Mr Cosmas, Mr Kingsley and Jide accosted the strangers with the police officer.
“Gentlemen and ladies please how may we help you?”
“We got a distress call that two men were carrying out a sexual assault on a young lady in this compound. The children pointed to this door for us.
“Did you say two men?”
Mr Kingsley and Mr Cosmas exchanged looks.
“Open that door and let me get out of here!” the band outside could hear a female voice saying.
The police officer produced his baton and began to club the door.
“There is no need for that officer. He will open the door,” Mr Cosmas said. “Please step aside and let me talk to him.”
“Efe you need to open the door now. The police are here. We are all here. There is no point.
“Police? How? I don become hostage-taker like this? Castro! See wetin you cause?”
“You people should go away. We are adults exercising our fundamental human rights!” Castro said.
“You will exercise fundamental human rights on your mother!” One of the girls that brought the police said.
“Which kind thing be this ehn? Castro! I swear if I escape this one your papa and mama no go recognize you again!”
“Open the door Efe,” Mr Cosmas said again.
Irikefe looked at Castro and then at Bunmi with eyes as soft as butter before unbolting the door.
Bunmi dashed to the side of the police officer. He shunted her to one side and hit Irikefe on the head with his baton. He cowered with both hands on his head and began to plead.
“Officer we did not touch her. We did not do anything to her. We were only holding a conversation.”
“Conversation? No more fundamental human rights?”
“It is this idiot that said so but he did not know what he was saying.”
The officer slapped Castro across the face and he yelped like a puppy caught stealing baby food.
“You will both come to the station with me.”
“Officer, can we settle this another way? From the look of things the boys did not do anything to her,” Jide said.
“They did not do anything because we came on time. The intention was clear. Oya move it!”
“Again officer, no crime was committed. I’m a lawyer,” Jide said.
“Beyond that officer”, Mr Cosmas said, “They are our children. Allow us to deal with this. We are happy the young lady was not harmed.”
“How about the trauma they have caused her?” The girl that spoke before said. “How will you feel if you left your house with the hope of going for a job only to be locked in a room by two, not one man, but two wanting to sleep with you? If this girl goes back home and refuses to go and find work tomorrow it is still you men that will say she is lazy and call her a prostitute. But you people also make it impossible for women to make an honest living.”
“We did not want to rape her. We just said scratch our back and we scratch your own,” Castro offered.
“If you say one more word Castro I swear I go kill you!” Irikefe cried.
“How can small boys like you be reasoning like this? What has our society turned into? Who even employed you in the first place? How is that even possible?”
“I did,” Ndifreke said emerging from the crowd. “And it was the biggest mistake of my life.”
“Save it!” The girl said. “There is no way they would have the guts to attempt a thing like this if they did not know they were working for a useless employer. How did you hire them?”
“You will never understand. But as of this moment, they both cease to work for me. They should face the consequences of their actions,” Ndifreke said and walked away.
“Oya move!” The officer said and strapped his baton around his waist and grabbed the two boys by their belts.
“Again, officer. It really hasn’t come to this,” Mr Cosmas pleaded again.
“Let them go sir.” It was Bunmi. Everyone stopped to look at her. “Please let them go. I am the victim. I forgive them.”
“But you cannot! I saw your post, left the office, went to make a report, and came here. You won’t waste my time like that.”
“I understand. Thank you for your swift response and help. But I also have to be honest and say that I doubt that they would have forced me. They are confused and they have now lost their jobs. I have caused enough harm already.”
“No, you can’t blame yourself, sweetheart.” The second girl with the police said for the first time. They got what they deserved. No way will you take responsibility for their irresponsible behavior.”
Mr Cosmas and Jide took the police officer to one side and continued to talk to him.
“Meanwhile I’m Jane. I was once raped in the course of finding work so I don’t waste time when I hear a distress call like yours.”
“I’m Gbemi. Smart use of Twitter there. I’m part of the feminist coalition. You must have heard about us.”
The three young women shook hands and continued to talk.
