THE WEAKNESS OF A MAN.
This book is a work of romantic fiction. Any resemblance to actual occurrences of a person or persons, living or dead, is greatly regretted by the author.
Abiodun finds himself in a love tangle that threatens to tear his world apart and he must make a choice. Will the widely acclaimed power of love make him choose his lover over his mother? Or will the strong bond of blood influence the choice he must make?
Yes, agreed that his mother has a ton load of personal ambition in the matter, an ambition big enough to bring down any obstacle, including the happiness of her only son. But his lover was no saint either. She was an ex-convict and times have changed. And so must Abiodun if he must avoid a possible disinheritance. Being an ex-convict was too much complication, especially when the presidential seat was at stake. And to crown all the odds against her, she had the weakness common to every girl in love, a pair of blind loving eyes and an over-trusting heart; a combination that put her in a perfect position for betrayal and blackmail.
A choice must be made and fast too and obviously, it was a choice Abiodun couldn’t hope to make on his own without a little influence from both ladies. The race began, the race to be the chosen one between the two contending ladies. The threats, blackmail, deceits and plots followed, paving the way for a winner. Finally, his crafty mother won, not because of the blood bond advantage after all but because she was a master at such games.
But the vanquished lover wouldn’t accept defeat gracefully and bow out of the scene. No, she wouldn’t wave goodbye to her three years sojourn in prison just like that. She just could not quit without a good fight, no, not after all her sacrifices. And certainly not when the true paternity of a rather innocent boy must remain shrouded in secrecy for life; and definitely not when another woman was involved.
The real battle began then, a battle clearly out of the league of even a schemer like his mother; the battle of real and daring guts; a battle for the valiant and not the coward; a battle between wits and guts; a battle of the strength of a woman against the weakness of a man!
If, as the poets say, love has moved mountains and forests, and so deeply touched the hearts of men, that all of the oceans and the rivers and the lakes are made up of tears love has shed, if this poetic cynicism be true, then the love of which they sing is the love of money.
I do not agree with Lieberman, no, not in the least, but then, he is entitled to his opinion. I first came across this quote a few days ago. It was printed on a page of a daily Newspaper. It was an old edition, judging by its old, battered and dirty state. It was just a page and because of its bad state, the date or name of the particular Newspaper could not be ascertained. I was very hungry and having lost the appetite for solid or real food for God knows how long, I appealed to Mr. Bayo, one of the prison wardens, to buy me some roasted maize on his way back from town. I had to put something in my stomach to solve the rumbling I was experiencing. I gushed the maize down my throat determinedly with the bottle of cold water he said he bought with my change having anticipated I would need it.
Mr. Bayo is a good man. He has shown me kindness ever since I was brought here and I owe him a lot for that. Ordinarily, I would have complained about the dirty paper that was used to wrap my maize but like I said, he is a good man, he would have prevented that if he could. I couldn’t blame him either, I would have had to pay another person or forfeited my change for that errand.
I gazed emptily at the paper which was lying on the bare floor as I took the last bite of maize. That was when I caught sight of it. It was a bold heading which read, “Quotable Quotes”. I have always loved quotes. They inspire me. As a matter of fact, this particular quote from Lieberman inspired me to write this story, my story. There were about six or seven quotes in all but Lieberman’s had seriously caught my attention. As I read it again, I felt an instant dislike for him. I was able to form an impression of him in my mind. My impression of him was of a very sad man without the slightest idea of what love is all about. A man who has never had the rare privilege of being swept off his feet by another human being and I felt really sorry for him. Yes, I couldn’t help but feel that way even though I was languishing in jail for a crime I committed out of love. Yet love is good, only those who haven’t had the privilege claim it is for fools. But they are the real fools. Otherwise, how could he even imagine that the desire for money could be so strong and wonderful and yet so susceptible and so fragile to shed such tears as to fill even a storage tank? How could such a selfish and greedy love be compared to that God given gift to mankind, that simple and perfect paradise you find yourself when you love someone? That complete and perfect feeling of pure goodness shared by two hearts? That wonderment that makes two separate hearts breathe as one? I could go on and on but unfortunately, you can only understand it if you have been there. Only then would you truly know it is not a poetic cynicism. The poets were right, the cynic are Lieberman and his cohorts.
