Archive | February 2013

Broken Mirrors – Episode 4

Broken Mirrors Art

Kamal was reclining on his couch, watching Discovery Channel and allowing his mind to wander here and there when he began to hear voices at his doorstep. He had recently relocated his wife and two kids to Ireland and he would soon be joining them in a few months. He had found that his kids would get better education at a cheaper cost than if he tried to give them the same quality here in Nigeria. He lived alone in the BQ of an apartment off University of Lagos Road pending the time he would finally move. The main building was an office and it was empty at night, so he was practically alone in the building. He wondered who it was that the mallam had let in without his prior instruction. He got up and padded towards the window that gave him a clear view of his doorway. He made out the familiar form of his friend of twenty years, Derin and his wife, with Derin carrying their son Isaac. They seemed to be having some argument but he caught none of what they were saying clearly because of the din of the neighborhood generators. He quickly went to open the door and then undid the burglary proof. The first thing he noticed in the light of the doorway which he hadn’t when looking through the window was how disheveled they both looked. The last they had spoken the night before, Derin had told him he would be visiting his mum in Ibadan.

“What happened in Ibadan?” he asked as he let them in without a greeting. Derin was his brother from another mother, and they had the kind of relationship where he could ask stuff like that. This time however, Derin didn’t answer him but went to sit on the edge of the L-shaped couch.

“Oga, I know you haven’t had plenty practice, but I’ve had more than you, and I at least know that sitting like that and holding a baby is atrocious. Now, Awazi, can you tell me…” Kamal was saying, when Derin cut in rather coldly

“The baby is dead.”

“What!” Kamal exclaimed, then turned to Awazi and asked with a shake of his head “he’s joking right?”

She turned away without an answer and the tears poured from her eyes once again. Kamal practically jumped over to Derin’s side and one look at Isaac told him that they weren’t joking. Rigor Mortis was already setting in on the little man’s body and it was obvious he had been dead for a while.

“When? How? Oh my God, Why?” Kamal asked, punching the couch to punctuate each question.

“Look, Kamal, you’re the only one I could come to for this. I cannot bury my child, it’s an eewo. You would have to oblige me with this. Tonight.”

“Kamal, I’ve told him, I don’t care if his Yoruba-ness means he cannot bury his own child, but I am not Yoruba, and I will bury my child!” Awazi thundered.

“Woman, will you be reasonable? Parents should not bury their own children!” Derin equally bellowed.

“Calm down, you two! You’ve obviously been through a lot today, and your nerves are frayed. But you shouldn’t be tearing each other apart, what you both need the most now is to comfort each other.” Kamal said, stepping in between the quarreling couple.

Facing Awazi, he continued in a much softer voice, “I understand how you feel dear, but you’ll also need to understand Derin. He’s not saying you cannot know where your child is buried to pay respects. But to be the one burying Isaac, your own child, is taboo here.”

His words seemed to calm them both down, and he simply took Isaac from Derin and then collected the death certificate.

“You guys cannot go home today, so you can have my place for the night. I’ll sleep out in a hotel.”

But Awazi shook her head firmly and said “I want to go home.”

And then she turned to Derin and said “Now”.

Together all three left the house, Derin and his wife for their Sabo apartment, and Kamal for Atan Cemetery. Kamal had done much for Derin in their career as friends, but this was yet the most painful he had to do.

***************************************************

Early the next morning, Dr. Haruna Ajanaku sat in a meeting he would rather not be having. But he was a shrewd business man and he knew that he could not afford to be unprepared for the possibility of legal action from the young Derin. He remembered the young man’s father well, and if the boy was anything like his father, he would be reasonable. Seated in the room to his right was his long time friend and lawyer, Rasheed Sanda. The young man that had ensured Hakeem’s coup didn’t work had been recruited by him. Also present were Hakeem, and the head matron of the hospital, Bintu. Bintu knew more about the actual running ofhospitals than most doctors and she had become a trusted confidant over the years. Prior to the meeting, she had interviewed the two front desk nurses extensively to get information on what had happened. He trusted her that much, he would not need to talk to them himself.

The lawyer was saying “from Bintu’s account of things, Otunba, there are two things that are clear immediately. The deceased was never your patient; hence, you cannot be accused of neglecting him in a court of law. Neglect is only technically possible if the individual is already a patient of your hospital, which isn’t the case here. Remember, I speak only of law here, not public opinion. I’ve examined your procedure book too, and it would seem there was no breech in your documented procedure. These two are strong points.”

“That’s what I’ve been saying sir,” Hakeem interjected.

“And a smart lawyer could bring up the fact that the baby’s father was in fact our patient, and that the baby died on our premises in front of two nurses,” and with obvious disdain, she added “a doctor who happened to be our Chief Medical Officer at that time.”

“What do you think about Bintu’s thoughts, Rasheed?” Dr. Haruna said.

Hakeem seethed. Even a mere matron’s thoughts seemed to carry more weight than his own words in these discussions.

“It’s a valid point. We can counter that however. The proof that he’s a patient is when he produces his card, which he did not. However, you’re A&E procedures would be called into question anyhow you want to look at it. A baby’s case should have been handled separate from regular patients, and I expected that even if the nurses did not know that, Hakeem here should have.” The lawyer’s voice was expressionless as he spoke in a well practiced professional monotone, but even that needled Hakeem.

“So the best bet for us would be?” Dr. Haruna asked, even though he knew the answer already.

“First, we do all we can to convince him not to go to court. That would be the most favorable outcome for us in this matter. Your offer to him through his mother will hopefully accomplish that. Where that fails, and he serves us notice of litigation, we will go to court and attempt to convince their lawyer and the judge that settling out of court will be the best course of action for all the parties involved. That can be kept quiet and easily managed to ensure there is no negative publicity and we can work a clause into the settlement to ensure that they do not speak to the press or public about the matter once they take the option.” Rasheed reeled out.

“And if he refuses to settle?” Bintu asked.

“Then we prepare for a court battle, the intensity of which will be determined by the quality of his legal representation. We might be able to blow a simpleton away, but if he gets a formidable lawyer, this will be a serious battle. That is what we have to wait and see.” Rasheed responded

“And, manage the media, Rasheed. We don’t want any of this getting out now, do we? In my long career, many men have died under my watch. But none of them has been because I chose not to treat them; all without exception were beyond my treatment. And now this debacle?” Otunba said more to himself than to the others. Then he dismissed the meeting with a sigh “we wait.”

******************************************************

Awazi’s night had been tumultuous. She had slept in fits, and watching Derin sleep so deeply annoyed her for quite no reason, even though her brain told her he should be tired after all of that driving. She managed to finally find sleep at about five in the morning. The sound of the doorbell woke her up, and when she checked the time, she realized she had slept for about three hours. Derin was already up, and she guessed he would get the door. She woke up with a banging headache, and it seemed the turmoil of the previous day just began to take its toll on her body. She sat up in the bed, and as she did, her eye caught something beside the pillow. It was the plastic bunch of keys toy they used to distract Isaac when he was being restless. The sight of the toy brought back a deluge of memories to her. He had just begun trying to move from his sitting position as he tried to follow the toy when he flung it forward. The tears formed in her eyes as they roamed the room, picking items that had been there only because of Isaac. Diapers. His bib. His tiny socks. She couldn’t take seeing them any longer and in spite of the pain in her head, she jumped up from the bed and raced to the living room. She almost ran back into the room. Seated in the living room was Kamal. That wasn’t the issue though. The real issue was her mother in-law who was also seated there. She could not phantom why the woman had come this early in the day, and she unconsciously scanned the living room for signs that the woman had brought some Yoruba damsel to come and audition for wifely roles. No signs. She steadied her breathing.

She stepped into the parlor and said hi to Kamal, mumbled something that was meant to be a greeting to Agatha, and then turned to her husband who was seated in one of the dining chairs with eyes that said “you better start explaining this to me right now.”

Derin got the question his wife was silently asking and he quickly began to explain “mum just came in with Kamal now and they say they have something important they would like to discuss with us.” He placed the emphasis on the “us” so she her apprehensions would at least be calmed down. They had not begun to say what they had come for, but it was obvious to him they had discussed and agreed on whatever they had come to say. He had just been about to go and wake Awazi up when she came out anyway, so it was all well and good. Awazi sat at the edge of the couch closer to him. He was still upset with his mum for her outburst the previous day, but then, she was his mum. It was unthinkable for him not to have let her in, and he was sure Awazi knew that.

“Derin, in Yorubaland, it is not the elder that makes peace with the younger. But this pain is one we all share, and I know no one would feel it deeper than your wife. So first, I would like to say sorry to her for yesterday…” Agatha began.

Awazi was incensed. She was sitting right here, and this woman was here in her own home talking about her as if she was not here, speaking only to Derin. She had had it!

“With all due respect ma,” she said “I am seated right here. Please talk to me, as a person in my own right, and not through Derin as some sort of proxy.”

Agatha opened her mouth to say something, and then she thought better of it. The thought of what the doctor had told her, and how she knew it would destroy her son if she didn’t succeed at this kept her.

Instead, she said “it is a habit, my dear, and it will take time to move beyond it. But to the crux of the matter, as to why I came into Lagos this early. I am sure you are wondering why. Look, Awazi, I will need your help in this one, and that is why you must listen to me now and forget the years past. If you love your husband, as much as I love him as my son, then we must do this for him.”

“What are you saying, mama?” Derin asked

“I know you very well Derin, and I know that all you want to do now is fight the hospital to the finish. You want to take them to court. You want to make them pay for your loss, for what they’ve done to you and your family. Your last words to the doctor yesterday evening said that clearly. And if you want all that, I don’t think anyone in their right senses would say you shouldn’t feel that way.” She paused and drank a bit of water.

Then she continued “But that legal battle would destroy you Derin. It would take your all to fight, and the hospital owners will not lie down. They will fight, fight hard and fight dirty. I do not want our pain to become the spectacle of the whole world. I do not want you to enter into a fight that will cost you more than you can afford.” She turned meaningfully to Awazi as she said the last line.

