It was a beautiful morning and the voice of the muezzin had been clearer. The shrill voice from atop the minaret roused the entire household of Professor Seye. It was a big day for the family. They were celebrating their 25 years of an enduring and interesting marital life drenched in the uncertainties and struggles of a Nigerian University Don. Theirs was a long tale of strikes and call offs, ridiculous wages and disrespect for hard work. But they survived, and that was a good reason to celebrate. It was also the wedding day of their only son. Caterers and party assistants worked round the clock to bring the day to a successful note.
‘Hello’, when are you bringing in the cakes?’ Mrs. Tinuke had been on the phone calling different people who had something to do with the celebration. She spoke furiously to the gardener for not trimming the flowers and the plumber had to come back and recheck all the pipes.
‘I don’t want any setback today, everything must be perfect’.
‘It’s okay, Tinuke, it looks perfect.’
‘Daddy’, as she fondly called her husband, ‘It is not about looking perfect, it must be perfect.’
He could not understand why his wife was so ecstatic about the entire celebration; it was a one-day thing that had gulped millions of naira. Excessive celebration was not his habit, but he had to play along. I f he refuses to celebrate in a big way, the ‘super double’ as his wife called it, the world will call him a stingy and unappreciative man. He would be one of those ‘Profs’, with a weird life.
‘Daddy’, it was Tinuke again, ‘have you called the man in charge of the drinks?’
‘Yes, I have. Madam, I have done everything you assigned to me’, he said, ‘I will advise you to take things easy.’
‘Easy!’ She dragged her husband to a corner of the parlour and spoke in a soft, yet angry tone, ‘do you think all our guests will take it easy, if things go wrong? They will start wagging their tongues about, telling everyone who cares to listen how Professor Seye’s family couldn’t manage a small celebration.’
‘Small celebration! Tinuke, this is a big party.’
‘We go to parties, don’t we?’
‘Yes, we do.’
‘So we must invite people to our own.’
‘But you didn’t invite the people of Ifetedo.’
‘Oh, please!’ She was not expecting her husband to bring up the topic again. She never really liked her in-laws or the ‘local’ people of Ifetedo. She had not forgotten the immense pressure they put on their young marriage, some twenty something years back. She was to either bear a son for their child or pack out of his house, for another woman.
‘But they will come, anyway’, he said, interrupting her thoughts.
‘They are not welcome in this household.’
‘They are our family, you can’t stop them from coming, it is improper.’
Tolu came forward and held her by the shoulder, ‘Be calm, today is your happy day’.
‘Please, Uncle Tolu, stay out of this matter.’ But he wouldn’t listen. He held her hands and took her away from her husband’s presence. He never understood his wife’s soft spot for his younger brother. Whenever he had trouble with his wife, Tolu was always there to calm her down.
‘Madam, the Madam’, a voice called out. It was Doctor John.
‘Doc-Doc’, she shouted. She freed herself from the grasp of Tolu and embraced him warmly. This was her kind of people. Doctor John was the family doctor of many years until he became a politician and joined the elite army of corrupt officials. He had been a deputy governor, honourable of the House of the representatives and now a senator. His friendship with Prof. had gone sour because of their different political views but he remained a friend of the family. Tinuke couldn’t avoid losing such an honourable title as friend of a senator. Such prestige mattered to her and her husband did well to condole it.
‘Prof.-Prof., ore mi atata, long time no see’, Doctor John answered.
‘We are where you left us, Mr. Senator. How is your government?’
‘Our Government, Prof… It is our government, the same government that pays your salary. And you should be thankful that she deems it fit to increase your pay and extend your retirement age. Seye, it is a working government, you should join hands with us.’
‘Trust me John, my hands are well placed in the University system, we just hope your…our government will do more than just lip service for the education sector’.
Tinuke knew her husband was up to no good so she changed the topic.
‘So Doc, how are your wives and why are they not here?’
‘Oh! They are fine’, he said, ‘still fighting occasionally but recently, they have forged a unity against my threat to marry a third wife’
‘Yes, my beloved Tinuke, no disrespect but women are my ways of showing success, and em… a third wife is not of serious interest, it is just my way of getting them united.’
Prof. was angry. His former friend was an unrepentant polygamist and philanderer. It was no secret that he had many children outside his polygamous wedlock. Being a politician even makes it easy; women flocked around him like flies over faeces. To him, John was one of the Nigerian politicians who should support bills for prison reformation because he will spend his last days on earth, there. He watched with disdain as his wife laughed at his crude jokes and words of disrespect for the women folk. After all, he was a Senator of the Federal Republic, a respected thief.
Soon, Tinuke left him alone with him as she checked around to see that everything was in place before they go to church. A young handsome bloke, apparently semi drunk rushed into the house. He was trying his possible best to look calm. It was the aftermath of the bachelor’s party. He hugged Tinuke and walked towards Prof. and Doctor John.
