ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Just when Ada thought that things couldnt get any worse, she received
the heart breaking news that her parents had been killed in a car accident
along the Abuja-Lokoja expressway
Chasing the Dream A Short Story by Uche Nworah
As Emeka waited for Bus 107 at the Woolwich Crossway bus stop, his mobile phone rang; it was Donna, his Jamaicanborn shift supervisor on the phone.
Ee-meka, Where are you? she barked at him in her usual bullish tone.
Ee-meka, me no like this, ya understand me no like them people them a – come late to work.
Donna, take it easy, I will soon be there, Emeka almost shouted back at her.
Me no take nothin easy. Them trucks, them are waiting to be loaded, me no allow them people to mess with my shift, Ee-meka. Donna continued.
Im almost there Donna, my bus came late. Emeka answered back.
What ya mean them bus them come late, when you gonna be here Ee-meka?
Im only 5 minutes away Donna. Emeka lied to her.
If ya dont come here immediately, me goin to sack you Ee-meka, Donna warned him finally.
By now Emeka was pissed off with Donna. He was irritated at the way she pronounces his name, and how she spoke to him as if he was her dog at home. Donna had been like that ever since he started working at the warehouse, she loathed Emeka and other Africans whom she describes as Them lazy Africans.
Stupid Jamaican bitch, Emeka muttered to himself the moment Donna got off the phone.
I dont really blame you, Emeka carried on talking to himself. If not for my stupidity, would you have seen me in your fucking country, nor at your bloody warehouse to talk to me like that?
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The year 2005 was a terrible year in Ada Elechis life. She lost her job with Hallmark Bank in Lagos, alongside many others. They were the victims of the bank re-structuring and consolidation exercise introduced by Charles Soludo, the Governor of Nigerias Central Bank. Ada had thought that she could be re-absorbed by the emerging stronger banks but things hadnt quite gone as she hoped.
She had attended several interviews but kept being turned away because she had graduated from Abia State University (ABSU), a state university in south eastern Nigeria. Ada wondered why the new banks were discriminating against graduates of state universities.
During one of the interviews at Zenith Bank, she had lost her usual cool and calculated countenance, and had not wasted words in telling the interview panel what she thought of their new recruitment policy.
This is really unfair; it is not as if the quality of education we received at the state universities is inferior to that provided by the federal universities. Ada had told the panel.
You guys should open your eyes, all Nigerian universities are in the same shit, Ada said as she stormed off. She had had enough, this interview held at Zenith Banks Head Office building in the Victoria Island area of Lagos was the fifth she was attending that week and her patience had gradually worn thin.
Although Ada needed a job, but things hadnt quite gotten so desperate yet for her; she has some money left in her savings which she could live on for a while. She also has her Honda Accord saloon car which she bought while working with Hallmark bank. The car was still in pretty good shape and could take her around still. Although kids in her neighbourhood have now taken to calling the car pure water, she found it amusing because they had started out by calling the car Honda Hala when she bough the car initially. Perhaps the kids were trying to tell her that it was time to buy a new car, since the model she owned is as common in Lagos as pure water, water sold in sachets all over Lagos. Ada also knew that if all failed, she could always go back to her parents in Abuja, but she wanted to make it on her own, and wasnt yet ready to pursue that angle yet.
Ada was also happy that she had paid a 3 year rent for her 2-bedroom apartment in Festac town – Lagos from the upfront payment she received from Hallmark bank. It is traditional for Lagos landlords to demand 3 years rent in advance. At the time, Ada had groaned and complained but in retrospect, it wasnt such a bad idea after all she thought. At least, she has a roof over her head; things could have been a lot worse for a single unemployed girl like her in Lagos, as she would have been an easy prey for Lagos randy men.
Just when Ada thought that things couldnt get any worse, she received the heart breaking news that her parents had been killed in a car accident along the Abuja-Lokoja expressway. Their vehicle had collided with an oncoming luxury bus belonging to The Young Shall Grow Motors Ltd while travelling to the village to attend to some village matters. The police report of the accident which was sent to Ada months after the accident occurred had claimed that the luxury bus driver had swerved on to the on-coming vehicle side of the road, in an attempt to avoid a deep gash in the middle of the road. The driver of the luxury bus was on top speed and couldnt complete the manoeuvre on time, and dragged Adas parents Peugeot 604 saloon car backwards, crushing both the car and its inhabitants. Chief John Elechi, his wife Mrs Ifeoma Elechi and their driver of over 15 fifteen years (Ignatius) all died at the scene of the accident.