“I think it would be best if we all offered each other strength to move on from this, and leave all the fighting behind.”

It had taken all of Derin’s self control to allow his mum finish so that he would not set a bad precedence for Awazi by interrupting her. But now that she seemed to be done talking, he burst out

“So they should kill my child and get away with it? What kind of man would that make me? What is the difference between what they have done and if they actually put a gun to Isaac’s head and blew it away? Somebody has to make these people pay when they do things like this. And to make sure others like them are warned of consequences.”

“Look, Derin,” Kamal chipped in “why does that someone have to be you? You should be more interested in comforting your wife, and trying to pull your family together in this kind of time, rather than spending your energies on crusading against a behemoth!”

“Kamal! So if someone was to walk into your house to kill one of your kids… scratch that, both of them, you would simply try to move on and let them walk free?” Derin retorted

“Derin, those are two very DIFFERENT scenarios.” Kamal stood up and said with a wave of his hand.

“You see? Just the thought of it got you upset enough to stand up. See, Kamal, to me, they are the same! Someone else is responsible for the loss of my only child, and you people are asking me to let them go scot free.”

“Derin, we are asking you to do what is best for your family. It is the tougher decision to make, but ditch this vengefulness and think about your family!” Kamal returned to his chair as he said.

Agatha had been watching Awazi as the exchange ensued. She sensed that Derin would not agree to what she was going to propose, but Awazi might be her best ally to make this work. She addressed Awazi when she spoke next.

“Doctor Ajanaku deeply regrets what has happened, and is unwilling to fight. Look, I know a child is irreplaceable, hec Derin, I’m your mother. But more than ever, you need to begin to try for a child again.”

Awazi sat up at this. The suggestion of the Yoruba girl was about to come up. She said quietly

“Seeing that we don’t make children, and that it took us twelve years to have Isaac, what are you suggesting? That Derin should try to have a child with someone abi? So you can have your precious grandchild?”

“When I said you, I meant two of you, Awazi and Derin. The doctor is no stranger to the struggles to have Isaac, and his offer is that his hospital will sponsor the most advanced in-vitro fertilization therapy abroad for you. And he says though its expensive, it’s almost a hundred percent guaranteed to lead to conception. And then after conception, they will have a doctor and nurse dedicated to you when you return to Lagos until delivery.”

“Never!” Derin shouted, bolting up from the dining chair. “So they contrive to bribe me into being quiet and not dealing with them? Never, never, NEVER! We will try for a child by ourselves and still deal with them definitely. God who gave us Isaac will give us another child. But Dr. Omega and his ilk will be taught a lesson and made an example of.”

Awazi wasn’t flustered. “Did the doctor actually make this offer?” she addressed her question to Agatha.

“Yes, he did, after you people stormed out yesterday. He is an honorable man, and he will keep his word. If he had still been running the hospital and not that his excuse of a son, this unfortunate incident would never have happened.”

Derin looked at Awazi as if she had grown horns. He wanted to say something but Kamal caught him right before he spoke and stopped him “Derin, let’s hear her out abegi. No be by this your vexing and shouting.”

“If we were to take this offer,” Awazi queried “I would prefer to stay in the U.S. or whichever country the therapy is done throughout the pregnancy and deliver the child there, all at cost to the hospital. Travelling up and down can cause complications. No matter how dedicated the dedicated doctor and nurse are in Lagos, I’ll feel safer with their healthcare abroad than here.”

Agatha was happy that Awazi was on the same page with her. “I’m certain the doctor would be more than happy to accede to you requests once he is certain that you will be taking the offer up.”

Derin was livid with rage. “What stupid offer are you all talking about taking up? Awazi, you cannot be serious about allowing the people responsible for Isaac’s death to go scot free. I am not a party to this offer and will never be.”

Awazi stood up and went to her husband. “I miss Isaac, more than you can imagine. The sight of every little thing he used reminds me painfully of our loss. His socks. His bib. Everything. Every single little thing. But I want to move on from this pain, or it will drown me. If this treatment will give us a baby, please, I am begging you,” she went on her knees, “forget about this revenge and let us take it, and begin healing.”

Derin looked down at his wife. She seemed to be in so much pain as each word she spoke was obviously from depths of this pain. But he would not betray Isaac. He would fight to avenge his son.

He cupped her face in his hands, and told her “healing will only come when we have closure on this matter. I cannot betray my conscience and betray the memory of our son.”

“So you would rather hold on to a painful memory than let us move on?” Awazi inquired.

“You would rather we forgot our son in order to move on?” Derin asked right back.

He moved away from her, and faced his mother “tell him he will be hearing from my lawyers. And if he wants a fight, oh, he will get one hell of a fight.”

With that, he picked his keys and left the house.

How Much Money Does A Man Need

Here’s a short story I based on the classic by Russian master Leo Tolstoy, How Much Land Does A Man Need. Hope you enjoy it. Wrote it to clear the writer’s block I was experiencing while attempting to write Monday’s episode of Broken Mirrors.

TL

puppet money

Jaja hated his job. Everyday, he woke up at four in the morning and didn’t get back into the house before eleven. And what did he do daily? He counted the money and kept the inventory for the owner of the small microfinance bank, with the prestigious title “Chief Accountant”. But with a salary that was barely enough to take him home, he could only afford a house in one of the border towns, while he journeyed into Victoria Island daily. And the owner of the company where he worked didn’t get in before ten every morning in spite of the fact that he lived in an estate which was a walking distance from the office.

So that morning, as he was in the throes of the final sequence of his dress-up routine, putting on his neck-tie, he grumbled out loud

“If I had half of all the money in Nigeria, even the devil could not take away my happiness”

Now it happened that just as Jaja spoke those words, the devil himself was passing by and he heard them. So he decided to stop by and take the speaker up.

Quite suddenly, the devil appeared beside Jaja, startling him. He greeted politely “Good morning Mr. Jaja”.

Jaja looked at the well dressed gentleman in a kaftan and cap that stood in his parlor and took two steps back,

“Who are you? How did you know my name? Have we met before? Why are you here? And how did you get into my house?” he asked a torrent of questions

“Ah, Mr. Jaja, you called me as I was passing by and I heard you call my name. Allow me to introduce myself,” the man said, removing his cap. “My name is Lucifer, but some people would call me the devil. And I’d like to take you up on your offer.”

Jaja recoiled into a corner, as far away from the man as possible “if this is a joke, stop it o!”

“Joke?” the man raised an eyebrow. “Okay, maybe you’ll find me more recognizable in this form.” With that, the fine clothes disappeared, and the cap gave way to horns. A tail appeared between his legs and his face became reptilian. His skin, drawn out now became the red of glowering coals. And then, in another instant, the monster was gone and the gentleman stood before Jaja again.

“How would you like to have as much of the money in this country as you can have? Think of all the trillions you hear them talk about on the TV daily. All you need to do is want it, and it’s yours.”

Now Jaja was afraid, truly afraid. But even as he heard the devil speak, he felt something move in his heart. He really wanted it. And that something told him if he could have as much as was possible, he would be able to outsmart this devil and keep some.

“Everything?” he asked haltingly.

The devil smiled, a smile that looked extremely endearing and said “yes, everything.” And, to ensure I keep my word, here’s a contract. He waved his hand and poof, two copies of a contract appeared in his hands, pre-signed Lucifer, and with Jaja’s name printed as the second signatory.

“Please take a few minutes to read and then sign only if you are satisfied with my terms.”

Jaja glanced through the contract. He smiled in spite of his fear. The terms were in his favor. He could have whatever he money he wanted within Nigeria, no matter how much. He had to know about the money and want it, so monies he was unaware of he couldn’t get. He had to be specific, he couldn’t just say “I want all the money in Nigeria,” and get it. He had to name specific monies. And the contract lasted only till nightfall, any money he had as at nightfall would remain his own. The moment he decided he was going to sign and began to look for a pen, his signature suddenly appeared on the contract.

“Ah, Mr. Jaja, I see you have decided to take my offer. A very wise choice, I must say. A copy of the contract will remain with you, and I’ll take my copy. I’ll see you at sunset.”

With that, he was gone, as suddenly as he had appeared.

Jaja didn’t feel anything after the devil left. He had thought he would feel different or get some heightened sense of perception or something. Nothing happened.

By the time he got to work, he was convinced that he must either have been dreaming or imagined what he thought he saw.

He opened the balance sheet of his bank to start work and eyed what the bank was worth, comparing it to his own worth. “Kai, two billion. If only I had that kind of money, life would be different!”

It wasn’t five minutes after he said this that the owner came in. Jaja jumped to his feet and said “good morning sir,” wondering what he had done to warrant such a sudden visit.

“Sit down Jaja,” he said, taking a seat too.

“Look, Jaja,” he continued “you have served me faithfully over the years, and I’m relocating to Europe to face my business there. I don’t want anything tying me up to Nigeria, so I’m transferring ownership of this bank to you. Do your best with it. The lawyer has filed papers already and you don’t have to do anything.”

The man got up to leave a stunned Jaja, and then as if he forgot something turned and dropped the keys to his Range Rover. “That’s yours too.” And then he left.

Immediately, the executive secretary came into his office to lead him to the MD’s office and then brought papers for Jaja to sign. Five minutes later, he was alone in the office, reclined on the huge chair, feet on the polished mahogany table. Then he began to laugh wildly. It was really working. It hadn’t been a dream, he was really getting it. And he would best the devil, because he would go for the biggest cake there was. Where better to get this than the central bank.

He quickly began to go through the CBN website on the executive laptop. Yes! Eureka! He had found what he was looking for. In one swoop, he would make all the money outside of no effect and own all the real money with this his plan, effectively making himself emperor of Nigeria. Now he kicked himself. Why hadn’t he asked for the whole world in bargaining with the devil? Anyway, he would make do with this for now.

