- The Storried Platform
ROGER – CHAPTER ELEVEN – By Harrikov Adamovic
Akin was not impatient; he knew something was gnawing at her in the guts, the earlier she gets it out, the better. So he said nothing, he simply rocked her shoulders again. Morenike spoke again; you will be my first, if you eventually marry me”. Akin didn’t really understand what she said, so he looked at her face and said, “You mean your first boyfriend?” “Oh no, I’ve had a few boyfriends, It’s just that I’ve never crossed the bridge with anyone before”. Akin understood fully now. He is dating a twenty-eight year old virgin! He held her with more strength, got up and planted a French kiss on her lips, she responded with equal valor, holding him real tight. “So I’m begging you to please honor my parents, they said I must not present a broken vessel to my husband”. Akin kissed her some more, promised she will be left intact till her wedding night. She was relieved and kissed him passionately again. “You can see the flesh is willing, but the soul is burdened”, she said. They both laughed. “I had better get back to the hotel now”, Morenike said. No way, its past midnight, you will stay the night here”. She showed great alarm and Akin said; you will sleep in my mom’s room, she has an extra bed”. Her grandchildren will sleep in my room”. She was relieved visibly. “Don’t let me lie to you AK; it won’t take you much to persuade me”. I won’t even try, I promise you”, he replied. In the morning, after Akin had driven her to the hotel, his mother asked him for the reason he brought Morenike to sleep in her room. Akin tried to speak in parables but his mother told him her friend, Morenike’s mom, already told her Morenike hasn’t ‘known any man’. Akin nodded his agreement. Am happy for you son, her type is rare”. But Akin kept this to himself, not telling his fellow Musketeers.
John had been back to work, having used up his vacation. He observed activities in the house where much had transpired lately. Abi was back in the house. And now she was pretty heavy. She met John’s wife on the street the previous day and snubbed her. John noticed she was depressed; a heavy pal of sadness surrounded her. She got back from town and entered the apartment without a word to anyone. John’s wife was worried about her welfare, but there nothing she could do since Abi chose to keep to herself. Then in the middle of the night one Saturday, they heard shouts from Abi’s apartment. It was about zero one hundred hours. When the shouting persisted, John got up and went to the window. He saw people rushing out and running to Abi’s apartment. He opened his front door and went out to the patio. His wife joined him. They saw Abi was being carried out. They watched as a neighbor drove to the house and Abi was carried into the car and driven off.
In the morning, the neighborhood was in turmoil. For the second time in a month, they had lost somebody. Upon enquiries, John learnt that doctors in the government hospital were on strike when Abi was taken there. They were going to a private hospital when she gave up. She had bled beyond salvage.
John called Akin immediately and told him what happened. Akin informed his parents, the protocol of how to go about this sad incident was however confusing. Akin’s dad came to the rescue. Akin should go to hospital and call Abi’s eldest sister from there. Then wait for the funeral arrangements to be announced by Abi’s family. Akin will attend the funeral with his daughters, but will not be by the graveside, he will stay at a distance. Akin called Jerome and told him Abi was dead. He asked Jerome to accompany him to the hospital. They got to the hospital one hour later and headed for the morgue. Abi’s eldest sister was already at the morgue, her eyes bloodshot from crying. She greeted Akin and Jerome, trying to pull off a smile. Turned out to a grimace. She started crying. Akin held her and tried to console her. “I only wish she had listened to reason. Maybe her life would have taken a different path than what we are now witnessing today. First, she made herself a widow prematurely, and then she killed herself prematurely. For nothing, for absolutely nothing. My consolation is the fact that both our parents are not alive to witness this misfortune.” She comported herself long enough to speak to Akin. “I have talked to our eldest uncle, and he said we should bury her as soon as possible, we are arranging for a lot at the VGC”. Akin and Jerome left the hospital and went the Victoria Garden City vaults. They made enquiries about purchasing a burial lot and paid for a lot. Akin called Abi’s eldest sister and told her he secured a lot. She thanked him and said she would keep him informed on the family’s decisions as to the time of burial. Akin and Jerome went back to Akin’s parents’ house. “Go to the hospital and ask for the bill, settle it and other ancillary expenses”. His father told him. “I have arranged for undertakers to handle it from the hospital morgue”, he added.
