‘She was sleeping in a pink,transparent lingerie. I wanted to wake her to run errands for me. She looked like her mother that moment. So I could not resist touching her. I didn’t do much. You can check. Please, I didn’t cum inside her. She is my daughter. I’m sure she knows it’s the devil. Please forgive me’
It’s the high-pitch tone from my father’s transistor radio. It is a tradition to wake up this way in my house. Trying to avoid it is like trying to avoid daylight. Today, it’s the words of the unfortunate man who slept with his 5 years old daughter I woke up to. The last sentence is the slogan of every evil doer in the nation. The devil is the mentor and coach of the evil politicians, the ritualists ,the pedophiles and every other groups with evil intent. The devil has been damned to carry the blame for every evil act. ‘What a nation!’ I thought aloud.
The broadcaster’s voice didn’t help the already unfortunate news she was airing. Her voice was coarse. She sounded like a woman battling menstrual cramp. I could imagine her, minutes ago, before she came on air. Fire in her pelvic area. Her back aching, like a mansion just fell on her. She might have been groaning, asking for hot water to dab her abdomen. No institution recognizes menstrual cramp as a form of sickness anyway. ‘ This is why you are a woman after all , some pains are just natural. You shouldn’t be excused or pitied for them’- her production manager must have told her. She would have picked up herself after such statement to get ready for the broadcast.
My father’s voice interrupted my thought. He was inviting me to the sitting room, where he was seated with his best friend –the radio. As a kid, my father would have my siblings and I sit beside him to listen to the radio. It was always a tensed moment. After the news, it would be questioning time. Which, of course, is followed by the awarding of rewards or giving of punishment, depending on our response.
I can’t forget a day, some years back. The broadcaster had in the course of the news mentioned a man, known for his red cap. That man that has had in front of his name, all the honorifics ; Honourable, Minister, Governor, Senator and still aiming for more . The very one who bears the name of a town. He had ditched his former political party for another. It wasn’t a new tradition in this country, it happens every time election looms. So I wasn’t bothered. I was rather carried away by the vocabulary ‘cross-carpeted’ that the broadcaster had used in describing the defection process . While imagining the color of the carpet he would have walked on to another, the texture of the carpet, the layout pattern on it. My father’s voice distracted my oneiric thought. ‘You! Mention the parties he has contested under, since 1992,’ He asked.
Of course his lips were pointing at me. African parents never point with fingers. It’s cultural to do that with the mouth, every child understands direction without being told. I was blank. I thought immediately that it was better to pretend, to avoid punishment. So I looked up to the ceiling, like I was trying to fetch the answer from my well of knowledge, which was dry at that point.
Keeping up with politicians and their defection history was hard for me. Worse than being updated with soccer players. Today, a player might be signing contract in the English Premiership. The next minute, he is already in the Spanish league. At a later time, he is out chasing money on the pitch of Italy. They kiss the badge but don’t wear it for long. So are the politicians , they move for the election or re-election ticket. The party where ‘security votes’ is well distributed to fill their vault is always their party of the moment. When things don’t work out, they move to another. Just like a covetous woman ditches her husband when hardship knocks.
My brother, his brain , sharper than the lens of Cannon Ef- s 17mm, had started reciting the parties to my father’s delight. I pretended like I was really angry. Infuriated that he didn’t allow me answer the question that actually belonged to me. The nation was filled of drama. I had to add mine. Good God! I was saved.
I’m in the sitting room now. Sitting by my father just for the culture. Not that I was interested in the radio. Listening to the news has less importance nowadays. Most people of this generation, don’t personally seek out news.
The broadcaster, is still straining her voice, out of pain obviously. This time, the headline is about two buffaloes. While one, the giant buffalo, stays in the villa to execute policies. The other, the ambition-driven buffalo, has a chamber as his office . The giant buffalo has allowed the short, ambitious buffalo some sovereignty in his circle. Ambition ,they say is a wild fire. The ambitious buffalo seems to be going overboard. It’s seeking to leave his red chamber for the rocky villa. The pot of trouble is stirred!
There is an analyst, live on radio, to discuss the issue. As my father and I listened to him, we both seem to agree in our minds that his analysis is censored and monitored.
‘Damn! The press has lost its appeal. Gone are the days of press Independence.’ my father said angrily. ‘You see why we don’t care about listening to it again? Radio programmes are no longer ubiquitous as you narrate it to be then. People are hardly bothered about its content nowadays.’ I replied.