“I want the cash in circulation to require my physical signature to be valid. All cash must be brought for my signature. Oh, and the cash is two trillion naira, and I will have half of it as the contract says after I sign.”

Instantly, there was a knock on the door, and the CBN governor came in.

“Mr. Jaja sir,” he said, “the first of the bullion vans are here for your signature.”

He laughed ecstatically. “Bring them in!” he said, punching the air.

And so stacks and stacks of money came in. And as he signed, one would be kept for him, and the other would be taken back to the central bank. And the money kept coming in. And he kept signing. And signing. And signing. Until his pile grew to almost fill the huge office, yet he kept signing. His hands ached, but he didn’t stop. His belly grumbled but he kept signing. His legs began to get numb, but oh, Jaja didn’t stop signing. When the secretary brought in lunch, he shouted at her and fired her for interrupting his signing. When his wife called, he ignored the call. After all, he was signing. Everything else didn’t matter, he was signing!

On the top of each hour, as time passed, the clock in the room chimed, counting which hour of the day had just been passed. And with each hour, the greed gnawed away at Jaja’s heart, driving him to keep signing.

The clock chimed and counted six. And almost immediately, the devil appeared again.

“Mr. Jaja, I see your pile has grown tremendously during this day. You seem to have done very well for yourself. You’re not quite at half of all the money in Nigeria yet, but then, a deal’s a deal, so this is all you get. Now, I’ll leave you to enjoy what is your, yeah? But we should shake hands like honorable beings that we both are before I depart finally.”

Jaja thought he would be happy at the end of the day, but he felt exactly the opposite. Now, a million and one smarter ways he could have obtained this money rather than the silly signing he had been doing came to him. And now the opportunity was gone. He attempted to get up from the seat to go and shake the devil’s hands. A searing pain shot through him as the blood tried to rush into his numb legs. It was as he attempted to stand up that he realized just how exhausted he was. His body was worn out, and it protested the sudden exertion and he fell back into the chair. As he fell, the devil smiled that smile again. And that was the last thing he remembered, for he died as soon as he hit the chair.

Broken Mirrors – Episode 3

Broken Mirrors Art

And so they waited. The doctor got into his habit of pacing, while the woman sat still, staring at the Africa Magic movie without really seeing anything. Forty five minutes later, Dr. Ajanaku’s phone rang and he whipped it out of his pocket sharply.

“Hello, Saliu, have you found something out?”

Agatha sat up on the edge of her chair trying to pick what the other person’s response was but it was too muffled for her to hear clearly.

“Really?” Dr. Ajanaku said. Hearing the worry in his voice, it took all of her restraint to stop herself from jumping him and grabbing the phone. She grabbed the cushion of the chair and sank her nails into it to calm herself down.

She tuned off and just waited for him to conclude the call before her blood pressure went through the roof. A few seconds later, he sat down opposite her, and it was only then she realized he had rounded the call off.

“They have been found,” he said gravely.

“Found ke? Are they dead ni? Why did you say found like that, as if a piece of jewelry is found?” she asked, the tears beginning to form in her eyes.

“Sorry,” he said, “that came out wrongly. What I meant to say is that though they are alive, the police have them.”

She let out a sigh, her body sinking into the chair, visibly relieved. Then as if realizing that they were not safe and sound in that instant, she sat upright again.

“Which station? For what? We need to get my baby out fast!” she spoke each word fast, as if trying to get more than one word at a time.

He stood up and went over to her side, placing a hand on her shoulder, “Calm down Mrs. Banwo. Like I guessed, they were arrested for having the baby’s corpse with them without having a death cert. It’s a salvageable situation. And don’t worry about whatever it will cost; we will get them out today, unfailingly. Let’s get going. They’re being held at Iyangaku police station”

She instructed the househelp to ensure that warm bathwater was running until she got back. Derin would definitely need a warm bath to wash away the filth when they got him back from the police cells. They got into the doctor’s car and as the driver pulled out onto the road, the doctor informed Agatha that they would be picking up a friend who would help them facilitate the release of the couple.

They stopped by at Dugbe and picked a short, stocky man who Dr. Ajanaku introduced as Saliu. “Saliu will help us navigate the police world to speed things up,” he said.

About thirty minutes later, they got to Iyangaku. They parked outside the gate and Saliu led them in. The men behind the counter recognized him and shouts of “shun sir, shun sir” rent the air, accompanied by exaggerated salutes. Saliu ignored them and led the doctor and his friend straight to the DPO’s office. The DPO was his junior and the man saluted accordingly when he entered.

“Jenkins, at ease. We are here on important business, no time at all. You have someone and we are certain there was a mix-up, so the good doctor here,” he pointed at Dr. Ajanaku “has come to right that wrong.”

Jenkins was a balding man with a bald patch that shone like he took time to polish it even inside the bulb lit office. “Which of the accused are you referred to sir?” he asked. Agatha cringed, first at the way the DPO spat the word ‘accused’ as if it disgusted him. It was her Derin he was calling accused. And then, the man’s poor grammar which he tried to pull off with a polished accent. He sounded absolutely ridiculous in his dingy, threadbare office. If the situation wasn’t this grave, he would be comical.

“A gentleman named Derin Banwo, and his wife. It seems they rushed out of the hospital with their dead baby without collecting the death certificate, and your men picked them up. We all know how the loss of a child can leave one forgetting such things. The doctor has brought the certificate and we hope that you will realize this is a mix-up and let the couple go and bury their child.”

The DPO folded his arms across the table as if he was in deep thought. Only later would Saliu tell the doctor that it was merely an act. He unfolded his arms as he spoke

“Oga, I can understand their devastate, but you know thing are not that straightforward.” He smiled as if pleased with himself for using a word as long as straightforward. He continued “we have take statement. We have start the case filing. This is murder of their own child we are talking about. We can’t let them go just like that.”

Saliu knew it was all bullshit the man was spewing. In a police station, as long as the case had not gone to court, the DPO was the all in all. He could kill almost any case, except murder.

“DPO, you know who you are talking to,” Saliu said menacingly, pulling rank. “I’m not one of the family of the boy, not a bloody civilian. I know how these things work, and a genuine mistake when I see one. Of course I know you can’t just let them go like that, but we don’t have much time. So to cut the long story short, what would it take to have them walk free?”

“Haba, oga, you know if not for the boys that need to be settle, I would not take anything with a senior officer like yourself involved in the matter. But as their expectings will be very high, we will need like 50k to keep everybody quiet on this matter.”

“What!” Saliu banged his hands on the table. “50k for what? I thought you would be reasonable, shay you will prefer not to get anything and just release them on order from above abi? I’m sure you know I can go above you for this, but I thought you were a good officer.”

Agatha wanted to tell Saliu she would pay even 100k if that was what it took, but a look from the doctor stopped her.

Saliu seemed to calm down and then told the DPO in even tones “we will give you twenty five, take it or leave it.”

“Oga, twenty five no go do all the boys o.” the DPO had dropped his English pretensions now. “If you fit add five, we go do am.”

On a normal day, Saliu would have pressed his bargain, because he knew that the DPO knew that this was his only chance to get anything out of this now that Saliu was involved. But he had seen that it was only the doctor that was restraining the woman from saying anything stupid, so he closed the deal. “Oya bring them and all the papers they will need to sign. Where is the baby’s body now?”

“We followed due process and put him in the mortuary.” Then walking to the door, he shouted “Isa!”

Isa came to the doorway and the DPO whispered instructions to him. He left and returned in like two minutes, followed by a haggard looking Derin. Awazi was behind him, her dark skin crusted with dust from her cell.

Agatha rushed to Derin and held him in her arms, not minding how dirty he was, checking every inch of him. She barely acknowledged Awazi, who also maintained her distance.

Doctor Ajanaku quickly settled the bill, and then Derin signed the papers. They could not wait to get out of the station. Derin got into his own car along with Awazi, while his mum and the doctor drove behind them. Saliu gave them directions to the mortuary and then left on his own, to spend what doctor had paid him on his new catch, Onome the hairdresser. The girl had been proving hard to get for him but now that he had some money to play with, he was certain he was going to bed her before this weekend was over.

The mortuary was a few minutes away from the station and again the doctor handled the proceedings there. He came out with the child’s now stiff body. Awazi began to sob quietly in the car as the doctor carried the body into his own car. This time, the doctor’s car led the way and Derin followed.

It took another thirty minutes to get home, and by then it was pretty dark. The moment they stepped into the house, Agatha called to the househelp “is the water still running?”

“Yes madam,” the girl said, trying not to show how bewildered she was at the company before her.

“Derin darling, you should have your bath…” she was saying to Derin now.

“What is he,” Derin pointed at Doctor Ajanaku as he spoke, “doing here.” The malice in his voice surprised Agatha.

“What do you mean what is doing here?”  She asked. “The good doctor was the one that went out of his way to bring the death certificate and used his contacts to find out where you were being held and then got you out of the station. You should be grateful!”

“And, have you bothered to ask yourself why he is being so damn nice?”

“Young man, I do not care what you have been through, but you will not talk to me, your mother like that! What is wrong with you?” Agatha was livid.

“Did the ‘good doctor’ tell you that his hospital killed my son?”  Derin exploded.

“You cannot be serious about what you just said!” she shouted. Then she turned to Awazi and spoke directly to her for the first time. “It isn’t true what Derin says, is it?”

Awazi didn’t bother to be polite and answer. The woman hadn’t even seen her since and now she needed support against Derin, she was turning to her. She simply turned away and sat down without answering.

“So you will not answer me, you this girl?” Agatha turned her venom on Awazi. Yet Awazi remained silent.

“I wonder why you allowed this one come out into the world before you killed him like all the unborn ones of many years past, you this barren woman!” Agatha continued. How dare the indolent young girl ignore her?

“Tell me, how do you feel now? In our area, we would have forced you to confess. But let me tell you, this one you just did is the last you will do, you are definitely leaving my son’s house after this! I will get him a proper, well trained Yoruba girl who will bear him children and who will respect her elders.”

