Jude Idada has been appraised by so many as a gifted storyteller with a flare for the “exotica”. With just four days to the launching of his new books, Praxis Magazine for Arts and Literature gives you a scoop of what to expect from one of the books. By My Own Hands. Click here to get further details about the launching of Jude Idada’s new books.
Nicole slowly stroked Andrew’s arm. It was a light caress; the kind he used to like. She watched him intently hoping to see a reaction. There was none. She continued for a while, moving from his arm up to his shoulder, then his neck, and finally to his cheek. He sat there like a living cadaver. She began to get bored so she let her eyes do a round of the study. She admired the leather bound books that were arranged neatly on the shelves that stood against the walls; the leather armchairs that dotted the room in a well laid out pattern which seemed to give it a shape of a star cut in half. Then she looked at the life-size lion that sat at the far corner, illuminated by a single spot light, its mane forming a flaming red halo that made it look frighteningly alive.
Andrew had told her about it as they lay on the hot white sands of their rented private island in the Maldives. It was the story of a safari he went on in Kenya with his parents when he was seventeen. He had told her that the lion had attacked a tourist and his father had shot it point blank with his Musgrave hunting rifle before the guides could move a muscle, saying if not for the quick action of his father who had bought the carcass and had it go through the ritual of taxidermy before bringing it back home to Canada, the Kenyans would have had a lot of explaining to do to the Americans, since the tourist concerned was the wife of the American Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Feinstein. Andrew never failed to idolise his late father at any given opportunity.
As she allowed her eyes play around the room, she continued stroking his cheeks lightly and stopped abruptly when her roving eyes settled on the gold framed picture of Annabelle that hung on the eastern wall. Annabelle’s eyes looked at her contemplatively as though wondering what the hell she was doing stroking her husband. Immediately her arm dropped to her side as a wave of embarrassment washed over her. She looked away and slowly got to her feet, straightening her short skirt in the same motion. Seeing that picture had brought the true scenario to her; there she was standing in the home of the woman she had robbed of a husband, the woman she had caused such grief that death was the only palliative.
She felt a tug in her chest, a shift in her spirit that signalled the beginning of overwhelming guilt. Her prairie innocence and sense of moral values that she thought she had gotten rid of in the first months of her arrival in Toronto was rearing its head. At that moment all she saw and smelt was the coldness of death; a death she was beginning to fully realise she had played a huge part in. Previously, she had laid most of the blame on the mental state of Annabelle, claiming to her close friends that Andrew had once whispered to her that his wife at times displayed a dissonance of reasoning and an imbalance of emotions. She knew cheating was wrong. Adultery doubly wrong, but then, that was no excuse for suicide. Now, she realised how truly culpable she was in the death of Annabelle.
She stood there for a moment unsure of what to do and just at that instant there was a knock on the door and before she could turn in response, the polished oak door opened and the nurse stepped in. Protocol stipulated that she wait for a response, state her mission, and enter when asked to but her unbridled desire to catch the ailing Andrew and this steaming beauty in flagrante delicto had overridden any sense of decorum on her part. Sitting outside in front of the study wondering what in heaven’s name was happening in the study had been like sitting on hot coals.
Her wizened mind had dictated to her that the flaming beauty was more than a family friend. The concern in Phillip’s eyes as he led Therese away was enough to light the flames of her curiosity. She couldn’t wait to tell her husband and her band of lonesome nurses what she had seen. To the nurse, what she thought was the same thing as what she saw when she repeated events to her audience of busy-bodies.
Nicole looked at the middle aged nurse standing at the open door, eyes bleeding with nosiness. She smiled at her in a bid to hide her nervousness. The nurse replied with a face set in stone.
“It is time for Mr. Sciorra’s medication.” The words slipped icily out of the thin lipped woman.
Nicole nodded in understanding and the nurse stepped away from the door, leaving it open in an invitation to leave. Nicole looked at the door and walked regally towards it without giving Andrew a parting look. All she wanted was to get as far away from the house as possible. She didn’t have an inkling of the fact that she had taken temporary residence with the Sciorra’s in Forest Hill. A decision already made of which she was not a part of, to stay in this house ad indefinitum.
As she exited the study, the one thought on her mind was one that spoke of the marvel of Annabelle’s beauty. Having seen for the first time a younger-looking picture of the woman Andrew had taken for his wife, Nicole knew that she could not have under any circumstance rivaled the breathtaking aesthetic brilliance of Annabelle. Men were such mysterious animals Nicole mused to herself as the nurse silently shut the door behind her, leaving her standing clueless on the marble floored hallway.
Nosa strutted out of the revolving doors of the Canadian High Commission in Lagos. He had a smile plastered on his face although the heat wave and intense sunlight strove to wipe it off. You never realised how hot the midday weather of Lagos was until you stepped out of an air-conditioned house, he thought to himself as he made for the gate where his former tormentors held sway. He walked with a new found leisurely pace now that his travelling papers had been handed to him.
