Author: Emmanuel Abara Benson
When you are a child and your family is broken up, you tend to blame yourself for everything. This was the situation I found myself in following my parents’ breakup. I blamed myself endlessly since I could not blame them; after all they were my parents. I thought that by taking the blame, I could somehow change things for the better. Moreover, it was easier to blame myself since I had somehow caused the fight that led to the separation. I endlessly told myself that the fight would never had happened that night if I hadn’t insulted my father and provoked him into beating me up. But then I was wrong, for my parents’ marriage was doomed for failure long before it actually failed. Indeed, that unfortunate harmattan night’s incident was bound to happen even as my mother was bound to abandon us all and leave. But I was just too hurt by the fact that it actually happened to see the reasons why it happened.
Unfortunately, life became extremely difficult following my parents’ divorce. Hunger was the greatest challenge, followed by that feeling of despair which came with being completely abandoned. I remember those days my siblings and I were left at home for several days with nothing to eat. My father would be too busy getting drunk and shamelessly disgracing himself at the village square to care about providing us with food. And so in a desperate bid to find what to eat, we would often climb the trees around our neighbourhood looking for fruits but seldom finding any. And then one particular afternoon as the hunger became so unbearably excruciating, my brothers stood in front of our compound and cried miserably while passersby watched them. It was while they did that that one old woman who was returning from the farm saw them and enquired what was wrong. She then gifted us some tubers of yam which we cooked and ate without telling my father about it. But somehow he got to know about the yam and punished me for disgracing him.
Meanwhile, inasmuch as I readily took the blame for everything that happened to us during this time, I wasn’t prepared for my father’s blames. I wasn’t prepared for it when he decided to make me the scapegoat in every situation, punishing me every time he wanted to relieve his frustrations. He beat me up at the slightest of provocations. As a matter of fact, he seemed to anticipate the opportunity to beat me. And every time he did beat me, he beat me exactly as he used to beat my mother. Perhaps he saw my mother in me; after all I was the spitting image of her. He imagined himself punishing my mother every time he punished me. He would call me a witch and a prostitute just as he used to call her, and then he would threaten to kill me if I didn’t leave his house.
Prior to this time, I always knew that my father disliked me very much. Right from when I was a toddler, there was hardly any special father-daughter bond between the two of us. I grew up being scared of the man I called father because he was a wife beater who frowned all the time except when he was drunk and stupid. And then he blamed everyone else for his woes in life except himself. He especially blamed my mother whom he accused of blocking his good fortunes with her bad lucks. All the time I wished my father could love me but he never did. And as I grew older, it dawned on me that he would never ever love me. Instead, he hated me just as much as he hated my mother. This was one of the reasons why life became extremely difficult when she left us; for my father shifted his hatred for my mother to me. And while I tried my best to endure it all, I wasn’t prepared for it when his blames and punishments became constant. This was why on the day he nearly killed me for menstruating for the first time, I knew I had to leave and never return.
(Shame and Forlorn Gaze by Emmanuel Abara Benson; coming soon)
Finally left alone ever since they arrived at their new home, the twins got to explore the place. Mrs Ijioma’s was a three bedroom flat, located on the uppermost and nicest part of the building. It was the only flat with its own inbuilt kitchen, toilet and bathroom, and this was expected considering that this was the same flat the late Mr Ijioma lived in prior to his death. The woman had forcefully claimed the flat for her own, arguing that since she was her late husband’s first wife, she was deserving of it. Her co-wife was however unhappy about this, seeing as she had to manage a cramped two bedroom flat with her teenage children.
All of the Ijioma’s lived on the same floor of the building. This was their own way of staying together as much as it was a well devised plan to save costs while renting out the rest of the flats to tenants. Unfortunately, the space was barely enough for all of them. There was Mrs Ijioma with her adult children- her eldest sons Sam and Uchenna who, though very grown, were still living at home. Each of them had a room to themselves, and they didn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
Cynthia, one of Mrs Ijioma’s daughters, shared her mother’s flat even though she was always traveling in a desperate effort to escape from the bad reputation that trailed her following the mysterious death of her infant bastard son. The rest of Mrs Ijioma’s children were either living outside of the city or married, including Cynthia’s twin sister who had distanced herself from her family as though she was ashamed of them. And of course there was the last child James who lived in a boarding school in Umuahia.