Awazi had had it. “What did I do to you? My son, my only son, your only grandson just died and this is all you can think? What kind of wicked mother are you? Just so you know, my child was very fine, with no issues at all while we were in Lagos. It was when you insisted on us bringing him to Ibadan that all this happened. And just so you know, we never went to Abuja, we were in Lagos all along. It took us lying that we were in Abuja to get you off our backs and let us have our baby. Who sounds more like the baby eating witch, gaskiya?”

She turned to Derin “Husband, I am definitely not staying here tonight, before something happens to me.”

“Two of you should stop it!” Derin shouted, holding his head in his hands. His mum tried to say something but he raised his hands and repeated “Stop it, I say! Both of you, listen to yourselves! Women! Arrrrgh!”

Doctor Ajanaku spoke up “I’m sorry, and I know this might be a bad time, but I don’t think there can be a good time to show how sorry we are for your loss Derin. I know nothing can replace your child, but you can be assured that every member of staff involved in the sad episode, including my foolish son Hakeem, is being dealt with and…”

“So you have your own son alive to deal with, but I’ll never be able to discipline my own son because of his callousness and stupidity? And you expect that you will come and say sorry, and all will be well?”

“Derin, where are your manners? How can you be talking to an agbalagba like that?” Agatha chastised him.

He turned to her angrily “but you can talk to my wife just anyhow you like in my presence abi? You can accuse my grieving wife of killing and eating our children just now and then accuse me of speaking without etiquette and disrespect in the next breathe? You are being hypocritical mum.”

“So you are siding with her over me, your mother, Derin?” an agitated Agatha asked.

Wordlessly, Derin picked the baby, signaled Awazi and they began to leave.

Agatha grabbed his arm “where are you going with a dead baby in the night? Derin be reasona…”

He shrugged her off, and continued to the door. He turned back to the doctor at the door and told him coldly “you will be hearing from my lawyers.” And they were gone.

At that moment, the househelp came back down and said “madam, the water don begin cold o, oga no come baff again?”

Agatha lashed out at the poor girl “get out of here, you idiot!”

The confused girl scurried away, wondering what she had done wrong.

“Doctor, what happened at that hospital when they brought the baby in? I want to hear all of it.” She asked

“The baby was rushed into the hospital straight from the express. He had developed some alarming symptoms while they were in traffic from what I gather. You know since my stroke, I handed over running the hospital to Hakeem, my son. My worst mistake, I regret. He insisted on following procedures and…”

“Nooooooooo!” Agatha screamed, bringing the househelp running back in to see what was wrong. The girl scurried back out when they both looked at her with fiery eyes.

“So Derin was right. Oh my God, he was right. I have to find him.”

She tried to dial his numbers, but it was turned off. “he could be anywhere now!” she exclaimed.

“There’s one thing I need to ask you,” Dr. Ajanaku said quietly, as he got up with the ‘it’s time to go kind of movement’.

“What?” she inquired.

“Derin has threatened to that the hospital will hear from his lawyers. While I understand his grief and I sympathize and empathize, I will not allow my hospital to go down the drains. If lawyers become involved, I will fight him hard and I will fight him with all I have. It will be long, drawn-out and messy. It will ultimately be a battle he cannot win. That however is not the way I would like to go. While we cannot simply replace the baby, no human being is replaceable, I have a proposition. He and his wife need to move on, and try to have another baby. There are new in-vitro fertilization techniques that would guarantee pregnancy. They’re expensive treatments, yes, but the hospital will pay for the treatment for them. We will also dedicate a doctor and a nurse resident in Lagos on our own bill to monitor the pregnancy to ensure that the baby is delivered safe and sound. I believe the joy of having a new baby will soon eclipse the sorrow of losing baby Isaac. Now, in his state, Derin will not even listen to me, and if I was in his shoes, I would do the same or even worse. But you are his mother, and must know your son well. I plead with you to find a way to convince him to fi owo wo inu and see reason and take our offer.”

The doctor then left, leaving Agatha feeling very alone. She wished Adeoye was still alive. He would have taken charge and known what to do, and how to talk to his son. Now, she was confused, angry and sad. She tried Derin’s number again repeatedly. It was still switched off. She slowly made her way upstairs to have that bath she had prepared for Derin earlier. She needed it now.

The Valentine

You knew I was gonna post a Valentine Special right? Happy Vals Day y’all. Enjoy

TL

valentine bow

Oreoluwa’s eyes kept going to the entrance of her office. How could Steve fall her Yoruba hand like this?

The day had started perfect. He had called her first thing in the morning to wish her Happy Valentine, and then sang her favorite song “Olo Mi”, by Tosin Martins. She felt like the luckiest girl in the world to have such a wonderful man.

They say most moneyed men aren’t caring men, except in the lavishing of their money. Steve was the antithesis of such a theory. He was moneyed with a capital M and C.A.R.I.N.G all the way. God, she gushed again, feeling supremely lucky that morning.

All that had changed as the day had worn on. She had got him that painting she had heard him talk obsessively about getting and the gallery had delivered it to his office that morning. It had cost her a small fortune (as a poor Nigerian banker, forget all those that think bankers have money) but the fulfillment she felt when he called her to say thank you effusively had removed any doubt she had about if it had been money well spent. Now, it was two hours to closing time, her table was still empty. Fatima, her colleague and Riskat, the office tatafo were at her desk now, acting like a couple of documentary directors, filming the state of her table for future reference. Kai, the rest of her body fell with her hand.

“So Steve never perform?” Riskat said in her annoying little girl voice. “But the guy is having now, abi una quarrel?”

“Mind your business, tatafo!” Oreoluwa shot in anger.

“Temper, temper…” Fatima said, flaunting her ring. Her boyfriend, Alex, had come to the office today to dramatically propose to her in front of everybody. Internal Ore slapped Fatima inside, but externally, she smiled and said “no o, this Riskat is just a nonsense girl ni jare. Steve is definitely a performer.” She said the performer with a naughty smile, insinuating performances of another kind. They all laughed.

“Yes o, I remember last year now,” Fatima said

“As in en, he was sending you gifts every hour all day, with each gift being bigger than the last! Chai, I was green with envy.” Riskat chipped in.

“Risi o! You no dey forget!” Ore said.

“Haaa, one does not forger ‘performances’ like that in a hurry,” Riskat said with meaning.

Their Divisional Head called Fatima, and Riskat dissolved to her desk in a hurry. It was appraisal season and no one wanted to look like a farfer to the DH. The man was notorious for declining promotions for flimsy reasons

As with days when you are waiting for something, the day went by painfully slowly, and with each tick of the clock, Oreoluwa’s anger built up. Steve was soooo gonna get it.

Five thirty, and she began to pack her things to go home, trying to avoid Fatima and Riskat, and sneak out quickly. Her phone rang and the ring tone immediately told her it was Steve.

“What?” she said

“An an, are we fighting? Anyway, I’m outside your office o,” Steve’s sultry baritone came over the phone.

“Really?” she chuckled gaily, her countenance immediately lighting up.

“Yeah baby. Oh, and it’s not the car you’re used to. It’s a new car, a Honda Crosstour.”

“I’ll be out in a minute,” she said and hung up.

Of course, Riskat had figured out who she had been talking to and was beside her already. Fatima had spotted Riskat and followed.

“So?” Riskat asked with raised eyebrows.

“So, he is here to take me out! And you are going to gerrout and let me go, and wait for the gist tomorrow!” Oreoluwa said, as she breezed past the duo and out of the office.

She easily found the sleek black car Steve and described, it stood out amongst the cars in their car park. She got into the car and flung her arms around a startled Steve, eternally grateful that he had come to rescue her from what would have been a year of endless taunting from Fatima and Riskat about her dry val if he hadn’t come.

He took the cue and kissed her firmly on the lips before she spared the car thing a thought. “What happened to your car?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing is wrong with it, just decided to give myself a treat this valentine.”

Then without another word, he turned up the volume of the radio and began listening to his favorite sports program. Ore wondered if he had failed to notice the look of “what about me” she put on. Knowing Steve, he hadn’t failed to notice, he had just chosen to ignore it. She decided to rest it and just enjoy whatever outing he had planned for them.

She worked in Marina and lived in Surulere. When he drove on Marina up to the end of the road, she assumed they were just trying to make a connect to Victoria Island, to some nice getaway spot. So when he turned the car and ascended Eko Bridge, the opposite direction of going into VI, to face Surulere, she realized they weren’t going into VI. She wanted to protest, but she controlled herself, telling herself that there was probably some place on the mainland he had something planned in.

Thankfully, traffic was uncharacteristically light and they were descending the bridge into Western Avenue and connecting stadium in no time. The closer they got to Surulere, the bigger the rage growing within her was growing.

When they turned into her street, the dam burst and the volcano erupted.

“Where are we going, Steve?” she asked quietly.

He turned down the volume of the radio and asked “What did you say?”

“I said,” she said, clenching her fists together in anger “where are we going?”

“Ah, you don’t recognize your own street again? I’m taking you home now, which kind of question is that?” Steve asked, miffed.

“Why the hell will you be just taking me home Steve? You could get yourself a car, but couldn’t spare a thought for me abi? Nothing planned? Nothing! And me I went out of my way to make you happy this vals day. You know how much these things mean to me and yet didn’t do anything.”

Steve turned to her, obviously angry “so it’s now a case of do me I do you abi? You bought a val gift, only because you expected me to buy you one?” he asked.

“Stop turning the words Steve, I know you are good at that, but you know that’s not what I mean! I just mean… arrrrgh!” she said, short of words to adequately express her frustration.

Steve was very angry by now. He pulled the car over and put the gear on park, and then got out of the car. Then he got down from the car and started walking away.

She struggled and unstrapped her seatbelt. By the time she came down, she saw him getting into another car and it zoomed off before she could say Jack Robinson. What was happening? Why had Steve left her like this? To say she was confused would be an understatement. Who had he left with?

