ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
The man had already photographed the girls in various nude positions.
The Bloody Machete
By Uche Nworah
Chidi sank deeply into his seat and buckled the seat belt; he switched his Apple iPod on and shut his eyes, his mind travelled back to his past. He didnt know what to think of himself, was he a success or failure in life? Were his parents and family proud of him? Is this the life he dreamt of as a youngster? So many questions waltzed through his mind, his sombre reflections were momentarily interrupted by the Pilots voice on the PA system. The KLM flight from Madrid to Lagos via Amsterdam was about to take off.
Chidi Okeke was the first child of Osita and Virginia Okeke. The entire Okeke family lived in a rented 2-bedroom in a multi-room house in the Obiagu area of Ogui, Enugu. The building housed other tenants who also lived with their families. Toilet, bathroom and kitchen facilities were communally shared by all the tenants; it was the kind of house that people regarded as face-me-i-face-you. Space was tight and fights and quarrels between tenants or their children were common place. Sharing the Okekes two rooms were Chidi, his father Osita, his mother Georgina, his auntie Nkechi and six other siblings; four girls and two boys.
Chidi was only eight years old when his father lost his job as a signal officer with the Nigerian Railway Corporation, Enugu. He remembered coming home from school one day to find his father at home, it wouldnt have been a surprise but his father was a man who took his job seriously and had earned himself the nickname Papa Oloco as a result, Oloco being the local adaptation of the word locomotive. Mr. Okeke was a very dedicated worker, and the earliest Chidi remembered him coming home from work was 6.00 PM; this gave him and his siblings enough time to play games in the front yard with other neighbourhood kids. His mum too would wait for the civil servants and other workers at the state secretariat building along Okpara Avenue to finish their habitual late evening purchases from the Ogbete main market where she maintained a stall selling dried fish and other food items before coming home, usually late.
From the way his father was slumped on the cushion chair in the austere and sparingly furnished seating cum sleeping room, Chidi sensed that all was not well. His father wore one of his faded Hings singlet, and was tying his fish patterned Hollandis wrapper.
Papa good afternoon, Chidi greeted him.
Afternoon, Mr. Okeke replied. What of your brothers and sisters? he enquired next. Chidi replied that they were walking down with Auntie Nkechi who usually picked them up from school. Chidi didnt know whether to be angry, he knew that the days game of football was over, and fine tuned his mind to spending the rest of the day doing his homework.
It was later at night, during his parents nightly conversations, which could almost be heard by all the neighbours as his father had a deep voice that Chidi understood the reason why he came back early from work that day. He had been sacked from his job, he didnt understand what his dad meant when he initially told his mother that he had been retrenched alongside one hundred and twenty other Railways staff, it was his mothers shock which led to her muffled scream and her question to no one in particular that made Chidi to realise what was going on.
Ewo Chi mu o, how will we manage now that they have sacked you, Chukwu biko nu, why have you deserted this family? Chidi remembered his mother asking that night.
Nwanyi, take it easy, it is not the end of the world, his father had replied.
Leave me alone, what is not the end of the world, mmadu aga ata gide afufu nuwa? Papa Chidi, tell me when all this suffering would come to an end?
Ive told you, you will soon wake the neighbours, not that you care anyway, with the way you are shouting, you might as well tell the whole world that your husband has been sacked from his job.
Oh! is that your only problem, you are not even concerned with how your children will survive from the small crayfish money I bring in from the market?
Chidi pretended to be asleep and listened to his parents take out their frustrations on each other, he heard his mother begin to sob, and also sobbed himself to sleep.
Things changed around the Okeke household after this, Chidi watched his father become gaunt daily; it was as if the will to live had left him. His once jovial self disappeared and in its place emerged a withdrawn and moody character. Mr Okeke turned his frustrations on his children and never resisted the urge to smack them, or use his koboko to whip their backsides. Tired of hanging around the house, Mr Okeke began to accompany his wife to her shop daily. Chidi knew that it wasnt what his father wanted, as the first son, he enjoyed a special relationship with him and on several occasions, his father had cautioned and encouraged him to try as much as possible in life to be successful, that way he would be able to provide for his family and avoid the insults that may be thrown his way by his future wife, the neighbours and the society at large.
Chidi was drafted into the Ogbete market trade early in life, rather than join his fellow pupils at the daily extra-mural classes at school, he would be found instead after school at Ogbete market haggling the price of fish with wheel barrow pushers, bus conductors and other customers that stopped by his mothers shop. He missed his play group and their many pranks. Chidi continued along this routine even through his secondary school studies at Nike Grammar School. Because he was now a big part of his mothers fish selling business, and coupled with the fact that the family couldnt afford to sponsor him to boarding school, he attended as a day student, going straight from school to the market to help out.
When the time came to complete the university matriculation examinations form, Chidi wanted to choose one of the universities in the northern part of Nigeria, but was dissuaded by the several religious riots in the region which usually resulted in Igbos and other Christians being massacred by their Moslem brethren. Because some of Chidis friends, their brothers ands sisters were already at the Abia State University (ABSU), Chidi settled for ABSU and luckily got in at the first attempt.
Chidi struggled to hold back the emotions which had welled up inside him as he played back images from his past in his mind; he felt a tear about to break from his left eye and quickly wiped it off. He smiled to himself and kissed his Goodluck charm, the crucifix hanging from his gold necklace and muttered Thank you, Abba Father. He had learnt to say this short prayer back in the university, after his near-death experience the night the Pyrates Confraternity clashed with members of the Black Axe.
