Nigeria continued to happen. Citizens continued to bemoan the hardship brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. There was nationwide paranoia over the soveriegnty clause in the attractive Chinese loans the government continued to collect. Pastors and their umbrella bodies the Christian Association of Nigeria and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria were spitting fire over the CAMA law that sought to cast government eyes over the affairs of religious bodies. The killings in Southern Kaduna had angered the citizens to the point that the Kaduna Governor would not be allowed to speak in the Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association which he was originally invited to. There was uproar as word filtered in of the wanton killings of Nigerians in Cyprus. It was election time in Edo and Governor Obaseki was paying salaries and pensions even before the month ended. Fifty-two thousand cases of coronavirus were confirmed nationwide including the energetic Lagos health commissioner from which the death toll had just crossed a thousand.
“For those who believe this is politics, there is no better story in this whole narrative than Prof Akin Abayomi being infected with the coronavirus. The man has been as visible as the chairman of the PTF. How best can you convince a citizenry that what you have been preaching is true than by showing your own wounds?” Josiah said.
“Are you saying he does not have it?”
“Not so. It is just too sweet a story that’s all.”
“He is asymptomatic.”
“Which makes it sound even better.”
“Na you sabi Josiah.”
“Let’s just wish him a speedy recovery.”
“See how una pastors wan die because government don chook eye for their matter? You think Baba is happy that after 2023 he has to be paying for his own flights meanwhile some smooth talkers in suits will continue to fly around the world in jets bought with tax-free money?”
“But why is it that it is the jets these pastors fly that pains people the most? They also drive RolceRoyces which are equally expensive!”
“Let me answer that,” Ndifreke said. “Apart from the fact that the price of a Rolce Royce cannot even overhaul a jet engine and will at most pay the salaries of two pilots a year, pilot salaries, air plane insurance, fuel costs, state and airport duties, landing fees, annual and regular maintenance charges of the aircraft like engine overhauls, oil changes, electric and other supply costs which gulp millions of dollars is the main cost of owning a jet, not even the cost of acquiring one. If you are a church you will need a whole department to take care of this expensive toy. Only truly fabulously wealthy people own jets and so it puts it in perspective for those in the know just how rich these church owners are. Tax-free. Oyedepo I hear has four.”
“Abeg government should not be intimidated. Did you see that pastor that said he will fast for one thousand days and destroy anyone who tries to come and superetend over his church? Is that not witchcraft Mr Cosmas?”
“Well, let your communication be yea or nay, for whatever is more than this cometh of evil.”
“That reminds me of Femi Fani Kayode. See as the man vex for simple question. Meanwhile, he has the vilest tongue of all. We know for example that Oshiomole is not very handsome but Fani-Kayode took it to another level by saying that he was a product of a gorilla and a baboon. All because of politics o! But ordinary small question the man para!”
“Hypocrite with British accent.”
“They said he was nacking Bianca Ojukwu while they were students in London.”
“Na dem sabi. You don learn Chinese national anthem? Because I hear say dem dey come take over Nigeria because of loan wey we collect.”
“They will now make it compulsory for us to eat frog and cockroaches.”
“Whatever they do to us will not be worse than what we are suffering now. At least they will bring technology. Maybe they will finally stop taking light.”
“They said the sovereignty clause simply means they can take us to court without us claiming we are a sovereign nation. It does not mean they are coming to take over.”
“And then when we get to the court they will tell them to come to Nigeria and take whatever they want and they will take Aso Rock!”
“I have said I will not complain. China is better than ndi hausa!”
“Don’t be tribalistic.”
“Nigeria was Lord Lugard’s greatest mistake. Everybody knows that. Even Tinubu in 1997 said he did not believe in one Nigeria. Don’t let his present disposition fool you.”
“He wants to be President in 2023.”
“El Rufai too. And when a Bishop told him he will never become president for demolishing his church he got the man arrested and arraigned in court for criminal defamation.”
