I thought my suffering had stopped, but when my water broke and I was ushered into labour I experienced the height of pain. Moments later, however, I put to bed and delivered a little bundle of joy. Yes she was a bundle of joy because I had never set my eyes on a more beautiful baby in my life. She had a fair complexion just like her father. Though I am also fair, but hers was like that of her father.
She took after him and had brown eyes like her father. The moment she left my womb, she started crying. Her voice was very loud as if a megaphone amplified her voice. She didn’t stop crying until she was handed over to me. The moment the midwife cleaned her up and placed her in my arms, she kept quiet and then I started on another Journey of punishment during the post-natal period. I took her to Ibadan and the moment mum saw my baby, she fell in love with her.
Mum named her Oyinye which means ‘God’s gift’ while I named her Beauty. Mum said if God didn’t want her, I wouldn’t have got pregnant. Mum had forgiven me for getting pregnant long ago and she supported me morally. I returned to Ede and continued with my primary assignment. My work became more difficult because Beauty wouldn’t allow anybody other than me to carry her.
She would open her little megaphone mouth and start crying the moment someone else carried or tried to carry her. Incidentally, everyone who saw her always wanted to carry her because the little cherub was very beautiful and irresistible. Three months later, NYSC was over.
The day of the Passing Out Parade coincided with Beauty’ss dedication. I noticed Azeez wore a forlorn look and I asked him what was wrong with him on a day all corpers were celebrating and happy to leave Ede town. He assured me that he was okay, but I knew he was hiding Something from me. Mum came from Ibadan and waited with Beauty at the pavilion. I looked at that pavilion with contempt as mum sat down just a few feet away from the spot where Jamal made love to me.
If only mum knew she was sitting not far from where Beauty was conceived! I left to attend to Some tasks then Beauty started her show of yelling and crying at the top of her voice. When I returned there, Beauty was not with mum. I was scared to death because I was not used to having my baby out of my sight. I’d totally fallen in love with her. ‘Mum, where is my baby?” I asked her.
She replied that a gentle young corper helped her carry Beauty just now and the baby stopped crying. I was surprised because Beauty would only stop crying whenever she was in my arms or when she was sleeping I asked where the corper was and mum turned around, saying he was standing right here. I looked at the direction, but there was no one there. We started searching for her frantically.
I felt my panties wet as if my water just broke again. My baby had been kidnapped. Ten minutes later, we hadn’t found my baby. I started crying, remembering the countless stories about kidnappings and ritual murders, which were trending on the news and social media. I started feeling dizzy and was about to collapse when I saw mum running towards me with my baby who was crying out loud.
I’d missed that cry so much. I rushed forward and snatched her out of mum’s hand and she stopped crying. Fellow youth corpers who had been helping me to search for her came forward to congratulate me. After the parade, we were leaving for the church when mum told me the young corper who helped her carry beauty was also looking for her so he could return the baby.
She said Beauty was smiling when she was with him but started crying again when he returned her. Mum and I were standing at the same spot I stood one year ago, the last place where I set my eyes on Jamal. I made a silent prayer that I should see him. I had asked many youth corpers if they knew or saw any corper by the name Jamal but none of them knew or saw him. We were still waiting for a bike or bus when I felt Beauty hopping and giggling in my arms. Something behind me was obviously exciting the little angel.
I turned to look at what was making her so happy and I saw Jamal walking away. Beauty obviously recognised him. My leg felt numb when I saw him. Mum saw him too and pointing at him, she said that he was the boy that helped her to carry Beauty. I handed Beauty over to mum and ran after him but before I could get halfway, I lost him in the crowd. By the time I found him again, he was very far from me and was entering a black sedan car with tinted glasses.
I started shouting his name and running towards the car, but he had already shut the door and the car zoomed off towards the high way. I moved very fast too, roving my eyes for a bike. I saw one and quickly jumped on it, telling the bike man to chase the black sedan car zooming off.
Though he quickly chased the car, it was obvious we couldn’t catch up with the car. I returned to mum in disappointment and we left. After my service year, getting a job proved to be particularly difficult. I tried my best to find a job but my efforts were in vain. The only jobs that seemed to be available were mostly marketing with incomes based oon targets. I got one and worked for three months before quitting because I couldn’t meet the target andI wasn’t paid the meagre salary I deserved.
Returning to the same house I grew up in with a fatherless baby was a big shame. It was understandable when I was coming home with Beauty as a corper but people began to talk at my back and make jest of me. Left without an alternative, I kept my head up and ignored them all. I was glad to have paid attention at the skill acquisition and entrepreneurship programme during my service year, as I had learnt bead making.