It was fourth time lucky for John Udoka and Chibuzo, his wife of ten years. John could never understand why Chibuzo was worrying herself sick because God hadnt yet blessed them with a female child. Each time he tried to comfort her, she would snap back and would go on to ask him what her fate would have been if they had only girls and no boy. John never took her seriously and alluded her emotional ranting to the Igbo woman mentality, a primordial belief and phobia that the man would abandon the woman mid-marriage for another wife in the mans quest to procreate a male child that would inherit the mans fortune, or carry on the family name.
John disliked men that thought along those lines, especially when such men have been luckily blessed with the fruit of the womb. He often wondered what such men would have done were they not able to sire children of their own, especially if the reason was due to their own impotency. He concluded that the Igbo society, and indeed the wider Nigerian society were still largely unfair in the way women were judged and treated. In most cases, some of these men that were desperate to sire male children that would inherit their so-called fortunes bequeathed only debts to such children. Many of them at death leave behind a battalion of children and disenchanted harem of women. He still hoped that one day; he would be able to partner with his wife to set up an NGO that would be devoted to fighting for the rights of women who feel marginalised because they were not blessed with children in their matrimonial homes.
The arrival of Ifeoma signalled the closing of the chapter on child bearing in the Udoka household as John had previously expressed contentment with the three sons that God blessed them with, he wouldnt have tried for another child if not for the way his wife had painted the picture of her pathetic situation. I want a female daughter that I would plait her hair, Chibuzo had said. When John jokingly told her that she could still plait her sons hairs, a fashionable craze in the western societies but which was fast becoming the norm in Nigerias many cities where boys also wear earrings, Chibuzo relapsed into one of her many melancholy moods accusing John of being insensitive over issues she considered serious.
Ifeoma was treated as the baby of the house and was showered with so much love by her brothers and parents, but still she never lost sight of the fact that she was a child of destiny having heard her mother recount several times all the fasting and supplications she made to God before she was conceived. She grew up to be a well mannered young woman, watching her mother closely as she went about her daily household chores and learning along the way. She always remembered a proverb her grand mother (Nene) told her when she enquired from her how women were able to balance their careers and family life. Ifeoma had often wondered how her mother was able to hold down her full time nursing job, and at the same time run the Udoka household while all her father did was go to work and come back to a well cleaned home and well prepared lunch and dinner. Nene had replied that it was a God-given virtue and tradition passed down by women from one generation to the other, she concluded by telling her that the baby goat learns to chew chord simply by watching its mother.
Ifeoma imbibed the concept and continued to watch and observe her mother in her daily routines.
The Udokas worked with Shell, the Anglo-Dutch petroleum exploration corporation in Port Harcourt. John was a petroleum engineer and Chibuzo was a matron at the Shell hospital. John was formally a rig supervisor at Shells flow station in Rumuigbo until the site accident that fractured his left leg. He recovered after receiving treatment in Germany and was redeployed to the exploration office in Bonny as deputy head. The family lived in a 4-bedroom duplex inside the Shell camp along Aba Road Port Harcourt; they enjoyed first class facilities inside the Shell camp, uninterrupted power supply, round-the-clock security, free medical facilities and full sponsorship of their children up to university level anywhere in Nigeria. Every other year, the Udokas took a vacation either in the United Kingdom or America; their children lived a privileged life.
Ifeomas three elder brothers; Kelechi, Nnamdi and Ifeanyi were jointly sponsored to America by Shell and their parents for their university education. John and Chibuzo knew that their childrens opportunities in life especially in corporate Nigeria would be enhanced with American university degrees. Ifeoma had always believed that she would be joining her brothers in America for her university education, but when she finished her senior secondary school education at the federal government girls college, Sagamu, John and Chibuzo changed their minds. As their only daughter, they felt that it would be better for her to study locally in Nigeria so that they could easily keep an eye on her. Chibuzo particularly was worried that Ifeoma may get carried away by the American way of life, and may come back indoctrinated with western values such that she may not be able to find a Nigerian husband, she was already planning and thinking ahead for her daughters future. Chibuzo prided herself in being one of those women who believe in the saying that Di bu ugwu Nwanyi, for such women, a womans pride depends on her marital status and she didnt want anything jeopardising her daughters chances.
Ifeoma felt very disappointed by her parents decisions but was pacified by their promise that they would sponsor her every other year to America on visits; they also bought her a Honda Civic car for her daily commute to the University of Port Harcourt in Choba where she had been accepted to study Banking and Finance.
The decision to go to university was a difficult one for Chidi considering his familys dwindling fortunes at the time, there had been much pressure on him to abandon education for a more lucrative commercial vocation. He was not unaware of the growing state of unemployment in Nigeria, he knew several people in his neighbourhood who had gone to university and acquired all sorts of degrees only to end up in their parents houses as dependent adults. He didnt want to find himself in similar circumstances in the future and knew that he may not withstand the humiliation of sharing the Obiagu quarters with his parents in the future.
Chidi had received offers from his fathers relatives to join them as a trade apprentice in their motor spare parts trade at Nkwo Nnewi, there were also others that had flourishing import and export businesses operating out of the famous Idumota and Alaba international markets in Lagos. During the last Christmas at Umudim, Nnewi, Chidi saw several of his age mates who had heeded the Nnewi mans trade calling at their age grade meetings flaunting their boy-boy wealth, they teased people like him whom they imagined were still stuck in their parents cocoons.
While discussing his future plans with his parents, Chidi expressed a desire to pursue a university degree but also offered to shelf his plans for trade apprenticeship in the interest of the family. Mr and Mrs Okeke thanked Chidi for thinking about their family, particularly his younger siblings but remained adamant at his offer. His parents were unanimous in their decision that Chidi should focus on pursuing a university degree. The family also considered the option of Chidi travelling to Germany as people who recently went had already started to ship back used cars (tokunbo) back to their families. Chidi mentioned his friend Tony who recently sent a Mercedes Benz 230 E saloon car to his parents after only 6 months. Though Tony was older and was three years his senior in secondary school, they had remained friends even after Tony finished from Nike Grammar School and went to live with his uncle in Lagos. Chidis parents were receptive of the idea but knew that the family would never be able to fund Chidis migration to Germany.