As they drove to the hospital a second time, Jerome told Akin to take heart, there was nothing he could have done that he didn’t do. Akin said he didn’t feel any sense of loss. Akin now asked about Vivian, effectively changing the topic. Jerome gave him the update; they, Vivian and Jerome, will be going to Kogi State the following week to visit Vivian’s ancestral home. A date for formal introductions will be set thereafter. “We are thinking of three months from now for the big one”. Akin laughed despite himself. “As soon as we mop up this sordid affair at hand, we can sit down together and plan”. Akin nodded. They got to the hospital. More of Abi’s relations were now present in the morgue area. Akin called Abi’s eldest sister and told her he was there to settle every bill that might have been incurred. She told him the bill was being compiled. They both went to the administration office and were given the bill. Akin paid and sister Bisi, as Abi’s eldest sister was called, thanked Akin. When they got to the morgue area, she told her other relations that Akin settled all the bills. They took turns to thank Akin. The burial was set for the next day. The remains of Abi will be moved from the morgue by nine in the morning and taken to the VGC where a short service will be held at the vaults’ chapel.
Sordid was apt for the burial, everyone present wept. The undertakers tried to put some glamour into the proceedings; light music, acrobatic displays by the pallbearers and sundry put up shows. It wasn’t enough to lift the gloomy mood that pervaded the whole proceedings. The clergy gave a ten minutes sermon. “One day, we shall be laying like this our sister who has departed, unable to do anything in this word again, let us remember this and examine our ways”. The four-man choir started a mournful requiem, the pallbearers came to the alter and carried the casket, a brown and gold job. The congregation of about thirty people in all followed the pallbearers out to the graveyard. In less than five minutes, the clergy pronounce earth to earth. Abi’s two daughters took turns and did the ashes to ashes ritual. Graveyard workers started covering the grave. Wailing by a few mourners rented the air. The undertakers drummed. Lightning cut through the sky and a plume of birds took off from where they perched on a tree. The clouds suddenly moved in, taking over the bright cumulus formation in the skies. Thunder rumbled in a long and menacing manner. This is Lagos, where the weather can be unpredictable. Akin and Jerome did not attend the short funeral service. They stayed under a tree within the VGC grounds. John and his wife joined them under the tree when they arrived. Now they moved towards their vehicles. A man brought Akin’s two kids to him. The children looked somber, but they were not overly sad. The younger one asked when their mom will wake up. Her sister explained to her that people who slept in the Lord will only wake up on resurrection day. “That is what I am asking”, the younger one said, “when is the resurrection day, will it be during our holidays?” Akin herded the kids into the car and they drove back to Akin’s parents’ house.
Akin thanked his dad for all the troubles he had taken to arrange for the undertakers and expenses. “You can tell your children in future that their mom got a befitting enough burial given the circumstance”. “The future is what you must consider in situations like this when your children come of age”. Akin’s father concluded. All along, though she maintained a studied silence, Akin’s mom had made clear she had no remorse for what happened to Abi. As far as she was concerned, Akin was lucky with turn of events. She made no statements. After all, if you didn’t say anything, you cannot be misquoted.
“You have less than thirty minutes to move out of this place or you will be captured”. A frenzied activity engulfed the camp as militants, numbering twelve, packed odds and ends into bags and assembled their weapons. The guy that spoke was the platoon commander. The head chief as their boss was known had called that federal troops had concluded plans to raid their camp in a matter of hours. The men scrambled into the swamps and dragged two powerful outboard motor boats out of a shrub and headed for the nearby creeks. They split into two groups. The first group headed for the eastern creek, the second for the southern creek. Up in the sky, a Chinook circled in a tight letter O. the commander looked at the flying helicopter through powerful field glasses. The Pentax 10 by 50 binoculars brought the Chinook into sharp focus. It was a navy chopper. The commander was immediately alert. This could be the advance party of the impending raid. The federal troops have made success lately arresting militants in the creeks and thwarting commercial kidnappers. They could be walking into trap. He ordered his men to stop. “That is a navy bird in the air” the men looked up and saw two choppers. “We could be walking into a trap”. Abandon this boat and fan out in the swamps. Avoid the creeks and do not pass through the paths that leads to the open sea, the navy and those amphibious jump boys from the air force may be waiting”. Even as he spoke, someone screamed, pointing at the sky. Two, three then numerous small umbrellas unfurled above them as the paratroopers floated towards the swamps.
