BINTU: She is a divorcee who has to suffer a lot of abuse and difficulties in single-handedly raising her child without a helping hand from her husband, Sakau, who divorced her under the pretext of her son’s,Ali, urinating on his prayer rug.
SAKAU: The name is from the word saki which means divorce in Hausa. He is a man that marries and divorces at will. For him there is no permanent love, but permanent desire for young girls.
BALA: He is the Good Samaritan who stands by Bintu and her son through out the play giving her support she needed. ALI: He is a boy of about five year old that has been badly punished at the beginning of the play.
BAMUTUNCI: It is a name that can roughly be translated in to “no mercy” or “no cordial relationship”. He is a creditor without sympathy.
JUDGE: He is a Shariah court judge.
THE SCENE OPENS WITH A WOMAN, BINTU, IN HER MID-TWENTIES, WHO LOOKS WELL OVER THIRTY, TENDING TO THE WOUNDS OF HER SON,ALI, A FIVE YEARS OLD THAT IS WHIMPERING.
BINTU: (COMPLAINING TO HERSELF) All because I am an orphaned divorcee. I do not have a husband to support me and no parent to stand by me. That is why they can just hope to cheat me and get away with it. God is enough a judge between me and the…(TO HER SON, WHO HAS BEEN WHIMPERING ALL THE WHILE): Look, Ali, stay still and let me dress the wound properly. No body gets his desire without perseverance.
ALI (STILL WHIMPERING): But, mama, it hurts. Lying on the belly like this is not comfortable …. And ever since the punishment I have been lying on tummy like a lizard.
BINTU: That way you shall lie, at least, until it heals. Were you not the one that decided to keep quiet and remain stupidly obedient when your master was punishing you? The bird that causes rain is the one the down pour strikes. It will not expect anybody to take it serious when it complains about the consequence of its action.
ALI (STILL WHIMPERING) Are they not the same? Patience and obedience are the attitude you asked me to employ in order to… learn a trade and be a better person than Baba. BINTU: Kai! Keep quiet! You sure won’t blame me for planning a successful future for you? Do you think I should be responsible for your master’s cruelty? ALI: A’a , no, Mama.
BINTU: I took you there because I wanted you to acquire patience and forgiveness, the two virtues the man that calls himself your father lacks. It was his lack of forgiving soul that made him sent me out of his house when you could barely crawl. And what was the flimsy reason he tied his wicked action to? He said I allowed you to pee on his prayer rug (SPOTLIGHT ON SAKAU AND BINTU WITH A TODLER IN HER ARMS)
SAKAU: I can’t take this filthy habit any longer. Today it has urinated on my prayer rug. Tomorrow it will be in my food.
BINTU: (PLEADINGLY) Ranka shi dade. May you live long, my husband. Please, don’t be angry.
SAKAU (ADAMANT) No! Don’t beg me. In fact both of you have to leave my house now.
BINTU (SORROWFULLY) Haba maigida. Oh! My husband, please forgive me. Please save my marriage.
SAKAU :( HISSES) I divorce. I divorce you. I divorce you three times.
BINTU: This wicked man, how could you do this when you know I have no where to go to? (THE BABY CRIES) You did not even consider the upbringing of this child.
SAKAU: Put the child down and leave my house.
BINTU: Which child? Does it belong to you alone?
SAKAU: In that case you can have it. Its absence will only ease some burden off me. Go!
BINTU: Let me pick my things. SAKAU: Your things are here, not there. Get them and …… (THE VOICE TRAILS OFF)
(BACK FROM FLASHBACK)
BINTU: Not even your cry could touch his heart. How many maidens has he turned in to premature divorcees thereafter?
ALI: But Mama it seems you are still not happy with my Oga and Baba. And ….. you taught me that forgiveness is a good thing.
BINTU: Yes forgiveness is a good thing, but em…. You see, Sakau never bothered to even know how you have been eating since he sent us out. That is not good. Your burnt off buttocks also point to the wickedness from your Oga. You feel the pains. Don’t you? Isn’t having to continuously lie down on your tummy under the care of a single parent enough to show you that Sakau and your Oga are bad people?