“I have always said short men should be avoided. Dem too dey vex.”
“Can we just for a moment salute Bayern Munich for winning the Champions League. They demolished Barcelona along the way such that they have sacked everybody at the club and Messi wants to join Man City.”
“Great footballing lesson Bayern gave the rest of Europe. I’ll like to see them on current form square up against Liverpool.”
“That would be something. Even Chelsea will not be pushovers anymore. Have you seen all those signings? Must be illegal in this corona economy.”
“They kept all the money they sold players in the last two years including big-money sales for Hazard and Morata. When they didn’t buy anyone in January, I’m sure the board would have told Lampard – get us top four and see us plunder the transfer market for you. Frank is the luckiest man alive now.”
“He earned it. Most people don’t know how average the squad he finished fourth with was. Plus a goalkeeper that could not save anything!”
“Watch out for Arsenal too. They are silently rebuilding and Arteta is a tactician to watch. They have laid down a marker already beating Liverpool in the community shield. They are no longer a timid team.”
“Abeg what of Man U?”
“They don’t need signings. They already have VAR.”
“Friends, let’s spare a thought for Chadwick Boseman of Black Panther. I know that most of you watched pirated copies of the movie but we still enjoyed his immense talent. He battled cancer for four years and was filming through periods of painful treatment.”
“The guy try o. That na real passion! Some people, ordinary headache or boil for nose dem no go go work for one week. Oga Josiah no go open shop.”
Before all of that conversation though, Ndifreke had woken up worried and was only going through the motions at the office that morning. Mr Kingsley had failed to look at Sister Esther’s face when she packed a bag and left the compound for Ilasa so that he could “self-isolate” on suspicion of having contracted the coronavirus. Chisco woke up determined to regain his manhood. Iniquity was hungry for trouble. Maya was adjusting to life back at where it all started amidst whispers about her new entanglement. 225 Katakata was on tenterhooks as always.
Ndifreke let Irikefe and Castro see all the aspiring models that day. He agreed with everything they decided which was a rejection for everyone they auditioned. It could have been that the boys expected the models to show up looking like Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell on the runway. It was something he needed to fix immediately. But nothing interested Ndifreke that morning. At noon when he always took a break he told the boys not to worry about him if he did not return for the day and went to his room. Once inside, he sent a WhatsApp message to Clementina.
“Can you come and see me now?”
He sat in the parlour and offered her a seat opposite him and left the door open. Clementina closed the door behind her when she entered.
“Please leave the door open Tina. You know how our neighbours are.”
“Let them think whatever they want.”
“No. We can’t afford that.”
“What are you scared of bro Ndi?”
“They always gossip in this compound.”
“I know, but some gossip are more damaging than others.”
“Is it that you don’t trust yourself?”
“Then you shouldn’t worry if you won’t do anything with me. Do you like my dress?”
It was one Maya had handed down to her. It was a dress Ndifreke liked. A knee-length ankara gown that flattered the figure and exposed thighs when seated. Clementina now had bigger breasts and hips than Maya therefore the dress was even more impactful on her when viewed from that perspective.
“It’s a lovely dress,” Ndifreke said. He made sure he was only looking her in the eyes.
Clementina sighed and said “You are a good man bro Ndi. You are nothing like Jonjo.”
“Thank you. Please tell me about him. Tell me everything.”
“It didn’t work out.”
“Well, that’s obvious.”
“He always abused her. He called her wretched. He told her to be grateful to him for changing her life. He made her feel small.
“He had other lovers and did not hide it. If she complained, he sent her money. If she complained more, he sent her even more money. He told her to stop pretending she was with him for anything other than money. He’d say “take the cash and shut your trap.”
“When did it all start? I mean the abuse? Because I know it wasn’t always so.”
“He came to see that my sis did not love him and wanted someone else. So at every opportunity, he made her see that that someone did not want her as much as she did. He tormented her with it.”
“Was that someone me?”
