Iya Agbomola was cutting some herb leaves into a clay-pot when her son entered. She furrowed her face in surprise. “Ogunjide, hope everything is fine?”
Jide who was dark and tall prostrated to greet his mother. “Everything is fine mama.”
“Then why do you choose to travel on Sunday?” She asked in anxiety, with her face still furrowed.
“You know I’m always busy at work from Monday through Saturday.” He said calmly.
His calmness only made her more curious. “So how is Abuja?”
“That’s why I am here mama.”
Yes I said it, she thought. A bush-rat won’t walk in the noon if not for a reason. She dropped the knife, wiped her hands on her wrapper, and dragged a wooden chair for him to sit. “So what is it?”
He dropped his rucksack. “It is about the spate of Boko Haram bombings in the country. Didn’t you hear about the bomb explosion in Nyaya?”
“I heard it but I was not perturbed because ifa,” she pointed to her shrine “will never forsake me.”
“I was suppose to be on one of those buses if not that I was thirsty and I needed to get water. I’d barely paid the water seller when I heard boom boom!”
His mother grabbed her head. “Ifa o. Ori Iya mi o,” she screamed, snapping her fingers over her head. “I rebuke it. Ina omo oni jo mi.”
“Amen mama. And you know that I can’t leave Abuja because it’s the heart of Nigeria’s wealth.”
She nodded in agreement. “At least I go to school of health tech so I know that Abuja is the centre of Nigeria’s money. So what do you want?”
Mama you will never mention how you were expelled from school of health technology because you couldn’t catch-up, he’d wanted to say but he said instead, “That’s why I run to you. I want you to prepare a charm for me today so that I can return to Abuja and resume work tomorrow.”
“See your mouth like today.” She joked and her son smiled. “What kind of charm do you want?”
“Anything that’ll prevent me from falling victim to those lunatics called Boko Haram. Maybe aye-ta or aye-bomb.”
She smirked. “There is nothing like aye-bomb.” She made an effort to think. “Oh yes.”
She got up, tightened her wrapper around her breast and walked to her shrine. Two deities – male and female – tied with red scarfs were placed on a grinding stone; a rotten cutlass and a big calabash lay in front of the deities. She opened the calabash and brought out two charms, one was tied with black wool and the other was tied with red wool. Then she returned to her son.
She stretched one of the charms to him. “This is Ifunra. It pinches your suspicion when evil is about to happen so that you can leave the vicinity.”
He collected it.
“This is iyonu.” She was referring to the second charm. “When any of the susa-bomba sights you, they’ll have mercy on you and change their location.”
He collected it and said, “This is nice.” He wrapped them in nylon, shoved the nylon into his rucksack, and prostrated to thank his mother.
“So what shall I prepare for you to eat?”
“I told you I’m returning now. Ilesha to Abuja is about 5hrs. And this is 2pm.” He peered at his watch as he rose.
“See you.” she pouted. “You’d better thank Ifa. It takes two months to find the leaves of those charms and another two months for preparing them. Iwo lo mo, let me see you off then.”
Jide counted five N1000 notes and gave it to her.
Her face broke into wrinkles of joy. She prayed for him and eulogized him as she tucked the money into her bra. Then she wore her slippers and through the backyard they started off an alley that led to a junction.
“Mama, who owns that new house that has a ‘beware of dog’ legend on its gate,” he asked as they walked through the alley.
“It’s for the Alebiosu’s.”
He chuckled. “It wasn’t there three months ago when I came home.”
“Don’t mind him jare. His money is ritual money and those American dogs are what he uses to accomplish his rituals plans. He purposely did not allow digbolugi injection for them so that whoever they bite dies and his wealth increases.”
“Why will someone not allow anti-rabbies vaccines for dog, mama? Are you sure they’re not hearsay?” he probed jokingly.
“They’re not because what comes after every dog-bite are new cars.”
Mama and her fetishes, he thought.
They’d come out of the alley and had gotten to the junction that led to Alebiosu’s house. It would take another fifteen minutes to reach the tarred road so he implored his mother to return home that he’d be fine. At first his mother was reluctant but she agreed after a lengthy persuasion.
“Ifa will keep you safe. Greet jonah for me. And please don’t waste time in front of Alebiosu’s house.”
“Okay mama.” He smiled.
He watched as his mother returned home. She looked back from time to time, waving him everytime she looked back, and muttering prayers like “Please ifa protect the only surviving child of all the seven children I bore for my late husband. Don’t let Boko Haram kill him.” She didn’t stop looking back until she made a cut off the alley. Then Jide walked on.
He had been walking for a few minutes, observing that only Alebiosu’s house and one other house were completed buildings on that street; it didn’t mean anything to him. But as he edged closer to the Alebiosu’s compound, his heart began to race as though it’d jump through his mouth. His legs got heavy and pee rushed to his bladder. What is happening to me? He remembered his mother’s words. This is ifunra. It pinches your suspicion when evil is around the corner. Can it be that there is evil around the corner?
