Baba Risi sat in the courtroom watching the goings and the comings. Rosco and the boys were settling everyone in and it was looking like a good day was in the offing. These days, they had a steady crowd of spectators at every sitting. That interview with Femi Oke had really done wonders. He had two interview offers now that he was considering. One was from those people that disgraced Oga at the top on Channels. They wanted him to come and discuss the release of that Al-Mustapha with oga OPC, Frederick Faseun. But the other one was the one that appealed to him more. They had invited him to come and discuss madam Ngozi’s cake theory of national development with her and Mallam Sanusi on NTA.
The clerk’s shout of “order, order,” brought him back to the courtroom.
“Which case be the next one,” he asked in a loud voice.
“Na Maazi Longinus Obikanson against Mr. Chamberlain”
“Oya, make una come front,” Baba Risi ordered.
A thin wiry man in a ibo apuoche outfit and a matching red cap marched briskly forward in spite on tapping his walking stick on the floor with each step. Behind him, a fair young lady walked with the same gait he had. When they got to the front, he shook his walking stick at Baba Risi in greeting.
“Na this girl be Chamberleen,” Baba Risi asked.
“Ah, no o, this is my daughter Akudo, pride of the Isiukuato community here in Lagos. She has finished OND from Yaba Tech and is working in one of the big banks on the Island, wearing fine fine suit everyday as she leaves the house.”
“Ogbeni, she for no wear any cloth commot for house,” Baba Risi responded and the courtroom peeled with laughter. “Abeg where is this Chamber abi room?”
“Don’t mind the useless boy, that is how he will be behaving irresponsibly and keeping important personalities waiting for his breadfruit sized head.”
From the back of the courtroom, a voice responded “at least it is only my personal head that is big. You that come from a village that is called Three Big Heads, wetin you go come do?” the whole courtroom burst into laughter, as it dawned on the Ibo speaking ones what IsiUkuAto meant and they set about explaining it to those who were sitting around them. With each explanation, the laughter increased sporadically.
Then when Chamberlain got to the front, even more intense laughter erupted. You see, there are heads, there are big heads and then, there is Chamberlain’s head, all in a class of its own. It was so big it looked like it would fall off the tiny neck if he walked too fast. So he took his time to move slowly, as if with this knowledge. Baba Risi had to control himself and not join the rest of the courtroom in laughter for what he was about to say next.
“Ogbeni Chamber, so you think you can have a case in my court and come when you like abi? For that nonsense, this court dey fine you three thousand for late coming.”
Before Chamberlain could muster any protests, Rosco and another boy were by his side and they had frisked him. But all they got out of his pockets and wallet were faded ten and twenty naira notes, all amounting to seventy naira.
“See this one o, na wetin dey him pocket be this,” he waved the notes in the air. Again, the whole court reeled with laughter.
“Rosco, if he no get the money here, after we don give judgment, follow am go collect am.” Baba Risi said.
Rosco looked menacingly at Chamberlain and then went back to the door. Chamberlain was not even flustered. In his mind, he said “na today?”
“So, make una state una case o,” Baba Risi said.
“This stupid boy, na him come dey talk to my daughter. He said he wanted to marry her. He drive big car come. He was behaving like a good boy then. Then we began to talk the marriage seriously. I called the whole family, his family was involved. Plans were already on the way for the wedding, this boy suddenly said he was not marrying again. After I had chased many potential suitors away because of his big head. He must marry o, he must marry. We want this court to force him to finish what he has started.”
“By force, By fire!” Akudo said from beside her father to emphasize his point.
“Since you have said your own, let Chamber talk now too,” Baba Risi said.
“Thank you o. I like this girl o, and she like me. But see en, they greedy well well, this her family. I say I wan marry, na him dem go bring list. My people, na the list make me run o, before them run me down finally.” Chamberlain said.
“An an, but list na normal thing when person wan marry now. Why you sef say you wan marry when you never man enough to carry the load?” Baba Risi asked.
“Tell him o. The small dog who has a big name.” Maazi chipped in.
“Ah, my oga, there are lists and there are LISTS! These people wan open office, build community and finish wetin government no do for them for my head ni o.” Chamberlain responded, ignoring Maazi’s taunt.
In his unhurried manner, he retrieved a piece of paper from his pocket and unfurled it. When it was fully unfolded, it was about the length of a foolscap sheet. He handed it over to Baba Risi and then said “abeg, read this list out for the whole courtroom to hear.”
Baba Risi was happy. Unlike most of these his boys, he had finished secondary school so he could read. He imagined the embarrassment he would have gone through now if he had been unable to read. The writing on the paper was a neat scrawl and he began to read slowly.
“One suitcase of wrapper material for each of the wives in the family” Baba Risi said.
“There are twenty wives in the family,” Chamberlain interjected.
An ooh ran through the crowd.
“One hundred tubers of yam, Ten twenty litter gallons of oil, one big he goat for each of the sisters of the bride’s father. How many sisters he get?”
“Maazi here has six sisters,” Chamberlain again clarified.
The murmurs continued in the crowd.
“two boxes of pants and bra.” Baba Risi could not help himself. He burst out laughing. “Wetin be this one? Anyway, make I continue. Five sets of fine china plate set. Twenty cartons of peak milk. Hundred cartons of Indomie Noodles. Five hampers with assorted drinks and provisions. Repainting of the bride’s father’s house. Repainting of the community center…”
By now, the whole courtroom had erupted with comments flying from everywhere. Even Baba Risi had to stop here and turned to Maazi
“which kind of list be this Maazi? You wan kill the Chamber ni?”
Maazi was unfazed “if he wants to marry the daughter of a titled man, who has done OND complete, he must be man enough to handle this small thing.”
“Ahhhh, if she come get PHD like my friend Ngozi Okonjon Iweala wey I go follow debate soon nko?” Baba Risi asked.
“For that one, he would have had to build a new community center. PHD no be joke now,” Maazi responded.
“Laakuli. Maazi, wetin dey your own list when you marry this girl mama?”
Chamberlain waved another piece of old, worn paper in the air. “Akudo got me the list. Abeg read am out my Oga,” he said as he handed it over to Baba Risi.
“Three tubers of yam. Two kegs of palmwine. Kolanut. Bitter Kola. Three Wrappers. Assorted fruits. Dazall!” Baba Risi said.
Someone from the crowd shouted “and you wan kill person now. Banza barawo. Marry ko, marry ni.”
“With this kain list, Maazi, na you go marry your daughter. Abeg, case dismissed jor.”
Maazi and Akudo tried to protest but they were briskly hustled away from the front of the courtroom. Before Chamberlain left the front, he reached into his pocket, riffled through for a while and then produced three folded one thousand naira notes. He waved it above his head for the whole room to see and then handed it over to Baba Risi “na my late coming fine be that.”
Then he slowly walked past Rosco on his way out and winked, saying quietly “the more you look, the less you see.”