On the other hand was Mrs Ijioma’s co-wife and her children who managed with a two bedroom flat. The woman had four children, the oldest of whom was Ifeanyi. At age seventeen, Ifeanyi was a very lanky, handsome and happy chap. His academic brilliance was equally unrivalled by the rest of his siblings. Sadly, underneath his happy go lucky persona was this frustration about who he was and the family he was born into. He longed for the time he would finally get admitted into the university so he could be away from his family. In the meantime, he lived with his mother and three siblings, all of whom were sharply contrasted to him. There was his immediate younger brother Johnson who had a perpetual frown on his face as though he was constantly angry with the world. Johnson had one of those broody old people’s faces- very knowing and constantly gloomy. He would stare at people with those set of knowing eyes, his demeanour completely unfriendly and very reproachful as though he could tell people’s deepest secrets just by looking at them. His mates were scared to befriend him. And for that, he was a loner.
Ifeanyi’s second sibling was Nkiru, an ugly girl who was undoubtedly the least beautiful of all her siblings. But what was most unflattering about Nkiru was that she had the bad habit of always begging for things. She would beg for anything and most especially something to put in her mouth and eat. The only time she wasn’t begging was when she didn’t see anybody holding something in their hands. Nkiru was indeed very much unlike her immediate younger sister Chika who was very beautiful and beloved by all. And here is the interesting thing about Chika- in spite of all the attention and privileges entitled her, she remained a sweet little girl. She walked gently, spoke softly and wouldn’t hurt a fly. She was the kind of girl who cried whenever a Christmas chicken got killed, even though she would be the first person to eat the chicken legs…
As Nnamdi and Chukwu continued to explore their new home, they soon came upon the general parlour which was located closer to Ifeanyi’s flat. It was a truly massive room which had taken up much of the space on that floor. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as beautiful as the sitting room in Mrs Ijioma’s villa mansion. Unlike that one, the décor here was archaic. The carpet was old and discolored, and the TV had a huge, box-like back which made it look hideous. The boys stood there for a while, carefully admiring everything in the room from the family portraits hanging on the walls to the old chandelier dangling from the ceiling. And it was as they did that that they were suddenly rattled by someone else’s presence.
“What are you doing here? You are not supposed to be in here!” the girl spoke hastily and sternly. She was the same girl who had sorely served them some bottles of Coca Cola earlier that day at the village. She was a pretty girl, thanks to her exotic facial features which was made possible by an obvious mixture of East Asian and African bloods. Her name was Chinko, a name which had a rather long story behind it. In the meantime, Nnamdi and his brother stood speechless, staring at the girl while feeling guilty.
“Sorry…” Nnamdi muttered. “We didn’t know we are not supposed to be in here.”
“It’s okay” Chinko replied, her voice nicer now. “Sorry for shouting at you. It’s just that cleaning this place takes a lot of work. Moreover, it is meant only for entertaining important guests.”
“We understand now…” Chukwu said, just as an awkward moment of silence passed during which the three kids just stared uncomfortably at each other.
“So I am Nnamdi. This is my brother Chukwu.”
“It’s nice to meet you. Are you Mama’s new houseboys?” Chinko asked. She said the word houseboys with such indifference; as though she was used to saying it. This made Nnamdi uncomfortable.
“Yes we are–”
“Do you know what happened to the last help she had?” Chinko asked them.
“What happened to him or her?”
Both boys were suddenly curious, edging closer to the girl as if doing so would help them better understand the big reveal.
“She was a good girl” Chinko said. “Very hardworking too. But to mama, she was not good enough. Mama constantly accused Nma of stealing from her. By the way, every servant in this household is always accused of stealing. I just think you should know that!”
Nnamdi felt the urge to ask Chinko whether she too was a servant. But he restrained himself because somehow he could tell that she was. So he asked to know what exactly happened to Nma instead.
“Nma never liked this place” Chinko continued. “She told me that her mother forced her to come here because mama had promised to always send the woman money at the end of every month. Apparently, Nma’s mother had no idea the hell her daughter was about to go through. It was so bad that on several occasions the girl tried to run away. And then all of a sudden she became pregnant!”
