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THE WEAKNESS OF A MAN: chapter 3

Rally Trade

CHAPTER THREE

     I have moved too fast, perhaps I am in so much hurry to tell you about my love that I am deviating from the sequence of the events as they’d occurred. Let me reverse back a bit.

    Aunty Gina and her husband enrolled me into a private school to write the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination. They also ensured I wrote it once by engaging a private tutor to give me extra lessons at home after school. I did not disappoint them.  I made all my papers at my first attempt! I sat for the UME JAMB and I made the cut off points too.

     That same year I got admitted into the university to study medicine. I wanted to become a neurosurgeon. I was so happy and my uncle and Aunt were so proud of me too.  I felt on top of the world on the day of my matriculation because they were both there for me to share in my joy and happiness.   My only family, my only friends, the only people who gave me hope in the face of so much hopelessness and bitterness. They did their best but it was impossible not to miss my parents and even my family members too. I couldn’t help but wish they were there to see me in my matriculation garment.

        Soon I settled into school and school work. Aunty Gina wouldn’t let me go to live in the hostel so I went from home every day. They bought me a car and hired a driver to drive me and everything was fine. I was happy. Everything was just fine, both at school and at home. I made good grades and I was good at home too.  We were all so happy. Those were the best years for me.  

        In my first year, Aunty Gina put to bed a bouncing baby boy and two years later, she had another child, a beautiful baby girl.  I was in my third year when she and I both agreed it was time for me to get into a relationship.  Needless to say I was still a virgin.

        Abiodun Adeniyi was the man of my dreams.  In short, he was the dream man of every girl on campus.  He chased after me ever since I got into the university but I stalled him for three whole years. It was one of the many lessons I learnt from my Aunty Gina even though it was love at first sight for me too. I managed to maintain a platonic relationship between us even when I was secretly dying to be held in his arms. I curtailed the surging urge determinedly even though I was crazy about him. I simply melted the very first day he spoke to me and the first time he held my hand, I experienced an electric shock down my spine but I stalled him. Aunt Gina had warned me of infatuation. I was very careful and sure about what I wanted that there was no room for a counterfeit.

       For more than three years I loved him secretly. I was dying within while I maintained a platonic relationship without. I just couldn’t tell him how I actually felt about him.  He could have seen beyond the façade of my heart and guessed I was in love with him because he was so convinced and confident of the fact that I was his better half that he was patient with me, content to be just a friend for as long as it would take me to make up my mind about him.  He was okay with the pace at which I was willing to take our friendship and each day, I found myself falling madly in love with him. I was so much in love with him that by the time Aunty Gina told me it was time I had a relationship, I was at the verge of giving myself to him willingly, undermining her advice. I was more than ready, I was dying to be held in his arms. And when I eventually took him to meet them, they were thrilled by my choice and I was the happiest girl in town. They both took to him instantly. A serious relationship began afterwards between us.  We had both bottled up so much feelings that we weren’t prepared for the explosion we both experienced when we first made love.  It was of course, the first time for me and it was far more wonderful than  I’d imagined.  From that moment, our love waxed stronger and stronger. Our love spread like wild fire.  We became the subject of every discussion on campus.  We were simply inseparable.  It was just like I had craved.

        Biodun was a year ahead of me and he was studying Accountancy.  He was in his final year when we started our love affair. He came from a very wealthy family.  His father had his hands in so many business interests. He was also grooming to be the next president of the country, having diverted previously into politics.  Biodun was his only son out of nine children and the sole heir apparent to his vast wealth.  Otunba, as he was generally called, had two wives, Biodun’s mother being the first and mother of five out of his nine children.  She was also generally called Yeye.  They were both very influential. They were V.I.P if you know what I mean.

       This is just a brief of his background and not the basis of my falling in love with him.  He was a very handsome guy.  Blessed with a physic you would wish to have as your own if you were a man and wish your guy to have if you were a woman.  He was also very intelligent and very humble.  You would never have guessed he was related to the famous Otunba Adebaba Adeniyi unless you were told. He wasn’t arrogant or proud like the other rich kids on campus who were so pompous and arrogant you would think they actually thought they were doing poor kids like us a favor by co-existing with us on the same campus.  Biodun was simply cute. He was every girl’s dream man and he was aware of it.  He was my kind of guy anytime, any day. I loved him dearly.