As the only child, Ada found herself suddenly all alone. Taking care of the estate of her late parents turned out to be a harrowing experience, made more difficult by the evil men in Umueze, her fathers village. During the burial ceremony, some of them wondered aloud why she was not in the car with her parents on the day of the accident. They wished she had died with them so that they would take over her parents estate.
Ada despised the Igbo culture for being cruel to women. She had heard about discrimination against widows in the past, but she never believed that such could also be meted out to surviving female daughters. Her parents had shielded her from such realities and negative aspects of the Igbo culture while they were alive, but now she was facing these issues all by herself. Ada hoped that one day; she would be in a position to set up a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which would campaign vigorously for the rights of widows and other such victims of tradition in the Nigerian society.
When she was younger, Ada remembers her mother telling her never to feel inadequate because she was female, and the only child at that. Her father, Chief Elechi, had also resisted several pressures from relatives asking that he re-marry, in order to have a male child who would carry on his lineage.
Ada is the will of God, she will play the role of a male and female child in my family, Chief Elechi had often told his relatives whenever they raised the subject.
But now, with her loving parents gone, Ada wondered what her fate would be. On several occasions, she thought about taking her own life but somehow, she found herself trusting in Gods promise that He would take care of those who trust and believe in Him. Ada had expected Emeka Nwosu, her long term boyfriend to be at her parents burial to support her emotionally but he wasnt. Emeka claimed that he couldnt get permission from work to attend, but Ada had her own theory. She felt that Emeka was securely in the iron claws of Amaka Okolo, his colleague from the Nigerian Law School. Ada had always suspected that Emeka was having an affair with Amaka; the first daughter of the Minister for Education, but Emeka denied it when Ada confronted him. But still, her womanly instincts told her otherwise.
Ada and Emeka had their issues just like other couples; she wanted reassurance from Emeka that she would be his future wife. This was normal because she couldnt see what else a woman her age would be thinking about at this stage in her life, especially in Nigeria. Emeka would remind her whenever the issue came up, that 30 years was still a young age, and that she should take things easy. Ada would have but she didnt trust Nigerian men that well to buy their promises on the face value. Her friends in the office daily narrated their tales of woe at the hands of Nigerian men, and she didnt want to be a victim.
Ada had expected that the tragedy of her parents death would at least bring them closer, but Emeka choosing to stay away from the burial confirmed to Ada that she no longer featured so much in his plans. Ada steeled her heart and vowed to be strong, not only for herself but for her late parents.
* * * * *
Emeka secretly proposed to Amaka and subsequently left his job at GTBank to join Amaka in the United Kingdom.
When Emeka arrived newly into the United Kingdom, he lived in a onebedroom flat on Edgware road with Amaka, who was finishing off her MBA at City University. Amaka had convinced Emeka to abandon his bank job in Lagos and relocate to London with her. Things had worked according to plan as Amaka had used her fathers connections, though without Chief Rufus Okolos direct involvement to procure visa and travel tickets for Emeka. But unknown to Emeka and Amaka, Chief Okolo was aware of everything that had been going on between them. The information had come to him through the State Security Service (SSS) operatives attached to his office.
Emeka couldnt believe his misfortune the day Amaka told him that Chief Okolo had given her an ultimatum; it was either she ended their relationship or Amaka risked being disowned by her family. Chief Okolo had investigated Emekas background and found out that he was an Osu (outcast), and his tradition forbade his daughter marrying an Osu.
* * * * *
The Nigerian general elections had seen the emergence of different types of candidates. While members of the old guard still featured prominently, there were still some new kids on the block who appeared to have good ideas that would move the society forward.
It was at a church Sunday service at House on the Rock (HOTR), Adas local church in Lagos that she met Dr. John Agbasi. Dr. Agbasi was also a member of the church but was now campaigning for the governorship seat in Aba state. He had just finished speaking to the church congregation on his reasons for going into politics, what his agenda are and how Christians could help in the process of changing the Nigerian society for the better.
During his speech, Dr. Agbasi had also shared with the congregation his pain at the loss of his wife (Martha) to breast cancer.
My beloved brothers and sisters, Dr Agbasi called out at the congregation.