Chinko paused at this point as though to let the full implication of what she had just said to fully sink in. She had a dramatic tone to her voice and a uniqueness to her persona which was so captivating. Perhaps it was her mixed race that generally made her features so striking and hard to ignore. She was so exotic that many of the men who watched her in the streets as she went about her daily activities would go home and masturbate at night while thinking about her. Indeed she was captivating, and the twins were enthralled by the story she was telling them.
“Who got Nma pregnant?” Nnamdi asked.
“For a while she refused to tell anyone. Actually, she tried so hard to hide the pregnancy. But mama was quick to notice the signs and so pressurised her to reveal who was responsible. But Nma wouldn’t, even as mama beat and starved her for days. At this point, all Nma wanted was to return home to her mother…”
At this point, Chinko paused yet again, her eyes furrowed as though in angered frustration as she recollected Nma’s ordeal.
“Mama eventually forced Nma to abort the pregnancy!” Chinko said. “It was after this that she sent her back to Igbere. But before she left, she told me that it was mama’s second son who repeatedly raped and impregnated her!”
“That’s horrible” Nnamdi muttered.
“It is horrible” Chukwu agreed. And then Chinko warned them-
“Do not tell anyone about this. I’ve never told anyone about this… I have to go now.”
“But wait…you didn’t tell us your name” Nnamdi pointed out to the girl who was already headed towards the door.
“My name is Chinko” she said and then finally hurried away before the boys could ask her anymore questions.
“Her name is Chinko?” Chukwu said almost to himself. “What kind of name is that?”
“Well she does look Chinkoish; doesn’t she?” Nnamdi replied as they both left the place even as he couldn’t help but think about why the girl had such an unusual name…
Chinko was a fifteen year old girl whom troubles had trailed even before she was born. Her challenges in life began when her village beauty mother became betrothed to a man who was based in the city. The marriage was a fanfare, because not only was Chinko’s mother a village celebrity due to her unrivalled beauty among the maidens, she was also from a relatively well known family background. After the marital rites, the young maiden was brought to Lagos where she began living with her husband. But it wasn’t long afterwards before she was carried away the exciting lifestyle she saw in the city. She liked it when other men began to notice her beauty as she walked in the streets, and then she encouraged the sexual advances that ensued. Soon afterwards, she was sneaking around with the different men that flirted with her. She did this even though it greatly unsettled her neighbours, friends and relatives of the man who married her. Rumour spread like wild fire about her infidelity. But her husband loved her too much to listen to what the people were saying.
Before long she was pregnant. And while people were happy for her, they were also concerned; for they knew of her adulterous ways just as much as they knew of her husband’s constant absence from home. And truth be told, it wasn’t indeed her husband who was responsible for the pregnancy. Instead, it was a Chinese-American business man who had once been in Lagos for work and needed a muse. The married woman was the muse he had for the days he was in Lagos. And it was barely a few weeks afterwards that the woman realised she was pregnant. Nine months later, she gave birth to a baby girl. But the baby looked nothing like the typical African baby. It was at this point that her infidelity became obvious, for her baby had striking Asian features.
The baby and her mother instantly became social outcasts.The disgraced and embittered husband sent his wife away along with her baby. And upon returning to the village, the woman and her Chinko baby were rejected as well. For many years afterwards, the woman remained shunned by her immediate family members who were angry that she brought shame and dishonour to them. As for the baby, the villagers simply called her Chinko; a name which stock after many years and which the teen would later embrace just so nobody would bully her with it…
(Culled from Emmanuel Abara Benson’s forthcoming novel “SHAME & FORLORN GAZE”)
The worst set of people are those whom the world perceive as angels whereas they are demons actually. These people pretend to be very nice, and watching them from afar you’d be convinced that they wouldn’t hurt a fly. Unfortunately, these wicked ones are anything else but evil. They only surround themselves with hopeless people, desperados who are easily controlled and too gullible and hopeless to be able to speak up against oppression.
Be careful of that man or woman who you look up to as “mentor” because s/he could be evil. You’d be enslaved by them by the time you get closer!
