“Thank you daddy. You are the best father in the whole world.” Tinuke said.
“Thanks little angel. I hope you enjoyed the trip.”
“Yeah! I do.” She exclaimed. “I like the Onitsha bridge, the only covered bridge in Nigeria. I like the people here. They all seem to be happy.”
“Yeah! They do. I guess. I like the beautiful hills that envelope Enugu State. I wish I could walk up to its top”
“Had your father owned a helicopter or buoyant enough to rent one at this very moment, I would have loved to make your dream of climbing to the hill top come true. But it is a dream, it may come to pass one day.” Wale said. “Where has this Waiter been to? She probably has forgotten that touring father and daughter are ravenously hungry.” Wale added.
“Nnewi is a lovely city. The men and women of that little world are supermen.”
“Indeed they are! Igbos are supermen. If I am to come to this world another time, I would like to be born of an Igbo parents.” Wale revealed.
“Me too.” Tinuke said. “Would you allow me to marry an Igbo man if I found one?” She teased her father.
“Why not! My joy would be filled if you marry one. I would welcome the young man with open arms.” Wale said.
“But mother kicked against it.”
“Why?” Wale inquired. “Did she give you any cogent reason?”
“She did.” Tinuke responded. “She said Igbos are bad people. That they do not take care of their wives. That they cause troubles.” She stopped abruptly when her father convulsed into laughter.
“Your mother is a clown. A simpleton in almost every aspect of life.” He laughed again and again.
“I am not surprised she did. What do you expect from a person who had refused to leave her people and mingle with others outside her sphere. Papa Chibuzor, our neighbour, have you ever heard any fight between him and his wife?” He asked his daughter who responded by shaking her head left and right. “Good! Dozie, the boy that sells down the street, have you ever seen him cause a scene in the neighbourhood?” He asked again.
“No.” Tinuke answered.
“So where did your mother get all those lies she fed you. I am not saying that there are no bad eggs among them, but call an entire nation bad is what I would not accept. As there are good persons, so also we have the bad ones. Our prayer is that we should meet the good ones and not the bad ones. The neglected duty of every parent is to access closely who their children are into and not called the person and his or her entire race a name. I am your father. I have the final say. Bring whoever you like home. I would access him, and if I found him worthy of my priceless jewel, I would go to the extent of sponsoring the wedding.” Tinuke beamed with joy. She hugged her father. He pecked her.
Wale’s attitude suddenly changed. Tinuke could feel it. Wale looked long into the distance. Something had pierced his mind. It was something he never wanted to be reminded of.
“If the man you eventually bring home is an Igbo man. I would love the Chigbo family of Imo state to be present on your traditional wedding.” He said with a mixture of joy and sadness.
“Why? And by the way, I don’t know any Chigbo family.” Tinuke announced. Her puzzled face met with the feigned smile her old man wore on his wrinkled face.
“It is true that you don’t know them.” Wale began. ” They are a family I would never forget. They were the barrier that stood between me and my first love.”
“Hmmm! I am interested in that. Tell me what happened.” Tinuke demanded as she seat properly. Wale smiled very broadly. Tinuke had never seen him smiled that way before in all her eighteen years with him.
“There is nothing much to say about them. They ar-”
“There is something much to say about them.” She said sharply cutting her father.
“The sweet smile that enveloped your face said so much about what you are about to say. The face is good but not too good at hiding the bitterness of the heart.” Tinuke added.
“You stole my mother’s wise saying.” He joked. Tinuke laughed.
The man smiled once again. “Okay. You won. I will tell you.”
“There was this treasure of the east that I would have married had her people not been unscrupulous in their demands and dispositions. We met at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I was an invited guest in one of the institution’s annual seminars. While she was just an undergraduate in the renowned institution. She was one of those studious students who came to me to learn more on the topic I presented before the large audience.” He looked into the listening countenance of her beautiful dark skinned daughter and smiled. Tinuke who had sat opposite him smiled back.
