We were not as rich as our neighbours the Salamis, but we were happy; my daddy took very good care of us. My mummy always says our daddy was an honest man. He worked in a place where there were many white men. Sometimes his white friends would come to the house with him and they would play with me and Oyigwe, my elder sister. At other times they brought and gave us wraps of guddy-guddy, trebors or chocolates.
People said my daddy was handsome, and that I looked so much him; he was tall, fair and strong like a soldier man.
On most evenings when he came back early from work and was less tired, he would tell me fascinating stories about faraway lands.
He told me the story of a place called Hiroshima in Japan. He narrated to me the frightening things that happened after something called an atomic bomb was dropped there.
I saw the bomb exploding in my mind’s eyes and it really scared me.
My daddy also taught me how to pronounce many new words in my Idoma dialect. And in return for all these stories, he would lay face down and ask me to scratch his back and crack his knuckles. Afterwards, he would cuddle me in his strong arms as we would go to sleep in the big iron bed he shared with my mummy.
My mummy was a caterer. She knew how to bake different types of delicious cookies and cakes. Most of the time, she would ask me to accompany her when she went to supply breads and meat pies to the corner shops near our house.
Mallam Buhari, the elderly salesman at the counter in one of the corner shops was always nice to us. My mummy told us that he was from Sokoto State. She said people from that part of Nigeria are usually peace-loving and that most of them are traders.
I noticed Mallam Buhari preferred to speak Hausa more than English most of the time. He always smiled whenever he spoke to the people that came into his shop.
“Anz haw iz my little prend, tozzay?” he would ask me in his funny accent as he handed to my mummy the money’s worth for whatever pies she had supplied to him.
“I am fine, thank you sir”, I always replied; that was how our mummy had taught me and my sister to respond when talking to elders.
“Bery gwud bwoy. Here, tsake theez along anz share wiz ya sister when you gez home, ko?” And he would give me some Nasco biscuits.
On my ninth birthday, my mummy baked for me a cake in the shape of a football. It was a very beautiful cake. I wouldn’t let anyone touch it because I wanted my daddy to return from work and bless it first. He had promised me earlier that morning that he would take all of us to the park upon his return so we can ride on the horses and to see the caged animals.
I sat on the cushion by the window all day, anticipating the familiar sound of my daddy’s Vespa machine as he rode into the compound.
Now I cannot remember how long I sat there waiting for my daddy, but I slept off.
When I did open my eyes again, two men were standing inside our parlour. One of them was smartly dressed in police uniform while the other one wore a plain shirt with a pen sticking out of his pocket. They were talking to my mummy who sat on one of the cushion chairs. She looked afraid.
I wanted them to go away because they were making my mummy afraid.
The one in uniform smiled kindly at me. But I refused to smile back.
My mummy put her hand to her mouth and she started to cry quietly. My sister who sat beside my mummy started to cry too.
I quickly went to my mummy and put my arm round her shoulder because I didn’t know why she was crying.
“A car just knocked your daddy down on his way from the office, Otseme”, my mummy told me through her sobs.
I rubbed my eyes to clear the remaining sleep and to try to understand what she had said. I looked towards the cupboard by the television and I immediately recognized my daddy’s helmet. It looked as if something had damaged it, and I even thought I saw something like splash of red colour all over it. I also noticed a battered box still wrapped in a new foil with ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO DADDY’S BOY’ written on the side.
Suddenly I understood why mummy and Oyigwe were crying; something really bad had happened to my daddy.
My heart started to beat very fast.
The man in police uniform put his big hand on my shoulder. “Your daddy will be fine”, he said to me.
I started to cry for my daddy.