      Even though I was mad about him, I was very careful not to be carried away by the way I felt.  Aunt Gina told me about heart break too. She told me that though it was a situation we don’t pray or hope for, we don’t just wish it away. We guide ourselves against it. So, I was on my guide. I didn’t need just a man, I needed someone who’d truly love me.  A man that’d give me the type of love I was used to. A man that’ll be mine forever.

      It turned out that that was exactly what he wanted to share with me.  We loved each other.  We were best friends.  When he took me to meet his mother, he made it clear I was the best thing that happened to him.  With that declaration, I become the best thing that happened to Yeye.  She became very close to me. We shared a lot of things, including her top secret. She treated and regarded me as her own daughter. She brought all her problems and worries to me. Whenever she had personal problems with Biodun, she would call me and I would settle the matter.  I became a known visitor in their palatial home.  I met every member of his family except Otunba who was always either away on a business engagement or for political activities as he was warming up for his real induction into the world of politics.

       And in the course of my many visits to the house, I discovered the stiff rivalry between his two wives.  There was always a tensed atmosphere around them.  I was later to learn that both women were competing to be the recognized wife of the probable next president. The very one to occupy the exalted seat of the first lady come the next elections. I always wondered why they were both at each other’s neck when it was so obvious who should be the first lady. To me Yeye should be the one, she was more at an advantage, being the first wife and bearer of the family’s only son, she was to me the natural candidate for the seat. Well, that is if Otunba was nothing like my dear father who didn’t believe in the first-come-first-serve theory.  Well, the fact that she was the bearer of the only son of the family was a situation that ought to have given her the leverage of a better chance and advantage over her mate in the African traditional context. 

      The junior wife knew she was in a disadvantaged position and she was bent on making her situation better by constantly plotting mischief while Yeye was saddled with the responsibility to ensure that no fault came from her side. The junior wife plotted, Yeye remained watchful, this was the rat race that became Otunba’s home while he busied himself with the activities that would take him to the presidential seat. The poor children were left at the mercies of both women because they became the instruments of their mischievous plots and counter plots as they battled to outwit each other.

        School activities went on smoothly for Biodun and I while the plots and counter plots at his home became more aggressive and dangerous. It became an open war between both women as Otunba’s ambition became stronger and more probable.  But our love grew stronger and stronger.  Biodun for one didn’t care about the secret war going on at home. He was so anxious to write his final exams and do the mandatory one year youth service before joining his father’s business.  He wanted so much for us to be finally man and wife.  He couldn’t wait for the day we’d get married and start our future together. I felt so lucky.

      Oh, how we loved each other.  Everyone admired us.  The girls finally left him alone when it was no longer secret that his heart belonged to me alone.  We were referred to as the modern day Romeo and Juliet on campus and we both loved it.  It was clear to us that we both couldn’t survive without each other. It was love alright.  We had this secret conviction and assurance that we could each die in the place of the other.  Our love was so good, so sweet and so perfect.  I was so glad I could experience it at last, in the very form I’d dreamt it. It was so sweet and so wonderful. I was finally able to understand why my father summoned all his wives that day and gave them that absurd option, the freedom and choice to leave him.  I was then able to reason with him better and only then did I understand my father’s actions back then and funny enough, I respected him. For no man could possibly claim to be truly in love when he owned four other women the same obligation, it was simply impossible. I understood why he wanted to give my mother everything. I knew I would gladly give everything up for Biodun.  My life and my all, he owned my heart, he was the very reason for my existence and I was all these to him too. Isn’t that wonderful?

         Everything was perfect between us until the day the first true test of my love for Biodun came knocking on the door.

        The day began on a normal footing as always.  By then I could drive very perfectly and I usually drove myself to school.  I had just arrived at school and was rushing to meet him in his hostel room before lectures commenced.  It was one of our rituals.

       We met at the stair case and the pallid look on his face told me instantly that something was very wrong. I was beaming with smiles because I was on my way to congratulate him. His father was formally received by the ruling party as a bona-fide member, paving way for his running as a candidate in the next presidential race.