“I did justice to all the students questions and we parted ways. I woke up with great hunger the following morning. The hotel where we were lodged served very poor food and I was not going to punish my precious stomach with their food. I dressed up that faithful morning and walked out. Luckily, I found a joint where foods were sold. I quickly entered and got myself a plateful. I was so hungry that I didn’t look my front to say hi to other consumers. I sat down. She greeted from where she sat. I responded discouragingly. She walked up to me to express her dissatisfaction. That was when I remembered her. I like her courage. Only a few girl would do what she did. Something told me that she is the one I had been waiting for. It seems similar thing whispered the same thing to her in her inside. As morning comes without obtaining permission from the inhabitants of the earth, love overtook our young hearts. We were so much in love that we barely leave each other’s presence.” He rubbed his temple.
“I love her. I still do. The memories of our play linger in some unholy hours.” Wale confessed.
“Really!” Tinuke asked. Wale responded with a nod of his head. “Then what happened? Why didn’t you marry her?”
“We were not meant to stay long with each other. That is all I could say. At times, fate disciplines one by bringing a person that is not meant for one one’s way to teach one a bitter lesson that would make one’s future better. We were not meant for each other. If we were, all I did were enough to make any stubborn parent to hand over his or her child in marriage to a man. But that never happened.”
“Her parents were against it?” She asked
“All her people were against it.”
“Why?” She asked innocently.
“For unfounded reasons that your mother gave you.” He laughed. Tinuke also laughed.
“Didn’t she put in a fight?” Tinuke asked.
“She did.” Wale chuckled. “Protesting termites can only eat up an intruding wood, and not an impeding rock.”
“She even suggested that we should run away. We did ran away.”
“Yes darling. We ran to the end of the earth where there were quietude. We thought we had avoided the eyes of men, we never knew that the gods of her people was watching at us in 3D. Prior to this incident, I never believed in gods and their potencies. That mentality changed when they handled me.” They laughed out.
“The gods started with her. She took ill. At first, we thought it was the one month old pregnancy she had, being the first time, that caused it. I spent all my savings in the infirmary. All to no avail. Then mine came. Both of us were terribly sick. So sick and broke.” He laughed again. This time, it was that kind of laughter you do when things pain you in your inside.
“Hey! Come.” He called a hawker.
“What does she sells?”
“What is Okpa?”
“When she brings it. You would see.”
“Oga good afternoon.” Hawker greeted.
“Good afternoon my dear. How is business.?” Wale asked.
“We thank God.” Hawker responded.
“Bring #500 Okpa.” Tinuke looked inquisitively into the woman’s small bowl. She saw as she brought out something that was wrapped in leaves. Tinuke collected the mysteriously wrapped item her father bought. Wale paid the hawker and she walked away.
“Open it.” Wale ordered. Tinuke did as she was instructed.
“Till this waiter come, lets enjoy this.” He unwrapped the okpa and took a mouthful. Tinuke watched her father swallowed a mouthful.
“Is it moi moi?” She asked.
“No.” He answered.
“Then what is it?
“Eat it first.” He told her. She started eating it.
“Do you like the taste?” Wale asked.
“Yeah!” Tinuke answered.
“It was Ogochukwu that introduced me to Okpa.”
“Who is Ogochukwu?”
“The lady I was telling you about.” Wale answered.
“So many Igbo foods, arts and culture that I knew, She taught me.” He added.
“Continue with your story sir.” Tinuke demanded.
“I also took ill. I called my mother to where we ran to. She arranged for both of us to be taken to Ijebu, my home town. It was there that my mother learnt that what was happening to my wife and I were not ordinary. She did the needful. I got back to my feet. But Ogochukwu didn’t. She gave birth while she was on her sick bed. We were happy. We named the child Chukwale. Blended name of ours.”
“That’s crazy. I love it. So where is Chukwale?” Tinuke asked.
“The little boy died when she took him to her people.” He said sadly.
“That’s too bad.” Tinuke exclaimed.
“I cried all day when she broke the news to me. Ogochukwu got well when we lost Chukwale. It was strange. I asked series of questions why things took that turn. I was told that it is either the boy die or the mother. Her people quickly do the needful at wherever they did it. They loved their daughter over my child.” He chuckled. Tinuke looked so perplexed.