ALI: Yes, but Mama at Islamiyya school they told us that God would not punish those who committed sins while out of their senses, and Oga was drunk when he punished me. And Baba was angry during the divorce. Is it not good to forgive them since even God will …………
BINTU :( FURIOUSLY) Yi mun shiru. Keep shut! I am not arguing with you. Forgiveness is a good thing. That is true. A so called father that abandoned his responsibility on you and a man that rendered you a tummy-lying creature without paying your medical bills do not deserve forgiveness from a set of victimised orphans like you and me. You understand?
ALI (SOBBING) Yes, Mama.
BINTU: (PLAINTIVELY) My hero, yi hakuri. I am sorry. Don’t be angry. I know you are right about the virtue of forgiveness, but the pains those men inflicted on us outweighs my capacity for forgiveness. It makes me hate all men. ALI: (SURPRISED, THEN PLEADINGLY) Hatred? Mama, tell me please. Tell me you will not dislike me when I grow up and become a man like father.
BINTU: Allah Ya sawwake! God forbid bad thing! You will never become like that heartless man.
ALI: A’a. No. Mama I mean when I grow up.
BINTU: Haba dana! Oh, my child. You are too special to me for that. I shall always cherish my only hope that you are. Even at the risk of my life I will ever try to make you happy.
ALI: Are all men wicked like that.
BINTU: There are exceptions.
ALI: Like Malam Bala, my teacher.
BINTU: He has been caring enough so far, but you cannot always trust men. He may turn out to be as wicked as Sakau. ALI: Even with all his effort to see that Oga is punished and is made to pay my hospital bill?
BINTU: You see, men are laughably patient, loyal and generous while wooing a woman. Once they get her, they shelve their loyalty and become rulers. Bala may not be completely sincere in his intention. Your so called father was even nicer and more generous while courting me. But I am not saying you should be unfriendly to him ooooo!
ALI: No. I will not be.
BINTU: Mnhm! BALA (KNOCKING FROM OUTSIDE) Salamun alaikum!!
BINTU: Amin wa alaikumussalam.(SHE GOES TO THE DOOR WHICH IS OUT OF ALI’S EAR SHOT. OPENS THE DOOR AND HISSES) Oh, its you. I hope all is well.
BALA: I have good news for you, and I know you will be happy to hear it.
BINTU: Tell me what you have. I don’t want those I am staying with to get the wrong signal from your visit.
BALA: Haba! Nobody has ever doubted my conduct in this neighbourhood let alone having misgiving about my presence here.
BINTU: Please, please go to the point, I have a patient I am looking after (SHE TURNS AND MAKES TO GO BACK TO HER SON)
BALA :( RAISES HIS VOICE) Are you now leaving. It is about HIV.
BINTU (SPEAKS IN EXITED LOW TONE) Lower your voice. My son is awake. What about HIV?
BALA: I just heard over the radio that scientists have invented a vaccine that can reduce the risk of getting infected with the disease by thirty percent.
BINTU: How is that good to me? Who told you I have anything doing with HIV?
BALA: Why take offence? I only informed you about the giant stride recorded in saving humanity from the killer disease.
BINTU: Are you done? BALA: Besides I saw you at the counselling center queuing up for Anti Retroviral Drugs.
BINTU: And so what?…..What has it got to do with you?
BALA: I am only concerned about how an apparently chaste woman like you will get the disease if not through your former husband, Sakau.
BINTU: Did Sakau send you to me? BALA:
Did you get it through him and was he aware of his status before marrying you?
BINTU: Since you are in good term with him, why don’t you go and ask him?
BALA: He is not more than a childhood friend to me, and of late we have not been seeing each other.
BINTU: Aaaaha! What if I have gotten it through him?
BALA: I think there is a way of getting men who inflict such terminal disease on innocent submissive wives like you to pay for it.
BINTU: How? BALA: By tacking them to court for slow and silent murder.
BINTU: Slow and silent murder?
B ALA: Yes. That aptly describes the mindless intentional spread of the deadly virus.
BINTU :( GUFFAWS) No doubt, your imagination is fertile. Is it your higher education that makes you thinks that the whole world is as foolish as you think? When next you have this type of useless talk don’t return to this place again.(SHE LEAVES WHLE BALA LOOKS ON MOUTH AGAPE)
BALA: Women and pride! Their exaggerated impression of their view’s worth blind them to other ways of doing things. The believe that nothing is…(HIS VOICE TRAILS OFF).