She went back to the car to get her phones so she could call him. if this was how it was going to end, so be it. It was when she got to the car that she saw a note on the driver’s seat from which he had just gotten up.

Even from her seat, she could see it was addressed to her. She quickly picked it and unfurled the paper. Here’s what it said

“So I knew you would blow up before we got home, so I had my own car follow us. Hehehe. And if you’re still wondering what I got you for valentine, you’re reading this note inside it. Happy valentine dear. And try to dey coolu temper. Love you loads.

PS, open the glove compartment.”

She shrieked in delight, and yanked the glove compartment open. In it, was a ring. At that moment, his car pulled up beside her and he jumped down and went on one knee and asked – “would you be my wife?”

The Evolution of Our Democracy – A Few Thoughts

I hardly write political commentary that isn’t fiction. But these thoughts floated around my head for a bit and I thought I should share. Do read and share.

TL

tunde mic

It is often a tempting fantasy to assume that our experiences as a nation are unique to us, and that we are the first to have these experiences. However, if we search far enough, wide enough and perhaps long enough into history, we will quickly dispel this uniqueness of experience to the realm it belongs – fantasy.

Our national adventure into democracy as a nation took an interesting turn recently with the announcement of the merger of the major opposition parties into one bigger opposition party, the APC. Foremost on the agenda of this new party is to wrest power from the PDP, come 2015. The reactions to this declaration of intent have been interesting, but as history has repeatedly shown, it is the way democratic politics evolves if it is to succeed. I do not intend to treat the morality or otherwise of any individuals in this piece, I merely intend to highlight the political precedence and implications with the hope to provide illumination to both the ordinary Nigerian, and the players in the terrain of politics.

Make no mistake, I do not write to support either of PDP or APC. I only intend to provide insights into the current state of things, drawn from my study of history.

The typical cycle of democracy at its start after a period of significant national turmoil usually has one dominant party and matures into two strong viable parties eventually. The classical example of this is with the United States. However, there are other examples – ANC is in the same boat we currently have PDP in, in South Africa. In the United Kingdom, there are two dominant parties. In Ghana today, they have morphed into the two dominant party stage, albeit early in that phase.

Right after the American War of Independence, the party that held sway was the Federalist Party. While the president was an independent, most of the leading men in government were Federalists. And so they dominated in the early years of the American democracy. And in those early years, as with the early years in Nigeria, politics was firmly based on patronage. Such is the way of nascent democracies. In this light, therefore, it is not surprising that PDP has dominated the Nigerian political landscape since 1999. And, as with the Nigerian opposition, the early American opposition was fragmented, even more unorganized than the Nigerian case, and centered around personalities. However, the common fear of the Federalist policy of usurping the power of the states in the American union motivated men like Thomas Jefferson to rally the diverse interests that opposed the Federalists into one party. The degree of diversity in this new party, and the infantile state of its ideology was demonstrated clearly in nothing else than its name – it was called the Democratic-Republican Party. The main motivating factor for this new opposition party was to take power from the Federalists and preserve the relative autonomy of the states in the United States. Hence, the APC being pulled together by the desire to wrestle power from the PDP is not altogether out of place, and without historical precedence. It is a normal step in the evolution of a viable democracy. The lack of a clear ideology is also not a problem; ideologies evolve, as democracies mature.

The fact that interests are diverse and the coalition that makes up a party is broad is sometimes seen as a weakness. Nothing can be further from the truth. One of the key strengths of the PDP in Nigeria has been the diversity of interests within the PDP. For since 1999, it has been the only party that no single individual can dominate. The various interest groups simply would not allow this. In fact, where one individual or group began to get too dominant, the others have effectively put aside their differences and come together to stop this. As a result of this, the PDP is well experienced in collaborating, negotiating and compromising to resolve its issues and take its decisions in the most democratic way amongst the Nigerian political parties. The bane of the opposition so far has been a lack of such a broad based coalition and a less than democratic manner of decision making and resolution of crises. To illustrate how this strength works as an advantage, I’ll again refer to history.

After the collapse of the Oyo Empire, the majority of its military fled south from Old Oyo and the war chiefs settled mainly in two locations. One was Ibadan, and its leader was Oluyole. The other was Ijaye and they were led by Kurunmi. The two leaders sought to establish dictatorial roles for themselves, but in the case of Ibadan, Oluyole died before he could fully accomplish this. What then happened in Ibadan was that it evolved into a sort of yeoman federalism, where anyone could aspire to leadership and governance was more broad based. Even someone who entered Ibadan as a slave could become a prominent war chief if their talents so permitted. In Ijaye however, Kurunmi held sway and established himself. The result was that Ijaye went into oblivion, while the more inclusive Ibadan attracted the best of talent, and grew into an empire which was only stopped by the Ekiti Parapo during the 16year Kiriji War, with the crucial assistance of the British. Even then, Ibadan was not defeated or crushed. They remained a formidable force. The diversity of the coalition that made up Ibadan attracted the best of the best and they built up Ibadan’s strength, because they could hope to become prominent. PDP attracted the best political talent (I am not talking morals here, just analyzing politics) that understood how to win elections in Nigeria in the same manner that Ibadan did. Now that the APC has emerged, there is such a broad based opposition, and two things are immediately clear. It will be difficult for one man to dominate the APC, and decision making will involve tough lessons in negotiating, compromise and collaboration internally, vital lesson they must learn well if they are to pose any challenge to the PDP. They must also follow the Ibadan way, of rewarding talent. It is the only way to attract real talent.

The APC should be under no illusions of a quick win. This is going to be a long hard fought political war, with many different battles. The Democratic-Republican Party did not defeat the Federalists in their first attempt. They simply kept trying until they did. Hence, it will be interesting to watch what the APC will do if it fails to win the presidency in 2015. They would do well to follow the American example, where the battles for the National Assembly majority were even more important than the presidency in the early days. It will be interesting to see a PDP presidency with an APC dominated National Assembly. With each loss, the Democratic-Republicans went back and built a stronger grassroot following for themselves, while the Federalists held sway amongst the elite, ignoring the grassroots, secure, I believe, in their own strength. They were eventually kicked out. The PDP would do well to learn from the mistake of the Federalists. Politics is a game of numbers, and while the elite are important, the numbers are in the grassroots. There is already a strong sense of disconnect between the PDP elite and the rest of the country which the APC can exploit effectively. If PDP win and they retain the presidency in 2015 and hence become confident in the perpetuity of their power, the APC would be wise to go back and continue building a strong grassroot support base, building strength towards the next election. They also need to eschew the current opposition practice where they are only active in locations where the opposition is in power. PDP today is operational everywhere, whether they are in power in that state or not. The APC will be wise to learn this crucial lesson. The interregnum between elections is for building strength and support.

After the Democratic-Republicans kicked the Federalists out of the Whitehouse, the expected happened. The cracks in the coalition began to widen and the party split up. Two parties ultimately emerged from it, the two parties we are now familiar with when we think American politics – The Democrats and The Republicans. These two have provided a viable alternative to each other everytime (with the Democrats having more presidents than the Republicans) creating a culture of perform or get booted out. It was in this competitive clime that patronage was reduced to the barest minimum in American politics and funding rules for campaigns enforced. It was also in this environment that the ideologies of the emergent parties were formed properly. It is noteworthy to point out that these ideologies have not been cast in stone ever since. The Democrats started out as the more conservative of the two parties, but are the more liberal today.

I therefore will not be surprised, if the APC splits up after getting power. History has shown this to be a plausible outcome. However, what I am certain would have been shown by their victory is the possibility of an incumbent party getting booted out of Aso Rock. It will cause votes to increasingly count in elections. It will also cause the political class to begin to perform better in office, as there is always a viable opposition waiting in the wings to kick them out. As an illustration, it is very possible that one of the key factors that geared Fashola to perform well in his first term was the very present threat of PDP winning Lagos in 2011. And while the PDP did not win Lagos, the gains they made in areas where the ACN government didn’t perform well like Ikorodu clearly shows what can happen when there is a viable opposition available as an alternative to the people.

It is also expected that the parties will seek to differentiate themselves better ideologically in this clime of competition.

The APC will need money and politician who understand the political space, hence there will be people coming in that we might not all like, but who we will be unable to deny meet the two criteria above. Again, remember that early politics in the U.S was patronage driven also, it was during its evolution that it outgrew these things. I expect that as time goes on, our politics will also outgrow patronage.

The conclusion of my thoughts is that the democracy in Nigeria is evolving. The PDP’s early dominance, the fragmented and often individualistic opposition, the patronage system in politics, the more formidable opposition that is emerging and the events that will unfold as this plays out are part of this evolution. We will do well to play our parts. Writers should write. Critics should critique and the media should be relentless. All in all, 2015 and the years beyond will be interesting for Nigerian politics, and I am positive that we will emerge a stronger, working democracy.

ff on twitter @tundeleye

Broken Mirrors – Episode 2

Broken Mirrors Art

Derin spun around and quickly took Isaac from Awazi. The first thing that struck him was how cold the child had become, in contrast with the vivid memory of how hot he had been when they were bringing him in.

A panic ran down Dr. Hakeem’s spine. He collected the child from a numb Derin, and practically ripped the clothes off his body. Placing him on the receptionist’s desk, he confirmed what his cursory observation had told him the moment the mother had screamed. The baby was dead.

He turned around to face Derin, whose eyes were glazed as if not seeing anyone in the room “I am sorry, Mr. Banwo but…”

A sharp pain caused him to swallow the rest of the sentence and he found himself reeling backwards. It took a few split seconds to overcome the shock and realize that Derin had punched him square in the face.

“You are sorry? YOU ARE SORRY? Oh, you are not yet sorry, but you will be sorry when I’m through with you!” As he spoke, the tears began to flow freely from his eyes, and through her tears, Awazi saw her husband cry for the second time ever.

