NIMI PETERS – Grace Ochigbo
Nimi made sure a smile was glued to his face as he hugged her tightly. This was not a fake smile, it was real and obvious. Damn! He couldn’t believe it’s been three years. The things technology has done; calls, chats, video calls and all, has extinguished the importance of visits.
“Is there no food at Ibadan? Why did you become even shorter than the initial shortness we’ve all been worried-sick about?” Nimi teased as he collected the big bag from her and pulled while walking beside her.
She laughed; that was not before hitting him hard on his chest though. She was really giggling on her all black attire – black sweaters, black gloves, black pants, black handbag and even black heels.
“Bro, leave me alone. Don’t you know I’ve been worried-sick too since you and mummy refused the approval of my marriage?”
Nimi scoffed. “Oh! That’s why you lost height? Were you fasting or something?” He sounded really unbelieving and Nukpe could not help the laughter. “I was wondering why you are all dressed in black too. I didn’t know it was part of your prayer uniform!”
Nimi could be this jovial – only with family.
Family over everything.
She laughed louder. “Bro, please leave me. It’s been a stressful flight down here! Gosh! Nigerian airways can be crazily annoying. We were delayed at the airport for no good reason!”
“How can I leave you? You needed me that was why you called to come pick you up from the airport here. Do you know how far this place is from where I live?” Nimi queried casually as he opened the car doors with the remote in his hand. He pulled ‘Nukpe’s bag up and into the trunk before coming to take his seat beside her in the car. She had pulled down the seat in such a way that it was no less than a bed – typical.
He kick-started the engine and Flavour’s ‘ololufe’ blared softly from the player. Concentrating on the road, he drove out from the airport’s parking lot without uttering any word. Suddenly, Nukpe cleared her throat and he jerked back involuntarily. She did that on purpose and truth be told, it was quite needful because yours sincerely was already getting lost on the wheels.
“I was thinking you would scold me for dropping my seat again!” she tuck her tongue out and Nimi smiled. If only she knew! If only she knew she was the least of his worries right now.
“Well, you are a soon Mrs Somebody already! I can’t mess with you anymore. I hope that guy has an idea what’s required of him for your engagement o!”
‘Nukpe chuckled this time. “As a Dekina girl concern, huh? Don’t worry, we are double and more than ready!”
“We? Are you paying dowry with him? Kid sis, don’t even fall my hand, you know what I’m capable of doing. Just make sure the dollars, or whatever the Norwegian currency is, flow in Anyigba next weekend. There must be benefit for releasing you to a white man after all!” He said all these without pausing in between to breathe or swallow.
‘Nukpe swallowed in deeply. “What about your girl, big bro?”
“My girl? What do you mean? Did I tell you about any…” Nimi had shock in his voice as he had completely taken his face from the road to face his mischievously smiling sister. “Oh! So Nugwa has been feeding you with stories and news, huh?”
Nukpe’s white teeth could stain a dark cloth. “You know there was no need coming all the way to Abuja from Ibadan. I should normally have gone home to help mum with the preparations for next weekend but…”
“Eheen o! I wonder too. But what? You just like amebo. I’m sure you came all the way here to confirm what Nugwa has been telling you! Too much amebo is in you and your brother’s blood!” Nimi was screaming this with sarcasm and that kind of set Nukpe in a more laughing mood.
“So will I meet her before I go?”
Nimi turned to look at her coldly again. She winked and tried to tickle him.
“I’ll throw you out of this car if you don’t keep that pretty mouth of yours firmly shut!” He threatened, still all smiles as he stepped on the accelerator.
Ojonugwa walked tiredly to the queue in front of the ATM. He had already gotten tired even before reaching here. Whatever was making him insist on withdrawing some cash this evening, he couldn’t understand.
“Are you the last person on the queue?” he asked a young man who had earphones plugged. The latter was almost like his age and responded only with a nod.
Ojonugwa swallowed and stayed behind, estimating the numerous minutes he would be wasting on this line. Suddenly, the person using the machine said something that only the people in front heard and before he knew it, people started scattering one after the other. Ojonugwa didn’t understand and he tapped the same young man in front of him slightly, even though in his head, he felt like spanking him for real. The latter was so engrossed in whatever was playing from his phone that he seemed unaware of his immediate environment. He didn’t even seem perturbed by the long queue that had scattered now. Or maybe under those dark shades, he couldn’t see?