SAKAU :( HUMS A TUNE TO HIMSELF. THEN TALKS) Yes! Permanent love for women is only for fools. The wise admire them in their prime like new clothes, but avoid them like despised rags as their bloom wither away.
BALA: (FROM OUT SIDE) Assalamunalaikum!
SAKAU :( DISSAPPOINTEDLY) Waalaikumussalam!
BALA: How are you? SAKAU: ‘Am fine and on a very serious mission.
BALA: Man Sakau, sorry for what happened to your son.
SAKAU: Which of my sons?
BALA: Your ex-wife’s son.
SAKAU: Which of my former wives? You know, they are several.
BALA: BINTU SAKAU: Is that late Isiyaku’s daughter?
BALA: Yes. SAKAU: What happened to her son?
BALA: You are the last person one will expect not to know her situation. Yet, you are the only person that seems not to have known that her son was brutally wounded by his apprenticeship employer in the name of discipline. The poor child can’t even use his buttocks to seat due to the severity of the burns.
SAKAU :( NON-CHALLANTLY) What is the big deal about that?
BALA :( INDIGNANTLY) How can you be so callous? Your son has been badly wounded and cannot even seat because of the injury, and what come out of your mouth is that I-don’t-care statement.
SAKAU: What do you want me to say? When I divorced the woman, she said she couldn’t leave her son. I allowed her to take him since it will reduce the mouths I will have to worry about. Whatever happens to him should be her headache, not mine.
BALA: But he is your child and a very bright one at that.
SAKAU: He is bright for himself. His life is his, and mine is mine.
BALA: Your own blood?
SAKAU: Hmn…blood indeed. I can’t live his life in addition to mine.
BALA: But it is morally wrong for you to abandon your child in an hour of need.
SAKAU: Hour of need indeed. My only need is the lawful satisfaction of my desire. There is this girl I saw yesterday. My mind can’t let go of her ever since.
BALA: Taken a shine to another novice of a gullible girl again?
SAKAU: Describe with it any expression that suits you. All I know is that women are life’s spice that even bookish people like you cannot ignore. Even Islam allows divorce and marriage. Or is it with Islam that you are not comfortable?
BALA: Using religion to justify your abuse of womanhood and the sanctity of marriage is even detrimental to the religion, for it creates image problem for such a faith.
SAKAU: That elitist thinking again? Are sure you it is not another sermon from that strange anti-marriage Egyptian woman? What did you call her name?
BALA: She is a feminist not a marriage hater. It is lustful people like you who mistreat women that justify her extreme feminist views.
SAKAU: How can I justify her opinion when my knowledge of her is based on what you told me? But if divorcing a woman when you no longer need her is justifying her stand, I am not prepared to apologise for my actions. They tally with custom and law. Any attempt to stop me from continuing with them will be against the human right that you claim to preach.
BALA: Your right is only guaranteed to the extent that others’ are protected. You don’t give any wife you want to sack any gift as recommended by Islam that you claim is guiding your actions. Those who equate your action with the religion will have a distorted view of it.
SAKAU :( HISSES THEN LEAVES AS HE UTTERS THIS LINES) Am sorry. I am getting too late for the meeting with the apple currently holding my eyes.
BALA :( SOLILOQUISING MUSINGLY) I would have taken this guy to court for getting young Bintu infected with the deadly virus, but seeing her queueing up for Anti Retroviral Drugs is not enough proof that she is positive. And if I can find an irrefutable proof, I will be able to stop his strings of so-called marriages that only spawn divorcees, and probably curb his diffusion of H…I..V… (SUDDENLY) Man Sakau!!! Which way did he go? I have to find out from her first.
ALI: Mama, did Malan Bala bring any news concerning Oga?
BINTU: No. The busybody has chosen another course for himself. The jobless man said he would take your wicked father to court for…… as if I complained to him. ALI: For what, mama?
BINTU: Kai! This child, you are too inquisitive. Must you know everything?
ALI: Mama, if it is true that you have the disease, I think it is good you give malan Bala a chance
BINTU :( SLAPS HER SON) Who sought your advice?
ALI: (AMIDS SOBS) You didn’t, mama. I just thought that may be malan Bala would succeed in helping us get some help this time.
