I was just preparing to go to the market when I got the call. The voice had a delirious thrill like that of a man on the verge of delivering exciting news. But I could not mistake the hint of sarcasm when it said that my husband had died in a run-down hotel room while humping a whore!
There are some news that hasten panic into your stride, you grab your breasts as you flee, headgear falling off, wrapper turning loose and hysteria in your eyes but I’d rather mourn a dog that had a miscarriage than waste a tear drop because Uche got himself killed.
“Are you sure he’s dead?” I asked, coolly.
“What?” the delirium had left the voice, it was now edgy. “Please am I on to Mrs Angela Udeh?”
“In flesh,” I answered calmly, “Now answer my question, are you sure he is dead?”
“I’m sorry to tell you but he’s dead. Very dead.”
“But he’s dead, I’m sorry…”
I cut the call and proceeded to call Uche’s parents, as usual they won’t pick my call. The first time Uche introduced me to them as his fiancée, his father asked him what he was on. But when Uche became adamant, they let him have his way. However, as a rule, no member of the family has managed a decent conversation with me.
While his father hinged it on an age-old rivalry between the Mbano and the Mbaise people, even though the old man hasn’t been to the east of the Niger since the civil war ended and neither Uche nor I can trace Mbano on the map of Nigeria, his mother insisted that the length of wife material in me cannot even sew a scarf. And she divined that by my Brazilian hair, stiletto heels and scarlet-red lipstick.
You see my marriage was not the even conventional kind. We had an arrangement where I took his surname and leave him the hell alone. Which is actually fine by Uche because he had made it abundantly clear in the four years that we have been together that if the thing inside a bottle didn’t kill him then the content of a mini skirt will not miss him.
It started at our wedding reception when I caught him grinding against one of the girls on my bridal train. I’ve sent away two house maids simply because my husband’s brain cells atrophy at the sight of boobs. It used to bother me until I read somewhere online that there’s a scientific reason why men have lost empires to the mould of flesh on a woman’s chest. Men, they claimed, never out-grow the breast milk.
We weren’t even compatible in the first place, you see, I’m an Aquarius he’s an asshole. I married him because I got tired of being twenty one. I had been twenty-one so many times that I have lost track of my real age. At first I thought it wasn’t anything Estee lauder wouldn’t take care of but there comes a time in the life of lady when you look at the mirror and worry that your mother’s prediction about your dying old and alone with dogs feeding off you might come true. Worse still I was aging in the parts that matter. So I told myself that the next idiot who must see my thighs would have to see my father first.
I worked as marketer in a new generation bank that is if one wants to be cute. Actually, we were expected to get deposit from customers however we can. I’ve lost count of the number of accounts I’ve secured for the bank that had nothing to do with my marketing skills. Truth is, I didn’t even have any. People talk about selling snow to an Eskimo I can’t even sell oil to China even if my life depend on it. I don’t know my bank’s mission statement nor can I even explain one of the numerous services but six months into the job I’ve been given a car as the best marketer in Ikeja branch of Ruby Bank.
You see the people I market for just want me to produce results. They come to work dressed in their $5,000 jackets, speaking in flavoured accent, driven in posh customised cars but don’t let that fool you, they are nothing but corporate rogues. And the people I market to are the lowest forms of lives who either stole enough from the state or kill enough people for the privilege of living like a duke.
It was one of such of meetings (read rendezvous) that I met Uche, a smooth talking, handsome, suave thirty-two year old man who thought himself God’s gift to women. He introduced himself as a relation of Chief Abednego Barnabas Udeh, a wealthy industrialist who owned chains of businesses.
He was supposed to arrange me for his principal to discuss a fixed deposit account I had been haranguing the old man to open with my bank but he couldn’t take his eyes off me. So when he suggested maybe the discussion would be better in Chief Udeh’s private suite at Eko Hotels. I gave him a good dressing down in two languages at a Japanese restaurant on Victoria Island.
“What do you take me for? A corporate harlot?” I bawled in righteous indignation.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
“Go and tell your shameless he-goat of a master that I’m not going to cheapen myself just so he can open an account with my bank.”
I picked up my handbag and left him gaping just as our orders were arriving. Of course I hated Sushi too; I just ordered it to look cool.
Uche stared at me with genuine admiration as I sashayed away in my four inch high-heel shoes.
Two weeks later, he came to my bank and apologised. He asked me out on a date to apologise and soon enough I had manufactured a pregnancy tale that got him afraid enough to pay my bride price. I had a convenient miscarriage, two weeks after the wedding. Of course, my gynaecologist doubles as my sleeping partner.
Aside from the fact that, I badly needed his surname, Uche seemed like the complete package. He was handsome, tall, articulate and suave. The only bulging part about him, it seemed, was his bank account. He told me that the wealthy Chief Udeh, was his uncle and he had plans to set him up after a few years. This was really what made it easy to ignore many of Uche’s indiscretions.
I had no reason to doubt him. We lived in private estate in Lekki, drove some of the latest wonder on wheels and I did my shopping in Dubai when I feel like blowing away money. It would have been a perfect marriage if I didn’t have a husband with a raging libido.
But as they say, if a thing sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Our marriage didn’t even sound good to begin with so it was understandable that just two years into the union, things began to unravel. It came to a head, when Uche got himself killed.
Few weeks after his death, the family had retrieved the corpse and we have all been herded to the village for his burial. They didn’t turn it into any grand event because his death was already well publicised. It also eliminated the need for elaborate funeral rites so there would be no drinking of water used to wash his corpse to prove my innocence, Lagos whores took care of that for me. The family only remodelled their huts in the village for his burial. They did the burial in a matter of hours, lowered his corpse into the earth and the next day we were all back in Lagos.