Kaffy was trying to cover Isaac’s body up now and she caught the movement in the corner of her eye. She rushed over to the reception desk in one stride and screamed “Don’t lay your filthy hands on my baby!” shoving the nurse away with such force that she fell heavily into the chair just behind her. By now Derin was beside her. As if in a trancelike state, they silently wrapped the baby in his shawl and then began to move towards the exit. Dr. Hakeem called out from the seat he was nursing his chin from “Mr. Banwo, there are still things we can do for you, that you require…” He swallowed when Derin turned back towards him. The look he saw in the man’s eyes, plus the very real pain he was feeling in his chin warned him that drawing attention to himself by talking wasn’t a wise choice at the moment. He had wanted to suggest that they would require a death certificate to move around with the child, but he kept quiet.

Derin slowly turned back towards the exit and then walked briskly to the car with Awazi in tow. “Where are we going?” Awazi queried as soon as they got into the car.

“My mum’s place. We have to bury Isaac, and do it immediately,” he responded in a colorless monotone.

“And why do we require your mum to do this? I really need to get this,” Awazi said.

“Because,” Derin responded and started the engine “we are not going to be part of the burial. It is forbidden in Yorubaland for parents to bury their children.”

“Well, I am not a Yoruba woman,” she responded, “and I will bury…” At the mention of the word bury, she burst into tears. It was Isaac they were talking about burying. Isaac. She looked at him looking so peaceful in his carrier. You could almost think he would wake up any moment from now, and cry out to demand for his food. But she was not going to hear those cries any longer. The tears flowed freely and she lost the will to protest wherever Derin was taking them.

They had barely driven for ten minutes, when they took a sharp bend into one of the very narrow Ibadan streets that always confused Awazi. Just around the bend, there was a group of policemen. Two of them were searching a white saloon car they had pulled over, while three stayed in the middle of the road, guns in hand, to flag them down. As they had slowed down to negotiate the bend, they didn’t have a choice but to stop. The policemen must have picked this spot for just this reason.

Derin parked the car and wound down. “Yes, officer,” he asked, clearly irritated by the delay “how may I help you?”

The officer scowled, his face a reflection of what Derin’s countenance must have been and said “Oga, this is a stop and search operation”.

Derin frowned even deeper and said dismissively “Chief, this is a roadblock, and I hope you know that we all know that roadblocks are now illegal.”

“You are a troublemaker abi? Who told you this is a roadblock? We are conducting a stop and search operation, based on information we have. Now,” he undid the safety of his rifle, “get down and open your booth and let us see wetin you carry.”

Derin knew better than to argue with a group of gun totting, probably drunk police officers. And it was early evening already, so they might as well get this done with. If he had been paying attention, he would have noticed Awazi looking at him, trying to communicate something. Two of the policemen went to the booth with Derin. They took their time to practically go through everything in there, bringing all the items they had packed to give his mum down, going through them, while an obviously impatient Derin tried his best to hurry them along.

After about fifteen minutes of this, they slammed the booth and followed Derin to the driver’s side.

Awazi had been silently praying that the policemen would be content with looking in just the booth. She saw that her husband’s anger had beclouded his mind and he wasn’t thinking what she was thinking. She was glad when he came back into the car and began to work the gear to move it.

Constable Dimka had been with the madam while the other two more junior officers had gone to search the booth with her husband. That Isa always annoyed him with the way he handled these things. Proud Hausa man that he was, once he felt someone was looking down on him because of his police work, he would forget why they had risked coming on the road in spite of stern warnings from DPO that the IG was serious about this no road block business. They were here first and foremost to get paid, not to pick fights with the people who would “drop” for them. Now, it was obvious that this man had nothing they could hold him for (the car looked very new, so he guessed the papers were in order) and he was too angry to drop anything for them. Foolish Isa. As the husband returned, he noticed that the madam’s eyes went to the back seat quickly, twice. It was then he realized she had been doing that quite often while they had waited.

“Isa, make we check the back seat,” he said out aloud. And watched for the woman’s reaction. He got the reaction he suspected he would and became even more convinced there was something there she was hoping they wouldn’t check. He smiled, a display of teeth browned from eating kola and snuff. Payday, he thought.

Derin watched the policemen swoop in on the back seat of his car. And then it hit him. Even as they began to exclaim, he sensed that he was in trouble, deep deep trouble.

“This pikin don die! And as e cold, no be now now e die,” Isa exclaimed in heavily accented pidgin English.

“Oga, who get this pikin,” he said, addressing Derin.

“He’s our son,” Derin answered.

“You don’t know he is dead?” It was Dimka asking now.

Awazi answered “we know, we just left the hospital where he died.” She went on to explain all that had happened to the police officers, watching their eyes to see if it was softening as she spoke. When she was through with her narrative, the policeman whose name tag said he was Dimka asked her the question she had dreaded all evening

“Can we see the death certificate?” he said, his eyes twinkling with something that Awazi knew wasn’t good. He was the most intelligent of the lot, and by extension, she guessed, the most devious.

She went ashen faced, and she saw that Derin had broken into a sweat, even though the AC had been running.

“Officer,” he began “I can explain this…”

“Oga! Which explanation? You get abi you no get the certificate?” Isa hollered, obviously pleased that the man who minutes ago had been proving to be stubborn was now in their palms.

“Actually,” Awazi ventured “because of the way they treated us in the hospital, we left without it.”

“How do we believe you madam? How do we know you are not ritualists who killed this baby? Okay, do you have the child’s birth certificate? We can use that to confirm identity and check against your ID card” Dimka asked. Of course, he knew they wouldn’t have it with them. When the man said he didn’t have it, he smiled again and said “you will have to go to the station with us to explain yourselves.”

Derin was exasperated. He could sense that this smiling policeman was deliberately asking what they couldn’t provide but there wasn’t much he could do in this situation except appeal.

“Officer, I understand your position, but we can easily sort this out, if you would just go back to the hospital with us. I’m sure the doctor will confirm our story, and there will be some of the patients there who were also witnesses to the whole thing. So, please officer, en?”

Dimka suddenly switched to his vicious mode. He released the safety of his gun noisily and shouted menacingly “you think we have time for such nonsense? I’ve even given you some options with my ‘church mind’ yet you could not. When you get to the station and we deal with you, you will confess to what a dead baby was doing in your car! Isa! Join them in their car, and if they try anything funny, scatter their heads!”

Awazi wept silently.

****************************************************

Otunba Haruna Ajanaku paced in his former office, hands behind his back, with his left hand running occasionally through his grey hair. His trim figure was evidence of years of paying particular attention to his health. That body had failed him a couple of months back, when he had suffered a stroke at work without warning one morning. Thankfully, it hadn’t been as major as it had initially seemed, but he had still had to go through two months of physiotherapy to get use of the left side of his body back. And it was then he had made the decision to retire and hand the running of the hospital over to his son. The hospital. It was his pride, and the crowning jewel of his life’s work. He had set it up from scratch, with almost nothing, and it had grown into one of the finest in Ibadan. In those years, he had earned the nickname Dr. Omega, after his hospital. Now he wondered if he had not made the worst mistake in his career by being sentimental and leaving Hakeem at the helm of Omega Clinic.

“How could you possibly have been this stupid?” he was saying to Hakeem as he continued pacing. “One, you let the hospital devolve into that level of professional negligence that is the direct cause of this baby’s demise. On febrile convulsions that could have easily been treated with a simple injection! And two, you allowed them leave here without a death certificate! Incompetence has never found a better ally as in you, Mr. Chief Medical Director! Damn, how could I not have seen this?” He had worked his way to his chair and he sat down with a thud.

Hakeem saw that his father was ready to let him speak and he quickly started before the man began talking again. The old doctor had a knack for talking and pausing and talking and pausing whenever there was an issue, and his memory was archival. He could bring up something that happened when Hakeem was five that was somehow related to this incident.

“Look, dad, it’s an unfortunate case, but really, the hospital is not liable. The baby was not yet our patient when he died and hence, we cannot be legally accused of professional negligence for someone who wasn’t our patient. And just in case you missed it, I tried to give him a certificate but got a broken nose in return!”

“You are a fool to assume this is about the legal ramification of things!” Otunba exploded, his hands trembling. “Do you think a hospital thrives on legality? It is perception and reputation that drives this business, sonny boy, and if this story gets out, our reputation is a goner. I know young Banwo well, hec, I treated him as a kid! Do you know they had been through several miscarriages, and twelve years of marriage before they had that child? You are lucky all you got was a broken nose! In his shoes, I would have ensured that not only your nose was broken, but your neck as well. Now imagine, for a moment, Mr. Legalist the spin the press would put to this. Especially with all these online people that can make things spread like wildfire. ‘Omega Hospital, Haven of Death, Baby Killing Factory murders baby a Lagos couple searched for for 12 years in cold blood for their processes and procedures would be some of the nicer ways this would be reported!”

“But dad,” Hakeem tried to say

“Do not interrupt me when I am talking!” Otunba shouted, jumping up from his chair. “You were always a legalistic, unfeeling child, but I thought your training as a doctor would have instilled some compassion in you. Clearly, I was very wrong. Do you think I am not thinking of how to make sure this doesn’t hurt the hospital? Of course I am! But the crucial thing is this; that’s not all I am thinking of! I’m thinking of that young man and his young wife and how to help them through this. And that is the crucial difference. You’re clearly not ready to run a hospital just yet.”

“What are you saying? That you are relieving me of my position as Chief Medical Director? Dad, you seem to be forgetting something.”

“And what might that be sir?” Otunba asked.

“That with your retirement, you turned ownership of the hospital to me, as well as its running. You cannot simply waltz in and relieve me of this sir. I know I’ve never been good enough for you dad, but really, you simply are in no position to do this. Oh, and to make sure that this probability was cancelled, I had the lawyer make changes to that effect,” he said with mock politeness.

Otunba began to laugh, a deep, rumbling sound from deep within his belly.