BINTU: What help? What help will come except disappointment? What followed his attempt to get your employer to pay for his crime against you?
ALI: Mama, I beg you in the name of Allah, give him a chance.
BINTU: Another chance? If that will make you happy I will think about it.
BAMUTUNCI: (BARGES IN) Alhamdulillah! Thanks be to God that I have found you here.
BINTU: Malan Bamutunci, good morning.
BAMUTUNCI: I don’t have time for pleasantries. Give me my money.
BINTU: I am sorry. I have not gotten it yet. I will bring it as soon as I have it.
BAMUTUNCI: I am not ready to allow a woman and her bastard of a child to make my business go bankrupt. Give me my money!
BINTU: He is not a bastard and we will not make you go bankrupt.
BAMUTUNCI: If he is not a bastard, where is his father? Why hasn’t he come forward to pay me for the debt you incurred on him?
ALI: Liar! You also want to do like wicked men who take advantage of weak people. I am not a bastard.
BINTU: Ali, shut your mouth!
BAMUTUNCI: Leave him. Let him insult me. It is those with father that know the worth of one.
BINTU: Malam, please forgive us. He is only a child.
BAMUTUNCI: I don’t care about anything beyond my money. I want to know the definite time it will be available. BINTU: As soon as possible.
BAMUTUNCI: That is no time.
BINTU: Next week.
BAMUTUNCI: Be specific.
BINTU: Next week, Friday.
BAMUTUNCI: I will even add a day more. I will come on Saturday.
BINTU: Oh, thank you, man Bamutunchi.
BAMUTUNCI: But in case you may want to fail me, police men will come with me. (AS HE GOES OFF STAGE) Haaaa’ah! Bastard, stop glaring at me. Bintu, I am coming next week Saturday.
ALI :( AFTER BAMUTUNCI’S DEPARTURE) This suffering is enough! It is high time you met father about our condition. BINTU: That mean man? He only takes care of girls he is hunting. Once he marries them and renders them divorcees, he abandons them.
ALI: Mama, we need to see him even if only because of what that Malam Bamutunci said he would do if he does not get his money. I don’t want that man to come and shout on you again.
BINTU: Yes…. But is it possible? Can your father listen?
ALI: Or is it true that I don’t have father?
BINTU: How? (THEN SOFTLY) Don’t believe that man.
Sakau is your father.
ALI: Mama, please go and tell him about our problems. I am willing to go with you.
BINTU :( FIRMLY) You cannot. I will see what I can do. Okay?
BINTU: (SOLILOQUISING BY THE ROAD) No! I cannot take this any longer. I cannot keep bearing the burden of our child alone while the society that is still new to single parenthood look down on me as woman of easy virtue. (CLAPS HER HANDS) Kai! This man is too wicked. He divorced me and forced me out of his house without allowing me to stay for the post-divorce waiting period preached by the clerics. Instead of giving me the parting gift recommended by the Shari’ah, he gave me that body-emaciating disease. We have eaten up all my belongings. And now Ali is in pains and the creditors are hard against us… I have to meet him. He should be at home by now. He has to come to our aid even if only for his son’s sake. (HER VOICE TRAILS OFF)
BALA: (EAVESDROPS) Ah! So Bintu was just using madness to cover her shame when she defiantly demanded what if she had HIV from her ex-husband. (EXCITEDLY)Where? Where is she going to? She seems to be heading for Sakau’s home. Yes, there she is going. I have to be there in time to tape his admittance of getting her infected and to help protect her from being beaten. I also have avoid being obtrusive to this unfolding play of revelation. I will follow her discreetly….(HIS VOICE TRAILS OFF)
SAKAU: Hope all is well, Bintu. I cannot remember giving you any appointment. What brought you here?
BINTU: I am here because of our son, Ali. He is going through an agonising experience. He got a terrible wound at the workshop and…….
SAKAU: (CUTS IN) And he cannot seat on his buttocks because of the burns.
BINTU :( SUPRISINGLY) So, you already know?
SAKAU: Yes, I know.
BINTU: In that case, I have expended all the well wishers have given me together with my little belongings on the wound’s treatment. The debts I took to continue the treatment are already chasing me about. I think, you, his father should take up the treatment from here.