Since the security guards now knew he was a Canadian, they treated him as royalty, clearing a path for him by threatening to flog the mass of Nigerians that formed a crowd outside the gate, every single one of them desperate on gaining access to the hallowed visa office were their fate was to be decided. The guards saluted him with broad smiles as he made to leave.
“Our very own oga your boys are loyal!” the one with long tribal scarification on both cheeks said.
Nosa responded by handing over to him an envelope he had stacked full of five hundred naira notes earlier in the day. The guard didn’t even bother checking the contents, stuffing it into his back pocket with superhuman speed.
The envelope seemed to act upon them like an intoxicant; they shouted louder and rained expletives in staccato at the other perspiring Nigerians who blocked the gate with their pleading bodies.
“Oya comot for road!” the scarified guard began.
“Una no dey hear, na bulala una want?” the second one followed, advancing with giant strides, baton in hand.
The crowd slowly backed away. A stubborn one or two remained. The shorter one gave voice to his vexation.
“I no go comot. No be you say you go allow me enter if I settle?”
“You settle me?” the guard barked at him.
“I don find your broda something already.”
“God go punish you. Na who tell you say e be ma broda?” the guard got to the gate and stood akimbo, bulging stomach thrust forward.
“No be una dey do five and six since morning?”
“O boy give dat man one hot slap make e close e dirty mouth dia!” the scarified guard said as he followed suit approaching the gate.
Nosa was immobile as he watched the building commotion. His file clutched close to his chest. He looked back at the imposing building behind him. The tinted windows betrayed nothing. He returned his gaze to the gate.
“I settle you na. Tell your broda make e give us chance enter.”
“Na your papa you settle. Thunder fire you!” the scarified guard cursed, his five fingers spread out in front of his outstretched hand.
“Waka to your papa too!” the man retorted instantly, imitating the same five finger gesture.
“If I reach dia you go see pepper, born bastard like you!” the scarified guard began opening the gate. The other guard looked over at the gun totting police men who were sitting under the mango tree in the compound.
“O.C. abeg come help us teach dis fuckin useless barawos something,” he called to them. One of them stood up, dusted the seat of his black pants, picked his rifle, and jogged towards the gate. The two men stole a glance at him and instead of backing off, they gripped the gates tighter.
“Oya make una clear from that gate before I open fire!” the policeman announced.
“Na so e easy?” the taller man responded with a laugh. Some of the people who had earlier cleared away from the gate started returning.
“Oya stand dia!” he cocked his rifle and aimed at the gate.
The people who had started walking towards the gate, seeing the pointed rifle quickly retraced their steps. Some of the women picked up their children and ran across the street, some others ducked into their cars. The two men remained standing at the gate. Nosa slowly backed up; he looked back at the building. Nothing.
“I go count up to three and if you no disappear, una own don finish bi dat. One…” the policeman called out. The other policemen under the tree looked on. The two guards gleefully watched the events.
“Dem no born you to fire!” the shorter man teased.
“Dis one na Canadian embassy o! No bi check point, if you shoot us, yawa go gas big time. Oya fire if you get liver.”
“I say if I count three, I go fire una… I say one…”
The two men began to laugh.
“Una think say e dey joke?” the scarified guard looked at them incredulously.
“Make e fire, we dey here dey wait am,” the shorter man crossed his arms on his chest defiantly.
“I say two!” the policeman called out, spreading his leg wider as though to steady himself.
A woman standing across the road shouted at the two men.
“Na hia una wan die? Una no get family? Dis olopa people no get sense o! Dem no dey send o! Abeg make una comot for gate make dem do dia business, so we fit see road do our own business! Na beg I dey use beg una o.”
The men did not acknowledge her entreaties. Other people began chiming in, pleading with the men to leave the gate. Nosa stood there watching. So did the policeman and guards. Finally, the two men looked at each other and as though sending unspoken signals to each of them, they backed down and turned away from the gates. The shorter one shouted at the guards as he walked away.
“Una lucky, I for show una say na he-goat dem dey take cook ogufe.”
“Three!” the policeman suddenly called out.
Silence. He lowered his rifle and looked at the gate; the two men were now standing on the street away from the gate, staring back at him.
“Where dem dey?” the policeman asked with clueless pretence.
“Dem don waka,” the shorter guard replied implying they had walked away.
“Ah, na God save dem, the kind bullet I don aim for dia belle, na die!” he wiped his face as though the encounter had been very strenuous.
Everyone burst out laughing. It was infectious; the guards smiled. Nosa stifled a giggle. The two men on the road seemed to take offence.