Despite the familys dire financial circumstances, Chidis parents managed to sponsor him to University. They received financial assistance from friends and distant relatives because the cost of sponsoring students to Nigerias universities had increasingly risen beyond the reach of poor folks like the Okekes, and without any form of government bursary or support, families were left to their own means. Hostel accommodation was never guaranteed so students had to contend with the exorbitant rents charged by shylock landlords who provided off-campus accommodation around university communities. Facilities were usually below standard, libraries dont stock up-to-date books, even the few books available would have been ripped, and relevant chapters torn by students, such a situation encourage unscrupulous university lecturers to produce and sell poorly prepared lecture handouts to students, and make the purchase of such regurgitated academic thrash mandatory, and prerequisite to the students passing the course.
Other expenses which the Okeke family had to contend with included tuition, medical and most importantly living expenses. Some families in their situation in Nigeria would have sold a piece of family land or other family treasure to finance their childrens education but unfortunately for the Okekes, there was none of such available to be pawned off, but the family was quite determined, particularly Mr Okeke who hoped that on graduation, Chidi would be able to support and sponsor his younger siblings.
It was with such huge burden and great expectations from him that Chidi entered Abia state university (ABSU) Okigwe to study political science and public administration. Chidi knew that he was on his own, there were no visits from his family in state-of the-art, or government plate numbered cars, there were no mid-semester reinforcement of supplies such as toiletries and pocket money, no memorable stories about summer trips to London and America to share with fellow students and course mates. He therefore set about crafting his own personae.
Chidi spent the first semester studying his new environment and fellow students, making mental notes of what made them tick. He could see that majority of the students liked partying, they also liked dressing fashionably. He could easily identify students from rich homes, and also the wannabes, there were hangers-on and leaches who feasted from the campus rich students. He wasnt fazed by his new surroundings and knew that with the right schemes, he could put the entire student community in his pocket. Chidi still dressed as a kpod, but that wasnt a problem, once he opened up his revenue streams in the campus, Lobito and Sputes boutiques in Enugu were only an hour drive away, he would bounce back stronger in subsequent semesters.
Chidi observed the traditional October rush, a period when students, usually returning students preyed on innocent female students known as jambitos, it was usually a time of panic and heartbreaks in Nigerian universities for returning female students who are dumped by their campus boyfriends for the new, naïve and younger looking female students. He enjoyed the different stories shared at the students centre; some of the stories were also reported in the universitys student-run gossip magazines.
It was in the first semester that academic, social, sports, humanitarian and cultural organisations such as the Rotaract Club, the Kegites club aka the Palmwine Drinkards Klub, the Jaycees, departmental associations, Chess and Scrabble clubs, state associations and so on recruit new members. Also during this period, the more sinister groups such as the Pyrates Confraternity aka The National Association of Seadogs (NAS), The Buccaneers Organisation of Nigeria (BON), The Supreme Vikings Confraternity, The Eiye Fraternity, The Black Berets, The Mafia, Mgba-Mgba Brothers, The Klansmen (KKK), The Black Axe, The Mafites and other campus secret cults begin their clandestine manoeuvres to recruit new members.
Chidi had followed the activities of these organisations through gossips and stories while he was still in secondary school. There were even rumours at Nike that the secret cults had made incursions into secondary schools, and were now recruiting future members from schools in the hope to catch them young. Chidi was never approached but any young man growing up in Enugu was aware of the dangerous and deadly activities of the secret cults. Just a few years back, Enugu was gripped by a wave of armed and violent attacks on family members of rival cult members. The respective battles for supremacy amongst the confraternities in the various campuses had spilled over into Enugu, the coal city. There were reported incidents of members families being attacked with acids; some others were also shot to death. The Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), and Nnamdi Azikiwe University NAU (formerly Anambra State University of Science and Technology – ASUTECH) appeared to be the hotbed of such violent students nocturnal activities in eastern Nigeria.
There was one incident that gripped the whole coal city with fear; it was the story of Afam Nwosu, a member of the Mgba-Mgba brothers who was dragged out of the classroom where he was writing his final year examinations and shot in the presence of other students, invigilators and lecturers by hooded assailants, alleged to be members of the Black Axe. The attacks continued the next day with the cold-blooded murder of Afams elder sister (Chinwe) and mother at the familys Achara Layout residence. It was stories like these that made Chidis parents to caution him against selecting ESUT, NAU or even the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus (UNEC) when he was filling out his Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) University Matriculation Examinations (UME) forms.
None of the various academic, social, sports, humanitarian and cultural organisations appealed to Chidi, he did not want to bother with the Anambra Students Union or the more cultural Nnewi Students League. He had heard that people who joined such associations were not well regarded by the other students, especially those students in the campuses that were regarded as happening babes and guys, referring to students who get invited to all the campus A-list parties, dressed in the best designer clothes and knew a few big wigs in government. Chidi already knew which side he wanted to be on, it was only a matter of time and he would force his way into the elite campus society of big boys and big chics.
Chidi became a campus hustler in the second semester of his first undergraduate year at ABSU. It was something that happened through a chance meeting with Doctor Edwin Okoro, a successful Onitsha based medical practitioner. Prior to the encounter Chidi had already successfully undergone the rigorous initiation and induction rites of the Pyrates Confraternity. Despite the showy and flamboyant nature of the other campus secret cults, Chidi was bowled over by the maturity with which the Seadogs went about recruiting new members. He was also impressed by the fact that the organisation appeared to be the only one that had a credible face in the larger Nigerian society, this it does through its various seminars and workshops as well as through other community development projects which it carries out nationwide.