SAKAU (GUFFAWS FOR LONG) I thought you said you couldn’t leave your son. You don’t need to leave him now if you really love him as you claimed. Why are you tired of him?
BINTU: I am not. I just want you to take over your responsibility.
SAKAU: Since you stubbornly took him away from here against the tradition of husband having the custody of the child, go and take care of him. Don’t you want him any longer?
BINTU: I just had to take him with me then because he was still suckling. And I am not saying I am tired of raising him. What I need is just financial help from you.
SAKAU :( HISSES) Bintu, I will soon have a female visitor….I…she is my new catch! I know both of you will not be happy to meet here. You can start going.
BINTU :( INDIGNANTLY) Why can you be so devoid of milk of human kindness? I am talking about your own blood and you are…..
SAKAU:(ANGRILY) Woman! Don’t ever raise your voice against me in my own house. Now, out!
BINTU: I will not until you give me the money for his treatment.
SAKAU: I have a very enduring whip for stubborn ones like you. Get out (CRACK OF WHIP WITH SCREAM OF BINTU) Get out!!!
BINTU: Ah! With all my efforts to protect your secret? Is this how you will treat my reasonable request for just some help? Then every body will know that you have the cureless killer disease.
SAKAU: That threat won’t work. Once you tell people that I am positive, they will assume you also have it. I know you cannot brave the stigma that comes with being associated with AIDS. Therefore, I remain covered.
BINTU: You will see. You will see the reason why females don’t have beard. S
AKAU: Get out! (BEATS HER WHILE SHE SCREAMS) Female bragging! She also wanted to scare me in to submission. No way. How many parents bother to fend for the children in their custody these days? Very few, if any. Then some moral crusaders and obstinate former wife will leave them and try to impose on me the care of the child that had been taken away from me since he was crawling. Let her bear the burden all through….
BALA: Mercy. Have mercy on her, Malan Sakau.
SAKAU: Why did you come in without seeking permission?
BALA: I am sorry for that. But I think you should compensate her for getting her infected with HIV.
SAKAU :( STUNNED) What? What… did you say..?
BALA: Yes, you heard me right. I heard all you have discussed with her.
SAKAU: And if I refuse to compensate her?
BALA: The court will compel you.
SAKAU: You don’t have proof.
BALA: Your conversation with her is all here, in this tape.
SAKAU: What do you want to use the tape for?
BALA: As evidence against you in court.
SAKAU: Hmmnnn! Exactly, that is what I want, but as a muslim shari’ah court is my choice.
BALA: Even the shari’ah court will force you to compensate her.
SAKAU: The sought for item has been found, the wife of the head of a desert caravan has given birth to a camel.
BALA: Malan Sakau you are a strange man. Your behaviour is that of a man who doesn’t know the implication of the water-tight evidence I have against you…(HE TRAILS OFF).
BINTU:( IN THE MARKET) Be warned!!! All maidens of this town should avoid Sakau! Yes, Sakau, that changes wife like cloth. Steer clear of him!!! Be warned!!! He gives the unfortunate women that stray in to his house the body-draining disease before disgracefully divorcing them. Steer clear of him!!!
BAMUTUNCI: (CUTS IN WITH CONCERN) Bintu, Bintu, what is this?
BINTU: Ah, Malan Bamutunci, It is that dangerously lustful man, Sakau. Sakau has that cureless HIV and is spreading it among the female folks through his never-lasting marriages.
BAMUTUNCI :( WITH CONCERN) Is he not the man you said fathered your son?
BINTU: Yes. He is the father of my son.
BAMUTUNCI: Oooooh! Did he? … Did he transmit the disease to you?
BINTU: Why the sudden show of concern?
BAMUTUNCI: Do you have it now? Please, do you?
BINTU :( SIGHS) Yes, I do?
BAMUTUNCI :( TO HIMSELF) Additional hurdle to the payment of my money.
BINTU: What did you say? I don’t understand.
BAMUTUNCI: Deadly disease or not I must have back my money come Saturday. Haa’a! Why are you coming closer to me?
BINTU: Just to hear you as you are moving away. Why are you moving away from me?
BAMUTUNCI: Don’t touch me with your AIDS infested body.