“Yes. He told her always that if you wanted her you would fight for her. He told her you were weak and confused.”
“But I once attacked him over her!”
“Once. If you love someone you persist. He mocked her over your relationship with the woman down the road. You know they knew each other?”
“Yes I know.”
“Sis kept defending you but it didn’t help that you did not reach out.”
Ndifreke stood up and went to the window. “You won’t understand Tina. You are only a child.”
“Since you won’t stop saying that, I should let you know that I have had three boyfriends and I have kissed a girl and I have done anal.”
“And it was Mr Jonjo that took my virginity.”
“No way!” Ndifreke said and staggered back to his seat.
“I came to talk to you and you are here making me feel stupid. Now that I have your attention, will you listen to me?”
“Jonjo touched you?”
“Does Maya know?”
“And you both continued to stay there?”
“We have left now.”
“When did this happen?”
“A week after we moved in.”
“Good Lord! Didn’t you report him?”
“He raped you!”
“You did not know what you were doing!”
“Of course I did.”
“You couldn’t give consent!”
“What consent? He was our god. He could do whatever he wanted with us.”
“He raped you for goodness sake and you should report him.”
“I already said I was okay with it.”
“You are a minor. When you have sex with a minor it is called statutory rape. That’s the law.”
“When your father is in prison for raping your sister and your mother dies in witchcraft and you have big breasts, no matter your age, you are no longer a minor.”
Ndifreke’s mouth hung open.
“So as I was saying, he always mocked my sister that she was only beauty without substance. That if she had substance you would have come fighting for her instead you found yourself an older woman. When she called me to tell me she was coming here during the lockdown I was happy. I thought you two were going to make up.”
“We could have. Jonjo came and took her away.”
“When he brought her home he raped her. She was calling out your name for you to come to her rescue.”
“How on earth was that going to be possible?”
“If only you had called or even texted her.”
“Don’t explain. I understand.”
“What do you understand?”
“Your pride was hurt, your girlfriend slept with another man. You are not Will Smith.”
Ndifreke again tried to speak but the words did not come out.
“Unfortunately, Sis ended up believing him.”
“That you do not want her enough.”
Ndifreke sighed and said “I don’t know what book you two are reading but Maya wronged me. I had the right to move on. It so happened that I could not forget her. Now I see that she needs help. You both need help.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are both damaged. I’m happy you came back here. Thanks for coming to see me Tina.”
“Are you saying I should leave?”
Clementina shrugged and said, “I always wished it were you not Jonjo.”
“I wished Maya was loyal.”
“I don’t mean that.”
“Whatever you may mean Tina, two wrongs don’t make a right. Jonjo should pay for what he did to you.”
“Stop it bro Ndi.”
“You are still a child. Biology may make it look otherwise but it is what it is. You should be more interested in getting good grades and entering the university and from then you can do whatever you want. We cannot always blame poverty. You have been lucky. You could be saddled with a baby or an STD or something you are not yet equipped to handle. Maybe then you’d understand that it is not just about looking like an adult. Something Jonjo should know.”
“Are you serious right now bro Ndi?”
“I’ll talk to you again Tina. I need to make a call now.”
“Alright,” Clementina said.
Ndifreke looked away as she stood up and adjusted her gown down and shuffled out of the room. He shook his head and reached for his phone and dialled Elizabeth’s number.
“Surprise surprise. To what do I owe this?” She said.
“I’m coming to see you. We need to talk.”
Elizabeth opened the door and let him in. He really looked troubled.
“Okay I need to warn you in advance that I don’t do toxic relationships. When it ends it ends. Don’t go back and find out that your girlfriend is too far gone to keep having sex and then decide to come back to me. I’m too old for that nonsense.”
“Keep quiet Lizzy. This is important.”
Her sons were playing in the living room. She shooed them away when she saw that Ndifreke was not playing. She was wearing a pair of joggers and a tshirt. She folded herself into a sofa and hugged a throw pillow.
