One day like that in 2013, in the early hours of the day, my mom had called me on phone from her bedroom.
“Moromoke, come to my room”, she said.
I rubbed my foggy eyes. It was characteristic of my mom to call me in the wee hours of the day if she had something important to talk to me about.
I heard her unlatching her door. It was a signal that she was waiting for me. Dad slept in the adjoining room on his own bed. Technically, they were in the same room with a slight demarcation with two different exit doors leading to the outside. But they could easily slip into each other’s bed, sorry, room without coming out through the exit. Abomination!!! I don’t like to think of such, mbok.#shudders
Did I confuse you? Don’t worry.
You don’t even need to understand.
So I knelt to greet her
She started in her usual way, regaling me with the family cognomen
“Ayinke, omo ola. Omo aro, omo oke melu, omo motan.
You had to remain on your knees till she finished her early morning head swelling ritual.
She patted a side of the bed beside her and asked me to sit.
“You see, why I called you is that I want you to follow your father to Abuja. Go and do what we discussed. If it succeeds, fine. But if not, you can always come back home. I want you to try it again.
Do you have any friend you can stay with?
Mothers can get anything they want from their kids using the right tactics. My mom’s method was to wake you up at night and make her demands. When she wanted to buy her first car and needed some money to complete the purchase, she had woken me up same time, spoken with me at that hour when every word must enter inside you. So, I parted with my first prize money in an essay competition where I got the 1st prize in the entire Southwest of Nigeria that year. It was 50k, quite a lump sum then when money still had great value. I gave it to her. I still had some little cash left over from the scholarship I got from the Obasanjo Operation Feed the Nation essay competition that year as well. They asked the winners to open a UBA account and they paid into it. We were still invited to Aso Rock that year but I missed the memo. It was later I saw it in the newspaper. The pictures and all. My chest became tight. I got my money though. You see why it’s only fair that my child should make me proud like I made my parents proud?
You probably don’t know why my dad especially was crazy about me and could do anything for me? I was his star child. The one who brought glory to his name without having a penis. The one who dined with the high and mighty when she barely knew anything about life. The one who went to places and took her parents to fine places they could not have reached on their own. The one whose name and picture was splashed on the pages of Punch newspaper that year who also went to become a regular writer for Tribune. The one who got shown on national TV many times, who clinched the many awards. The one whom my father could always boast about among his friends “that’s my daughter”. No, I still do not have a male genital but I was worth more than 10sons to him.
As I was saying, the title of this essay should have been “hey, I was on my way to England but I found myself in Abuja” because what we discussed was that I should follow dad to the UK embassy in Abuja. That was the only reason why I came to this town. This is the first time I’m putting this out here. This is the first time I’m talking about this openly.
I had declined the previous day. I told them I was tired. I told them I was not going to UK again. I told Dad to get me a job. That even if he got me one in Ibadan, I’d stay in Ibadan and probably get my own apartment in bodija.
He said where are the jobs? He said it would be better for me to leave since I had always wanted it. Moreover, there were no jobs again anywhere.
Why did I decline?
Because I had applied in Lagos and it failed. Because I had walked away from everything in Lagos, even my unilag postgraduate admission, a new job where they were calling me to pick up my letter after I left compass newspaper, and I moved to ibadan. But when I later received my passport, it was with a denial. It broke my heart so much that I said that was it.
Here was mom, asking me to go back again. I listened to her and travelled with Dad. I will leave the rest of that story till next year when my first real book, my memoir, comes out.
Mom made me come to Abuja. I came and fell in love with the city. I often called her on phone after I came, telling her of the beautiful streets, the well tarred roads, the ambience, the night life etc. The day I went to write my entrance exam in ABU, Zaria, I called her on my way back when I stepped into kaduna and I remembered all the tales she had told us about the northern city where she lived as a spinster with her elder brother while working with P&T(postal and telecommunication) now separated and known as NIPOST where she retired.