“Even if they didn’t seek my permission before doing whatever they did. I still like their decision. Had they sought for my opinion, I would have told them to do the same. Though Chukwale was precious to us, but not as precious to me as my woman, Ogochukwu. Chukwale was as a result of the love we made to each other. So taking away the result of the love in other for my love to exist is no crime to me. My people were angry but I calmed them.”
“You have tried daddy.” Tinuke praised her father.
“I went to Imo to meet Ogochukwu’s people to discuss how I could get my wife. They tossed me here and there like a coin. At the end, I was asked for dowry that I would not be able to pay in twenty years time. They asked for thirty-five thousand naira and other items. Thirty-five thousand naira was such a very huge amount of money then. My monthly salary then was ten naira.” Tinuke laughed. “My friends told me to forget it. I refused. I wanted to meet their demand. I loved Ogochukwu. There is nothing too big to do for love. Especially the kind of love we had for each other. I instantly became a begger. I begged right and left and center. I borrowed money from friends and families alike. It took me two months of active begging to be able to come up with that amount of money.” Wale sighed. Tears welled up in his eyes. The sad waters found their way down the dark raiment of Wale’s face.
“Dad… You are crying.” She exclaimed. She had never seen him in this state before. It took her by surprise. She stood up from her seat, but Wale ordered her back with a raise of his hand. She watched him as he cried silently for few minutes.
“At times, crying is good.” He said as he wiped his sorry face with clean white handkerchief he brought out from his breast pocket. “It is a way of consoling oneself when all that people say around one didn’t hold water.” He added with a lighten up face. He smiled.
“While I was jubilating for being able to raise the money irrespective of the fact that the greater part of it were borrowed, I received the rudest shock of my life when I got to the ought-to-be my in-laws’ place. I was told that they lost Ogochukwu. At first, I didn’t believe them. I thought they wanted to toss me around in their usual manners which I was adequately prepared for. I asked to be shown her grave to confirm what they told me. They were reluctant at first. When they saw that I wouldn’t take no for an answer, an elder took me to one place where pebbles of sand were l symbolically heaped up. The old man pointed at the spot. He watched me as I rolled on the mound of sands that hid my woman. I rolled on the sand just the way I used to roll on her on those cold nights at the end of the earth where we eloped and where their gods caught us. The man did all he could to make me leave the place but he failed. He went to call all those people that wouldn’t want me to have her. They came. They begged me to leave her alone. All their talks fell on deaf ears. Whenever the people, her own people left me, I would have the illusion of her sitting close to me. I would see her smiled beautifully at me. Since touching her is no longer allowed, I would smile back at the one that only me could see. Whenever people come and see me smiling, they thought I was mad. But I wasn’t. Ogochukwu knew I wasn’t when several others thought I was mad. I finally left her silent place after one week of sobbing when she didn’t come out from her place of rest any more. I let her be.” He looked up at her daughter. All these while, he had been talking to himself all alone. Tinuke could only hear his projection.
“I went to her people’s place to tell them of my desire to leave. Her mother called me in to ask me if Ogochukwu and I took oath. I said no. That we just loved each other. She said she and everyone in the small village had nurtured that thoughts. I told her that I loved her and she loved me too. That what we had for each other needed no native security to checkmate it. She told me that Ogochukwu took ill the moment I left to go get money to pay as dowry. She said Ogochukwu knew that that huge amount of money was a way we turned people away. She fell seriously sick and she wouldn’t eat or drink anything. Ogochukwu died the day they wanted to send for me. As I was the only one that could cure her sickness.”
“You mean… She died just like that.” Tinuke asked.
“They said she was an ogbanje. I know she wasn’t. Ogbanje was the phenomenon people lied on for their poor handling of a child that eventually died-” The Waiter cut him short.
“I am sorry for keeping you people late. The soup you demanded for was on fire that is why it took me so long to come here. I am sorry for whatever pain we have caused you.” The Waiter said. She quickly arranged the food before the hungry family. It was Akpu and soup.
“What kind of soup is this?” She asked.
“Banga soup is a very good soup.” Wale answered.
“I used to hear banga soup. So this is it.” Tinuke said amazingly.
“You would like it. I promise.” Wale assured her daughter.
“Igbos called we Yorubas ‘Ori ose’ and ‘Ofe manu’. That is their own derogatory way of referring to Yorubas.”