A week later, I went to see Chief Udeh to discuss the death of his nephew and what plans he had for his widow. I had no plans of asking why he didn’t show at the burial, I won’t have been there if I weren’t his wife. I got the greatest shock of my life when I found Chief Udeh in the company of four girls in his private suite.
But your nephew died on top of one them! Were this people born this stupid or is it something they did to themselves?
He laughed so hard he nearly choked on his wine. So he fooled you too. Uche, that boy, he’s indeed a certified crook. He was just my personal assistant!
I would understand the family I married into two weeks after Uche’s burial when they came in a horde to my house to demand for their brother’s property. They diagnosed Uche’s death to be the consequence of my wickedness which drove him into the waiting arms of Lagos whores. Only Uche didn’t really have much property. The house was on mortgage, the car was bought with a loan whose terms were atrocious and all the Dubai trips were on an over laboured credit card.
I recalled that two months before his death, I had stumbled on his bank statement and the credit side had a healthy sum of money. At this point, with the trouble from his family, I just wanted to grab whatever I could lay my hands and flee. I quickly searched for the bank statements, found them and hurried to the bank armed with proof indicating that I was the next of kin.
The branch manager of Maples Bank was an elderly gentleman whom I met many years ago when I was still a marketer with Ruby Bank. He listened patiently to my polished story of the harrowing experience I was going through in the hands of my in-laws and sympathised with me and promised that he would do anything within his power to help.
I quickly veered the discussion towards the issue of next of kin and how I can inherit my late “darling” husband’s estate. Of course Uche didn’t write a will, he was too stupid whoring to recall such details. The Manager, as promised, assisted me. He assisted in confirming that I was indeed the next of kin. But here’s the catch, they would require a letter of administration.
You see the thing about a letter of administration in Nigeria is that it is a principle designed to punish the family members of anyone who died interstate. It is issued at the probate section of a high court where they will ensure you jump hoops so high you will curse the dead. Your eye will spin from being tossed from one person to another, then the files will take months to crawl from one desk to another and then the oga who will sign will order you to produce four witnesses, then you assemble your entire clan and then you hear he’s gone on leave and all these while you’ve been parting with large sums of money to settle one crooked official after another. One woman who finally secured a letter of administration after two years was rudely informed that the balance on late husband’s account wasn’t enough to charter a taxi to the high court and she parted with over N120,000 for the trouble.
So when I thought about the ordeal of securing a letter of administration, I knew it was not worth the toil. Some bank executives make a killing from a customer who died interstate. It is not right to upset their business. So I told the manager he should do whatever he can to assist me.
He brought a file containing the record of my late husband’s finances and gave me to study. One does not need a degree in finance to know that my husband was neck deep in debt. The default on the mortgage of our house was already enough for the bank to commence foreclosure. Using his relationship with Chief Udeh, my husband had become a serial debtor. He even took a loan to pay for our wedding.
Midway into the revelation, I fell down on my knees and began to implore the bank manager, my hands working in places a normal plea had no business with. He got the message and gave me his card. He told me there’s a provision in their books for bad loans for situations like this. He promised to remove the lien on the account and look away when it comes to the car, furniture and his savings account if I can be quick with the ATM card’s pin.
Of course I knew Uche’s pin it’s getting hold of the card that had been the issue every time. When they brought his corpse, it was the first thing I reached for in his wallet and tucked away safe. By the next morning, I had cleared N1,000,000, 000 from the savings accounts, sold the damn car and did a fire sale of the furniture and fittings in our house to an interior decorator arranged by the bank manager. All the money I realised was safely tucked in a domiciliary account with Maples bank.
I was invited to the meeting of Uche’s kinsmen where my fate was to be decided. They were all unanimous in sharing their brother’s property, painstaking in their greed because they shared up to the cutlery. They awarded me a room in the house, a stipulated allowance all of which I will lose should I ever remarry. I thanked them for their generosity and but told them that marriage was not on my mind right now. I am still mourning my husband.
Uche’s father now requested that I turn all the bank books and other financial documents belonging to his son. Promptly, I lugged in his briefcase and spread out the papers for all to see. They saw the balances on the various accounts and were smiling genuinely for the first time in their lives, the pack of hyenas, I sighed. I sweetened their day when I produced a letter appointing Uche’s father as the next of kin because I believed that only him had sufficient wisdom to share the property. Uche’s mother hugged me and when she called me her daughter in-law, she meant it. The old hag didn’t even show up at my wedding.
Uche’s brothers were so happy, champagne bottles were popped, beer flowed, the laughter was loud and fast and the gathering soon took the character of a carnival. One of his brothers, Emma, the one who did time twice for robbing the same store offered to marry me. I laughed politely and declined because I knew it was really the beer talking. So the night ended on a very convivial note and when I started to sweep the cobwebs out of the room they had apportioned for me, my mother-in-law was so touched, she told me there was no rush, I should still sleep in my husband’s bedroom.
I was conveniently not around six days later, when they came to claim their property. They had written to the bank with an instruction to transfer the proceeds of the savings and current accounts of Mr Uchena Udeh into the account of his father Sir Bartholomew Eyinnaya Udeh, who as his next of kin was entitled to inherit the estate of his late son. I think it was the arrogance of the letter that made the bank move in on the property that fast. They were gathered on a Friday morning with a truck to move their allocations when a team of rabid looking mobile policemen besieged the house along with officials of Maples bank. They drove everyone out of the house, allowing them to leave with what the clothes they had on. It was like a strange nightmare.
It was in the midst of the scuffle between the police officers that Emma insisted that someone should fetch me to explain the situation to the bank people. That was when they discovered that my room was empty!
By then, the bank manager and I were on our second bottle of Moet at a beach resort in Dubai.