As I alighted from my Range Rover Evoque and thanked my driver, a message buzzed my S4 to life. It was a message from my sister and her husband thanking me for the round trip to the Bahamas which was my widow’s mite towards their twentieth wedding anniversary. The message was quite effusive and bubbling with a zillion “God bless you’s”. I smiled as I walked into the glassy headquarters of Divine Meadows, my real estate outfit.
As I opened the door to the anteroom, my eldest brother who was waiting for me in the reception rushed at me and gave me the kind of hug that could have crushed a panda. “How are you?”, he inquired with uncharacteristic gusto.
“I am fine, thank you sir”, I replied.
“Tola, your niece, is getting married and we would appreciate it if you would be the Chairman of the occasion”, he said thrusting an invitation card into my hand.
“Boda mi, that will not be a problem, it would actually be an honour”.
Without further ado, he declined the drink I offered and left.
After I had settled down, my personal assistant gave me a letter from the Association of Residents and Landowners of Eden City Estate over which I presided. The letter was a formal invitation to our annual end of the year party.
I exhaled, sat down and crossed my feet on my executive, expansive, table, and allowed my eyes rove round the multitude of plaques decorating my walls. Each one was a testament to one honorable contribution of mine or another to the city.
It was going to be a busy end of the year, but I was not complaining because it had not always been like this…..
THE PAST: 47 YRS AGO
The lusty screeches of the baby rent the night like a heated machete. Normally, such cries would have gotten the man hunched over the seat in the clinic’s waiting room elated but tonight, it did not even elicit the faintest smile. His wife had been in there for more than twenty four hours and he could only imagine the worst after all the hours of grueling labour. At a point,he had stopped caring if the baby died or lived so long as his wife lived. He was so besotted with his wife that fiery red soldier ants of recrimination ate up his mind at the thought of her pains, until he thought he was going mad. He should have stopped at nine kids but he wanted more hands for his growing cocoa farm and now he had endangered his beloved’s life. The tears streamed down his face, a village stream gathering momentum from the heavy rains of his sorrow and he did not even attempt to wipe the snot that trickled down his snuff battered nostrils.
Outside, lightening shrieked and roared, rain poured furiously from heavenly buckets. The skies threw tantrums and wept as they empathized with the agony of the traumatized woman.
She had lost a lot of blood which led to the necrosis of her pituitary gland and was eventually discharged against medical advice. The lady was a stickler for tradition and told the doctor she would rather die than not be around for the christening of her son which was a dumb thing to do in the Doctor’s opinion but he was resigned to the fact that a lot of Nigerians treated traditions as god.
She went home a shadow of her usual ebullient and stubborn self. Extremely weak, she had to be assisted to her seat at the naming ceremony of the newly arrived son which took place on the customary eight day. When it was time for the list of names to be passed around, there was none and when the elders asked for the name of the baby. She said with a ring of finality, in a voice that brooked no argument; “His name is Ibanuje (sorrow)”.
The announcement silenced the talking drums, hushed the noise of the festivities and discordant susurration spread through the crowd like a quiet wind through a field of grass.
The eldest man rose and asked the mother “Titilayo, kilode? Why would you give your son such a bad name?”
“Baba, his labour caused me so much pain, she replied, misty eyed and shaking her head with the agony of the memories. The child wanted to kill me and I will not change his name even if the river goddess appears right now and tells me to”. Sadly, the husband was one who could never stand up to his wife, so the name remained.
The woman died a few months later due to an infection that attacked her weak immune system. Hence, the little one’s journey began on a bitter note because his mother’s death was attributed to him by all and sundry. To make matters worse he was not the most handsome neonate in the world.
The bad name followed the hapless boy like an evil miasma. He was also very sickly and one day, when it seemed like he was going to give up the ghost, his father took him to an old herbalist who disfigured his face with the most horrific scarification marks.
He was intensely disliked both at home and abroad. His siblings taunted him with names like scar face and usually deprived him of any meat during meals. In school, he was severely bullied and the mean boys called him “the runt “since he was small and sickly looking.