BINTU: ( CALMLY TO HERSELF) What is this at the top left corner of my wrapper? It is the money one of Sakau’s several divorcees gave me for speaking out. What a contrast of life. But a man is here avoiding me over the same thing. You can come and have it. Come for your money. Come on be a man that…
BAMUTUNCI: (SCREAMS) Leave me!
BINTU:(GIGGLES) Come on.
BAMUTUNCI: Spare me please. People! People, help! Help please!
(THREE KNOCKS THEN “COURT” OF THE END OF A COURT SESSION RENTS THE AIR)
BALA:(BACKGROUND NOISE OF COURT) How foolish of me? Why did I bring the charge of slow and silent murder against Sakau when I know that there is no law against intentionally consummating a marriage by a spouse who knows that he has a fatal incurable infectious disease?
SAKAU: You should thank your stars that the judge didn’t entertain the counter charge of invasion of privacy. Then your over confidence would have finished you. (RAISES HIS VOICE HIGHER) And you, Bintu, will regret ever conniving with Bala to take me to the court. I have already decided to charge you for defamation of character, waste of my precious time and your friend Bala for invasion of privacy. This time around it will be in a shari’ah court so that both of you will get public beating that will put you to more shame than me.
BALA: Ah! Man Sakau, you have already won. Leave the poor woman alone and don’t add to her misery.
SAKAU: If you had taken me to shari’ah court, I would have gone ahead to prove that you intruded in to my private life and probably claim damages for that. Besides, all you have in that miserable tape of yours does not contain a proof of who first got the disease and whether the person knew that she or he has it.
BALA: All I am asking for is forgiveness on her behalf. Let her be.
SAKAU: I am not ready to hear any thing from either of you. She thought she could just drag me in to being an untouchable together with her and go scotch-free? No! I have to get her punished so that none of my former wives will try to expose me to public ridicule again.
BINTU: ( SHE GOES NEARER TO HIM ) Haba, Malan Sakau! Please, have mercy on us. Are all these sufferings not enough? My son is in excruciating pain at home for lack of money to buy the prescribed medicine; everybody is running away from me….
SAKAU: That is your problem. I have to go and repair the damages you have done to my effort to get a new wife (HIS VOICE TRAILS OFF).
JUDGE: Having heard the argument of both sides, this court has found out that the plaintiff, Sakau, could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was lied against by the defendant as he refuse to make himself available for the HIV test. The Test and Counselling center’s record also shows that he had been receiving Anti Retroviral Drugs well before his ex-wife started. It is disheartening to hear the way the plaintiff gleefully talks about changing wives like clothes ostensibly because sharia’ah allows it without bothering to give them parting gift recommended by the same law. More worrisome is his refusal to come to the aid of his son whom he has not been catering for since he was a toddler, leaving his former wife with the task of raising the child. It is in the light of this fact we have to commend the tireless effort of Malan Bala to expose this tyranny. He does not deserve any sanction for invasion of privacy. In order to discourage this type irresponsible behaviour, the court hereby order Sakau to pay the woman two hundred thousand Naira for suckling the child and all other expenses she may have incurred in raising the child. He should also give her the recommended post-divorce gift. I rise!…(SOUND TRAILS OFF)
BINTU: (WITH PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THE COURT’S JUDGEMENT THE BACKGROUND) Malam Bala, I don’t know how to thank you for helping me to speak out. I am very….
BALA: There is no need to thank me. We thank God, for this type judgement is very crucial in riding our society of the plague of divorce.
BINTU: Who are those women at the registry?
BALA: They are divorcees like you trying to take the case of their improper divorce to court. Here comes the looser. BINTU: (MOCKINGLY)Sakau, what about your defamation of character suit?
SAKAU :( PLEADINGLY) Please, forgive me. Help beat down the amount I will pay.
BINTU: The problem is not here. I can leave half of the money for you. The problem is those women at the registry trying to launch legal fight over the manner of their divorce. I can make out up to five of your former wives there. SAKAU: Oh! Inna lillahi. Oh Allah, help me out of this trial you have plunged me.
BALA: No that is not God’s doing. It is a self inflicted problem. You were heartless enough to create many divorcees. You should be bold enough to face their wrath.
SAKAU: (PLAINTIVELY)Aaaah! My former wives there are up to seven with each of them having a child or two for me. How am I going to get two hundred thousand Naira in seven places? How?
BLACKOUT THE END