* * * * *
The Murtala Mohammed International airport, Ikeja had not changed in Ukah’s eyes when he emerged from the airliner en route from Ottawa, Canada.
He had been a former undergraduate at Schulich School of Business, York University.
Before his present predicament, he had been in a pay-roll of a Columbian multi-millionaire who had various assets scattered all over Europe and South America.
In his Massive sitting-room, Camilo, his boss and the kingpin, could be heard in his guttural voice talking with few well-wishers who had gathered to honour the party he organized for his business success. Gadgets of Bang & Olufsen adorned the living-room as the BE09000 series and customized speakers gave pure delight music to the ears.
Camilo was trendy in his dressing style, wearing a Piaget wrist watch, Thierri Louis shirts, black French Westron shoes and Duport perfume, called to the guests’ attention.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you are all welcome once again. The party has just begun as you all can see. I urge you all to enjoy yourselves,” he had said in his guttural voice and disappeared with his two body guards.
The living-room was filled with guffaw and gaiety of the guests. The main purpose of the gathering began to profer behind closed door.
Before long, money began to pour into Ukah’s hand like water. Casino became his second home where he gambled away. He’d been arrested on several times on drunk driving by the police. On one of such occassions, he had badly dented his state-of-the-art car in a collision along a cul-de-sac on charges of drunk driving and attempted manslaughter.
From that mishap, the police had kept an eye on him until he fell into their trap with multi-kilogram of illicit drug.
When he stepped out of Murtala Mohammed International airport, Ikeja he could not believe he was back to level-zero. He looked at the tattoos on his arms with a mixed feeling. He went for an airport taxi. The airport taximan wondered what sort of man he was, coming back home with no luggage except some silly tattoos embossed in his arms.
“To Oyibo, where I can board a bus to the East, mehn,” began Ukah.
“Okay, what about your luggage?”
“What damned luggage? I’ve got no luggage, mehn.”
He got into the taxi and the man drove off. The man began whistling away and shaking his head to the music from the car stereo while Ukah sat in silence.
After a short while, Ukah became wary: “Mehn, stop this cab.”
“Mehn, stop the fuhking damned cab.”
The taxi swerved swiftly, avoiding the vehicles behind, towards the roadside.
“Mehn, Where are you taking me to?”
“You said Oyibo and that’s where we’re heading to”
He gave the man a wary look.
“I am not one of them. I’m a man of integrity. A responsible man. I’m a B.Sc holder.”
“You’re a degree holder?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Mehn, how come you engage in this?”
“No job around. What could one do than to find something meaningful to engage in.”
The man started the engine buzzing and the taxi hit the road again, speeding up the road.
After his incarceration for five years, he was thrown out. At his home town, his parents were sad. He came out of the corrugated iron sheet building and dug his right hand into his jeans trousers pocket and brought out a diamond necklace- the one piece asset left with him, that had a Maltese cross pendant, and wore it on his neck as he walked down the dirt road to Ndu’s house.
On his entry into the compound, he saw Mazi Eke with a cup-like gourd performing libation. He was pouring out the last drop when Ukah walked in.
“Good morning, father.”
Mazi Eke peered at him to make out who was before him, “Good morning, who am I seeing?”
“Ukah. It’s me Ukah.”
“Oh! Ukah. When did you come back?
“Mehn, I came back yesterday.”
“Very good. And your people over there how are they?”
“They’re all fine.”
“You are welcome. Come in.”
The oldman led the way. They sat down in the hut, he called out to his wife, Ezinne. Mazi Eke fetched a kolanut for the august visitor and placed it on the bamboo table. Ezinne could not readily recognize the visitor.
“Don’t you recognize him?”
“I am trying to recollect.”
“Oh my son. Ukah, when did you come back.”
“Yesterday, mehn.” he said, trying to curtain his foreign mannerism.
“What about the people over there?”
“Mehn, they’re all fine.”
“I hardly recognized you. You’re welcome.”
Ezinne left the duo briefly.
“Emmm. . . Ukah, this is kolanut, I hope you still eat one.” Mazi Eke offered him the kolanut.
Ukah collected the flat bowl, and returned to Mazi Eke: “Kolanut goes back to the king who offered it.”
Mazi Eke collected back the bowl and prayed: “Let us bless it. This is kolanut, our Creator. Chineke bi n’elu igwe, we ask of you a long life, we ask of you a healthy life, we ask of you protection as we eat this kolanut.”
“Iseeeh!” echoed the duo.