Yes, love has moved mountains and forests, and has so deeply touched the hearts of men and all of the oceans and the rivers and the lakes are made up of tears love has shed. I know that because I have shed a great quantity.
It is the treachery of a loved one that brings the tears; the bitterness of deceit, the agony of a love gone sour, the loneliness of a lovelorn and the emptiness you find yourself in afterwards. I have been there. In fact, I am still there. Right here in this room, cell number 58 and I am a prisoner, not of love though but for love. I have been in this room for the past seven years or probably a little longer. I do not remember and I do not even care to remember because I have come to like it here in this cold sordid room which I have tagged my grave. I have adapted very beautifully.
But for two months now I have been having a regular visitor and just last night, the last person on earth I expected to ever visit me, visited. The same man who put me in this room, my grave. And what does he want from me now? He wants me to accept his presidential amnesty! That is surely impossible! I cannot leave my grave. I have never heard of anyone who left his grave after being buried for nearly eight years. What was my offence? I am sure you would have guessed that by now. Well, I shot his only son, my lover, the heir apparent to his vast wealth, thereby wiping away his entire generation. He swore to keep me here for the rest of my living days. He swore to make me suffer and so far he has made well his swear. Why then does he suddenly want me out now I am beginning to enjoy myself? Or did he suddenly realize that I am enjoying what he probably thought would be my doom? Well, I am going nowhere. This is where I belong now and it is where I shall remain. It is my grave. I am mortal and I cannot resurrect from my grave. I have been long dead and buried!
When I finally decided to put down my story in writing, I couldn’t help but begin from the very beginning. I couldn’t help but remember my early days as a child because they form the basis of my present predicament and my story is incomplete without those good old days long gone.
I grew up as a happy child because I lacked nothing. There was nothing a child should have that I didn’t have back then, though I cannot sincerely say the same for my siblings. I come from a polygamous family. My father had five wives, my mother being the fifth, the last and the most loved by my father. And I am my mother’s only child. My parents had no reason at all to deny me anything.
My father was a very wealthy man in my community and as a consequence, he had the one weakness common to all wealthy men in his time, polygamy. There were several of his friends who had up to ten or even fifteen wives and very many children. My father could have gone ahead and done as his friends by marrying more wives but he didn’t. Sometimes, I felt it was due to the level of the western education he acquired that made him stop at number five but more often, I was convinced it was due to his undying love for my mother.
He loved my mother so much. There was no gainsaying the fact as it was common knowledge to everyone. They were inseparable and he was not the one to pretend about his feelings so he showed it openly. It was no secret that he loved her more than the other women and this generated a lot of troubles, hatred, spite and all what may, to the detriment of the entire household and extended family members too. He hardly even noticed the other women and if he noticed the enmity his actions caused among his wives and children, he did not show it, let alone do anything about it. He only met his duty and responsibility of providing everyone’s needs but his attention and love were solely for my mother and my mother alone. He made that very clear.
We lived in a very large compound. My father’s compound, comprising of the main house and several other mini flats. All the other women each lived in their own mini flats with their younger children while the older children had their own flats too. Except my mother who lived in the main house with my father and of course, I. Under normal circumstances, my mother should have occupied one of the many mini flats like her mates but this was no normal circumstance and my father wouldn’t hear of such an arrangement whenever my mother suggested it. This made my father’s first wife, whom we all called Senior mother, very angry. She claimed that, -and in fairness to her, her claims were reasonable enough if you ask me- if anyone was to live permanently with my father in the main house, it should be her, by virtue of not only being his first wife but the one who suffered through hardship with him before he became successful. But my father didn’t seem to believe in the first-come-first-serve theory, neither did he remember his suffering days. He was simply in love. This resulted to more problems and enmity as the other women stood firmly behind Senior mother to drive home their point. And whenever they could no longer contain it or make their erring husband see reasons, extended family members were called in to intervene and settle any resultant crisis. But quite unfortunately, my father was more resolutely opposed and adamant to their complaints each time this happened.
