Mobolaji take it easy with her! Baba said; the tears you are making her shed is killing her! She is suffering already. You have a right to be angry but please be lenient with a dying woman! Your mother!
Baba pulled me close and rubbed my Unclad rough body. Let’s go back to her, put on your clothes, please be a man! You have said more than enough.
She was struggling to leave her bed when we entered the room.
Where are you going to? Baba asked her
She was sobbing as we pulled her back into the bed. She held my hand by the wrist. Her fingers were very skinny, like raw bones clasping on my wrist weakly.
I am sorry! I am sorry for everything! Please I beg you in the name of God to forgive me. I do not deserve your forgiveness but for the sake of the almighty that commands us to forgive one another. Because of that God that brought you back from the land of the dead! Please find a place in your heart to forgive me! She begged amidst tears.
But it is not easy nah! I am not God nah! How will I just forgive you like that? After abandoning me all my life! What if I had died? What if I had joined a bad gang and become useless in life? What if I had not gone to school? I asked
You were supposed to be there for me! To nurture, protect and direct me! You were not there! I grew up a nuisance and a scavenger!
I know my son! I know! But if we do not forgive one another we would not have friends to play with! She said; I have done terribly wrong in my life and today look at me! Look at where I have landed myself! I would have returned home long before now but I have nothing to fall back on! Absolutely nothing! All I had was spent on my sickness for the past fifteen years! Look at me nah! I don’t have anything anywhere to offer to you. But I was sending money home to mama for your school. I told her to be saving the money until you are entering secondary school, I sent your picture and a note to her, she was to keep the note and picture in the box where the money is kept
Jesu Christi o! I saw the money o! I saw the money years after mama had died. So it was you? I exclaimed.
I have only come home to be buried, I am a born again Christian now, I have repented of my sins for over ten years now but Cancer had tied me down in Lagos. I knew you were in School at Ibadan, I knew of your discovery of the Alabi heist, I knew you were in the University in the east. I was too ashamed to come around you and also I did not want to come and distort your progress in life. My sickness required a lot of money and my presence would have spoilt things for you.
You knew everything about me? I asked through teary eyes.
Yes son! I had my informants, but the only mistake was that I had thought it was your father training you all the way. I did not know that mama did not hand you over to him before her death.
But why did you not come back to him? At least you have a son for him, I asked
His daughters hated me! They said I was not fit to be their step mother! They said I was a LovePeddler. They promised to stop me with everything at their disposal. I had to stay clear for your safety. They did not know I had you for their father. When their father was working in Lagos, they came for holidays and they saw me in their father’s house. Their mother had died by then. They drove me out of the house and threw my luggage outside. There was no telephone to call their father what the children had done so I went my way and when I returned weeks after hoping the Kids might have returned to boarding school, the father had been transferred out of Lagos! I did not hear from him again but he knew I was some weeks pregnant for him already. We had met at a party organized by the police officers in Yaba, we recognized each other as being from the same Village. One thing led to the other and we started an affair. I was ready to change my life style as he promised to take care of me but it was not to be.
I am tired she said.
She had gotten exhausted by talking with me.
Sorry Mummy! Please rest! I advised
You called me Mummy, she whispered with a wry smile as she released my wrist.
I moved towards her head and rubbed her shaven head, she closed her eyes and slept.
I wished she was strong enough to hear the things I wanted to tell her.
Mummy! I called softly: she was snoring softly already
I forgive you! Even though you were not there, you were still there! You decided to stay away so as not to alter my progress in life? We could have spent the money used for my education for your treatment! Perhaps the Modupes’ would not have had access to my money and we could have used it for your sickness. Perhaps if you had returned much earlier, my father would have spent all his money on you without having extra for my school so you stayed back!
You sacrificed your life so as to redeem your image. You are a hero mummy! You are not selfish! And I don’t care what people say about you because they really do not know you. I love you mother and I thank God that you have found peace with him. I pulled up the cover cloth and wrapped her well before following my dad into the sitting room.
My mother died the next week that I arrived home just as her Doctors had said. She died in her sleep. I spent only nine days and nights with the woman through whom I came into this world. But those nine days are indelible in my memory, I was with her every moment she was awake. I told her about my adventures at FUTO including my relationships with the girls, I told her about Modupe and her mother, I told her about Uncle Agegoke and his family, I told her about Commodore Aboderin. Anytime I am with her, my Dad always wanted to be present too so as to listen to whatever story I had to tell mummy. I told her about how I survived as a teacher, a Barber, a Bar man and as an IT student. I told her about my love for Yemisi and my desire to marry her as soon as I am settled but I am afraid of her father. I asked her if she would not want to see her grand children before leaving us. My stories excited my mother; she laughed and cried all together as she listens to the adventures of her only Child BJ.