“What do those words mean?” She inquired.
“Ori ose means people that consume too much pepper. Because they, the igbos don’t treasured pepper the way we did.” Wale explained.
“They called us Ofe manu because we eat too much of red oil in our food.” Wale explained.
“Look at the egusi soup on your plate. Do you see that it is as white as my handkerchief.” Wale added. Tinuke chuckled.
“Whenever an Igbo person called me ‘ofe manu’, I just smile and say, that is the pride of Yorubas.” They laughed. “Let’s eat.” He said. They began to eat.
“Why is this Fufu so hard? Is there no water in the whole of Igbo land to soften it.” Tinuke fumed. Her daddy laughed.
“Why are you laughing?” She asked. “This fufu would tear my throat into shreds.” She added.
“This is the reason why Yorubas called the Igbos “aj’okuta ma m’omi”. They like their food strong. So strong.” He said. “Cut it small”. He advised.
“Ok. Sir.” They ate their food silently. The canteen was big. Chairs and tables were arranged all about the spacious canteen. Suddenly, two grim looking men entered. They wore green chinos and black top. They looked round the canteen with their camera eyes. They left disappointed after some minutes.
“Who are those people?” Somebody asked at the back of the canteen.
“Biafra people”. Another person answered.
“What are they looking for?” The person asked again.
“Didn’t you see them when they came in? You should have asked them who they were looking for.” Another answerer answered. Everyone in the canteen looked at the man that gave the last epic response. The response was poorly received by everyone in the canteen.
“They were looking for one aboki guy that insulted them and ran away.” A man who stood outside the canteen said.
“You mean hausa man insulted our movement. He should be killed.” A man responded from somewhere inside the canteen.
“Idiotic element. He should have waited. Why did he run? Coward.” Another man sitting jn front of Wale said.
“Biafra-” Tinuke was cut by his father.
“We will discuss about that in the car. Not here. Okay!” He cautioned.
“Hello.” Wale called the woman that served them.
“How much is your money?” He asked.
“One thousand five hundred naira.” She replied. He watched as the man brought out some wads of cash from his pocket. He thrusted some money into her waiting hand.
“Thank you oga.” The waiter said. She packed the plates the father and daughter used and disappeared with them.
Tinuke and her father walked out of the poorly furnished canteen. Though the canteen was poor, but its food were good. It had done the required magic on Wale and his daughter. They swarm past lots of Biafran agitators that gathered some inches away from the canteen. They were young men and women carrying banners and placards of different inscriptions. Some group of persons sang the Biafra anthem gleefully. Wale watched the men as they rendered the anthem composed by the late hero, Nnambi Azikwe so flawlessly as if they were co-writers. Tinuke didn’t know that the song the men were singing were Biafra anthem. Wale never expected her to know it. The generation of men that composed that song and hers were far apart.
” All hail Biafra Land of the rising sun, we love and cherish. We have vanquished our enemies, all hail Biafra God Bless Biafra, in Him we trust Shout it sing it, all hail Biafra. God bless Biafra We have emerged triumphant, from all our foes Through the crucible unscathed, we passed victorious Our trumpet spealing, the glorious song Play it, sing it, all hail Biafra.Oh hail Biafra We shall always remember, all that perished, In the struggle for our freedom, all hail our heroes Our prayers shall bemoan, both day and night Say them always, all hail Biafra. All Hail Biafra Now our star shines everywhere, we crave humility God guide and protect us all, all hail Your Wisdom Shielding us from fury, unleashed by our enlightenment Biafra, Biafra, shinning forever.”
He held Tinuke firmly and dragged her along to her surprise. The last time somebody dragged her along the road that way as far as she could remember was when she was ten. For her to be dragged that way at eighteen took her totally by surprise. She looked at the determined hand that was dragging her along. She smiled. “Daddy would never admitted that I am old enough to take care of myself.” She said to herself. One is always a child to one’s parents even if one has grown gray hair on one’s head. The man frog matched his daughter as fast as his old sinew allowed away from the scene to where their jeep was parked.