‘What’s wrong with this new age?’ my father continued not paying attention to what I have said. ‘Nothing seems to be working in your time. The government,this time ,doesn’t even care about the people. The youth cherish internet connection than human bond. So much has changed. How do we get here? Isn’t this the same way you have replaced coke with mango?’ he gave me a stern look this time.
Anytime the mango and coke argument comes up, I have always had my defence. In the past, I would have argued the mango is just a dirty fruit that should not be compared to coke, a drink that gives satisfaction on every occasion and event. My father would have engaged me on the benefits of eating mango compared to the side effects of beverages. He would go further to describe how people in his time cherished fruits, especially mango. ‘Those things you drink now, especially the coke, contain chemicals that can cause diabetes and cancer’ his words. ‘You think there is a magic to why children of the 40s and 50s needed no hospital? We eat healthy fruits. Mango was everywhere then.’ Of course, I would have something to counter such claim too. Some other time, I would have argued his mango-eating generation wasn’t better than my coke-addicted one. As they dumped our cultural heritage; the gods of our land for the White’s own, so did we dump the mango for coke.
Today,I decided not to add to the pain in his heart. Silence is honorable.
Uma Thurman whistled again as she killed yet another rapist. I found her quest for revenge oddly satisfying, and even more so that she wasn’t apprehended by the police at the end of the movie; the ultimate unraveling moment in Nollywood suspense.
Just right after the light went off, Owolade walked by, getting down on both knees to greet me. She beamed a beautiful smile at me, and I could almost feel my heart melt. It was that time of the year when flies saunter in abundance, and supposedly well-mannered people throw caution to the wind to enjoy a natural delicacy. I remembered the tale once a long time ago. Eating mango and drinking Coke was considered to be a poisonous act. According to my mother then, the chemicals in the Coke react violently to the mango fluid, and this would cause serious stomach ache till the person dies. Myths from childhood.
Mama Owolade greeted me too, just that this time, it was in response to my initial greeting. I didn’t kneel for her. She was at least 15 years older than I was, but then we were both married women and as far as I was concerned, we belonged to the same clique – not entirely.
My husband of ten years had refused to take a new wife or have extra marital affairs. The first time I suggested he look outside for a kid to call his own, he was so close to hitting me that day. “If you think I didn’t mean the for better for worse vows I made to you in your wedding day, then you might as well file for a divorce.” Those were his words that particular day. I knew that my childlessness was my fault. I knew it was as a result of the pills I took when I tried to have an abortion in my teen days. I knew all of this. I knew having a child would fall short of nothing but a miracle. He knew too. On countless occasions, I’ve tried to understand why he’s still with me, why he’s still proud of me, why he’s still always treating me like he owes me total happiness. Once, my mother had briefly talked about the possibility that he used my womb for rituals. Poor woman. She had no idea what her child had done to herself. People tried to find a reason why my husband has remained my husband, they care about us, yet they awe we are still together.
Of such people is Mama Owolade. She hated that my husband was treating me better than her husband was treating her. She hated that she gave her husband male and female children, and still, he falls short of my husband’s standards. She would knowingly increase the volume of her radio anytime they are talking about family or motherhood. She joined all the motherhood associations in the community, and would proudly done their vests or Ankara prints just to spite me. The height was when she called me to my face and said “Iya Lagbaja.”
I wondered that night, recalling with vivid imagination, the moment I took the pill. Tears failed me and for the umpteenth time, I rode away my frustration on my darling husband, making him grunt and moan even though he knew he was seeding in a ruptured womb.
The mangoes were very large, and I carefully looked around for one with dark spots. Flies followed me about but I didn’t mind. It was Mama Owolade’s birthday, and I was going to celebrate with her. I didn’t haggle the price of the mangoes. I took four pieces for #200 and I hurried home.
Owolade met me at the gate and offered to help me with my bags. On getting inside, I asked her to wait for me while I washed the mangoes. I gave her one, and together we ate, suckled and gnawed till the yellow folds became white.
She died few hours later, and I celebrated in the corner of my room. As her mother wailed and I wailed with them, the next door neighbor said she last saw her eat the mango her mother gave her, and maybe it affected her stomach. Nobody knew I had already given her a poisoned mango before she took another one from her mother’s bag. And while everyone was asking the cause of death, I asked mine.
“Did she drink Coke before or after taking the mango?”
There was a general “aaaahhhhhh” as it dawned on them that she took a Coke in between my mango and her mother’s.
The wailing continued into the night as I marked Owolade’s me off the list.
Baba Owolade comes next.
Entry 1 written by Muna writes
Entry 2 written by Adeyalo Kola