Chidi woke up to the chirping of birds on the mango tree beside his house. He quickly set out for the business of the day; assisting his mother in selling plantain and bananas by the roadside.
He was the only child of her mother and according to her, his father had died when he was just a year old. Growing up without a father wasn’t easy but with the unwavering support of his mother, he was able to scale through life’s hurdles.
His mother had borne the sole responsibility and had diligently performed the role of both a mother and a father to him. She sold bananas and groundnuts to passengers plying the Ore-Benin highway in the afternoon and roast plantain and groundnuts in the evenings, this she had been doing for more than 23 years.
With this business had she been able to train her son, Chidi until he finished his university education. During the ever reliable ASUU strikes, Chidi would return home to assist his mother. At other times, he would take on menial jobs like sand filling, bush clearing and working at building sites as a mixer.
“Chidi,” his mother called.
“Yes Mama,” he answered while looking for the broom with which to sweep the house.
“Please remind me when you get back in the evening that there is something I want to tell you about your father.”
“My father?” Chidi quizzed.
“Yes, when you return I’ll tell you about him.”
Chidi looked forward to it. He had wanted to know more about his dad, what kind of person he was before his death, and possibly a few things about his life.
“No problem Mama, let me quickly sweep the house and then head to the road for today’s sales.”
It was to be the last day with his mom before heading back to Lagos. After his youth service he had been fortunate to have gotten an employment where he was expected to resume the following week.
He also had things to tell his mother, especially about his girlfriend whom he had planned to marry. She had made enormous sacrifices for him when they were in school and had stood by him even in difficult situations.
Things had begun to fall in place; a new job, a new apartment and the prospect of getting a car from the firm. It was only imperative that he told his mother about her since he had planned on bringing her to see his mom the next time he’ll be coming home.
Mama had teasingly asked him when he would get married saying that she couldn’t wait to have a grandchild.
“Don’t worry, Mama,” he had replied. “When the time comes you’ll know, moreover, I’m just 24.”
“Ehen, if you’re 24 nko? Don’t you know that it is the earlier the better?”
“Don’t worry Mama, don’t worry.”
He was sure that Mama would like her.
With these thoughts in mind he picked up some ripe bananas and a few plastics of groundnuts and headed for the road. Fortunately, their house wasn’t far from the road.
Doctor Femi’s day had just begun at the hospital where he works but he had already had a handful of patients to attend to.
From the scariest of patients to the craziest.
In his twenty years of practice it is safe to say that he had seen it all.
“Help me Doctor! Doctor, help!” a woman had cried, holding on to her child as streams of tears gushed out of her eyes. The young child was grasping for breath when she brought her in.
“What happened?” Doctor Femi had asked her as he quickly attended to the baby in order to stabilize his condition.
After a few minutes the baby began to breathe just fine. Doctor Femi noticed that there was pap in the mouth of the child suggesting that he had probably been having his breakfast of pap before the problem started.
“Na food I dey give am chop this morning before I come notice say e no dey breathe well again na im make me rush am come here,” the mother explained.
“Were you feeding him with a spoon or was it with a feeding bottle?” he asked.
“No, e no go gree collect am if I give am with spoon or feeding bottle.”
“How old is he by the way?” Doctor Femi inquired.
“Na next tomorrow e go complete one year and two months.”
“So, how did you feed him?”
She then went on to narrate what had happened.
As had been her habit of feeding the young child, she had placed him on her laps, with his left hand stuck between them. She had restricted the child’s right hand with her left elbow while holding the plate of pap with that hand. She had poured the pap into her right hand which had been shaped like a cup near the mouth of the child and at the she’d drop the plate and then block the baby’s nostrils.
This act would make the baby open his mouth in order to breathe and by doing so he would be forced to drink the pap that he didn’t want to. At intervals, she would release her friend’s hand blocking his nostrils so that he would be able to breathe again and then continue the process until he had finished the food.
“What?” He exclaimed. “I’ll advise you madam never to use that method of feeding of again.”