Ndifreke walked to the office and saw that the boys had locked up as though they had closed for the day. He looked up to the sky and shook his head. Of all the things he thought could go wrong, this was not one he considered. He turned back to where the drama was happening and saw that the group had broken into three. Bunmi and her two rescuers talking by themselves, Jide and Mr Cosmas, who appeared to be making progress trying to convince the police officer not to make an arrest, then the rest of the compound speculating on what the next piece of action would be. Then he felt a pair of eyes burning into his head, looked upstairs, and saw Maya standing on the balcony. It was the first time since her return that she maintained eye contact with him for more than one second. Then she broke the eye contact and went back into her room. Ndifreke did not want to think about her. She had made her choice and he was happy with it. She could have been thinking that he would not be able to live without her but he could. He was proving that. Things were happening in his life and he was surmounting difficulties and embracing wins without her. The world did not revolve around Maya. True she was the most beautiful woman he knew but there were seven billion others out there. True they had what was a special bond but all of that was in the past. True they had made two babies but so had many other couples around the world. He did not need her. She needed to stop looking at him. He was a strong man. A king who did not need any woman, much less one that would rob him of his peace.
When Bunmi came to apologize for causing trouble and saying she would return the following day, Ndifreke only nodded in acknowledgment and continued his rumination. When Jide came to him to tell him that they finally persuaded the police officer not to arrest his boys he acknowledged with a cursory handshake. Maya just needed to face her life. He was facing his. His life was beautiful now without her. More than at any time in his existence in fact. Then he thought that it had been a long time since he had been upstairs. It was always nice to stand on the balcony to view the goings-on at Katakata Street. Even though he did not live upstairs, he had the right to be wherever he wanted to be in that compound. So he walked past Irikefe and Castro who stood at the corner of the building like a pair of rain-beaten chickens and continued through the corridor and up the stairs. He was determined not to glance at Maya’s door as he walked through the corridor to the balcony.
He stood there and looked down the street. It was a normal day. Men, women and children moved about in all directions. There were cars, trucks, okada, and keke struggling through the decrepit road. Hawkers called out loudly to advertise their wares as they passed each building and children echoed them in most cases. It was all so beautiful. He didn’t care if Maya was close by. He was just enjoying the beauty of the day. His heart skipped a beat when he heard a door squeak open and heard a voice say “Ndi.”
No one should call his name. No one should just call his name. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears. No one should just call his name.
Other members of the council of elders apart from Ndifreke joined Jide and Mr Kingsley and Mr Cosmas outside. Mr Zubi spoke up.
“I have already spoken to Alhaji Sirika and he has said that Irikefe would not continue as the caretaker. He has brought the compound to further disrepute and Alhaji has said that he wants him to occupy only one of the two rooms he shared with his dad. The second room is now up to let.”
“And what are you going to do to your son?”
“He will start learning a trade immediately. He has too much time on his hands. If he does not choose one I will choose for him.”
“Good. How will small children be plotting to peel their carrots this hot afternoon when we have not recovered from the shock in Owo. You people think that Lagos is far from Ondo?”
“Indeed the shooting was shocking. I have to agree with you, Josiah. But look around you, people are already forgetting, and like you rightly said, some only have fornication on their minds.”
“They say over one hundred people were killed!”
“The figures are unconfirmed but yes it was gruesome. Seeing children amongst the dead is most heartwrenching.”
“But Cosmas, how can God allow this type of thing to happen? In His own house!”
“Human beings have free will. God does not have anything to do with it.”
“But the killings are bad! And He is all-powerful and knows all. Why can’t he stretch out his hands and make those monsters turn to stone?”
“Because by doing so he would be going against His laws. That is what men would do. He is not a man. However, retributive justice will surely catch up with the perpetrators. It is a law woven into the fabric of the universe which is the reason God does not need any dramatic intervention when things happen. The law is inexorable. People who do not understand this take it as a reason to blaspheme. They ask foolishly, “why would God allow this to happen? Others will point at the event and the apparent inaction of God and conclude that there is no God. But He is there and has already taken care of everything by these laws.”
“Can we also say it was karma for those that were killed?’
“You said it yourself.”
“Mba Cosmas. Please make me understand.”
