“I felt like I was too broken inside to articulate any form of wholeness. I had nothing to say”
“Is that why you did nothing, when you realized, as you claimed, that the deceased was not pretending but was actually having… what did you call it…? a seizure?
“I was in physical pain!” she shouted! “the man had taken my entire existence and turned it…” she choked on her words. “He reduced me to nothing!” she shouted. “…nothing…” she whispered.
“The Prosecution has no further questions for this witness, your Honor.”
It was a balmy Monday morning, if Monday mornings were ever balmy. Adijat wiped the sweat from her brows as she made for the Zebra crossing. She should have come with her driver, she thought as another manic okada driver zoomed past her.
“The role playing of this business tire me, jare”, she thought. “These ministry people sef” she thought again as she greeted the door man and handed him his usual kolanut for the week. That would ensure her easy access to the Minister’s office, even when the office had officially closed. It would also get her updates on his movement. She had various business concerns scattered round the metropolis and time was a resource she had learnt to manage properly. Her phone rang and she checked to find a familiar number. She smiled despite the strain of the unending flight of steps to the Minister’s office and picked the call.
“I’ve said you should stop calling me Alhaji…”
“O da, Salamalekum, olowo ori mi”
“Ehen!!! That is more like it. How are you this monday morning?”
Ah, well… modupe t’emi. I’m at the Ministry now sef”
“You are there already? I was thinking I should come and pick you from your shop and we head there together”
“Taju, I have told you…”
“What? What? You this woman, you are too self conscious jo! Is it your business what people say? Ehn?
“But, I have…”
“I know… but that doesn’t stop us from anything now? Shebi I have told you to fix a date for me to meet you family?”
“I haven’t had the time ni… With the approvals we are waiting for… wo, ise po l’orun mi jare!”
“That is why you should let me take care of you…”
“O da, mo ti gbo. Are you coming here today?”
“Yes, I will be there soon”
“Ehn, we will see then. We can leave together afterwards”
“Shey you will make me happy today?
“Haven’t I always made you happy?”
Adijat smiled as she cut the call to his noisy kisses. Alhaji Tajudeen Olowolaiyemo Arowolo might be an illiterate by her late husband’s Eton standards, but he sure knew how to get what he wanted. That was evidenced by the amount of wealth he had acquired over the years, and the number of women who called him husband. They had met at the office of the Minister for Road Construction and Maintaince. Her late husband, Taofeek Majekodunmi Lawson, had been involved in a number of road maintenance projects. His contract was coming to an end, and she was working to get his company a license renewal. She didn’t know why she bothered anyway, the children were well catered for. She had been his one and only wife, in life and in death and she was still the trustee over his estate. Upon his death, she had immediately prepared her will to ensure that there was no issue as to distribution of property and authority should she pass suddenly. Due to her workaholic nature, she managed to keep her husband’s businesses running since his death 3years ago.
Taju was into the road construction business too. But he had not been an active player during her husband’s time. He had come into the sector shortly after his demise and was in all practical ways, her competitor. However, his charming ways had ensured that she’d gotten over that quickly enough. He had fast become an essential part of her life. She listened and trusted his advice on her business, and of recent had begun to trust him concerning her late husband’s estate. The only thing that she never shared with him were things relating directly to her children.
Taju had met them once during the last Sallah celebrations when they all came home to spend some time with their mother.
“You are the amazing children I have always heard about? E ku itoju iya yin o”
That was all he had said to them. He hadn’t even waited for a response. A s much as she was charmed by his attention, he was not oblivious to his set traditional ways. Taju believed that Western culture had upturned the acceptable roles of gender and age grade groups in the society. He must have also misinterpreted their lack of interest in him for respect. The Lawson kids were true ‘blue bloods’. Taofeek had drummed the importance of being a Lawson into them from infancy. They cared less for anyone who appeared to care less about them. It was a relief that they were all out of the country. “It would have been really difficult for me to handle being married to Taju and having my children around” she concluded to herself. Her kids would never understand her re-marrying, just like they would never understand that she had needs that Taofeek had been meeting with proficiency that was beyond his age. In bed, he was like an insatiable lion. The rumor of men that would provide multiple satisfaction non-stop ceased to be a rumor after their first night. It had been so long, she had almost become frigid. They had become bolder and moved from hotels and guest houses to his flat in Ikoyi after 5 weeks of unbridled passion between them. She felt like a teenager again. It felt good to be needed and wanted and appreciated by another man. Taju was lighting her fire, he was becoming her incurable addiction.
“Can you tell this court your name please”
“Do you know the accused person”
“Yes, i do”
“How well do you know her?”
“Quite well, we have done business together”
Adijat looked up at him in surprise. How could he lie so smoothly right in her presence? “Aiye ma ni ka o”, she thought to herself as the tears trickled down her already tear stained face.
“Alhaji, when are you going to call Bankole…?” she asked while trailing lines down his bush belly.
They had been married the traditional way for 2 weeks now. She had gone home for her father’s 10th year memorial service when she told her mother about her plans to re-marry.
“Ahh… you want to marry again?” Her mother went silent for over 10 minutes. She knew what this meant. Maami was thinking about what her uncles will say. Adijat’s father had 5 brothers who were constantly at logger heads with their brother’s two widows. Her mother had managed to keep them at bay for 3 years now, but this was certainly going to be another invitation to treat.