I gave it a deep thought and started making beads. I had trained for bead making and I also took a professional course on proJect management so I did not hide behind the excuse that I could not get a job. I was prepared. The many lectures I attended during the orientation camp opened my eyes to the realisation that there were not as many jobs in the labour market as envisaged by fresh graduates. So as not to rely solely on bead making, I took up menial jobs and worked as a contract staff in different firms for another two years.
Later, I concluded that the best I could do was to help mum with her little trade. After all, that was what the entrepreneurship skill NYSC was about. I immediately kicked into action by diverting the money I had made from my bead making business into my mother’s business and it expanded. I added stockfish, palm and groundut oil, pepper and tomatoes, crayfish and other ingredients for cooking a complete Igbo soup. Having a helping hand helped mum’s trade and she started making enough money just to feed Beauty and us.
The business started growing fast and in a shortnwhile, it became too big for mum and me to handle. We had to hire a sales girl. I believe the business was making such waves because I applied my education to it by packaging the business, dressing neatly and ensuring our sales girl dressed neatly. I also went in search of Igbo workers in corporate organisations, mostly banks and insurance companies that gave almost no room for time outs for their members of staff. I got their contacts and assured them I could personally deliver whatever they needed right to their home or work place. When I started it, I had no response but my blackberry messenger came in handy later.
It started with a broadcast message, which I sent too everyone on mny contact list. Twenty minutes later, a friend on my contact pinged me that her colleague who worked at First Bank, Challenge branch, needed me to deliver Some soup ingredients to her home in Iwo-road. She also needed some beef. Though we didn’t sell beef,I told her that it would not be a problem. Just like magic, she asked for my account number and I gave her. Barely minutes later, she paid the exact amount charged for the services into my account.
I quickly bought meat from a butcher in the market and got the remaining ingredients. Immediately,I set out for her house guided by the address she’d sent to me after she made the payment. That was the strike that broke the dam. After that, more contacts started demanding for the service. I took turns advertising my soup ingredients delivery and my bead making.
I came to Ede to serve my fatherland as a single man, andI left as a single father or a p0tential father. A week before the passing out parade ceremony, I was preparing to go out to a viewing centre to watch my lovely Real Madrid rip Valencia apart when I saw Suurat walking towards me. My face lit up when I saw her then almost immediately it faded away when I saw the bulge on Suurat’s stomach. To make matters Worse, she had an entourage with her: her aunty, two elderly men and another elderly woman.
My heart skipped a beat then started beating fast like that of a race horse. I knew something was up because it was obvious that they were heading towards me. Expectedly, they came straight to me and I braced my heart for the shocking news I was about to receivee. When they got to me, I prostrated and greeted them according to Yoruba tradition then I invited them into my room.
After settling in comfortably, they went straight to the point and asked me if II knew Suurat. I answered that I did. They asked if I had unprotected sex with her or not. I answered them correctly. Then they said shortly after our sexual escapades, she had to travel to her grandparents in the village. I was told that that was where they found out she was pregnant with my baby.
I admitted that I was responsible for the pregnancy, but my question to them was why they didn’t inform me of the pregnancy at the early stage. Their action made me to be incorrigibly peevish but I didn’t show it. I didn’t give the room for much discussion because I accepted the pregnancy totally but had my own strategy planned out.
From my stay in Ede town, Id learnt that it was the tradition for any outsider, especially a corps member who got a daughter of the land pregnant to marry her and accept the child. They said they needed to meet my parents so as to inform them and get to know their inlaws. I assured them that I would make arrangements for the meeting.
A week after the passing out parade, I brought my parents to meet Suurat’s family and it was agreed that I should take care of mother and child.
She would move in to live with me and we could talk of the future if there would be any when the child was born but they told me I was expected to pay her bride price before my child was born. A week later, I picked up the only file I had in my room containing my credentials then told Suurat that I’d been invited for a job interview in Oshogbo.
She wished me luck as I left. Unknown to her, I left thirty thousand naira under the pillow. Neither she nor her family would see or hear from me again. When I got to Oshogbo, I paid off the man and woman I rented to act as parents
for me at Suurat’s family’s home. Suurat had tricked me into getting her pregnant, so she should face the consequences and bring up the child alone.
Their tradition of tying down a corper to matrimony with a pregnancy would not work with me. No, I am not proud of my action and I could not tell Ifeoma what I did. I might come for my child in the future but I cannot say for sure right now.
Watch Out For Next Episode.