“Thank God you are here,” he said breathlessly when he reached me and planting a quick kiss on my lips, he held my hand and led me back to his room.

“What’s up?” I asked anxiously.

“There’s trouble Betty, serious trouble.”

“What trouble?” I asked, very afraid.  But before he could reply, his cell phone began to ring and he answered it instead.

“Yes mum.  Yes, I have seen them.  They are three in number.  Yes, AK 47.  They are in a black carry-all bag under any bed.  Yes, yes she is right here.  No I haven’t told her yet, she only just arrived. No please, I will tell her the situation myself.  Please call me back,” he said and hung up.  The naked fear in his eyes made me catch my breath in fear.

“What is it?” I asked again impatiently.

“My love, there’s trouble. Mum called earlier and told me an anonymous caller hinted to her that the State Secret Service Agents were on their way to search my room because they were reliably informed that I was a secret cult member and in possession of fire arms in my room.  The caller went ahead to tell my mum that someone had planted the guns in my room last night.  I have just found the guns under my bed.  Can you imagine that?  My final exams are just by the corner.  Who could have done this?  How do I get rid of the guns before they get here?”

“Oh my God, oh God, this is not good,” I said in confusion, circling around him. “Baby, this is serious. Who could have been so callous?” I said.

“It could be a number of people.  Maybe dad’s political opponents but mum thinks it’s the handwork of my step mother.  But I doubt that very much.  She wouldn’t be capable of such a thing, she wouldn’t dare to do a thing like this.”

“We must get rid of them at once.” I said as his phone began to ring again and he answered the call.

“Yes. Mum yes I have told her.  Oh no, I don’t want her involved in this mum please. I am not being a fool mum. I must get rid of them myself. I will handle it, hello? Hello.  Mum, are you there? The line went dead,” he said and immediately, my phone started ringing. 

“Don’t answer it if it’s my mum. I don’t want you dragged into this,” he said quickly.  Without response, I moved away from him and paying him no further attention, I answered the call.

“Hello, yes good morning ma.  Yes, he has just told me. I think I can get rid of them. I will put them in my car and take them home.  No, my uncle and aunt and the kids are back to Europe on holidays.  Yes, there’s no problem but you’ll have to come and get them later. Oh yes. Yes, I can hide them safely.  Please take it easy, everything will be fine. I will take them away at once.  Yes, bye.”

       I rushed to his room, leaving him running after me and against his protests, I pulled out the bag containing the guns from under his bed.  I carried the bag, placing the long strip handle on my shoulder. I heaved the bag up and straightened my clothes.  He stood watching me, his eyes pleading with me not to get involved but I ignored him. He can’t be caught with those guns in his room. He will not only be expelled from school, he’ll be disowned by his father and I couldn’t live with any of that.

“Baby, do you think you are doing the right thing? This could turn out to be dangerous.  Let me handle this please.”

“Please my love, I cannot let you do this.  Your mother is right.  If you are caught in possession of these guns, you’ll be expelled and your father will disown you instantly. It will affect your mother too.  You are the target. I know you don’t want that to happen. Your final exam starts next week.  Please let’s be reasonable.” I said as I tried to get past him.

“What if they are seen with you? I can easily argue I don’t know about them.  Let’s leave them where they were. Please my love,”

“Don’t be silly Biodun.  You and I know no one would believe you.  You know the war that has been going on between your mum and your step mother. She could be right you know, that woman is desperate and as such, she is capable of anything at all. Whoever planted these guns is not joking. They could come up with other incriminating evidences you are not even aware of now. Thank God we got to know about this on time.  Please let me take them away.” I said and made to move past him again but he suddenly grabbed my hand sending the bag slipping down from my shoulder.

“Betty no, this could be dangerous.  You could be expelled from school for God’s sake,” he cried.

“Better I am expelled than you. Your father will never forgive you if you get him into a scandal such as this one, especially at this time too when he is so neck deep into actualizing his dream of becoming the next president.  Remember you told me he once carelessly referred to you as a cult member. This would confirm his suspicion if he had any before.  And you don’t know what he has been told by your conniving step mother. For Christ’s sakes, let me take these things away. We’ll talk later.” I said impatiently as I went past him, carrying the guns with me. I rushed out of his room.