Wole Soyinka, the National Capone of the Supreme Pyrates Confraternity, continued to identify with the lofty goals of the founding seven members of the organisation and this impressed Chidi because he had the utmost regard for Prof. Soyinka. Although the Nobel laureate had severally claimed that NAS was not a secret cult and that the organisation does not operate branches or what they call decks in institutions of higher learning, Chidi knew that this was not true but did not really care. The Pyrates Confraternity had a strong presence at ABSU and unlike the other confraternities that recruited members based only on their socio-economic status, or ability to apply violence and viciousness when necessary, NAS focused on the potentials of the new recruits, their academic standing and the new members ability to abide by the age old creed of the organisation odas is odas, this means discipline.
Chidi was offered a free ride by Doctor Edwin Okoro in his silver coloured Mercedes Benz E200 salon. He picked Chidi up at Garki Park in the Awkunanaw area of Enugu as Chidi waited alongside other passengers to hitch a ride back to Okigwe. Chidi was reluctant initially as he remembered all the many Nollywood movie stories he has seen concerning ritual killers. In such movies, the culprits were usually depicted driving expensive cars. Chidi was persuaded by Dr Okoros accented English and he entered.
I see that you were reluctant to enter the car.
Im sorry sir but I dont know anybody that drives a Mercedes Benz car.
Come on dont be silly, Mercedes is only a car.
I know sir but when you watch Nigerian home movies, you normally see people driving such expensive cars being cast in villainous roles.
That is the problem with our movie producers; I think that they should outgrow such stereotypical scripts that divide the society.
But sir, some of these things are real, they happen.
Please call me Edwin or Eddy, stop this sir nonsense.
Both of them laughed and carried on with their conversations.
Who are you visiting at ABSU today?
Oh, just a friend of mine, maybe you will know her, her name is Queen Umoh, she is a third year law student.
The name sounds familiar; maybe if I see her I might recognise her.
Good of you to have asked, you will help me to look for her when we get there, I feel a bit shy coming in there to look for girls
Is she your sister or something?
Sister? Are you kidding me, of course not She is some girl I gave a ride in Enugu sometime ago, I promised her that I would come and visit her in school, I like to hunt for girls in universities far away from Onitsha, Im sure you know lots of them.
Chidi didnt want to sound naïve and accepted that he did.
In that case, if we can not locate Queen, you will set me up with another chic, you will be taken care of too.
They drove for a while in silence; this gave Chidi the opportunity to think about the proposal that he had just received. He knew that students were always talking about going on runs and he had actually been shown some female students that go on such runs but he hardly spoke to them. The only girls he knew were his course mates and he doesnt even talk to them that much. He ran off a list in his mind of the other girls he knew that may be open to such offers. He thought of Emem, the big bosomed level 2 History student who goes by the nickname Beyonce. She always came across as someone with a long throat, Chidi got that impression the day Azuka invited him out to one of the joints up gate; Emem was in their company and bored Chidi to death with her empty boasts of knowing all the politicians in Nigeria. Chidi knew immediately that she was lying, a wannabe if you like because if she knew those politicians as she claimed, then she wont be in the habit of asking boys to buy her breakfast or lunch, more over she dressed in cheap okirika clothes. Chidi felt that she might be convinced to go out with Dr Edwin but his problem was that he didnt know where to locate her. He dared not ask Azuka because Azuka was a member of the Black Axe, and he would not take kindly to the fact that Chidi was trying to connect Emem to Dr Edwin knowing that he was also interested in her.
Chidi was in luck as Queen had travelled to Lagos, he was then mandated by Dr Okoro to seek out another female student that would spend the night with him. Chidi found Emem after much hassle and she didnt need much convincing to accompany Dr Edwin to his hotel room in Okigwe town. Chidi was now in business and made money setting female students up with visiting government officials or business men from outside Okigwe town. His reputation gradually grew and he became a sought-after campus dude. He did not lack women ready and willing to spend the night with strangers in exchange for cash and other gifts, and the girls rewarded him for his connections with both cash and sex. What amazed Chidi the most was the fact that even some children of the supposed high and mighty in the society participated in the illicit game, he felt that it wasnt for him to judge their morals, if they were willing to sell their bodies, then he was willing to supply them with buyers.
Everyone knew Chidi and wanted to be his friend, boys, girls and even his lecturers, some of whom he bribed to pass their courses. This was at the height of lecturer strikes over poor or delayed salaries, at a time that some lecturers survived by selling handouts to students, Chidi knew how to reach them. At some point he functioned as a broker between students and lecturers, male students who wanted their grades increased would go through Chidi who in turn would charge them for his services, likewise female students, they would pay either in cash or in kind by sleeping with both Chidi and the lecturers. It was a dirty and corrupt system, the larger society seemed not to care, neither did Chidi.
Ifeoma easily adjusted to life in the university, though it was a lot different from life at the Federal Government Girls College (FGGC), Sagamu where she had finished from; she made new friends with other Sagamites, her fellow students from FGGC, Sagamu.