Unfortunately, there are many of such wicked people in Nigeria. They are what I like to call “money miss road” because they do have some #change and influence, but choose to use their privileged positions to oppress those under them all while pretending to be angels to the rest of us. Be weary of them!!
These set of people are hypocritical as well. They openly criticise public servants, talking about how they are bad leaders and all other arrant nonsense. Sadly, gullible people fall for their bull crap and idolise them. But guess what, they (the pretentious critics) aren’t any better when it comes to leadership. If given the opportunity, they would do worse than the politicians. As a matter of fact, these wicked and hypocritical so called “advocates” treat those in their inner circles like sub humans. How can you dare to talk about good leadership when you treat those directly under you like animals?
It’s time to beware of these so called advocates who are nothing but evil; going right against everything they preach. And here is the truth- I am sorry for anybody who idolise those touting themselves as saviours of Nigeria whereas they are the true causes of the problems bedeviling the country…
~Emmanuel Abara Benson
I may not have been a good wife to my ex husband, and for all I know I may not have been a good mother either. But one thing I do know for sure is that marrying Imo was the greatest mistake of my life. He was bad for me in every aspect, and I knew it from the beginning. Unfortunately, I was not in the right position to make my life’s decisions at the point when I married him. Consequently, for many years I suffered under him. It was altogether a horrible experience, one which will undoubtedly torment me for the rest of my life. But I am happy that I was able to find the courage to get away from him eventually, even though it wasn’t an easy thing to do.
My life was almost ruined following my decision to leave Imo. I instantly became known as the evil prostitute who abandoned her husband and her children. I heard all the rumour and it was hard to take in. But in spite of what the people said, nobody ever really knew the truth except those of us who were involved. I am for instance a far better parent than Imo could ever be to our children. Even the children themselves knew this very well, which was why they kept coming to me. But I kept them distant from me although it was a very selfish thing to do no doubt. I however had to do that in order me to first of all ensure my sanity and also restart the course of my life the way I always desired for it to be…
Truth is I was once a young girl with big dreams. But after I finished primary school at the age of fifteen, my first dream of going to secondary school was dashed; no thanks to my father who greatly disappointed me. He told me to forget about school and that I should marry instead as it was supposedly my responsibility as a girl to do so. Schools were for boys, he said. And he wouldn’t go against the tradition of his people by sending his daughter to school. That night we had this talk was one of the worst nights of my life. I cried my eyes out, and would not allow anybody (not even my mother) to console me. I just couldn’t understand why it was such a taboo for a girl to get educated but very normal for a boy to do same. Moreover, to think that I made a better first school leaving certificate than my brother did… I felt betrayed! I was saddened and could not make sense of the reason why I was going to reject an admission to study at Ovim Girl’s College, the best of such schools and only a few towns away from my village. The school was comprised of female students; young girls like me whose parents were brave enough to defy tradition them to school. I wondered why my father couldn’t be as brave…
I was full of questions that night, questions that I probably never would have dared to ask myself until that night. But I asked them anyway, wondering why I could not be given the opportunity to put my academic brilliance to good use just because I lacked a dick in-between my thighs. Moreover, the fact that my father could even consider it right to marry me off at the age of fifteen was disturbing to me. The idea of me being in a man’s house at that age and attending to his whims and caprices instead of being in school worried me. Said worry kept me awake through much of the night even as I sobbed uncontrollably, attracting my mother’s attention who then came to console me while promising to discuss the matter with my father the following day.
Unfortunately, my mother’s attempt to reason with my father only ended up getting him upset. He perceived my mother’s advice as a challenge to his position in the family, enraged that she could even as much as question his decision. He reminded my mother that he was the head of the family, not her. And then he had blamed her for not training me well; raising me up to aspire to take after men instead of to know my place as a woman. For several days after this altercation, my parents did not speak to each other. The situation at home got so tense such that I began to feel guilty. My mother had always been the obedient and dutiful wife, a woman who meticulously ensured to please her husband even if it meant her suffering. To think that she was then disputing with him for my sake made me sad. And this is why when she later came to advice me to give up education and consider marriage, I forgave her.
