money away?”
“He collected the only 1000 naira note in the locker. I sold paper to one man; I even owe the man a balance of 400 naira.”
“Oh, dear God, this man will not kill me. What does he do with money lately? My husband is becoming more difficult to manage. There aren’t many sales nowadays, but he wouldn’t believe me. Anyway, that’s by the way, what else did he say?”
“He said that I should tell you to buy drinks when coming back.”
“Drinks kwa, what drink? I thought we discussed this in the morning. So, he still insists on inviting his friends? I don’t know why this man is just… anyway, I shall talk about it with him when I get home. Where is Tango and Adanna?” She then tried to recall her phone call history.
“Mama, I have not seen Adanna since I came back from school, but Tango is at home”
“Ada...nna, may God help that girl. My love didn’t you sell any other thing?”
“Nothing Mama, but many people came around; they were asking for tuner or was it toner they called it, but you didn’t show me where that one is”
“Oh, my darling, it’s toner and not tuner. Sorry, I didn’t tell you. Toner is used for printing papers, I have it here. Next time, toner is up here. Obinna, start packing, let’s go home. It’s getting dark.”
Tango was playing football with other kids when his mother and Obinna came back.
Adanna was sleeping on a sofa at the veranda. A plate was carelessly abandoned at the foot of the sofa. Obviously, she drank Garri, but she couldn’t wash the plate before falling asleep; even groundnut chaffs littered all around the place.
The woman was highly infuriated when she saw the whole place very untidy yet Tango was busy playing football, while Adanna lay on the sofa. Her warnings were unheeded; even the soup ingredient that she asked Adanna to prepare in respect of the food she was to cook was unattended to. The unproductiveness of the business day, Papa Obinna’s attitude and that of Tango and Adanna, infuriated Mama Obinna so much. She indignantly spanked Adanna; she held a cane in the other hand. Adanna was startled; she jumped up, but the woman grabbed her and began to give her some lashes. When she finished chastising her, she asked Obinna to fetch Tango.
The latter appeared with guilt written all over him.
“Tango, what did I tell you in the morning before you left for school and why is everywhere so untidy?” She asked him. “You saw me outside when I was coming back with Obinna and what did you do? You were busy playing football. So, if I hadn’t asked Obinna to come and call you….”
“Mama….” Tango tried to be defensive, but his mother hushed him.
“Hey, shut up, if I hear a word from your mouth, I would double your punishment and there is no Jupiter that would save you today” she said “there is no food for you and Adanna tonight; that’s your punishment. Now, go to the kitchen and light the stove. Let me warn you; don’t even move an inch from this house, I don’t want to look for you. Since you came back from school, what have you been doing? You couldn’t come to the shop to assist Obinna; Tango, don’t you realize that you are older than Obinna? Why do you often relinquish your duties to Obinna? And you lazy bone, since you came back from school where were you? See how you messed up everywhere. Adanna, you are not a boy ooh, you don’t want to learn anything at all. You can’t keep the house clean, you can’t assist in the shop, there is no house chore that you can do perfectly on your own without someone shouting on you. Is this how your friends behave? Don’t you watch your friends when you visit them? Anyway, I know what is good for you. You will go to stay with your father’s sister.”
“Mama, I am sorry” Adanna said apologetically.
“You are sorry? You are sorry Adanna, sorry for yourself. Oya, go to the kitchen with Tango right this minute. Obinna, go in and rest; you are not a maidservant in this house”