30 Aug

The Scoop on Otunba

Following last Sunday’s White Party, I did some digging and you will not believe what I found out about Otunba. It turns out that his issues run quite deep. I will tell you exactly as they gisted me. A bit long but stay with me..

His father was well-respected in the community as the Pastor of the local Thunder by Fire Ministries International, headquartered in Ijebu Ode with branches all over Ogun state. There were rumours that he dabbled in the occult. The day he
addressed those rumours in front of his congregation will never be forgotten. He confirmed that juju, in fact, played a substantial role in the delivery of his eloquent sermons, and went on to explain why. No one understood fully but it was something to do with a white cloth and candle given to him when he turned 21. The silence could be heard for miles. All rumours ceased from that moment.

When Otunba was 16, he visited Lagos for the first time and was amazed that there was a world outside their little village, Ipoti. He vowed to return and one day marry a woman as yellow as Fausat, the pepper seller.

His plan, fueled by thoughts of Iya Beji, his step-mother who often fed him Eba without soup, came together when he had saved enough money. He didn’t feel guilty about leaving his father but knew one day he will return to present a set of Peugeot 504 keys to him, never mind that the old man, who had just one functioning eye, couldn’t even ride a bicycle.

Otunba picked his way through the bushes and finally arrived. He had been squatting in an abandoned house for two weeks when he realised he wasn’t in Lagos, he was in Fiditi.

The people of Fiditi were warm and friendly. It was there Otunba met Yodi, who had big plans to move to London and become a big shot at something, anything. Yodi was fascinated with stamps and their ability to carry letters around the world. It would be 3 years before Yodi would illegally enter the UK and land a job at the Royal Mail sorting office in Vauxhall using the alias, Alex. Of course at this point, he didn’t know that. He simply busied himself selling dodo ikire and courting his neighbour’s daughter, Bola, who was Fiditi’s only seamstress. Her stall was constantly overflowing with angry customers demanding a refund for dresses that did not fit. Otunba and Yodi struck a friendship and he continued on his journey to Lagos. He had been there for an entire month before he accepted the fact that he was actually in Lagos.

His first job was as a mechanic. He knew nothing about cars except that they killed people who wandered in front of them. Fatai was very helpful and showed him the ropes. He loved his new life, but there was something missing. A wife. A yellow, buxom wife that would call him ‘daddy’.

Wife #1
Sikira had just completed her law degree in LASU and wanted to move to London or the USA to practice as a human rights lawyer. She didn’t exactly know what that meant but her favourite actor, Wesley Snipes, had played the role of one and it sounded like a cross between sombre and important. On this fateful morning which will forever remain cursed by her entire agbole, she dropped her car off for repairs at Wole Auto Repairs. There was a new guy- pudgy, short and nervous.

‘I hope you won’t damage my car o!’ she hissed impatiently.’

Otunba smiled and gave thanks to God. His mother was clearly watching over him. He felt it in his spririt that she was the one. The sign was there when he awoke that morning, the dark clouds interrupted by brief glimpses of warm sunshine meant someone new was about to step into his life.

Her large eyes were guarded with eyelashes as stiff as nails. Her thick lips were further bulked-up with two or three slabs of rich, red paste. He fought the urge to release her ears from the gravitational pull they were under due to the weight of her gold earrings.

‘Hello, my name is Musco, I’m new here.’ Otunba didn’t know where ‘Musco’ came from. His name was Muyiwa, and he was nicknamed Otunba by his mother’s brother, the only person who truly cared for him. Most people called him Muyi.

‘Ehen, you’re new? And so? I should start dancing abi?”

Eight months later Sikira stood in front of a church full of people, mostly strangers, and pledged her vows to the man she loved. Even as she said ‘I do’, she remained baffled at the inability to remember the events that led up to that moment. She had no recollection of ever dating or even falling in love with the mechanic from Ipoti yet here she was, against her better judgement pledging to cook for him for the rest of her life. Was this man worth being disowned by her family? Clearly not but she could not explain the dichotomous thoughts wrestling within her.

Otunba on the other hand couldn’t believe his good fortune. That in 10 months of being in lagos, he had not only bought a house and a car, he was even getting married to the wife of his dreams. He shoved the ring past her blackened knuckles until it sat secure against yellow skin. Baba Ijale’s juju was so powerful and effective, the man deserved his own television show.

There isn’t enough time in the world to tell you all that transpired between the time they stood at the altar exchanging vows and the time Otunba woke up from what he described to Woli as a trance, his hands dripping with blood and a stuffed black bag a stone’s throw from him. Let’s just say it involved Sikira working as a care assistant (she couldn’t land a job in the UK as a lawyer with her forged degree certificate and her cousin’s NI number), there was a lot of money from overtime and Otunba repeatedly feeling disrespected by her.