“You are my only daughter, Ngozi” she began as we rested from work one day at the farm. “You are the only daughter your father and I have. And trust me, we mean well for you. You may not believe it now, but getting married is indeed the best thing you can do for yourself.”
My mother was a gentle woman who always was concerned about the kind of impact she had on people; especially her family. As a matter of fact, she made a conscious effort all the time to never hurt anyone. One of the ways she did that was to find a way to let everyone have their way at all times. Consequently she felt very guilty that afternoon because she knew I would never have my way. I heard the guilt in her voice as she talked to me about the traditional principles I knew even she did not believe in. She told me about the stigma associated with girl child education in the village, and how no man would want to marry me later after I must have spent many years in school.
“Our people believe that sending a daughter to school is not just a waste of resources that would be used to train sons, but also a way of preparing said daughter for a promiscuous life in the future. Now you know that your father is prominent in this village; it would be a think of shame for him to have an educated daughter. Please I plead with you to understand…” I did not understand, and I most definitely did not agree with anything my mother said that afternoon. But I had to pretend like I understood just so she (my mother) could feel less guilty over the situation.
By the year 1978, my brother Nduka was done with secondary school. And then one day I overheard my father discussing with his friend about the plans he was making to send Nduka to the university at a distant place called Nnsuka. The mere idea of that happening filled me with jealousy even as I quickly remembered how I had been vehemently denied a secondary school education just because I was a girl. I began to wish I were a boy, even as I despised my womanhood. And with this anger and frustration came a deep-seated hatred for my father which I loved to love. But no matter how much I hated him and no matter how obvious I made my hatred for him, he refused to rescind his decision about my future. This made me grumpy for months. I hated everyone
Interestingly, I was unable to get married until I was twenty years old. In other words, I waited for five whole years after finishing primary school before I could marry. What was annoying about this is that this was the same five year period it would have taken me to acquire a secondary school education. But instead of getting married, I wasted it being a single village maiden whom none of the men could muster enough courage to propose to because they thought that I was too beautiful, intelligent and bold. Perhaps intentionally made it difficult for them all to dare approach me. This is because out of spite for my father, I had sworn to not marry anyone. Consequently, everyday as I walked to and fro the numerous farms we owned, I held my head up high, exuding pride and magnifying my beauty while subtly telling all the men to stay clear of me as they were out of my league. And so it happened that no man even had the courage to woo me until one December night when everything changed.
His name was Isaac, and he was the first suitor I ever had. The first thing about him that caught my attention was of course his handsomeness; the kind that no girl can ignore. And then I was carried away by the fact that he wasn’t resident in the village. Instead, he was a city boy who lived and worked in Enugu and was only in the village for the yuletide. He wooed me so romantically, and then made me feel comfortable with the idea of being wooed. It was all very exciting, right from the first night he approached me as I returned from the evening market with my girlfriends. What can I say; Isaac was perfect in every aspect, and I gave in easily to his overtures more than I thought it would have been possible. This was the December of 1979 and the best Christmas season I ever had. Unfortunately, it all soon came to an end because he had to return to Enugu. I was devastated when he left the village in the January of 1980. Even his promises to return to see me during Easter failed to serve as enough comfort.
I counted each day from January till March, waiting earnestly for Easter and wondering why Jesus Christ hadn’t been killed earlier. But while I waited to see Isaac again, I secretly corresponded with him. He was such a good writer, even though he often used difficult words which I found hard to comprehend. Nevertheless, I looked forward to his letters, said letters which I always managed to sneak into the house and hide under my mattress. And after reading those sweet things he wrote me, I would write my replies and send them through my friend Olanma who always helped me to post at the Post Office at Onu. Unlike me, Olanma was lucky enough to have been sent to the teachers’ training college where she qualified as a teacher and then taught at the Ibina Primary School…
Meanwhile, as Easter finally came, Isaac returned to the village to see me just as he had promised. I was very excited to see him just as he was to see me. And then I was convinced that he looked even more handsome than he did the last time he was around. He came bearing many gifts; clothes and some tasty brown stuff which he told me were called chocolates. And every day throughout the time he was around we found a way to meet up and talk at length. On one of such days (which was a sunny Sunday afternoon), Isaac followed me to the stream where he helped me wash some dirty clothes while telling me stories about Enugu. He told me about the trains that always passed through Enugu while heading to a place called Kafanchan in the north, and then even told me about the university where my brother was studying at. I wished I could just vanish and appear in those places he was mentioning in his stories. And at that instant, it was as though Isaac read my mind. And that was when he surprised me, whipping out a small black box which contained an inexpensive ring. With that in view, he went on bended knee and proposed to me, much to my utter shock and excitement…
(SHAME AND FORLORN GAZE IS A WORK OF FICTION WHICH WILL SOON BE AVAILABLE FOR SALES ON AMAZON
“I don’t believe it!”