“Jonjo raped Maya’s little sister.”
“She just told me now. I’m royally pissed. He will pay.”
“That’s terrible. Is she alright?”
“That’s the problem Lizzy. He took advantage of her and she believes she deserved it.”
“Why would Jonjo do that? He could get whatever woman he wants.”
“He’s a psychopath that’s why. I want to take it up.”
“Go to the police. Call him out on social media. Whatever needs to be done!”
“Can you prove it?”
“She told me herself.”
“I said can you prove that it happened?”
“Would she even be willing to testify?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. But then she is only a child. We can help her. We should.”
“You say she believes she deserves it. You seem to be crying more than the bereaved.”
“Come on Lizzy. The girl is naïve. She thinks she is alright but she isn’t. He has destroyed her. She has become sexually active and believes in the most stupid things now. It all stems from a grown man acting irresponsibly, and introducing a child to a world she is not ready for and now she is at risk of being subsumed into further decadence and destruction.”
Lizzy stood up and went over to where Ndifreke sat and felt his forehead with the back of her palm.
“What’s the meaning of that?” he said.
“I wanted to be sure you are feeling fine.”
“Don’t be ridiculous Lizzy.”
“It’s nice to see you have been trying to save the world. I honestly thought you went back with Maya already or trying again to seduce the nurse you have kept in reserve. I don’t trust you Calabar boys.”
“I am being serious Lizzy. I came to you because you know Jonjo and should know how to handle this.”
“Because you have been a good boy I will take you back. I just finished my period.”
Ndifreke stood up and said, “I’m leaving.”
“No, you’re not!” Elizabeth said and squared up to him.
“Now I don’t know which world you live in but allow me to tell you a few home truths. You live in a society where no one really gives a fuck! For heaven’s sake where were you when D’banj, Uti, even Fatoyinbo and a host of others were accused of rape publicly? I’m talking about accusations with substance where the accusers even cried for the cameras? Apart from the fact that the thing is so hard to prove, you are talking about a teenager who is happy to brag about having sucked a celebrity dick and you are here taking panadol for her headache. Maybe in ten years time when life has broken her enough, she might come up with it on her own for her fifteen minutes of fame, but right now you have nothing to run with. You will only further destroy her by giving her exposure she is also not equipped to handle. Nothing will come out of this so beat it, man!”
“Are you really saying this? A woman?”
“Bro, we all won’t admit it, but there is hardly a sexually active African woman who has not been raped or continues to suffer rape is some form on a daily basis. Our society is too patriarchal for it to be any other way. For now. We are doing well with the ongoing campaigns and in fairness, boys are beginning to understand what NO means. There is still a long way to go. We need legislation and the kind of support systems that will protect victims when they come out. And we also need to educate our boys and girls on how to live so as not to be victims. Don’t let anyone fool you. Rape sometimes can be avoided.”
“How could Clementina have avoided this now, tell me. She was living with her sister and her sister’s boyfriend whom she trusts comes and takes advantage of her!”
“I said SOMETIMES. Men really should do better and be on their guard at all times as well. The Jonjo I know wouldn’t do this unless…”
“Describe the girl.”
“Don’t give me that Lizzy. That she has ass and boobs shouldn’t make you forget she is still a child.”
“This is what I want you to do. Stay away from that girl. You said she came to talk to you right?”
“And she calls you what?”
“She calls me brother.”
“You are not her brother. Never forget that. If she keeps coming and she is already sexually active, you will one day have a bad day.”
“No I won’t.”
“An erect penis has no conscience. It’s as old as the ten commandments. Just don’t forget that.”
“So we let Jonjo go scot-free?”
“Forget about it. Send the girl to me. I should be able to straighten her out. That is not your job. If you want to change the world get serious with your business. Get rid of those morons you put there for a start. A word is enough…”
“See, you even call me her name.”
“I missed you you fool.”
“I missed you too Lizzy.”
“So what are we waiting for?”
TO BE CONTINUED.