The Udoka family had intended for Ifeoma to commute daily from their home to the university but after doing this for 3 months, Ifeoma suggested to her parents that she be allowed to move into the female hostel in Delta Park like other students. She had been contemplating this in her mind for some time now and was beginning to feel that her parents were becoming over protective, she felt that she needed to break out of the mummys or daddys daughter mould. She didnt really blame her parents and knew that they were doing everything for her out of love, In fact she was happy and lucky to be so privileged to be born into such a loving and caring family, but still she felt that she needed the independence to learn and grow, make her own mistakes and learn from them. Moreover she was beginning to get irritated by all the jibes from her friends who lived on campus. They had been teasing her over her usual excuses that her mum or dad may not approve anytime they invited her out to parties. Since she had a car, her friends had hoped that Ifeoma could put the car to their use by taking them along to the many student parties in Port Harcourt town. Just the other day, she almost fell out with Ebere, her course mate. It was at Mama Nnennas bukataria opposite Choba Park. She was standing outside the bukataria having a conversation with Grace, another of her friends when Ebere walked up to them.
Hi girls, whats up?
Fine, we were just talking about Joes party, Grace told Ebere.
Oh, really, Im looking forward to it. Im sure Ifeoma would be nicely tucked into her pyjama at that time of the day, Ebere replied.
Very funny, indeed, Ifeoma retorted. How can you talk about me in such a manner as if Im not here, Im really not in the mood for your silly comments this morning, she said and walked away.
Ify wait now, she didnt mean it in that sense, Grace called out to her as she crossed the road and walked towards the Engineering block to meet with Emeka, her cousin. Ifeoma didnt have any lectures that morning and was raging inside by the time she found him. Emeka was in the company of his friends when she arrived, and from the way she greeted him; Emeka knew that something was up.
Ifeoma, my most favourite cousin in the world, how now?
Emeka, please leave me jare, Im not in that your jolly mood today
Ah, na wetin happen now?
It is these so-called friends of mine, always going on about my not coming out to parties with them. In fact, Im thinking of moving into the campus, I would inform my dad and mum and see what they would say.
Sebi Ive been telling you, you dey miss plenty action for campus, how many parties have I invited you to but each time you keep saying my mummy this, my daddy that.
Emeka, you too, thats not what I came to you for, rather than calm me down, you have also joined them to have a swipe at me.
But thats the truth, as a student, you not only go through the university, but you have to also let the university go through you.
Okay, campus bobo, Ive heard, as a small smile broke out on her face. She reasoned that she may have been overreacting, and told Emeka so. As Emeka walked her towards Mama Nnennas bukataria where she parked her car, they fine tuned the strategies that she would use to convince her parents to agree to let her move into the campus. Emeka was in support of the idea, and hoped that Ifeoma would let her drive her car when she moves in to the campus.
No more hustling for rides on Friday and Saturday nights, he reasoned to himself.
Ifeomas parents lost their cool when she muted the idea, she couldnt remember ever seeing her usually cool and calm parents that mad before. Her dad in particular would have none of it, and told both Ifeoma and her mother so. He told Ifeoma that he was aware of all the different negative reports emanating out of uniport concerning the sordid lives female students at uniport live. Such stories have been making the front pages of the tabloids. The most current story concerned three female students who had allegedly stolen huge sums of money from a Caucasian male oil worker, but before that, the man had already photographed the girls in various nude positions. Out of anger, he released the pictures to the local media; the pictures have also been making the rounds on the internet. John Udoka reasoned that it was only girls that lived on-campus that could engage in such sexual escapades, away from the prying eyes of their parents and families. Ifeoma had her way eventually and moved into the campus where she lived an above average student life until her graduation, but she still graduated with a 2.1.
As Chidi alighted from the Okada motorcycle which had brought him from the Makurdi Motor Park to the Katsina-Ala College of Education, venue of the 3-week long National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation exercise, he saw other new arrivals queuing up by the security gate waiting to be signed in, and to be formally inducted into the camp. This was the beginning of another journey in life for him and hundreds of other fresh graduates from Nigerias many institutions of higher learning. The compulsory one-year national youth service was their final rights of passage to adulthood. Having heard so much about life in the orientation camp, Chidi was determined to make the most of it. His friends who had also taken part in the scheme had told him that life at the orientation camp was the best part of the NYSC scheme, and he was determined to find out for himself what made them to arrive at such conclusions.
He remembered when his friend Sunny visited him and some of his friends at Okigwe to show off his NYSC catch, Annette was quite a head stunner, slender and beautiful and had kept tongues wagging for days. Only Sunny could pull off such a stunt, despite the fact that his campus girlfriend Princess was still a student at ABSU, the love for controversy proved irresistible for Sunny as he ended up humiliating Princess thus bringing to an end what everyone thought was one of the most beautiful and enduring relationships at the Okigwe campus of Abia state university.
Its now my turn, Chidi told himself. Ive got to set myself up with the coolest chic in the orientation camp, Okigwe, here I come. Not that Chidi left any girlfriend back at the university; he was one of those students that lived life to the full, a man about campus who was seen in all the good parties, each time with a different girl in tow. He had a knack for younger female students, known as jambitos, the starry eyed ones still struggling to come to terms with the workings of the ivory tower. Chidi knew how to feast on their ignorance; also because the girls would have been experiencing freedom in their lives for the first time, after years of living in protective custody in their parents houses, they usually fall into Chidis well sprung trap through the many parties he and his friends, particularly members of the Pyrates Confraternity regularly organised. Surely if there was any such thing as one having had his lifetime dose of sex and women, Chidi would be one of those people. Often whenever he was confronted on the lifestyle he led, he replied that it wasnt his fault that there were so many women in the university, and that if they were willing to share, then who was he to decline? Chidi thus went through his four year degree programme, which though stretched to six years due to incessant lecturer and students strikes and crises without having a steady girlfriend. He would often joke with his friends that he knew that he would be a big sucker when he finally falls in love.