Bisi was the second and most troublesome of all my father’s wives. I heard she was once his favorite and out of mere jealousy, senior mother had plotted and made my father marry another wife, Comfort. She had hoped the arrival of Comfort would make my father abandon Bisi just like he had abandoned her but he didn’t. He remained very fond of her. So senior mother had no other choice but to join forces with the new wife and make Bisi’s life miserable and unpleasant. It did not take Bisi long to realize she was a lone ranger in a war zone who was badly in need of an ally too. So, she too encouraged my father to marry a fourth wife, Helen, a girl she personally picked to be her stooge. The coming of Helen evened the score, thus each wife had a partner or a stooge to gossip with or make mischief with, against her rival. And while they were too busy plotting against each other to care for their husband, my father found solace in the arms of my mother. My father met, fell in love and married my mother without the influence or conspiracy of any of his wives. Soon all four women realized a greater force to contend with had arrived and none of them could do anything about it. They had no choice but join forces and team up against my mother for their collective good. But it was too late. The deed was already done and the man was in love.
Let me tell you a little bit about my mother. She was a natural beauty in every sense of it. Well educated, very articulate and intelligent. She had a business acumen that surprised even my father. She was kind and generous, always in control of herself. She was the secret envy of my father’s other wives. She had the persona they all wanted to be. She was the pride of my dear father and I wanted to be like her too. Always calm, calculated and very matured. Nothing bothered her, no matter how bad a situation was, she was always herself, calm and articulate.
The rivalry between my mother and her mates continued. My father didn’t change, he just couldn’t change. He couldn’t help it, for the love he had for her was so strong that it was impossible for him to be reasonable or anywhere near it. He didn’t even care if the other women left him; in fact, he secretly wanted that. My mother would beg him to do better than he was doing. She would beg him to show the other women at least a little love until he was forced to make her a promise. Promises he never would fulfill.
Then one day, my father did the unthinkable. One evening, he summoned all his wives together in his large sitting room. As usual, I hid behind one of the drapes. I was the only one who had the privilege to get these information first hand because I lived with him in the mansion. The other children hardly came here even though he wanted them to. Their mothers admonished them strictly never to associate with me or my mother for fear that my mother and I would initiate them into witchcraft. Coming into the main house was like a taboo to them.
“I called you here this evening to resolve the issue of me not treating you all equally once and for all.” My father began. There was instant surprise and anticipation on their faces including that of my mother. Apparently, she wasn’t aware of what my father had in mind. She was obviously glad he was finally taking steps to do something. “I do not intend to offend or favor any one,” he continued. His words suddenly began to take the usual tone. It brought sudden frowns to the expectant faces before him, fast replacing the previous look of anticipation. “I am compelled to take this decision. I want you all to know that I have nothing against anyone of you. I am very sorry about my actions but I am going to put it as bluntly as I can. So please, you must all forgive me. It is no longer a secret that I love Patience, my junior wife very much and I know you all know this as I have done nothing to hide my profound feelings towards her. I have tried very hard to be fair, at least to make sure it doesn’t affect my relationship with the rest of you and even when I have tried so hard, it seems so impossible for me. To appeal to the rest of you to understand my situation and bear with me is to be extremely selfish. Therefore, I have decided to give you the freedom to make your own choices. I have tried to control this to no avail and even Patience herself has tried to make me change my attitude but……”
“Huh, story.” Bisi muttered.