Ojonugwa smirked. Given the ‘are you blind?’ look.
The young man showed no vexations whatsoever, he only removed the headphone from over his head. Looking from left to right for a moment, he gently started walking away. Ojonugwa’s initial frustration and anger mellowed down. He just got here only a few minutes ago for crying out loud. Why so worked up? Banks are never going to be better anyway and he quickly admonished himself not to waste precious emotions on it.
He walked back to the parking lot and got in his car – one of Nimi’s cars actually. He could claim ownership of the car now though because Nimi never really cared about the whereabouts of that car even though he fuels it constantly. Nimi calls it ‘emergency’ car. Well, that’s until Ojonugwa started driving it to and from school since he got back from the long strike action.
“…let’s get together and feel alright!” Ojonugwa screamed the lines of the song blaring from his player. It was safe to shout. The windows were locked and inside’s AC tight. As he was about speeding down the express roads leading to the gate of University of Abuja campus, he suddenly marched the brakes thinking he saw someone quite familiar. Pulling out of the roads first, he reversed the car till he came to stand in front of the person before winding down the windows.
“Should I lift you a little?” he said calmly
“Thanks man!” The other responded and hopped into the car.
The journey was quiet. Ojonugwa thought the young man was acting weird. Whoever stays isolated from the world completely and just plug his ears on headphones. Being the talkative type, he knew he wasn’t going to bear this up any longer so he broke the deafening silence.
“You are in Agric, right?” that line of conversation sounded lame but it was the only good enticement he could think of. To his disappointment, the other man only nodded from side to side without saying another thing.
Ojonugwa paused for a while and picked up again…
“You know it’s so insensitive of banks to keep our own money away from us. Imagine if someone was stranded this evening and had been standing on that queue the whole day, only to take ‘network’ at the dying end and not money. Worst is, that’s the only bank dispensing.”
The guy glanced at him with eyes looking unbelievable. His shades were off now and Ojonugwa could see his face very well. It would have been better if he spoke instead of the glance because he didn’t even respond to the ranting about banks, he only smiled.
“Anyway, pardon my manners…” Ojonugwa started. “I’m Ojonugwa Peters!” He saw the guy’s eyebrow raise and he knew better. He gets that reaction more often than not. “Yea, Ojonugwa is an Igala name and it means ‘God deserves the praise’. I’m in 300level Mathematics. And you?”
The young man smiled, taking off his headphone and holding it firmly in his hands finally. Ojonugwa felt somehow relieved by that gesture. He may just be making another new good friend sooner.
“I’m Deji. Ayodeji Lawal!” He spoke for the first time.
Ojima Peters threw her handbag onto the chair and then removed her shoes as though she had a major quarrel with one of the two items. She landed her entire self onto a chair and it shook. Feeling her mouth reflexively open, she covered it with the back of her palm as she yawned tiredly.
“Honey o, see what white man has turned your wife into!” she said out loud with the loudest voice she could utter. She heard her husband laugh, even though her brain couldn’t really place which part of the house the laughter came from.
“You were the one that chose to give yourself work o. Leave my son-in-law to-be alone!”
“Really! I can’t believe I’ll be handing over my only daughter to a white man finally!” she curved in her jaws and narrowed her eyelids. She heard her husband laugh but this time, it felt like it was very close to her so she forced her tired eyes open to see him truly in front of her with a tray containing two glasses of chilled orange juice.
“Your excellency, ma’am!”
He handed her one of the glasses. Ojima chuckled lightly as she collected it, gulping it down her throat in a hurry such that could rival activities of fire extinguishers in the government house. She couldn’t feel more flattered by any other man.
“You know my son Nimi and I are addicted to this juice, sir. You keep tempting our souls.” It sounded like a lamentation and Achile Peters smiled. “You know I wonder how that son of mine copes at times!”
“Son of ours!”
“Oh sorry! I meant no harm, Honey!” she apologised. “Well as I was saying, I don’t know how he copes without a woman in his life at this age. If he is planning to tow the celibacy path, he should just say it na. His kid sis is getting engaged next weekend!”