“Human beings find death very painful and indeed it is because life is precious. But there are no coincidences in nature. Have you heard the stories of some survivors? People who have never missed church for a day for some funny reason did not go that day. People standing in the line of fire and people beside them are hit by bullets and they are unscathed. People hiding in the open and not seen by the gunmen who were looking directly at them. When it is not your time, it is not your time. And if it is, events will conspire to have you in that vicinity that day even if you have to travel there from the other side of the world. There are such examples. Nothing however excuses this evil. The perpetrators will pay either in this life or in another. But you do not need to live in fear or refuse to attend a church so that you will not get shot. It will not happen to you if it shouldn’t. But you must still be cautious where you go and whom you interact with at all times. Listen to your intuition and do not be like the fly that followed the dead body into the grave.”
“Hmm okay. It means if I wake up in the morning and I don’t feel like going to church I will not go. Nobody should come and disturb me about it.”
“No. It means that all things work together for good. If you wake up and you find that you have a flat tire or the dress you were going to wear has an oil stain or been burnt by the electric iron or you feel too sick to go out or you have an unexpected visitor even if an annoying one, whatever happens to you unplanned you should welcome and never complain. Daily we have escaped many misfortunes like that without even knowing. That is why complaining is the most foolish thing people do. If possible, avoid people who complain all the time.”
“Josiah you don hear? Small thing you will yap from morning till night.”
“Mr Cosmas this one is hard. How can one not complain? Okay look at what APC is doing now. How can smart young people be stepping down for a man who cannot even hold a piece of paper? His hands were shaking like dry leaves in harmattan. Is he not too old? Right after Buhari? Is this not going from frying pan to fire?”
“It is just his hands that were shaking. Don’t read too much into it. He is the Jagaban!”
“As his hands are shaking so will his brain be shaking.”
“Young vibrant men like Dimeji Bankole after giving a brilliant speech came back to step down. We expected a thing like that from people like Akpabio who are taking refuge in APC to avoid the long hands of the law, but for some of the others…shame!”
“The VP was very brave. Spoke very well.”
“It takes more than bravery and eloquence. When people like Amosun and Fayemi who have won elections before and knew the game more than he decided to step down, he should have also done the same. We would have called it politics knowing his antecedent. As it has turned out, he has been humiliated and will now go into political limbo.”
“Buit wait o, Pastor Tunde Bakare told his congregation that God anointed him the 16th President of Nigeria. Now that he did not even get one vote, does it mean that God lied?’
“I’m sure everyone can answer that question for themselves,” Mr Cosmas said. “You shall not use the name of the Lord your God in vain. If only people knew the weight of karma this brings them, they will bow and tremble and would never ever speak the G word again.”
“So it’s Tinubu vs Atiku.”
“There is Peter Obi.”
“And a few others when the chips are down.”
“May God help us.”
Chisco did not stop running until he got to the car park of the hospital. Achike caught up with him and gathered him by the collar.
“What is wrong with you?”
“She don wake.”
“Why would that make you to run like a thief?”
“She dey talk with that winch voice. No be she dey dia.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I hear am. I hear Mama Akunna voice.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes brother. I no fit lie with that kind thing.”
At that, Achike released his grip on Chisco. Achike knew his brother. Chisco was not one to play in that manner. He was clearly shaken and the witch had already made her presence felt in the compound.
“So that means they will discharge her and she will come back to my house?”
“Brother, you see why I run?’
Achike looked around him. The car park was busy. People kept coming and going. An ambulance pulled up, paramedics wheeled out a patient on a stretcher, and they hurried towards the emergency ward. A woman followed behind wailing at the top of her voice. Achike turned his attention back to his brother.
“Did anybody see her awake?” Achike said.
“Brother I no wait to know.”
“What of the nurse that was with you?”
“I no know”
“Ogbu we have to go back there.”
“You and who?”
“Me and you.”
“To go do wetin?”
“Ogbu can’t you see? Since I was born, nothing good has happened to me. I have no money. I have no properties. My mates are big industrialists. Then one day God blessed me with a beautiful wife and a son, and then what happens? A dead witch that refuses to stay dead decides to come back to life. It has been clear for a long time that the Togo woman was dead. If they had allowed us to go and bury her, what has happened now would not have happened. Now a witch no less than Mama Akunna has taken over. The same way I hear Agbonyibo did the other time. If they discharge her now where will she go? Is it not my house? What do you think will happen in my household if that happens?
Chisco thought for a while and then said “So wetin you dey talk brother?”
“We will go back in there and finish her.”
TO BE CONTINUED