“At least let me help you carry them to your car,” he said and rushed after me.

“No. There’s no way we’d risk that. Stay in the room until I get back.  Lie down and pretend to be down with a fever or something, they might probably be outside right now.”

“Outside? Oh God, Betty I don’t like this. Please don’t get messed up in this.  What if you are caught?”

 “Then I will take the blame,” I said plainly.

 “Oh no, I can’t allow that.” He protested

“You will have to take it, love. I love you Biodun.  There is no time for delay, we’ve wasted good time already.  If I am caught, I will be too glad to make the sacrifice for you because of your undying love for me. Please remain in the room until I am back.  If I go quickly, I am sure I will get home without being caught.  I will hide the guns where they will never find them.  Besides, they’ll need a warrant to search my uncle’s house and by then, we would have gotten proper rid of them.  Please be calm.” 

“I love you Betty, I will never forget this one.” He said watching me hopelessly.

“Bye love.” I said and ran out of the room.  I reached my car in seconds and carefully, I loaded the bag into the trunk of my car.  I covered it with a mat. I got into the car quickly and drove away, heading towards the magnificent main gates of the campus. With my heart pounding dangerously against my ribcage, I drove past the gates into the busy express way, heading home.  I drove on, careful not to break speed limit or traffic lights, assuring myself all the way that we have beaten them to it.

         But unknown to me, whoever planted the guns also planted a man to watch Biodun in his hostel. The watchman saw me put the bag into my car and he promptly reported the move. There was a general alert out by the police patrol team to stop and search my car. When I turned off the main road into my street, I was almost certain that I was in the clear. I was happy but my happiness was shot lived. I was so shocked when a blue Peugeot saloon car with Federal Government registration number over took me dangerously and packed in from of me, making me bring my car to a screeching halt.  I almost vomited my heart out.  I remained inside my car, too afraid to move.  I knew I had been caught.  I also knew I was in a very hot spot but I didn’t care neither did I regret my decision to get rid of the guns.  It was all for Biodun, the love of my life.

          Four heavily armed men in plain clothes jumped out of the saloon car simultaneously and surrounded me.

“Get out of the car slowly and put your hands above your head, exactly where they can easily be seen,” one of them blustered.

“I need to untie my seat belts,” I said eagerly, thinking how best to handle the situation.

“Do that very slowly. You’ll be shot if you try anything stupid.”

“What is going on?” I asked when I was safely out of the car, with my hands clearly above my head.

“We have reasons to suspect you have dangerous weapons in the trunk of your car. May we see the trunk of your car?”

“My keys are on the ignition hole.  I have to get them first,” I said indifferently. I decided I wasn’t going to argue with them.  Neither would I deny knowledge of the guns because if I did, they could easily conclude the guns belonged to Biodun and I wasn’t going to leave any clues that would implicate him.

“Get the keys slowly and open the trunk. You are surrounded by heavily armed men. Don’t try to be smart. You’ll get a bullet for any step out of turn.”

“Okay officer, I heard you the first time.  Please let’s get this over with,” I said impatiently as I bent to retrieve the keys. I then went behind and opened the trunk of my car.  One of the men pulled out the mat and revealed the bag.  A brisk search of the bag revealed the guns. I remained indifferent as I watched their actions.

“Do you have permission to carry these guns madam?”

“No” I said stupidly, still in limbo.

“Then how come you are in possession of them?”

“I will only speak when my lawyer is present,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Then I will place you under arrest for the unauthorized possession of fire arms.  Officer, handcuff her.”

“What about my car?” I said, struggling with the young officer as he tried to handcuff me.

“Don’t worry. One of my men will drive the car to our office.  I will advice you not to resist arrest, it is a crime on its own ma’am. Officer, read her the Code.”