“Hey, don’t spoil the fun!” Achile cautioned. “Moreover, how many Nigerian men marry earlier than their younger female siblings? Don’t you know we need to hustle? Would you marry a poor man? My mother’s last born was already married with kids when I met you, remember?”
“That’s cos you spent all your years schooling abroad!” she cut in.
“Then this would also be because Nimi is spending all his years mapping out a destiny. I like that he is taking his time, so as to give the best to that lucky woman. I’m proud of him o. Better concentrate on what you will do to yourself and the many visitors coming over next weekend.” He collected her now empty glass and replaced it in the tray before getting up.
Ojima smiled. “Honey, I cannot even kill myself. Let Nukpe come here first. She flew to see her brothers at Abuja; brothers that would be home for the engagement fa. I tire for that girl’s waka waka. That’s how she waka into hand of white man wey person no too too know o!” she sounded pathetic towards the end of her statement and hissed dryly.
Achile Peters burst in loud laughter as he made for the kitchen.
That moment you have no choice but to accept your son in-law, by fire, by thunder.
He stood beside the farm. An open field stretched out to the other side as the usual dry northern air blew his kaftan in a rhythmic pattern. Checking his watch for the umpteenth time, he cursed someone under his breath. He paced restlessly from right to left as something major was dealing with his patience.
He turned red angry eyes at the hefty man that just startled him from behind.
“How dare you? You know time is most precious to me.”
“I’m sorry, sir!” the hefty man bowed courteously
“Sorry for yourself!” He barked. “How is the site?”
“Very intact, sir. Everywhere is under close surveillance and no way of getting out of sight. Also, the mistress of the place is very cooperative.” The hefty man’s voice stuttered lightly as he said all these. He may be huge and all but every man has a superior. Every man has that one person he shivers before. Here was his.
The former nodded his head in satisfaction. “Very well then, job well done. Be on the lookout till it’s time to launch. You are excused!” He didn’t do as much as look at the hefty man anymore while the latter walked away. That was the right thing to do.
Their meeting was over and one thing made it worthwhile – they were still on course.
Joelyn paused. She thought she heard a knock on the door. She literally ran home from Tolu’s place, but trust what she told her father – holidays were over. Waiting in vain for the knock to come again, she continued on the machine. Then the door opened and to her amazement, she saw her father.
“You’ve been working out a lot lately, young woman! Any beauty pageant on coming?” He stood at the door smiling.
“Father! I hope there is no problem?” she drew her towel from where she hung it and cleaned profuse sweat off her body. It’s good she finally hit the gym in the house. It used to be her father begging her to work out and shed some weight then but she only lazy around. After the last heart attack, he had been warned against strenuous exercises, so this part of the house has been laying fallow for a long time. At least, until Joelyn decided to use its company.
“Can I talk to my omalicha?” He walked into the gym proper now.
Joelyn got off the machine and walked over to the seats. After dusting it with her handkerchief, she let her father sit first before her. She was apprehensive because the old man was looking really disturbed.
“How are you, Omalicha?”
Yes, that’s it. Joelyn didn’t get it anymore. It’s not every day Chief Johnson gets to use accolades on one. He is the ‘showing-love-is-weakness’ typo… maybe around her.
“I’m fine. What’s the problem, father?” she couldn’t be any more patient.
“Well daughter, I have two news for you. I don’t know how you would take the both of them but I know you have to hear me out first.”
She nodded in the affirmative as he turned questioning eyes to her.
“Ever since your mother left, I haven’t taken another wife. I was more keen about taking care of you with everything I have rather than just following after any emotions. I didn’t want anyone coming to threaten your place in my life because I value you so much, so so much I had to sacrifice my emotional satisfaction for you!” He held Joelyn’s hand tighter and she blushed carelessly. He continued. “You are old enough now and I think it’s high time I get a woman in my life. For the warmth, for the emotions, for the deep talks I need those times you sneak over to that bastard’s and tell me you are out of the country on vacation!”
Joelyn quickly turned frightened eyes to her father. How did he know that?
The man smiled as though he read the questions in her mind.
“There is nothing hidden under the sun, dear one! Anyway, I may have to kill that boy with my bare hands soonest, but that’s by the way for now. I’ve decided to take another wife!”