That was what Mazi said as he stared in utter bewilderment, unable to believe the sight of his wife naked and in bed with another man in a cheap hotel room. For a while, the rumour mongers tried abortively to warn him about his wife’s cheating ways. They told him about the nights different voices of men were heard coming from his room; voices of men who moaned and cried as they fucked his wife and then ejaculated. But the man disbelieved the rumours. He trusted his wife too much, reason why he could leave her alone at home while he traveled the length and breath of Nigeria; merchandising. However, one thing that was unknown to him was that his wife was indeed getting some pleasure in his absence. You see, he was a man with a peculiar sexual weakness! Therefore, his woman longed for those days he was away so she could have her lover over to please her in all the right ways…
Meanwhile, as the she soon learned about the rumours which have spread about her infidelity, Mrs Mazi devised a new and convenient way to get it with her lover- she began lodging in hotels. This worked for a while until the nosey people (who wouldn’t let her be great) became aware of her new arrangement. So they found out about the hotel she usually lodged in and then relayed the information to her husband who once again disbelieved them. But the rumour mongers were relentless. They ensured to always relay every bit of Mrs Mazi’s “sexcapades” to her husband; albeit very salaciously. Unfortunately for them, he disbelieved them everytime. But a time came when the man began to pay attention to the rumours about his wife even though he didn’t still believe it. He told his “reporters” that seeing would be believing.
Consequently, the rumour mongers plotted to set Mrs Mazi up for fail by giving her husband details about the day and time she usually met up with her lover at the hotel. To catch with them, the man pretended as though he was embarking on one of his journeys. But of course he hung around in town. And on that faithful day, he barged into the hotel and very easily got information about the room his wife was lodging in. It was as he broke into the room and caught the lovers red-handed that he began saying “I don’t believe it”…
Before long, a small crowd had gathered to watch as the drama unfolded. And while they busied themselves cursing at the woman and her lover as well as taking pictures of them, Mr Mazi was unfortunately losing hold of his faculties. He was beyond shocked by what he had seen. And he would never be the same again.
So to him, seeing was not believing after all.
[THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION]
~Emmanuel Abara Benson
Oftentimes, I’m scared to collect my balance after carrying out transactions. And this is because it’s either that the balance I’m getting is comprised of dirty, torn notes or I’m getting the wet and smelly ones. Can you imagine the disgust; you pay a bus conductor with the finest naira note and he gives you smelly one[s] in return in the name of balance! What effrontery?!
That’s how the other day after I’d gone to the ATM machine and withdrawn the freshest five hundred naira notes (too fresh so much so I was jealous of even spending it), I gave one of them to the bus conductor only for him to give me smelly N300 in return. Trust me, I refused to collect it…
Seriously, why do we like money so much yet we cannot afford it some respect? Instead, we squeeze it, crumple it and make it wet and smelly; why? Some even write and draw on valuable naira notes… Can you imagine such utter disrespect?! Unfortunately, after they have finished tearing it and patching it up with gum they would still want to spend it and get more money. Please tell me how money will like to belong to those who mishandle it!
Let me not even get started on those people who like to hide money in their private areas. I mean… how can someone even think to bring their most precious organs in contact with money which is typically very dirty and bacteria-ladden? The unfortunate thing is that in the process of hiding money in their privates, they inevitably contribute to its dirtiness. And after that someone would give it to me? Disgust!
It’s important that we learn to handle money with care. No one who owns real diamonds or gold would ever mishandle them, yeah? That’s because those are very precious things to possess. Well newsflash- money is equally precious! So handle it with care please.