“Bisi, I will not warn you again. You are not the only one here, you had better behave yourself or you’ll incur my wrath,” he said flatly. The ruthless light in his eyes warned her she’d be the scapegoat if she as much as make any further sound. She got the message and behaved.
“As I was saying, I have decided to let you all decide what you want to do. Either to remain with me and accept me as I am or leave to find a better love elsewhere. The choice is yours to make.”
“Ah!” They all exclaimed one after another. My mother placed her hand on her mouth but the sound of her faint cry was heard by everyone. My father certainly has said the wrong words, and even though deep down I felt he was finally taking the right step, it was very obvious that the people he addressed didn’t feel that way.
“I do not mean it that way,” he tried to explain as quickly as he could. The whole impact of all he had just said seemed to hit him too.
“Yes, we’d like you to explain what you mean to us very clearly.” Senior mother said sternly.
“What I mean is this,” he began, getting irritated that he was asked to explain himself. “I don’t want what happened the other day to repeat itself. I have never gone to anyone’s house to settle a dispute between him and his wives. I consider that as a personal issue that should be dealt with in a private way. I don’t want anyone of you to complain to my brothers and sisters that she is being neglected. So anyone who feels that way should kindly take my offer. I am giving you the freedom to marry someone else, simple.” He said sternly.
Senior mother gave a deep breath before saying, “So Tony, it has come to this eh? I knew it. I knew it would come to this one day but I didn’t expect you could so outrageously and wickedly put it. My God, Tony so you are asking us to leave if we can no longer watch you maltreat us in this house? Is that your way of telling us you are through with us? Tony?”
“Don’t see it that way Esther, that’s not…….”My father said warily but Senior mother cut him shut before he could end the sentence.
“Don’t worry my dear husband, you will hear from us. Our decision will reach you in due time,” spokes person said as she made to leave the room. “Bisi, comfort, Helen what are you still waiting for? Didn’t you all hear what he said? Let us go.”
“Please don’t go, I am sure he didn’t mean it that way. Pease let us resolve this matter amongst us please,” my mother said as she rushed to stop Senior mother who was already on her way out.
“You and who?” She spat angrily. “If you as much as lay that filthy hand on me again, I will make you sorry. You husband snatcher,” she added before she turned swiftly and walked away from my mother. But as Bisi reached my mother, she leered hard at her with eyes raged by hatred. My mother tried to stop her from walking away too but she pushed her out of her way so hard that my mother fell on the nearby sofa. She cried out in excruciating pains, holding her stomach and almost immediately, blood started oozing out, down her legs. She was immediately taken to the hospital by my father and Senior mother. The doctors could not save her seven months old pregnancy. The doctors could not salvage her womb from damage either. That was the last pregnancy that lasted up to seven months in my mother’s womb. After that, it was one problem or the other, one miscarriage after the other and ever after, she suffered serious ill health.
After that day, nothing was said again about my father’s negligence. No one dared to bring up the topic, no one was bold enough to go and marry someone else. They all remained and suffered in silence as my father devoted even more of his time to my mother and me. Of course the other women were pissed but no one dared to complain. Instead, they blamed Bisi for their predicament.
Every one blamed Bisi. It took my mother’s intervention to stop my father from sending her packing after the incident. Sometimes, my father would blame himself openly too. He was torn apart after the ugly incident. Oh, how he continually begged for her forgiveness. Not that she hated him or even blamed him for what happened. She loved him.
My father’s love for my mother did not dwindle or falter, rather it became stronger and stronger and nobody complained. As an atonement, he swore to send me abroad for my higher education as soon as I finished my secondary school. I was so thrilled by the prospect that I did extra hard at school. I was so full of hope but I was later to realize I’d never study abroad, at least, not at my father’s expense, for he didn’t live long enough to see me graduate from secondary school. And that was when the real trouble started for my mother and me. I was later to call it our nemesis.