We have our beautiful daughter Manuela; she is two years old, but my only regret is that Martha is not standing with me at the podium today to share our unique vision for Nigeria and Aba state with you. Dr Agbasi told them in a pained voice.
Although she was still consumed by the anguish of what she suffered at the hands of her fathers people, Ada felt shy to say anything during the Questions and Answers session but suddenly, she summoned enough courage and asked Dr Agbasi if he had it in his plans to address the plight of widows and people like her if he got elected. Ada then narrated her story publicly for the first time.
Ada didnt finishing telling her story before breaking down into tears. For a few seconds, everyone remained silent; people present in the auditorium could feel the depth of her hurt and pain.
Ada and Dr. Agbasi got introduced formerly after the church service. When Dr. Agbasi found out that Ada was out of job, he instantly hired her and offered her a position in the strategy unit of his campaign team. Though a voluntary role, Dr Agbasi promised to take care of Adas daily expenses in the course of carrying out any duties assigned to her. For lack of any other appealing options, Ada wholeheartedly accepted.
* * * * *
Dr. John Agbasi secured a landslide victory as the first executive governor of the newly created Aba state. One of his major acts within the traditional First 100 Days in Office was to marry Ada in an event witnessed by the high and mighty in Nigeria including the president of Nigeria.
Ada subsequently became the first lady of Aba state and pursued her Widows in Nigeria (W.I.N) pet project with vigour. She attracted local and international media attention everywhere she went.
* * * * *
As Emeka leafed through a copy of the Metro newspaper which he picked up inside Bus 107, he froze as he came to page 10; staring him in the face was a picture of Ada and Dr. John Agbasi, flanked by the British Prime Minister and his wife. They were on the entourage of the Nigerian President on a state visit to the United Kingdom. There was also mention of a proposed audience with the Queen of England in the news story, where Ada will brief the Queen on the activities of her W.I.N initiative.
* * * * *
Only if he had been patient and listened to his heart, Emeka told himself. Ada was the love of his life but Amaka had offered him the hope of a better life and higher status in the society.
Emeka was still cursing Amaka, who has since gone back to Nigeria to pick up an appointment with Chevron. Emeka believed that Amaka was responsible for his pathetic immigrant life in London; he couldnt go back to Nigeria because he had no job waiting for him there. Even his life in London appeared cursed as well, without a resident permit; he was condemned to low-life jobs like other immigrants like him. As he cursed Amaka and his lot in life further, he vowed revenge against Amaka.
When the bus pulled up in front of the bus stop, opposite Asda warehouse in Leyton, Emeka alighted and sprinted into the Asda compound. As he swiped his card to be clocked in for the days shift, Donna was waiting and followed him into the warehouse still swearing and cursing.
* * * * *
***Emekas wickedly revenge will be told in the next instalment.
***Cover photo credits: “are you up to this” by Chidi Okoye
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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By Daniel Yergin
Renowned energy authority Daniel Yergin continues the riveting story begun in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Prize, in this gripping account of the quest for the energy the world needsand the power and riches that come with it. A master story teller as well as one of the world’s great experts, Yergin proves that energy is truly the engine of global political and economic change, as well as central to the battle over climate change. From the jammed streets of Beijing, the shores of the Caspian Sea, and the conflicts in the Mideast, to Capitol Hill and Silicon Valley, Yergin takes us inside the decisions and choices that are shaping our future. Without understanding the realities of energy examined in The Quest, we may surrender our place at the helm of history. One of our great narrative writers, Yergin tells the inside storiesof the oil market, the rise of the “petrostate,” the race to control the resources of the former Soviet empire, and the massive corporate mergers that transformed the oil landscape. He shows how the drama of oilthe struggle for access to it, the battle for control, the insecurity of supply, the consequences of its use, its impact on the global economy, and the geopolitics that dominate itwill continue to shape our world. He takes on the toughest questionswill we run out of oil, and are China and the United States destined to conflict over oil? Yergin also reveals the surprising and turbulent history of nuclear, coal, electricity, and natural gas. He investigates the “rebirth of renewables” biofuels and wind, as well as solar energy, which venture capitalists are betting will be “the next big thing” for meeting the needs of a growing world economy. He makes clear why understanding this greening landscape and its future role are crucial.
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A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake. She conveys something fundamental about Eschs fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, whats salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 5 June 2007