“You can put yours in the pocket to serve as an evidence.” Mazi Eke broke the Kolanut into two lobes. He bit off a piece from his lobe and chewed; crunch! crunch! crunch! Ukah put his in the pocket. A fresh palm wine was brought which Ukah found a great delight in relishing.
“I learnt Abua is now a member of Federal House of Representatives.” Ukah sipped his palm wine from a horn.
“Yes, he finally joined politics and a powerful politician for that.”
“Mehn, that’s a good development,” he sipped some palm wine. “Em…that reminds me. What about Ndu?”
“My son, Ndu went to Kano and ever since, he left, we have not seen or heard from him.” he stared into the distant space, “for twelve good years no single word from him.”
“Twelve good years my son,” Ezinne joined them again.
“Abua has traced his bearings to Kano and could not locate his whereabouts. Though, we have not given up. I still believe that one day, he would come back home. My intincts tells me that maybe he’s out of the country. He was always saying something like travelling overseas.”
“But that should not deter us from knowing his whereabouts.” Ezinne observed.
“Mehn, that’s serious. . .like Mazi said he might have travelled out. And it’s not always that easy over there. I pray he comes back someday real soon,” Ukah declared.
“I pray so o.” Ezinne remarked.
Ukah gulped the last drop of his palm win and declared, “I said let me come around to greet you people. I shall be going now.”
“You did well, my son,” Mazi Eke shook hands with him and they saw him off.
* * * * *
Now, Ndu in Madrid had engaged in a fashion house, where his creativity came to the fore. Alano, a Spanish friend of his had been of help. Ndu had known a Spanish lady, Cristina through him. She was obsessive about ebony complexion and she fell for Ndu naturally. She ran a fashion house, Crisair Clothing, which her mother bequeathed to her.
In his residence on sunday afternoon, Ndu was sketching a new trendy jeans design when Cristina came in.
“How is my darling doing?” she whispered, giving him a kiss.
“I’m fine now that you are here.”
“You’re such a workaholic. You need to unwind a bit after the hours in the office yesterday.”
“There is a lot of work to be done, you know. I must get done with this new line of design.”
She sat beside him at his working table in the residence. He went for a bottle of champagne on the tastefully furnished bar in the working-room, fetching the bottle and two glass cups.
“Here we go,” he announced.
The drink was poured into the two glass cups.
“To good life. Cheers!” he declared.
“Cheers!” they clinked their glasses.
“My flight leaves in the next three hours for Rome.” she sipped her wine.
“I’d have loved to be with you for the fashion week.”
“I know, it’s vital you take charge of production while I’m away.”
“My concern is to have the firm moved forward.”
“Our success is paramount.”
“Yeah, very vital. You can always count on me.”
Having gulped the last drops of their drink, they walked out of the working-room to the parking lot. He opened the door of his Renault Tringo for Cristina, she got in. He closed the door, moved to the driver side and climbed under the steering and drove off to the airport. He had began earning much since he met Cristina beyond his imagination. And her business revived with the innovation both brought to bear into the clothing line.
* * * * *
Cristina had inherented the multi-million dollars clothing business from her mother as the sole, surviving beneficiary.
When Ndu got to Tarifa initially, he could not locate Kemoh as they strove to make their entry into Madrid. Cristina had been instrumental to a large extent. Coming into his life had opened unprecedented door for him. After he had been an asylum seeker, asylum was granted to him. Then, a legal immigrant.
He got married to Cristina- their union produced three wonderful Children- two boys and a girl. The nice looking children were, Cheta, Nduka, Nnem in that order.
At the Madrid fashion exhibition week, Cristair Clothing line was there to showcase its designer line by their models where Ndu became glad of the progress and success of the clothing line so far.
On their way back to their secluded villa from the exhibition, he stopped by at his club, El Depont. Inside, the club was crammed with people whiling away the night. He walked up the staircase with Cristiana towards the VIP section to cool off the night.
“Welcome.” the barman wiped his counter and ascertained their order.
“Domingo, Cristina and I would need some ginger ale.”
“I think I need something different tonight.” muttered Cristina.
“You need beer, or champagne? interrogated Ndu.
“Domingo, get a bottle of champagne for my wife and my ginger ale.”
“Okay.” the barman reached for the champagne and ginger ale and placed them on the table.
Ndu celebrated with his wife, Cristina. Though, he had made some business success, his much anticipated Masters programme was a forgone alternative.
“Cigarette, do you care?” Cristina inquired.