We bonded so much that she did not want to die again, she wished for a miracle to save her life so we started praying for restoration. I personally fed and bathed her daily and changed her clothes and cleaned her up as she defecates and urinates on the bed. But God knows best as she died on a Sunday morning, we talked into the night on the Saturday and prayed with her before going to our rooms to sleep. It was my dad that came and told me around 8.30AM that she had gone.
Your mother has gone to meet her maker at last! He said as he came and slumped on the couch in my room.
I screamed and ran to her room, daddy had covered her face with the cover clothe but I pulled it up and carried her in my arms.
Mummy! Mummy! I called but she was gone. I hugged her body and cried bitterly.
My dad came and joined me and together we knelt by her bed and prayed.
We notified the church and her family before burying her in the evening, a lot of people turned out for the burial ceremony.
During the vote of thanks speech after the interment, I addressed the people present. The people were busy eating and drinking under the canopies reserved for guests. I collected the microphone and went to the centre of the field.
You are all welcome to bid my mother a final farewell to the land of the dead! She might have been a LovePeddler, she might have committed untold numbers of abortions, and she might have slept with the married, the single, the poor and the rich! She might have done untold evil before God and man but she was my mother! And for the times I spent with her, there is no better mother in this world! All what you people say about her are her past! I did not know her like that! I know her as a repented born again Christian that sacrificed her life for me! She has been sick for the past fifteen years and had purposely stayed away so that I could go to school and become somebody in life, she could have come home with her sickness so that we rally round for money and treat her but she refused! She was suffering while I was schooling. That act of hers means a lot to me!
My mother was a product of her environment! She was not given an opportunity for a good life as we all know the story of her mother too. As a child she was not given the privilege of a better life so she took that choice which was available to her, her mother’s foot steps! And what most of you do not know is that, that LovePeddler! That runaway woman! That woman not fit enough to marry my father! That pig! Did not die of HIV but of Cancer! And she is today in heaven with her maker! She repented of her sins years back and had been serving God. You that is condemning her, where will you be when you leave this world?
There was murmuring in the crowd but I continued.
If anyone should bear this woman any grudge in this village then it should be me! ‘The abandoned Child’! But I do not! Rather I love her so much! I love her so much it hurts me to lose her. I wish she had lived long enough to allow me take care of her. My mother is resting in the bosom of the lord. Where will you go when you die?
When you point an accusing finger at some one, three of your own fingers point back at you! So check yourself before you wreck your self instead of being busy indulging in malicious village gossips! Most of you that are here today did not as much as visited her when she was sick! You stayed back spreading rumour that she has a contagious disease! None of you came around to offer a cup of herb as help! No one! But today you all have come to drink and eat and shed crocodile tears as if you cared! The dead woman was contagious abi? But the food and drinks at her funeral are not contagious abi? I never knew my mother was so popular! Hypocrites all of you! Don’t you people have shame? Some of you even came to me two days ago to demand for certain rites to be performed before my mother is buried! You claimed you were her family members! Jesu Christi o! So my mother has family in this village! Wonders shall never seize! Where have you been all these while? You said I should provide a big Ram and a gallon of palm oil for the rites abi? Don’t worry I will give you an Elephant! Thieves all of you!
One after the other the crowd dispersed leaving their foods half eaten. Some turned their foods into nylon bags and left with it, some hid the wraps of moi moi, amala and pounded yam inside their agbada while they poured the thick egusi soup with orisirisi meat into their caps and left with it. Some did not even bulge; they sat there and ate to their fill while some others were busy pouring left over foods into sacks before scurrying out of my presence.
My mother was buried on my fenced plot of land given to me by the community. I wished she had brought her things from Lagos as I so much desired to have her old pictures, her pictures when she was young and beautiful but all I have are the ones I took as I met her at home sick. Those are the pictures my Children will see. The sick face of their grand mother who sacrificed her life so their daddy could get an education.
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ASP Bamidele Fapohunda invited all his children and grand children for the Christmas holiday with the sole purpose of introducing me to the family.
I did not start up well with the eldest daughter who should be fourteen years older than me, Auntie Esther who lives with her Police husband at Abuja.
I greeted her when I entered the sitting room upon invitation by Baba and she mistakenly asked me a question that annoyed me.
Hope you are not still mourning the death of your mother? Sorry o! She had said
Why are you sorry? I asked her. Do you have a hand in her death?
Ha! Every one in the room was shocked at my reaction. Baba was not in the room then.
What sort of answer is that Bolaji? Do you have something against me before? She asked.
Yes I do! I said angrily. You chased away my mother out of your dad’s house years back in Lagos! You said she was not good enough for your dad!
