Ogbanje

Immediately I saw aunty Agnes’ face, I knew why she came. She didn’t even answer my greeting o, rather she pushed me out of the way with her big bosom, and charged into the house. I had to hold on to the door knob for dear life.
“ Your mama dey? “ She asked. She and I knew that she knew that my mom was at this moment in her room eating groundnut. I mumbled my yes and stalked into the kitchen to continue peeling my yam. I strategically position myself in such a way that there was no obstruction of airflow from the sitting room to the kitchen . Before you could say Jack, mama ran out of the room like a dog that heard meat and bone mentioned in quick succession in one sentence. The usual greetings ensured “Iron lady, women leader, agbaranwanyi …………….I continued peeling my yam.
“Sit don fez let me gist you.” aunty Agnes theatrical laughter filled the house, “she is getting married o…”
My knife paused and mama and I shared a moment of confusion as to who was getting married, but it was mama who asked on our behalf “who?”
“Ah-ah na, ogbanje na , who else.”
“What!……..”
“ That is not even the gist self, Guess who she is getting married to” We couldn’t guess. “Broda Boaz.”
My knife fell from my hand, luckily mama’s shout concealed the sound of Stainless Steel hitting concrete. So ogbanje is getting…. …….no aunty Ruth, pastor said her new Christian name is now Ruth. So Ruth is getting married, and to no other than the most eligible bachelor in church, or should I say most eligible widower. Wonders shall never end.
The first time I heard about the Hausa girl that came back with mama Chinedu, not minding I didn’t know who mama Chinedu was, was from aunty Agnes as usual. She and mama were to attend a wedding that Saturday. While mama applied her make up in the parlour ,she was gisting her how mama Chinedu was coming back after spending years in the north. I gathered that the family had left our small town during the hard times, before the bread factory and the railway. They had gone north and made it big. But their fortune was short lived. Papa Chinedu was the first to go. I heard he was poisoned by one of his neighbours in the market. Mama Agnes who was giving mama the rundown had sworn she even know the culprit but she never mentioned who. Then the worst happened, Chinedu got married to a Hausa girl, a Moslem for that matter. I heard the girl’s father was rich and had wanted a doctor in the family. Anyway this action of the elder was enough to encourage the younger, James to marry another Hausa girl. Need I say she was also a Moslem.
I remember tongues wagging in church, chief among them, aunty Agnes, that the family had sold their soul to the devil for money. So when the two sons died in quiet succession, she felt justified. Her mantra became “I talk am.” Even in the face of such tragedy, the prejudice against the family didn’t relent when the woman got home. Mama had gone with the women group for condolence and when she got back later that night, she said the thing no give am mouth to talk. The way she talked about the foreign girl made me super curious but truly I never expected her to show up in church.
I remember after church, that most people hug around talking about the very dark, hungry looking girl who spoke no word of English. That was when she was baptized ogbanje. I have always thought the name was fitting, not because she was anything but good but because she was an epitome of beauty. Her skin was so dark, it was almost blue and her dark natural hair was the longest I had ever seen, and her nose; straight and elegant. Of course you wouldn’t notice all these features except you spend time with her, which I did.
For no reason whatsoever Borda Uche, our youth coordinator choose me to be her language coach. Pastor wanted her to be brushed up for baptism class since she had decided to become a Christian. I wasn’t excited about the situation at all. Associating with ogbanje was a form of becoming an outcast, everyone avoided her like a plague. Mama even warned me seriously to stay away from her. So our daily meetings became our secret. We would meet separately at the sport center and leave separately. Trust us now, soon we left our lessons and began gisting about other things.
That was how I learnt of her poor background, how her mother was third wife and how James had saved her. That was why she could never leave her mother-in-law. The more she talked, the more I liked her and that was how we became friends o. When she got a job as a cleaner in the bread factory, I knew. When the other workers were deliberately denying her her daily ration, she didn’t complain. I rejoiced with her when I found out that Broad Boaz had learnt the truth and was now giving her two full loaves. I didn’t read much into it, after all he was known to be generous to a fault. Aunty Agnes would always lament “when will he get married ,so that someone would manage that his money his is spending anyhow “
In fact Broda Boaz had been married before, a long time ago. The wife of his youth had unfortunately died of cancer and since then, he had remained single, focusing on his bread factory. The story of that bread factory is long sha but the bread is so good, people come from far and wide to buy the special St. Michael’s Bread. Broda Boaz is sha a rich man, always well dressed and humble. Mama use to joke that she doesn’t mind having him as an in-law, despite the fact that I was only 16.
When the romance started, I never knew ,thought if I should think back, I would remember how she suddenly started looking different She wore newer brightly coloured clothes and left her hair in long braids rather than covered, she smiled more and strictly avoided talking about work. Honestly I felt betrayed but I don’t blame her, she had serious trust issues. Moreover I wouldn’t even had believed her if she told me. They were just world apart. Broda Boaz was the wealthy, jeep riding ,front row seating philanthropist. She an illiterate Hausa widow. God do work in mysterious ways o
I picked up my knife and continue peeling my yam. My thoughts had taken me away from the discussion going on in the parlour and I tuned in just in time to her mama insisting that this thing is not empty handed.

16 thoughts on “Ogbanje

Leave a comment