Where I come from, Nigeria, it is not a wise decision to have only one child. This is because living itself is a hazard here, and in a snap you could find yourself childless. Therefore, have children. So that if worse comes to worst, you’ll still be called Mama Somebody.
The battle starts from conceiving. If you’re one of those unfortunates whose wombs prefer to take their time and whose mothers-in-law are all but completely bereft of common sense, you should have developed some thick skin by the time you finally take in. If you’re not, be not afraid. Thick skin is something that grows on you in Nigeria, automatically.
So you’re pregnant, and you have the bad luck to fall sick. Apologies. You visit an ostensibly good hospital which happens to be run by a quack with twelve years of practice making up for the lack of a degree. But let’s just give it up for the doctor; no university will teach you how to fool the whole nation for twelve years. The problem is his nurse, the one who fucked her way through nursing school and managed to land the job because her father’s distant cousin’s uncle knows someone who knows someone. She’s the one who does some unforgivable magic with an injection she probably can’t spell, and complications arise and you lose the kain pregnancy that took you so long to get in the first place.
Or maybe you’re lucky; you have a mother in the village firing prayers on your behalf. So you keep your pregnancy to full term. But that’s just one hurdle you have scaled. You have to give birth, shebi? That is if you can find a doctor, because they are on strike—every one of them. But again, you are in luck. Your husband manages to find a private hospital (don’t fret, the doctor graduated with a second class upper from a reputable federal university, even if it took longer than normal because the lecturers striked the strike out of strike). The labour team try their best, but Nigeria has the eight highest infant mortality rate. So it’s not your fault; not like it’s ours, either. Something happens to something in your womb, and only the federal hospitals whose doctors are on strike have the equipment to save the day. So your baby stops breathing, but at least you are alive yourself. You can always start all over again.
Or maybe everything goes well enough, but the baby is stillborn because your mother overslept one night and forgot to do her vigil, so your village people stirred their pot properly and did you in. Sorry.
But we must stop thinking tragically! Everything goes fine and you’re Mama Bomboy. Congratulations, my dear sister; whoever says it is easy ate their sense for breakfast.
Your son is growing so fast. Before you know it, he’s running all over the house and giving you headaches. Your husband is doing very well too. He just bought the second jeep in two months. And the engineer says you should be moving into your seven-room mansion by the end of the month. Is God not just good? But the devil is also just bad. Because some lazy Nigerian youths are somewhere following you to calculate the estimate of the house you’re building with your own sweat. Being highly skilled in wickedness, they quickly figure that, if you can afford twenty five million naira for common dwelling house, coughing out ten million naira for your son’s life shouldn’t be a problem. So they kidnap Junior and give you their terms: the money in two weeks or say bye bye to parenthood. You involve the police, but it is unfortunate that the only thing they learn in their academy is the fine art of slipping ₦50 from a driver’s hand to their pockets in a second. So you start raising the money and begging the kidnappers over the phone to please take good care of Junior.
You know that when sadness decides to visit you in this country, it comes with all the intensity of our lawmakers breaking chairs in the National Assembly Complex, having removed their brains from their skulls in a bid to make more room for the money they are stashing for their fifth generation. So that is why internet fraudsters (whom we have rechristened from Yahoo Boys to G Boys) will decide your joint account is just the right one needing sweeping at this critical moment. Long story cut short, you are unable to raise the money and the kidnappers shoot Junior and abandon his body somewhere that won’t be too difficult to locate for our roadside-expert police.
Okay, let’s just assume your pastor has joined your mother in speaking in tongues for you. And Junior grows into an intelligent young boy who is chosen to represent his school in the science competition in Lagos organised by some foreign multinational (our homegrown biz giants would have organised the comp, but they are busy sponsoring music festivals where our girls get raped and our music stars say nothing about it because they are too busy coming up with lyrics that objectify women without reserve). But you see this devil eh? He sleeps in other countries just so he can hold vigil in Nigeria. That’s how a fuel tanker falls on a road that it should not be plying at a time it should not be plying it but which abnormality our government won’t resolve because they are busy on TV insisting that Fulani herdsmen are not terrorists and don’t carry guns. Fuel everywhere, fire everywhere. The school bus conveying Junior and his mates is somewhere in the middle of the burnt sacrifice offered to the gods so they can have mercy on this nation because her problems are beyond salvaging by human hand.
No. That is no way for any human being to die. That is not Junior’s destiny. So he graduates with a first class degree in Law (because after Law and Medicine and Engineering, we the good people of Nigeria do not understand the import of any other course on the surface of the earth). He is posted to Borno for his NYSC. Boko Haram is no longer fashionable, but, unexpectedly, Fulani herdsmen have learnt bomb making from their sacred cows. So the story continues. Some inadvertent event involving the shooing away of a cow results in non-terrorist-status herdsmen descending on an unsuspecting village, which happens to be housing your beloved son, and slicing the men into pieces for suya. The women are shot and the children are bombed. But this is not your portion, seeing as you have realised your delicate situation and joined your mother and pastor in keeping vigil. So Junior comes home in one breathing piece and you testify in church.
He lands a big job with PwC and soon moves out of the house into his own opulence. His girlfriend, God punish that girl for you, Delilahs him into growing a beard and making his hair into dreads. That is how SARS people come for your boy who does not know shin about gbain, and claim that he is a G Boy. Too much sense has always been his problem, coupled with the fact that he is a badass lawyer who knows every single one of his rights. So he starts arguing with SARS over the propriety or otherwise of giving them N500,000 just because he has dreads and rides a G Wagon. SARS people shoot your dear boy and throw away his body like dustbin.
Or, should you intensify prayers so he escapes SARS this time? Yes, do. So that when the protests against them come around, he joins with a personal vendetta. We hope you can remember how he looked and sounded the last time he visited, because army people will off light to shoot at a mass of peaceful protesters, with your son at the forefront. You will not see him die. You will hear screams though, but you won’t be sure which is Junior’s, or even if he lends his voice to the Requiem in Lekki Major orchestrated by the world famous Nigerian Army.
But let’s just say God has been harassed into hearing your prayers. Let’s just say Junior is destined to raise a family of his own. He gets a better job with Shell, and moves to Port Harcourt with that his Delilah girlfriend-turned-wife. Port Harcourt that rains soot. Port Harcourt where human lungs are flared as much as gas is. And your loving son breathes in enough soot to give him a new kind of cancer that finishes off his life in three years.
So, after all your battles, you are childless after all. Mtcheew. This life sef. But you deserve an award for lasting this long.
You see, that is why you should consider having a basketful of children here. One way or the other, at least one will remain for you. God willing. We mean, they could all be together in a building when it collapses and crushes everyone in it to pulp, leaving nothing for the late rescue team to rescue, because nobody has time to regulate the quality of building materials over here.
if you can’t fathom having a houseful, then the thing you must do is learn the
art of war in whatever religion you prescribe to. Or coat your heart with iron,
enough to keep it from breaking whenever, if ever, the tragic news meets you.
But we’re rooting for you.
Koso Agboanike studies Law in the university. When she’s not writing, she’s probably eating, googling random stuff, or photographing nature. Her play appeared in The Muse 47. She writes from Enugu, Nigeria.