I called her from Kawo in Kaduna and I could feel her excitement that day. She was so happy. She began to mention the names of her brothers still in that city.
When I decided to permanently stay in Abuja, she tried to link me up with some of her relatives. She asked me to visit some, I was even surprised when she mentioned someone who works with NNPC. I spoke with a few on phone and later got angry and told her to stop making me talk to people I didn’t intend to see. My sister got jealous, claiming that in all her years in Lagos, mom never linked her with anyone.
She only did this because Abuja was too far. She visited Lagos with dad and saw younger sister once. Besides ibadan-lagos was just a stone’s throw. But she could not see me from Abuja as she wished. Hence, her reason for trying to make sure her relatives could be seeing me. I ended up visiting one uncle who worked at the ministry when the uncle wouldn’t stop calling. Mom was calling the uncle to call me. She didn’t rest until uncle confirmed that I had come to spend a weekend in his house at Gwarimpa. I haven’t looked for uncle since then.
Her mind was always with her children. It was she who gave me the key to dad’s Camry and told her driver to teach me how to drive. We were at the police station together when I had an accident involving one of the commercial taxis in Ibadan.
She was always promising that she would come and visit me in Abuja. Our last discussion on phone was about 24 or 48hours earlier when she said
“Nike, emi mi n pin. So fun baba ko maa bo nile.”
She asked me to tell Dad to start coming home, that she needed to see him as her spirit was departing.
Her voice was very faint. She let me know she was going but I didn’t believe it. I rejected it. She had gone through worse stuffs and came out. I thought she would come out of it.
About 8pm on Saturday night, when kidbrother called me that she had stopped breathing, it was still surreal. That woman can never die. She had beaten death hands down many times. I thought death would never win.
I created a prayer chain by sending messages on blackberry to all my friends “pray, my mom is about to die”. Something like that. But she had already gone. I went to my neighbors house and told them. We gathered in their sitting room to pray. We prayed for almost an hour then I called my brother
“Has she woken up?”
“She’s still dead”, he replied.
He was the only one with her. Well, with a girl, her help.
It was already dark. But darkness couldn’t have gotten more dark that night.
At this point, let me shed tears before I go on😰😤😢
I never bought foodstuff as little as iru while in this town when she was alive. She sent me foodstuffs I could never finish. The only thing I bought in Abuja then, was pepper. Meat o, dry fish o, she sent them. She even used to hide money in my sack without letting dad know. Dad was the one who brought it but he never knew all the content because she packed it all by herself, putting everything she knew I liked. Even bathing soap and cream. Even cream for pimples. I used to have pimples those days.
My heart is heavy right now as I write this. Because, it’s as if one major chapter of my life has ended. I’m having trouble navigating the new chapter all by myself. I’m just swimming in the ocean of life, not knowing whether I will survive the waves or if the waves will go over me.
December gets scary for me every year. It gets very lonely and depressing. My parents pulled this big party every December at Ibadan and if I refused to go, they would bring my meat to Abuja. They slaughtered cow or the goats in their farm.
That night she died, I either saw or imagined her in a white flowing gown waving at me after we prayed in my neighbor’s house. I felt I was hallucinating. I slept in my neighbor’s sitting room till daybreak. I have always gone through the darkest period in my life alone. At that point too, there was no one to hold my hands. There was no one to tell me it would be okay. I bore my pain in silence. I slept on bare floor in my neighbor’s house.
I cried every morning on my way to work at area 2, Garki. I trekked from area 1 every morning. I deliberately walked leisurely in front of fast moving cars on the area 1 express road but the cars refused to hit me. If you know this area 1 express, you’d understand what I’m talking about.
One day, I got to my office, sat outside and was crying. All of a sudden, there was a very heavy wind around me. I had goosebumps on my body. I felt a presence but I didn’t know what it was. I explained this to daddy when we saw and he said maybe she came. I didn’t believe it.
It’s four years today since that unforgettable night in 2015, 28th November, 7.55 pm, Saturday.