“Yes, I do. . .” he collected the Fortunas packet and brought out a stick and lit it.
She gave him a tender grin. He took a drag on his cigarette and puffed away. And they began to do justice to their drinks. In the background was a dance hall music, the lighting dim. Below were people on the dance floor sweating it out with smoked drifting up from all corners.
In that week, he planned going to London for a new home he had scheduled to acquire.
At Shepherd’s Bush, London, the heavily bearded Ndu sighted a shop with the inscription ‘Direct From Africa’. He stepped down from his hired car and made for the shop, for having spent a week in London, he felt an urge to see what this shop had got to offer. In the shop, was a fellow Nigerian.
“I need a news magazine from Nigeria,” began Ndu.
“Okay, over there,” the fellow gestured with his index finger.
A picture and headline on the magazin captivated his attention: Small scale business and agriculture means to economic development- the Senate President, Hon Njama.
“Incredible.” he was astonished, “Njama!”
“What’s the matter, mister?” inquired the shopkeeper.
“Yes, what about him?”
“My in-law. He’s my in-law, married to my younger sister.”
“You mean the senate President is your in-law and you don’t know all this while?”
“I have no idea that. . .”
“Where have you been all this while?”
“I’ve been away in Spain and have not bothered to get in touch with happenings down home. I need to phone home”
“Has it been long you left Nigeria?”
“It’s been long. A very long time. And I learnt Nigeria has gone mobile.”
“He’s my distant relative.”
“Njama, of course. And he was in London last mouth.”
“Njama later became a senator?!” he paused, scanning the magazine and continued, ” Do you have any of his contact, I need to call home?”
“I can only give you on one condition. I was not the one that gave you the number.” he handed him the contact reluntantly.
“Trust me, you’re on a safe hand.”
He dialed his cell phone and waited. He waited while a voice from the other end came alive.
“Hello, is that Nigeria?”
“Yes, who’s online?” querried a male voice.
“This is Ndu Eke speaking from London. I wish to speak with Honourable Njama.”
“Hold on, a moment.”
“Hello,” a different male voice came up online.
“Is that Honourable Njama?”
“May I know who’s speaking.”
“Ndu Eke. . . Congratulations!”
“My goodness, Ndu! Where have you been all these years? Unbelievable.”
“I’ve been in Europe making all the money in the world.”
“Europe! And you didn’t bother writing or calling home fos a single day?”
“It’s a long story. I’ve been in Madrid all this while, and I just came to London last week for a home I acquired.”
“That’s right. . . I think, I will have to come over there so we can discuss in detail. We need to sit down and hear you tell us where you have been hiding these years.”
“I learnt a short while ago that you are the new senate President. Congratulations once again.”
“Thanks, we’re just counting towards one hundred days in office. Like I said earlier we need more time to talk. I’m very excited to hear from you. Your parents and sister wouldn’t believe this.”
“Could you connect me with my sister or Abua. You know when I left home, it was few people who had access to telecommunication.”
“That was then, though, you could have written at least to let us know your whereabouts. We were worried. A moment.”
“Hello, is that Ndu?” a female voice came up.
“It’s me, Ndu.”
“What’s happening? I couldn’t believe it.” Adanma was excited.
“I’m still breathing, you know.”
“You disappeared. We never heard from you again.”
“It’s not been easy. One had to strive.”
“Father and mother wouldn’t believe this.”
“I know. Could you connect me with Abua.”
“He’s attending a committee meeting at the National Assembly.”
“Abua also a member of the National Assembly?”
“Yes, he was elected in the last election.”
“I’m glad that you’re still alive.”
“My heart is overwhelmed.”
Honourable Njama came up online once again, “Our hearts are all gladness. Now, I would like to know how we can locate you.”
“O53 Victoria Creek, Lancaster Gate Westminster, London SW2.”
“Did you say Victoria Creek, Lancaster Gate?”
“Yes, I acquired the property last week.”
“Unbelievable, you are my neighbour. I also own a property in Lancaster Gate.”
“Woah! What a surprise.”
“It is indeed. So how long are you staying in London?”
“I’m leaving this week. My wife and I own and run Cristair Clothing line, Spain. We have a tight schedule. We’ll be hosting your family any time next week in Madrid or London as you deem fit.”
After the phone call, he heaved a sigh of relief. Picked some items from the shop, paid his bill and thanked the shop keeper.
Ndu emerged from the shop and walked down the road side and got into the car.
The car moved up shepherd’s Bush road and disappeared with him up the road.