Superior weaponry alone has never won any serious war in history. Superior intelligence and the ability to collect the intelligent give every army or fighting force an edge every time. The Nigerian military had learnt this lesson the hard way. But learn it has. After pinpointing the camp of the militants, the authorities deployed crack agents in the area and they were able to garner invaluable information on not just the target camp, but on the individual militants and which town, village or hamlet they came from. For example, the camp commander hails from a village in Bayelsa State. Four agents were deployed to that village before the raid commenced. The militants paid agents that have been detected in the arms of government were left at their posts. But the information they were exposed to was “sterilized” before it reached them. Thus they were used to feed information that the government wants them to have. This was how the militants got a tip-off that the raid was underway. The canons, Gatling guns and mortar launchers they left behind in their haste to run. A bloody battle was thus averted.
The commander could not communicate the change in plan to the other group. The navy Chinooks had all frequencies in the vicinity jammed. The first Chinook pilot had seen the frenzied activities in the camp and reported same. The second Chinook then brought in the jump boys. The second group walked into the trap. They had followed the creek towards the open sea. By the time they realized the navy gunboats were in ambush for them, they jumped boat and escaped into the swamps. The jump boys were waiting for them. All seven militants were taken into custody. The commander’s group fared better. They pulled their outboard motorboat out of the creek and hid it in a bush. The Chinook pilots couldn’t see it from the air. So their whereabouts was unknown to the jump boys. They all made it to three different villages before dark. Hibernating agents in those villages picked their scents and duly reported the sightings. Three of them were captured in an early morning raid. The commander and his second in command refused to sleep in the accommodation provided by their hosts. They slept in the bush. When they heard footsteps about three in the morning, they slipped into the swampy bushes and made good their escape. With additional ten militants in custody, the police can now proceed with the prosecution of the case of Jimmy’s murder.
Jerome’s relations turned out in numbers for the formal introduction of his family with that of Vivian’s. The occasion was important to them; an opportunity to honor their dead brother and uncle, Jerome’s father. Folks came from up country, Abuja and Port Harcourt. The all donned matching Ankara. Vivian’s family was also there in force. Akin’s parents, staff Amos and the private detective were also present. To end the ceremonies, a cultural troupe rendered a beautiful display of highly energetic dance; the audience was clapping on their feet and some shouted Encore! Encore! Elders from both families got into a roundtable conference to deliberate on a mutually convenient date for the wedding proper. Jerome went to where Akin’s parents sat and invited them to join in the deliberations. A date was agreed on and the crowd started to depart. Morenike, whose staff was in charge of catering for the guests, walked up to Akin and whispered into his ears. Akin called out to John and his wife and they joined Morenike and Akin. The quartet now moved into the house with a package that John’s wife carried. They found Vivian talking with her dad and they asked for her audience. John’s wife gave Vivian the gift-wrapped package. Boldly printed on the top was the legend; “FROM THE MUSKETEERS”. Vivian opened the package and it turned out to be a carving of three men, two women walking in a row. The import hit Vivian instantly and tears of joy sprang up in her eyes. John’s wife and Morenike rallied round her and hugged in turns. Most people there didn’t know what the carving was all about.
“You are being arraigned for the murder of one Jimmy, on the twenty-first day of September 1995….” The court clerk read out charges. For the militants, it was the day of reckoning. Jimmy’s uncle was in court; two military policemen in mufti and Jimmy’s distant cousin were present. Jimmy’s younger brothers stayed away, they were afraid they might be arrested. The militants had no legal representation and the court moved to appoint a lawyer for them. The hearing was adjourned to the following month; the militants were to be remanded in prison custody.
Jerome wanted a low key wedding, to be held on a Monday morning at a registry, to minimize attendance and attention. Vivian’s folks would have no such thing. Her two other siblings were male and they both married non Nigerians overseas. The eldest who works and lives in Spain married a Spaniard. The other brother, a lieutenant in the United States army, married a Puerto Rican. Vivian’s father who worked in Jerome’s dad’s company until he retired knew where to go to have Jerome persuaded to have a rethink. He went to Akin’s dad.