I still remember vividly that day when the news of my father’s sudden death was brought to us. I was fifteen years old and in my final year at the secondary school. We were in the middle of writing the West African school Certificate examination. We were to write mathematics, my favorite subject the next day. And it was also my mother’s forty fifth birthday. She was having a house party to mark the event that evening. My father was out of town on a business trip. He had been away for two days but had promised to be home early enough for the party. There was nothing that would have prevented him from being beside her on such a day. Nothing, except his death.
The day started well like every other day. Our compound bubbled with various activities. The other wives were all out to help out in the preparation for the party. They all treated my mother with utmost care after that unfortunate incident. They must have all decided if they couldn’t beat her, at least, they could join her. And funny enough, there was peace in the entire household and my father also adjusted considerably. Everyone seemed genuinely happy.
On that fateful day, my father called earlier on in the morning that he was on his way home. At the most, he should have arrived home by 4pm but when the guest started arriving around 8pm, he had still not arrived. Everyone became tensed and worried. Senior mother tried to explain as calmly as she could to the guests that their husband would arrive any moment soon but he never did. 8:30pm! 9pm! 9:30! And then, it was 10pm and still he was yet to show up.
The atmosphere became so tensed that you’d naturally get the ominous feeling that something had terribly gone wrong. Even my mother could not stay calm any more. She knew something had definitely gone wrong but being the person she was, she managed to keep a mirthless smile on her face that told everyone nothing. The other women were remarkably calm too. None betrayed their inner feelings, their fears were well hidden at the back of their minds even when they were each at the verge of losing it.
Then quite suddenly, as if there was an unseen evil being present, an eerie cry came from outside the gates. Despite the soft music that entertained the guest, we all heard the anguished cry. It was a cry from Mama Kudi, my father’s sister and as if there was a magical force hovering above all of us, the whole compound stilled automatically. I will never forget the look on my mother’s face as it dawned on her what must have happened.
“Oh Tony, Tony Oh! Oh! Oh….” Mama Kudi cried as she fell on the ground in the middle of the dance floor.
My father was dead! He died on the spot in an auto accident as he rushed back home to be by the side of the woman he loved on her birthday!
The other women joined Mama Kudi, they wailed, they cried and they flung themselves on the ground as if they were in a crying competition but my mother stood motionless, speechless and completely dumbfounded. Close family friends among the guests joined in the wailing and weeping. It was a feast of weeping. Yet my mother stood still, seemingly undaunted, obviously miles away from the happenings around her. Something about her wasn’t right. I could clearly sense it from the corner I was standing. Her reaction to the sad news was abnormal, it made me very scared. It seemed I was staring at a stranger and not my own mother because she suddenly transformed into a complete stranger. I watched her a moment longer and when I couldn’t take it anymore, I screamed, “Mother!” as I ran to her side. She turned sharply and looked at me. She had the strangest look in her pale eyes. She was no longer my mother, she’d transformed into a ghost. Only then did I realize my mother had traveled far, far away from reality and the present. She had traveled to a different world, a land of no return. I watched her in fear as I made my way to reach her. Our eyes suddenly made contact and she smiled at me. I hurried my pace and as I reached her, she whispered to me in a horrible voice I will never accept was her own.
“Baby, it’s all over now,’’ and she went down in a faint, her wobbling legs suddenly giving way to the sagging weight that had seized her upon receiving the agonizing news of her husband’s sudden demise. I screamed again as I watched her fall. All attempts to revive her failed. She was later taken to the hospital, where she began a slow and agonizing journey to meet her heartthrob.
That was how a day that started so beautifully well ended in sorrow and anguish and disaster. That was the end of my lovely father, the beginning of my mother’s painful journey to meet him and the very beginning of my own predicaments. It was the sad end of a sweet dream and the very beginning of a horrible nightmare.
Well, I will not dwell on how my father met his death or his burial for there are so many other things, better things to write.