Bi omode l’aso bi agba, kole l’akisa to. And just in case you didn’t get my Yoruba, allow me translate for you. Even when a child has more clothes than his elders, he cannot have as much rags. Hakeem, I gave birth to you and you grew in my hands. If I didn’t know you as well as I do, what sort of father would I be? Of course I knew you would try that. And that lawyer was watching you on my behalf, young man. You don’t get to my age and build a business such as mine with naïveté. I’m glad to disappoint you young man, but I still own Omega Clinic fully. And of this moment, you are no longer the Chief Medical Director. Now if you’d still like your job as a doctor here, you would go and write that death certificate. I’ll personally take it to his mother’s house and see what I can do to manage this very bad situation.”

*****************************************************

Mrs. Agatha Banwo came to the living room to receive the Otunba. Since her beloved Adeoye had passed away, she relished the opportunity to see faces she had known from the days when her husband was with her. And Otunba was one of those faces. He had been Derin’s doctor when he had been a small, sickly child, and a loose friendship had developed over the years. She couldn’t say he was a close friend, but he had been part of those years that she looked back on with fondness and hence was always welcome in her home. She was a taller than average woman, with what Adeoye had always called a “Yoruba ikebe”. She had always teased him that he fell in love with her backside before even really seeing the rest of her. She missed him sorely.

She exchanged pleasantries with the grey haired doctor and then they asked about each other’s children until the househelp had served some drinks.

Otunba had deduced two things. The first was that Derin hadn’t come to his mum when he had left the hospital. That worried him, as that was where he expected that the young man would come. He also deduced that the woman sitting before him, chatting away and laughing politely had not heard the news. This was going to be much harder than he had thought.

“Madam, about your son, is he around? I would like to see him,” he started.

“Now that you mention it, he’s supposed to have arrived from Lagos today. Last we spoke, he said he was in serious traffic on the express. But I’m sure he will be here anytime from now. He’s bringing my grandson to Ibadan for the first time today.” She chuckled as she said grandson, and Otunba felt a shiver run down his spine.

“Yorubas in our wisdom have said that no matter how big a message is, we do not require a knife to deliver it. I have some bad news, and I want you to be prepared for it.”

Agatha sat upright immediately “What happened? Was Derin in an accident? Did they rush him to your hospital? Doctor, talk to me now!”

“Derin is fine, Madam. In fact, I’m surprised he isn’t here. He was at my hospital about three hours ago, with his wife and baby. I’m sorry, but we lost the baby…”

Agatha felt her heart lurch into her mouth at the doctor’s words. “Ye! Mo gbe! How doctor, how? And where is my son?”

“He left the hospital in despair madam, with his wife. We were unable to stop him from leaving”

“Ah! Otunba!” the tears were flowing freely from her lined face now. She picked her phone and dialed Derin’s number from memory. All she got was the monotonic female voice telling her the phone was switched off. She tried three more times and then tried his second number. She still couldn’t get through. Then searched for Awazi’s number in her phonebook and tried it a couple of times. The number was unreachable too.

“Where is my baby? Where is my baby!” she kept mumbling repeatedly to herself as she tried the numbers. Her worst fear was that grief had driven him to do the ultimate – suicide. She shook her head through her tears at the thought.

“I have an idea I think we should explore to find him. When they left the hospital with the child’s body, they forgot to take this,” he said, handing the death certificate over to her and then continued “if he had tried to bury the child without this, or even unluckily ran into policemen and he didn’t have the certificate in his possession, he would be in serious police wahala.

She calmed down a bit, at the prospect that Derin was still alive “How do we find out for sure?” she asked him, using the back of her hands to wipe the tears from her eyes.

“In my line of work, I have vital contacts in the police. Let me make a few calls so they can check if my theory is correct.”

He stepped aside and made the calls briskly.

“Now,” he said gravely, “we wait”.

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Broken Mirrors – Episode 1

For Kibati.

Broken Mirrors Art

Tooooot! Tooooot! The trailer’s blaring horn cut rudely into Awazi’s thoughts. “Oh my days!” she exclaimed. Today, of all the immeasurable number of days in time, Lagos-Ibadan expressway had chosen to be the meeting point of the world union of traffic inducing demons. As her husband would say, the traffic tie wrapper, come wear bandana join dey dance atilogwu. Even a slither of water would not find its way through this bumper to bumper traffic mess, and expectedly, they had passed a generous sprinkling of vehicles that had coughed and given up whatever ghost cars possessed parked by the roadside. The one hour journey from Lagos to Ibadan on a normal day had taken them four hours today. And they had just barely gone past Ogere trailer park. Her only consolation was that her husband Derin had just changed his car. If it had been their old Honda, the air conditioning would have done nothing to alleviate the searing heat. She balanced in the rear seat (popularly called Owner’s Corner) of Derin’s new Kia Sportage jeep. The fact that this was an automatic transmission car also kept him in high spirits during the trip. Had it been their old manual transmission Honda, he would have been a grumpy grouch by now. Derin had done well for the family. He had finally made that move from his old generation, meager salary paying bank to an oil servicing firm whose name eluded her now. And voila, within a year of that move, they had been able to change the car, and had now moved away from Shomolu to finally go to that nice spot behind E-Center in the Sabo area of Lagos she had always wanted them to go to. Life was looking up.

“Your ogo looks very knock-able from behind” she said, playfully rubbing his clean shaven head now. Derin laughed without taking his eyes off the road, trying to inch ahead of the minibus that was trying to reenter the road from the red sands of the patch between the road and the bush beside it. “You this Eggon woman from the bushes of Nassarawa wants to slap a full grown Yoruba man’s head. Abomination! We Ibadan men require the liver of a male snail as sacrifice for such atrocities o.”

They both laughed as she rose to kiss the back of his head “how about that kind of head slapping, Mr. full grown Yoruba man?” she asked smiling naughtily.

“Haaaa,” he said in mock horror. “This woman, you want to cause an accident abi? And you are doing bad thing in front of the baby, you want to teach him bad bad things?”

As she collapsed into the seat laughing again, the baby chuckled out aloud, seemingly joining her in laughter. She felt a surge of love rise through her being as she looked at him. The baby. Her baby. Their baby. Her, and Derin. It had taken a heart wrenching twelve years for him to come. She had cried, prayed, fought, despaired and nearly given up. It hadn’t been an easy marriage, from the beginning. She was a Hausa speaking, Eggon woman who had spent all her life in Nassarawa. She could hear her father drilling it into her head from when she was old enough to understand the word ‘marry’.

“Awazi, my daughter,” he would say, giving her one of his carefully selected serious looks. “Ours is a small and close knit tribe, and we enjoy peace with ourselves. When you are of age, we will find you a nice Eggon man, and you will marry him.” She remembered rolling her eyes internally, but nodding obediently as she was expected to.

NYSC came and for the first time, it had taken her out of her cul de sac in Nassarawa. Her father had repeated the warnings when she was leaving but she hadn’t heard them. He was the proper Ibadan Yoruba boy and they had met when he came to work in Calabar, while she was serving there. Both parents didn’t want the marriage. Her father had exploded in rage when she brought the matter up. But Derin was a charmer. By means she could never understand, Derin managed to win his affection and his blessing to take his daughter as wife. She was elated. So, marry, they eventually did, and she had settled with him in Lagos. That had been the number one wahala. Lagos was simply too close to Ibadan, and her mother in-law didn’t think much about barging in on them. Shebi she would have preferred her son to marry a proper ngbati ngbati woman like her. After three years without having a child, her mother in-law turned the heat up. She visited every weekend, and spoke Yoruba all through her stay. The only English words she spoke were directed at her and they were a sarcastic “one day you will confess what you have used all your unborn children to do, you this man we have married,” or something of the sorts. As the assault got more serious, the relationship between her and Derin deteriorated. It was only a matter of time before the explosion came, and when it did, it nearly blew her marriage to smithereens. She had repeatedly heard rumors that Derin had fathered a child in Ibadan and the child was with his mother, and when the rumors got too much, she had decided to confront him. After all, she had reasoned, there was no smoke without fire. It eventually turned out to be false news, planted by Derin’s mum to incite to act exactly as she had done. Derin had rejected the suggestion when his mum had brought it up, but the woman still found a way to make it hurt. And before it was exposed to be false, it had destroyed the thin fabric that was holding the marriage together.

They had been separated for six months, but Derin (bless him, she thought) came after her, and won her for his wife a second time. It was then they agreed to the ruse that preserved their marriage. They had gotten a new apartment in Shomolu, far from the Abule Egba where they had been staying. Derin then told his mum that he had been transferred to the bank’s regional office in Abuja. They had forged a letter on the bank’s letterhead that Derin brought home, and she had coined the letter to mean a promotion. Overjoyed at her son’s promotion, the woman believed they were really moving to Abuja. They then arranged for some correspondences to be sent to her from a friend in Abuja to her impersonating Derin, sealing their ruse completely. And so they had lived, more happily for five years, while searching for a child.

There had been pregnancies in all those years, but she had lost them all. Seven times, she had had miscarriages. Seven times she had hoped, only to have her hope shattered when she had begun to find hope in her hope. When she had become pregnant for him, she had refused to allow herself hope. As the pregnancy had advanced, the fear and foreboding within her had grown, expecting to see the now familiar telltale blood between her legs at anytime. But the months had passed and he had grown within her. One day, within the eight month, she felt a sharp spasm run through her body. She instantly recognized it for what it was – labor pains. She was beginning labor premature. Forgetting everything she had been taught in antenatal, she panicked. “No,” she had said. “No!” she had screamed. No, it couldn’t not go perfect. Why would she be having a premature child?

Thankfully, it had been a weekend and Derin had been at home. He always hovered around her protectively when she was pregnant anyway, so he wasn’t far off. He had rushed in when she screamed and assessed the situation without a word. With quiet efficiency, he gathered the kit he had practiced putting together over and over again with her, and then gently led her to the car.

The calmness he exuded didn’t translate to his driving though. He drove like a cheetah in pursuit of prey through the free roads and they were in the Surulere hospital Derin used for his HMO in no time. On the way to the hospital, the contractions had gotten more frequent, more intense. When they got to the hospital Derin’s composure was nearly gone. He hurried her in and the nurses who were familiar with their story saw what was going on and quickly took over from him, stretching her to the labor room.