“Marriage is all about understanding, compromise and flexibility”. “You might as well start getting used to that from the on start”. The impression you make now will go a long way with your in-laws to be”. “I would be honored if you can grant your father-in-law his request”. Akin’s father concluded. Jerome stood up and prostrated, thanking him. “I am left with no options sir, they can have it every way they want it sir”. Akin’s dad got up and shook Jerome’s hand; “thank you my son, the Lord will honor you”. Please give me the honor of paying for all wearing apparel for the occasion that you and Vivian might choose, outfitters from Italy will be in Lagos next Monday for a two day workshop. Akin will give Vivian the catalog of wedding gowns they sent in yesterday”. The outfitters will take her measurements and send the gown by courier to you”. Your suit and that of the best man will also be measured for. Jerome was about to protest, but he was stopped with a wave of the hand. “You know this would have been your father’s responsibility were he to be alive, that makes it my job”. All Jerome could say was “thank you sir”. “Oh, you need to discuss with Vivian, let me know where you will like to spend your honeymoon, whether in Europe or North America”. Jerome said “I thank you very much sir”.
Vivian’s dad spoke with her at length on how to be a good wife, a good mother and how she will be marrying not only Jerome, but all of his relations. That is the Yoruba culture. Her mom told her the things to do to keep her husband happy always, what things to avoid doing and saying in anger. Her dad said; “remember to count 1 to 10 silently before you respond to any words that offend you”. Marriage is not about love, tolerance and being affable; it is more of acceptance, accepting the limitations of your partner, accepting the weaknesses and foibles”. Her father started praying for her and Vivian knelt down between her parents. The wedding was a week from the day.
Morenike was busy all week at the hotel, they had some foreigners from seven different countries having meetings with various chambers of commerce, an exhibition of hardware and software was also staged in the hotel by two major computer manufactures seeking to establish assembly plants in Nigeria. Advance party for Africa, Caribbean pacific and the European Union also held a three-day workshop all in the same week. It was a tired Morenike that Akin met when she entered her living quarters in the hotel. Morenike was not to banal jactitations; she got into the kitchenette adjoining her suite and started preparing dinner for Akin. He protested and asked her to order dinner from the restaurant downstairs. Morenike said that would not be for her husband. In fifteen minutes, she had rice marinated in turkey sauce steaming on the table. “I know I ought to pound yam for you, but give me some time, I will get round to it”. Seriocomically, Akin exploded; “pounded yam! “After the kind of schedule you have been running this past five days! That would bother on criminality”. Akin sat down to eat, but his attention was riveted on the plasma television on the wall. CNN was showing the recent Gallup poll for the American presidential election. Barak Obama, an erstwhile unknown senator from Illinois, was leading by four percentage points. Looks like Americans are set to send a black man into the White House for the first time in history”. Akin said. “It’s a fait accompli”. Morenike said. She stood while Akin ate. “Please sit down”. Akin said. Morenike will stand by the table whenever Akin was eating alone. “This is how we were trained in the hospitality business, and my mom said it is the normal Yoruba custom too”. I am not an Oba, neither am I a chief”. Akin said. “As soon as I have the authority, I will simply order you to sit down”. He added. They both laughed. Morenike started clearing the debris of Akin’s food. “Jerome’s bachelor’s eve party, I think it is better to have it in your parents’ house than having it here in the hotel”. Morenike said. “Okay”, said Akin, “why do you say so?” “for one thing, logistics, the house is more accessible than the hotel, for another, the house is more amenable to adjustments in the event of contingencies”. Morenike said. Akin said, “I see what you mean”. The house is definitely more accessible than the hotel for the hours the party will last; I will inform Jerome this afternoon”.
By Harrikov Adamovic
Akin was not impatient; he knew something was gnawing at her in the guts, the earlier she gets it out, the better. So he said nothing, he simply rocked her shoulders again. Morenike spoke again; you will be my first, if you eventually marry me”. Akin didn’t really understand what she said, so he looked at her face and said, “You mean your first boyfriend?” “Oh no, I’ve had a few boyfriends,