“You have the right to remain silent,” the young officer began promptly. “Any blah!  blah!  blah!……” 

        That was how I got arrested and I didn’t see Biodun for three whole years. Yeye kept in touch with me, indirectly though.  We only communicated through the lawyer she hired to represent me. We all decided it was better that Biodun and Yeye stayed away while the trial lasted.  Biodun also communicated with me through the lawyer. He was so angry with himself and devastated, especially because he couldn’t see me face to face. We had a hard time persuading him to stay away from my trial.  He was simply mad with rage that he allowed me take the guns in the first place.  His mother had to go on her kneels to beg him not to give himself up when he threatened to do so. Somehow, we were able to stop him and I went to jail.

        I saw hell in detention. I was tortured, cajoled, begged, tricked and even enticed with the offer of money and freedom just to implicate him but I stood my ground. I just couldn’t bear to see him go through such a thing. I bore every pain and humiliation with tremendous determination.  I even damned uncle Festy and Aunt Gina who had to cut their holiday in Europe short when they heard the news of my arrest. I couldn’t dare to tell them the truth.  I wasn’t going to admit the truth to anyone. I stuck to my story, though flimsy but it was better than mentioning Biodun. 

      My story was very simple. I told them a man I have never met before accosted me in front of a shopping mall at gun point and ordered me to open my car trunk.  Out of fear, I obliged and he dumped the bag in the car and told me to drive away.  After driving for a few distance, I stopped to check what was inside the bag and found out they were riffles. I was so scared and so confused I didn’t know what else to do but drive home.  

          I knew it wasn’t a convincing story but my lawyer, who helped me come up with the story, thought he could argue his way in court and get me out. The watch ward was never to mention Biodun’s name.  My mind was set, even if they put a bullet in my brains, I was never going to mention Biodun.  I would rather die first.  And when they could not force me to implicate him, I was sentenced to three years imprisonment with hard labor.

       Aunty Gina was heartbroken, that was to say the very least. I guess she suspected all along how I came in possession of the guns but she never mentioned it to me.  I guess she understood the sacrifice I was about to make. Uncle Festy on the other hand was disappointed in me, which was also to put it very mildly.  He was furious because I wasn’t telling him the truth. He couldn’t believe the fact that I couldn’t trust him with the truth.  I trusted him but the fact was I didn’t want him to discourage me.  He suspected I was protecting Biodun and he told me there could be another way to it than to take the fall if I would only tell him everything. I just couldn’t.

        Yeye was beside herself with gratitude. She just couldn’t thank me enough for my co-operation. She was so filled with joy that she swore to take me as her own daughter henceforth. And I was glad I did what I did. Oddly, I went into prison very happy and without the slightest regret of the action that took me there.

      Life in prison was miserable. Especially in a Nigerian prison setting. One must know that, or at least, be able to imagine it.  You don’t have to be imprisoned to know or imagine how horrible the situation really is.  The news media have done a great deal to portray the true picture. They have so clearly described it that people who have the freedom to move about freely would think twice before engaging in any illegality, but not people like me I must say. Not people ruled by true love, perhaps, that is why the others say love is the exclusive preserve for fools. Because love blinds the mind’s eyes; it blurs the thinking faculty and renders the facts hazy, shutting the doors to simple reasoning and common sense but yet, nothing compares to it. That is why it is called love. It makes sacrifices, irrespective of the odds, a trip to prison not ruled out, if it is what is required. And I took the trip.

      I found out you can never clearly imagine from the outside what goes on behind those huge walls and gates that hold people captive in a prison yard, no matter how well the picture is painted. Only a personal experience is good enough and trust me, you don’t want that. You cannot over emphasize what life in a prison does to the mind or soul.  You go in there bad and come out worse, never truly rehabilitated or reformed. You leave with a dent that puts a permanent, invisible tag on you and an attitude that remains with you forever. You struggle to get the will power to set yourself free but sometimes, even will power is not enough because the effect sticks to you like a second skin, it stays glued to you and you just can’t shed it off. It is always there to remind you that you have been there. And always will be there!

    You meet them all. Every manner and character and they each leave a toll on you, whether you like it or not, and it follows you about like a shadow, waiting for the moment to be exhibited. You never truly get rid of it. You learn it all. A piece of every evil there is. It becomes a part of you and you never really come out any better than you’d gone in.  No matter how careful you are, or how different or better you think you are from the next inmate, you end up being stung by the same bug, the jail bird bug.  The dangerous, ruthless venom finds its way into your veins, it circulates and then hibernates in there, waiting for a chance to exhibit itself again and again and again until the end of your now twisted, depraved life. That is the way it is, the one thing we all share, it is the one thing common to all jail birds or ex-convicts or whatever they are called. And I was no exception. I realized that later.