Chidi was assigned to Platoon B and was allocated to Blue Hostel where he would share sleeping space with other corpers. Next stop, he went to collect his NYSC gear, comprising a set of light green khaki combat trousers with matching jackets, jogging shoes, a set of military style boots and two sets of NYSC branded jerseys. He also collected his weekly 200 naira allowance (allowee) and went straight to his assigned hostel to dump his stuffs alongside 3 other corpers that were assigned to the same hostel. Being the first day at the camp, there was not much formal activity and so he spent the rest of the evening hanging out and making new friends at the mammy market, the centre of all social activities inside the orientation camp.
Chidi recognised a few faces from his university at the mammy market, severally he thought he heard coded signals around the mammy market and knew immediately that it was members of the respective confraternities searching for their members from other universities and schools. It wasnt long before he heard the peculiar A-hoy signal of the Seadogs, and just like the way moth is attracted to fire, it wasnt long before other Seadogs assembled at the source of the whistle. Chidi had found his brothers and he wasnt alone anymore.
The next day, Chidi was awakened by the sound of the bugle at 5.00 AM. Once it sounded, corpers were expected to have themselves ready in military precision within seconds and to proceed to the parade ground for the mornings match parade and physical exercises. He still felt drowsy from the previous nights late stay at the mammy market, where they had drank Guinness stout as if it was going out of fashion.
At the parade grounds that morning, just as he was about to turn the bend at the end of the field so as to synchronise his steps with his formation, Chidi saw her, in her sweaty white shirt and short pants, standing tall, and elegant in the midst of the laboured footsteps of the matching corpers. From the short distance Chidi noticed her long smooth legs, because she was standing in front of her platoon, he concluded that she must be the platoon leader. As Chidis mind conjured up several other questions with blank answers, he was jolted back to reality by the shrill shouts of Corporal Asuquo, the parade commander. Hey boy, wat is that you slow down, move, come on, he shouted at Chidi in his broken English. The female corper marching behind Chidi muttered that Corporal Asuquo seems to have sold his entire teeth at the mammy market, the other corpers burst out laughing.
Later that morning during breakfast, Chidi looked out for the platoon leader at the canteen but didnt find her, his enquiries had already told him her name; he was also informed that he wasnt the only one interested in her. Apparently the camp commandant and several other corpers have been licking their lips over her.
After breakfast, Chidi went back to the mammy market to meet with the boys, for some reasons, they have decided to make Esthers shop their joint, all the other confraternities also adopted their own favourite hangout shops. There wasnt any confrontation as yet; perhaps they were all growing up slowly, who could have imagined that members of Nigerias campus cults could actually co-exist in the open alongside each other? Had they been in their respective universities, the local police would have been counting body bags by now, a kind of uncanny camaraderie spirit seemed to have developed amongst all the cultists in the NYSC camp.
Just as Chidi was about to get up to walk to his hostel to chill out before the afternoon activities, he saw her walking towards the mammy market accompanied by two other girls. From the way she smiled and greeted fellow corpers, Chidi knew that he would have to turn on his best charm if he was to even have a chance with her. He waited in Esthers shop praying and hoping that she would stop over there to buy whatever it was she wanted. Perhaps, that Wednesday was Chidis lucky day, Ifeoma stopped at Esthers shop and all discussions ceased momentarily. His friends already knew his plans as he had told them earlier; they were now waiting to see Chidi make his move.
It was as if the whole world was watching him, Chidi noticed that his heart was beating very fast. He didnt want to say the wrong thing and make a fool of himself, more so he didnt want his new found friends to think that he was lily-livered. His mind was torn into two. He managed to say Hi to the three girls before Ifeoma excused herself to visit a nearby shop to pick up some provisions that Esther didnt have in stock; this was after placing her order of fried dodo (plantain) and rice. That seemed to be the opportunity Chidi was waiting for; he went up to Esther and asked her for the total bill of what the girls had ordered.
He paid without Ifeomas friends knowing, and then hurriedly left the shop before Ifeomas friends realised what had happened.
As they milled around the parade ground after the evenings match parade, Chidi felt a soft tap on his shoulder from behind. He turned and saw Ifeoma standing there, with the heartiest smile he had ever seen on anyones face. Hey, thanks for not giving me and my girls the chance to say thank you this morning, you didnt have to, she said.
Oh, that was nothing, I couldnt hang around to get to know you guys as I had to rush off to sort something out at the office, how did you know it was me anyway? , Chidi asked.
I have eyes; call it a womans instinct. Anyway, my name is Ifeoma.
As she walked away, Chidis heart continued to pound but he was happy that the ice has been broken.
Chidi and Ifeoma became an item inside the Katsina-Ala NYSC orientation camp; and carried on even after corpers had been posted to their primary areas of assignment.
Midway into the journey, Chidi was jolted back to reality by the voice of a female steward, would you like something to drink sir? Chidi replied in the negative and shut his eyes again.
Chidi received an urgent message that his friend Tony was in Nigeria and wanted to see him. Ifeoma had been staying with him for the past two days in his rented room, in the boys quarters section of a house in the government reserved area (GRA) of Makurdi. That same night, he kissed Ifeoma goodbye and boarded a Young Shall Grow luxury bus to Lagos. For some reasons, Chidi felt that he may not be coming back to the town, although the NYSC passing out parade was just a few months ahead, he wasnt bothered so much and knew that he could always send someone to bribe the NYSC officials to release his discharge certificate.
Tony was excited to see Chidi; they talked at length filling each other in on whats been going on in their lives. Tony informed Chidi that he came home to conclude some business transactions, but what Chidi didnt know was that Tony was a deportee but from the way he was splashing cash around Chidi cared less.