Yes we did! She retorted. Your mother was a LovePeddler!
And what were you? I asked. A saint abi? Have you never slept with any other man apart from your husband? Did you do it for free or with a little gratification from the man? Have you never had a boyfriend that sleeps with you and gives you money or gifts? If you have, then you have no moral right to call another woman a LovePeddler! I challenged.
Meaning what? She asked.
Meaning the kettle should not call the pot ‘the black one’
Your mother was a professional! She said.
You were an amateur! I fired back.
There was noise in the house as everyone started complaining and cautioning us until Baba himself came and shouted every one down
What is happening here? He demanded from no one in particular.
This boy is so rude! Auntie Esther said.
Which boy? Tunde? Baba asked.
No! This one behind your back! She said pointing at me.
You must be very stupid to point a finger at me and refer to me as ‘this one’! Who the hell do you think you are? You must have a loose nut in your brain box to call me a boy at my age! What arrogance! Are you feeding me? I challenged her furiously. If not for the presence of your husband here and for the presence of Baba you would have seen the mad side of me today! How dare you call my late mother a LovePeddler in my presence? My own mother! If you had not chased her out of your father’s house in Lagos years back who knows maybe she would be alive today? She was ready to turn a new leaf and settle with Baba after the death of your mother! Why did you not give her a chance? I asked shouting.
When did this one happen, Esther? Baba asked; did you at anytime chase his mother away from my house in Lagos?
Yes we did daddy! The second daughter answered; we were young and the death of mama was still fresh on our minds. We did not welcome the idea of another woman coming into our family at that time. We were teenagers!
But that was about three years after we lost your mother nah! All of you were in boarding school then and I was lonely! But how come I never learnt about it until now? Baba asked.
They threatened her never to come back to your house. They were on holidays then so my mother waited until resumption of school before going back to check on you but was told you had been transferred back to the north, she made several attempts to reach you at the office but you were always on patrol. She had her baby alone and she later came to drop me with my grandma in the Village. She told grandma I was your son. My grandma did not reveal your identity to me until she died after which you retired and came back home. I explained.
I am sorry! I am sorry for all of these! Baba said; it is my entire fault and I accept full responsibility. Em, Mobolaji, these are your elder ones! Please accord them the respect they deserve! I have never known you to be rude or arrogant as a youth. And you Esther! You don’t call a twenty eight years old man a boy in his father’s house! It is not done! Now, Mobolaji! Oya, apologize to your sister!
I went before her and prostrated
E ma bi nu ma! I am sorry ma! I apologized to the husband too and to other relations present.
The Introductions were done and I was inducted into the Fapohunda family. Baba was to go to my mother’s family home and carry out some traditional rites before claiming me fully. In my part of the world, the man owns the child no matter the circumstance of birth, married or not.
I suddenly became a part of a larger family, I have six elder step sisters and their children, my nieces and nephews that followed me about where ever I went in the Village. I was their only maternal uncle and the kids were all over me with loads of questions. My sisters try to please me one way or the other to cover up for the past years that I was alone. But I did not need their help, I was self-made. No gap for them to fill so they remained indebted to me some how and I liked it that way.
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My father shed fresh tears on the day I narrated my ordeal in the hands of the Police Officers at Owerri to him. He screamed again when I pulled off my clothes for him to see my body as I was narrating how I was burnt with hot pressing iron while dangling Unclad from the ceiling with legs tied. He swore to consult the oracle and send Sango the god of thunder to them, he was furious but I had not finished the story then, when I told him about the rescue by the Navy and the VIP treatment of Oga Dan and my so-called girl friend Chioma by the naval police and the eventual arrest of the police officers and other culprits, he was happy that justice eventually prevailed. He was saddened by my sack from the NDA, he would have been more proud to be the father of a military engineer. But he thanked God for my life all the same.
My dad insisted we visit Uncle Adegoke’s family before I proceed for the national youth service exercise in January. He felt indebted to the man.
So my dad, my two eldest sisters with their husbands and my friend Akin went to Ibadan in three Cars to pay the Adegoke’s a surprise visit. The boots of our Cars were filled with Yams from Baba’s farm.
Uncle Goke was not expecting us that Saturday morning around 10.00AM, he was dressed in his farm clothes in company of his son Gbadebo and was about entering his car when I pushed the pedestrian gate open and greeted him hastily as I made to open the bigger gates for our small company. Our cars drove in one after the other and parked while he stood with his machete handy looking at us.
I prostrated and greeted him before introducing my people to him. He was confused at first until I told him that the much talked about Baba landlord is actually my biological father! He was happy and he prostrated and greeted my father.
We spent the whole Saturday feasting with the Adegoke’s. It was like a family re union. Like both families have been friends for ages.
To be continued