 
Woli
Woli was law-graduate-turned-prayer-man and knew the law, he told people, ‘like the back of his hand’. He ended every other sentence with ”Ho-o-o-ly Michael!” He looked around at his lavish surroundings and said a quick prayer of thanks for his unexpected source of income. The last 10 months had been nothing short of a blessing, all his bills except his council tax were covered under the new ‘arrangement’ with his latest victim client. He had been planning his stint for a week now, what he needed was an opening. Someone on the inside who needed him and whom he could in turn be of service to. It was a shame the last job ended the way it did, that hadn’t been his plan. But he wasn’t the one who had blood on his hands.

Wife #2
Feyi, Sikira’s best friend moved in days after her friend’s apparent suicide. The first few months of married life was bliss. She was the envy of her friends, after all why else did they gossip about her husband’s source of income? Not that she hadn’t wandered about it too, but her mother raised her well and taught her not to side-eye the hand that fed her.
She had enough on her plate, it was bad enough her husband thought Omokiya was his son. Thank God for bleaching creams, the boy’s light complexion was never questioned, even with Otunba being as dark as Amala that had been left out too long.

Feyi couldn’t recall exactly when the problems started but Otunba found every excuse to argue with her. He called her lazy, a show-off, and the one that upset her the most was ashawo. Now, yes she had had an affair, ok two, but that’s not enough to be called an ashawo. She didn’t do it for money- except that time with Chief. But that was only once.
She looked back wistfully at each of the naming ceremonies of her four children. Otunba couldn’t be have been prouder, although the exuberance did dwindle with the arrival of each child. After their third child was born, he told her there were to be no more babies as people in London had a maximum of three children. That irritated her, him acting as though she wasn’t the one who brought him to London. His British-Ipoti accent got on her nerves even more. If it wasn’t for her dear friends Helen and Funke, life would have been unbearable. Helen was the CEO of a world-renowned jewellery brand, she dined with presidents and the likes. Funke was a distributor of luxury shoes and was known across the Atlantic. And then there was her. She was supposed to be working in a top law firm but her enemies won that round in the ring. They had all met at university and have remained close friends since their first year.

This fifth pregnancy was harder than the others, money had become a problem for Feyi since Otunba took all her earnings and claimed he was investing in their future. He no longer allowed her to attend parties. Last week he claimed he was going to a barbecue and told her to stay home. This evening, he says he is going to one Aji’s party- a white party. At first she wondered when he started having oyinbo friends. The penny only dropped when he brought out his white buba and sokoto, his white shoes and white laptop bag.

Sikira looked at the piece of paper Funke gave her, her friend’s words rang in her ear- ‘there is no problem Woli can’t solve…’ She picked up her phone and dialled.

Thank you to my friends- Ibiyomi who gave me the town Ipoti, Helen, Alex, Funke Bola and Aji. Thanks to Woli who is a real person but doesn’t want his cover blown. You all are my inspiration!

Disclaimer
Most characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

25 Aug

The White Party

The invitation was an intriguing sandwich with words like electric slide, plenty of time to practice, karaoke and good food. The menu was listed but is too mouth-watering to type out. There was a YouTube link. The other side of sandwich was the phrase, ‘dress code is white‘.

A lot of stuff happened between the time I read the invite and the time I was seated in her sitting room, with a bunch of cool people dressed in white.

I received an email from my landlord that the office rent will be going up threefold, the greedy people that they are. I fought and resisted and just couldn’t accept that my situation had changed. You see, my office is very plush. When suppliers or potential partners visit we are greeted with respect and awe. I throw my head back and there’s an extra spring in my step. I act as though this is how we roll and even when I tell customers we’re not open to the public, I do so without the horror that comes with your backside potentially being exposed as you blow your own cover and let them in.

Anyhow, the rent was being tripled to bring us in line with ‘market rates’. My foot. I didn’t want to move because, well, anything outside of that building and within my budget would likely be a disaster. Think EasyJet vs Virgin Atlantic. The first place I scouted went down like this;

Me to man in pointy snake-skin shoes, big belly, clearly loves himself. Coiffed hair.
” ‘xcuse me do you have the name of the landlord, the company that runs this centre?”
Fabio carries on tapping at his phone, unmoved, no answer.
“Ok, bye.”
“I’m not ignoring you, just trying to find the number.” Silence.

“Here. But I must warn you, he’s quite a difficult fella. Actually he particularly despises women, just so you know.”

I ask my friend to call him for me, he kindly obliges. He gives me feedback later about the man’s rudeness. We agree if he’s difficult before I become his tenant, he’ll be unbearable afterwards.

The next place I viewed was a stone’s throw from our current space. The price was more forgiving but the place. Hmm the place. It’s tough when you’ve been spoiled, the windows were dirty. How can they not be bothered to clean their own windows? I conveniently ignored the fact that only a few years ago my office had no window. And prior to that my business had no office. They tell me how lucky I will be to ‘snap up’ this place especially because of the view which overlooks a brick wall, a roof and some scaffolding and let’s not forget the coziness of the space, which as you and I know is a euphemism for claustrophobic.