“Who is this person that you want to marry? Omo ibo ni? Se o ti ba awon omo mi so?”
“Maami, his name is Taju Arowolo. He’s a contractor like me.”
“Do your children know? Have they given you their blessing?”
Adijat thought about her three kids and wondered what they would say when they were informed about her plans to re-marry. She did not see toasts and congratulatory hugs, she saw shock, maybe a little pain… “I haven’t, not yet. Mo fe fi to yin l’eti na ni, before I tell anyone else.”
She went on her knees and placed her hands on her mother’s laps, “It’s been 3 years now, ara mi o gba mo… I married Taofeek in deference to you and Baba. Now, I have the opportunity to choose for myself… I will not do it if you think it’s wrong, but I want to assure you that I have no reason other than love for desiring to be this man’s wife”
Her mother looked into her eyes, smiled and clasped her cheeks in her two palms, “my daughter, you have been nothing more than joy to me. I understand how you feel… but if you are convinced that this man would make you happy, then you have my blessings. But…. I want to meet him o…”
“He will come and introduce himself to you, Maami. O tie ti fe wa tipe gaan, I’m the one asking him to wait a bit”
“O da… eyi t’oda l’Olorun a se…. how are my children doing?”
Adijat laughed and went into the tale of her youngest son’s latest escapades in NYU.
“Remember you are on oath…”
“Yes I do”
“Did you ever know or meet one Alhaja Raliat Agbede?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Can you tell this court how you got to know her”
“I met her through the accused… she was the Accused’s mother”
“Was? What do you mean ‘Was’? Is she no more the mother of the accused?”
“Alhaja Agbede, may Allah rest her soul, passed away 18 months ago”
“That is really sad… pray, tell this court, what was the cause of her death? do you know…?”
The counsel to the accused rose suddenly. “Objection, my Lord! I do not see the point of this line of questioning. Alhaja Agbede is my client’s late mother and is not on trial here, neither is her death the subject matter before this court! I object to my colleagues’ use of inference and unconnected circumstances to whatever end he has in mind!”
“My Lord, I am trying to establish that the accused is not the innocent obedient daughter she and her counsel are leading this honorable court to believe she is. She has, by her actions established capacity and motive for the crime with which she has been charged. I am only putting her supposed pristine character to test”
“Well, then, get to the point quickly, counsel! I don’t have all day and I certainly would not appreciate circumstantial inferences… We are dealing with a capital offense here, so be careful how you tread. Objection over-ruled!”
The Prosecuting counsel faced the witness again. “So, you were about to tell us what you know of the death of Alhaja Raliat Agbede…”
“Objection again, your honour! My colleague here knows that his witness doesn’t have a first hand knowledge of what he is asking about! I fear he is only trying to mislead this court!”
“Counsel, let the witness answer the question!”
The Prosecutor faces his witness again and raises his eye brows to urge him on.
“Well, what I heard was that she died of an epileptic seizure… which was strange because, everyone said Iya Onidiri was an usually healthy woman for her age and had never, even as a youth, had seizures…”
“Adijat, I don’t know why you think it behooves on me, as your husband to be running after those your rascally children! Do you not see that they do not regard me as thier father? Ehn?”
“Taju… it’s not like that… they are just not used to you. At least they came home at such short notice to celebrate the wedding with us.”
“You see, that is my problem with you!” You always defend those little brats!”
“Ehn ehn o, Taju, don’t call my children names!”
“Then do not give me reason to!”
And that was the end of the conversation. She had tried to foster some cordiality between her children and her new husband. Whilst she could compel her children, Taju did not want to be bothered about it. He insisted that that her children were to proud.
“They think because their father was rich, every other person is a pauper!”
Adijat had concluded that Taju didn’t want to have anything to do with her children. It saddened her to know that his interest was only limited to her. he had been passionate and consistent in his pursuit of her, and quite fairly, he was still quite passionately ‘pursuing’ her. To their credit, her two son’s had initiated contact a couple of times, but Taju was either condescending or brash on each incident. They had both told her that they were not going to make any further attempts. Adijat was very sad.
Your Honor, I crave the indulgence of this court to call on one more witness.”
“I object to that your Honor!”
“Counsel approach the bench!” The two lawyers walked up to the dock. “I do not like this unnecessary show that you both are putting up in my court. I want to give this as a final warning, no more surprises!”
“Yes, my Lord.” they both answered in unison. “Now counsel, put in a proper application to call in this ‘surprise witness of yours at the next hearing”
“As your lordship pleases.”
“I am giving a short adjournment on this matter. The court will now go on recess. Kindly return to your seats”
“As your Lordship pleases,” replied the Prosecutor.
Adijat’s attorney walked back to his desk with a frown on his face. At the sight of him, her heart skipped a beat. Had they found out? Did her enemies know about her best kept secret? She could not stop her palms from sweating, neither could she control the tears. But she had not idea she screamed when she saw her son, Bankole walk in and head for the prosecutor’s desk.
“Order in court!” screamed the bailiff. Adijat covered her open mouth with both palms as the judge announced the two week adjournment of the matter.