My mother was in the intensive care unit of the hospital for almost three months, suffering one complication or the other. She attended my father’s funeral service from her hospital bed in a wheelchair and she returned back there even before the funeral was over. And when she finally came home almost three months later, we met a totally different atmosphere, completely unfriendly relatives.
The first sign that told us trouble was waiting ahead was the complete abandonment by family members while my mother was still admitted at the hospital. No one visited us all through our stay in the hospital. Not even her hospital bills were settled by the family. No family assistance whatsoever. And when we eventually got home, we were led to one of the mini flats with only our clothes and cooking utensils while Senior mother took over the main house. As if that wasn’t enough, we suffered great cruelty from every member of the family. There were insinuations and open accusations by all that my mother killed my father. But she didn’t care, she seemed to be waiting impatiently for her last breath and it seemed so near that I could almost feel it.
We continued to live at the mercy of everyone. It was hell, what they put us through. My mother was always too ill to protest every ill treatment meted out to us. We simply ignored them and lived our lives the way we could. Before long, we were left with nothing. We spent most of her money on her medication, the rest we spent on feeding and other needs. We couldn’t raise more money when we went broke, no one was willing to help us. Sometimes we didn’t even have food to eat. My mother became so worried that the toll began to tell on her. Her worries were of me. She was afraid and worried about what would become of me. She would speak for hours on end about her worries as though she would die the very next minute. It always got me so scared that I always found myself crying, begging her not to leave me. Sometimes she would cry with me and console me. She’d then assure me that I’d be fine but other times, she would smile bitterly and tell me she couldn’t wait to be with my father. Although this made me very angry, I just couldn’t hate her. I couldn’t even blame her, instead, I tried to understand her and understand the love she felt for my father. I tried to appreciate her too because I was moved by her unfading love.
Then a year later, the expected happened. My mother died peacefully in her sleep! And I became an orphan at the age of sixteen. I cried my heart out that day. No one shared in my grief. Not even my siblings; no one but me. And the way they buried her further compounded my grief. She was virtually thrown away into the bush, not even a priest was invited to say a prayer by her grave side. No prayers for the repose of her soul were said. It was that bad and I was so sad. That very day, an enmity was born in me. A strong hatred for my family which was to remain with me for as long as I lived.
I mourned my mother for several years. The circumstances surrounding her death and burial made my grief unbearable. It also nurtured the strong hatred in my heart against every member of my family. I hated them all. Every one of them. They hated me too.
I become a loner, an outcast among my people. No one cared or bothered about my welfare and because my mother spent so much money on her illness before her final demise, there was no money left for me. My mother was an orphan and an only child for that matter. I had nowhere to go but to remain in my father’s house even though I was clearly not welcomed.
I lost almost two academic sessions at home as my family refused to send me back to school. I was just there wasting away, hoping for a miracle that may never come my way, doing all kinds of menial jobs just so I could feed myself. And each time I was at the brink of giving up, I’d tell myself I must keep going. I must live. There was something buried in me that the world needed. I could feel it. And I must achieve it before I die. It was a strong feeling deep within me. It was what kept me going. It was my life wire. It was what saved me.
Then one day, the miracle came at last. I ran into an old class mate, Vivian. She told me she lived in the city with her mother who’d divorced her father and when I narrated my ordeals to her, she decided to take me with her to the city. We both hoped her mother would accept me in her house. I had no other choice.
A week later, I was in a vehicle and on my way to the city. I was going away from my home, my family and my land to a strange land and into a family I knew nothing about. I was almost eighteen years old then but I had the burden of most thirty year olds. I knew I must embark on the journey or face the same fate that befell my mother. It was all for survival. I wanted to survive. I needed to survive. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. I walked away from everyone and everything. Not even the memories followed me. I was going to begin a new life, my own life.
And all through the journey of about 600km from my town to the capital city, I cried uncontrollably. I was mourning my old self and the family members I was certain never to see again. I could go on and on to try and explain how I felt that day but words cannot simply explain it. They were memories I’d give anything not to recount, never again.