They had endured a grueling two weeks after his birth before the doctors finally pronounced the baby okay. Coupled with the huge bills incurred on the incubator, they were on the edge. They were so unsure, and their faith so battered by years of loss that they chose not to share the birth of their baby with anyone, not even close family and friends. They waited to be sure, and it had taken two weeks. Those two weeks had been the longest in her life. When the doctor finally told them that the  baby was out of the woods, she had seen Derin shed silent tears for the first (and the last time) in their marriage. After that, they had called and told everybody. Her whole family, including her father had flown in from wherever in the world they were. Derin’s mum too had come, along with his only sibling, his younger sister. Their father was late by then. Awazi relished the look on her mother in-law’s face when she held the baby. It was a priceless look of someone who now had to eat very big, hurtful words she had said over the years. But she couldn’t deny the pure love she saw shinning through the old woman’s eyes whenever she looked at the baby. In that, they were together. So, after toying with all manner of names of exceedingly great length in her head (she even came up with OluwaVindicateMi), she simply named her baby Isaac, like the biblical Sarah.

“Finally!” Derin exclaimed, bringing her back into the present. “The annoying thing about all this traffic is that you get to the end of it, and find the road free.” True to character, the rest of the journey to Ibadan was smooth. It was when they got to the outskirts of Ibadan that Isaac began to cry uncontrollably. Not the normal baby cries. Piercing, ear shattering cries. But for the mother, it was more than ear shattering, every cry ripped at a shred of her soul’s fabric. Suddenly, he became quiet, and she noticed he stiffened and his little arms and legs began to twitch spasmodically and his breathing became irregular.

Letting out a low gasp, she picked him out of the baby car seat he had been in. She nearly dropped him back into the seat. In the short time it had taken to get to Ibadan from the point where they escaped from the traffic, his temperature had risen dramatically. He was blazing hot. Ever vigilant, Derin had heard her gasp and noticed his wife’s reaction through his rear view mirror and he quickly pulled over. A mob of youths selling all manner of breads and chargers mobbed their car in the hope of making a quick sale but he ignored them all, unshackled himself from the seat belt and twisted around to face her. The baby had started crying again by now, even louder than before.

“What is wrong with him?” he asked, above the cries of the baby.

“I don’t know,” she responded, bewildered. “He seemed perfectly okay in Lagos and I even breastfed him while we were in traffic. This started rather suddenly.”

“We’ll stop by at a hospital I’m familiar with before going to my parent’s place,” he said.

They had agreed that they would not be staying at his parents’ place to forestall friction. They would go visit, but would lodge in a hotel.

He quickly pulled out onto the road, narrowly missing one of the hawkers who hadn’t moved quickly enough. He swore under his breath.

Twenty minutes later, amidst incessant heart wrenching cries from Isaac, and repeated occurrences of the spasms, they arrived at the hospital he had spoken of, one he had been familiar with since he was a boy. It was a white two storey building with well paved lawns and a low fence. Even though there was a sign on the main road, indicating they were at the hospital, they had to turn off the main road into a smaller side road to get to the big black gate that was its entrance. The sign announced that they were welcome to Omega Clinic. Like an expert robber, he parked, unlatched his seat belt and opened the door in one movement. Awazi was still trying to gather all the lose baby things in the car together when he opened the door impatiently. He reached over her and picked the baby up and left the door open. The baby was so hot now he felt his arms warming up uncomfortably as he cradled him in his arms. He quickened his pace to a quick trot. By the time he got to the see through glass door, his wife had caught up with him, with one item or the other falling out of her hands with every step. She didn’t stop to pick any of them. Derin rammed his shoulder in the door to open it.

The hospital reception area was filled with all manner of people. Old, young, healthy looking, and obviously sick. It was a busy day. He cursed his luck as he meandered his way to the mighty looking mahogany receptionist’s desk. Isaac was still crying at the top of his little lungs, the volume of his wailing quite the opposite of how little those lungs must be. The smell of drugs hit him in the face like a punch. It nauseated him but he took no notice of it. There were two nurses at the desk, one middle aged squat woman with rabbit-like teeth visible even when she closed her mouth. The other was a wiry looking nurse. Both were unsmiling, unwelcoming.

“Yes…” the older woman whose name tag said her name was Mercy asked. The question sounded more like a rebuke and her face remained as unwelcoming as it could ever be. She spoke with a slight lisp, no thanks to her teeth.

“My son, he suddenly developed a high fever, is having spasms and is crying uncontrollably, on our way from Lagos. All this started within the last one hour.”

Kaffy, the younger nurse hissed. “So because you are from Lagos now, you think you can come here and jump the queue. Abi you did not see that all the people you passed were waiting since ni?” she clapped her hands together and shook her head “all you these Lagos people sef!”

“Abi o,” Mercy chipped in.

“Ladies,” Derin said impatiently, “if it was not such an emergency, I would have joined the queue. But as it is, this is the first time Isaac here has been sick, and it seems pretty bad.”

Kaffy again eyeballed him and turned away to some paperwork.

Mercy was a bit less hostile “Oga, do you have a card?”

At this point Awazi lost it. “Iskanchi! How can we have a bleeding card! He just clearly said we came here straight from the road. We are not Ibadan people; we came in from Lagos with an emergency involving our only child, a six month old baby. You are a woman and a nurse, and should understand how urgent this is. The infant cannot even say what is wrong with him; the earlier he’s attended to, the better. We will pay whatever it is, just let the baby see a doctor immediately.”

Now Mercy was just as angry as Kaffy. Really, all these Lagos people that would come to Ibadan with all their pomposity. She was used to their type. They would walk in with all their airs and graces with the assumption that Ibadan was some kind of backwater inferior town to their big Lagos. I mean, even Johnson, her younger brother who was thirty before he left Ibadan for Lagos now came back preening around like a cock whenever he was in town from Lagos. Nonsense somebody! What did she mean by “Ibadan people”? And who was she to question her womanhood? And why was this woman giving her orders. She hissed loudly.

“Madam, we don’t attend to anybody that does not have a card in this hospital. Take the corridor to your left to our admin department to go and buy a card and register. And then you will join the queue like everybody else.” And then she too turned her back and joined Kaffy at the paperwork.

Derin considered his options – stay here and spar with these clowns and waste precious time or go in to get the card and by any luck run into a doctor. Doctors were known to act better than nurses in most hospitals.

He quickly made his decision. He handed Isaac over to Awazi and dashed down the corridor like a rabbit down a hole. Seconds later, he had located the admin department. It seemed empty.

“Is there anybody here?” he shouted. Silence

“Is there anybody here!” he shouted louder.

“Oga, you don’t need to shout now, this is a hospital!” someone shouted from within the admin room. The owner of the shouting voice that had told him not to shout emerged from the shadows. How ironical. It was a dark man with thick glasses on.

“How may I help you?” the man queried.

“I need a family card,” Derin responded.

The man slowly turned around and went to get a bunch of keys from a nail on the wall. Then he methodically selected one of the keys, wasting seconds that seemed like hours to Derin.

“Would you please hurry it up Mr.” he said to the man, clearly irritated.

The man ignored him and continued at his unhurried pace. He opened a safe and went through a blue, then green and red card, before finally separating the green card from the three. He then went about putting the other two cards back into the file, locking the safe, putting the bunch of keys back on the nail before returning to Derin. He seemed to be deliberately taking his time and nothing Derin said hurried him up.

Five minutes later, he had paid Three Thousand Naira and filled out loads of forms. Then and only then did the man hand the precious card over to him. Derin bolted from the place back to the reception area.

Apparently, while he had been gone, Awazi had gotten into a shouting match with the two nurses, and had attracted a more senior nurse and a doctor. She was angrily explaining the situation to the doctor when he returned, interjecting her English with a sprinkling of Hausa now, like she did when she was exasperated.

He held the card triumphantly in his hands towards the doctor, and addressing the doctor, he said “sir, now that we have a card, can you please take a look at our baby?”

“Ha, gentleman,” the doctor said, I would love to, but I have about three patients waiting to see me right now, and they are my personal patients.”

Derin did all he could to keep his calm as he explained “Doctor…” he said, looking inquiringly at the doctor who obliged by supplying his name “Hakeem,” he said.

Derin smiled his most beseeching smile “Doctor Hakeem, I understand that these patients have been waiting to see you, and they are important. But you see, this happens to be an emergency…”

Hakeem waved his hand dismissively and interrupted “Mr. Banwo,” he said in a bored voice as if he was explaining a more than obvious point to a dimwit, reading his name off the card “as I have told your wife here, I understand perfectly. But the truth is that every patient feels their own case is an emergency, even the ones with mere headaches and tries to influence us to break protocols for them. It is the Nigerian way, but it is one of our jobs to maintain this order. Hence…”

This idiot was comparing this to a mere headache? Derin couldn’t control himself any longer. “What the fuck are you saying dude! Are you not a doctor? Do six month old babies develop boiling point temperatures over thirty minutes for regular ordinary ailments? You could do your job with some sense and at least take a frigging look at the baby!”

“Mr. Banwo, that is no way to talk to me, I am doing my job by being here and sorting the hullabaloo that you and your equally uncultured wife have raised here. I will not be insulted by your likes. Mr. Banwo…”

“Do not Mr. Banwo me! You are an insensitive clod of cold steel, the whole lot of you. This is not the hospital I remember this place to be as a kid.”

“Well, it is not the hospital you came to as a kid. Things have changed since my father handed over the running of the place to me. I have made some changes and run this place differently now, Mr. We are now modern and orderly, and we have systems and protocols we follow strictly. Now if you don’t mind, I have real work to do.”

As if on cue, everyone went quiet. And it was in that sole moment of quiet that they noticed what had eluded them. For as they shouted and quarreled amongst each other, Isaac had become quiet. And he wasn’t having spasms this time, he was still. Awazi screamed.

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