      I tried to be different from the rest of them all through my three years sojourn in prison. I told myself I was not a criminal but a girl in love. I told myself I had a loving soul and a kind heart and could never be like the rest of them. I succeeded in personally convincing myself that I was different and it made my stay in prison a bit bearable. But I discovered later that I actually wasn’t different after all, there was no way I’d be different now. I got stung by the bug too and I was now one of them. We were a family, carrying the same lethal DNA and like all jail birds, I realized I could soar to the highest limits, I could roar and devour like a cornered lion, that all that was needed to arouse the new beast that now lived within me was just a little provocation and threat. I could now physically transform into the beast that lived inside of me. I just didn’t know it at first. I didn’t realize that I got stung by the bug too; I didn’t know the vicious venom was right inside my blood stream, waiting, watching and germinating. I didn’t know I’d been infected by the deadly virus. It was a thing that later manifested itself.  A trait I didn’t know I was capable of, a hardness that overwhelmed even me.

         Well, I will not bore you with the unpleasantness of a life in prison, suffice to say that three years came and went inevitably and I was released and free at last.  I found Biodun waiting patiently for me.  My joy was complete. We continued from where we stopped.  I considered myself very lucky for there were times, while I was still in prison, I thought I’d find him gone by the time I got my freedom. It was a secret fear I had to live with then, a secret I couldn’t share with anyone.  Most of the girl openly mocked me back then in prison when they learned I had taken the fall for a man. They called me the biggest fool alive.  At such times, even the letters he wrote to me daily had seemed doubtful to me.  After a while, I would convince myself again that he was for real.  He was indeed for real but my conspiring mind wouldn’t free me from my constant doubts. Sometimes, my mind told me he was acting, that he was only being nice to me out of indebtedness.  But as time went by and he did not relent, he proved me very wrong.  He maintained a steadfast loyalty to me and our love. He made it clear he had nothing but true love in his mind towards me.

        Biodun graduated while I was still in prison.  He even completed his youth service before I got out. He was already working in one of his father’s companies as the Managing Director at the time I got out and he was doing very well.  He was so anxious for us to finally settle down together.  Just a few months before my release, he acquired a new house. A house he said we’d spend the rest of our lives together. He had acquired the house before my release so that we could share the first months of my freedom together without interference from anyone.  He was so sweet, so charming and loving. On the day I was released, he decorated the whole house with bouquets and he personally gave me my first real bath in three years in his new Jacuzzi which he said he bought for the purpose. He had the bath water scented in sweet smelling performed soothing oils that soothed my soul. It was like ascending into paradise after three years in hell. 

       We remained glued together for a whole month, never separated, not even for a minute.  Can you beat that?  He put every other thing on hold, including his work and social life.  It was just the two of us. It was like a lovely honeymoon. And there were no secret signs of gratitude or indebtedness in him.  It was love alright.  He was surely still very much in love with me, more than ever before and for the umpteenth time, I was glad I proved my love for him by going to jail instead of him.

         Everything went smoothly between us.  Yeye showed her gratitude and appreciation clearly. His sisters did too.  They admired my courage and appreciated my sacrifice for their brother.  And I began to believe that nothing was going to stop me from becoming Biodun’s beloved wife.  There was nothing to stop us from getting married, at least, so I thought.  But how naive love made me? How completely blinded and unreasonable I was to forget the most important part of my sacrifice; the real sacrifice. The consequence and most significant aspect of my sacrifice for that matter.  The simple, bitter and ugly fact that I had become an ex-convict and so, no longer worthy to be the daughter-in-law of a man as prominent and as powerful as the most popular presidential aspirant!  The next president of the country for that matter.

      And who pointed this out to me? Yeye, of all the people in the world!      


http://www.leisuretimeread.com

Elizabeth Izebere is a prolific writer who prefers to write under the pseudonym Liz Brey Humphrey. She is a Nigerian. www.leisuretimeread.com is her brain child.

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