Later in the afternoon, Tony took Chidi to the Berger used (tokunbo) car market, under the Oshodi-Apapa expressway flyover. Tony had been shipping cars into the country from Germany to his uncle John to sell for him. He told Chidi that he had so far shipped over twenty five used cars into Nigeria. Chidi couldnt believe his ears; he felt a pang of envy and anger, envy that his childhood friend Tony was now richer than him, and angry with himself for choosing the education route as against Tony who opted for trade immediately after his secondary school education. Chidi almost regretted the long years he spent at ABSU and wondered of what use his 2.2 degree would be for him and his family since there are no jobs anywhere in the country. As the oldest child of his parents, he knew that very soon the whole responsibility of sponsoring his six younger siblings including his aged parents would fall on him.
Tony pointed out some of his cars on sale to Chidi, including several Mercedes Benz salon cars. Chidi knew that somehow Tony must be involved in some kind of dodgy business but he didnt care, if only Tony would help him to come over, he would do whatever was required of him to get rich too.
Two days after Chidis arrival in Lagos, Tony made him a proposal; he was going to help Chidi come over to Germany on the condition that Chidi would pay back the costs eventually, Chidi wholeheartedly accepted. They both agreed that it would be nice if Chidi informed his parents; Tony said he would have loved to come along to meet his parents too after such a long time but regretted that he couldnt as he had to stay back in Lagos to conclude his business transactions. It was agreed that Chidi should travel to Enugu over the coming weekend but he never made the trip.
It was on a Thursday afternoon, as they were having lunch at the Tantalizers restaurant on Allen Avenue, in the Ikeja area of Lagos that Tony ran into Ejiro, a guy he knew from Germany. Ejiro had heard about Tonys deportation and expressed his sympathies to Tony. As they were talking, Ejiro enquired from Tony what his plans were about going back to Germany. Tony replied that he hadnt thought much about it and was still focussing on selling off the cars he had shipped into the country.
On hearing this, Ejiro informed Tony that he might be able to help, but the condition was that the move must be made the coming Friday or Saturday night, as those were the two days his contacts at the Murtala Muhammed Airport and Air France were on duty. Now used to taking decisions in a hurry, Tony did not need to think twice about Ejiros proposal, his two other questions were on the costs of the venture, and if Chidi could be accommodated. Ejiro also confirmed that he had a contact in Lagos Island, in the Oluwole area who could supply two foreign passports for Chidi and Tony.
Tony spent $8,000 for his trip to Germany with Chidi, the amount took care of passports procurement, travel tickets and settling immigrations and airline officials. Everything had happened so quickly and Chidi hoped that his family and Ifeoma would forgive him for not saying good bye, he was taking this risk for them, sacrificing his freedom and wasnt in any doubt that he may end up in prison if he was caught with the forged British passport.
As the plane taxied down the runway at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos, Chidi couldnt wait to get off the KLM flight which had brought him and other passengers from Amsterdam. But for the skirmish involving Dutch Immigration authorities and a Nigerian immigrant during the stop-over in Amsterdam, the journey from Madrid to Lagos via Amsterdam could generally be said to have been uneventful.
Amsterdam held mixed memories for Chidi, it was another beautiful city that he once called home, where he had made and lost a fortune. He relished his many nights out in the red light district with his friends and the tons of money he made and lost in the lucrative but dangerous illicit drugs trade. He had almost worked his way up in the rankings, and had clearly established contacts in South America who ensured that he had at least a pigeon fly in every other week with new supply. Business had boomed as he exploited his connections amongst Nigerian and other African immigrants in Austria and Germany. He knew that distribution was important in the business and he cut his buyers a good deal, sometimes undercutting the market price. This was what had landed him into trouble with the dreaded Suriname drug cartel which operated out of one of the high rise buildings in the Belma district of Amsterdam.
Chidi remembered his hurried night time escape to Spain the day Edgar, his Suriname business associate informed him that a contract had been put out on his head, it was either he left town or his corpse would end up in the local mortuary. Amongst all the immigrant hustlers in Amsterdam, the Surinamese were the deadliest. Chidi often wondered why violence was never part of the operations of Nigerian drug dealers, and attributed it to their Christian upbringing. His friends had often joked about this, how they would do all their runs in the week but still end up in church on a Sunday, dressed in their Sunday best, sometimes clutching gifts for the pastors.
Chidis excitement is quite understandable; he has been away from Nigeria, his country of birth for five years, and was determined to make the most of his earned holidays in Nigeria. He decided to come back during Christmas; which was about the best time to spend time with Ifeoma, his long-term girlfriend. They had carried on their relationship and Ifeoma made regular trips to visit him, he had proposed to her during her last visit in July and she had accepted, though she mentioned that her parents disapproved of his lifestyle and business.
Chidi cleared customs and immigration but not before leaving a $50 tip for the immigration officer who had raised an eyebrow over the fact that his passport bore no departure stamp. He didnt want anybody slowing him down with some stupid queries. The same thing with customs, he greased the palm of one of the officers with a $100 bill and thus his four suitcases were waved through without any checks.
Tony was waiting outside with Ifeoma and both screamed Chidis name as soon as he crossed the security barrier. Tony and Chidi had moved to Belma in Amsterdam from where Tony was subsequently deported after serving a two-year prison sentence for illegal possession of cocaine. Chidi had been quite lucky the night the Dutch police came for the raid, he had gone down to Amsterdam Central to meet a business partner arriving from Curacao and was alerted on the phone to change course as the police were raiding their apartment. Chidi never saw Tony again although he eventually became Chidis point man in Nigeria following Chidis dissatisfaction over the way his uncle John had handled his money and business.