Next I viewed a space in Croydon. I am very sorry to say but I’m not a huge fan of Croydon. It conjures up images of young adults drinking themselves into a stupor. The office was plush. But it was still Croydon! Coupled with an hour’s bus ride, that was a firm no.

Besides viewing office spaces I’ve been battling some personal issues. I woke up one morning with ominous clouds hanging over me. I faced the stark realisation that life is all about change. I had become so comfortable with my life as it is, I forgot change does happen. I went through a brief period where I was moody because of an impending doom, mostly imagined.

I was  in that mood when I read the invitation and immediately my spirit rejected the words ‘wear white‘. I hate white, it has no character. See one reference here. Plus an early memory of white was when it was forced on me by the agency, I worked as a waitress in my school days and for the most part I felt I should be the one being waited on, so no fond memories there. As a child, I got into a lot of trouble for dirtying my white dress. I was a tomboy and I loved to climb trees, white dress or no white dress.

I decided I wouldn’t wear white, after all we’re close friends and a white outfit isn’t required to prove my love to her. Her other non-close friends can knock themselves out in white. What shocked me was that hubby, who can be likened to a loveable hermit agreed to attend the party. And wear white! Friend sends another text with the words, ‘don’t forget to wear white, please.’ Ok so this is clearly important to her, I’m a close friend so white it is.

We’re in the car enroute to the party. I log on to YouTube  to learn the electric slide. No, I’m not driving, hubby is. I don’t know what the need is for that extra step back and touch left foot with right is, everything else seems easy enough. We arrive and my friend looks super glam, nothing new there. I’m glad I wore white.

One guest is late, as if that’s not bad enough, she’s wearing a red and brown top. I am so glad I’m not the one with the blended look of embarrassment and apology on her face right now. Thank God I wore white!

Another guy comes in, approaches our sitting area and proceeds to shake hands, first with one guy, skips the guy’s wife/girlfriend and shakes hubby’s hand, the only other male in our circle. A certified insecure chauvinist. I decide whatever happens from that point onwards, I will not like him. In fact I start looking for an opening to shove him in a corner where he belongs. His behaviour reminds me of Chimamanda’s speech on feminism. I imagine his wife- whom he did not permit to attend- at home doing housework and getting all dolled up for him. She doesn’t work- or maybe she does but her earnings go into his bank account. He then gives her a paltry allowance weekly which she must account for. She ‘accidentally’ became pregnant with their 5th child and he has threatened to divorce her. She has begged, and so have her family members. Letters have been written from her agbolè to his agbolè. Presently they have reached an agreement that he can sow his wild oats outside the home, but not bring any strays indoors. The wife is pleased, after all wasn’t it her fault and hers alone that she got pregnant? Plus her husband being an Otunba has a reputation to protect. And she’s grateful to God, Otunba never found out about John, her brief bit on the side. He would probably have dismembered her body, there are still whispers amongst people about how his first wife was found in a black bag. Her limbs were tied up. Otunba said she left a suicide note.

I apogise I didn’t mean take such a long stroll away from the party.

I am looking forward to the karaoke. The electric slide, not so much since our 10 minute drive did not give me enough time to practice. Plus our car isn’t roomy enough. A pretty, bubbly girl whose name contradicts her face and her accent volunteers to coach the likes of  Toks who did not prepare. I seem to be the only one who keeps doing the final kick and slide anticlockwise instead of clockwise. I don’t get it, I’m right-handed. Wow! Even Otunba himself is trying to get down too.

I choose an Anita Baker song for my karaoke, whilst desperately praying I don’t crash and burn in an attempt to hit her high notes. Someone else sang a Bruno Mars song which belongs in a mental institution- talks of hands being run down a knife, throats being slashed and finally being blown up by a grenade. That ‘love song’ will have me dialling 999 should any man sing that to me.
Another guest sang a decidedly threatening Beyoncé song- all of your stuff in the box to the left, to the left, you think your replacement isn’t round the corner? You must not know ’bout me. Catchy. But threatening.
Hubby of course goes for another mental institution song. Content? There are two people in my head, one pointing a gun at the other. Title? Crazy by Seal. It goes without saying that I kept a side eye on hubby for the rest of the night.

My relocation woes might be coming to an end as I may have found somewhere to move to. I’ll keep you posted, come back to find out.

PS: Happy birthday to my friend, Aji. For you, I’ll wear white, pink or green! I had a blast and your friends are cool- even Otunba, but keep him away from me sha.

PSS: To the guests who attended, no harm was intended in this post, I’m the one with issues. Pray for me.

Thank you very much!