“Enter the car!” Wale barked. Tinuke quickly do as instructed. The man slowly steered the car past the agitators who had caused traffic gridlock. They were now safe in their vehicle at least to some extent. The window were wind up and Wale was sure that whatever he said to his daughter wouldn’t be heard by outsiders. They watched the agitators. Some of them were dancing to songs that other agitators were singing. Large Biafran flag was hoisted up. It bellowed occasionally.
“What is your take on this Biafra agitation?” Tinuke asked her dad who held very firmly to the car steering.
“They are a group of people who knew what they wanted but didn’t know how to go about it.” He answered. He pulled the vehicle to a stop as some agitators stood in front of him. He smiled at them. They greeted back and allowed him to go. He drove on.
“Why did those people barricaded that side of the road?” She asked again looking back through the rearview.
“They wanted to know if I believe in their mission. I signaled to them that I believed. That’s why they allowed me to go-”
“But do you believe in what they were doing?” She asked.
“No.” Wale answered.
“These people do not need what they are doing. Igbos are intelligent people. I expected them to use their intelligence to win their aims. But they ain’t doing that, and they are losing where they are supposed to be gaining.” He looked at his daughter. He went on.
“These people reminded me of the story my father told me. The story goes thus: A young man went to his father one beautiful morning to demand for his freedom. He said daddy, give me my freedom. I want to be free to do whatever I like. The father looked him straight in his eyes and said to him, you are not ripe enough for what you are demanding. He said to his father, daddy I am Eighteen. I want my freedom. The father laughed. The father said to his child, that you are eighteen doesn’t automatically mean that you are free to be on your own. The man asked him if he had a farm where he would be getting his food. The boy said no. The father asked him if he had a house where he would be living in. He said no. The father smiled and told him that he is not ripe for freedom. The boy was defiant in his demand. To avoid trouble, his father granted him his freedom. The boy left the house immediately. When he was away, he found everywhere dried and devoid of life. He soon realize that those friends he had thought would help him all had different motives. Hunger came on him and the night grew cold on his tender skin. He realized that he was wrong and that his father was right. He was not appreciative enough to all his father had been doing to him. He had travelled longer than he could return home. So he slept in the open field with his hungry stomach. The cold was much in the mid night, so he developed pnuemonia that claimed his life before the next morning came.” Wale said to his daughter.
“That’s serious.” Tinuke rued.
“The present Biafran agitators are just like that boy in the story I told you. They do not need all these things that they are doing. If they want power, they should go out and mingle with other group outside their group. But no, they want to stay at home and eat the national cake. That’s practically impossible.”
“Do you mean that you don’t support biafra.”
” I was a strong supporter of Late Odumegwu’s Biafra. It was a Biafra with a purpose. I had prayed he succeeded then. But he didn’t. Since then, everything has returned to normalcy. No more killing of Igbos in the north, no shortchanging of whatever kind. Igbos owned empires in almost every part of the country and are ruling like kings and queens wherever they are. Those that want breakup have probably not gone round Nigeria and see her beauties. Those that want breakup are those who have not had any of their relatives married into other ethnic groups. Those that want breakup are those who are always skepitical and scared of their neighbours’ successes. Those that want separation are those who are rooted to a spot either physically or mentally. Those that want separation are those who are scared of failure on the nation’s big political platforms. Those that want separation are those who have no flourishing business or chains of businesses across the many states of Nigeria.” Wales coughed.
“The Biafra that this boy is preaching doesn’t hold any water. It is only a fool like him who could not see beyond his nose that would support him. He would only succeeded in putting his people into trouble if his excesses are not checked.”
Wale looked at his daughter. He smiled at her.
“He is starting a war that he cannot finish. He is myopic in his understanding. If I were him, I would rather urge my people to shoot for presidency position. The road to that lofty seat is far, but it is attainable with the kind of doggedness that Igbos are known to have. I would advise them to put their house in other first, and when that has been done, presidency is very sure for them. ” Wale added.
Wale’s phone rang. Tinuke grabbed the singing thing.
“It’s mum.” She announced to the man.
“I know she would be worried. I didn’t tell her we would be staying this long.”
“Where are we in case she ask.” Tinuke demanded.
“Asaba. Delta state. We should be in Akure in six hours time.” Wale replied.
Tinuke picked the call and discussed with her mother while Wale powered the jeep down the flawless road.