They assisted Chidis with his suitcases into Chidis Lincoln Navigator SUV and Mercedes E class estate car. Chidi had previously shipped the cars alongside other cars to Tony. Chidi knew that Uncle John would have heard but he didnt care. As they drove to Sheraton Hotel Ikeja, Tony brought Chidi up to speed with the things that Chidi had entrusted upon him. Chidi was happy that his friend had taken care of his things very well. Ifeoma informed Chidi that she had taken 2-weeks holiday from Zenith, the commercial bank where she works. Chidi couldnt imagine spending his holidays without her by his side. All through his sojourn abroad, despite his many white girlfriends, he had never forgotten her and had actually shielded himself in difficult times with her love. He could remember the several occasions that he went in and out of prison in Germany and Spain, how Ifeomas picture and love had kept him going. He hoped that her parents had gotten over their hung-up attitude by now.
Chidi spent three days with Ifeoma in Lagos before travelling to Nnewi to see his family. He had already decided to take Tony and Ifeoma along with him and they would be staying in a hotel in Nnewi. Though the Okeke family knew about Ifeoma, Chidi hoped to find an appropriate moment to formally introduce her to them. Tony did not mind coming along, not that he had other appealing options. Chidi was the main man at the moment and if there was anybody in the whole world who could resuscitate his fortunes, then it is Chidi, and if Chidi wanted him to tag along, he would.
They settled for the Star Crest Hotel, in the Umudim area of Nnewi. It was one of the new hotels in Nnewi which provided 24 hours security for guests and the hotel was closer to Chidis family home.
Chidi was surprised that his family took easily to the idea of Ifeoma becoming his wife; the informal introductions had gone on very well. His mother had even insisted that all traditional arrangements be concluded with Ifeomas family during this period that every body was at home. From Chidis perspective that wouldnt be a problem as Ifeoma comes from Awka Etiti, a neighbouring town. Emboldened by his familys support, Chidi sent word across to Ifeomas people and a date was announced for the Iku Aka, the formal introduction of both families and declaration of intent according to the Igbo tradition.
Ifeoma had for some time now been teasing Chidi over his carelessness, Chidi was fond of misplacing stuffs ranging from car keys to cash. He would leave cash (in foreign denominations) lying around the hotel room, trusting the hotels room attendants but Ifeoma kept reminding him that he was now in Nigeria and should be a bit more careful with his things.
On the morning of the 27th of December, two days before Chidi and his familys proposed to visit Awka-Etiti, Ifeoma devised a clever plot to drive home her message to Chidi on the importance of keeping his valuables in a safe place. She took the sum of $500 in crisp $100 bills from one of Chidis suit pockets and hid them underneath one of her travelling bags. She hoped that Chidi would miss the money and planned to surprise him when she came back from Awka-Etiti.
Chidis family sent Jude, one of his cousins to the hotel to collect some money from Chidi as pre-arranged. His family planned to visit Nnewi market to buy a few things for their planned trip to Awka-Etiti. Chidi hoped to take care of incidental expenses from the bundle which Ifeoma had hidden.
When Chidi couldnt find the money, he called on his friend Tony for assistance and together they ransacked the hotel room without success. Chidi shifted his suspicion initially to Tony but later focused on Jude who was alone in the room when Chidi went downstairs to the hotel lobby to attend to some visitors. Jude clearly had a motive and opportunity to steal the money. As the confusion continued, Tony suggested that the hotel staff be informed. Sam, the hotel receptionist vouched for the hotel staff arguing that they would never do such a thing, not after what the members of the dreaded and notorious Anambra Vigilante Services (AVS), also known as the Bakassi boys did to Nnamdi, another hotel staff a few months ago. He then suggested that the Bakassi boys be informed and Chidi and Tony agreed.
Egbema, the leader of the Bakassi boys in the Nnewi area quickly dispatched his men to Star Crest Hotel. The Christmas season has been quite a busy one for him and his group. Despite what people thought, he strongly believed that he and his men where avenging black knights and have helped to reduce crime in the town. When the Bakassi boys led by Ugo arrived, they did not waste anytime in putting all the people present (Chidi, Tony, Chidi, and the room attendants) through their machete test. They all passed as the machete did not show blood signs. Ugo then enquired from Chidi the other persons that had recently had access to the room, only Ifeomas name was mentioned. Chidi swore on her behalf but Ugo requested that they be contacted as soon she was back at the hotel.
It was Sam the hotel receptionist that telephoned Ugo as soon as she saw Ifeoma walk past the lobby. Only thirty minutes went past from the time Sam put the call through to the time a loud wail went out from Suite 15. The Bakassi boys had promptly arrived and proceeded to Chidis room. Ifeoma had failed the machete test, and it was the same machete that was used in severing her head from the neck.
The Anambra Vigilante Services and all such other vigilante groups have since been outlawed in the south eastern states of Nigeria. The members now function as political thugs, and are used by politicians to intimidate and harass political opponents. The killings and mayhem continue till today.
Ifeomas family are still alleging foul play; they insist that their daughter was a victim of Chidis money-making/get-rich-quick rituals and point to Chidis wealth as evidence. They are also proposing as a condition of appeasement that Chidi marries Ifeoma in death; a practice obtainable in some Igbo communities, especially when a young unmarried woman is killed in strange circumstances.
Chidi spent several weeks in police custody in Nigeria before being granted bail. He has since gone back to Madrid and doesnt plan to go back to Nigeria anytime soon.
Uche Nworah is freelance writer, lecturer and brand strategist. He studied communications arts at the University of Uyo, Nigeria and graduated with a second class honours degree (upper division). He also holds an M.Sc degree in marketing from the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus and obtained his PGCE (post-graduate certificate in education) from the University of Greenwich where he is currently enrolled as a doctoral candidate. His articles have been published by several websites and leading Nigerian newspapers. He received the ChickenBones Journalist of the Year award in 2006.
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#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
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#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
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#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
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#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
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By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”
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By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarcerationbut her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 27 December 2011