He stopped and looked ahead but there was nobody. He looked backwards and there was no one coming. He figured he was just about 20 yards away from the Alebiosu’s gate. Then his heart banged like a bongo drum. But he walked on, at a calculated pace, and every step that drew him nearer to the Alebiosu’s gate shone light on the reality of his mother’s word: those American dogs play a part in his ritual plans and his heart thumped. The nearby bush rustled and his heart thumped harder but he kept his pace.
Suddenly the Alebiosu’s heavy gate swung open; the dogs began to bark. His adrenalin shot into action that he scampered for refuge. He leapt over a hip of block into a nearby bush. But their barking was persistent as though they were after him. It reverberated. Deep. Wild.
He squeezed his bag between his legs and shivered. Sweat tickled his armpit as he tried to contain his fear. “Mama has said it,” he was saying, “that Alebiosu uses his dogs as accomplice for his ritual works. If not for the ifunra, how would I have known?”
As their barking got persistent, he became more tensed. He peered through the blocks and saw that the gate was still open. “God help me, please.” He prayed.
Then something stung him on his ankle. It hurt like the venom of a soldier ant but it didn’t bother him. He was concerned about not been used for rituals. He rubbed his ankle gently and continued showering prayers on mama and the ifunra charm.
After about fifteen minutes, a clanging sound from the gate signified that it was being locked. He peered through the block to confirm and so it was. And with that their barking subsided.
Perhaps the dogs reacted to the gate that was swung open by the wind, he thought. He took a deep sigh of relief, made a cross sign on his forehead, dusted his jeans, took his rucksack and started off. He scurried with precise pace that even if he could fly, he would just to make sure nothing upset those dogs again.
He was breathing heavily by the time he got to the tarred road. He tried for a controlled breath but it came in short gasps. And the more he gasped for air, the harder it became. His body was going numb. His vision became blurry and everything appeared in twos and threes. He began to feel drowsy. What is happening to me? He felt like crashing to the ground.
A taxi appeared and as he managed to wave the taxi, he realized he couldn’t raise his hand, or even stand on his feet. The ankle where he’d been stung hurts like pepper.
The taxi driver stopped instinctively and asked. “Where you they go, oga?”
He couldn’t respond. The taxi driver noticed his eyes were red like blood, and his hands and mouth quivered. He shivered so much that his bag fell from his grip.
“Oga Wetin dey do you?”
Jide was numb. The driver’s words were as though it was coming from another world. His phone began to ring but he couldn’t answer it. He was gripped by spasm of pains till he collapsed.
The taxi driver was shocked that he wanted to zoom off but he hesitated for a mind-debate. What is wrong with this man? What could be in his bag? He decided to bury his curiosity and drive off and save himself from trouble when a thought slashed through his mind. “I won’t allow a day grace for this year’s rent like I have done in the past years.” his landlord had said to him two days ago. He suddenly felt the need to redeem his image, to pay his house rent at the precise date. But what if I’m caught while I’m trying to search his bag? Perhaps he’s a ritualist and he’s just pretending. He hissed and quoted to himself. “It’s assigned unto man to die once.” He looked through the mirror before he rushed out of his cab to help himself.
“You sick before, oga?” he asked as he reached to remove the ringing phone from his pocket. This blackberry Z30 will pay for six months, he thought. Then he played the Good Samaritan by answering the call. “You pikin don faint for road.” Again he reached for his back pocket, removed his purse and packed all his money. He then looked around furtively before he scurried to his car. He started the engine and drove off.
It took Iya Agbomola ten minutes before she got to the tarred road where her son laid unconscious. A few people had gathered around him. She’d been crying, cursing, and ranting before he got to him. “Kilode, kilosele ogunjide mi, what is wrong with my son?”
She flung her scarf and wrapper away before she crashed beside him on the floor. She hurtled his head towards her chest. “Ogunjide, ogunjide,” she shouted into his ears then turned to the sympathizers. “What happened to him please talk to me?”
They shook their head and spread their palms to indicate their ignorance about the incident.
“Ogunjide, Ogunjide.” She jerked his head around and the glistering sun fell on his swollen face.
She scanned his body as a mother would do to a crying child and she saw where he’d been stung.
“Ifa o, what is this?” It was red-black, swollen and ripe with blood. Then she noticed her son looked as though his body was peeling. From her experience, she could tell what it was. “Jide, how did you get stung by a scorpion?”
He couldn’t respond because he was dead. And from that day till after two weeks that she committed suicide, she didn’t forget the lesson: that death was inevitable and it doesn’t only come unexpectedly, it also comes in an unanticipated way.