He then went on to explain several ways which are safe with which a young child can be fed.
“Thank you doctor,” she said as she left to settle the bills.
Not more than ten minutes later, a young school girl was rushed into the hospital. She was still putting on her uniform which suggests that she had been brought in from her school.
The women who brought her in were in a state of panic. The older woman, tall and dark with a hat on her head seemed to be the owner of the school while the other, a short stout woman appeared to be the class teacher of the girl that was brought in.
The little girl had been playing with the hair of her classmate who had beads on her hair. A bead had pulled off which he had mistakenly put in her ear.
The bead had stuck halfway in her earlobe making it difficult to pull out. The class teacher noticed it and had to inform the school head. That was why they had rushed her down to the hospital.
Doctor Femi took her in and tried to remove the bead that was stuck in her ear. This he was able to do and the girl was brought back to them.
As was his custom, Doctor Femi gave the school owner some advice.
“I understand how the school business runs and how many schools would like to please parents in order to retain them in their school, after all, it is often said that customers are always right. Yet, it is important to note that nothing is more important than the safety of the kids in your care. I know that some parents would want to dress their kids in a more fashionable way and feel that they have the right to do, yet they might be missing an important question which is ‘Is it safe?’ ”
“I understand you words, Doctor,” the school owner said. “We have asked parents not to use beads and earrings on the young learners since it is dangerous and could lead to serious harm. Incidents such as these are what we’re trying to avoid yet these parents wouldn’t listen.”
“I think you need to discuss this in your next meeting with the parents. If this incident had been more serious, do you think the parents of this girl would have had it easy with you?”
“You would have been held responsible, not even the other parents who put beads on the hair of a three year old to school. Additionally, I’ll advise that your teachers be more vigilant, especially those teaching the lower primaries and nurseries.”
“Thank you so much doctor, we really appreciate what you have done and all you have said.”
The time was already a few minutes past ten. Doctor Femi rose from his seat so he can have his brunch. Just then he heard a knock on his door, the door opened and a nurse walked in.
“Doctor, two patients want to see you, should I let them in?”
Doctor Femi was used to such situations, sometimes he’d forfeit lunch because of the many patients he had to attend to.
“Kindly let them in,” he said.
“Young man and lady, how may I help you?” he asked after they had sat.
Both of them looked like young adults in their early twenties.
The lady bowed her hair in what looked like a combination of shame and guilt written all over her face. Her curly her swayed gently as a result of the breeze from Doctor Femi’s fan.
The young man with ruddy hair noticed her uneasiness and decided to break the silence.
“We want an abortion,” he uttered.
“An abortion?” Doctor Femi asked.
The lady nodded affirmatively.
“Why is that?” He further asked.
“We are not ready for the responsibilities that come with having a child, doctor. We are still undergraduates and our parents would literally kill us for this,” the young man answered.
“I would strongly advise you against that. What has happened has happened. You need to inform your parents about it. There is nothing falling from the sky that the ground cannot accommodate. Abortion shouldn’t be an option friends.”
“Can’t you just do it for us, Doctor?” he pleaded.
“No, I can’t. Abortion is only carried out under extenuating circumstances where the life of the mother is in danger and even at that, the husband need to make that decision. Performing an abortion on her can cost me my job and my license as a doctor. It could also cost her life. Please, do not go ahead with this plan of yours, don’t go to any other doctor and don’t try to do it yourself.”
Dejection was written all over their faces. This wasn’t what they had expected.
“This seems like a de ja vu,” Doctor Femi thought. “I know I have attended to some cases relating to abortion but this one seems a bit different.”
Then his mind went back in time.
He was a final year medical student in the prestigious University of Lagos. An intelligent young man with a bright future in medicine ahead of him. He was, however, in love with Chinwe an Igbo student in the Arts.
He had tried everything within his power to get her to love him but she had always maintained that they were just friends and would forever remain so. How those words hurt his feeble heart.
Chinwe, on the other hand was head over heels in love with Femi’s friend, Bayo.