“I heard about it already, Father!”
Mr Johnson turned surprised look at his daughter as though he just saw a yellow skinned ghost.
“Oh! Oh Father! You have to come to terms with the fact that this is Abuja! Some hungry gossip site owners and bloggers took a pics of you and her at The Bolds some weeks ago, if I remember correctly. You both went shopping or something?” she raised her left eyebrow and lowered the other one.
Mr Johnson smiled weirdly to himself. It must have been one of those times she grudgingly accompanied him to pick up some stuffs at The Bolds, his favourite boutique in the whole city. Not to worry. A little publicity would only hasten matters for him.
“What do you think about it, daughter?”
Joelyn was taken aback. Since when did her father start seeking her opinion over any matter at all?
“Father, it’s your decision. Moreover, if you are never going in search of mother, then you are free to find love again, if that’s what will keep you longer! Only that the girl in question is my age mate. I’m never going to see her as mother, you can bet that.”
Mr Johnson smiled broadly this time. “A friend. Seeing her as a friend is good.”
He quickly withdrew his face. One could tell he had something else bothering his mind.
“What is the matter, father?” Joelyn called out, bringing him back from his thoughts.
“I’m sorry, baby. I feel like I’ve burdened you so much with the aim of having you responsible in such a way that correctly shows the calibre of whose child you are. I’m sorry if I ever made you lose you at any point.”
Joelyn looked at him with the ‘where-are-you-driving-to’ look and he continued immediately.
“Do you really love Nimi enough to marry him? I see you are stuck with the Tolu guy and getting him off won’t be a fair step on my part judging from the fact that he gave me my first grandchild!”
Joelyn’s eyeballs right now could rival the sizes of ShopRite doughnuts. She wanted to let her father in on her findings from Tolu’s phone. Even though she has no strong point or clue as to who Tolu’s sponsor is, she’s certain some people are after her father, which should be normal considering his status, right? Only that she’s in the middle of it.
“What are you talking about, father?” she questioned, sounding genuinely confused.
“I really hope you will forgive me…” Mr Johnson talked like he was held at gun point. “…your first pregnancy wasn’t as hurting as the mere thought that you were carrying a child of a bastard, a vagabond. I couldn’t bring myself into accepting that gold digger into this family. Ike suggested we make the doctor induce premature labour. All was just to have a story that the child died during delivery or still birth, or whatever we told you happened. I’m so sorry!”
“Father, you asked them to forcefully and untimely deliver my child? You deliberately killed my child? Just for your godamn selfish reasons?” Joelyn was in tears now and her whole form shook the couch they both sat on.
Mr Johnson wiped some perspiration off his face. “No! It’s not how you are taking it. About deliberately killing your child or not, baby, I don’t know that anymore…”
Joelyn quickly wiped her hair off her face. “What does that even mean, father?”
“See, it’s complicated and I’ll tell you this just so you be watchful and careful. Ike was the master brain behind all those ideas and I didn’t bother to follow up considering the fact that he is my best friend and I really trust him. However, he’s making so much threats on me lately and that makes me think strongly that the child is still alive”
“What?” Joelyn screamed before she could stop herself. “Where is he? Take me to him? Bring him to me, father. Please don’t take away my joy the second time.”
Mr Johnson patted her back slowly while trying to keep an emotionless face.
“There is something fishy about Ike that I’m yet to lay my hands upon, daughter. I promise you I’ll get to the root of this and get your son back. Mind you, I’m not absolutely sure whether your child is alive or not yet. But promise me something…” he paused and waited for her response before continuing.
“Ike might soon resort to blackmail. He can get all petty whenever he is desperate for any reason. That’s why I decided to come out plain and let you in on it before it’s too late. But promise… promise for the sake of our lives that you wouldn’t let Ike have the slightest idea that you know anything about what I just told you!”
He turned to face Joelyn fully now as the latter had palpable fear in her eyes.
“It’s fine if you don’t want to marry Nimi. I withdraw all the pressures I’ve been mounting on you henceforth…” he got up and Joelyn’s eyes followed through. “You can marry anyone else, except that vagabond.” He added quickly.
To be continued.