Life preyed on him. He was always at the bottom of the class and on the farm; he was useless because he did not have the brawn needed for such muscle tasking duties. After a while, his father stopped paying his school fees so he took to the streets for daily survival. He hawked iced water, fish; became a conductor a couple of times until it seemed his life was going round and round in a dismal circle.
One day, he heard about a new company that came into town, a Jewish multinational real estate firm known as Yeshua Global Resources Plc.
Someone helped him apply as a driver in the company, a job he gave his best to. He moved up the ladder of life a notch but things were still pretty difficult. His siblings never invited him to their family meetings and he did not know most of his nephews and nieces. They still regarded him as the pariah, the brother who had a covenant with bad luck.
One morning, he woke up in his Ajegunle, Lagos Nigeria apartment and looked around with distaste at the surroundings. The stench of the place was unbearable because the gutter ran through the middle of the compound was clogged with the faeces thrown in by his neighbours as there was no proper drainage in that area.
He had had enough. That morning he ran to the office of the Chairman who had come visiting. Ibanuje had driven him a couple of times and knew he was very accessible, approachable and multilingual. Although the office was jokingly called the throne room because of its size and beauty, all and sundry could see him without any fuss. However, most of the workers rarely did because of the imposing presence of the Chairman.
That morning he took matters into his own hands, knocked, went in and prostrated on the floor in genuflection. The Chairman asked him what the problem was.
“Sir, the driver said, I need help. My life was messed up from day one on this earth. My Mother gave me an evil name and that name has been a hex that has tainted and muddied the stream of my destiny. My request is in four folds.
“Oga, e fun mi ni ibukun to ma jomi loju, bless me indeed, so that people around me will see the definite signs of the blessings! Give me large tracts of land to manage. Please enlarge my boundaries beyond my present limitations so that I can be confident in myself. Oga, empower me”.
A few days back, the Chairman had given him a book called the “Timeless pages” where he read a story about an old seer who outran the chariot of a king when he was enabled by a supernatural hand. The story was amazing especially when he tried to imagine himself outrunning the MD’s brand new Mercedes Benz. The story was what influenced his next plea because he figured for him to gain the speed that had eluded him his whole life; a propelling force was desperately needed.
“Sir, please let your hand be with me. Give me your backing; put the weight of your organization behind me. I see a lot of people who start climbing upward in this business, only to have their lives cut short by hired assassins. In some other instances, some are cut down by the sickle of sicknesses. Take evil away from me so that it would not cause me grief. I need your protection desperately”.
“Since you have asked, you will receive. The thing is, a lot of people do not ask but since you have, I will make your joy full and honour your request”, concluded the Chairman.
The supplicant was sent for comprehensive training in real estate issues and made a marketer to sell a few plots of land. While he was on his rounds one day, he met someone who wanted to buy hectares of land. Coincidentally, he knew someone else who had wanted to sell lots of land in the area specified by the buyer. The seller trusted Ibanuje enough to do business because he had the backing of his former Boss. He connected the businessmen and made some tidy sum from the commission he received.
He used the money to buy some real estate in an unpopular bushy area for a paltry sum and in a few years, the place became hot because a lot of affluent people wanted to own houses there. That area erupted into the exclusive residential estate known as Eden City. The man known as sorrow therefore exploded into unimagined wealth and euphoric joy!
The Chairman also gave him some body guards to keep off Omo Onile (real estate thugs) and opened a family card in one of the best hospitals in town coupled with global health insurance.
Without saying, his life took a fresh direction from there onwards. His family who had ostracized him came looking for him. The forbidden stone became the cornerstone. Everything changed for the better.
I got out of my reverie smiling, thinking of the transformation my life had gone through and that if it happened to me, it can happen to anybody. If they can locate and cry out to the Chairman of Yeshua Global Resources, enlargement is quite possible……
© 2013 Ekpo Ezechinyere