It was a terrible triangle.
Along the line, Chinwe became pregnant and the only thing Bayo could think of was to terminate the pregnancy.
“I’m sorry Chinwe, we can’t have this baby. You need to remove it so that your studies would not be affected.”
Chinwe would never let that happen. She was willing to have the baby, even if it means spending an extra year in school.
“I would never advise you to terminate the pregnancy,” Femi had said.
“You won’t understand,” Bayo replied. “I can’t even marry her. My father would never accept that I marry an Igbo girl.”
Those words cut through Chinwe like a sharp knife. She felt useless.
“How could you, Bayo?” she asked.
“I’m sorry, Chinwe. That is the more reason why I want the pregnancy aborted.”
Femi was already boiling with rage.
He hit Bayo so hard with his fist that Bayo bled through his nose.
“Why didn’t you leave her in time for someone who is willing to do anything for her, instead of just using and dumping her?”
That was the end of their friendship.
It was gathered that Chinwe’s father was so disappointed inhis daughter that he had her leave his house.
Femi and Bayo never talked to each other until they left the school and Chinwe never completed her education and was never seen since then.
Sade was glad that she was accompanying her dad to her uncle’s party in Delta from Lagos. They couldn’t board a flight due to the strike by the airline companies as a result of the hike in fuel prices, so he had to drive down since the party would take place the following day.
“Dad,” Sade said as the trees and plants ran past their car in a hurry. “I know this isn’t the right time to tell you this but I just want to say it now. I would bring to you the man I want to marry next month.”
“That’s good,” he replied. “But wait a minute, I hope it isn’t that Igbo boy.”
“Yes, it’s him dad. I love him so much.”
“Will you keep quiet? I have told you that never would I be alive and watch you marry an Igbo boy.”
“Why is that? I must get married to him,” she responded.
“Never! I don’t want to see him in my house and don’t you ever talk about him again,” he barked.
“I … I am already pregnant for him,” Sade said.
His father turned to look at her. His eyes were as red as crimson. She could literally see the veins in his face as he became red in anger.
“Daddy watch out!” Sade screamed.
He was a few seconds too late.
His car ran into a man walking with his back against the oncoming vehicles. His cloth got stuck in the tyres and he was dragged a few distance on the coal tar before the brake could work.
There were screams all around. Young men came out to beat Sade and her dad.
“No, let us rush the boy to the hospital,” an old man said.
They quickly put the victim whose face had already been covered with his own blood into the car. A few other men got into the car and directed Sade’s dad to the nearest hospital.
The victim was Chidi. He had finished selling the bananas and groundnuts and was on his way home before the unfortunate accident happened.
His mother had been informed and had run to the hospital. As she was getting there, the doctor came out from the theatre room to meet them.
“Please, who is the victim’s relative?” Doctor Femi asked.
“It is me oo,” she answered. “Where is my son oo?”
“Chinwe Okoli?” Doctor Femi asked as he gazed at Chidi’s mother.
Sade’s dad who had buried his head between his laps ever since they arrived at the hospital stood up immediately.
“No, this isn’t happening.” He screamed.
Right there were the three friends; Femi, Bayo and Chinwe.
“What are you doing here, Bayo?” Chinwe asked.
“Na him jam your pikin with im motor,” said one of the men with them.
“What? Bayo, that is our son. That is Chidi, the result of the pregnancy which I refused to abort.”
Sade stood up immediately.
“Everybody wait oo. Is that person Chidi Okoli from Uhuagada, Imo State?”
“Yes,” Chinwe said. “That’s my son.”
“Yeeee..Temi bami. Dad, that’s my fiancé whom I am pregnant for.”
“Abomination!” Bayo screamed. “That is your stepbrother.”
Sade couldn’t control her tears. “This shouldn’t be happening” she thought.
“I’m sorry everyone,” Doctor Femi said. “ I only came to tell you that we lost him.”
About the Writer
Humble Ogbonna is a fiction and phonetics instructor.