“See mugu! Olopa Oshi! Ole buruku! You no fit fire, na sake of say we wan collect visa na im we waka o, make you no dey fool unaselves, we for show una ta ton today, make una no try, this tie wen we wear all na efizzy, na correct agbero we be, go Eko go ask for Jelili…” the shorter man kept on as he walked to and fro on the street.
The policeman turned to Nosa. Butt of his rifle on the ground, hand holding his rifle by the barrel.
“Oga, you go find me something o, dis work wen I do for you e no easy o.”
Nosa looked at the guard he had handed the envelope to. The guard shrugged his shoulder and spoke.
“Oga, abeg gi am something, as you see dem so, dem never pay dem salary for like tiri monts.”
“Six months and two weeks.” The policeman corrected.
Nosa pulled out his wallet, removed two five hundred naira bills and handed it over to the policeman. He took it from him and bowed respectfully.
“God go bless you, Oga, the thing wen you dey find go Canada, na dash dem go dash you, na Western Union you go take turn your family to Orobo special…” He chimed on and on with more blessings as he walked back to the tree until he was out of earshot.
The guards opened the gate for Nosa. As he walked towards it, they both saluted in unison.
“Safe journey back to Canada sir,” the scarified one spoke as he maintained the salutation. Open palm at an angle to his head.
“Thank you,” Nosa mumbled the words and stepped out of the compound. He could feel eyes stabbing into his back as he walked towards his black Audi that was parked a short distance away. Everyone watched him, some enviously, others angrily, while the rest watched for the sakes of watching.
He looked back at the compound and glimpsed as the people walked back towards the gates, each one hurriedly walking to take up their position of vigil. He turned back to the direction he was headed and wondered how such events could happen so openly at the gates to the High Commission of a developed country like Canada and no one in the High Commission itself intervened. Threats, near riots, dehumanising punishment, bribes, puerile insults, scams, yet the representatives of one of G7 nations kept a deafening silence? Maybe the sanctity of the morality of the sacred grounds of the High Commission was all that mattered to them, their reasoning being the dictum, ‘what exists outside those gates is the business of Nigeria, we must respect their sovereignty.’ But then, he wondered what wisdom there was in respecting the rights to unleash mayhem on one’s own citizens by fellow citizens, even when intervention would have taken minimal effort and sent the loudest, most forceful message, ‘Canada will stand for what is right no matter the circumstances’. He shook his head, Utopia existed only in Neverland. On Earth, it was selfishness first, altruism last, no matter how neutral and United-Nationish the individual or country pretended to be. After all, wasn’t it rumoured that a hefty bribe could get you a Canadian visa, a heftier one, a landed immigrant visa, and the heftiest one the dark blue passport? Under the table business had no conscience or suffered no prejudice, whether in the offices of the high and mighty in the continent of Africa or the other six sister continents.
Bribes, he was guilty of that, but then, the behaviour of the guards and policeman were in itself inexcusable. Nosa walked on and silently chewed on questions as regards the wisdom of what he had done. He couldn’t place a finger on why he had given them the money even though he understood that there were things that came naturally when you grew up in a system of backhand subtleties in forms of bribes and nepotism; traits that had unconsciously become you in the entirety even though you voiced your opposition to them in many a public arena. These traits were a symbol of survival. Brushing aside the silent questions, he hugged the leather folder that contained his travelling documents tighter, the pick pockets who did brisk business were notoriously known for the magic they performed; one lighting quick movement and they could rob a nun off her habit.
Finally, he got to his car, entered, and sat down for a moment to gather his frayed nerves. It had been a long, arduous journey getting all he needed for his next step of action. He slotted his key into the ignition, turned it, and the engine came to life.
As he drove away, he couldn’t help but remember the young, handsome boy of about nineteen or twenty years of age who had burst into tears in the visa office when the consular officer had refused him a visa. As he sobbed, Nosa could see in his face the look that signified the hopelessness of a cornered animal.
He wondered to himself as he slowed down his Audi at a pot-holed junction what lay in store for the boy now that his hopes had been dashed; more attempts to leave a country that didn’t give a hoot about its citizens? A determination to start a life in Nigeria no matter how impossible a future here was, or a slowly metamorphosis into a monster of the kind his brother Osasu had become?
There were no answers, so Nosa changed gears and drove down Kofo Abayomi Street. He slowed down respectfully in front of the Brigade of Guards’ offices; a ritual that was sine qua non in order not to draw the ire of the gun-toting soldiers who stood guard in front of it. Militarisation was in the popular psyche of Nigeria and its citizens were socialised to operate successfully within its rigidity. Nosa waited for a respectable moment before he slowly accelerated, face forward, not giving into the temptation of a sideways glance into the military forte. Clearing the imposing green gates and now at a safe distance, he changed gears once again and sped off towards his maternal uncle’s house where he had taken temporary residence.
Further details on the launching of this book, By My Own Hands, can be read here.