‘Ha! Here comes the handsome groom’
‘Good Morning, Doc’
‘Good Morning, Son’
‘Good Morning, Dad’
‘Good Morning, Son’
‘Em… I will see you both at the church.’
He walked away from where his father stood uncomfortably with an old friend.
‘This boy of yours has turned out as a handsome man.’
‘Thank you John.’
‘John, I have to prepare for church, we will talk more during the party proper’
Prof. was tired of his senseless talk about the nation’s politics and the love of the masses by the government of the day. He just wanted to stay away from his lies.
‘What about his father? ‘
Prof. was startled. ‘I’m his father’, he replied.
‘Yes, I know that, but I am talking of his real father. He could be here somewhere. Watching you claim his boy.’
Prof. was getting angry, and John could see it forming out on his face. Yet, he pestered on.
‘Listen, Prof., this boy has turned out well, the biological father may come up to claim him. You should ask Tinuke, who the father is?’
‘I am his father’, he replied, as he tried hard not to show his fast rising anger.
‘You are impotent. I was your family Doctor for many years.’
‘Shut up John, or I will punch you in the face!’
‘I will shut up but I still think you should ask Tinuke. Something ugly might turn up in the future, something that might be shocking’.
‘I don’t care about that John. I have been his father all these years and I will continue to be. It is better if you stay out of my way throughout this party or I will kill you’.
He stormed out of the living room.
Prof. was angry. He knew he could possibly punch him the face but that would be disastrous. Today was a happy day and no man could stop him from being happy. But, there was truth in what he said. He was impotent, but he never told his wife. Their twenty-five years of marriage had been a lie. A big lie. Tinuke never told him how he got the child and he never asked her. He was just happy that he had a son. He never cared if he was another man’s son.
Until John spoke of it.
Tinuke knew at once that trouble was looming after he saw her husband storm out of the living room. She followed him inside their room. There he was, fitting in bullets into his dusty gun.
‘What are you doing?’
‘What does it look like?’ He cocked the gun and pointed it at his wife. ‘Now, Tinuke, tell me the name of Biodun’s father’.
‘What are you talking about?’
He asked again. ‘Who is Biodun’s father?’
‘I don’t understand… what is this all about?’
‘It is you. You are his father!’
He looked at her in the face and laughed. ‘Don’t fool me, woman.’ he said, ‘I have been impotent for the past twenty five years of our marriage, and I know that I have lived a life of lies. But I need to know, is he Biodun’s father?’
She could not believe it. Why would he think she had an affair with John? It is true that he was their family doctor and good friend, but their relationship never went beyond cordial friendship. She was no fool to realise that John was a flirt and no good for a responsible woman like her. John! Her husband must be out of his mind.
‘Answer me, Woman! Is he the one?
‘What is wrong with you?’
‘Woman, you will soon know.’ He dragged her to the living room and pushed her to the centre of the room. He brought out the gun and pointed it at John. Everyone in the living room stood fixated like stones. One of the party assistants fainted. Biodun came into the living room.
‘Tell me Tinuke, is he Biodun’s father?’
‘Me?’ John asked, ‘Prof., I think you are getting it all wrong. I couldn’t have done that.’
‘Dad, what are you talking about?’ He tried to move near his father but his uncle pulled him back. Prof. moved towards John and placed the gun right on his forehead.
‘Then who did it? Tell me, who did it.’
‘How would I know!’ he shouted. He was afraid. He was standing in front of a man whose friendship with him had turned sour, and who disliked his wife’s affection and respect for him.
He turned to Tinuke again. ‘Who is Biodun’s father?’
Tinuke broke down in tears. She never thought her husband would find out her secret of many years. She was under pressure to bear a child for him. His relatives called her all sorts of names. She was a child-eating witch, who fed on her husband’s sorrow but she loved him.
‘I did this for us’.
‘You did it for yourself. It has nothing to do with me.’
‘Brother, please. This is a family issue. You cannot expose it all like this!’
‘I don’t care Tolu’, he replied, ‘Tinuke, Tell me his father!’
‘I am’, Tolu said.
There was silence. Cold shivers ran down his spine. How could his brother be that man? He was the only man who knew of his impotence besides Doctor John.
‘What are you saying Tolu? This is serious.’
‘Brother… I had to do it. I could not watch her suffer like this. I told her you were impotent, but our family did not know about it. They threatened her for what she did not cause’.
‘Believe me brother, I didn’t want to do it, but she begged me. She didn’t want someone outside the family. I am sorry, but Biodun is your blood, my blood is your blood’.
‘Tolu… my blood?’ He staggered to where his brother stood and placed the gun on his head. All these years, the truth he longed for was around him. He remembered how he begged him never to ask her about Biodun’s paternity, because it will reveal the secret about his impotence. He had convinced him to take the child as his own, and he did. He realized that all through those years, he never really had a family. Life was meaningless.
‘Thank you, Tolu’. He pulled the gun away from his brother’s forehead and shot himself on the head.